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Fragmented Star Systems

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Vader had been forced to do a lot of things in the last seven years of his life. Things that would have made him uncomfortable if he allowed himself to actually think of them. So he never did. He played the loyal lap dog and did as he was told. 

This though, this far surpassed uncomfortable. He had known it the moment he was given the assignment. He knew without the need of a thought, that the Emperor had realized as much himself. He was certain it was why he was being sent here in the first place. His Master wanted him to have that extra dose of pain to fuel the Darkside along. 

Except, Tatooine wasn’t just an extra dose of pain. It was more akin to continual, excruciating torture. Having to deal with Jabba the Hutt of all beings only made that torture worse. He knew it would take all of his control not to just end the miserable slug’s life. 

As the shuttle came to a stop, he let out a sigh and resituated the cloth mask over his lower face. He knew he would need the extra dose of oxygen to get through the forsaken landscape of this hellish dust bowl. He would not be suffocated by sand. He would rather be killed by a tooka, no matter how embarrassing. Though, he also had no intention of allowing the Hutt a single indication of his weakness. 

With the oxygen modulator on and hidden, he felt as ready to face the planet as he could be. He made sure his hood was also secure before reluctantly opening the shuttle to step down to the dust and sand. 

Two troopers followed after him, and with a quick brush of the Force he felt that it was Appo and Jesse. Good. His own loyal men would make this a much easier embarkment. He wouldn't worry about having to watch his back as well as deal with Jabba. Hopefully they could get the fake pleasantries over and done with soon and then leave. He wanted off of this hellscape the instant he could. 

The cursed planet was as hot and dry as he remembered. He had barely set foot on the sand and wanted to turn around. It was oppressive. It curled into the black of his robe and layers beneath like a predator's claws to its prey. He remained stoic in the face of it though. He would not let a single sentient know the extent of his discomfort. 

The troopers followed behind him in almost comfortable silence, despite the fact that they had to be as miserable as he. Sand within those suits could not have been a pleasant feeling. Vader was thankful for their silence though. It allowed him time to stew in peace. 

He made an attempt to drown out his surroundings by wrapping himself in the Darkside. He knew it was what he was supposed to do. What was expected of him.  It was not as comforting as he had hoped. In fact, it did nothing to calm him at all. 

When they reached the slug’s home, he was hit by a feeling he wasn’t used to anymore. A feeling he had all but forgotten five years before. A feeling that did much more to calm him then the Darkside ever had. Warmth and light. Hidden within the palace walls was a miniature sun flooding the Force in its light. One he was, somehow, vaguely familiar with.

Curiosity and annoyance warred within him. How was there a Force sensitive presence he only thought he knew? It could not possibly be a Jedi hiding. He would have known the signature immediately. This one though, somehow felt like a balm to his burnt soul. Vader did not like it. What started as a comfort set his teeth on edge when he couldn't place its familiarity. 

He needed to find that light, that strange warmth. He needed to know why it felt so wrong to know that it was inside the palace of a Hutt. He didn’t know what he needed to do with the light once he found it, he just knew that he absolutely had to do so. 

The sun only grew stronger as he entered the palace. He wanted nothing more than to abandon his task and hunt it down. It was only with gritted teeth and the desire to avoid his Master’s ire that he prioritized his mission. Ridiculous posturing with disgusting slavers was never lower on his list of desires than it was in that moment. 

Enough so, that he decided to not even speak to the slug. He allowed Appo to greet him on Vader’s behalf. He had thought to do it himself, as the kingpin wouldn’t be expecting him to do so. Yet now that he was here, Vader wasn’t sure he could hold his tongue. Not when he wanted to flay the slaver alive, not worship it as so many were forced to do. 

When the protocol droid translated a very redacted version of Jabba’s derisive greeting, it was all he could do not to roll his eyes. Sometimes, he wished he wore a full face mask. The want to express his irritation to himself thrummed strongly. Especially with the incompetents he was forced to be around. Or the disgusting life forms like the one before him. 

However, this was taking far, far too long. When Jabba asked why they were seeking his audience in the pompous way only a Hutt could, Vader decided to speak up before Appo got a chance. Perhaps if they forwent the middle men, he could get this over with, find the hidden sun and get back to the Executor as soon as possible. 

“The Emperor sends his greetings,” he remarked in dry Basic. “He sent me to assure the continued allegiance of the Hutt clans.”

Jabba’s droid gave another cleaned up version of the gangster’s reply, but Vader was no longer paying attention. The sun had just entered the room. Attached to a chain that a Twi’lek passed off to Jabba. 

He was a young boy, likely no older than eight. If that. He was fair with very golden hair and something about him screamed through the Force at Vader. It rammed against his battered heart and pleaded with him to listen. To notice. Though notice what, Vader was unsure. 

When the boy looked up, his uncertainty vanished. He met Vader’s gaze with the brightest blue eyes. Bluer than the sky. Than the far too little amount of cloth wrapped around the boy’s waist. So blue, and so familiar. It was like looking into a mirror to the past. His chest hitched and he was certain his oxygen modulator had ceased working as he could not breathe.

“I see you’ve noticed my favorite slave.” Jabba declared with laughter in his voice. Vader didn’t even notice the droid repeating. “He’s good for many things, Lord Vader. Mechanics is his specialty, though he’s also my best little waiter. I’ve rented him out before, if you’re interested. For a variety of things, though some enjoy him for a bit more fun.” He chuckled again and Vader seethed. 

He ignored the slug entirely and addressed the young boy. “What is your name, child.” he asked him, the softness in his voice surprising even himself. 

The child hesitated and Jabba yanked the chain around his throat. “Answer him, boy!”

“Luke Skywalker, my lord.” he replied in a meek voice, eyes downcast. 

That anger that had been thrumming under his skin erupted like an inferno. Before he could stop himself, his hand was lifted and the Force was wrapping around Jabba’s throat. 

The slug gurgled and angry shouts exploded around them. Vader lashed out with his other hand, snapping the neck of any being aiming a blaster at him and his men.  When they were no longer a threat he growled out in Huttese, “How long has he been here? Where did you get him?”

“What are you doing?” Jabba gasped and Vader tightened his grip. 

“Answer me!”

“Four years!” he exclaimed as much as he could. “Some farmer, Lars, sold him to pay his taxes. He’s about seven now. Good slave. If you want him, he’s yours Lord Vader! He’s just a slave! I’m sure we could work something out!”

“No.” Vader’s grip increased once more. Seven years. The boy was exactly who he thought he was and this slug would not live a moment longer for having harmed him. “He is no slave. He is my son.”

Jabba’s eyes managed to widen only a fraction before Vader twisted the Force and his lifeless body was crashing forward. Vader paid it no mind and immediately turned to face his child, though he did address his men first. 

“Release the slaves. Kill anyone who tries to stop you.”

“Yes, sir!”

As they hurried to follow his orders, Vader slowly knelt down, despite the twinge in his knees, so he was at the very small height of his son. “E’assa ursee’ahs.” He greeted in a language he was sure he had forgotten. 

The boy’s eyes went wide at the use of Huesmic and he began to fidget with the fabric at his waist. “Is, is that true?” he asked, “Are you really usee’ahs?”

Vader gave an immediate nod and lifted his flesh hand to run through Luke’s hair before gently resting it against his cheek. “Yes, little one. I am your father.”

“Why haven’t you come for me?” he asked in a small voice. 

“I am sorry, ursee’ahs. I thought you had perished with rasee’iyais.” 

The thought of her made his chest hurt as always, though this time a twinge of anger accompanied it. If their child had survived, he had not killed her on that damned planet. Sidious had lied. Now was not the time to dwell on such thoughts though. He had his very traumatized son to think of. 

Luke was staring at him with wide, hopeful eyes. “If you had known I was alive, would you have come for me?”

“In an instant.”

“And you want to take me with you now?”

Ursee’ahs, I will never leave you behind again.”

Vader was barely able to brace himself before the small child was launching himself at him. He caught the boy, holding him as tightly as he dared. He was far too thin. Almost skin and bones even. It took all of his self control not to grit his teeth in anger at the fact. 

That control was almost snapped when he felt the collar around Luke’s neck dig into his shoulder. He didn’t hesitate to reach out with the Force and snap the offending metal in two. 

The release caused Luke to break out in sudden sobs. Vader removed the glove from his flesh hand in order to run the fingers softly through the boy’s hair. “You are free, Lukkeen. Se’ae’a ursee’ahs. You will never have to kneel before another. Never have to call another master again. I promise you.”

Luke nodded and buried his face in Vader’s shoulder, slender arms gripping tightly along his waist. Vader could not remember the last soft touch he had given, or received. It was hard to wrap the concept around his mind. Yet he couldn’t imagine touching Luke in anything but the softest embrace. 

He continued to comfort his son as Luke cried himself into exhaustion. Vader had no intention of ending the embrace until he did. He didn’t even want to look away from him, as he couldn’t bring himself to miss even one hitching rise and fall of his chest. He only removed his eyes from the child’s golden head when he heard his troopers' return. 

Vader looked up to them and Appo immediately gave a nod of his head. “The slaves have been liberated and slavers dealt with, my lord.”

“Good, remove your helmets. Your faces will put Luke more at ease.” 

Both men immediately did as requested, their nearly identical faces looking at him and his son with quiet intrigue. 

Vader gently lifted Luke into his arms and stood. As he got to his feet, he ran his hand gently down Luke’s back and said softly, “Luke, I’d like to introduce you to two friends of mine.”

He lifted his head and glanced at the two of them cautiously, “Hello.”

“Hi, Luke.” they chorused together. 

“This is Appo, and Jesse. I have something I need to do, but they’re going to take you to their brother. He is a medic and will make sure you are healthy. He will also get the chip out of you.”

Luke’s eyes went impossibly wide. “Really? You promise?”

“I promise.”

“Will you be gone long?” 

“No, ursee’ahs. You will likely still be with Kix when I return.”

“They’re your friends? You trust them?”

“I trust them with your life, Lukkeen.” he swore to him solemnly. “You have nothing to worry about from them.”

“You’ll come back soon?” he asked once more, voice still small and nervous. 

“Very. You will go with them to my ship and I will be there as quickly as I possibly can.”

Luke suddenly looked eager. “Ship! Like in space!”

“Yes, little one. The largest Super Star Destroyer in the Navy fleet.”

He gasped. “Really! And it's yours!”

“In a way, yes.”

“I want to see the stars! Can I?”

“You may see all the stars you like as soon as Kix clears you.”

Luke nodded eagerly and allowed Jesse to take him from Vader’s arms. As soon as he was situated, Vader leveled a very pointed look at the man holding him. 

“Protect him with your life, Jesse.”

“Yes, my lord.”

The two left the desolate palace and Vader turned to Appo. The commander’s lips tilted up in a small approximation of a smile. 

“He’s your son, isn’t he?”

“Yes.” Vader answered easily. “Though his name will likely only clue your brothers in on that fact. I’d like to keep it that way for now.”

“Yes, my lord.” Appo made to leave, but Vader’s call of his name stopped him. 

“Tell Kix, if at all possible, let Luke watch the chip removal.”

“I will.” he hesitated for a moment and then added, “where are you going, sir?”

“To get some answers.”

Chapter Text

Lars was not a name that Vader had ever thought he would have to hear again. After the loss of his mother, he wanted nothing to do with the family that had taken her from him. Now, the same family had almost taken his son as well. 

When Jabba had said he had taken Luke from a family called Lars, Vader could have decimated the whole palace to rubble. What did a lowlife moisture farmer think he was doing selling Vader’s son? Force, what right did Lars think he had having his son in his custody at all!

Vader needed to know. He needed answers to calm the roiling Darkside churning around him. So he was once again headed somewhere he had vowed to never return to. His mother’s resting place. 

When he reached the farm, he spared only a brief glance to where his mother rested. He could not bring his violent anger to her place of peace. Instead, he used the rage burning inside him to blast the door of the home off of its hinges. 

A scream and angry shout followed as it  crashed inward. The sight that greeted him as he stalked inside was of a terrified Beru Whitesun and glowering Owen Lars. 

“Who do you think you are, storming in here like this! We paid Jabba our taxes! Now leave!”

“Who do I think I am!” Vader growled. “Let me ask you Lars; who do you think you are, selling children that are not yours!”

“Who are you? What business is it of yours!?”

“Answer me!” he practically roared back, the Darkside swirling around him dangerously.

“We had no choice!” Lars shouted in reply, finally realizing Vader wasn’t going to be cowed by him. “Jabba’s men would have killed us all. Indebting the kid saved my wife and I.”

Indebting!” Vader thundered. “Is that what you Freeborn call slavery? No wonder shoving Luke into a life of torture was nothing to you!”

He turned burning eyes on Beru. “Do you agree, Whitesun?”

“No.” she whispered near silently. “I begged him not to. I love Luke. I can’t stand the thought of him in chains.”

“We had no choice!” Lars snapped. 

“You always have a choice!” Beru and Vader echoed together. The former in anger and latter in disgust. 

“You chose to save your own sorry hide and allowed an innocent child to suffer.” Vader continued with a sneer. “ My innocent child. Luke was the one with no choice. My mother had no choice when she married your father. Had she had the choice, my son never would have had even the option to end up on the same planet as you. Let alone in your custody! ”

“My father loved Shmi! He freed her!” Lars cried after the shocked expression left his face, though his skin stayed a ghostly paled white.

“So he could marry her!” Vader bellowed. “Do you truly think she had a choice ! He freed her and married her and she was too afraid if she said no, she’d be right back in bondage. After all, a free man doesn’t need marriage to sleep with a pleasure slave.”

“My father would never! She loved him, just as much as he loved her!

“And you? Did you love her as a son should?”

“Of course!”

“Then why did you sell her grandchild into bondage!

“Because I didn’t love him! You were no brother of mine, and I held nothing for you. He was just your son that was forced onto us.” He yelled back. 

Beru let in a pained gasp and Vader hissed angrily through his teeth. “You are undeserving of the life you live. The freedom you take for granted. You could not be further from a Child of the Desert. You do not deserve your wife, do not deserve my son and certainly never deserved my mother.”

A heavy silence followed his curt declaration. Lars just continued to glare at him in a mixture of defiance and fear. Beru though, spoke up. 

Her voice was a strange mixture of fearful and hopeful as she asked in a near whisper, “Anakin, is it really you?” 

“I was, once.” he replied, lowering his mask so they could see his face. So they could know for sure he was who he said he was. That he had the right to bring retribution raining down around them.

“Now, I demand to know how my son came into your custody. Immediately.”

“That Jedi Kenobi left him when he told us you were dead.” Lars replied shortly, his arms crossing over his chest in contempt even as he backed away from Vader. 

Vader’s already thrumming anger pulsed violently, threatening to rip away from him and destroy everything in sight. Kenobi. Of course his former master was the one to steal his son away and allow him to be turned into a slave. 

“Where is he?” he managed to grit out through clenched teeth. 

“Gone. Left when he abandoned the kid here.” Lars’s reply was short, his posture tense. 

“What luck for him.” Vader growled, eyes narrowing on Lars. “If only you shared that luck.”

“Are you going to kill us?” Beru asked softly, her eyes almost accepting. 

Something in Vader couldn't damn her. He didn’t know if it was the memory of his mother, or if it was the one time he could remember having met her before. Beru had seemed more distraught at the loss of Shmi Skywalker than the Lars men had been. She had loved Shmi, and Shmi likely loved her. 

He couldn’t dishonour the love his mother shared. Not just for the former slave before him, but her waste of water husband. His mother had at one point meant everything to him. The little bit of the boy she had known that remained couldn’t kill, or even personally harm, someone that she loved. No matter how much he desired to. 

That desire only existed for Lars, however. Beru, he was happy to let live. No matter how accepting of death she seemed to be. 

So he gave a curt shake of his head. “No.” he once more covered his face and pointed to the gaping entrance. “Exit. Now.”

Beru hurried immediately out, Lars glared at him. Vader just returned the glare and stated, “Do not make me move you myself.”

Lars must have realized the stupidity in resisting as he stalked out the door, Vader right on his heels. The moment he was outside of the building, he reached out with the Force and brought the whole thing to rubble. 

He ignored Lars’s cry of outrage and continued his destruction by smashing up the man's speeder. He even reached out across the farm and broke the many vaporators into dust. When he knew nothing was left, he turned to face the two before him. 

“I do not have the time to make you suffer as you deserve, Owen Lars.” he told him with an icy finality to his words. “Nor would I, if only because of the love my mother had held for you. Your fate is in the hands of the Desert now. If you live, it is Her will. Though I do not count on it.”

He didn’t give him a chance to speak before he was turning to the man’s wife.”Beru Whitesun, you are a Daughter of the Desert. You did what you could to save my son from the fate your husband thrust upon him. You had love for Luke. It is that love that I need. Luke will require all the support he can get right now. If you so choose, I would like you to come with me.”

Her expression widened as he spoke, and despite the angry shout from her husband, she did not hesitate to nod. “Yes. I will go with you.”

“Beru!” Lars exclaimed. 

She gave him a sad smile. “I’m sorry, Owen. This is my choice.”

“You can’t do this!” Lars screeched at Vader. “You can not steal my wife and leave me here to suffer!”

“I can do whatever I desire to you.” Vader hissed. “As I said before, I do not have time to bring your miserable life to an end as you deserve. I would love nothing more than to make you experience what life as a slave is like for four years in a matter of hours. Would relish in making you live through every lash, every broken bone, every hour of starvation that my child suffered needlessly because of your selfishness. You are luckier than words can say that I am not.

“As for your wife, like she said, this is her choice. You have walked your fated line. It is time that she walk hers.”

Vader didn’t give him a chance to speak once again, merely guided Beru to his speeder with her husband’s angry yelling chasing after them. 

“Anakin?” her voice was tentative when she spoke up. She had waited until the destroyed homestead was out of sight and Vader hoped she hadn’t changed her mind. 

“I will not apologize for your husband’s fate.” he told her bluntly. 

“I wouldn’t ask you to. Selling your child is unforgivable. You showed him mercy.”

“Whatever fate befalls him is too merciful.” he growled out, hand flexing on the controls in an effort not to crush them. 

“Yes,” she agreed softly. “What I wanted to ask is, what happened? Did you not know Luke was here?”

“I did not know Luke was alive.” he answered in a tone just as soft. “I thought he had died with my wife.”

“I’m sorry.” her hand fluttered in his peripheral like she wanted to touch him and changed her mind. “How is he?”

“Traumatized. Scared. Malnourished. He’s currently with my medic. We will get more answers once aboard the Executor.”

A faint noise left her mouth, he was unsure if it was surprise or agreement. He didn’t say anything in return and they remained silent until they reached the shuttle. 

It was there, staring out at the vast sky through the viewport that she spoke again. “I have never left Tatooine.”

“I had figured.” he replied bluntly, but not harshly. 

“It is oddly freeing.” her voice was near silent. So much, for a moment he was unsure he heard it. He wasn’t sure even that he was supposed to. 

He couldn’t stop himself from replying though. “Yes. It is.”

“Luke should never have been a slave.” she said suddenly. “Should never have been able to understand this feeling.”

“No, he shouldn’t have.” he should have never even been on Tatooine in the first place. He was the son of a Jedi. The son of a Queen. Not a moisture farmer, and certainly not a slave. Though, he said none of that to her despite it being true. 

“I’m sorry you missed the first years of his life.”

“As am I.” he looked over to her. “And I will not miss a day more. Nor, will you.”

They didn’t speak to each other again as the shuttle docked with the Executor. They were both too filled with apprehension at seeing Luke again to speak. 

He led her as quickly as he could to the medbay. To where he felt the shining star of his son’s presence. The moment they entered the space, she was flying away from him and to one of the bed’s tiny occupant. 

“Lukkeen!”

“Aunt Beru!”

Vader let them reunite. He couldn’t begrudge his son a moment of comfort. Despite how much he wanted to be the one holding the boy, he kept his distance for a time. Instead, he turned his head so he was half facing his star while he addressed his loyal medic. 

“Kix. Tell me, how bad is his condition?”

Chapter Text

Vader knew that Kix had seen a lot in his years as a medic. So the fact that he hesitated did not help the rolling anger and apprehension that filled him. Kix was not someone to hesitate for anything. He was blunt and straightforward. He was also one of his men who had never shown any sort of fear to Vader. 

So the hesitation and small spike of fear had him frowning. “Kix. Tell me, whatever it is.”

“He is severely malnourished and incredibly underweight, my lord.” he finally began softly. “He has two incorrectly healed bones in his right arm, one a slight hairline, the other a spiral. I am unsure what the best route to fix those would be.”

“Can they be fixed?” he asked through gritted teeth. 

“I would advise letting him grow some. Depending on how the next few tests I took come back. The bone could be too brittle for any viable surgery on it. He may need to get his nutritional levels back up before we can think to do anything. I have a large amount of vitamins and specific foods he should be consuming for the next month already written up and sent to you. I suggest we give it those few months before revisiting the idea of surgery on his arm.”

“He still has full mobility in it?”

“Yes, though I imagine some motions and too much weight on it could be varying levels of painful.”

“If it begins to hurt him more than it is now, I want you to find a way to fix it.”

“Of course.” Kix agreed without hesitation. “Luke’s comfort and safety is my priority right now, my lord. He is, very special.”

“Yes. He is. What else did you find in your examination?”

“He has significant scarring along his back and the back of his thighs, like those caused by a whip.” Anger flashed in his dark eyes. “I’ve applied bacta to all of them, especially the newer open ones. Some of them are far past being able to be helped. They will likely be there for the rest of his life. I did do what I could for them.”

“I know.” Vader closed his own eyes, trying to center himself to keep the anger from flaring out and towards his vulnerable son. “Is there, there any sign of…” He trailed off, unable to voice the terrifying thoughts rolling around in his head. 

Luckily for him, Kix understood and shook his head. “No, nothing immediately apparent of any trauma of the sort, at least recently. I didn’t want to do a full in depth examination right now. The adiik is traumatized enough as is.” he hesitated a moment before asking, “Do you have reason to believe there might have been?”

“The slug alluded to it, yes.”

Kix cursed harshly in Mando’a and glared violently over Vader’s shoulder. “I hope his death was unpleasant.”

“Not as much as it should have been.” Vader replied. He was regretting merely suffocating the disgusting slaver to death. He deserved much worse. Part of him wanted to hunt down Owen Lars and take out all of his anger on the man who put Luke into this situation. He knew he made the best decision concerning the man’s fate, though. Didn’t mean he had to like it. 

Kix seemed disappointed at Jabba’s easy death as he frowned. “Pity. No one should be able to hurt a child and get away with it. I hope whatever Hell he ended up in, he’s burning.”

“Yes. Was there anything else?”

“I gave him his vaccinations, took that disgusting chip from his leg and ordered him a very, very light dinner.” Kix glanced to Luke and then back to Vader. “He introduced himself as Luke Skywalker.”

“It is his name.”

“And he is your son.”

“I assumed you would confirm it.”

“I did.” Kix handed him the data pad in his hands. “He is without a doubt yours.”

Vader glanced down to the DNA analysis. He hadn’t needed such hard evidence, but it was still an enduring sight to see the confirmation of paternity. “Yes. He is.”

“I’m glad you found him.” Kix said softly. “It will be good for you both.”

Vader lifted his head to meet Kix’s eyes. In the past few years, even his most loyal men hadn’t said such familiar words to him. The deeply hidden part of him missed the comradery. The friendship. It was a part of him he vehemently ignored, but he couldn’t respond to his medic with the harsh words that he had grown used to using. Not after he had done so much for not only Vader, but his son as well. So he nodded. 

“Yes, Kix. I believe it will be.”

Now that he had his full medical workup, he could no longer keep himself away from his child. The minutes he had spent across the room were too much as it was. So with one final nod to the medic, he made his way over to Luke’s side. The little star looked up at him with wide blue eyes and a cautious, shy smile. 

“Hello.”

“Hello, ursee’ahs . Has Kix been good to you?”

“Oh, yes!” he exclaimed immediately. “He was very kind. He took the chip out like you promised! He even gave me candy, though only one small piece. It was so good!”

“Did he now?” Vader asked, his lips moving up in a faint smile. 

Luke’s expression suddenly turned worried. “Was that okay?”

This time, Vader’s smile was wide and necessary as he reached out to brush his child’s long bangs from his eyes. “Yes, little star. It is more than alright. We have something coming up for you to eat as well, whenever you are hungry. It is light so as not to agitate your stomach. Is there anything specific you would like?”

Luke’s expression softened as he shook his head. “You’ve already freed me and brought me my Aunt Beru. What more could I ask for?”

The question brought a pang to Vader’s chest and he met Luke’s eyes directly. “Anything, ursee’ahs . Anything. Ask for it, and it is yours.”

The boy hesitated a moment before asking softly, “A hug?”

Vader did not hesitate to sit beside his son and pull him into his arms. Luke’s own arms wrapped around his neck, his head falling to Vader’s shoulder. He rested his chin against Luke’s golden curls and gave him a gentle squeeze. 

The fact that all his little boy wanted was a hug, hurt him. The fact that he had almost been too scared to ask hurt him even more. He never wanted his son to be scared for or of a single thing again. Especially not from him. 

“You never need ask, ursee’ahs .” he promised him. “You may embrace me at any point. I am always here for you.”

Luke nodded against him and Vader tightened his light grip to something more secure. He would not move until his son did. He would not give the boy any reason to think he was a hindrance. Though when Luke did pull away, Vader was disappointed. He wasn’t ready to let go.

“Thank you.”

“Always, little star.”

Luke smiled widely at him, eyes bright. Vader could feel his exhaustion leaking into the Force though. He was forcing himself to stay awake. 

Vader didn’t hesitate to dissuade him of that need. He once again brushed the hair from his face, and then left his hand against his son’s cheek. “You should sleep, Luke. Rest and heal.”

Luke’s mouth turned down in a frown. “I wanna be with you.” he glanced to Beru. “Both of you.”

“We will be here when you wake up, Luke.” Beru promised him. “Listen to usee’iyais . Get some sleep.”

He sighed, but nodded. “Okay. I am tired.”

Vader leaned forward and pressed a very fleeting kiss to his forehead. “Rest well, little star. We’ll be sure you eat when you wake.”

The boy let them ease him back into the bed and tuck the blankets to his shoulders. Within seconds, he was asleep. His vibrant presence in the Force only dimming minutely as he fell into a peaceful slumber. 

Both Beru and Vader sat in silence, merely watching the perfect rise and fall of Luke’s small chest. Beru was once again the one to break it. 

“Thank you.”

“He’s my son.” Vader replied, his words coming out short and far more offended then he had been aiming for. 

“No, I meant thank you for allowing me here. For letting me back in his life. For giving me a second chance.”

“There is no need for a second chance. You have not wronged him.”

“I didn’t do enough to stop Owen from giving him to the Hutts.”

“He was your husband.” his voice was uncharacteristically soft. “You could not have defied him any more than my mother ever could his father. I do not hold you at fault for what happened to Luke.”

“Still. Thank you, Anakin.”

An uncomfortable crowded feeling suddenly rose up within him. Like his chest was too tight for what it was trying to contain. He could no longer sit beside her with gratitude saturating the Force and moved quickly to his feet. 

“I will make arrangements for rooms for you within my quarters and send up food for you alongside Luke’s.”

“Where will we be going? The ship I mean. Unless we plan to stay onboard?”

“My Master ordered us to return to Coruscant once the meeting with the Hutt was over.” he began with a frown. He didn’t really know how to continue to answer her. He wasn’t sure he wanted to return to Imperial City at all. 

He didn’t get a chance to continue his answer, as Beru let out a small gasp. “Master? Anakin, I thought you were free.”

“I am free!” he snapped, eyes narrowing at her. “It does not mean the same thing!”

“Doesn’t it?”

He opened his mouth to retort that of course it did, when he realized he didn’t really know. It had taken him a long time to realize when he had called a Jedi ‘master’ he was saying se’auze and not zur’nuse . They were teachers, guiders. Not owners or slavers. He had automatically translated that to Sidious. Had he been wrong?

Beru pulled him from his contemplations with a soft, almost fearful question of, “Ankakin, you aren’t rsuhe sahe’zur, are you?”

“No!” He exclaimed vehemently. He did not share any love for Sidious. He did not trust Sidious in any capacity. His reluctance to return to Coruscant was based entirely in that distrust. He did not know what the man would do or say about Luke. Vader refused to allow the man to harm his son in any way.  He had a strong suspicion that Sidious would want to do exactly that. 

With a jolt, he realized that he hadn’t thought of him as Master. Beru had pointed it out and his mind had instantly rebelled. He was not a slave. He most certainly was not a slave who loved their master. 

Referring to Sidious as master had become so ingrained in him, he hadn’t realized what it meant. Hadn’t thought of what he was saying. What power he was giving to a man he despised. He didn’t know how long it would have taken him to notice if he hadn’t promised Luke he would never call another master again. If Beru hadn’t asked that painful, yet eye opening, question. They caused the part of him that had always cringed at the word to come once more to life. He was unsure he would be able to say it again, no matter how much he knew he would have to. 

With that thought, he realized achingly that he would have to . Beru had been right. No free man would ever have to call another master. Vader was not free. He was wrapped in more chains now then possibly any other time of his life. Even more than when he had a literal bomb planted inside of him. 

His hatred for the man who chained him grew more in that instant than it had ever been, and these past seven years it had grown exponentially. From the moment he was forbidden to mourn his wife, to the moment he had learned the man had lied about her demise, Vader’s hatred had grown. It pained him to have to prostrate himself before the vile, lying zur’nuse of a man. He would never allow Luke to have to suffer in the way that he himself had. 

He knew Sidious wouldn’t stand for that. Nor would he likely take well to Luke’s existence. He was thrumming with the need to just take his family and those loyal to him and disappear. He knew though that the Emperor would never let them leave in peace. They would always be looking over their shoulders. Always be in danger. 

No. The best option was to test him. See if there was any chance Luke would be safe anywhere near the Sith lord. He would see Sidious’s reaction and plan from there.

“Anakin?”

He nearly jolted at her voice, but was able to conceal it with just a twitch of his head in her direction. “I am not blinded.” he assured her in a soft tone. “I hold no love for him. I did not realize that I was not, that I was not saying se’auze . We will go to Coruscant and I will deal with my se’ae’a . The two of you will remain on the Executor while I am plantside.”

“To keep Luke safe?” she asked intuitively and he nodded. 

“From now on, my only care is that Luke is safe.” he told her, his tone like a vow. 

“And anything that threatens him?”

“Will not live long enough to carry out the threat,” he promised firmly.

It was a promise he ended up carrying out a few days later. And carry out fiercely. 

The trip to Coruscant was spent almost entirely with his son. Kix had let him out of the med wing the first morning after he arrived. With strict instructions for Vader and Beru to get his health to where it should be. As soon as he was released, they had moved to Vader’s wing on the Executor. A move they were all grateful for, especially his son.

Luke truly was a shining star, and not just in the Force. He was a brilliant boy who was delighted by almost everything he experienced. Especially being among the stars, despite being one himself. He was a Skywalker through and through. He felt the freedom of being in the sky, of walking amongst the stars and showed his pure delight to anyone and everyone he could. Somehow, that rare brilliant starlight adored Vader more than he had thought possible. More than Vader thought he really should have.

His entire person lit up every time he returned to their rooms from his duties onboard the ship. He didn’t seem to care if Vader’s face was covered. He didn’t care if he was still radiating anger at the incompetence of some of his officers. He likely wouldn't have cared if he had blood on his robes. When he entered their home on the Executor, Luke hugged him. 

He didn’t know how he deserved it, but his son loved him. He could feel it blasting in the Force like the strongest truth in the galaxy. It was a love Vader returned without thought. He had loved his little star from the moment his wife had told him of his existence. He hadn’t realized then though that it was a love that would just grow, and grow until it felt like it was consuming his entire being. 

He hadn’t felt such an emotion in a very, very long time. He had almost forgotten how. Had Luke not been so deserving of every beautiful, wonderful thing in life he wasn’t sure he’d even know how to show it. He couldn’t give his son an emotionless wall though. His wonderful child had been through more than enough in his very few years. Vader would not add to it. 

He did all he could to show Luke that he loved him. He would listen to everything he said. Would speak to him, not around him like most adults did to children. He’d play whatever game Luke came up with. He did all he could to let his star be the child he always should have been able to. 

His love wasn’t just confined to the daylight hours. He happily tucked him in each night. Eagerly told him stories, despite not knowing many, and kissed his forehead. He would patiently answer any question Luke had as they always seemed to come up at bedtime. The nights he was hesitant to speak, Vader would coax him from his shell whenever he got too nervous and tried to hide. He took to being a father much easier then he had any other role in life. Even more so than Jedi. 

He really didn’t want to leave the Executor to enter Coruscanti airspace. He didn’t want to leave his son’s side at all. He certainly didn’t want to leave it to confront the Emperor. That’s what he was sure it would be, a confrontation. 

He knew Sidious. He knew every blackened piece of his heart was entirely selfish. Every action he had ever taken was to become what he was now. Was for power and control. He knew Sidious would see Luke as a threat. Whether it was now, or in the future, the Emperor would wish to cause his son harm. As soon as he realized that, he knew that he could not let Sidious survive.That this was no longer a test to see how the Emperor would respond. Vader could not let him live to cause his son harm. He would not allow him to ever even have the chance. 

The remaining days of their trip he spent practicing within the Force. Practicing hiding his emotions, his true thoughts and feelings, behind a wall that couldn’t even be seen. If he was going to Coruscant with the intention of committing treason, it was treason that would be hidden within even his own mind. He would not let the Emperor know even an inkling of his true feelings. His true motivations. 

When they reached the planet, he gave his son a hug and made sure the boy knew he loved him. Then he left an encoded data pad with Kix that the medic was to only open were he not to return. Kix and his vod were the only ones he trusted with Luke and Beru should he fail. He knew that they would keep them safe. That there were places they knew of that they could disappear into. He hoped, though, that they would never be necessary. He had no intention of failing. 

 Despite his true intentions, he played the dutiful servant. Slave, if he were being honest. He had no idea how he had not noticed that was what he was. He was currently knelt at Sidious’s feet with his head bowed. Those were not actions he ever would have allowed himself to fall into for the Jedi. They were not actions he had ever had to take for any other Master he had served. 

It was from that submissive position that he gave a fabricated, if not based in truth, tale of Jabba’s demise. He made it seem like Jabba did not appreciate his reaction to him owning slaves, and attacked him for the perceived slight. Vader was then, of course, forced to protect himself with lethal force. 

 Sidious wasn’t pleased by the news of the slug’s death. Or by what he saw as a failure to Vader’s character. “You really must get over this hang-up with slavery, Lord Vader. It is a necessary, and beneficial part of the Empire. Nevertheless, with the Hutt gone Tatooine airspace is ours without question. I suppose I won't punish you too harshly.”

Yet, punish him he did. Vader tried not to flinch away at the current of lightning that rained down on him. He wished he could have struck before he was forced to experience the pain once more. He had to endure it though. His plan only worked if Sidious was not expecting it. 

It was, by comparison, a light punishment. A few seconds at most, but enough that Vader’s heart didn’t feel like it was beating correctly and his weak lungs protested as they tried to take in air. He was thankful for his bowed position, because he knew his eyes were full of hatred, even with his new walls built. 

“What else occurred my apprentice?” Sidious asked with a curious head tilt, false sincerity pouring from him as if he hadn’t just tortured him at a whim.

“I…” Vader hesitated just a moment. He was sure that Palpatine believed he was catching his breath instead of gathering his thoughts into the best order. A belief he was happy to let him keep.  After a moment, he squared his  shoulders and said, “I have reason to believe that my child is alive and hidden on Tatooine.”

“Oh?” Sidious’s Force presence had turned sharp with that one small utterance. 

“Yes. While planetside, I felt a presence in the Force. It, it was familiar and very much like mine. As well as young. I would like to investigate it.”

“To what end, Lord Vader?”

“To raise my child, my master.” he replied bluntly, keeping all of his emotions firmly locked down, including his disgust at referring to the Emperor as master . It would not help him for Sidious to know how much he already loved his son, and that he hated Sidious even more than he already had. He had to keep it all hidden very tightly behind his new, invisible walls for any of this to work.

The hall was quiet for a few moments before Sidious gave a simple response. “No.”

“M-Master?” he forced himself to sound meek as he allowed his surprise to break through, the shock covering his icy inferno of rage the one word had instilled in him. 

Sidious sneered. “You will look for the Skywalker child, but you will not keep it. If the presence is as strong as you say, it is a danger to us. You will find and destroy it.”

Vader stared ahead of him, refusing to look at the man before him directly. He could not give the Sith lord a chance to notice the rebellion living within him. Destroy Luke? That would never be a possibility as long as Vader drew breath. His little star was all that was good in this galaxy. No one would take him from him. Especially not the Emperor.

He contemplated arguing the fact. Putting up a fight. Acting as Sidious would want him too, if only so that the man could break Vader down and force him to come to terms with his decision. He knew how that act went, and had no intention of enraging Sidious. Of bringing his power and hold on the Force to the surface. Instead, he gave him what he had wanted all those years ago and never truly got in Vader. A loyal lap dog. It would be the only time the Sith Lord would ever see it though. Sidious would not leave this room alive. 

“Yes, my master.” he voiced, the perfect image of compliance. He allowed only acceptance and obedience to touch the Force, his true intentions held tightly to his chest. 

“Good.” the man leaned back in his throne with a pleased, arrogant smile. He was relaxed and delighted by Vader’s sudden complacency. He believed that he had truly broken him from the man he had once been. Vader could see it all in the self satisfied smirk he wore. Sidious’s guard was down and there would never be a better moment for him to attack. 

“I knew you would understand my old friend.” the Emperor continued cheerfully. As if he didn’t just order Vader to kill his own son. It was that cheerful energy that fueled the protective rage in Vader enough for him to be able to silently, motionlessly, strike. “I knew tha...-” Sidious suddenly cut off, his hands flying to his own chest as Vader released the power from his. 

“Master, are you alright?” he asked, taking a step up the stairs towards him. 

He knew very well he wasn’t alright. As he allowed the old man to see submission and obedience, his anger and hate were building up behind his new walls. The moment Sidious had relaxed his hold on the Force, Vader grabbed it for himself and did what he should have accomplished years ago. He wrapped it around his master’s old, shriveled heart and squeezed . It felt as if Vader’s own hands were tightly gripping him. Squeezing the life from him slowly enough that he realized it, but couldn’t do a thing about it.  

“What…?” Sidious managed to gasp out as he fell from his chair. Vader took a few steps in order to easily catch his body as it toppled. 

The Sith lord continued to take raspy breaths as he stared up at Vader in shock, who let a cruel grin take over his face as he bent to whisper in his ear. “You are the one who is a threat to my child. Your presence will never taint the air my little star breathes, master .”

Sidious’s being was flooded with hatred as he took his last breath. The moment his body sagged, Vader felt a true peace settle in his mind. A peace he had not felt since childhood. Darth Sidious was dead, and Darth Vader was free.

Chapter Text

Luke expected a lot out of his days. None of it was ever good. Pain. Humiliation. Fear. They were all things that he experienced on a daily basis. Not once did he expect his day to bring utter delight in the form of his father. 

Oh, he dreamed of him. Almost constantly. During the day, when he needed to leave his reality. At night, in the illusion of comfort on his uncomfortable cot. In his sleep, when even his subconscious wished for him to set Luke free. His father would swoop in and destroy the zur’nuse . He would free him and all the other slaves. He would come to take Luke home. 

Not once had he ever considered this fantasy being real. Yet, here it was, happening before his eyes. The powerful figure of his dreams, choking the life from Jabba without having to lay a hand on him. Killing his guards without seeming to have to think about it. Doing it all for Luke . He took in one unbelievable step further when, as soon as his master was dead, he was kneeling, kneeling before Luke. 

Was this real? It had to be real, right? It was real. He was real and he wanted Luke . No. These things didn’t happen to little slave boys. They just didn’t. He had to be dreaming. 

As his father was speaking to the identical troopers, he subtly reached down and pinched his leg. The sharp pain was very real, yet nothing in front of him changed. This was real

He was sure his father thought the wide grin that he gave was just for the idea of seeing the largest ship in existence. Was just for seeing the stars. In a way, it was. Truly though, the grin was because he wasn’t about to wake up in some miserable place. It was because his dad had finally come for him! Had never abandoned him in the first place, like many loved to tell him. 

His father wanted him to come home. He was saddened that he hadn’t always been home. It was because of knowing that, that he didn’t protest when he was handed over to Jesse. He knew his father wouldn’t abandon him. Because this was real, and he wanted Luke in his life like he had always dreamed. 

As they walked from his place of imprisonment for the last four years, his smile only grew. He couldn’t help directing it to the man who carried him. He was an interesting man, and felt secure to be around. Luke really liked the tattoo on the side of his face. Like a gear almost. He liked mechanics so the sight was a comforting one. He also just felt safe with this man. He was his father’s friend after all. He had helped free the slaves. How could he not be safe?

The friendship his father shared with this soldier had him curious. Curious about how well he knew Luke’ father. It was enough of a curiosity that it caused him to tentatively speak up, “Uhm, sir? Mr. Jesse?”

He gave a faint chuckle and stroked Luke’s hair. It was a soft touch that his father had done too. Luke was finding he liked it a lot. He wasn’t used to soft touch. “Just Jesse is fine, ad’ika .”

“Jesse. You, you’re my dad’s friend right? He said so.”

The trooper hesitated very briefly and then nodded. “Yes little one.”

“Have you known him long?”

He gave a nod. “I’ve known your father for many years.”

“Do you,” this time he was the one who hesitated as he was unsure if he should ask. He really needed to know though. “Do you think he’ll like me?”

“Yes.” Jesse answered immediately. “Yes, ad’ika . I know for a fact he will like you.”

“How?”

He thought for a moment. “Because you are his son. Because you’re family . Because a piece of him has been missing for many years, and I know that piece is you. He will like you very much Luke. More than he likes anyone, or anything, else in this galaxy.”

He stressed family in a way that surprised Luke. Like this man knew what family meant to the Desert. Knew that saying that,  over literally anything else, would put his fears to rest. So, he beamed up at the soldier and gave a delighted nod. “Good. I love him. He’s my hero. I always hoped he’d come rescue me. I, I never thought it would happen but I had hoped.”

Jesse returned his smile. “Don’t worry, ad’ika . I’m certain there isn’t a thing your father won’t do for you. He’ll keep you safe. We’ll keep you safe.”

It wasn’t hard to believe these words. Luke knew without a doubt, that for the first time in his life, he was truly safe. 


The last four years of Beru’s life were spent in turmoil. She didn’t wake a day without thinking of Luke and crying. She didn’t care about the waste of water. Luke was owed her tears more than she deserved the water for herself.

She couldn’t go a day without an argument with her husband. The great love she once held for him dwindling with every pass of the suns. There wasn’t a night that followed where she didn’t desperately beg Rase’hues to let the cycle break. She hadn’t truly expected it to, and when it did she should have been shocked at how it came to pass. She wasn’t. 

She did not really know Anakin Skywalker. She had faintly known of him as a fellow slave child, and then learned even more from the pure being that was Shmi Skywalker. 

Hahna’keen Zu’rhi. His mother hadn’t skimped on the name with that one. Hadn’t hesitated to give him a legacy to live up to. It was a legacy he had embraced and surpassed. Sky Walker indeed. The man he had become didn’t just walk the stars; he owned them. A jedi knight. A hero. 

She had been heartbroken when she heard of his death from Kenobi. Had even given him the Desert remembrance he deserved and had vowed to keep his son safe. 

It was a vow she had failed and hated herself for it every day. When he had come seeking vengeance like a dark swathed liberator, every inch the aptly named Hahna’keen he was, she hadn’t expected to be spared. She had nearly cried when she was. 

He didn’t blame her. He blamed Owen. He punished Owen. He was willing to take her with him. To turn her to a true Sky Walker as well. It was more than she had ever hoped for.

Beru wasn’t naive. She could tell that Anakin had changed. Knew that there was a darkness surrounding him now. A darkness that had begun with the death of Shmi. She understood. It was a darkness she herself had felt before. 

For that reason, and many more, it didn’t change her opinion of him. He had freed Luke. Had spared her life, and to an extent her husband. Most importantly, he had brought her back to her precious Lukkeen. 

As she held the too small boy to herself, she knew that Anakin Skywalker was her family. Was true unuruhsiy . He had her trust and loyalty. No matter who he was now or what he was called. She knew who he truly was. 



Kix had been a member of the Five oh First since there was a Five oh First to be a member of. He cared for his vod’e as much as he did the natborns that fought alongside them now. His many years as a medic had shown him all the atrocities war could bring. He had never once though, had a patient like this Never had he had  to treat a traumatized slave child. 

He had felt an instant kinship with little Luke Skywalker. His general’s son. He was so bright despite the obvious hardships his body told the tale of. He was a child who should never have to bear the bite of a whip. To have had his arm twisted into a break. To have had to endure a fracture of what he had. Yet he did, and still managed to smile. To be unfailingly polite.

He took the examination with a stoic silence that Kix had never seen in a child before. No seven year old boy should have to be so calm as he explained the many punishments he had had to endure. 

He didn’t even flinch as Kix applied bacta to the open wounds and a scar treatment to the old lashes. He didn’t bat an eye as he gave him vaccinations or took blood. Nor did he even tense as the medic removed the chip embedded in his outer thigh in the most gentle way he could. 

As soon as it was out and the incision closed and covered, he began to cry. Large, wet grateful tears spilling from wide blue eyes as he hugged Kix as tightly as his little arms would allow. 

“Thank you,” the boy whispered into his shoulder. He couldn’t have stopped himself from hugging him back if he had wanted to. The child’s pure gratitude and affection were impossible to ignore. 

“You’re more than welcome,” he replied just as softly. “You’ll never have to go through something like that again, ad’ika .”

“Because you and your brothers will protect me?”

“And your father.” he added on immediately. He had yet to speak to his commanding officer, but he knew without a doubt Luke had become the man’s priority. He only wished he had been able to find him sooner. 

Later, after he had been given a data pad with firm instructions on when to open it, he knew he had been right days before. He knew what he had told his general was an absolute fact. Luke Skywalker would do far more good for Lord Vader then anyone or anything else ever could. Well, expect maybe a mind healer but that was a thought Kix was keeping to himself.

Chapter Text

Emperor Sheev Palpatine’s death was a tragedy, but a natural one. At least that is what the Empire at large believed. That is what everyone but Vader believed. He was happy to keep it that way. 

His funeral was three days after the tragic death. It was scheduled to be an overly pompous drawn out affair that Vader wanted nothing more than to ignore. He’d have much rather stayed in the overly secure penthouse he had found for them with his son and Beru. He was not mourning Sidious. He didn’t want to pretend like he was. 

He would have to do so in the eye of the entirety of the Empire as well. Force forbid the former Emperor wasn’t idolized and mourned across the galaxy. Vader doubted very few people were truly mourning. It would likely turn into a celebration. 

His lack of mourning wasn’t his only reason to not want to attend. He was unsure if he could handle the event itself. Pomp and circumstance were not his ideas of fun. Nor was having to give off a certain image. He would have to look his new role. Being shrouded in mystery and darkness worked just fine for the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Not so much for the new Emperor. 

Especially not when he wanted to give a different outlook to the Empire, starting with its new ruler. Sidious had never shown his true colors. The Empire already knew Vader’s. He’d just have to attempt to show them that he wasn’t quite everything they thought he was. 

His usual attire wouldn’t allow that in any capacity, and that alone almost made him change his mind. He didn’t though. He had straight up refused any sort of coronation, and this had to count as his entrance as the Emperor. The image was important. At least he was told it was. 

Instead of his usual black robes and armour, he had allowed himself to be adorned in something a little more extravagant. As extravagant as he could bring himself to. A black long belted tunic and tighter pants with gold buttons and faint designs. He wanted his hooded robe to hide in, but went with an overly heavy black cape that had a shimmersilk gold liner. 

He hated it. He wanted his hood on. He didn’t like feeling so exposed with his hair hanging loose around him. So much so that he ended up tying it back on top of his head. His only consolation was that he would still wear his face mask. He didn’t want anyone to recognize him as his former self. 

“You look pretty.”

Luke’s voice tore him away from glaring at his reflection. The young boy stood beside the door, rocking on his small feet. Vader gave him a soft smile and walked to his side. 

“Do I?”

His son answered with an immediate nod. “Is that okay? To say boys look pretty?”

“I believe it is a wonderful compliment.” Vader replied, bending down, he ignored the twinge in his legs, and scooped his son into his arms. 

Luke squealed and wrapped his arms around his neck. “Then you’re very pretty. I like your hair. I like that it's gold like mine.”

Vader ran his hand through Luke’s hair with an agreeing nod. “It is.”

“Can I grow mine out too?”

“If you would like.”

“I do!” he nodded enthusiastically. “I’ll be just like you, daddy.”

Vader’s brain stopped functioning at the last word. In the weeks since he had found his son, the boy had not called him by any name. Now he had called him daddy! Vader was unsure if he was deserving of such an honorific. 

He must have frozen completely because Luke began to fidget. “Are you okay? I don’t have to call you daddy if you don’t want.”

Vader instantly shook his head and pressed their foreheads together. “You may call me whatever you wish, my star.”

Luke let out a relieved breath and tightened his arms around Vader’s neck. “Thank you.”

“You do not have to thank me, Luke.” 

They stood in silence for a moment before Luke asked, “Do you have to go?”

That was the final and most important reason Vader didn’t want to attend this ridiculous affair. His son. He has had to leave him far more the last few days then he wanted to. He didn’t want to have to do it for something he hated. 

He gave a heavy sigh and leaned back so he could meet his son’s eyes. “Unfortunately. I do not know how long I will be gone. You will be alright with Aunt Beru though, yes?”

Luke’s sad smile turned into an excited nod. “Yeah! We’re going to watch the show about the tooka and loth cats!”

“Excellent idea, my star.” Vader agreed as he walked them into the living room. His son’s glee at the various holonet shows hasn’t stopped bringing a smile to his face. At least he would be entertained with Vader gone the whole day.

They found Beru on the couch, a data pad in her hands. She looked up as they entered with a soft smile. “You look good Anakin.”

“Thank you.” She still insisted on calling him that name, and he couldn’t bring himself to tell her to stop. 

“He looks pretty, huh Aunt Beru?”

“Yes, very.” her smile turned into a grin as she stood. 

“I don’t want him to go,” he then added as he laid his head on Vader’s shoulder heavily. It was about enough to make him decide to forget about this whole overblown day. 

Yet, he still knew that he couldn’t. With a sad sigh, he ran a hand down Luke’s back. “I will not be gone too long, little one.”

“Your dad is a very important man, Lukkeen.” Beru told him softly. “He has to do boring important things sometimes. If we let him go now, he can get those things over with sooner and come back home.”

“To play?” he asked softly.

“If it is not too close to your bedtime.” Vader promised him. 

“You could be gone all day!”

He suppressed another sigh and his desire to stay at Luke’s distraught tone. “I unfortunately have a few meetings after the memorial. I promise I will try to be as fast as possible.”

Luke huffed, but allowed himself to be put down without complaint. He didn’t go far though, as he immediately wrapped himself around Vader’s legs. “Be fast. I’ll miss you.”

He brushed his fingers through his son’s bangs. “I’ll miss you too, little star.”

“Love you, daddy.”

Vader froze once more. Yet another first. Something he wished he had the time to savour. He had not expected Luke to love him so quickly. Had thought he would take weeks, or maybe even months to express any sort of love for Vader. He was almost struck speechless by the incredibility of it.

His precious child was making him regret taking the reins of the Empire. If only because it stole their time together. It hindered their ability to build a relationship. They had already lost too much of it as it was. 

Yet, if he hadn’t someone else would have. Someone as bad as Sidious had been. He couldn’t regret his decision. It's what would allow him to create a galaxy that deserved his son.

So he fixed Luke’s hair once more and gave him the kindest smile his face had made in a very long time. “And I you, my son. Be good for your Aunt.”

“I will, daddy.”

He was barely able to pull himself away. He really wished he hadn’t. The hours that followed were akin to torture. Especially the part where he had to speak to the people. Vader was not a public speaker. He had to center himself in the Force before he was able to even begin.

“Emperor Palpatine’s passing was a tragedy,” he started with a lie that bit into his heart. This was why he hated politicians. The lies and deceit and backhandedness were not things he excelled in. “Though his passing was a loss, we cannot stay stagnant in memory. Within the coming weeks and months, change will be occurring. Changes made in design to you, the people of the Empire. 

“No matter how beloved,” another word that had to be torn out of his throat, “no ruler truly makes a government. Be it by city or the entire galaxy. It is you, the people who live within it that make the Empire what it truly is. I am of the mind that our late Emperor forgot that fact one too many times. So no matter how saddened we may be, we must move forward. Must make amendments and sacrifices that may be hard for some.

“I am determined to govern us in a way that truly benefits each and every sentient living within our galaxy,” he stressed the words as firmly as he could. “I will be sure that happiness and peace truly prevail for all that call this their home. From the Deep Core to the farthest reaches of the Outer Rim, no sentient will live in fear. I will govern in a way that I know the Sheev Palpatine I knew as a child would agree with. May he gain the rest he deserves.”

He changed the last few sentences. How they were written made it sound like Sidious would agree with him, would support him. Vader didn’t want Sidious’s support, even in death. He for sure did not hope him peace. 

Somehow, his speech was met with thunderous applause and cheers. It was a reaction he wasn’t expecting, and one that made him uncomfortable. He didn’t hesitate to hurry away from the balcony, the two men at his side falling into step with him immediately.

Maximilian Veers and Firmus Piett. His General and the brand new Captain of his Flagship. Probably the only two men outside of the vod’e that he truly trusted. They were the only ones he had allowed to accompany him today. 

“My lord?” He turned his head to Piett who gave him a nervous questioning look. “Did you write that?”

Vader couldn’t help the small snort. “No. No I did not. I had someone else put it together.” That had been an interesting conversation. He was sure he’d remember Bail Organa’s wide eyed look for the rest of his life. 

“Short and sweet. Very straightforward, my lord. The sort of politician I’d like to listen to.” Veers remarked. 

“I am not a politician.” he replied bluntly. 

“If I may, my lord,” Piett began. “What are you then?”

In over his head, Vader wanted to reply. Instead, he stopped walking and met the smaller man’s eyes. “Are you asking which direction the Empire will be going in now, Captain?”

He glanced over to the General and then back to Vader. “It is of large question, my lord.”

“Much of your worries will be addressed soon. The two of you will accompany me to the senate. Ozzell, Thrawne and many of the Moffs will be there as well. I do not share the priorities as the former Emperor. I assure you both though; mine will always live with the military and my men. With the lives of those most overlook.”

Neither asked him another question as they approached the Senate. Vader was thankful for it, and even more so for the relief that emitted from them into the Force. He knew his plans and changes would shake things up. He knew that they would not be enjoyed by many. He honestly didn’t care what the stuffy politicians thought. There was only only one senator’s opinion he had ever cared for. None of them came near her. 

However, he did care for his men’s thoughts. Not because they would influence him, but because he respected them. He was relieved that, at least so far, they still shared that respect. 

When he and his men arrived, the senate was practically twittering. The sound stopped abruptly when his pod reached the center of the room. Good. He wouldn’t have to force them to be silent. 

“I am not a public speaker.” he stated bluntly. “Nor am I a politician. So I will make things short.”

He looked around the gathered men and women, all staring at him with varying levels of blank faces. He was sure they wanted him there as little as he wanted to be there. Though what they wanted changed nothing. 

“I do not care what your opinion of Palpatine was. I do not care if you are grieving his loss or celebrating his death. In fact, I don’t even care about your opinion of me. I have zero intention of taking over your processes, of dictating your decisions. I will still have veto powers of course, but I am not a politician. The senate is not my concern at this time. I have been, and always will be, a soldier. Right now, my interest lies in the military and the people. 

“However, the direction the military has been ordered to take in recent years is harmful and counterproductive. Constant persistent attacks against our own people is a waste of resources and lives. No longer will we be attacking every rumor of rebellion with prejudice. 

“An Empire can go nowhere without people. Too many of these people in the Mid and Outer Rims are forced under militant and dehumanizing control. My main priority for the coming months, and years if need be, is to do what no other governing force in this galaxy has ever done. Abolish slavery in its entirety and unite the Outer Rim under Imperial Government.”

Voices broke out then, some delighted others filed with either astonishment or anger. Vader only had to clear his throat once, accompanied by a pointed glare, for it to quiet down. 

“As I said, I do not care for your opinions. I am the Emperor now, and no sentient being will own another as long as I hold that title. Slavery is already illegal. I merely intend to enforce that law.”

He said his words with firm finality, his cold gaze traveling through the room. Not one being spoke up, and he gave them all a firm nod. 

“That said, I will leave you all to your jobs. My military leaders and I will take our leave. Should you have any legitimate concern, I suggest you go to whoever will be stationed in your sector.”

With that, he swept from the room as swiftly as he had entered, Veers and Piett hot on his heels. He led them to what used to be Sidious’s office, barely letting the door shut behind them before he was holding them with his gaze. 

“I do hope you don’t have any complaints, gentlemen.”

“Permission to speak freely, sir?” Piett asked, his voice holding only a small waiver. 

Vader gave a sharp nod and the Captain let out a small sigh of relief. “This course of action should have happened long ago. I am from Axilla, slavers and pirates run rampant there. Citizens fear for their lives, for their freedom far more than any Coreworlder could ever understand. I know you do not need my agreement, my lord, but you have it. The Lady and her men are happily at your disposal.”

“Most, if not all, of the Five Hundred and First has not liked the battles we are sent to.” Veers admitted softly. “Some have felt like we were pointlessly dying. The more we fight uprisings, the more uprisings happen. You know your men, my lord. You know their opinions on slavery and human trafficking. This will not be garnering any complaint from us.”

“Yes. From you.” Vader agreed, happy that he had placed his trust in the right men. They seemed to catch his underlying meaning though, as Piett frowned. 

“You fear some of the others’ reactions?” he asked. 

“I fear nothing from those men, Captain.” Vader replied, his tone laced through with a threat towards whoever opposed his directions. He himself had nothing to fear, there wasn’t anything they could do to him. He was however, apprehensive about what they could do to those loyal to him in an attempt to halt the Liberation. 

“Yet,” he continued to his men, “the two of you should. Trust as few as you can. I imagine the next few weeks could get very sticky.”

Chapter Text

“Lord Vader, you can’t seriously be suggesting this proposal!”

“I think you’re forgetting he’s Emperor Vader now.”

“His title is irrelevant here! He’s seriously suggesting we stop all slave labour! That will increase costs of mining, building, shipping not to mention dozens of other productions!”

“So we’re expected to care more about cost than sentient life?”

“If we want this Empire to survive!”

“Did you not pay a bit of attention to our Emperor’s words yesterday? What use is an Empire if its people are always angry? There will continuously be splinter groups and rebellions. Showing that the individual matters will help to put an end to all of that.”

“You don’t seriously think…-”

“Enough.”

Vader’s one word was accompanied by enough of the Darkside that all of the military brass surrounding him fell silent. Finally. The arguments had been going on since he had begun their meeting the morning following Sidious’s memorial. The assembled conglomeration of Generals and Admirals couldn’t see eye to eye on anything. They had been yelling at each other, and him, for thirty minutes. Vader wanted to toss the lot of them out of the windows. 

“You are all squabbling like children. It does not matter your opinions. This is the direction our military is headed in. Either get behind it, or resign. You will not like it if I have to force your resignation at a later date.”

“Surely my lord, this is not at all the direction Emperor Palpatine would have taken.” Gallius Rax implored. He was a man Sidious had promoted from nowhere. A man Vader doubted deserved the ranking at all.

Vader had no qualm telling him either, a frown the man could not see aimed at him. “If you need me to point out that I am not Palpatine, then you are not at all deserving of the title of Admiral.”

He spluttered and Mas Amedda, Palpatine’s weak willed sycophant, cleared his throat nervously. “I’m sure the Admiral didn’t mean to insinuate you were the same, my lord. Merely that he, and Palpatine, would have preferred to go after the rebels.”

“I do not need to wear a sign that proclaims that I am not Palpatine. I am clearly not him. I do not agree with the direction he was dragging the Empire. Those facts should be evident by now, Grand Vazire ,” he sneered the title, eyes narrowing dangerously. “Nor do I need you sniveling in my ear to make my decisions valid and absolute.”

The chagrian’s skin blanched. “My lord, no of course not! I do not infer that you are inadequate.”

“I don’t see why any of this is even a discussion,” Veers drawled. “Our Emperor had given us orders. Now we complete them.”

“And I do not see why he is even our Emperor!” Nial Declann sneered, his weak force presence flaring. 

“Does second in command and Palpatine’s heir go completely over your head?” Piett asked in a complete deadpan. 

Declann’s expression turned into an even darker sneer. “I don’t understand why you are even here either, Captain.

“Because my commanding officer and Emperor requested me to be,” he replied bluntly. 

“As a mere Captain? And a new one at that?” Octavian Grant questioned skeptically. His superiority complex evident in the upturned nose and scoffing look he gave the Captain. “Admiral Ozzell is your commanding officer.”

“Last I checked, Emperor trumped Admiral, Grant.” Thrawne remarked, his posture relaxed and comfortable despite the tense air in the room. 

“No one asked for a Chiss’s opinion!” Danetta Pitta snapped, his blatant racism appalling, yet entirely in character. 

“Funny, last I checked no one asked for yours either.” Rae Sloane, one of the few there Vader knew to actually have risen to her rank on her own merit, remarked blasely. 

“Nor yours!” Ishun-II-Roz, the humanocentric and incredibly sexist Admiral, snapped. “We all know you are only a Captain because you slept your way to your position.”

“Oh, yes. You caught me. I’m having an illicit affair with my superior officers.” she drawled, pointing to first Veers and then Vader. 

“The next one of you who speaks will find themselves promptly without the ability to do so ever again.” Vader announced, completely at the end of his rope. “Your squabbling is testing my patience. My earlier statement stands. Those who find themselves unable to obey my orders will leave. Now.”

No one spoke. No one moved. Vader wasn’t even sure if any of them breathed. When after a couple minutes no one had yet to leave, he nodded. 

“Good. Now if you are all done acting like children, your temporary assignments are on the data pads before you. Not every one of you will be assigned to Liberation. There are still many other assignments needed. We are not abandoning our posts. The small spurts of rebel activity are just not a current priority, as they needlessly kill our men and ignite more.

“As I said, these are temporary orders. I will be reviewing you and your men's work over the next few weeks. Depending on the outcome, you may be moved or even removed if I find it necessary. Do not expect to get comfortable with these current positions.

“For the next two hours, and two hours alone , I am here for questions. As long as those questions pertain only to your current assignments. You are all expected to be off planet and on your way to your posts tomorrow morning.”

“I just don’t see the point in seeking the freedom of inferior species.” Ruffan Tigenllines, yet another disturbingly racist, inferior Admiral, muttered quietly. Vader was sure he wasn’t supposed to hear. 

“I did not ask for your opinion, and if you continue to give it unsolicited then I may not see the point in your continued employment by this Empire, Admiral.” Vader told him harshly. “Every sentient is a member of this galaxy and I could care less for your ideals. Do any of you have any pertinent questions?”

Once again, no one spoke. Vader waited only two minutes before he nodded and leaned back in his chair. “Then leave. All of you but Piett and Veers. Now.”

Chairs scrapped as they scattered in as dignified of a hurry as they could manage. Once his two men were the only ones who remained, Vader removed his hood and mask to meet their gazes directly. 

“I am sending the Executor back to Tatooine.”

“Sending?” Piett asked, his expression briefly wide. 

Vader nodded. “Unfortunately, I can not yet leave Coruscant. I expect the two of you to take care of things on my behalf.”

“Us?” Piett asked again. 

“Yes. General, you and the Five oh First will take the planet from any who refuse to  release their slaves peacefully. I do not care if they die.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Piett, you will be in command of aerial resistance.”

“Me?”

Vader couldn’t resist the very small smirk that came on his lips at the Captain’s third surprised question. “Yes, Captain. You.”

“What about Ozzell?”

“I trust Ozzell about as much as a seven year old could throw him.” Vader replied simply. “On the note of trust, General, take Captain Sloane as a temporary second in command. I have an alternative assignment for Jesse and Appo.”

“Of course,” he agreed easily. 

“These next orders are completely confidential and if I learn they got out, I will be far past displeased.”

They exchanged cautious looks, but then instantly nodded in understanding. Vader gave them a nod in return before speaking. “On Tatooine, I found out my son I thought I had lost was alive. He had been taken and ultimately sold into slavery.”

Both men let out shocked noises. Veers’s fists clenched against his side and his eyes narrowed. “How old is he, my lord?”

“Seven.” Vader’s voice softened against his will at the thought of his little star. They either didn’t notice, or were smart enough to not mention it. 

Veers did give an understanding small raise of his lips. “My son is of that age.”

“Yes.” he nodded and leaned a little closer to the General. “That is why I told you of him. When you return, I would like for you to introduce them.”

“Oh.” Veers was quiet for a moment before he gave a soft smile. “Yes, I believe that would be good for both children.”

“My lord, why did you allow me to know?” Piett asked cautiously. 

“Because there may come a time when, for some reason, I can not be there with him. When that time comes, I need you to be the one with Luke.”

“Me!” he practically squeaked. 

“Yes. You. Appo and Jesse, or another member of their brothers, will be his guards. Always. However, if I can not be there, there is no one that I trust more with him than you. I made you the Captain of my flagship because of your integrity, honor and ability to do your job well off of your own merits. Those are traits I want my son to know. To see first hand. It will not be any time soon, but someday I will need to be with the fleet, if only for a short time. Luke will need someone like you as a role model.”

“I am honored, my Emperor.” he practically whispered. “If you are certain?”

“Yes, Captain. I am absolutely certain. Luke is my entire galaxy, I trust no one else with his existence even. You are not only the best option, but the only one I would truly trust.”

“I will protect him with my life.” Piett promised solemnly. 

“As I knew you would.” Vader replied simply. “I do not trust easily, Captain, General. Do not give me a reason to regret it.” 

“I won’t.” they echoed together without a second’s hesitation. 

Vader gave them one last nod and stood, the two immediately following. “I trust that you will not. I have something I must attend to. The two of you, return to the Executor in preparation for Tatooine. I know that neither of you will disappoint me while there.”

Chapter Text

Vader didn’t want to approach the next person he knew he needed to speak with. He had done so once, but that conversation lasted all of a minute. This had the potential to take the rest of his day. 

Asking, or demanding, Bail Organa to write the very brief speech from the day before had been stilted and quick. He didn’t even wait around for the man to begin, or even really agree, after he had said what he wanted in it. Being around him was too painful. 

He had been her best friend. Closest political ally. It would be hard for Vader to be near him. Unfortunately, the same connection he wanted to avoid was why he was going to this particular senator. 

He rapped only twice on the office door and had to suppress a snort at Organa’s wide eyes when he opened it. “Emperor Vader.”

“Senator Organa.”

The two men stared at each other tensely. The senator’s entire being seemed almost to vibrate as he met Vader’s eyes. After a moment, he ended up clearing his throat awkwardly before stepping aside. “Please, come in.”

Vader entered the office, eyes flickering around to take in this surroundings. Not as plush or pompous as some senators’ he had had to deal with. Though Vader wasn’t really all that surprised. 

“How can I be of service?” Organa asked diplomatically while his eyes flickered everywhere but Vader’s face. Vader once again almost snorted at the man’s entirely fake demeanor. 

“Are there any bills, proposals or ballots in the senate now on rights of non-humans?”

“Pardon?”

Vader sighed and sat himself in the chair before Organa’s desk, eyes pointedly directing the other man to follow. Once he had sat in his own chair, Vader repeated himself. 

“Sentient rights, Senator. Are there?”

“Uhm, I’m not sure Your Highness.”

“Can there be?”

Organa blinked slowly. “You want there to be?”

“Senator, why would I be so determined on freeing the people of the Empire if I was going to push for two thirds of them to have no rights? The humanist agenda that has thrived under Palpatine must come to an end. It is backwards and all together wrong. Not to mention insulting.”

“You, you actually care about non human lives? This is not some ploy for popularity?”

Vader sighed and nodded. “Yes, I have said many times I am not a politician. I took the mantle of Emperor only because someone who followed Palpatine’s vision would have done so if I hadn’t. I have no desire to keep the Empire as it is.”

“But, but you’re a Sith! You have an entire army of Sith designed to suppress people.”

He was confused for a moment before Organa’s meaning donned on him and he snorted. “You mean the Inquisitors?”

“Yes.”

“Senator, the Inquisitors are not Sith. They are Darkside users Palpatine gave me to command. They will also be disbanded. Happily, in the case of many.”

“Disbanded?”

“Exactly what it means. I have more important things to do than worry about what the Inquisitors are up to. They will be disbanded and sent on their way. Including any who were former Jedi.”

“Some were former Jedi? Are you certain?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

He gave yet another sigh, this one far more irritated than frustrated. He wanted to pull his hair out. Or Organa’s. Either would suffice. As he knew neither were really an option, he went down the path he hadn’t wanted to. Sentimentality. 

He reached to the right of his face and allowed the soft fabric covering him to drop. Organa let out a gasp almost immediately and Vader gave him a grim smile. 

“I was once a Jedi too.  I only became a Sith to save my loved ones. I failed. I will not allow myself to fail again. Palpatine has turned the galaxy to one of slavery and fear. I will not allow it to go any farther.”

“You’re alive?” Organa whispered, shock thrumming from him through the Force. 

“You believed me dead?” That was news to Vader. As far as he knew, the galaxy thought Anakin Skywalker to be one of the Jedi to escape the massacre. That he was one of the many traitors to the Empire. That is what Sidious had told him. Though, he probably should rethink everything the former Emperor had claimed. 

“I was told you were.” he admitted softly. 

“Let me guess, Kenobi?”

“Uhhmm…”

Vader waved the concern away. “Do not worry yourself. I have a much greater thing to be angry at that man over other than telling someone I barely knew I was dead. Now. The sentient rights?”

“Yes! Yes, we can propose some. In the light of your abolishment of slavery, it shouldn't be hard to get some in.”

“This will likely earn you a fair few enemies.”

“No more than I already have.”

“Even if it comes to me bypassing the Senate and instituting those bills regardless of the vote?”

“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”

“For the last time, Organa, yes!” he exclaimed. “Sentient beings will have the same rights as they always should have. Slavery will be a bad memory and my son will grow up in a galaxy that is truly at peace. One far better than the one he was born into!”

“Your, your son?!”

Vader came very close to letting out a string of curses in almost every language he knew. Something he wouldn’t have even hesitated to do in his youth. Instead, he just gave a sharp nod. “Yes. My son. You did not know he survived, I take it.”

“No.” he stared at Vader with impossibly wide eyes. “I didn’t, at all.”

“Neither did I.” he admitted. “Believe me if only for this reason Organa; I do everything I do, for Luke. For Luke and,” he hesitated before letting out a harsh breath and adding, “for Padme.”

It had been the first time he spoke her name in seven years and Organa seemed to realize the weight behind it as he just nodded. “That’s why you came to me.”

“Yes.” he gave a sharp nod. “I knew you’d support the idea, and that you would do it in a way that she would approve of.”

Organa didn’t speak for a few moments and then gave a decisive nod. “You’re right. On all accounts. I’d be happy to help you fix the galaxy in a way that Padme Amidala would approve of. You have my support, Emperor Vader.”

Chapter Text

Luke loved Coruscant almost as much as he loves his father. There are just so many different things to see! The buildings, the people, everything is so far from being like Tatooine he can barely believe it. 

The place he lived in now was extravagance like he had never known. It far surpassed Jabba’s palace even! The room Luke had, all to himself somehow, was larger than the whole slave quarters had been!

Not only was it his own room, but he was able to decorate it! His father had given Aunt Beru a card full of money and they went to a giant market full of anything you could imagine. He had bought plush blankets and stuffed animals, toys and games, model ships and posters. He was in a space that was truly his. That he felt comfortable in.

It wasn’t just his room, or their new house that went beyond anything he could imagine. It was everything it encompassed. They had running water! Consistent running water! He had been able to take a bath until his skin got all wrinkly and the water turned cold. He got to have water with every single meal he ate. 

Which he also got to do! He ate three times a day! Every day! His dad and Aunt Beru had him on some special diet Kix gave him, apparently, and each day his meals even got progressively larger. He was eating things he had only dreamed of. Fruits and meats and candy even! 

The only thing he didn’t like was how cold it always was. He understood why his dad always wore heavy black. Some mornings and nights he was so cold his arms would ache enough that he would want to cry. His dad was always there for him when that happened though. Either with a fluffy weighted blanket or a hug. Sometimes both. 

His dad was the best part of Coruscant. His father being there went a long way to making him comfortable and safe. He was like a cool, calming wind. A relieving balm to a burning soul. Luke hugged him every chance he got because his arms chased away all his fears and pains. 

The last few days, he had been gone a lot. Luke hated when he was gone. Even with how entertaining the holovidoes were; they weren’t at all comparable to his dad. His dad was the best person in the galaxy. He was sure of it.

And he loved Luke! He had told him so. He even let him call him daddy though Luke was sure he was too old for such things. He was probably too old for fluffy things he got and to be carried around by his incredibly strong father as well. 

Luke didn’t care. He was happy to take the comfort his dad offered and would continue to do so as long as it was offered. He hoped with everything he had that that would be forever. Having a home with his dad and Aunt Beru was always his biggest dream. Now that he had it, he was going to cling to it with all his might. 


Firmus Piett woke up one morning and was suddenly a Captain. He had no idea how it happened. He left his quarters, was told of the promotion,  and had his new bars shoved at him He was then told that Lord Vader wanted to see him. On the planet below. 

His commanding officer had had a promotion of his own during the night. Emperor Vader, he was now and the first thing he had done was call both Piett and General Veers to him. 

He almost explicitly told them that they were two of the men he trusted most. Some of the only he truly trusted. He then orders them by his side for the next few days as they maneuvered through Palpatine’s memorial and Lord Vader taking control of the Empire. 

Piett watched as the galaxy as they knew it blew up around them in awe. He had no idea Vader cared about slavery. No idea Vader cared about nonhuman rights. He knew what he was seeing was real too. This wasn’t some political ploy for support. He wasn’t sure Vader would even know how to pull one of those off. 

His lord very, very much wasn’t a politician. Something he didn’t hesitate to make sure the military command knew. Though he wasn’t sure they knew how to listen. Their ridiculous arguments over the new facts of life were giving Piett a headache. He couldn’t imagine how the new Emperor himself was feeling. 

He was very clearly not amused with anything the various Admirals and Generals were saying. Piett knew the speech the day before would inspire quite a reaction in the military brass. He just hadn’t expected them to outright question their Emperor. 

Vader seemed as if only thinly veiled restraint was keeping some of those around him alive. Piett couldn’t blame the man. They were being borderline treasonous. They never would have voiced a bit of it to Palpatine.

He could see why the new Emperor didn’t trust a single one of them. What he couldn’t see though was the extent that Vader trusted Piett himself. 

When the imposing man had left him and Veers in the meeting room, he couldn’t help turning to his friend and asking near desperately, “Why?”

“Why what, Firmus?”

“Why does our new Emperor trust me so much? Why does he trust me with his son ?”

Veers shrugged. “You heard why. You’re an outstanding man, Captain. You’re calm, you listen, you’re beyond competent. Plus, Emperor Vader has those Sith things. He can probably just tell you’re good.”

“Right. Sith things.” Piett repeated disbelievingly. He had no idea what he had done to gain that trust, but he vowed to never do a thing to lose it.


Bail stood in almost stunned disbelief as the new Emperor closed his office behind him. The last hour was the last thing he had ever expected to happen to him. He had thought that Vader requesting a speech from him specifically had been the height of weird situations. That paled drastically in comparison to today’s revelation. 

Anakin Skywalker. Bail could clearly remember the young Jedi as he had been. Fearless, brash, hotheaded. Yet, he saw how much he had cared. For the clones, for the Jedi. For his wife. 

Bail didn’t truly understand how the Force worked. He knew the Jedi spoke of a dark side accessed by certain emotions. He had no idea how they correlated, but could easily see how Anakin Skywalker was influenced enough by his emotions to become a Sith. 

Yet, even with intimidatingly gold eyes, Bail saw that young man in Vader’s face when he spoke of his wife, of Padme. Of their son!

He had known Padme had a daughter. He had almost taken her in, but the Naberries had insisted that she come to them. He understood. 

He hadn’t been aware there were twins though! He’d have been just as happy to take care of the boy, instead of him ending up on Tatooine of all places. 

He feared the worst about the the boy’s upbringing. With Vader’s very firm crusade against slavery, it wasn’t a hard assumption to make about where he had found his child. Bail hoped he was wrong, but something told him he wasn’t. 

He understood Vader’s thoughts. That was something he never thought would happen, but he was quickly coming to see where his motivations were coming from. Maybe, by some pure stroke of luck, Vader as Emperor would not be as much of a disaster as he had feared just days before.

Chapter Text

Vader was exhausted. The last few days have settled over him like a weighed down cloak. Between the senate and the military, he felt torn in two directions. There was so much that needed accomplished for the former, and he honestly couldn’t care a bit for the former. At least not for the senators within the senate. 

His concerns were with improving his military. With moving the budget away from destruction to protection. His men needed new armor. Armor that would actually protect them. TIE fighters needed some sort of shield. The whole hierarchy of the military needed fixed. He was frustrated by the continued presence of officers who weren’t qualified. Of military brass happy to use the lower ranks as sacrifices and stepping stones. It was something he had every intention of crushing. 

Palpatine had had so many disturbing ideas planned out. Carnage and control, all of it. He was disgusted by much of what he had found and trashed as much of it as he could. Some things had a good basis. Well, only one thing. 

The former Emperor had had an idea of restructuring the military. New sectors and ranks even to manage the sectors. He agreed with the idea of reform, but none of the promotions. He would be sure people who actually deserved them were given the ranks. 

All of it was draining and all he wanted to do was go home. He had been Emperor for only a week now but it felt like eons. His energy was depleted and he couldn’t look at these papers a second longer. He needed to go home and see his son.

Vader entered his home to the sounds of delighted laughter. He immediately felt the weight of the galaxy fall off of him. He had not spent near enough time with his son since taking over the Empire and was feeling it. 

The second thing he noticed was a painfully familiar spicy smell. It was enough to immediately transport him back in time to the days of his childhood; clinging to his mother’s legs as she showed him the exact process to make their family heirloom. The only sort of heirloom a slave was allowed to have. 

He felt uncomfortably blank as he walked into the kitchen. The scent was causing his chest to attempt to feel things he didn’t fully remember how to. It hurt as physically as the ache in his legs did. 

The pain of his memories evaporated the moment Luke caught sight of him. His young face lit up brilliantly and he abandoned his position at the counter to run to Vader. 

“Daddy! You’re home! We’re getting ready to make some Rzuh’zan , but Aunt Beru wanted to wait for you!”

Vader immediately accepted the running hug his son launched himself into, lifting the boy into his arms. He allowed the small hands to remove his mask and then placed a fleeting kiss in his son’s hair. He then lifted his gaze to rest on Beru. 

She gave him an almost sheepish smile. “I was telling Luke of the tradition of Rzuh’zan . He wanted to try it. So we took a trip to the Outer Rim import markets.” She glanced to the counter. “Wasn’t expecting the ingredients to be so expensive.”

“If it was something that was shared, Rzuh’zan would be a delicacy here.” Vader remarked quietly, eyes unable to leave the gathered spices. Beru must have noticed the stare as she rested a hand below the assortment. 

“I got the ingredients to make your mother’s recipe. I don’t know if you and Luke’s mom had a chance to create your own.”

Vader’s eyes fell closed and he shook his head. He wished still to that day that he had been able to share the experience with his wife. Even had he forgotten, the desire had existed in the back of his mind and filled him with regret. He would never be able to marry his angel by the ways of The Desert. He could at least share the tradition with his son. 

“No. No we did not.” Vader replied, eyes opening to look to Luke’s bright ones. “I would greatly like for you to learn Rzuh’zan fsursrasee’iyais , little star.”

Beru grinned when Luke cheered happily. “I hoped you would, Anakin. Why don’t you go change into something more comfortable? No sense to be stuck weighed down by all that.”

“Yes. Rzuh’zan is a family occasion.” he set Luke on the floor and rested his hand on his hair for a moment. “I will be back shortly.”

Luke nodded and practically bounced in place. Vader gave a soft smile at his enthusiasm before turning towards his quarters. 

Shedding the heavy, pompous clothes felt like another weight gone. He gratefully replaced them with the most basic tunic and leggings pairing he owned. If he was going to dredge up memories of Tatooine, he was going to do it in comfort.

When he returned, Luke had been lifted up to sit on the counter and Beru gave him a questioning look. “I hope you don’t mind him up here. He’s a tad too small to see from the floor.”

Luke huffed, arms crossing petulantly. “Not small.”

“Not at all, my star.” Vader assured him, fingers raking through his soft hair in comfort. “You merely need the best vantage point.”

His son beamed and Vader tenderly guided him to lean against his side. “Now, lets allow Aunt Beru show us how Rzuh’zan is done.”

“Not you?”

Vader shook his head. “Beru is the lady of our house, Lukkeen. She should be the one to pass the recipe on to the young ones.”

“Is Aunt Beru older than you, daddy?”

Vader chuckled and shook his head. “No, ursee’ahs . I merely need a refresher.”

Beru gave them both a very soft look before she began to explain the steps to making the familiar tea. Vader did his best to stay in the present, but it was hard. Memories surrounded his vision with unwanted abandon. 

It wasn’t Beru instructing him to add ingredients; it was Shmi Skywalker. Her calloused fingers running through his blonde hair how Vader’s now did to Luke. It was her soft smile and gentle voice in his mind. Her words he heard without permission. 

“Remember, Ani, Rzuh’zan is for us. It is family, it is love. It's what will always, always keep us together no matter how far apart we are. It is what combines a family. Someday, you will love and the two of you will continue the tradition, together.”

Vader ripped himself away from the memory. It did him no good now. His mother was out of his reach. His wife was just as far. He had his son and chosen sister now. It was them he must concentrate on. Not painful phantoms of the past. 

He forced himself to concentrate on Beru as she finished the production of dry ingredients and began to show Luke how to boil them in the kettle to come out just right. When she passed a mug into his hands, before herding the two of them to the kitchen, he concentrated even harder on staying present. Especially as he took the first sip. 

The taste exploded across his tongue and his heart thudded painfully. He tried to press down on the bittersweet nostalgia that flared up, but must not have done well. It bled through the Force enough that Luke shot him a concerned look. 

“You okay, daddy?”

“Yes, little star.” he pulled his son to his side once more, flesh arm securely around frail shoulders. “I was thinking of your grandmother. She was the one who taught me to make Rzuh’zan. She meant very much to me, and I miss her more than I can say.”

“Anakin, I’m sorry, I didn’t think…”

Vader held up his hand to stop her worry. “There is no need. I have missed this as well. I feel closer to her with it. Thank you.”

Her shoulders sagged in relief and she nodded. “You’re welcome.”

“It's good!” Luke exclaimed when the tension was gone. “I like it. And I like being connected to grandmother too!”

“I’m glad to hear that, little one.” Vader told him, turning his head to stare down at his boy. “It is a Skywalker legacy, after all.”

“Really!”

Both he and Beru nodded, and she spoke, “Of course. Rzuh’zan is passed down family lines to always keep them together. Each family’s recipe is kept secret. It was one thing we could always keep secret from the zur’nuse .”

“Aunt Beru, what about your family? You weren’t born a Skywalker, were you?”

“No, Lukkeen. I was not. When your grandmother Shmi recognized me as her daughter, the Skywalkers became my family. You and your father are more my family then the Whitesuns ever were.”

“Wow.” he whispered reverently, wide eyes turning down to gaze at his cup as if it held all the secrets of the galaxy. 

Vader couldn’t help but to smile softly at the sight. They were his unuruhsiy . All the family he had left. They were his responsibility to protect at all costs. He would not let his wife and mother’s fate befall them too. 

“Lukkeen,” he began, Luke’s head twisting to look up at him. “Do you know why I’ve been absent much of the last week?”

“Because you’re in charge of lots of people and have to make sure things are going good.”

He nodded, smile widening at his son’s intelligence. “That's right, little star. Unfortunately, there are a lot of those men who don’t like me, and don’t like the direction I am guiding them.”

“That's bantha poodoo.” Luke cursed, eyes narrowing. “You’re the best person ever! All you’re trying to do is free the slaves!”

“Where did you hear that, ursee’ahs ?”

“Holonet.”

Vader glanced to Beru who gave a heavy sigh. “He saw you on the news. Didn’t want to change it until you were off.”

He suppressed a sigh of his own and nodded. “Yes, Luke, I am sending men to liberate the Outer Rim. We know it is the right thing to do, but there are some who do not agree.”

Luke set down his mug on the table before them in order to cross his arms. “They’re no better than zur’nuse then!”

“No, ursee’ahs , they are not. Unfortunately, my orders have angered them. They do not agree and will do what they can to fight me on it. I do not believe they will be foolish enough to attack me, but I fear them learning of you.”

He moved his hand to cup his son’s upturned face. “I will never let anyone harm you, Lukkeen. Were some of these men to learn of you, I worry that they will try to use you against me. In order to keep you safe, I have tasked two of my loyal men to be with you and Beru when I cannot.”

“Like bodyguards?” Luke asked, his little brow furrowed. 

“Yes, exactly like bodyguards.”

“Who?”

“Appo and Jesse. You liked them, did you not?”

Luke beamed. “I did! They’re nice! Jesse has an awesome face tattoo! Can I get a face tattoo?”

Vader suppressed a cringe at the question. “Perhaps when you are older. You will be alright with Jesse and Appo around often?”

“Yeah! They aren’t as cool as you, dad, but I like them.”

“I am glad to hear that, little star,” he kissed his forehead and then looked over to Beru. “And you?”

“I support anything that will keep Luke safe, Anakin. He is my priority, as he is yours.”

He dipped his head in her direction. “Thank you.”

“There’s no need.”

“You’ll like Jesse and Appo, Aunt Beru! They’re cool! They’re brothers that look the same. So does their brother Kix! It's so wizard!”

“They have hundreds of identical brothers, little one.” Vader informed him and he gasped. 

“No way! Can I meet them all?”

“You can certainly try. Most are part of my personal battalion.”

“So, you’re their favorite?”

Vader chuckled. “That, you would have to ask them.”

“I will. I bet you are. You’re my favorite.”

“And you are mine.”

Luke beamed and Vader returned it far easier than he thought was possible. Everything with Luke was just easy. He was Vader’s miracle, after all.

Chapter Text

Vader woke to screaming, his body jerking into awareness abruptly. He didn’t at first realize where it was coming from. Had no idea who was feeling such absolute terror. It didn’t take him long to figure it out. The moment he did, he was on his feet with his lightsaber in hand and running to Luke’s room in less than a full breath. 

His son’s doors were forced open with a raise of his hand, but his attack first mentality was abandoned when he saw his star thrashing on the bed. His child’s own mind was the enemy, not a physical foe he could fight. 

He tossed his saber carelessly to the side and climbed onto Luke’s bed beside him. He reached out to Luke’s Force presence. As gently as he could he began to guide his thoughts in order to remove his conscious from whatever specter had him captive. 

His son’s mind instantly latched onto Vader’s the same way he would physically grip him in a hug. A bond between them sparked to life and Vader could feel Luke’s panic and fear clearly and intensely. 

Seconds later, Luke’s eyes snapped open and he was immediately tossing himself at Vader. He gathered the boy to him, tucking his small form into his lap. His head curled into the crook of Vader’s neck while his hands gripped his sleep shirt tightly. He rested one of his own hands against Luke’s lower back while running the fingers of the other through the boy’s hair. 

“It's okay my star, I am here. I am here.”

Luke’s fists clenched even tighter in his shirt as he shuddered. “He wouldn’t let me go, daddy. He called me names and hurt me and wouldn’t let me go . It was so real. I don’t want to see him again, daddy. Never again.”

Vader could feel Luke’s desperation thrumming heavily through their new Force bond. He tried to soothe the mental anguish with a brush of his mind as he rubbed his back gently. He was grateful for the need to mentally calm him down, as it made it so he truly couldn’t concentrate on his own feelings. He was able to push the anger away and focus purely on his son. 

“Who Lukkeen? Who hurt you?”

“Dunno his name. He was mean and scary and not human. Jabba would let him rent me to do stuff for him. Sometimes it was bad and scary. I don’t wanna be there, daddy.”

“You aren’t there, little star. You’re here with me and Aunt Beru. We’re on Coruscant, very far from Tatooine. You never have to see that bad man ever, ever again. I will always protect you, I promise. I love you, Lukkeen. My precious son. I love you and you will never be hurt like that again.”

“I love you too, daddy.” he sniffled into Vader’s neck and then after a moment added in a near silent whisper, “I’m so sorry for screaming. For waking you.”

“Never apologize for your nightmares,” Vader kissed his soft hair and brushed his Force presence with reassurance. “You never need to apologize for bad dreams, little star. Everyone gets them.”

“Even you?” he asked in an awed voice, head tilting back so wide, wet blue eyes could meet Vader’s. 

Vader kissed his forehead. “Yes, little one. Even me. I understand how bad nightmares can be. You may wake me up at any time, for any reason. I am always here.”

Luke sniffled and nodded before laying his head back against Vader’s shoulder. “Daddy, can you stay? Until I fall back asleep?”

“Do you think you can sleep again?”

He thought for a moment before nodding again. “If you read me a story?”

“I would be happy to read you a story, little star.”

He lifted a hand to summon a handful of Luke’s favorites, causing the boy to giggle. He smiled down at him as he spread the books on the bed before them. “You merely have to choose the one you desire.”

Luke twisted in Vader’s lap in order to study the laid out options. He ended up choosing one about a baby bantha who lost its mother and was asking all its friends if they had a bantha for a mom. It seemed like a very silly option, but what his little star wanted, his little star received.

Vader situated them so they were laying flat on the bed with Luke curled into his side. He left one arm curled around Luke’s shoulders as he read the story to him softly, even if it really was one of the more ridiculous ones. It put his star at ease and he fell asleep much faster than Vader had anticipated. 

As soon as the precious boy was once more deeply under, he pressed a kiss to his brow and slowly extracted himself from under him. He grabbed one of Luke’s plush animals, an oddly bright blue loth-cat, and secured it under his arm. He took one last lingering look at his son before he left him to his peaceful slumber. 

When the door was securely closed behind him, he shielded the bond between him and Luke firmly. The second he knew his son would not feel a bit of it, he let his anger out harshly. It rushed from him, the Darkside tearing out of him violently. It thrashed and convulsed around his body so intensely that it destroyed two large metal figures beside the balcony doors.

 It wanted to seek out the vile lifeform that had harmed his son. It wanted to be let loose and destroy him. To seek vengeance. To demolish each and every one of them that had ever laid a hand on his star. 

He couldn’t. He knew he couldn’t. He had an Empire to run. A sister to support. A son to protect and love. He couldn’t lead a one man revenge campaign across the Outer Rim. No matter how much he wished to. How much he burned to. 

The thought of Beru allowed him to see past his fury and remember that she was there. In the room with him. Knowing that she had just seen him destroy part of their home was enough of a cold awakening that he could pull away from his rage controlled Darkside. 

He knew she was right behind him, but he couldn’t bring himself to look at her. To see the likely fear in her face. Instead, he left his head hanging and said softly, “My apologies.”

“No.” she came up to stand beside him. “I wish I could do the same. So, don’t apologize.” she hesitated a moment and then added, “Besides, those were ugly anyway.”

He snorted and finally turned to face her. “How much of that did you hear?”

“All of it, unfortunately.”

“It's my fault, isn’t it?”

“How do you figure that, exactly?” she asked sharply and he huffed. 

“Perhaps because I failed him? I didn’t know he was alive for seven years. I left him to be forced into slavery by the worst sort of zur’nuse . I should have been there, and I wasn’t! I can’t imagine all of last night's talk about his safety and the possibility of something happening to him really helped his mental state either! I failed him when I was not there, and I am failing him now!”

“You are not failing him!” Beru exploded, a frustrated frown on her face. “Anakin, you saved him!”

“I should have done better.” he spat. “I should be doing more now .”

“You will,” she implored. “You can not blame yourself for the past any more than I can. All we can do is help Luke as he moves on.”

Vader stared at the ground, fists clenching at his side. He felt undeserving. Inadequate. So much so that he uttered seven words he wasn’t sure he ever had before. “I do not know what to do.”

“Well, we can start by finding him a mind healer. Kix can give us all the medical advice and instruction in the galaxy, but without truly processing the trauma, Luke will have a hard time moving past what happened to him.”

“Mind healer?”

“Surely the Jedi brought you to one when you were freed?”

“No.” Vader’s fists tightened even more, and he glared in her direction. Though it wasn’t directed at her. “They did not.”

“Then perhaps you should find one too.”

“Excuse me?” this time his glare most certainly was aimed at her and she sighed. 

“Anakin, you have decades worth of horror and trauma to work through. From slavery to war, to abandonment and back to slavery! You have to think of yourself, too. If you aren’t healthy, how can you help Luke to your full potential?”

Vader wanted to yell at her. He almost did yell at her. She had no right to suggest such a thing. To say he needed some sort of mind healer to be able to help his son. He wasn’t a child any more. 

He just barely managed to control his temper and jump reaction. Instead, he shook his head firmly. “I do not need a mind healer, Beru.”

“At least think about it, Anakin.”

“I agree that it is a good idea for Lukkeen.” he conceded softly. “He can not let these terrors haunt him. However, it is not for me.”

He could tell that she did not agree, but she didn’t argue. Just sighed. “We will talk about it later, Anakin. For you. For Lukkeen, I agree. He could benefit from it for sure.”

“Yes.” he nodded, ignoring her first statement. “I will begin to look for one for him tomorrow. Is there,” he hesitated and sighed, “Is there anything else I can do? Anything else I am doing wrong?”

“You aren’t doing anything wrong.” she assured him gently. “You are doing everything you can. You are there for him at all times. He adores you. We just take each day one at a time. We be there for him. You are already doing all of that. Luke knows you love him, and that's what he needs above everything.”

Vader nodded. He could do that. He would always do that. Though, loving him didn’t feel like enough. His son was still haunted and Vader couldn’t help but to feel like a failure.

Chapter Text

A few days later, Vader felt like even more of a failure. He could not find a damn mind healer he approved of. Anywhere. He couldn’t find a single person on Coruscant who seemed adequate enough to help Luke.  

What would a Core Worlder know of slavery? What did someone who had never suffered under a violent zur’nuse know to help a small child that had? Luke deserved the best, and that started with a healer who could understand him. 

His frustration was bleeding into the Force enough to make those he interacted with fidget. Especially his men. Bow, one of the commanders who stayed on Coruscant to assist him, eventually, nervously, spoke up. 

“My lord?”

He answered him with a wordless hum and the trooper continued after clearing his throat, “I can’t help but notice something is stressing you? A lot. Maybe I can help?”

Vader thought for just a moment before shaking his head. “Doubtful. Unless you know anything about mind healers?”

“Mind healers?”

“You have spoken to Appo and Jesse recently, yes?”

“My lord?” his eyes were briefly panicked as he asked and Vader chuckled. 

“My position in the Empire may have changed, trooper, but that doesn’t change the fact that I know my men. I especially know the vod’e. You are awful at keeping secrets from each other.”

The man’s dark cheeks flushed and he glanced away from Vader’s face. “Is this about the adorable ad’ika that I know absolutely nothing of?”

“Yes. It is.”

“You brothers and I rescued him from slavery.”

Bow took in a hissing breath before letting out an angry string of Mando’a. When he had calmed down he replied in a firm voice that built in nerves as he spoke. “Yes. Mind healer. I uhm, I actually do.”

Vader’s eyebrows rose slightly at the admission. “You do?”

“Yes, uhm, in confidence?”

“Tell me, Bow. It will not leave this office.”

“Some of the vod’e you have helped went searching for a mind healer. We found one who, well, she specializes in servitude. She stays as discrete as she can. Her main goal is to help any who were freed, but especially runaways. She herself used to be enslaved.”

Vader was silent for a moment. A former slave working to help with the mental health of those like her. She seemed almost too good to be true. 

“Would you trust her with a child?”

“I would, my lord. Uhm, Cody was actually the one who recommended her.”

Cody. That was about the best endorsement a member of the vod’e could give. If he was willing to send his brother's to her, she had to be trustworthy. 

“Does she help you?”

“She does. A lot. I’m sure she could help your adiik . I could get you her information, if you would like?”

“Please do, Bow. I will look into contacting her.”

Despite his trooper’s help, it took almost a week before he could contact the mind healer. Unfortunately, being the Emperor took up far too much of his time. He had been forced into two other public addresses and a truly tortuous senate session. A session that almost ended in the death of two very persistent senators who insisted slavery was necessary. 

The Ryloth Senator, Orn Fre Taa, was one who Vader wanted to be rid of. He had never liked the overly indulgent twi’lek, and he liked him even less as he insisted that his planet would collapse without the indentured servitude it thrived under. That some were so poor they could only pay off debts by selling themselves. 

Which sparked a migraine of a debate with Senators yelling out that maybe they should find better ways to care for their people. That his two faced public outcry against slavery was appalling, even for a politician. One Senator even suggested that Taa eat a quarter as much as he does, that would certainly help increase the money going to Ryloth. 

Other Senators agreed with Taa. Many expressed that slavery was necessary to keep the economy running. That they shouldn’t have to damage their planets imports or exports because Vader had an image problem.

Vader’s retort to them came in an icy voice, his patience thin. With no room for debate, he informed them all that they either complied or they left the Empire. Which would mean leaving the Empire’s protection and resources. The military would continue its Liberation. Any who resisted on the various planets would be met with force. This was not a discussion. Slavery was ending in every form.  Luckily, the threat was enough to shut their arguments down. At least for the time being. 

Dealing with their infuriating nonsense cut into far too much of his time in the office. He could have attempted to contact the healer from his home. He contemplated it, even. He could have, but didn’t. That was Luke’s time. He wouldn’t do anything that interfered with their already too short time together. 

In the time it took him to call the healer, Luke had not had another nightmare. Thankfully. Vader was doing all he could to help the boy’s rest stay restful. He read him two of his stories before bed, and then stayed beside him until his star was completely asleep. He even flooded their bond with as much warmth and love as he could while he sat beside him. He hoped it was giving Luke a better sense of comfort. He hoped his efforts were actually helping. 

They seemed to be. Luke’s presence in their new Force bond was luminous and happy. It lit up every time Vader walked through the door. Even while he was gone, his son was still content and comfortable. Though, Vader could also feel the part of him that missed his dad. He tried not to be pleased by how much Luke loved him. How much he missed him when he wasn’t there. He failed. Knowing his son needed him as much as he needed the little star was one of the best feelings imaginable.

Knowing that Luke was comfortably resting, he took the time to find what he could on this healer Bow had given him. The trooper had given what he knew, which wasn’t much. Vader was glad that it at least included a comm number, as he couldn’t find a single thing about the woman on the Holonet. It was like she just didn't exist. In Vader's opinion, her secrecy was a shining endorsement. 

When he finally got a chance to actually use the number, he shouldn’t have been surprised by the beautiful twi’lek that answered. He was. Though, she seemed to be even more surprised by him. 

“Emperor Vader,” she schooled the shock on her face and gave a small bow of her head. “A very large part of me wants to ask how you got this number.”

“From a trustworthy source who assures you can help me.”

“Oh?”

“I trust my reference, yet, I must be sure that his claims of your confidentiality and secrecy are true.”

“They are.” 

He studied her for a moment. The comm unit tinted her too much to truly tell what color her eyes were, but they stared at him without fear and in calm truth. He couldn’t get a Force read on her without her present, but he trusted her word. More importantly, he trusted the vod’e’s confidence in her. 

So he spoke. “I have a son. A son I didn’t know had survived. I just rescued him from slavery at the hands of the Hutts. He is having nightmares, or at least the one that I know of. It was severe enough for me to be concerned.”

“How old is your son, Your Highness?”

“Seven.” Vader’s hand clenched at his side. “Far, far too young to have experienced even a single thing he has. As I said, I am concerned at how it is haunting him. How this will affect him.”

She studied him for a moment before speaking softly. “Mind healing isn’t for everyone, and not every mind healer is suitable for every patient. I would be happy to give being your son’s healer a chance, if you would like to set up an appointment?”

“I would like to speak with him first.” Vader replied without hesitation. “I do not know if he himself will be comfortable seeing you. I know he needs to. However, I do not want to be another person to force him into something he does not feel at ease with.”

“Understandable. You know your son best. Though I do have to advise; if the dreams get worse or he starts exhibiting other signs of mind scars, you may need to make an executive decision on his behalf. Just make sure that he is aware that you are doing so because you care for his well being. Because you want him to be safe.”

Vader grit his teeth, but didn’t argue. Luke would have to be very bad off for him to do what she was suggesting. Nonetheless, he nodded. “Understood. I will speak with him tomorrow and get back to you within the next few days.”

“I look forward to hearing from you, Emperor Vader. I wish you and your son well.”

He returned her farewell nod in reply before shutting off the comm. He would be sure to take the next day off so that he could spend it entirely with Luke. He hoped his presence for the full day would soften the talk they had to have in the morning. 

Before he left the office, a place he was entirely far too sick of, he stopped beside Bow’s desk. The man lifted his helmetless head and gave him a questioning look. 

“Lord Vader?”

“Thank you,” he said simply. 

It took the soldier a moment to figure out what he meant. When he did, he beamed. “She’ll work out then? That’s excellent! I wish your ad’ika luck. She’s a good woman. I’m sure he’ll like her.”

“I have yet to see what he thinks of the prospect of seeing her.”

“Oh, yeah, ask him for sure. Though, he likes Appo and Jesse right? It may help him make a decision if he knows they see, or have seen, her. Kix too. And me. Though, he doesn’t know me so I’m not sure if that will make a difference.”

Vader fought off the chuckle that tried to rise up and just nodded. “I will. I won't be coming here at all tomorrow. I suggest that you do the same.”

“Sir?”

“Take the day off, Bow.”

He grinned and gave a salute. “Yes, sir!”

Vader left then, heading straight to his home. He had been stuck there late, so Luke should already be in bed. Likely not asleep, as he insisted on staying up to say for Vader, but in bed. 

That was exactly where he found him, curled around a stuffed wampa of all things. His sleepy little face lit up when he walked through his bedroom door. 

“Daddy!”

“Hello, little star.” he sat beside him and brushed his hair from his eyes. “Beru says you’ve been sleepy for a while. You did not have to wait up.”

“Have to make sure you get home safe.” He gave a huge yawn and curled into Vader’s side. “You have to read a story, too.”

“Which story, little one?”

“The love you one,” he replied around another yawn. 

Vader nodded and used the Force to summon said book to him. He had only gotten two pages in and his son was out completely. He finished the book in its entirety though and made sure Luke wouldn’t stir before he  climbed from the bed. He kissed his son’s forehead and then left him to his peaceful sleep. 

Sleep came almost as quickly to Vader’s exhausted body as it had for Luke. It lasted shorter than he thought it should have, too. One second he was closing his eyes, and the next his internal clock was waking him. 

Hearing Luke and Beru in the kitchen was the only thing that kept him from succumbing back to the alluring draw of continued slumber. He had a day with his star; he would not waste it sleeping. 

With a groan at his protesting body, his legs in particular, he pushed himself out of his bed. He forced it through a painful series of stretches and then changed into comfortable day clothes. Once presentable, he excited his room for the communal areas. 

Luke noticed him immediately and ran to his side. When he reached him, his eyes went wide and he gasped. “Dad! Are you not going to work today?”

“No Lukkeen. You have me all day.”

The boy cheered and tossed himself around Vader’s legs, his arms were high enough to press into the soft tissue of his knees. It wasn’t the first time his son had done that exact thing, and he had gotten used to the small twinge of pain that it caused. 

“That’s the best news ever!” Luke exclaimed. “I’m so excited! Aunt Beru! Daddy is staying with us!”

“I heard.” she came from the kitchen and smiled at them. “Good thing we have plenty of pastry then, huh?”

“Yeah!” he grabbed Vader’s hand and tugged him towards the kitchen. He let the boy drag him without resistance, a smile on his face at his enthusiasm. It was far too contagious not to smile at. 

They settled down to eat the fluffy fruit filled pastries. Luke ate his with the fervor only a seven year old could manage. He ended up with crumbs and smears of purple jogan fruit all over his face. Instead of appearing an utter mess, to Vader he just looked adorable. Even when he protested the cleaning of his face and hands. 

“Do you want to be sticky?”

“It's a waste of water, daddy.”

“Not on Coruscant, ursee’ahs .” Vader reminded him gently. 

“Well, then maybe I do want to be sticky.”

He chuckled at the response and lifted a finger to boop his son’s small nose. “You say that now, but I’m sure you’d want to be clean soon. Like when you got one of your animals stuck in your hands.”

Luke thought about that for a moment and then nodded. “Okay. Yes, clean is better.”

Vader gave another soft laugh and proceeded to help clean his face and hands. This time without the annoyed twitching facial expressions to hinder him. 

“What’re we gonna do today, daddy?” he asked once he was all clean. 

“Well,” Vader hesitated for only a brief second, “I want to speak with you about something first.”

“Something bad?” Luke’s whole figure practically slumped and their bond was flooded with worry. 

“No, my star.” he cupped one side of his face and gently lifted his head so that he would meet Vader’s eyes. “Not bad. Merely important.”

Luke gave a solemn nod. The sort that a seven year old boy shouldn’t be capable of. “But, I didn’t do anything wrong?”

Vader placed his prosthetic hand on Luke’s other cheek and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “No, little one. Of course not. You have not done anything wrong in any way.”

Luke sagged forward into his arms and nodded against his shoulder. “Okay.”

Taking advantage of the position, Vader swept Luke off his feet and moved them to the couch. Once there, he set his son down and then sat himself beside him. He gave him a reassuring smile and even offered his flesh hand for Luke to hold. Something he did immediately. 

“Lukkeen, you know how Kix gave you your physical exam? How he gave you the shots and medicine and your diet plan?”

“Of course I do, daddy.”

“Well, there is another sort of healer, of medic. One that doesn’t help to heal your body, but your mind.”

“How do you heal your mind?” Luke asked with a curious tilt of his head. “Bacta can’t reach your mind, daddy.”

“No, ursee’ahs , it can’t. Mind scars are a little different then physical scars, but they can hurt just as much. There is a different way to help them than bacta, though.”

“What’s a mind scar?”

“It's when you experience something bad, something scary or painful, that causes a part of your mind to scar over. To react as if that bad thing is happening again when you remember it. They can cause a lot of things, little star, and one of those things is night terrors.”

Luke’s eyes went big. “Like, like mine? Are my scary dreams a mind scar?”

“I believe so, little one. Kix, Jesse and Appo’s brother Bow told me of a mind healer. Someone who he thinks could help you with your nightmares. She could help you with the memories of what's happened to you so that the mind scar isn’t so tender. She’s a former slave herself, so she can relate, in a way, to what you have been through.”

He brushed Luke’s bangs away. “If you are up to it, I believe it may be good for you to go see her.”

“What would she do?” he asked in a small, nervous voice. 

“Just speak with you,” he assured him softly. “She would get to know you and your past at a speed you are comfortable with. You only have to tell her what you feel safe telling her. She will not push or force you to say or do anything you don’t want to.”

“Will you talk to her with me, too?”

“If you’d like me too, of course I will.”

“Can I meet her before I decide?”

“You absolutely may, my little star. I want you to be comfortable, and feel safe, with anyone who is there to help you.”

“If I like her, I’d like to give it a try.” Luke admitted quietly, like he was afraid of the admission being bad.

“Then I will schedule a meeting,” Vader promised him before pulling him into his arms. “I am very proud of you, my star.”

“How come?”

“Committing to any treatment, including a mind healer, is a very good step for your health, Lukkeen. A step that not everyone takes.”

“Oh. Did you?”

“No.” Vader admitted without hesitation. “I did not get an opportunity.”

“You still could then, yeah?”

“Perhaps.”

“If it helps me, will you?”

“I will think about it.”

Luke pulled back to study him. He must have been content with what he saw, as he nodded. “Okay. So, what are we doing the rest of today?”

Vader was grateful for the topic change, and smiled. “Today is your day, ursee’ahs . It is up to you.”

“Well…-”

Whatever Luke was about to suggest was interrupted by a knock at the door. The two of them froze and Beru stepped out of the kitchen with a furrowed brow. 

“Anakin, are you expecting anyone?” she asked cautiously.

“No.” Vader stood, guiding Luke to his feet as well. “Luke, go to your aunt.”

“But...-”

“Go, little star.”

As soon as his son was behind Beru, he reached outside of their home with the Force. When he touched who was out there, he immediately gasped. A nervous, jittery presence he had not felt in a long time was standing on the other side of their front door.

In a few hurried strides, he was beside the entrance. Once there, he hesitated. It was only a brief hesitation that ended after a few calming breaths. As soon as he felt centered, he swung the door open. 

Despite knowing she was there, the sight of his former Padawan caused him to gasp once more. “Ahsoka?”

“Anakin!” she practically shouted before launching herself into his arms.

Chapter Text

Since Aunt Beru had helped them make Rzuh’zan , Luke had felt much closer to his dad. Even more than he had before. They were just, just connected now. 

He noticed it the day after he had had his first nightmare since coming home with his father. The comfort he had provided Luke with the night before was like nothing he had ever experienced before. It was like his dad had come into his mind and pulled him away from the terror. 

His dad had explained it the next morning when he cautiously asked about the new feeling. He could feel a piece of his dad’s mind connected to his own. It was comforting and familiar, but odd, and he couldn’t help but to quietly question it. 

His dad set aside his data pad so that Luke had all of his attention. It was something Luke always appreciated; his dad showing him that he truly cared what he had to say and wanted to know. 

“Lukkeen, you know that sometimes I move things without touching them?”

“Yeah! It's so wizard!”

His dad chuckled and nodded. “Yes, I thought that when I first learned about the Force. It is pretty wizard.”

“The Force?”

He nodded. “It's what I can access that allows me to move things with my mind. It is an energy force that surrounds all beings. Including you, my star.”

“Me?”

Dad reaches over and lightly guides Luke’s bangs away from his eyes. “Of course you. Someday, I’ll show and tell you more of it.”

“Does, does the Force have to do with why I can feel you in my mind?”

“It does. When I helped you leave your nightmare, we formed a Force Bond. It means that you and I have a connection between our minds now. Like you can feel my mind, I can feel yours.”

“Always?”

“Always. It can be shielded, if you would like?”

Luke shook his head vehemently. “No! No, daddy. I like it. It's comforting knowing that you’re always there.”

“Of course, my star.” 

He kissed Luke’s forehead and he beamed. A connection between his mind and his dad’s. It was weird to think about, but not at all in a bad way. More like amazing. He felt even safer now than he had before. Because his dad was protecting his mind now, too. 

Whenever he began to have a nightmare, or just got scared for any reason, he could touch that glowing bond in his mind and feel immediately better. He’d done exactly that a couple times, but he didn’t think his dad was aware of it at all. At least, he had never said anything to Luke about it. 

As it was a bond, it went both ways. He could feel his dad during the day too. A fact he was delighted by, because that meant he’d be able to help his dad if he felt sad or upset too. Well, Luke had thought so. Sometimes, those feelings were muted. Like his dad was trying to hide them from Luke. 

If he felt even a small spark of annoyance or anger, they were quickly covered. Luke couldn't understand why he did that. His dad was human. A human with a hard job. There was nothing wrong with him feeling those things. Or with Luke knowing that he did. 

He wanted to help him. To comfort him so that he could feel better. His dad always had an undercurrent of sadness to him. It was barely there when he and Luke were together, but it spiked at night a lot before vanishing. Luke hated that his dad felt such sadness. His dad should always be happy, at least in his opinion. 

When he asked Luke about the mind healer, he should have told him he’d only go if his dad did. Luke didn’t think his dad really knew how to feel things. He just always bottled them up. One of those healers could help him, like the one his dad wanted him to meet could help Luke. 

He’d try and convince him some other time. Now, he was much more interested in the shock and hope his dad was filled with. That and whoever the strange togruta hugging him was.


Beru knew, to an extent, that Anakin cared for her. He would not have welcomed her into his home if he didn’t. That he saw her as family, that was a surprise. 

He hadn't said unuruhsiy yet. Though he let her take over instructing his son on how to make the family Rzuh’zan. Like he saw her as an older sister. Or just a sister period, since he was the older one. He was even beginning to act like she was his sister. 

He had come to her for advice! Something she would always be proud of him for. The interaction that followed though caused more worry for him than she had previously had. If that was even possible. 

Anakin was not taking care of himself. She didn’t think he had ever really taken care of himself. He had so much trauma and pain. Trauma and pain that he ignored as if it all never happened. She didn’t know who to blame for his self flagellation and destructive tendencies, but she wanted to find out. If only to punch them in the face. 

He may not care to take care of himself, but he happily doted on Luke with avid attention. She faintly listened to them talk about mind healers, and couldn’t help but grin at Luke’s insistence that Anakin see one too. Seems she’d have an ally there. She doubted Anakin could say no to Luke for long. 

The knock on the door startled her from her contemplative thoughts. It startled Anakin too, which wasn’t something she had seen before. Neither was the reaction he had to the young woman at the door. 

The desperate way she hugged him brought a soft smile to Beru’s face. Perhaps she’d have more than one ally. Whoever this woman was, she cared for Anakin as Luke and Beru did. Like family. 


Hiding from the Empire for seven years was hard. Ahsoka knew it was harder for her and Rex to do so together, because of who they were. She refused to have them separated though. Rex was all the family she had left. She loves him. They were not being torn from each other too. 

The reclusive hidden life was arduous. Rarely did they leave their home. It was a bleak little hidden cabin on an outer rim planet with minimal Imperial presence. Once a week, they’d head to the small town to get supplies. Their faces were always covered and voices modulated. 

They did what they could to keep those trips to a minimum. To keep safe, to keep healthy. Ahsoka was a terrible farmer though. Plants died when she touched them. Thank the Force for Rex. 

Rex took to semi-peaceful life very well. Better than she did. Though there was a sadness around him that she knew was for his brothers. She understood. She felt it too. For the vod’e . For the Jedi. For Master Obi-Wan and her own Master. 

Anakin had been like a father and brother in one. He always believed in her. Always supported her. She missed him as she would miss a part of herself. 

Rex did too. She knew he missed the whole Five oh First. That he wished they were all with them, instead of enslaved by the Empire or dead. Neither of them wanted to linger on it though. They did their best to move on and live moment by moment. They tried not to get lost in the past, or in the fear of being discovered.

Things changed when Palpatine died. They had conveniently been in town when it happened; when the announcement was made that Vader would be taking over. They were both immediately nervous. This could be really bad. 

It wasn’t, though. A few days later an announcement was made that the Empire was abolishing slavery entirely, and all resistance to the change would be met by force. It was the most shocking thing Ahsoka had heard. Something that caused her to actually seek out a holoscreen to watch the announcement for herself. It was something she had to see to believe. 

As soon as she watched the new Emperor’s announcement, she believed alright. Only because she recognized the man giving it. He was a little bit older, his hair longer. Somehow, he was even a little bit taller. Most significantly, his once soft blue eyes were a brilliantly shining gold. She knew him nonetheless. 

It wasn’t the way he spoke, or the way he moved. It was his passion. The ways his eyes lit up as he spoke liberating people who never should have had to be liberated. The way he spoke with certainty, even though his words were more formal than she had ever heard them. There was no doubt in her mind. Emperor Vader was Anakin Skywalker. 

Rex agreed, his dark eyes going impossibly wide as they watched him speak. “What do we do?”

“We go to him,” she stated firmly. “He’s still Anakin. I don’t care what the Empire did to him. He’s Anakin.”

“Yeah.” he nodded. “I agree. So, we get to Coruscant somehow?”

“Yes.” she replied immediately. Their Skyguy was alive. She wasn’t going any longer without seeing him than she had to. No matter how hard it would be to do so, they would find him. And then she was never letting him out of her sight again.

Chapter Text

It was only because he had grown used to Luke’s launching hugs that Vader was able to instantly catch Ahsoka as she tossed herself forward. It was purely because he missed her with every fiber of his being that he gripped her tightly to him.

She had grown even taller since the last time that he saw her. Her montrals were long and her face was more oval than round. She had truly grown up. She had become an adult in more than just mind. Most importantly, she was alive . She was alive and he had had no idea. 

He felt moisture sink into the fabric of his shirt and tightened his arms around her. She was here. She was crying. In all the hardships and tragedy they had lived through, he had never once seen her cry like this. Her tears felt like a puncture in his chest. 

He made to rest his cheek against her montrals, but a shuffling sound at the door had his head jerking up. The second he caught sight of the person standing there, he was hit by a wave of shock once more. 

“Rex?”

“Good to see you, General. Though, I hear you’ve gotten a promotion.”

Vader huffed a shocked, punched out laugh as he glanced between the both of them. “I thought you had died. Both of you. How are you here?”

“We were sure you had as well.” Ahsoka whispered into his shoulder before she stepped out of his arms. She met his gaze with wide, wet eyes. Her lip quivered slightly as she added, “We thought we had lost everyone, Anakin. When we saw you in the news, we knew we had to find you again. It took a bit of spying, and stalking, but we did it. We found you.”

“How are you here ?” he glanced between them as he asked the question once more. Rex seemed to understand his meaning as he gave a grim, pinched mouthed smile. 

“Fives.”

Ah. Vader remembered now. He remembered Fives. He had known . He had known about the chips and Vader had brushed him off. He had tried to save his brothers, and because Vader had been weak and wrong, he had failed. Fives had tried his hardest, and saved no one.

Except, apparently, Rex. Somehow, Fives’s warning had saved Rex. Rex and Ahsoka both. 

“Are you Jesse, Appo and Kix’s brother too?” Luke’s voice suddenly sounded from Vader’s right side. The three of them turned their heads towards him in a quick tandem. 

Ahsoka let out a shocked gasp and Rex’s eyes went impossibly wide. He regained his composure quickly and knelt down to Luke’s height. 

“I am, little one.”

“Are you a soldier like Appo and Jesse, or a doctor like Kix?”

“He’s Appo and Jesse’s commanding officer,” Vader answered. “A Captain.”

Luke gasped. “Really! You fought with my dad?”

“Dad?” Ahsoka gasped even as Rex nodded. 

“When we fought together, your dad and I always had each other’s backs.”

“I think daddy is sad he can’t fight with you. He doesn’t like the boring office stuff. It makes him frustrated.”

“Luke,” Vader said his name almost imploringly. “Little star, this is Captain Rex. He and I haven’t fought together for a long time. We lost each other, like you and I did.”

“Oh.” Luke walked closer to Rex and held out his hand. “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m glad you found daddy again, Captain Rex. I’m happy to meet you, too. I like your brothers. I’m sure I’ll like you as well.”

Rex’s eyes went soft and he lifted both of his hands to hold Luke’s between them. “I’m happy to find him too, Luke. And look forward to knowing you also.”

Luke beamed and then turned his body to fully face Ahsoka, who was still staring at him in wide eyed surprise. 

“Ahsoka,” Vader began gently, jerking her attention back to him. “This is my son, Luke. Luke, this is my,” he gave a small hesitation before continuing in an even softer voice, “my former student who is more of a daughter, or much younger sister, than a pupil. She was lost to me too. Her name is Ahsoka Tano. If she wishes, she is your sister as well. Or Aunt. Whatever she prefers.”

“Sister!” Luke cried happily as if Vader hadn’t said anything else after that word. “You’re my sister!”

Ahsoka glanced between Vader and Luke before grinning. “Yes, little one. I suppose I am.”

His smile went even wider and he abruptly launched himself at her legs. She placed her hands lightly around his shoulders, cautious almost. Her wide eyes stuck on Vader’s face until he nodded. 

As soon as he had, she knelt down and accepted him into a full hug. Vader gave them a moment to embrace in private. Flicking the door shut with the Force, he then turned to face Rex. 

In a whisper he stated, “I believe we have much to talk about.”

“I would say so, General,” he agreed. “Perhaps an abridged version for now?”

Vader nodded and looked deeper into their home where Beru was patiently standing. He gestured for her to come join them. She did so with a cautious smile. 

“Rex, Ahsoka,” she looked up from her quiet conversation with Luke and Rex turned his body to fully face the newcomer. “This is my adopted sister Beru. The three of us have been here for a couple months. I found them both on Tatooine.”

“It's a pleasure to meet you, ma’am.” Rex told her and she grinned. 

“Oh, no need for ma’am. Beru is perfectly fine. I’m happy to meet you too, Rex. And you, Ahsoka.”

“You as well.” Ahsoka agreed as she moved to her feet. 

A charged air filled the room and Vader looked over to his son. “Little star, perhaps you would like a bath before getting ready? We can all go do something fun once you are clean and dressed.”

Luke glanced between the four of them. He seemed to come to an important conclusion and smiled up at Vader. “Aunt Beru can help me get the bath ready, daddy.”

Vader smiled at his son’s intuition and offered his arm out for a hug. Luke stepped to his side immediately and squeezed long before rushing off. Beru smiled at them before following after him. 

Once they were gone, Ahsoka asked in a quiet voice, “Senator Amidala’s?”

“Yes.” Vader met her eyes, slightly perturbed that he didn’t have to look down at all. “We were married.”

“We assumed something of the sort, General.” Rex told him assuredly. 

Vader snorted. “And here I thought we had been discreet.”

“As if!” Ahsoka laughed, though she sobered immediately. “You didn’t know of him?”

“No,” it came out harshly. “She, she must have died giving birth to Luke. Obi-Wan,” he closed his eyes and stamped down on the rising anger, “Obi-Wan took him and brought him to Tatooine.”

“Did he think you were dead too?” Ahsoka asked and Vader snorted. 

“Considering he left me for dead, I assume so.”

“What!” they both gasped and he let out a harsh laugh. 

“He assumed I was already owned by the Darkside. That I had fallen and was beyond hope. We fought. He disabled me and left.”

“Anakin…” Ahsoka trailed his name as if she was unsure what to say. Vader shook his head resolutely and assured her as firmly as he could.

“No. I am not stuck on his actions.”

They shared skeptical glances that Vader ignored. Rex cleared his throat and asked, “Luke was with Beru then?”

Another burning flare of anger engulfed him and he smashed that down as well. “No. He had been taken by Jabba the Hutt. He was a slave.”

Ahsoka gasped and her own burning anger flooded the Force. She didn’t even bother suppressing hers as she hissed, “He what?”

“The scoundrel Beru was married to sold him to pay taxes.” he practically growled. 

“Is he why you’re freeing the slaves?” Rex asked and Vader shook his head. 

“He is why I am Emperor. I have always desired to free the slaves.”

“I want to help.” Ahsoka insisted firmly. 

“Excuse me?” Vader asked, waring between fear and confusion at the stated request. 

“Free the slaves. I want to fight with the others. With our men. Luke mentioned Jesse, Appo and Kix. More must have survived. I want to join them.”

Fear won at the thought of her out there. The feeling flooded him in an instant and he shook his head immediately. “Out of the question.”

“What!” she exclaimed. “You can’t forbid me like that!”

“Yes, I can.”

“Listen here, Skyguy, just because you’re Emperor now doesn’t mean you can order me around like I am still your Padawan!”

“It most absolutely does!”

She made an angry, harsh sound in the back of her throat and glared. “I have spent the last seven years surviving on my own. Well, my own with Rex. But mostly alone! I fought in a war as a child . I am more than capable of helping the Five oh First!”

“Not now you’re not!”

“Give me one good reason why!”

“Some of them still have chips!” he yelled, completely unable to control the rush of fear and anger at the thought of losing Ahsoka after having only just gotten her back. At the idea that one of the men she trusted, a man who never wanted to harm her in the first place, could take her from him. “They will kill you Ahsoka. With no choice in the matter.”

Silence fell over them until a soft voice came from the back of the room. “Daddy?”

Vader’s head jerked to his son and he let out a long breath to calm himself. “Lukkeen, what’re you doing out of the bath?”

That was exactly where he came from, too. His hair was still covered in suds and he was wrapped haphazardly in his fluffy robe. The boy gave him a look he was sure he had seen on his wife’s face many times before.

“You were scared. I had to make sure you were okay.” he glanced to Ahsoka. “Are you mad at daddy, ‘Soka?”

“Oh, Luke, no. I’m not mad. We just had a misunderstanding.”

He frowned and looked back at Vader. “Are you still scared, daddy?”

“I’ll be okay, buddy.” he assured him. “Go back to your bath.”

He took one more glance between them before disappearing back into the refresher. Almost as soon as he was gone, Rex was speaking. 

“You’ve been removing the chips?”

“Yes.” Vader turned back to them, his arms crossing over his chest. “Every member of the original Five oh First has had them removed. My Legion now is much more, however, and I haven’t been able to get all of them seen in secret. Now, with Palpatine gone, Kix can get through them much faster. Especially now that he has the help of other medics. It is still not fast enough.”

He looked directly at Ahsoka. “You will not go near any of them that could harm you. When they return from Tatooine, I can give you a garrison I know is safe. Until then, you will stay here.”

She stared at him for a long moment before nodding, “Okay.”

His shoulders sagged in relief, but rose again seconds later with Rex’s shocked repeated question. 

“You removed the chips?”

“Of course I did!” he couldn’t help snapping. “I would never allow anyone to be controlled, let alone men I cared for. Respected. Admired. That will not change, no matter what side of the Force I use.”

“Anakin?” Ahsoka’s voice was small. Nervous. “Why did you fall? What happened? What happened in three days for you to darken so fully?”

“As I’m sure you know, Palpatine was Sidious,” Vader began softly. “He was a Sith Lord and was my friend. My mentor. I thought I could trust him. He told me he could save Padme.” he shuddered and tightened his arms against his chest. He could no longer look into her sad eyes as he finished speaking. 

“He lied. Then lied again when he told me I killed her. I had lost everyone, and everything. There was nothing left for me but the Dark.”

“You’re not alone anymore, Anakin.” Ahsoka swore to him firmly. “You’ll never be alone again.” She stepped closer and placed her hands on his arms. “You don’t need to wear the Dark like a security blanket.”

He shifted his arms to be able to place a hand over one of hers. “The four of you are my light now, Ahsoka. I am unsure I’ll ever be able to touch that part of the Force again.”

“I’ll make sure you at least have the chance.” she promised him firmly. “We all will.”

“You are our family as much as we are yours,” Rex stated softly. “If you need help, we are here.”

“I do not need more than I have.” Vader assured them. “I have the four of you. Palpatine is gone and I aim for peace . There is nothing else to wish for. You don’t need to be sad for me.”

“I love you. I’ll be as sad as I wish.” Ahsoka stepped even closer and into another hug. He allowed it as he knew that physical comfort was all that he could give her. 

She had grown up a Jedi. it was not at all a surprise that she hoped for him to be able to go back to the Light. He hated that he would only disappoint her.

Chapter Text

The first day after Rex and Ahsoka joined them began with more embracing, though this time Vader was thankfully spared. Rex was the one immediately pounced on instead. Vader had barely told Appo and Jesse of his arrival, and they were calling his name out in disbelief. 

He stood beside Luke as they dragged their blonde brother into what was likely an overly tight embrace. His son giggled, causing him to glance down at him questioningly. 

“What’s funny, little star?”

“Not funny, daddy. Happy. They found their lost family too.”

Se’airsas .” The Huesmic word for the reunion his son meant came to his lips unbidden and Luke gave an exuberant nod. 

“Exactly!” he cheered and Beru chuckled beside him. 

“I agree with Lukkeen. It is one of the best things you can witness.” She gave both of them a soft smile. “Or experience.”

“Sir, sir!” Appo’s voice suddenly broke in. “Is Rex rejoining the Legion, Lord Vader?”

“Right now, all Rex is doing is joining the two of you in keeping Luke, Beru and Ahsoka safe.” Vader replied and Ahsoka huffed. 

“Why am I being watched, instead of doing the watching?”

“Because I am certain you and Luke would find some way of causing mischief.”

Luke giggled, but Ahsoka gave him an affronted look. “I would not!”

He returned the look with one of dry amusement. She huffed, but then after a moment groaned. “Okay, maybe a little. But I learned that from you!”

“I wouldn’t get in mischief daddy!”

Vader smiled and ruffled his hair. “No, little star. You’d just try and bring home another tooka.”

“He was lonely!”

“He was a wild animal, Lukkeen.”

“A lonely one!”

“We don’t need a tooka.”

“Everyone needs a tooka.” Luke refuted with a petulant huff and crossed arms. 

Vader turned imploring eyes to Beru who chuckled. “Your dad is right, Luke. A wild tooka is a lot of work. Maybe we can visit an animal shelter. Find one that is less wild.”

“Beru!” Vader exclaimed over Luke’s cheers and the others’ exuberant laughter. 

“Come now, Anakin. A pet could be a good responsibility.”

“They make good mental health animals too,” Jesse spoke up. “Comforting and loving, you know?”

Luke turned wide eyes on Vader and he sighed. “We will speak about it when I return.”

His son looked delighted for a moment, before his face fell. “Do you have to go, daddy?”

“Yes, son. For a little while at least. I need to check on a few things. I would also like to arrange a meeting with the mind healer we spoke of.”

Luke’s expression, and Force presence, was now almost purely nervous. “Do you think I’ll like her?”

Appo spoke before Vader could. “I’m sure Luk’ika. She is very nice. Jesse and I go to her when work, and other things, become too much.”

“Or just if we’re having a bad day.” his brother added. “She really listens.”

“Can you, Aunt Beru, ‘Soka and Rex come with the three of us too?” Luke asked Vader after considering his guards’ words. 

“If that is what you would like, little star.”

“I’d love to, Luke.” Ahsoka agreed. “Gotta make sure she’s good for my baby brother.”

“I would as well,” Rex added. 

“You don’t even need to ask.” Beru finished, leaning to place a kiss on his head. 

He seemed to accept the idea now, nodding up at Vader with only a bit of hesitation in his eyes. “Okay, daddy. I’d like to meet her. Can it be somewhere fun?”

Vader chuckled at the eager tone and nodded. “I shall insist it is somewhere outside of her office, at least for the initial meeting.”

“Thanks daddy! You’re the best!” Luke hugged his legs tightly. Vader brushed away the pain from the grip and placed a loving hand on his son’s back. 

“You are much better, my son. I will see you soon, okay?”

He gave a sad nod and Vader reluctantly left his home. Each and every time Luke asked him to stay, it became harder to leave. Especially because he knew he would be dealing with a day of incompetence. 

He wasn’t wrong, either. He was conducting the first check in with the various Sectors to see their Liberation progress. There were only two Army/Navy battalions that were not disappointing him. His own men under Veers and Piett, and the Two Twelve. Though, he was certain it had more to do with its second in command than General Kahdah, the General who had taken command of the Two Twelve at the end of the Clone Wars. The man wasn’t an awful leader. Cody was just better.

Cody’s Two Twelve were the only vod’e he didn’t pull into the Five oh First. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he trusted the Commander over any General in the Imperial Army. Had it been up to him, Cody would have just been put in charge of the majority of the Army. Or at the very least, the whole battalion.

Now that it was up to him, Vader had every intention of doing so. He just needed to move Kahdah. Or get rid of him. Though, he couldn’t do that. He had been one of the Generals who had supported the decision to liberate the Outer Rims. He wasn’t incompetant. He just wasn’t on par with his second in command. Some sort of reform was certainly in order, though. 

It was Cody who gave his Sector’s report. Vader was pleased with the proceedings on Ryloth and told him as such. He bowed his head in thanks, and went to disconnect. Vader stopped him though and he gave him a questioning look. 

“Milord?”

“I have something I wish to discuss with you, Commander. On an unrelated matter. Is the comm room vacant?”

Cody’s head moved left and right, jerking pointedly at each direction. When he looked back to Vader, he gave a nod. “It is now. Is something wrong?”

“No.” Vader shook his head and removed his mask, wanting a more personal touch for this conversation. “Nothing is wrong, Commander. I received an unexpected visitor yesterday.”

“Who?”

“Rex and Ahsoka.”

Cody gasped, his arms leaving parade rest so one hand could move one to cover his mouth. After a deep inhale, he dropped it back to his side and asked in a weak voice, “Rex is alive?”

“He is.” Vader nodded his head. “He was protecting Ahsoka. She managed to help him get the chip out, or deactivated, and they kept each other safe.”

“Will he, will he be punished?”

“No.” Vader said firmly. “You know my thoughts on the former Emperor’s using you and your brothers like puppets. If Rex desires, he will be welcomed back into the armed forces gladly.”

“Thank you,” he breathed out, body sagging. “For both letting me know, and for, for that.”

“You do know my personal feelings on you brother, I presume.”

“I do.”

“Then you know I would never let anything happen to him.”

“Yes.” a soft smile came over his lips for a very brief moment. “Yes, I know that.”

“There is one other thing.”

“Milord?”

“Bow gave me a recommendation for a mind healer. Said it came from you. I want to know your opinion of her.”

“For yourself, milord?”

Vader resisted a huff and shook his head. “No. For my son.”

“Son?”

He nodded and explained very briefly how he found Luke. When he was finished, the Commander asked in a tight voice, “Does the Five oh First need a hand on Tatooine, milord?”

He snorted at the question and shook his head. “No. Veers has it under control. The healer?”

“Yes, she will do very well for your son.”

“Thank you Cody. Soon you will be able to return to Coruscant. I know that Rex will be happy to see you, and I’m sure it's a sentiment you return.”

“Thank you, milord.” Cody gave him a very small smile and nod in goodbye. 

The call ended and Vader didn’t hesitate to immediately make another. The twi’lek healer answered quickly, her head giving a respectful nod in greeting. 

“Emperor Vader.”

“Healer.” he gave a small nod of his head as well. “I’m afraid I did not receive your name.”

“Aazit Nije in Basic, my lord. Aazi, if you would like. Or Healer Nije if that is more comfortable for you.”

“Healer Nije, my son would like to meet you. In an outside, casual setting. He is nervous about the prospect of a mind healer.”

“Understandable.” her lekku twitched as she nodded, a gesture he recognized as sympathy. “Where would you suggest we meet?”

“Somewhere for children. Somewhere he will enjoy. A place that our family will not look too out of place in, but that we can still converse easily.”

She hummed and then gave a slow smile. “Emperor Vader, what is your son’s opinion on frozen cream?”

Chapter Text

The prospect of a new treat turned Luke’s apprehension into delight. He had never even heard of frozen cream before and couldn't stop asking questions as the seven of them (Appo and Jesse almost didn’t come, but sweet treats and Luke’s imploring expression convinced them to tag along) traveled by speeder to the place Healer Nije suggested. 

“How close to blue custard is it?” he questioned Beru and Vader. 

“Sweeter.” Vader replied, eyes flickering to look at him through the mirrors.  

“Not as dense.” Beru added. 

“Is it solid?”

“Sort of,” Ahsoka answered, looking over her shoulder to him with a wide grin. “It's soft and melts easily.”

“Will it make my brain hurt like the crushed pelli juice?”

“If you eat it as fast as you did that, Luk’ika!” Jesse teased. 

“Just eat it slow and savour it, it's better that way.” Rex suggested kindly.

“Oh, yeah. I’m not supposed to eat anything fast. Kix said so, and he’s super smart!” He frowned and gave a heavy sigh. “I forget sometimes though.”

“He certainly is, it's a good thing you listen to him.” Appo agreed. 

“It's okay that you forget sometimes, too.” Rex assured him. “What matters is that you try your best. And listen to his instructions more than your father does.”

“Not that that is hard.” Jesse added in a horribly loud stage whisper. 

“It sounds like only one of the vod’e are getting frozen cream today.” Vader remarked dryly as he shot the two of them unimpressed looks. 

“Why is that not a surprise?” Appo teased his brothers while Luke giggled. 

“Daddy, they gotta have some. It's a family thing, right?”

“I suppose, since you wish for it, little star.”

“Phew, thankfully we got Luke on our side.” Jesse remarked to Rex in that same absolutely not subtle voice. 

Ahsoka snorted and turned her whole torso in her chair to face the back. “The best thing about frozen cream Luke,” she told him in a delighted tone, “is that they have almost any flavour imaginable.”
“Really!”

“Mhhm. And some places even have flavours targeted for specific species dietary needs so that anyone can enjoy it.”

“That's so cool!” Luke exclaimed delightedly. “A treat for the whole galaxy! Why doesn’t it exist on Tatooine?”

“There is no way anything on Tatooine could feasibly get cold enough to keep it safe, my star.” Vader explained. “It would cost far too much for anyone to have.”

“Even the Hutts?”

“Yes, even the Hutts.”

“Wow.”

His excitement for the new treat lasted all the way up until they had clamored from the speeder. As soon as his feet touched the ground, nervousness spiked their bond and he was suddenly clinging to Vader’s pant leg with an incredibly tight grip. 

Vader knelt down to his son’s level, one hand held out to accept Luke’s slightly trembling one. “Lukkeen, you do not need to be afraid. The six of us would never, ever let anyone harm you. If you do not like Healer Nije, you don’t need to see her ever again. We are just going to enjoy some frozen cream and speak with her for a little while. You may ask her any question you desire. Aunt Beru, Ahsoka and the vod’e may even ask questions too so we know she’s the best healer for you. Okay?”

He took a deep breath and then nodded. “Alright, Daddy. I’m ready.”

“I am very proud of you, ursee’ahs .” he kissed Luke’s forehead and then stood, his son’s hand remaining within his own. Luke’s grip was tight, but he didn’t mind at all. He’d give the boy whatever support he needed. 

They entered the quiet little shop and Vader spotted the healer immediately. Her skin was a pale lavender, the tips of her lekku a few shades darker. She wore dark colored clothes, a modest high collared blouse and close fit pants. Over those was a sleeveless vest tunic that hung to her knees. It was closed along her torso but opened up at her hips. She looked every bit the proud, freed slave Vader imagined. More than that, she looked exactly as he knew a freed Child of the Desert would. 

“I’m going to introduce Luke to the healer.” Vader murmured to Beru. “Keep the others at the counter.”

She nodded and he gently guided Luke towards the woman. Once at her side, he gave her a greeting he was sure he had forgotten. 

“E’assa suhe’as zare’srafsee. Uhr ursee’ahs Lukkeen Zu’rhi.”  

Her eyes went wide and then she beamed and knelt to Luke’s eye level. Once there, she touched the tip of her right lekku to her forehead. “Ze’aszanea, Lukkeen. Ah umur Aazi. Hraz iyai faas.”

Iyai use’a luk’hues’sia? ” Luke asked the question with wide, eager eyes. 

Ah umur.

Luke lit up like the suns he was named for and tugged on Vader’s hand. “Dad! Dad, did you hear! She’s one of us!”

“I did, Lukkeen. This is the mind healer we are here to meet.”

“Usee’iyais calls me Healer Nije. You, little keen , may call me Aazi if you would like.” she held out her hand. “As I said, I’m very happy to meet you.”

“You didn’t say she was one of us.” Luke told Vader with a pout after eagerly shaking the woman’s hand. 

“I did not know, little star,”

He huffed, but then his beaming smile was back. “You’ve had frozen cream before, Miss Aazi?”

“I have. Have you?”

“No! My whole family was telling me about it on the way here though!”

“Lukkeen, why don’t you go join the others in choosing your flavour.” Vader suggested. “Perhaps get some for Healer Nije and myself as well?”

“Okay!” he beamed between them and asked, “Miss Aazi, what is your favourite?”

“I like the chocolate explosion flavour.”

“Chocolate can explode!”

Vader chuckled and ran his fingers through Luke’s hair. “I believe it means there is a lot of chocolate, buddy. Not that it has exploded.”

“Oh.” he sounded disappointed by that. “Okay. Chocolate explosion. For you, daddy?”

“Surprise me.” Vader instructed as he handed over the credit chip from his pocket. 

Luke squealed and ran to join the rest of their family. As soon as he reached Ahsoka’s side, Vader turned his attention back to Healer Nije. 

She was studying him intently, deep violet eyes seemingly trying to piece him together. After a moment she said, “He couldn’t have taught you Huesmic.”

“He did not.”

“You were a slave, too.”

“I was.”

“Should I be getting two new patients?”

“No.”

He said the word with finality and she didn’t argue. Merely continued to study him once more before she asked another soft question. 

“You are a Sky Walker.”

He hesitated with the tense of his reply and then said, “I was.”

“You revoke the name?” she asked in surprise.

“I do not deserve the name.” he replied bluntly. “My Lukkeen is the true Sky Walker.”

“I’m not so sure on that.” she disputed, her tone filled with an all knowing air that made him want to sigh in annoyance. 

“I am.”

He had lost the right to his name, Hahna’keen even more than Zu’rhi, long ago. He doubted he would ever earn it back. He had no desire to debate it with her. No desire to speak of it at all. They were not there for him. They were there for his star. His star who was shining even more brilliantly in the Force than he had when they left their home. 

“I am almost certain my son has taken a liking to you.” he told her softly before she could say any more. “I would be surprised if he didn’t want to continue to see you.”

“I am glad.” she gave a soft smile in Luke’s direction. “I am always happy to help a fellow Child. Especially one who shines as brightly as Lukkeen does.”

“He is all of my light.” Vader told her heavily. “Trusting his health to you is almost harder for me than for him. Do not do anything to diminish that light, Healer Nije, or you will not like the consequences.”

She bowed her head to him and then looked up to meet his eyes. “You have my word, Zu’rhi. Your son is safe with me.”

Chapter Text

Rex was not a jetii. He didn’t understand the concept of the light and dark sides of the Force as much as Ahsoka did. He knew the darjetti were the Jedi’s enemies. He knew that they saw the Force differently, but he didn’t understand what Falling to the Darkside truly meant. 

He knew to a certain extent, of course. Knew that according to the jetii ideals, his General was now considered evil. He, however, couldn’t support that view. Like Ahsoka had said, no matter what side of the Force he used, he was still Rex’s General. His friend. The only natborn he had been able to call brother. 

He had proven that fact, too. With only a few words his General had shown how much he cared. He had been removing his vods’ chips the entire time. Likely since he found out about them. He was doing what he could to give them their freedom, their autonomy back. 

Rex had continuously been tortured by the thought of his brothers continuing to live with a mind controlling device in their brains. He had thought his General dead along with the others. Thought that there was no one alive to do anything for them. No one alive who cared. He had been certain that Vader was alongside Palpatine in the enslavement. 

He was never so happy to be wrong in his life. Vader wasn’t some shadowy monster. Vader was his General, his friend, his brother. He was Anakin Skywalker and would always, always view the vod’e as people. He would also, always have Rex’s love and support. No matter the jetii’s view on his use of the Force. 


Luke’s family was growing. He used to have no one. Now, he had the best dad in the galaxy. A kind and caring aunt who adored him. An amazing and funny sister, who was also sort of aunt like. A  calm, comforting uncle who gave the best hugs ever. (As well as bodyguards who were also more like uncle figures than just bodyguards.) They all loved him, and he loved them. 

Adding Ahsoka and Rex to their home was seamless. His dad seemed more relaxed than ever with them home. He didn’t feel so heavy and sad as he used to. Luke was certain Beru was happy there were there too. Especially Ahsoka. His aunt was probably missing being around other girls. 

Jesse and Appo were delighted too. They had their brother back, something Luke knew had to be amazing. Rex was great. He would have hated to be the other brothers and have had lost him. 

Ahsoka was even greater though. She liked to play spaceships with him and told him stories of her and his dad’s adventures in real spaceships. Stories Luke soaked up eagerly. 

They had only been there a few days, but Luke knew they would change everything. For the better. They’d bring happiness Luke hadn’t known they were missing out on.

One change he hadn’t been sure of was starting to see a mind healer. That is , until he had met Miss Aazi. She was not at all what he had been expecting, and he found himself actually excited to get to know her. 

He thought she would be a stern, scary old lady. Not the beautiful, calm, twi’lek who was luk’hues’sia . She was so far from what he was expecting, and he couldn’t be happier. 

He never should have doubted his dad, at all. Luke knew he loved him and would only do good things for him. He would only let him see the absolute best healer for him. He’d never try and make him see a cranky old lady. He didn’t know why he had even thought so in the first place! Now, the only way she could get better was if she convinced his dad to let Luke get a tooka! Or a loth-cat. Luke wasn’t picky. 


Aazitnije had never once regretted her decision to go into mind healing. After escaping the Masters on Tatooine, she had been determined to help as many people as possible. Especially people like her. 

She had made it almost a mission to help any and all she could. Any that had known chains of any sort. Over the years since she arrived on Coruscant, she had had a lot of interesting patients. She was pretty sure she had helped at least a quarter of the clone army, all of whom had a plethora of reasons to need a mind healer. All of whom knew slavery to an extent she had never imagined. Nothing could compare to receiving a call from Emperor Vader, though. 

At first, she had been terrified. It was a vibrant fear that he would harm or kill her for the work she did. When he laid that fear to rest, she still worried about what he was truly like. What his son was like. What treating an Imperial prince would actually entail.

They were worries she didn’t need to have. Worries that disappeared as soon as Vader approached her and began speaking Huesmic. The ruler of the galaxy was a Child of the Desert and his son was truly made of the suns. 

She was looking forward to bringing that light out in the boy even more. He deserved all of the hope and happiness the galaxy had to offer. His father did too, even if the man couldn’t see it himself. She would do what she could to help make him. She hoped that by helping his son he would see that he could find his light once more as well. After all, they were both Sky Walkers. If anyone deserved sie’a ah se’ae’a , it was a Sky Walker. 

Chapter Text

Vader wasn’t at all surprised that Luke agreed to see Healer Nije. Their meeting over frozen cream went remarkably well. She was kind, considerate and really listened to the young boy. Though, the woman being one of the Desert Children seemed to be what easily sealed the deal for Luke. 

They had scheduled his appointment for the following week, and now that it was here Vader was more nervous than Luke was. Due to an unavoidable series of meetings, he was unable to take him. Luke assured him it was okay, but Vader felt awful. Enough so that he couldn’t stop his thoughts from wandering. 

Was Luke uncomfortable? Was she asking hard questions? Did he need Vader there? If he did need him, was Vader failing his son by not being there?

He tried to pay attention to the various pompous Senators as they blithered on to him, but he couldn’t. He didn’t care about them on a good day. He certainly didn’t care about their whining now. 

The only senator meeting he cared for was with Organa and Mothma. The man was also the only one who seemed to notice something was distracting him. 

“Emperor Vader, is everything alright?” He asked nervously. 

Vader’s eyes jerked back to the two of them. He gave a sharp nod when their gazes met. “Yes. Continue.”

Organa cleared his throat. “Right. We managed to stop a more conservative sentient rights law from passing. It was an attempt for planets to deny entry based purely on species. Unfortunately, the more inclusive ones we tried to get past failed.”

“Failed to even be voted for.” Mothma added with a soff.

“What were they?” Vader asked. 

“Allowance of nonhumans into the military, for one.” Organa replied. “With the thought that perhaps more would like to join to assist in the Liberation Act.”

“Wait. Stop.” Vader held up his hand before Organa could continue. “The Senate forbids non-human sentients from enlisting into the military?”

“Uhm, yes.” Organa replied in confusion, like he assumed Vader should have known that fact without question. 

“Admiral Thrawn is very much not human,” he pointed out. 

“He falls under a grandfather clause, though.” Mothma informed him. “He was high enough ranked when it passed that they couldn’t expel him.”

“This is news to me.” he remarked before nodding at the man across from him. “Continue.”

“The other bill was to allow systems to recognize that not all human based laws pertain to certain species. That some require other circumstances and shouldn’t be persecuted for some crimes that a human would. It was also soundly shut down.” Organa continued to explain. 

“What reason did they give?”

“They claimed it wasn’t right to give nonhumans ‘extra privileges’. They refused to see it as just recognizing that different species have different needs. Because Force forbid a carnivorous species needs more meat to survive and shouldn’t fall under the same poaching restrictions as humans do.” Mothma’s tone was indignant, her eyes dark. 

It was a look that Organa mirrored when he added, “They also said that no nonhuman would want to serve with humans. Instead of it being the other way around. They weren’t even willing to give them the option.”

“Then I propose we make the matter moot.” Vader stated simply. 

“Forgive me, Emperor Vader,” Mothma said quietly. “I know you have the power to push an order through. I just worry that doing so will result in a Civil War.”

“I don’t need to push any sort of bill through.” Vader remarked. “Just make this one obsolete.”

“How?” Organa asked curiously. 

“The position of Supreme Commander of the Imperial Armed Forces is currently vacant.”

“You want to put a nonhuman in the position?” Mothma asked in surprise.

“Yes.”

“Not Thrawn, right?” Organa asked. “He wouldn’t be abolishing anything.”

“No. Not Thrawn. I have someone much better in mind.” he glanced between the two of them. “Will putting a nonhuman in such a position make it so their arguments are moot?”

“It would make it much harder for them to claim that nonhumans want nothing to do with the military.” Organa stated with a tilt of his head. 

“They likely wont try to blatantly advertise their racisms and xenophobic nonsense so bluntly either.” Mothma agreed. “Especially not if you make the promotion. We could probably at least get it to go to vote.”

“And work as hard as possible to get it passed when it does.” Organa added. 

“Good. See to it.”

They nodded and stood to leave, both giving him a short bow as they left the room. As soon as they were gone, he sent a quick message to Rex asking him and Ahsoka to come to his office. He figured they should have this conversation in a professional setting. 

He had been thinking about the second in command position for almost as long as he had been Emperor. It was worrying having it open. He had had no idea what he was going to do about it, at least until Ahsoka had come back into his life still full of the fiery desire to help people as she always has had. 

Until all the clones had their chips removed, he couldn’t allow her to fight alongside them. That didn’t mean that she couldn’t lead them though. It was a fact he has been thinking of for days now. Pushing through the military bill gives him the perfect excuse to ask her if it was something she would be willing to take on. 

Something told him that she would be happy to. Eager to, even. So much so that he had already begun to get things in motion for her to do so. Now all he needed was for her to agree to the position. 

When they arrived, they both wore confused but intrigued expressions. Vader removed his mask so they could see his face and gestured for them to sit. 

“What is it, Skyguy?” Ahsoka asked, head tilted in question. 

“Do you still wish to aid in the liberation, Ahsoka?” he asked bluntly, his eyes then flickering to Rex. “Do you want to fight once more, or stay in peaceful non service.”

Rex frowned. “Why do you ask?”

“Two senators seem of the mind that if I were to go over the Senate’s heads at this time, it could end in Civil War. That is something I want to avoid. I am aiming for peace, as well as inclusion. Part of that is nonhumans in the military.”

Ahsoka frowned as well. “I want to help with Liberation, of course, but I’m not a very good poster girl, Anakin.”

He couldn’t help smiling. “No, but I believe you’d make an excellent Supreme Commander of the Imperial Armed Forces.” he said as he pushed the shining new military bars across his desk towards her. 

Ahsoka gasped, eyes going impossibly wide. “What! You can’t be serious! That’s your job.”

“If you haven’t noticed, this is my job now.” he drawled, arm swinging around them to encompass the entirety of ‘Emperor.’

“Not forever! I can’t take your title, Skyguy!”

“Ahsoka…”

“Sir, if I may?”

Vader looked over to Rex and nodded. “Of course, Rex.”

“Perhaps if you make Ahsoka Vice Commander of the Imperial Armed Forces. That way, when you aren’t on the frontlines, she is the highest ranking Officer. And if you return in a full Command position, it's there to take without seeming like you are demoting Ahsoka.”

“Yeah!” Ahsoka exclaimed. “That's a much better idea!”

Vader thought for a moment and nodded. “Yes. That is a good idea. It puts you in charge, but gives the direhard hold outs of human superiority the illusion of you still having a Commanding Officer.”

“Wouldn’t you be though?” she asked and he gave a small nod.

“In a way. No matter how you look at it though, you’d still be the second in command of the whole Empire.”

“Kriff .” she breathed. “That's a lot.”

“Will you accept?”

“I,” she glanced between the two men before giving a shallow, stunned nod. “Yeah. I mean, yes. Yes, I accept.”

Rex beamed. “Congratulations, Commander!”

“She won’t be the only one getting a promotion, Rex.” Vader told him pointedly. “That is, if you would like to return to duty as well.”

“Me?”

“If you accept, the Five oh First is in need of its Captain back. As High General though, of course.”

“Sir!” he gasped, mouth falling open momentarily before he regained his composure and asked, “You are serious?”

“I am. I trust and support Veers, but the majority of my men are vod’e. They deserve one of their brothers in High Command.”

“Under what Surface Marshal?” he asked, voice tight. 

“I’ve been thinking that Commander Cody is far overdue for the promotion he truly deserves.” Vader replied bluntly. “As well as be someone the Five oh First wouldn’t mind working under.”

“No, sir. I don’t think they would mind at all.”

“How long have you thought about doing this, Anakin?” Ahsoka asked curiously. 

“Since you said you wanted to fight,” he admitted as he looked between the two of them. “The military needs overhauled. Too many are in their positions because they have influence and money. It won’t stand any longer, and I know that the three of you will help me correct it.”

“You can count on us, Skyguy!”

Rex nodded along with her. “We are happy to help you reform the Empire. I know Cody will agree as well.”

Cody seemed more surprised than anything when Vader called him not long after the other two had headed home. He explained, very briefly, some of the changes that were going to be made and was met with a stunned, silent stare. 

“I’m sorry milord. I believe I misheard you.”

“You did not.”

“You are truly choosing to promote me to Surface Marshal ?”

“Yes.”

“But, but sir, I’m not even a General.

“Cody, you should have been a General during the Clone Wars.”

“There have to be better candidates.”

“There are not.” Vader replied simply. “You will be Surface Marshall for Sector RSTU 8-17. It is the Sector where the Liberation is most heavily in process. When that has been completed, you will be moved to where I will need you most.”

“Milord, I don’t. I’m..” he stuttered before taking a deep breath, squaring his shoulders and then breathing out, “Thank you .”

“There is no need for thanks.” Vader told him bluntly. “Your first task, Surface Marshal, is to assure that every last vod’e of the Two Twelve has had the chip placed in their heads removed. I’m recalling most of the battalion here within the next standard week. I expect it to be done by then.”

“Yes sir!” the new Surface Marshal saluted enthusiastically and Vader nodded to him before ending the call. 

Having taken care of the things he actually cared about, Vader decided it was time to leave the stuffy office he had been trapped in all day. He needed to see his son. He needed to know how his appointment had gone. 

Luke seemed to want to see him just as bad, as he launched himself at Vader almost the second he walked through the door. If it wasn’t for his happy emotions strumming through their bond, he would have panicked that something was wrong. At least until Luke started to gush. 

“Daddy!” he exclaimed, tugging on Vader’s cape until he lifted him. “Daddy, Miss Aazi is the best! She’s nice and caring and listens! She said she wanted us to start with something gentle and ease into the harder emotion stuff. So we talked about you rescuing me and how it made me feel About what it was like to be sie’a ah se’ae’a. Oh! And she also said getting a tooka or loth-cat  is an awesome idea!”

Luke pulled back to meet Vader’s eyes, his expression suddenly turning serious. “It made me realize something though. The stuff about being free, not getting a kitty. It’s something important, too.”

“What's that, little star?” Vader asked, fingers brushing aside Luke’s hair so he could see his eyes clearly. He felt a thrum of anticipation through the Force for his son’s answer. 

“That you aren’t daddy.” Luke told him in a soft, sad voice. “You aren’t completely free yet, and I have to help you to be. Just like you did for me.”

Chapter Text

Vader froze. He stared at his son with wide eyes. He had no idea what to say, how to respond, to Luke’s firm insistence. As far as he knew, he was free. He was the kriffing Emperor! How much freer did Luke want him to be?

“Why do you believe I’m not free, ursee’ahs ?” 

Luke sighed heavily, his head even tilting back dramatically. “Dad. Your mind isn’t free. You know that, right? You’re sad all the time and you feel like it isn’t okay for you to be sad. Or angry. Or anything . You’ve been a slave much longer than I was. Getting out of the things masters told you will take longer.”

“Lukkeen, I was only a slave for nine years, and that was many years ago.”

He made a scoffing sigh and crossed his arms, leaning back in Vader’s hold to give him a pointed look. “Nuhhuh.”

“I’m sure I would know my life, little star.”

“When did you last have a master, Daddy?”

“I..-” he opened his mouth to say in a junkyard on Tatooine in order to silence his son’s concerns and move on with the evening. He couldn’t, however. He would never lie to his child. 

“The Emperor, I suppose.”

Luke’s expression turned very pointed. “See! Much longer.”

“Luke, he was not the same as a slave master.”

‘Zur’nuse uhr zur’nuse. ” he responded bluntly. 

“Luke…”

“What's your name daddy?” he cut Vader off, blue eyes suddenly much sadder. 

Vader’s own eyes widened. He didn’t know how to answer that. He couldn’t very well tell his son he was named Darth Vader. It felt wrong. As did claiming Anakin Skywalker as his name. The thought of even saying it out loud made his skin itch. 

“Luke.” he said his son’s name again in an attempt to divert his attention once more, but the stubborn boy shook his head.

“I didn’t ask my name, daddy. Za iyai use’a. Ra zus iyai use’a zussee.

Vader gave a heavy sigh and resisted the urge to let his eyes fall downcast. He should have known his son would ask in that way. Should have expected it. Yet, hearing such heavy words from his little boy still took his breath away. 

“I don’t know, my star.” he admitted softly. 

Luke let out a gasp and tears were suddenly falling from his eyes. He launched himself forward, arms wrapping around Vader’s neck tightly. “I’m sorry daddy. I’m so sorry. Please, please you have to find yourself. You can’t be Sasuu. You can’t .”

He lifted his hand to stroke along Luke’s back, soft comforting noises leaving his mouth in an effort to calm his child. “Shh, Lukkeen. It’s okay. It’s okay.”

“It's not okay!” he jerked back and glared at him. “It's not . You’re the best person I know! You don’t deserve to be Lost !”

The best person he knew? Surely that couldn’t be true. He had to have a distorted view. A warped sense of reality. Vader was not a good person. 

He wouldn’t tell Luke that though. Couldn’t tell Luke that. He didn’t know how he would handle it if his precious star saw him for what he truly was. 

Luke must have felt his disbelief, because their Force bond was suddenly flooded with love and support. “You are, daddy. You are . We’re unuruhsiy . We protect each other. Let us help you, please.”

“By talking to a healer?” Vader couldn’t help how skeptical he sounded. Luke ignored his tone though, and just nodded enthusiastically. 

“Yes! We’ll find the perfect one for you. Aunt Beru, ‘Soka, Rex and I! Trust us? Please.”

Vader finally looked away from his son to where the two women and Rex were awkwardly hovering near the entrance to the kitchen.  Despite the uncomfortable air, they all wore identical determined and encouraging looks. Vader knew he was out gunned. There was no fighting the combined forces of his family. 

“I will agree to try, little star.” he finally said softly, causing Luke to let out a wordless cheer and squeeze himself to Vader. 

“Thank you, daddy! Thank you, thank you!”

Vader hugged him back just as firmly. He would agree to just about anything if it filled Luke with such relief and put that smile on his face. 

It was a smile he wore for the rest of the evening. As they ate. As they watched one of his animated shows, this one about a family of wampas. (Which clued Vader into where Luke’s odd fascination came from.) He even still wore the brilliant smile as he tucked the boy in and read him his bantha story Vader had memorized by now. Luke, truly, didn’t once stop smiling. 

“I love you daddy. Thank you for wanting to Find yourself again.” he murmured as he curled into Vader’s side, sleep trickling into his consciousness. 

“Anything for you, little star.” Vader promised, bending to press a kiss to his soft hair. “Anything at all.”

When he left Luke’s room it was to the sight of a still up Beru. Which was odd, as she generally went to bed when Luke did since the child enjoyed waking her with the sun. 

“Beru?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

Vader suddenly felt the very undignified urge to bash his head into a hard surface. “Beru…”

“Sit down, please?” she implored. “I’ve asked Ahsoka and Rex to bed. But we need to talk, and I need to apologize.”

“No. You don’t.”

“Yes. I do.”

She held his gaze hard and intently, and he eventually relented enough to sag heavily into the couch. He didn’t want to have this discussion. At all. Unfortunately, he knew it was unavoidable.

“You never asked me to stop.” She said eventually, her voice tight.

“You have to call me something.”

“Not a name you feel disconnected to!” she exclaimed. “Not something that can cause you pain. I’d sooner call you Vader now that I know.”

“Please. Don’t.” he pleaded. Vader wasn’t a name. Wasn’t an identity. It was a title. A position thrust upon him. He could not bear his family calling him by it. 

“I won't.” she promised gently. “I won't call you anything if you would like. Had I known you were Sasuu , I would not have relented in finding you a mind healer weeks ago. You can’t stay in limbo, susee’ahs . Lukkeen is right, no one deserves that. Least of all you.”

“You and Luke have far too high an opinion of me.”

“No. You don’t have an opinion of yourself at all, and if you do, it's been skewed by whatever that utter sleemo of a zur’nuse you’ve been serving told you. No matter who you fear you are, you are a good man. A liberator. My brother and I love you.”

Vader couldn’t breathe. Which shouldn’t be possible as their home had the highest quality oxygen on the planet. Even his damaged lungs should be able to pull in air, but suddenly they couldn’t. Or maybe it was that they wouldn’t? All he knew was that he couldn’t breathe and everything felt wrong.

Beru’s hands were suddenly on either side of his face and he jolted at the surprise of her being so close. His sudden movement caused him to gasp and air to crash back to him. Not just air, but awareness. 

“It’s okay.” Beru was saying. “Breathe slowly susee’ahs. It's okay.”

He managed to carefully match the easy way her chest moved until he no longer had to focus on how his own rose and fell. He gently grabbed her hands as soon as he was calm and lowered them so they rested between them. 

“That. You may call me that.”

Susee’ahs? ” she asked and he nodded. 

“Yes. If you wish.”

“Well, I have done it twice now.”

He chuckled and looked away from their hands to meet her eyes. “I’m sorry. I do not know what just happened.”

“You were panicking. May I, may I ask why?”

“Before I rescued Luke and brought you both home, I was alone. I thought I had destroyed everything and everyone I had ever loved. I was sure I would never experience it again. The four of you, my family, are more than I deserve. Some day, I know I will lose you again. I had hoped I would be the only one affected when that happened.”

Beru let out a pained noise. “You believe you love us, but we don’t love you?”

“I know someday you will realize the error in remaining around me. I, I am dangerous. Poisonous.” he looked away from her once more. “I always have been.”

“No!” she exclaimed vehemently. “No, you are not! We love you, susee’ahs , and every day we will continue to show you that. Luke was right. It's time someone rescues you for once. You just have to let us.”

He wasn’t sure how right she was, but he nodded anyway. “I will try my best.”

“I know you will. Now, unless you object, I’m going to hug you.”

Vader gave a jerky nod and she was leaning into his side. He wrapped his arms around her in return, awkwardly but happily pulling her into a tight embrace. 

Maybe his family wasn’t making a big deal out of nothing? Maybe they really would wish to stay, no matter what sort of person he was. He didn’t know how, but he was determined to show them that they were right. That there was something truly good hidden within his Darkness. He would try and find it. For his family.

Chapter Text

It took them two weeks to find someone that Vader would be willing to go see. Beru roped Ahsoka and Rex, and likely Appo and Jesse, into it too. His family was relentless in getting him to agree on someone. Every day he’d come home to another name, another suggestion. He was sure he’d be almost relieved when the Five oh First returned. At least then, Rex and Ahsoka would have something else to concentrate on.

He was sure he’d be far less annoyed with his family’s efforts if he weren’t so annoyed with his ‘work’. Reforming the military was not as easy as he had hoped. There were far too many steps he had to take. Red tape he really just wanted to slash his lightsaber through. 

Too many files to read. Too many signatures to make, or get. He just wanted to shove the new uniforms he had ordered made and bars onto the people who deserved them and call it quits. He couldn’t do that though, so the process was a necessary evil. He needed the restructure so he could move the whole fleet around. So he could kick some people off of his Lady. So the non-human sentient bills could actually pass. How had his wife enjoyed this? He wanted to tear his hair out. 

Going from the stress of the military reform to the stress of his family’s almost overbearing love was exhausting. He didn’t want to think about what Company, what general and admiral, he trusted in the Outer Rim. He didn’t want to think about seeing a mind healer. He didn’t want to think about anything. One morning, right when he thought he might actually crack,  his star gave him exactly what he needed. 

He woke earlier than normal to a small weight climbing onto his bed. He turned his head to see Luke tossing the layers of blankets Vader was curled in away just enough that he could crawl under them as well. 

“Lukkeen, what’re you doing?”

“Shh, daddy, go back to sleep.”

“I have to get up soon, little one.”

“No you don’t. Uncle Rex called Bow. You’re staying with me today. You’re too tired, daddy. Gonna crash.”

“I’m not going to crash, little star.”

“Are too.” he argued stubbornly as he buried his head under Vader’s chin. “Crash and burn like a pod racer.”

“Is that so?” he asked as his arm settled over Luke’s shoulders.

“Uhhuh. So you’ll stay with me today.”

Vader knew he should argue. Should insist on getting up. He had too much to do. Too much to organize. He couldn’t spend the day doing nothing.

The comfort of Luke against his side was too much to ignore, though. His little star was vibrating happy relaxation through the Force and it was like a siren call. So, despite his best effort, Vader found his eyes falling closed once more. 

He woke hours later and knew it was quite late in the morning. Brilliant light was shining into his room and he felt far more rested than the day before. His body was less heavy and mind more clear. Luke had been right. He needed that rest. 

Luke himself was no longer beside him, but out in the living room. He could hear the familiar thrum of his voice as he spoke with Ahsoka. It was a comforting sound to hear, as well as an enticing one. No matter how relaxed he was in his bed, he’d much rather be out there with them. 

Not caring at all for his appearance, he didn’t bother to change from his sleep clothes as he made his way to join his son and pseudo daughter. He found them seated on the floor of the living room in front of the short table. The table that was currently covered in sheets of flimsy portraying the Aurebesh letters. 

“What’re you two doing?”

“Daddy!” Luke cheered when he saw him, Ahsoka immediately copying the grin.

“Hey Skyguy. I’m teaching Luke to read Basic.”

“Huesmic letters are easier. There are less and they flow better.” Luke remarked with a small pout of his lips.

“Basic was hard for me to learn to read as well.” Vader assured him as he sat at his side. “They’re very different from both Huttese and Huesmic.”

“I don’t have to learn to read Huttese, do I ?”

“Not if you don’t want to, little star.”

“Good. Kriff that language.”

“Luke!” Ahsoka exclaimed while Vader snorted. She turned wide blue eyes to him and pointed at his face. “Don’t encourage that!”

He shrugged his shoulder and said to Luke, “It is very crass.”

“Huttese or kriff?” Luke asked and Ahsoka groaned. 

“Luke!”

“Both.” Vader remarked, a small grin on his face. When Ahsoka glowered at him he added, “Luke, listen to your sister. That is vulgar language and should only be used at home.”

“I am home.”

Vader looked over his head to Ahsoka. “He’s right. He is home.”

Luke burst into delighted giggles as Ahsoka groaned once more. “You’re both impossible.”

“You love us though, ‘Soka!” Luke cheered. 

She gave a dramatic sigh. “I suppose if I have to.”

“You do.”

Vader smiled at their antics and bent forward to look through the flash sheets of flimsi Ahsoka had found. It was just the Areubesh as they had said, yet they caused a swell of guilt to rise inside of him. He should have thought of the fact that Luke didn’t know how to read or write in Basic. After all, he had been in the same predicament. 

He wasn’t able to keep the guilt completely out of his and Luke’s Force bond. A fact made obvious when he was suddenly stopping his playful argument with Ahsoka to lean into Vader’s side.

“Don’t feel bad, daddy. You’ve been really busy.”

“Yeah, Skyguy. Besides, I’m happy to teach Luke. Been good to bond with my baby brother.”

“Not a baby!” Luke exclaimed and she chuckled. 

“Well, you are seventeen years younger than me. I’m closer to your dad's age than you are to mine.”

“Still not a baby.”

“Okay, you two.” Vader interrupted before they could playfully squabble again. “Thank you. I am still sorry, Lukkeen. I should have been more attentive to your needs.”

“You are the most attentive!” Luke refuted. His eyes went wide and he gasped. “Oh! I forgot!”

He scrambled to his feet and hurried to the kitchen. When he returned, he was gripping a data pad in his hands, nervousness predominating their bond. 

Vader suppressed a sigh and held out his own hand. “Another one?”

Luke gave a cautious nod. “‘Soka found this one.”

“He’s Force sensitive.” she told him quietly. “His parents didn’t want him to be a Jedi, so he was never sent to the Temple. He helps patients who have a hard time talking, because he can actually feel a bit of what they are. He helps them understand what they’re going through and can understand himself in only a few words. I think he’ll be really good for you, Skyguy.”

Vader frowned. “How did he stay hidden from Palpatine?”

She shrugged. “That wasn’t exactly in the dossier I found. Ask him yourself, if you’re curious.”

He huffed and accepted the pad from Luke, eyes quickly scanning the healer’s information. 

Tray-Var Anders was a human man, maybe a little older than Vader. Everything that Ahsoka said was spelled out across the pad. What really caught his eye was the man’s home planet. Stewjon. 

His knee jerk reaction was to pass him by just for the reminder he gave, but something had him pausing. A faint recollection of a very old conversation. 

He had wanted to know what Kenobi’s home world valued most. Wanted to know how it compared to his own values of family and freedom. As a child, he had been unable to see how his reply had made any sense. Understanding and an open mind got you nowhere. On Tatooine, blind trust and believing in others’ intentions got you killed. 

Now though, those were two things Vader needed in spades. Other than his complete lack of a desire to spill his heart to strangers, his biggest hang up on this mind healer thing was fear of judgment. 

A Stewjoni Force sensitive guiding him hit far too close to home, but there was a chance this man highly valued two things he needed most to go through with his promise to his family. It was becoming evident the connection was a necessary evil. 

“Very well.” he said as he looked up from the pad. “Make an appointment.”

Luke let out a delighted gasp and Ahsoka’s eyes became nearly buggy. 

“Really?” she asked in delighted shock. 

Vader nodded. “Yes. Earliest possible. I want to get this started before I change my mind.”

He hadn’t expected the earliest possible to be that afternoon. Nor had he believed Ahsoka that she had gotten him the appointment without telling the healer exactly who it was for. 

“I just said a former Jedi who needs a Force sensitive mind healer.” she insisted firmly. 

He didn’t really believe her until he walked into the office and the man’s incredibly pale eyes went impossibly wide for a moment.

“Emperor Vader. Your friend did not say she was making an appointment for you.”

“Yes, it seems I owe her an apology.” he remarked as he sat. “I was sure she had.”

“No. Just that you are a former Jedi.”

“I am.”

“Ah.” they fell into silence until the healer asked, “What has you most apprehensive?”

“You.”

“Me? As a person or about what I’m going to say?”

Vader didn’t reply, just grit his teeth and twitched his shoulders in an approximation of a shrug. 

“Well, before we get into anything at all, I believe there are a few things I must clear up.” Anders told him calmly. “This room is confidential, secure and completely judgment free. I am here to help you peruse through feelings, thoughts and memories. I am not going to pass any sort of judgment here. There is no shame in needing assistance to work through difficult things. Especially not after years of suppressing your emotions under the Jedi Code. Releasing them to the Force can only help for so long. And only works at all for everyday emotions. 

“Trauma takes time to heal from. You don’t always have to talk. You don’t always have to be able to fully process things at once. Mind healing is not spontaneous. There is no bacta tank for a brain scar.

“However, I am not here to coddle you. Some things I say may be hard to hear. Just know that I am always here for you . That your interests are what I am most concerned with. You are my patient, Vader. I am here to follow your lead, not have you running along mine.”

Vader stared at him for a long moment before admitting softly, “I am not good at this.”

“You don’t have to be. Let's start simple. How are you feeling today? Physically I mean.”

“You don’t treat the body.”

“No, but your physical health is greatly tied into your mental health.”

“I am fine.”

“Are you?”

He suppressed a groan, his hand subconsciously rubbing at his artificial knee joint. “Fine is relative, Healer Anders. I am in no more pain than I usually am.”

“Are you in pain often?”

He contemplated lying, but figured it wasn’t worth the effort to try and get it around him. “Yes. Daily.”

“Where?”

“My legs.” Vader grit out. “They’re artificial from the knee down. They ache constantly.”

“Is it an ache that can be seen to?”

“The Emperor insisted that the pain was needed for the Darkside. To help me access it.”

“Do you want to access the Darkside? Do you want to be in pain?”

“What?” he didn’t mean to sound so confused, but he had honestly never thought of that. He hadn’t thought of anything he wanted other than Luke’s safety and happiness. What did it matter how he felt? Luke was the priority. 

He said as much to Anders and the man raised a pale eyebrow. “What would Luke think of that line of thought?”

“He would dislike it.” he replied bluntly. 

“Does you addressing your constant pain in any way deter from Luke?”

“No.”

“Then why don’t you get them looked at? You’re Emperor now. Surely there are artificial legs out there that don’t cause constant pain to use.”

Vader didn’t know what to say to that. Yes, he probably could have gotten them changed months ago. Yes, they caused constant pain that sometimes pulsed to an extreme. Yes, he hated the constant reminder of what happened, of his fight on Mustafar and subsequent enslavement to Sidious. 

Yet, he kept them. Hadn’t even thought to get them changed. He didn’t know or understand why. And that realization irked him.

“How did you get them?” Anders asked and Vader gave a small wince. 

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay. Will you think about it? The legs themselves, the event that led to them, and how it felt? How it feels now? It's not good for you to constantly be in pain,” he hesitated and tilted his head, “Vader?”

At the questioning look, he nodded. He could really care less about what this man called him at the moment. He didn’t feel near comfortable explaining what being Lost meant.

At his nod, the healer continued his thought. “And the fact that you know and aren’t doing anything to help is a form of self harm. I want to help you understand that, and to figure out why you are.”

“You’re asking me to relive the worst day of my life.” Vader said through gritted teeth. “I thought you said there was no pushing. No forced conversation.”

“I did. If you truly don’t feel up to it yet, you don’t have to. Remember what I said about physical and mental pain being tied together? It goes very much both ways. May I say what I think is happening, just from the small amount I can feel and read off of you?”

“If you wish.”

“I do.” he gave a calm nod, not at all deterred by Vader’s seething golden gaze. “I believe you are punishing yourself. I believe that whatever caused the loss of your legs is such a core event to your being that you can’t let it go. I can feel the grief, betrayal and regret the mere mention of it brings. You think the physical pain will block the emotional trauma. You’re right, it will, but until you heal the physical you will never be able to touch the emotional cause behind it.”

Vader hated him. Hated him with a burning inferno of passion. Hated him because he was right. The loss of his legs was punishment for Padme. For losing Luke. For falling to the Darkside. He deserved the pain for failing his family. Kenobi should have killed him beside that river of lava, yet he kept him alive. Kept him alive because he knew what Vader did and knew that he deserved the fate he got. 

He deserved the pain. He deserved every step to be excruciating. Deserved his flesh and bone to feel like icy metal claws were tearing it to shreds. He deserved it all. 

“You don’t deserve any of the pain you feel.” The healer’s voice was soft when he broke into Vader’s thoughts. “Whatever mistakes you made does not mean you should punish yourself with constant pain.”

Vader scoffed and Anders sighed. “Let me ask you this, why are you here, Vader?”

“Because my son asked me to try.”

“So you are here for Luke?”

“I want to be better. For him. So, yes.”

“You will not be able to get truly better if you don’t consider your body as important. If you don’t consider yourself as important. Your health matters, Vader. You matter. Would you consider thinking of getting new prosthetics? Of giving yourself ownership of your body once more?”

Those words halted Vader’s brain. Ownership. The healer was right. With the legs Sidious forced onto him attached to his body, he didn’t own himself. He was still owned and run by a zur’nuse who had wanted him full of anger and pain. 

Anders had no idea how effective those words were to him. Anything else and Vader would likely have ignored his points on causing himself harm. But here, here were words that invoked even stronger ones. Once every slave wanted to be able to utter. 

Se’ae’ahs . I own my freedom. 

If he removed these metal atrocities from his person, it would be like removing the slave chip when he joined the Jedi. Even more so, because he was the one to do it. To free himself. To own his freedom. 

So he nodded. “Yes. They must go.”

Chapter Text

Over the years, Cody had followed many orders. Some, he still refused to think about. He had been born for a command position. It was his purpose. He just never thought that he’d end up in charge of a whole Sector!

Four months ago, he would have been right. Four months ago, the man who had taken everything from him with only three words was still in charge. Now though, now it was the only other natborn he had ever trusted. Ever cared for.

He didn’t know what had happened to Anakin Skywalker. Knowing him, he didn’t want to know. Nor, really, did he care. As long as he respected Cody and his brothers, Cody would continue to respect him.

The new Emperor seemed to do more than respect Cody. He could barely believe it. Was almost sure it wasn’t actually happening. Yet here he was, being put in one of the highest positions of the military. Not only that, but he was trusting Cody with the most important military appointment at the moment. 

Liberation of the Outer Rims would take a long time. Potentially years. The Two Twelfth was on Ryloth right now, and as far as Cody was concerned it wasn’t going as well as it could. At all. To think that Lord Vader trusted him to oversee hundreds of other planets, dozens with the same situations, was mind boggling.

So was the fact that Cody would have to leave his men behind to go to Coruscant for his promotion. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with that fact, but Waxer assured him they would be fine. After all, it wasn’t every day a clone became a Surface Marshal. 

He had only told his seconds the truth about his orders back to Coruscant. The Admiral and General he was going with already weren’t thrilled with his presence. He couldn’t imagine what they’d say or do if they knew the truth. 

Cody knew it was likely nothing good. He and his brothers  may be excited about his promotion, but not many others would be. Honestly though, he’d love to see the ones who had an issue take it up with Lord Vader. 

After all, for the last few years Cody had considered him the ultimate authority. It was about time the dikuts he served with saw it too.


Luke adored his mind healer. Looking back, he was a little embarrassed by how nervous he had been. Miss Aazi was excellent. 

She was kind and understanding. He really liked that she wanted him to start with his happier memories, like his dad rescuing him. 

He spent a lot of the first appointment gushing about how amazing his dad was. About how lucky he was to have  him. How nice and good he was with Luke. When he finished his praise, she asked softly. 

“You really love your dad, don’t you?”

“Of course!” he exclaimed. “I just wish…”

“Wish what?”

“I wish he felt like he was entirely free. He says he is, but he doesn’t feel like it. He feels trapped and sad all the time. I don’t want him to be trapped and sad.”

“Have you talked to him about it?”

“No.” he shook his head. “I don’t want to upset him.”

“If it's upsetting you, Luke, you should say something. Keeping things bottled up isn’t good for you. Happy families are based on good communication. If there are too many silences and secrets, misunderstandings can happen. Sometimes, those can be too much to come back from.”

He couldn’t let that happen, not between him and his dad. So he did as she suggested and was very glad for it too. His dad was more than just chained. He was Lost.

He cried when he realized, and he cried again when he told  Aazi at their next appointment. 

“He can’t be Lost, Aazi, he just can’t.” he managed to say after he had cried out his pain for his dad. “I don’t know how to help him.”

“Luke, sweetheart, you’ve done what you can. He promised he’d start seeing a mind healer, and that's his first step. You’re his son, Luke. You don’t have to be the strong one.”

“Who is his strong one, then?” he asked with a frown.

“As I recall, you brought two aunts, an uncle, and two you said were basically uncles too to our first meeting. I am sure that they are there for your dad. Your job is to be a kid. To cause trouble and make friends. To play and be happy. Love your dad, Luke, but don’t try to shoulder his pain. Loving him is how you help him.”

“It doesn't feel like enough.”

“Because you are a very sweet boy.” she smiled at him, lips curling kindly. “You can’t take on his burdens. Just hug him when he comes home and show him he’s not alone.”

He huffed, but nodded in agreement. He would always do that. Though he thought it was stupid that she didn’t think he should do more. Dad would always protect him, but Luke would protect his dad too. He’d help him find himself. No matter what.


Of all the patients Tray-Var Anders expected to get, Emperor Vader was not one at all. He didn't even make his mental list of potentials. Yet here he was, one of Tray-Var’s patients. 

Likely the most necessary patient he’d ever had, too. Never before had he felt such despair and self loathing from another being, and he knew he was only reading a fraction. 

The Emperor seemed to carry more than just the galaxy on his shoulders. He felt run down and broken. The only sense of joy was when he spoke of his son. 

Tray-Var was relieved that the man had found his son. He didn’t think it would have taken much longer to crush him into a never ending cycle of pain and anger. Which was obviously what the former Emperor had wanted. 

He didn’t know what exactly got through to Vader, but he was relieved something had. The pain the man was constantly suffering under needed to end. It was, at this point, almost a self induced torture. He was certain the Emperor believed it was something he somehow deserved. 

Tray Var wasn’t sure how he’d dissuade Vader from thinking so. He just knew removing the physical pain was the only way he’d begin to access the emotional. He could only hope that he would truly go through with getting rid of its burden entirely. 

Chapter Text

Vader wasn’t trying to ignore his mind healer. He would get the surgery done. He had every intention of getting new prosthetics. He just refused to have it done by anyone other than Kix, and the medic was still ten days out as he had only just recalled his men, and the military brass, back to Coruscant. 

He hated that it had taken so long to get them on their way, but it had taken another three weeks of red tape jumping and planning to finalize the military reform. There were positions to create and assign, uniforms to produce and armor to have designed. It was such a headache to accomplish, he was almost regretting doing it all. 

Through all of that, he had forced himself to attend an appointment a week with Healer Anders. Each appointment felt more akin to pulling teeth than anything. Vader would have almost preferred if it had been. 

The healer wanted to talk about his planned surgery. What he expected out of it. How he thought it would help him. Vader wanted to do none of that. Instead, he just talked about Luke and how he was doing. Anders let him, but Vader could tell he was being humored. 

Normally that knowledge would irritate him to the point of anger, but really the mind healer was the least of his concerns. He only continued to go so as not to disappoint his son

It was also maybe a little bit because he knew it was working. Luke had asked about Padme, and Vader was able to force himself to talk about her. He wasn’t sure he would have been able to do that before. Though he would never admit it.  

No matter why he was going, or what progress he may or may not have seen, the mind healer really wasn’t his biggest priority. His focus truly was on the upcoming Military Reform announcements. 

He had quickly come to realize reform may not have been a strong enough word. He was changing literally everything, including the way it was structured. There would be a fair few promotions and reassignments to be announced, all of which were based off of the reports and achievements he had been receiving the last few months. He was well aware that many would not be pleased, which shouldn’t, but did, cause no small amount of apprehension for the day the announcements were made. 

The current most important position was the Outer Rim sector between RSTV 8-17. Hutt Space and the worst of the slaver systems. He was placing the Sector under two men he trusted without a doubt to get the job done right. Surface Marshal Cody and soon to be Grand Admiral Yularen.

Vader had found plans of Sidious’s to place the longest standing Admirals, Admirals firmly in his pocket, into a higher ranked, more powered position of Grand Admiral. Vader had to admit that it wasn’t a truly terrible idea, and ran with it. 

Many of the men he didn’t want to have any power, let alone extra. A few he removed from the list in order to replace them with ones that he knew actually deserved it. Yularen was one of those changes. Vader had always trusted him, and he knew he would actually understand that such a position was earned. 

The other Army Surface Marshalls that he promoted went to Generals who had actually earned their ranks. He was fed up with people with ‘upstanding Core names’ getting what they want just with those names. He wasn’t going to demote them right at the start, but they would actually have to deserve it to go anywhere else. And demotions weren’t not in the cards if they continued in the same way they had been. 

Cody was the only Surface Marshal he knew personally. Despite not actually knowing who they were, he knew they absolutely deserved the new positions. They were being promoted on experience and fortitude alone. Vader had thought of prompting Veers, but the man was still fairly young and Vader had a selfish desire to keep him in charge of the Five oh First. At least for now. 

He had also almost given Wolffe a Sector of his own, but left him as High General over Ryloth. He could still remember how well he helped out with Kadavo years ago and knew he was where he needed to be. He, Rex and Cody would be the first clone run military Sector, ever, and Vader knew they wouldn’t disappoint him. In fact, he had an almost vindictive glee to see how some of the brass reacted to being so incredibly out done by those they foolishly believed inferior. 

Other than Yularen, the only Admiral he actually had a good feeling about was Thrawn. Mostly because he was one of the few Admirals who hadn’t been entirely in Sidious’s pocket. That, and his promotion would make a very pointed statement about sentient rights. 

He was giving him the Sector that contained Zygerria, because he knew they’d put up a significant fight and the Chiss Admiral never seemed to be one to back down. He just hoped the Surface Marshall he was paired with wouldn’t cause a problem. Vader had never met the man, but he wasn’t hesitant on handing out demotions to those who earned them. 

He was nervous about some of the promotions, and planned to keep a very close eye on them. The ones he was most worried about he gave positions in the Core worlds. Nothing significant to deal with currently, and close enough he could keep an easy eye on. 

Vader’s own personal fleet, and the men he truly trusted, were being positioned near the Hutt Sector, headed by the Executor and Devastator. Unfortunately, that meant placing Ozzell there. He just hoped having a direct Superior on the Lady could curb Ozzell’s more incompetent tendencies. Yularen didn’t have any room for fools, and he was certain this would be no exception.

It really had been an exhausting feat to accomplish and Vader was drained beyond belief. It was done though, and now all he had to do was wait for all of the soon to be promoted Officers to arrive. Them, and of course, Kix. 

He would have another mind healer appointment before then and he was thinking of canceling it. Preparing for the announcements really was taking most of his brain power and time. He didn’t want to waste any of it with Anders. Especially as he had to give a ridiculous speech. He couldn’t concentrate on problems that he’d been ignoring for years. They had been there for so long already, they could wait another week. 

He was far, far more concerned about the speech he would have to give. He had no idea what to say. Or how not to say things. It was stupidly convoluted and he just wanted to shove the new promotions at them and say get to work. 

That wasn’t exactly a viable plan though, so he went to where he had last time he had needed a speech written. 

Organa, though, was not amused. He just gave Vader an exasperated look. “You know, you could just hire a speech writer.”

“Speech writer? That is actually someone’s profession?” he couldn’t help but ask in a scoffing tone. 

Organa sighed. “You need a staff.”

“I have Bow.”

“Bow is not enough. You need a PA, a speech writer, a communications expert. Probably a secretary and security even.”

“All of that!” Vader exclaimed. “I trust very few people, Organa, and all but three are working on the Liberation. Where they should be. Two of those are being exchanged for some of the Coruscanti guard, even. I do not have the time or energy to vet someone enough to hire them for my personal staff. Let alone that many of them.”

“What about some of the freed slaves?” Organa asked curiously. “It would give them employment, as well as show you aren’t all talk. The Five oh First on Tatooine has to have made some sort of headway, right? Since their de facto leader was already taken care of.”

He was right. Tatooine had been the most successful with Mos Espa already completely liberated. 

“You’re suggesting I, what, give a hiring announcement to the liberated slaves there? And expect enough people to actually show interest?”

“You did free them. It wouldn’t hurt to send out feelers.”

“I will consider it.” Vader replied shortly. “No matter what happens there, Tatooine is days away. They’d be here long after the Reform announcement. Which I need a speech for now .”

Organa sighed. “Okay. I’ll request my own staff to write one.”

“Something simple. Direct. Facts only.”

“Yes, yes, I know. No flowery language. Military needs reformed, species inclusive, clone rights. It’ll be done.”

Vader nodded in thanks and escaped the Senate building. He thought about going back to the palace and his work, but he had nothing else to do for the military reform and needed a break. A break and his son. 

Of course, he had forgotten that Ahsoka had taken Luke to his appointment with Healer Nije. It was just Beru at home, which coincidentally worked well for him. He could bring up Organa’s suggestion to her without anyone else overhearing. 

“May I ask you something?” he questioned as he sat beside her on the couch. 

“Of course, susee .” 

“Should I offer the freed slaves of Mos Espa employment in my staff?”

“That's a wonderful idea!” she exclaimed and he blinked. 

“It is?”

“Oh yes! I’m sure there are some that will jump at the chance. You’ll have Desert family with you who will happily work with their Liberator. It’ll also show that you want the freed to be a true part of the Empire.”

He agreed with her. He had thought along those lines when Organa had suggested it. Though he hadn’t been sure if it was an out of place thought or not until she had voiced what he was thinking. 

So he nodded and said, “I will give the offer. I’ll go let one of the men stationed on Tatooine know.”

“Now?” Beru asked in surprise. “You just got here.”

Vader frowned. She was right. Though he did want to get the offer out there as soon as possible. So he compromised. “I will make the call from here. You’re right, there’s no need to go back to the palace.”

She beamed at him and he went to his office in order to make a quick call to Hardcase. 

He answered immediately, head bowing. “My lord. What can I do for you?”

“I need you to get a message out to all the Freed. I’m looking to hire a staff and want to give them the chance to be the first to apply. You and a couple of your brothers will do the hiring process.”

“Can do. What positions are they applying for?”

“Bail Organa said I need a PA, secretary, communications expert and a speech writer. For now, that is enough.”

“Four positions, will do.” he gave a firm nod and asked, “Anything else, my lord?”

“No, that is it for now. Let me know when you have the candidates.”

“Will do.” he said with a salute before disconnecting. 

With that done, Vader felt himself actually begin to relax. The Military Structure Reform was finished and now he had a staff potentially lined up so the next thing he decided to tackle wouldn’t take everything out of him. 

Now though, he had absolutely nothing pressing on his plate. He could relax with his family and forget about Imperial drama. Forget about mind healing and getting new legs. At least for one night, he could just be a father and a brother. Nothing more, never any less.

Chapter Text

Organa’s speech writers got back to him a week later with a speech he agreed with easily. It was exactly what he was looking for. Short and simple. Vader couldn’t have been happier with it. Well, unless Organa had not insisted on knowing if Vader had taken his advice or not. 

Vader hadn’t bothered lying to him, and when he replied in the affirmative the Alderaanian’s face had seemed far too delighted. He took a small bit of glee at closing the door on his face without rising from his chair. 

Coincidentally, he heard back from Hardase on that very thing only hours later. The Commander had a wide grin on his face when Vader accepted the comm call. A grin that Vader knew could be either a very good, or a very bad, thing.

“You had so many applicants my lord! Oz, Koho and I made sure to interview them all though and find the best.”

“Have you?”

“We have! I sent you the files on each of them. I can tell you our impressions as you go through it?”

“Yes.” Vader agreed as he pulled up the first file. 

It was of a togruta male who seemed incredibly young. His pale red skin still soft over a round face with lekku that barely passed his shoulders. He couldn’t possibly have been older than seventeen. 

“Mabra Maudys.” Hardcase explained. “He’s your new speech writer.”

“He is very young.”

“Sixteen standard years.” he agreed with a nod. “Yet absolutely the most qualified. He’s completely fluent in six languages. He was owned by someone calling themselves the Mos Espa Authority. He worked as a translator and essentially as a speech writer too. He actually enjoyed doing so, and was excited for the opportunity to write for you. And, well, get paid for it.”

“How did he learn so many languages?”

“He’s only been on Tatooine for six years. He and his sister were abducted and taken here to be sold when he was ten. His parents were killed.”

“His sister?”

“Fourteen and wants to come to Coruscant as well. She hopes to get an official education.”

“Whatever she wishes will be made possible.”

Hardcase grinned. “Thought you’d say something like that. Mabra is to your liking then?”

“Yes.” Vader replied easily before moving to the next file. 

The file was of a pale yellow mirialan with her dark hair tied in braids at the back of her head. She seemed intimidating and unapproachable. 

“Your secretary’s name is Kisofa. She’s roughly twenty standard years. Born on Tatooine after her mom was sold into slavery. She worked for a crime syndicate as a bookkeeper. Is very strong willed and we think exactly what you need as a secretary.”

“Good.” A daughter born of the Desert. It did not surprise him that she was as strong willed as she seemed to be. 

“Your PA was born on Tatooine too,” Hardcase continued, “and is one of the most no nonsense, but kind, people I think I’ve ever met. Its an interesting combination.”

The woman he spoke of was a twi’lek woman with pale orange skin and incredibly long lekku. The frozen image of her wore an unimpressed look on her face, complete with raised tattooed eyebrow. Vader instantly liked her. 

“Her name is Ezi W’lidii. She’s helped us find temporary homes for kids while we try and locate their families. She’s very kind, but also really good at going toe to toe with people. We thought she’d do really well as your PA.”

“I agree.” Vader said easily. “And the last?”

“He’s the oldest and the only human we hired.” Hardcase explained as Vader changed files and then froze.

It was a face that was vaguely familiar to Vader. Dark skin and hair, large even darker eyes and a rounded nose that he somehow knew crinkled when he was annoyed. It wasn’t until Hardcase said his name that Vader knew why. 

“So your communications expert is named Kitster Chanchani Banai. He’s been a slave on Tatooine almost his whole life. Freed himself a couple years ago, but protected and hid runaways and injured slaves often. He is very good at talking himself around and out of any sort of situation. I actually suggested to him he apply. He’s been a big help to us.”

Kitster. Vader remembered him and the memory hurt. His childhood best friend. A boy he had left behind when he went off to become a Jedi. Vader hadn’t thought of him in years, and now he was suddenly working for him. 

“Lord Vader?” Is Kitster okay?”

“Yes.” he managed to say through a lump in his throat. “Yes, yes he’s fine. What else is happening there?”

“We’re working to set up some sort of local government.” Hardcase replied. “The slavers who put up a fight at first but were not killed have basically fled. The few that remain are working relatively well with us and are participating in a vote for Representative of Mos Espa. All three who are running are former slaves who helped in Liberation.”

“Good.” Vader nodded. “That is all good. When will my staff arrive on Coruscant?”

“They’ll be leaving in the morning, my lord.”

“Alright. Thank you, Hardcase. Keep up the good work and keep me informed.”

“Will do, my lord.”

Ten Days. He only had roughly ten days before he had to once more face his past. That meant that for now, he could continue to ignore it. 

Which he did for almost a week. He didn’t mention it to Anders. Didn't mention it to Beru. He just spent the next four days as he waited for the officers to arrive entirely with Luke. He soaked up all the happiness his son had to offer and pretended nothing else was lurking on the horizon.

When the members of the Five oh First finally did arrive, he knew he’d have to take the first step forward as he had promised. Which meant meeting with Kix. 

The medic seemed very intrigued as to why he was called back alongside the officers. He had a curious look in his eyes when Vader called him to his office. He didn’t ask though. Just patiently waited until Vader spoke. 

“It has been made apparent to me that I am in need of new prosthetics.”

“About time.”

Vader blinked, surprised by Kix’s blunt reply. “Excuse me?”

“Forgive me for the candor, my lord, but you should have never been equipped with those prosthetics in the first place. They were out of date seven years ago, and considering who put them there I don’t trust the extra hardware for one minute. Let alone how long you’ve been using them. When can we do the operation?”

Vader didn’t know what to say. A reaction he was not at all used to. Kix was always blunt and in control over his patients’ medical issues, but this was a whole new level of taking over. 

“I have yet to find appropriate replacements.”

“Oh, that's not an issue. I’ve kept up on the latest prosthetic advancements.'' He pulled out a data pad from his utility belt and after a few touches handed it over to Vader. 

The prosthetics on the screen were lightyears more advanced than the ones he wore now. Lighter, more conducive to comfort. They were even covered in a synthetic skin. 

“Aren’t they a bit, extravagant?”

“I say they’re perfectly acceptable for the Emperor of the Galactic Empire.”

“Is the synthetic necessary?”

“Are you aiming for the cyborg aesthetic?”

Vader grit his teeth and handed the data pad back before he broke it. “You believe these will be the best option for me?”

“I do.”

Vader trusted Kix’s opinion. Over the years, he had always made it well known that he was the highest authority on medical situations. He should trust that the medic knew what he was talking about. 

“When can you get them by?”

“No later than two days.”

Vader thought on it. Two days. Could he undergo a major surgery in two days? The Military announcements would be done that evening. He could get through with this nonsense, meet with Rex, Ahsoka, Veers and Piett, make sure Luke would be okay and get the surgery done as soon as Kix had the prosthetics. Then that too, would be over with. 

He couldn’t let himself hesitate, and so he agreed. “We’ll do the replacement as soon as you have them.”

Kix legitimately beamed. “That's a very good choice, sir. You’ll notice a huge difference. I promise.”

He hoped Kix was right. He’d be infuriated if he was convinced into all of this for nothing. Part of him was still sure it was a waste of time. He just hoped that it gave him the sense of freedom he was looking for.

Chapter Text

Having almost every officer in the Imperial Armed Forces gathered before him was daunting. He’d addressed crowds of soldiers before, but half of these people weren’t soldiers. They were lackeys and men who shoved their name at everyone and were expected to be given a command because of it. Vader held no respect for them, and he knew they were not going to want to hear what he was about to announce. 

“Months ago, I told many of you that things would be changing. However, I did not allude to how great those changes would be.” 

He let those words hang for a moment, the Force thrumming in the cavern of a throne room with nothing but apprehension. For once, Vader wasn’t the one feeling the trepidation this room could cause and he felt a small bit of vindication at that fact. 

“Despite now also having the title of Emperor, I am still the Supreme Commander of our combined military forces. Despite retaining both positions, I cannot currently devote all the time I would wish to my military command. For that reason, I have decided to promote a distinguished Clone Wars veteran to the position of Vice Commander of the Imperial Armed Forces. 

“It is not a promotion that I will allow any question over. There will be no debate from a single one of you. As of this moment, Ahsoka Tano is my official second in command.”

He nodded his head to the togruta woman as she walked out of the curtain he had hung to hide Palpatine’s pompous throne. She looked every bit the regal Supreme Commander she truly was, a brilliant white sleeveless formal uniform covered her form elegantly. It was high collared and went to mid thigh. Her arms were bare and legs were covered in leggings and calf high boots. The bars on her chest and lightsabers at her belt screamed power and authority that was reflected in her blue eyes as she met his gaze. Vader didn’t think he could be prouder if he tried. 

She stopped at his side but said nothing. Merely quirked her lips up at one corner and nodded her head first to him, and then to the gathered officers before them. 

Despite his warning, the room was filled with tittering voices, most carrying outrage and disapproval. Vader would not allow this to turn into another argument as the last meeting had and raised his voice. 

“Silence! I will issue this warning once, and only once. Any one of you who shows Commander Tano the smallest bit of disrespect is committing treason and their life is forfeit! You will treat her as you would have me. Her word is law on any and every military matter. I don’t care for a single one of your arguments.”

His words had the effect he was hoping for; all of them fell deathly silent. He swept his narrowed golden gaze around the room and when he was sure no more would be said, he continued. 

“Commander Tano is not the only promotion being given today. I have restructured our Military Sectors completely, and with each Sector comes a new Sector Army. Each Army will be commanded by a Surface Marshal and their Navy counterpart will be commanded by a Grand Admiral.”

Intrigued whispering broke out this time, speculations on the promotions muttered back and forth through the assembly. Vader didn’t let the theories run for very long before he was announcing the new Surface Marshal’s names.

When he got to Cody’s name, outrage once more broke out and his tone turned icy to match his piercing glare. 

“I will not hear a word against Surface Marshal Cody. He is a far better leader, soldier and man than any of you. He has my respect and trust. He is one of the only promotions to Marshal or Admiral that I know for sure deserves it. If you feel you can’t work under or with him, just because he was not born as you were, I have one simple order for you. Leave. Now. As with Commander Tano, any disrespect or disobedience to him will be met with harsh consequences.

“In fact, because I do not wish to needlessly say this once more; every promotion I announce today is final. Disrespect and disobedience will, at the very least, result in a court martial.”

From there, he listed the High General, Grand Admiral and Vice Command Admiral promotions. Despite some of them showing outward signs of anger and frustrations, no one made another sound of disagreement. Which he was thankful for, because he was able to finish his announcements without another irritating, repetitive, side note.

When he finished giving the promotions, he fixed them all with a very firm look. “This will be the only time you will receive this offer. If you do not find you can work in an inclusive environment, or show the respect earned to those in command, you may leave the Armed Forces with no consequences. No matter your contract. We do not want anyone in either branch of the Military who will endanger others based purely on outdated opinions that have no room in this Empire. 

“You have twenty-four hours to come to a decision. Do not waste that time, or this one chance.  After those twenty-four hours, any treasonous actions will be seen as such and dealt with accordingly. 

“Now, Surface Marshals and Grand Admirals, report to Commander Tano to receive your Sector coordinates and subordinate assignments. She has your base missions and current objectives as well. Everyone else is free to go until tomorrow when you are expected to arrive at your assigned post. Failure to do so will be seen as the choice to leave the Armed Forces. Dismissed.”

The twenty-eight new command officers shuffled towards Ahsoka while the others scurried from the hall. Vader stayed standing where he was until Cody finished receiving his assignments in order to call him over. 

“Congratulations, Surface Marshal.” Vader greeted. 

Cody snapped him a salute, the motion causing a gleam to hit the new bars Vader had just pinned to his chest. Bars that suited him better than anything the man had ever worn before. 

His salute was followed by a small smile crossing his features as he nodded. “Thank you, milord. It is an honor I will not squander.”

“I know.” Vader replied simply before asking, “I hope you have no qualm with your orders and subordinates? As well as the changes to the armor and armory.”

“None at all. Wolffe and Rex are the best choice of High General I could have been given, milord. And I am excited to see the differences in the new armor, both for myself and the ones for my brothers.”

“I had hoped as such.” he nodded his head in the direction of the curtains behind him. “Rex is within my office, if you would like to see him. I wish to speak with you both before you are returned to the fleet.”

“Yes, milord.” This time Cody truly did grin as he saluted. It was still faintly there as he nodded his head in a small bow and left the palace hall. 

Vader took a moment to send messages to Piett, Veers and the head of the Coruscant Guard, Fox. He ordered them to meet him in his office within the hour. It didn’t take long for all of them to verify they would be there. 

After finishing that task, he waited impatiently for the new commanders to finish with Ahsoka. The last one to approach her was Nial Declann. He knew this one would be trouble, and from the set of Ahsoka’s shoulders he could tell he had been right.

He made his way to stand behind her, arms crossed and brow raised in annoyance. “Is there a problem, Grand Admiral?”

“She wants me in this Sector!” he waved the data pad as if that showed Vader what was enraging him. “It is unbecoming of an Admiral of my status! I demand to be resigned to a more lucrative position!”

“As I recall, you were given the Mid Rim Sector of OPQRS Seven through Sixteen. It is a Sector containing the Trax System. A System that has become a desolate wasteland where the elite live off the back of those they consider inferior. It is a high importance mission  with a lot residing on the proficiency and talent of the Marshal and Admiral in charge. I will not reassign the Units, Admiral, as I was the one who set them. If you do not wish to handle the Trax system, then resign. Those are your options.”

The Admiral looked like he wanted to argue, thought better of it, and then stormed away. 

Once he was gone, Vader turned to Ahsoka with a concerned look. “Was he the only defiant one?”

“No.” she shrugged. “I can handle them though, Skyguy.”

“You shouldn’t have to handle anything of the sort.” he growled out. “Make me a list. If the behavior persists, I’ll be finding replacements sooner than I thought.”

“You wouldn’t really kill them, would you?” she asked, her voice soft.

“Depends on the severity of their actions. Disobeying, harassing and threatening a commanding officer is a court martial able offense, Ahsoka. Whether it's a treasonous one deserving a death sentence is on them.”

“But you won’t kill them just because they’re rude?”

“A year ago, I likely would have heavily considered, maybe even done so.” he admitted softly. “But a year ago I did not have a son. I did not have a family. I had no one to set standards for. No one to be a good leader for. I promise you Ahsoka, I will not personally harm them unless they personally harm me or mine.”

She gave him a gentle smile. “I’ll take it. We have something more we have to do, don’t we?”

“Yes. There is something I must discuss with those I trust.”

“Lead the way then.”

She gave him an oh so familiar look that sent a thrumming pain through his chest. It made him feel wrong and as if there was something he was supposed to be doing in return. For the life of him though, he couldn’t remember what. 

He gave an internal shake of his head to clear the feeling and gave her a physical nod. Without another word, he turned his back on the trussed up palace hall to head back to his office. Ahsoka followed behind him without a word of her own. 

When they reached the office, Cody and Rex were sitting close to one another. Their chairs were pressed close enough that their forearms could be draped over the other’s shoulders as they whispered to each other in Mando’a. 

The sight caused another disconnected feeling to bubble up in Vader. Like he should be feeling or reacting in a way he didn’t understand. It intensified when Cody noticed him and immediately bounced to his feet, form alert and at attention.

Rex didn’t respond the same way. He merely stood to face them. The combination of discomfort and happiness at the two varied reactions physically hurt him. He had no idea why, or what that feeling was. 

He wasn’t sure either how to address any of those feelings, so just gave a small shake of his head. “At ease, Cody. Right now, we’re in a familial meeting.”

As if to demonstrate the point, he removed his cloak and mask before sitting behind his desk. Cody shot an unsure look to Rex who just grinned and sat down, Ahsoka doing so at the same time on his other side. It was only one more unsure second before Cody was following their lead. 

“Before the others get here, I have to make sure the three of you know something very important.”

They all gave serious nods, but didn’t speak, so Vader continued. “I am attempting to allow the Senate to democratically give sentient nonhumans and clones the full rights they deserve. You three will likely hear a lot of absolute lies out of them and the media. They’ll say you only have the positions you do as a way for me to force their hand. I assure all three of you, you are where you are because you deserve it. Because I have served and fought with all three of you and there is no one I would want leading this Liberation more. Leading not just now, but leading period. Do you understand?”

Cody’s eyes were wide as he nodded. Rex gave an understanding smile while Ahsoka practically beamed. 

“We understand you, Skyguy. And we love you too.”

Cody’s look went even more impossibly wide as he glanced between them fearfully. Vader barely noticed his worry and shock, he was too stuck on Ahsoka’s words. 

He wished he could say the sentiment out loud. He wished he could put them at ease. He still found he could not voice those words to anyone but Luke, though. So he did the next best thing and sent all of his care, trust, comfort (and even love, even if he couldn’t admit it) he felt to her through the Force.

It caused something Vader wasn’t expecting. The almost non existent bond between them flared to life as she flooded the Force with gratitude and love. It left him staggering and drowning in uncertainty. He didn’t know how to respond, or what to say to her. To any of them. 

Lucky for him, he didn’t have to as a firm knock on the door broke the heaviness surrounding them. Vader brushed the Force against the presence waiting briefly. It was Fox. Good.

“Enter.” he called him in, schooling his features to ones far more guarded. 

The Coruscanti Commander came in and then froze, his helmeted head stuck on his brother. 

“Rex!?”

“You may remove the helmet, Fox. Sit. We have important things to discuss.”

His gaze moved to Vader’s face and went even wider before he was able to hide his expression entirely. Once he was no longer blasting shock, he followed the order and sank into a chair beside his brothers. 

“Who else are we waiting for?” Rex questioned when Vader didn’t immediately start speaking. 

“The only non vod’e General working under you, Maximilian Veers, and the Captain of my flagship, Firmus Piett.”

“My lord if I may?” Fox asked nervously, continuing only after Vader nodded. “If this is about the campaign in the Outer Rim, why am I here?”

“You are here because your assignment will be much more important than the Liberation.”

Fox blinked almost owlishly. “What's more important, my lord?”

“The safety of my son.”

Chapter Text

Luke was certain his dad seeing his own mind healer was the first step to him finding himself. Though that was an amazing reason to be glad he was going, Luke had a much more selfish reason to be happy about it. Which was that he saw his dad much more often now. 

Once a week, he had the whole afternoon with just him. His dad never went back to doing boring Empire stuff after a mind healing appointment. Instead, he’d come home and he and Luke would do something. 

They’d play a game. Watch a holo show. Build model ships. When they finished all of the ones Luke had, they even went out and bought dozens more. 

Building the models was his favorite thing to do with his dad. As they put them together, he’d tell Luke what all the parts were and how they made the ship run. He promised him that when Luke was older, they would choose one of his models and build a real, functional flying version of it! Luke couldn’t wait. 

Even on the days they were able to spend the afternoon together, Luke never lost out on bedtime with his dad. Something he would have been heartbroken to miss out on. It had become their tradition to read ‘Is Your Mama a Bantha’ together. His dad was even teaching him how to read the words himself!

One night after reading it, Luke lightly ran his fingers over the Basic letters spelling out, ‘Mama,’ and asked, “Daddy, what happened to my Mama?”

His dad’s breath hitched, the chest Luke was leaning on jerking beneath him. He immediately sat up and peered up at him with concerned eyes. 

“Daddy?”

“Your mama, Lukkeen, is with the Mother on her moons. She is at peace.”

“I know. You told me when you rescued me. I just, I just wanted to know what happened.”

“I don't know for sure, my star.” his dad whispered hoarsely. “I, I believe that my former Master did something to her. She should have been able to live, to raise you. You should have been able to grow up with her, ursee’’ahs , and I am sorry.”

Luke shuffled around and hugged him. “Not your fault daddy. I’m sorry I made you sad.”

He kissed the side of Luke’s head and shook his own. “You didn’t, little star. I just miss your mama very much. Do you want to know more about her?”

“You don’t have to tell me anything, daddy. Not if it will make you sad.”

“You deserve to know how amazing she was, Lukkeen.”

So instead of a story, that night Luke heard many about the wonderful woman that Padme Naberrie had been. His dad talked about her in a soft, love filled voice and Luke soaked up every word in awe. 

Before he began to see a min healer, Luke didn’t know if he would have been able to tell him about her. Luke knew that the healer was helping, even if his dad didn’t seem to want to admit it. Luke had never met the man, but he was one of his favorite people because he was helping his daddy to heal, and giving him more time with him. 

As much as Luke loved that extra time, he wished they were able to have more family time together as well. ‘Soka and Rex were starting to be really busy too and he was beginning to see them less and less. Luke loved Aunt Beru, Appo and Jesse, but he wanted to see more of his uncle and big sister too.

Which was why when he came home from a mind healing appointment, one ‘Soka took him to so it was already good, and found both his dad and Rex home as well he was ecstatic. 

He had all of his important people together in one place. Finally. He was able to curl into his dad’s side with his feet in ‘Soka’s lap and watch a silly holo show that he was pretty sure dad and Rex hadn’t enjoyed a moment of. They didn’t complain though. They just happily watched together, contentment and love pulsing everywhere, including the air they breathed. 

Luke realized then that this was true peace. True happiness. Even just five months ago, he wasn’t sure he’d ever know what either was. Now, he knew he’d never forget. No matter what. 


From the moment he treated his General for the first time since the loss of his legs, Kix wanted to get him new ones. He put in requests for them more times than he could count, and each time was denied. It infuriated him. 

It didn’t take him long to figure out that Palpatine was the one refusing the request. Was refusing his second in command prosthetics that wouldn’t hurt with every step. That wouldn’t require painful surgeries to even keep using. 

Which just made to infuriate him even more. What sort of commanding officer claimed to care about their second  and then tortured them? Then again, Kix wasn’t surprised. This was coming from a man who put brainwashing chips in his and his brothers’ heads. 

The lack of surprise didn’t diminish his fiery anger. No one, especially not his General, deserved to live in constant pain. Just the thought of it had Kix wanting to bring Palpatine back from the dead in order to inflict another heart attack himself. 

When his General came to him to finally, finally , arrange getting them exchanged he had been more delighted than he could remember being in a long time. He basically already had it all prepared, as he had been waiting for this from the moment Palpatine’s death was announced. It was long overdue and he wasted no time showing his General all that he had found. 

He could tell the other man was overwhelmed by his enthusiasm so he didn’t even bother giving him options. He just went straight to the top of the line, knowing his Commander would just agree to the first thing he showed him. 

He still seemed skeptical, but Kix was insistent. He wouldn’t admit it, but was maybe even a little pleading. It worked though, and the General gave in. 

He couldn’t stop beaming as he ordered the prosthetics. Finally he could help the man who had done so much for him and the vod’e. He could finally stop years of constant pain. He’d do all he could to make sure their Emperor was finally comfortable in his body. That he not just tolerated his legs, but that he could actually for once appreciate that they were there. That he would once more feel like his body was his


Part of Cody was sure that Lord Vader wasn’t really going to make him a Surface Marshal. That it was some sort of awful taunt. Or a very vivid, perfect dream to replace his far more awful ones. 

Yet here he was, getting an official promotion, shining new bars attached to his chest loudly proclaiming its truth. Not only that, but he received a glaringly obvious shining endorsement from a man Cody thought was at the least indifferent to him and at the worst hated him. 

Cody knew that he respected the vod’e as a whole. That Vader was a Commander that truly cared for his men. After the disaster of Order Sixty-Six, and the specific Jedi Cody had killed that he could not bring himself to think of to this day, he was sure Lord Vader held a bit of resentment for him specifically. 

Yet, he exalted him not only as a soldier, but as a man. He threatened to kill anyone who treated him with disrespect just because he was a clone. Most importantly, he gave him this. He gave him his brother. 

If he was any less than the professional he was, he would have run to Lord Vader’s office. As it is, he got there in a very brisk walk. 

When he reached there, he swung the door open without hesitation. Despite a part of him being worried the room would be empty. 

He worried for nothing. There his brother was, blonde head buried in a data pad in his hands. When he looked up, his face split into a grin. One that easily echoed by Cody before he was running to his side and dragging him into a hug. 

“I thought you were dead.” Cody whispered into his ear.

“I know. I’m so sorry, ori’vod. I, I couldn’t hurt Ahsoka, but I couldn't hurt our brothers either. So we ran.”

“How did you, how did you know?

“Fives.” Rex admitted quietly. “I remembered him telling me about the chips, about exactly that happening. I realized what it was in enough time to warn her.”

Cody wanted to cry. He wished he had had the opportunity himself. He would never begrudge his brother his peace though, and said nothing on it. Instead, he asked, “Why did you come back?”

“Ahsoka and I recognized our General on the holo news. We thought he was dead too.”

“You don’t care that he is darjetii ?”

“No.” Cody felt Rex shake his head against his shoulder. “He’s my brother, no matter what. And, and he has so many haastals . More than I could imagine were possible. I want to help him.”

Cody reluctantly pulled away from his vod to give him a questioning look. “And you want to come back to the military?”

“At least until the Liberation Campaign is over. I want to be a part of it. To help others who have had no choice.”

Cody grinned. “Sounds like you. I’m happy you are home, Rex’ika.”

“Me too, Kote.”

They sat close together until the first and second in command arrived. Cody had worried that maybe Rex was wrong about being able to help Lord Vader. He was afraid of it really, until Ahsoka Tano told him she loved him and the room seemed to rise ten degrees.

A coldness had become a constant around the Supreme Commander. Something Cody had never known when he went by his other name. He didn’t know if it was related to the Force, but he did know that whatever it was, meant things were changing. And changing for the better.

Chapter Text

“Your son!” Fox gasped, his expression turning more slack than Vader was sure it ever had before. 

“Yes. His mother, my wife, was Senator Amidala.” Vader explained, which earned another gasp. “Given your friendship with her, I trust I can count on you to keep him safe now that my own men must return to the front lines.”

“It would be my honor, my lord.” he breathed out. “I am very happy to hear your child survived. Has he, has he always been here?”

“No. Just the last few months. I wish to keep his presence here a secret, Commander. I want no one but you and three others you trust implicitly to keep him safe and secret to know of his existence.”

“Of course, my lord. I will find the best brothers, and no one will hear of him from us.”

“See to it they don’t.” 

He gave the firm order before directing his attention where Piett and Veers were hovering outside of the office. He had no idea why they were just standing out there without knocking, or how long they had been. He didn’t know what they were waiting for, but he was impatient to get this over with so he called loudly for them to enter. 

They did as directed, both snapping off immediate salutes as they did so. Vader waved the two chairs by the window into the half formed semi circle in front of his desk and motioned for them to sit. 

“General Maximilian Veers, Captain Firmus Piett, these are Commander Fox, High General Rex, Surface Marshal Cody and Vice Supreme Commander Ahsoka Tano. The six of you are some of the only military command that have my explicit trust. That is why you will have the most important roles to play. 

“Tomorrow, VSC Tano, High General Rex and Surface Marshal Cody will go to the Executor and Tatooine. As the Five oh First has been deployed there, thanks greatly in part to your leadership General Veers, it has made the most progress of any unit. It should be of little problem to expand outside of Mos Espa and Liberate the rest of the planet. 

“From there, the three of you will head to Ryloth to convene with the Two Twelfth. Surface Marshal Cody, have you succeeded in having the chips removed from the remainder of your brothers?”

“They should all be out within a week, milord.”

“Good. VSC Tano, you may join him only after that has happened.” he leveled her with a pointed look until she nodded in understanding. 

“Good. High General Rex, when the Liberation on Tatooine is done, some of the Five oh First will remain to help things become structured and safe for those freed. The others will continue on with you to Ryloth.”

“And us, my lord?” Veers asked. 

“After a brief rest here on Coruscant you will join them.”

“Rest?” Piett asked with a small raise of his brow. 

“Last we spoke, I told each of you there would be something I would require of you pertaining to my son.”

“Yes.” Veers nodded. “My wife and son are already planetside in anticipation of fulfilling your request.”

Vader gave a small smile, forgetting that his face was uncovered. This was why he liked Veers. Rarely did he ever have to tell the man something once, let alone twice. 

“I’m glad to hear it. Spend some time with them. I’ll send a message to you when I wish for Luke to meet your son.”

He turned to his Captain. “As for you, Piett, I am getting the prosthetic legs I have replaced the day after tomorrow. I wish for you to meet Luke tomorrow afternoon in order for you to stay with him while I am indisposed and Commander Fox is finding adequate men to assign his guard.

“I look forward to meeting him, Emperor Vader.”

“Fox, you should come then as well.”

“Of course, my lord.”

Vader gave a nod of his head. “Good. That is all for now. You are all dismissed. Go home. Rest.”

Fox, Veers and Piett stood with a salute and left the office quickly. Cody had moved to stand as well, but Rex’s hand on his arm stopped him. 

He glanced between his brother and Vader, a questioning frown appearing between his brows. “Milord?”

“I believe Rex wants you to come home with us. To meet Luke.”

“And, is that okay with you, milord?”

“Yes, Cody. It is okay.”

Rex grinned at his brother and hauled him to his feet. Ahsoka sent her own smile Vader’s way as they too stood.

“Thank you, Skyguy.”

“For?”

“Opening our bond. I know me leaving the Order was what blocked it, and then the Empire happened and everything. I just, I really like knowing you’re here with me. Even if you feel a little different.”

“It doesn’t hurt you, does it?” he asked tightly, worried about whatever her response may be. 

“The Darkside? No. It's just cold and,” she hesitated, eyes flickering nervously, “and a little tempting. With all the anger and pain that has happened, it's hard not to be drawn to it.”

“No!” Vader exclaimed, hand reaching out to rest on her shoulder. He knew he was right to be worried. Panic flared to him at the thought of her drowning in anger, fear and pain. “Ahsoka, do not touch it. It isn’t worth anything. I will pull away again if I must.”

“No!” she shouted herself, much louder than even Vader had. Loud enough to draw the attention of the brothers by the door. 

She paid them no mind though and just shook her head near frantically. “Skyguy, no, please. I won’t walk away from you again. I can’t . I want our Force bond. I’d do anything to keep it. I promise I won't go near the darkside. I promise .”

Said Force bond was swelled with her desperation. Enough so that Vader reacted without thinking and pulled her into a hug. 

She curled into him immediately, lekku squished between their bodies as her head buried itself in his shoulder. He rested his cheek against her montrals and just held her to him. 

After a day of such emotional turmoil and whiplash, he felt he needed this as much as his former Padawan. It was as if the Force itself wanted him to confront his past. First with seeing Kitster. Then confronting the pain of his legs and thoughts of  Mustafar it brought. Finally, the odd feelings of disconnect, like a piece of himself was missing. He didn’t know how to address any of it. So he did the only thing he knew how to do and sought comfort in holding Ahsoka close. 

“You’re too pure, Ahsoka.” he whispered to her montrals. “The Dark should never touch you. I won’t let it.”

“I know.” she whispered right back. 

When they finally parted, the two vod’e were no longer in the room. A brush with the Force revealed they were no longer in the building. 

“They went home.” Ahsoka explained as she waved her comm around. “Rex says he’ll wait to introduce Cody to Luke until we get there if you’d like.”

“No.” Vader shook his head. “I trust Cody.”

“I’ll let them know.”

When they reached the penthouse, Luke had very clearly met Cody and loved the man. At least, if the way he sat on his shoulders and clung to his head was any indication. 

“Daddy! Rex brought home another brother! He has a cool scar and lots of bars, almost as many as you do!” he reached down to pat the man’s insignia bars while Cody’s hand steadied him gently. 

“Yes, he does.” Vader agreed with a soft smile. “How would you feel about meeting a few other vod’e within the next few days?”

“Yeah!” he cheered, arms waving high before he dropped them back down onto Cody’s head. The Marshal didn’t even blink at what was likely a harsh thunk. Luke paid it no mind either as he added, “Why?”

“Jesse and Appo have somewhere important to be, so we’ll need some other guards for you.”

“They do?”

“We do?”

All three chorused the question together, Luke with a disappointed frown and the other two in confusion. 

Vader nodded and handed each of them a data pad. “Yes. Congratulations, Generals.”

“Generals!” they exclaimed, hands shooting out to practically tear the data pads from him. 

“Yes. They’re important positions and need Generals that are actually competent. Ones I can trust.”

“We’re working under you two?” Jesse asked with a wide grin at Rex and Cody.

“Yes.” Rex answered. “Along with Hardcase and General Veers.”

“Who is actually decent, for a natborn.” Cody added. 

“Who’s gonna be with Aunt Beru and I now?” Luke asked while kicking his legs out. 

Cody chuckled and caught his ankles. “One of them is a brother named Fox.”

“I’m sure you’ll like him, Luk’ika.” Jesse assured him. “He’s nice, but a little grumpy without his caf.”

“You’ll meet him tomorrow, little star. As well as Captain Piett.” Vader explained to him. “He’ll stay with you the next couple days.”

“Fox or Piett?” Luke asked with a curious head tilt.

“Piett.” he replied. “I won't be here for those days, so Piett is going to be here to keep you safe.”

“What!” he exclaimed. “Where are you going?”

“I’m getting surgery to replace my leg prosthesis.”

Luke’s face split into a brilliant smile and he wiggled on Cody’s shoulders until he lowered him to the ground. The second he was securely let go, he vaulted himself at Vader. 

“Yay! That’s amazing, daddy! I’m so happy for you!”

“Thank you, my star.” he placed a hand on his shoulder and returned his smile. “Will you be okay with meeting Piett tomorrow? If you don’t like him, he doesn’t need to be the one to stay with you.”

“If you like him daddy, I’m sure I will too.”

He seemed to, too. The morning had been hard for him, having to say goodbye to not only Ahsoka and Rex, but Appo and Jesse. He was saddened that they were going all the way across the galaxy and was moping on the couch, no matter how much Vader tried to make him feel better. 

When Piett arrived, it was with a ridiculously large squishy version of The Lady that had Luke absolutely delighted. He latched himself both onto the stuffed Executor and the Captain who had gifted it to him immediately. 

Vader’s already high opinion of Firmus Piett rose with that action and for the first time he was feeling a modicum of peace about the surgery the next day. He wasn’t looking forward to it, but he knew it needed to be done to put so much behind him. Knowing that Luke would be with someone who seemed to truly care for him, someone Luke was immediately drawn to and trusted, allowed him to go into the unknown with one less worry on his shoulders.He didn’t know how he would feel coming out of this, but he knew Luke would be okay and that was all that mattered.

Chapter Text

Despite having thought that he was ready the night before, Vader woke the morning of his operation with a pit of unease in his gut. It was nonsensical and ridiculous. He trusted Kix. This wasn’t a life threatening operation. Why was he worried?

He didn’t know, and he refused to touch on it then. He buried the worry deep in the Force and pushed himself out of bed out of pure determination. With only a small hesitation, he dressed in comfortable clothes and left his room. 

He had almost forgotten that he had made Piett take the empty sixth bedroom the night before and almost faltered at the sight of his Captain. He was thankful that the man only gave him an awkward, and seated, salute as he passed on the way to Luke’s room. He couldn’t have handled a full, at attention Captain at that moment and knew it.

He found Luke in his room like he had expected. What he wasn’t expecting was the literal army of stuffed creatures littering the floor. 

“Daddy!” Luke exclaimed when he noticed him. “I’m practicing battle strategy! My squishes aren’t the best soldiers though.”

“No?” Vader asked and the boy gave a shake of  his head. 

“No! They’re too fat and fluffy!” he lightly pushed at his wampa, which just fell forward onto its face. “See!”

“I do.” Vader knelt beside him and lifted the fluffy white creature. “Maybe you could see if Captain Piett can take you to the toy store while I’m getting my legs taken care of. You could get some proper soldiers then.”

“Really!” he shouted as he looked up to Vader with huge eyes. 

“You’ll have to ask him if he’s willing to.” 

Luke shot out of the room at a run and Vader chuckled as he rose. There was no way Piett could say no to those eyes. Something Vader was counting on. If Luke was busy and distracted, then Vader didn’t need to worry about him while he was getting his legs done. If somehow Piett did say no, he’d make him change his mind. 

He didn’t need to worry about that though. Luke’s loud cry of delight reached him all the way from the dining area as he left the boy’s room. 

“Daddy! Piett said yes!”

Vader accepted his running hug and looked over to his Captain. “Did you ask him nicely, Lukkeen?”

“I did!” he exclaimed as Piett nodded. 

“He did, my lord. He’s got better manners than half of the Navy Admirals.”

Luke giggled and beamed over at the Captain. “Imma join the Navy!”

“Are you?” Piett asked. Vader almost did too, as this was news to him. 

“Imma be a pilot! Like daddy, but better!”

He chuckled and ruffled Luke’s hair. “Is that so? Who is going to teach you, little star?”

“You! You’re the best! We’ll build our own ships and fly together!”

“That sounds like an excellent plan to me, usee’ahs .”

Luke beamed at him and then frowned when Vader’s comm unit beeped. “Are you missing a meeting, daddy?”

“No, thats my reminder to go to the medical wing. I need to meet Kix soon.”

Luke gasped and called over his shoulder, “Aunt Beru! Daddy needs to go get his legs fixed now!”

She came from the kitchen, flour on her cheek and eyes wide. “This early?”

“I wanted to get it done with. Since I can’t eat breakfast with you anyway, I figured I’d go in as soon as possible.”

“Understandable.” she walked to his side and set a hand on his arm. “You’ll have Kix let us know when the surgery is complete?”

“Of course.”

She gave him a thankful smile and kissed his cheek. “ Rashee’ze ahz Rase’Hues zuhss zuzs ahe iyai, susee. ” she whispered in his ear. 

“Thank you.” he replied, his voice suddenly tight. 

Luke squeezed his legs tightly. “Good luck, daddy. I love you.”

“I love you too, little star.” he knelt to give him a real hug, clinging to the boy a moment longer than was necessary. 

When he stood, he made firm eye contact with Piett. “Keep them safe.”

“I will, my lord.”

With one last kiss to Luke’s head, he left for the medical wing of the Palace. Kix was already there waiting for him with an eager look in his eyes. 

“Are you ready, my lord?”

“As ready as I will be, Kix.”

With his agreement, the medic helped him get prepared for the surgery. Cleaned, changed and laid out on the bed, he was suddenly hit with the nerves he had been refusing to feel. 

He knew nothing could go wrong. He did. He was just worried about how he’d feel without the heavy, painful metal limbs attached to his knees. Would he feel as he did when they were originally put on? Less than human, a failure. Unwanted.

He knew that wasn’t true though. His son wanted him. He wasn’t the only one. Beru. Ahsoka. Rex. He had a family now. A support system. He could do this.

Before Kix put him under, he placed his hand on the medic’s forearm. “Make sure Luke is here when I wake up, Kix.”

“Absolutely, my lord. I promise.”

With those words uttered, anesthesia flowed through him and everything around Vader faded into darkness. 

When his eyes flickered open, he felt groggy and drugged, but somehow entirely pain free. He felt light, like a weight was gone. Even though there was a soft weight curled against his side. 

A soft brush of the Force revealed it to be Luke and he smiled softly before moving his head to look over at him. He was curled into Vader’s side, his head tucking into where his neck and shoulder met. One of his hands was gripping Vader’s medical gown while the other held the blanket up to his face. 

Seated beside them was Beru, who gave him a soft smile when she noticed he was awake. “How are you feeling?”

“Light.” Vader replied, his voice croaking. With a frown he added, “Thirsty.”

She chuckled. “I can imagine. Here.” she helped him sit up and take a sip of water, the movement waking Luke from his nap. 

His eyes flickered open and he sat up abruptly. “Daddy! You’re awake! You feel okay?”

“I am, Lukkeen. My legs feel much better.”

“Kix says they look real! He wouldn't let me move  your blanket to see, though.”

“Would you like to?”

“Yes!” he exclaimed, yet despite his enthusiasm was soft and gentle as he lowered Vader’s blanket. As soon as his legs were revealed, a soft gasp left Vader. A sound he would vehemently deny making. 

They did look far more realistic. Instead of thick, heavy black metal his legs were now covered in sleek, smooth snytheskin that when he reached down to touch felt real . He registered the touch of his fingers in a way he hadn’t felt in years and gasped again. 

“Daddy? Are you okay? You’re crying.”

Vader lifted a hand to his face and was startled when it came back wet. He was crying. He never cried. It was a waste of water and a pointless endeavor. He had no idea why he was doing so now. 

“I am, am okay Lukkeen. I believe I am just overwhelmed. I can feel things in a way I haven’t in a long time.”

Luke gave him an understanding smile and wrapped his arms around his neck. “I’m here to help you, daddy.”

“Vader hugged him back and nodded against his hair. “I know you are, my star.”

Beru reached over and rested her hand on his arm. She didn’t say anything, but Vader got the message. “I know you both are.”

That was how Kix found them minutes later. Vader staring in awe at his legs while Luke hugged him tightly and Beru held onto his hand. He smiled at them and nodded his head in greeting. 

“Good to see you awake, my lord. How’re you feeling?”

“Overwhelmed.” he admitted. “And strangely pain free.”

“Ah, yes. There’s a reason for that.” his eyes flickered to Luke and Vader got the message. Not something he want to say in front of Vader’s son.

Beru caught the look too and placed a hand on Luke’s back. “Lukkeen, now that your dad is awake, how about you go get your new soldiers from Captain Piett? He’s waiting outside, remember?”

Luke’s head jerked off of Vader’s shoulder and he beamed. “Daddy! They had a toy of you!”

Vader raised an eyebrow. “They did?”

“Mhhmm! Let me go get them all!” he scrambled off of Vader’s bed and out the door. As soon as he was past it, Vader looked back at Kix. 

“Speak fast. He won’t take long.”

“Those legs were incorrectly applied so as to increase nerve and tissue damage. Every step you took would fracture your knees and femurs. You were lucky that they were hairline. The bacta will be necessary for a week to heal all of the damage. At least. Worst of all, these were embedded in each knee joint.”

He tossed a glass cylinder to Vader, who reached out and caught it easily. He, luckily, caught it with his prosthetic hand as the moment he saw what was in the glass, he crushed the whole thing into nothing. 

“My lord!”

Susee!”

He ignored both of their shocked exclamations. Slave chips. There had been two slave chips embedded within him for seven years and he hadn’t had a clue. He could remember months ago when he told Beru he wasn’t a slave, how certain he had been. He could have laughed at how pathetically incorrect he was. 

Vader had been truly enslaved for years. Sidious had lied, manipulated, tortured and owned him. He had foolishly listened to every thing the man said. He had blindly followed every manipulative lying order he had ever given. He had let himself lose his entire world for a zur’nuse . He was worse than Rsuhe sahe’zur . He had been Suhr’zuuhrr iy suhe’ar urz aze’a. He had been so trusting, so naïve, he was literally blind to his chains. 

Vader wanted to be angry. He wanted to rage and scream and break something. He couldn’t bring himself to though. He didn’t have the energy, and if he was honest with himself, anger wasn’t his primary feeling. It was heartbreak. 

This time when he began to cry, he was painfully aware of the tears falling down his cheeks. He could do nothing to stop them, though. He had no control over the pain and desolation as the tears fell. So he just let them. 

He still wasn’t alone, though, a fact made obvious very quickly by Beru gathering him into her arms. He would have been embarrassed if he had the strength to feel anything. He didn’t in any way and instead just let his sister comfort him as he sobbed silently into her shoulder. 

Chapter Text

When Vader regained control of his emotions, he found Luke curled into his left side. It was a bit of a shock, as somehow he hadn’t even registered his son approaching. Evidently, he had been too busy crying into his sister’s shoulder to notice even his son’s brilliant presence approaching. 

With no small amount of embarrassment that he instantly squashed, he turned to face Luke in order to press a kiss into his hair. “I am sorry, my star. I didn’t mean for you to see that.”

“Don’t be sorry, daddy.” he lifted his little face up to peer into Vader’s. “Miss Aazi says crying is good for you. Doesn’t your healer?”

Vader didn’t want to admit that he didn’t really talk to his healer so he just shook his head. “Still, you should not have to comfort me, ursee’ahs .”

“But I want to.” he exclaimed. “I want you to feel better.” he bit his lip and then added quietly, “Do you?  Did Aunt Beru and I help?”

Vader glanced over to Beru. She was watching them with a soft, loving expression on her face.It was an expression of support and unconditional love. At the sight of it, without thinking for even a second, Vader once more leaned towards her. This time, it was to place an impulsive kiss on her forehead. 

She let out a very quiet gasp and gave him a questioning look, but said nothing on the uncharacteristic action. Instead, she just met his eyes steadily until he found the ability to speak what was hanging on the tip of his tongue.

“Thank you.” he finally told her in a near silent whisper. “You do far too much for me, Beru Skywalker.”

She gasped again and shook her head. “You’re my brother. There is nothing that I do for you that you would not do for me.”

Unuruhsiy’uhr saas .” he swore to her. “ Saas’ahs uhr saas’iyais.

Luke squealed at the vow and curled even tighter into Vader while Beru’s eyes got wet. She leaned closer to him and with no hesitation rested her cheek against his. “ Saas’ahs uhr saas’iyais. Ze’a Unuruhsiy.”

Vader closed his eyes and pressed the side of his head to hers more firmly. The charged air was broken up by Luke’s excited, expectant voice and despite the moment being gone, the happiness it brought to his chest stayed. Especially after seeing the delight in his son’s bright eyes. 

“So, we did help then?”

“You did, my star.”

“Will you be okay?”

Vader looked between his son and sister, then down to the glass fragments beside his right leg. With a brush of the Force, those shards and the cursed metal they had contained were obliterated into dust and his attention was turned to his legs themselves. Considering the day, (weeks, months, years even) that his life had given him, it should have been a loaded question. Somehow though, it wasn’t. 

“Yes, Lukkeen. I will be okay.”

He would, too. Not just emotionally, but physically. Even Kix assured him of that fact. Though the medic wanted him to stay and do physical therapy for a week, he refused being stuck in the medbay for anything longer than three days. 

The therapy was hard, exhausting and he was getting to a point of frustration with his mother henning medic that he was pretty sure Kix only let him leave out of self preservation. Whatever the reason was, Vader was grateful. He had far more pressing things to do than let Kix hyper focus on him. 

The transport from Tatooine would come the following day, and he needed to be able to meet his new staff. He needed to get a lot set up for their arrival. From making sure they had their own office spaces to talking to Luke’s healer to see if she was open to four more patients. 

He wanted to also make sure that Piett got some sort of holiday. He would never admit it to the man, but Vader was more thankful for him than almost anyone else. He had done so much to keep Luke happy, safe and thriving even in the days that Vader was indisposed. The Captain had ignited a love for military games in his little boy. Luke had even named his Captain doll after him. (A fact Piett seemed to be mildly speechless by and amused Vader to no end. If Luke had to have a toy of him, it was only fair his Captain shared in the odd sort of honor.)

So between his likely desire to get Vader out of his hair, and Vader’s firm insistence, Kix released him from the medical wing three days after his surgery. Kix insisted he wasn’t giving in though. Vader was being released because he didn’t need any more rest. He had adapted to his new legs faster than should have been possible, so the medic said he was sure it was safe as long as Vader kept wearing the bacta for at least the next two days. Vader let him keep thinking that was his true reasoning. 

When he finally  walked into his home after what felt like much longer than the scant days it was, Luke ran right for him but stopped inches away. He looked up at Vader and asked worriedly, “Are your legs okay to hug, daddy?”

“Of course, little star.”

Luke beamed and wrapped his arms around Vader like always. It was a wondrous feeling. Especially because Vader could feel it. He felt the pressure of Luke’s body against his prosthesis in a way he never could before. There was zero pain. It almost brought tears to his eyes. No, not almost. Feeling his son’s loving grip in a part of his body that he was sure would always bring pain was more than enough to water his eyes. To the point that he had to close them in order to not let his star see.

“I’m happy you’re home, daddy.”

“Me too, Lukkeen.” he said back through an emotion choked voice. “More than anything.”

That evening was a comfortable, relaxed family night for the three of them. After putting Luke to bed though, he asked Beru if she could talk to him about something for a moment before she herself retired for the night. She could tell that it wasn’t something family oriented, as a serious frown came across her features at the request.

“What is it?”

“Tomorrow, my new staff is coming in. I would like for you to meet with them and help arrange anything they would need. If you don’t mind?”

Beru’s eyes lit up. “I would love to! That’s an excellent idea! I’m glad that you want me to help.”

“I hoped you would agree.”

The next morning, both he and Beru left Luke with Fox and Thire. The boy didn't seem to mind that course of action at all. Apparently, in the last few days since they’d been his guard Luke had decided they were as amazing as the other vod’e he had met. Maybe even more so. At least in Fox’s case. 

When the two of them reached his office, Beru seemed incredibly interested in taking in her surroundings. Though, Vader couldn’t tell if it was a good interested. 

“Why haven't you made this place your own?” she asked in a soft, yet appalled, tone of voice.

“What?”

“The office. It's like you just left all of the zur’nuse here. All of his possessions and decor.”

“Did I?” Vader looked around, truly looked around at more than just at the desk. She was right. If he paid attention, Sidious was everywhere . Disgust at the realization had his lips curling. “I hadn’t noticed.”

“May I throw it all away?” Beru asked, a glimpse of eager glee in her expression. 

“By all means.”

For the next couple hours, Vader busied himself catching up with military reports while Beru literally threw everything away with entirely giddy delight. She even asked about the overly pretentious velvet curtains. Vader told her to get rid of it all. 

The office was just becoming flooded with sunlight when a knock on the door sounded. Beru finished shoving the curtains in the box she and Bow had somehow acquired while Vader went to answer it. 

His new staff and Hardcase were on the other side of the wooden expanse. It seemed he had escorted the four of them to Coruscant himself. A fact that surprised Vader for a brief moment. Though, only a very brief one. All of the vod’e prided themselves on seeing a task to completion. Hardcase was no different. 

Beside him stood four, incredibly nervous, beings. The four Desert Children that were to become his staff varied immensely not just physically, but their Force presences as well. Though, Vader’s eyes only flickered over the others for a moment before they landed on Kitster.

He could see the second his first friend recognized him as his eyes went wide and his mouth fell open. 

“Anakin!”

The other four turned to Kitster with shocked looks. The three Children’s faces were even laced with fear. Vader refused to let them fear him. So he replied in Huesmic.

E’assa Kitastr. Ah umur uzziy iyai se’ae’ahs .”

“Hahna’keen Zu’rhi, you golden Child!” he basically breathed. “I thought you were dead.”

“Palpatine wanted it that way, it seems. Come in, sit. You too, Hardcase. I have new orders for you.”

“My lord?” he tilted his head questioningly. 

While his new staff found seats, he returned to his desk and gathered up a blank data pad to pull up Hardcase’s orders on. He had sent one with Rex, Cody and Ahsoka but there was no reason for the vod to wait until he returned to Tatooine. 

Hardcase’s mouth fell open as he read the words written across the pad, and he looked up to meet Vader’s gaze with wide eyes. “General?! Sir, is this, is this real ?”

“Yes, General, it is. You have been doing admirable work on Tatooine. They will continue to need a leader like you in place until things calm down. Congratulations.”

“Thank you.” he breathed out in stunned relief. “I will not let you down.”

“I know.”

Hardcase gave him a salute, a wide grin plastered on his face. “I’ll return to my men then, my lord?”

“Safe flying General Hardcase.”

He beamed again and left the office. When Vader turned his attention back to the others, it was to find the four of them whispering with Beru in Huesmic. Their attention snapped to him when they noticed him looking and he nodded his head in acknowledgement. 

“Welcome to Coruscant.”

“Thank you for the opportunity.” the togruta boy replied. “We are beyond grateful, my lord.” The last two words were said with hesitancy, in almost a question and Vader shook his head. 

“No. As far as I am concerned, you and all of our brothers and sisters will never use any sort of ‘honorific’ for another again.”

“What do we call you then?” the mirilan woman asked. “The name Kitster used? Or, or Vader?”

“No. I do not know what you should address me as.” he frowned. “Vader is, is not an appropriate name and I am not worthy of my Desert name.”

Zazz’zizsz.”  the twi’lek said bluntly. 

“Ezi!” the other woman gasped. 

“I’m not claiming his being Lost is a lie.” she assured her before she turned to meet Vader’s eyes. “Just the fact that you are not deserving. You have Liberated us all. You continue to Liberate our brothers and sisters, even those not of the Desert. No one deserves that name but you.”

Vader didn’t know what to say to that. He didn’t know how to react to that. He glanced to Beru instead, who gave a soft smile. 

“Perhaps, instead of your Name, susee’ahs , you use the title.”

“Title?”

“Yes!” the mirilan gasped. “Hahna’ahs! It's perfect.”

Vader looked between the four of them. “Is that something you all agree on?”

“Kisofa is right.” the togruta teen said with a nod. “It is perfect.”

Ezi nodded too. “I agree.”

Kitster spoke up for the first time since exclaiming at Vader’s presence. “I’ve thought you were lost to me . I would be happy to call you Hahna’ahs until you are no longer Lost to yourself.”

Vader closed his eyes for a fraction of a second, just enough time to let the Force sweep away the emotions those words brought. When he opened them he nodded firmly. “Then it will work for me. Now, did Beru tell you why she is here today?”

“To help us with things we may need.” the teen, Mabra, Vader was sure, replied. 

“Yes. Anything you can think of, let her know.”

“I want a head covering.” Ezi stated immediately. “Some sort of veil to cover my lekku whenever I want to. I am through with human men fetishizing them.”

“I’ll make you something if I have to.” Beru promised her gently. “It’ll be a priority.”

“I don’t think there is anything I need.” Mabra said with a shake of his head. “The accommodations you’ve set up for us are more than enough. My sister and I are both grateful. 

Kitster and Kisofa agreed that they too couldn’t think of anything at that moment. So Vader nodded and told them, “If that changes, let Beru know. The second thing I wanted to speak with you about today are these.” 

He waved his hand so that four data pads floated over to them. They all, except Kitster, seemed shocked for a moment before they pulled them down to themselves. 

“These are a list of your new duties. For the next two days, get acquainted with them. We will all be back here in three days to begin work.”

“Why three days off?” Ezi asked with a curious tilt of her head. 

“The four of you need to get settled in, and I have a personal matter to attend to.” Vader replied. “If Beru agrees, she can give you her comm number in case you think of anything you need within that time.”

“Oh, uh, I’m not sure I have a comm, susee’ahs. Not a personal one.”

He wanted to smack himself for the lack of foresight and passed over the one he had gotten for her days before his surgery and apparently completely forgot to hand over. 

She took it from him with a surprised look that turned into a soft, understanding smile. “Thank you. And no, I don’t mind. Where do I find the contact number?”

Vader instructed her on how to locate it, and she happily recited the digits out to the other Desert Children. The women and Mabra showed themselves out almost immediately after, but Kitster hesitated. 

Beru read the room like the expert she was and stood, giving the two of them a soft smile. “I’ll see you at home, susee’ahs.”

“Yes, thank you, Beru. Tell Lukkeen I will be there soon.”

“Lukkeen?” Kitster asked when they were alone. 

“My son.”

“Oh!” his eyes lit up. “Congratulations! You’re married?”

“I, I was.” he replied slowly. “She is no longer with us.”

“I’m sorry.” he gave him a consolatory look. “I’m sure she’s in the Mother’s embrace, at peace.”

“Yes. She was already one of her avell in the living. There is nowhere else for her to have gone.”

“I’m glad that you aren’t within the Moons yourself.” he admitted in a soft voice. “I am glad to see you again, susee’ahs.

Vader froze at the familiar name coming from a friend he had thought he would never see again. He hadn’t expected Kitster to once more claim him with such a personal tie. It wasn’t the same as declaring them unuruhsiy, (family), but it was close. 

It was also a sentiment Vader found himself wanting to return. So he gave the other man an echoing smile of his own. “Yes, susee’ahs , it is good to see you again too.”

Chapter Text

In the months since Ahsoka had found her Skywalkers, a lot had changed in her life. She got one of the only parental figures she had ever had back, gained an adorable little brother and was now the second in command of an entire Empire. It was all a little bit overwhelming.

She never saw her life ending up like this. Not after leaving the Jedi Order, certainly not after the Jedi massacre and the rise of the Empire. Not after living in the middle of nowhere with just Rex. Not that she didn’t love Rex! But now they both had their family. And a job! 

Most importantly, she had her Force bond with Skyguy back. Complete and open. He may feel different, but he was him. 

His panic at the Darkside hurting her touched her more than she was willing to admit. Anakin loved her still. He wanted to protect her. Force, he had threatened the entire military brass on her behalf. 

When she put her new uniform on the first time, he felt more than she did. It pulsed through their Force bond and shone in his eyes as he told her how proud he was of her. How much good he knew she would do for the entire Empire. 

They were equally emotional as they said goodbye. She had tears bubbling in her eyes as she made to leave him, Beru and Luke. Especially as the little boy clung to her and made her promise to be safe. The desperate look in his eyes almost had her tears falling. 

Now, standing at the view port and watching Coruscant fade in the distance, she actually let a couple of those tears fall as homesickness hit her. She was going to miss them so much. She had only had them for months, but it felt like years. Felt like her whole life. 

Someone came to stand at her side and she turned her head to meet Rex’s gaze. His new uniform suited him even more than hers did her. The armor plating reminded her achingly of the Jedi Generals’ during the Clone Wars though. She forced herself not to think about that and gave him a soft smile. 

“High General.”

“Vice Supreme Commander.” he returned the smile and then placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll miss them too.”

She reached up to place her hand over his. “Do you think they’ll be okay?”

“Without us, or in general?”

“Well, both, I guess?”

“Luke will miss us for a while, and we both know how the General worries. Even if he completely denies it.”

“Now, more than ever.”

He nodded in agreement. “But they have each other and Beru. They’ll be okay.”

“And us?” This time her voice came out far more quiet. Almost a worried whisper. 

“We have each other too, Ahsoka.” he squeezed her shoulder. “As long as that remains true, we’ll be just fine.”


Luke had seen a lot of things in his almost eight years. Many of them he wished he never had. One thing he never thought he’d see though was his dad crying. Not just crying, either, but full on sobbing. 

His dad was the strongest, toughest person he knew. No one scared him. No one threatened him. He was a secure, strong, caring and comfortable constant in Luke’s life. Even when he was sad or angry or annoyed, he remained firm and their bond steady. His surgery, though, brought on whole new experiences. 

As much as Luke liked Piett, which he did a whole lot, he didn’t like that he was there because his dad couldn’t be. He liked it even less because he couldn’t feel him. Not really. He was just a soft blaze at the back of his mind. 

When his dad got out of surgery and Kix let him and Aunt Beru in with him, he’d been ecstatic. Even when he was just sleeping, Luke loved being in his dad’s presence. It wasn’t hard for him to curl into his side and fall asleep. 

He didn’t think he was asleep too long before his dad waking up woke him up too. His reaction to his new legs surprised him. Luke thought they were cool, but they seemed to stress his dad out. He knew it was so, less because of their bond, and more because of his dad’s frown. 

When Aunt Beru suggested he show his dad his new figure, he jumped at the idea. The toy store having a toy of his dad was the coolest thing. He hadn’t hesitated to get one, and hoped showing it to him would make him feel better. 

He practically hopped over to Piett, who gave him a small smile. “How is your father, Luke?”

“He’s feeling okay. The legs make him kinda sad? But not like, really sad. More sad happy?”

“Understandable. The process of replacing prosthetics can be incredibly harrowing.”

“Harrying?”

“Harr-oh-ing.” Piett corrected gently. “It means difficult.”

“Oh. Yeah! Really difficult. So I came to grab my action figure of dad. Maybe it’ll make him happy?”

“Of course.” Piett smiled at him again as he bent to grab the bag containing their purchases. 

He was just handing it over to Luke, when a sudden, brutal, sadness like he had never felt before exploded through the bond he had with his dad. It was like something had pierced his chest and split it in two. Yet, it wasn’t his heart that was suddenly damaged. It was his dad’s. 

He let out a gasp and darted back down the hall. He could hear Piett call his name, but he didn’t care. His dad needed him. 

He entered the room to find Kix once more gone and his dad crying. No, sobbing. Crying didn’t cover it. He was full bodied sobbing into Aunt Beru’s shoulder. 

Luke scampered across the room and onto his dad’s other side. He wrapped his arms around his waist and pressed his forehead into his back. He didn’t know what to say, so he just flooded their bond with love. He didn’t know why his dad was crying, but he’d do everything he could to help him feel better. He hoped with everything he was that it was enough.


Kitster didn’t know what to expect from his new boss. He knew he could be walking into literally any sort of situation. He certainly didn’t for one moment expect to see his first friend at the helm of the entire Empire. 

It was a shock. For a moment, he had thought he was seeing things. But no. Emperor Vader was most certainly Anakin Skywalker. A very physically different Anakin, but Anakin no less. 

Any apprehension Kitster had felt for his new job evaporated the moment he saw Anakin. It hadn’t been a lot, because even before knowing who the Emperor was, he had known who he was to them. The man who was freeing not just a planet, but a galaxy. The fact that that man was Anakin Skywalker, was, if he thought about it, not really a surprise at all. 

He was incredibly changed. Blue eyes gold with a scar across his eyebrow and entire cheekbone. He had obviously grown from being that little boy he had last seen, but Kitster hadn’t expected him to be the literal giant he was. He also didn’t expect for him to seem so heavy.

He didn’t know what had happened to his friend all these years. One thing he did know was that Anakin didn’t hold himself like a man who had known freedom since he was nine. The cocky swagger from the Clone Wars holos was gone. He was, well, he was Lost. 

Hearing those words from his friend broke his heart. No matter what had been done to him, or he had done himself, he would always be that golden hearted Sky Walker. The fact that he couldn’t see it was disheartening. 

Ezi had been right, too. He wasn’t just a liberator. He was The Liberator. The one to bring freedom and hope to the Desert. He had already done so for so many. He deserved his Name more than anyone else ever had.

  Being Lost was hard, though. Not just on the one Lost, but those who loved them. And Kitster loved Anakin. He was not only his first friend, but his first brother. He would help him Find himself again, in any way that he could. Even if it was just by easing the weight on his shoulders. 

Hahna’keen Zu’irhi has lived up to his name. Now it was time for Kitastr Bai’niy to do so. He would be the Protector that Anakin should have had all along, no matter the effort. No matter the cost.

Chapter Text

The day after meeting his staff, Vader had arranged for Veers to bring his son over. To his surprise, Piett had been with the General and asked if he could come along. Apparently, truly free time made him antsy. 

Vader agreed to him coming along with ease. Partly because it amused him the Captain got sir crazy so quickly. Partly because the idea of another kid in his home exhausted him. 

That was probably due to Luke’s truly boundless energy. When he told his star that General Veers was bringing his son over, he became ecstatic. He had spent the last thirty minutes ranting to Vader about every single thing he wanted to show the other boy. Vader didn’t understand most of it, but reveled in his son’s excitement. Even if he was beginning to get a headache. 

When their doorbell rang, Luke’s excitement suddenly turned to nerves and he stared up at Vader, worry prominent in their bond.

“Daddy, what if he doesn’t like me?”

“I’m sure he’ll like you, ursee’ahs.” Vader said, kneeling to meet Luke’s eyes. “But if for some reason he doesn’t, the Veers’ will go home and you won't have to see him again. Okay?”

“Okay, daddy.” He had nodded in agreement, but didn’t release the back of Vader’s trousers as they approached the door. 

With one last glance at his son to assure he was okay, Vader slid it open. On the other side stood Veers, Piett and a small dark haired boy that hovered behind his father much the same way Luke was hiding behind Vader. He seemed as nervous as Luke, huge wide eyes staring up at Vader in what he thought was awe. Though, it might have also been fear.

“My lord.” Veers greeted with a nod. “This is my son, Zevulon. Zev, this is Emperor Vader.”

“Hello, my lord.” The boy said in a soft voice with a small bow of his head. 

“Hello, Zevulon. General, Zevulon, this is my son Luke.”

“Hi.” Luke whispered shyly, his grip on Vader’s pants tightening minutely. 

Where Vader intimidated the dark haired boy, Luke seemed to delight him. His eyes lit up and he positively beamed. 

“Hi! It's so nice to meet you! Dad says you’re from an Outer Rim planet, like Uncle Firmus. That’s so cool! I’ve never left the Core. The Core is so boring!”

Luke giggled. “I like it here. There is way more to do then on Tatooine.”

“Coruscant? Oh yeah! I like Coruscant! It has way better holoshows!”

“I love holoshows!”

“Lukkeen.”

Luke’s head tilted back to stare up at him. “Daddy?”

“Why don’t you show Zevulon your room? I’m sure it’ll be much more interesting than our entryway.”

“Okay!” Luke held his hand out to Zevulon who immediately placed his in it. Within seconds, the smaller boy was dragging his new friend deeper into their home. 

Vader chuckled and shook his head. “Come in. Normally he would have been happy to greet you as well. He’s been very excited to meet the young Veers, though. As well as being incredibly nervous.”

“Zevulon too. He doesn’t make friends well at his school. He wont tell me why.”

While Piett and Veers stepped further into the penthouse, Vader froze. School. He had thought he had made an oversight about teaching Luke to read. He had never once even considered the idea of organized education. How had he completely forgotten about any sort of school? He knew Luke needed something more than he could give at home, but he had never once really considered what that would be. 

“My lord?” Piett asked, snapping him out of his moment of panic. 

“Luke needs school,” he replied, his voice strained.

“Ah.” Veers nodded. “Yes, I recognize that panicked look.” he seemed to hesitate a moment before adding, “My wife and I have liked being here these past days. We have thought about moving here on a more permanent basis. Perhaps I could get you a list of schools when we look into them?”

Vader nodded immediately. “That would be greatly appreciated, yes.”

With the main panic more or less under control, he led the two men to the dining room where Beru sat before a pot of tea. She looked up at their entrance and beamed. 

“Firmus, good to see you again. Enjoying the vacation?”

Veers snorted. “As if. He doesn’t know how to relax for the life of him.”

“I am not that bad.” Piett retorted. “Hello, Beru. Wonderful to see you as well.”

“Don’t listen to him.” Veers remarked dryly with a grin before he offered Beru his hand. “Hello. I’m Maximillian Veers.”

“Beru Skywalker.” she held out her own hand with a smile. “I’m the Emperor’s sister. It is good to meet you, General.”

“You as well, ma’am.”

“Oh, please. Beru is fine. Please, sit. Join me for tea.”

Tea with people who were not his family was awkward. Piett and Veers never fully relaxed around him and he wasn’t totally sure what to say to them. He happily let the other three dominate the conversation. Conversation that was mostly about their first impressions of Coruscant and the differences between the Capitol and each of their homeworlds. Vader would add something in periodically, but mostly just sat beside his sister in comfortable silence. 

That is, until Luke and Zevulon ran into the room. Luke basically vaulted himself at Vader, eyes wide and eager. 

“Daddy! Daddy! Zev doesn’t know the story of why water is so important! He doesn’t know the Asuhfuhr Suse’ar !”

Vader catches him easily and raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“He says water is gross! ” 

“Lukkeen, Zevulon isn’t from Tatooine.” Vader reminded him softly. 

“But he should know!” he exclaimed. “Daddy, can you tell it to us? Can you tell us the Asuhfuhr Suse’ar?

Vader froze. The story Luke was asking for was the most important story to the Desert’s Children. It was the story of how the Desert Planet was born. How the planet lost its water and became what it is now. How the Desert’s Children came to be. There wasn’t a Child that didn’t know it.

Telling it to outsiders wasn’t forbidden. Not if they weren’t zur’nuse. Vader had just never told it himself and was unsure he could do so correctly. He knew for sure that couldn't say no to Luke’s wide begging eyes, though.

“Okay.” he agreed with some reluctance. “I can’t do the smoke figures in here. Holograms will have to do.”

Luke cheered and bounced in an excited circle. “Yes! Thank you! Thank you, daddy!”

“Of course, my star. Vader reached over and grabbed the holopad Beru had been using before their guests arrived. He cued up the needed images and then used the Force to dim the lights. 

Luke squealed again and clamored onto his lap. Vader wrapped his right arm around him and glanced around the table. He had all of its occupants rapt attention. Beru with a warm, ecstatic look in her eyes while the other three oozed curiosity. 

Knowing he had all of their full attention, he began to softly tell a story he hadn’t heard in years, yet would never forget. 

“Life began with Love. The love of the truly two Divine.” he swiped two images onto the holopad so they were projected between his gathered audience. A tall broad man’s silhouette beside a tall curved woman’s. “Racise’dey’a and Uhae’yt’nar were their original names, but we know them as Rasee’ze and Usee’ze. Our Mother; Mother of the Desert. Our Father; Father of the Suns. 

“They were deeply in love. Content, yet lonely. So their Love birthed two children.” He pulled up two holos, one of a bright glowing sun and one of a brilliant blue and green planet. “ Ke’ab, the first sun, and Rahuh’zuss, which was Tatooine’s first name. Its literal translation means Water and Fertile Soil.”

“Wait, Tatooine had water?”

“Shh!” Luke shushed the General. “Don’t interrupt.”

“My apologies, little Prince.”

Vader chuckled softly and kissed Luke’s hair before continuing, “As I was saying, they had their children and their love only grew. It continued to grow as Life began to bloom. From the smallest of forms, all the way to the first sentients. Mother and Father loved them all.

“Yet, there was one thing they could not agree on. What Life needed most. Mother insisted Life could not survive without her beloved Daughter. That it was the plentiful water of the Daughter that kept Life healthy. 

“Father said that they need the light and heat of his brilliant Son. That when Ke’ab slept, they had to as well because they could not see or stay warm without him.”

He separated the holos of Mother and Rahuh’zuss from the Father and Sun. “It began to grow a divide between them. What started as a playful debate became much more. Then, Ke-ab began to lose his light.”

He dimmed the Sun’s color. “Father began to panic. He was certain their Son was dying, and if he died so would Life. He could not lose them both, and so in his panic he drew on the fragile Love of his Family and birthed another Son.”

He brought up the image of Tatooine’s second sun. “So En’iyox was born. Yet, he was born too bright. So bright, that between he and his Brother, their Sister began to be affected.”

He tapped the planet so the blue slowly began to recede. “As the heat of the two suns increased, the Water of Rahuh’zuss began to disappear. Slowly at first, but then fast enough that Life began to notice. To notice, and die.

“Mother was distraught as her Daughter began to die. Father was horrified that his panicked actions was causing Life to become less and less. Neither knew what to do, or how to save the Daughter’s Water. Father, in his guilt, left to try and find an answer.”

He swiped the Father away and brought the Mother closer. “Mother, though, refused to give up on her Daughter. She hardened the remaining fertile soil and buried what was left of the Water under it, where her brother’s heat could not touch her.”

He swapped the vibrant planet out for an image of Tatooine. “With the last of her Daughter gone from the surface, the greenery of Life completely died. The sight of it caused Mother to begin to cry. She only let three tears fall, as she knew without her Daughter, no water could be wasted. She even caught the tears to preserve them.”

He made the hologram cry her three tears, catch them, and then pulled the suns closer. “The Suns were ashamed of what their light and heat did to their Sister, and did what they could to preserve Mother’s tears by imbuing some of their Love and power into them. Mother, in turn, then placed them in the sky with her Sons, who she would always continue to Love.”

He turned the tears into Tatooine’s moons. “And so, Zu’huhe’aus was born. A new Daughter, and one Mother would Love as much as her First. A Daughter of Sand and Wind. A Daughter, that somehow, Life was continuing to survive on. Not thrive, but survive.”

“There was no thriving, for those of Life that managed to cling to survival now had to fight for it with every breath. Outsiders had come in, and her Life was no longer being given the Light and Water that all living needed to thrive. Needed to survive. 

“She felt their pain, and she Loved them. For even with their hardships, they never blamed the Desert. Never blamed the Suns. Some even welcomed their harshness as an escape. 

“So she Loved them, her Daughter’s Children. She taught them all she could. Helped them all she could. She showed them how to use the Light of her Tears to find what remained of her Daughter, the Water. She taught them how to thrive under her Sons’ brilliance. And when they could no longer Walk the Desert, she brought them into her arms and gave them sanctuary in her Tears. For as she Loved them, they too Loved her and her Daughter and Sons. 

“The Suns, though, felt guilt for their role in Life’s hardships. They were the only ones who believed they were at fault for it. The Mother, the Desert and the Children never did. They could not blame the Suns’ for being who they were. The Suns are needed, and their Light deserves Love, as much as Water does.

“For all along, both Mother and Father had been correct. Life needs both Water and Light to thrive. They never considered though, that as long as the Children have Hope and Love, they can survive. 

“Despite this, mere Survival is not what either wishes for their Life. In order to allow them to once more truly flourish, the Mother watches after them while the Father continues his search for one who will right his mistakes. For the Liberator to come. For them to Free the Suns of their Guilt and the Children of their Bondage.”

With that last uttered word, Vader made his holograms disappear and was met by stunned silence. The two Veers’ and Piett’s mouths were slightly parted as they stared at him. Beru had tears in her eyes and Luke was practically bouncing in his lap giddily. 

“That’s the best story ever!” his star said firmly. “Do you see why I like water now, Zev?”

Zevulon nodded eagerly. “Yeah! I want water now!” he hesitated and then added, “But, but it still doesn’t taste good.”

“Have you ever had it with fruit before?” Beru asked. “You can put fruit in water and it sweetens it up.”

Both boys gasped and Luke exclaimed, “You can what!?”

“Come with me, I’ll make us some.”

“I’ll come with you!” Piett said quickly, bouncing to his feet with Zevulon. 

Luke placed a kiss on Vader’s cheek before running after the three of them. It left Vader with his General staring at him with an odd, almost pained, expression on his face. 

“Just say it.” he practically ordered with a small sigh. 

“That was the language of the slaves. I heard them speaking it on Tatooine.”

“It is.”

Veers opened his mouth for a moment, closed it, opened and closed it once more before asking softly, “My lord, were you a slave?”

“Yes.” Vader answered with ease. “I was born into slavery on Tatooine. My son, sister and myself are Children of the Desert.”

“And now you’re freeing them all. Like in your story.”

Vader shook his head. “No. Now I’m freeing them all like should have been done decades ago. I’m doing what a good Emperor, what a good leader of any sort, should. There’s nothing divine about it.”

Veers frowned, but nodded. “If you say so, my Lord. If you say so.”

Chapter Text

Luke adored Zevulon Veers, as Vader hoped he would. They became very fast friends, in fact. His General and Captain may be going back to the Liberation Front, but Mrs. Veers and her son were staying on Coruscant. Something Vader was grateful for, as his son really could use a friend his age. 

Vader still felt guilty for never having thought about school for his Lukkeen. He had never attended true school, and tried his hardest not to think about his Jedi training. He had forgotten it was even something children required. His only consolation was that Beru hadn’t thought of it either. 

“It isn’t something completely normalized on Tatooine.” she reminded him. “Alvanne Veers is looking to find something for Zev. She promised to pass names she finds along to me.”

“And us neglecting to enroll Luke hasn’t been detrimental to him?”

“I think if we had enrolled him immediately, it would have been more detrimental than not. He needed to get used to being here first. If you’re concerned though, we can ask Healer Aazi?”

Vader shook his head. “No. No, she would have addressed it if we were doing something wrong on that front. I’m sure. We should ask Luke if he feels up to trying school out before we bring it up with her.”

“Good idea.” she studied him for a long moment before asking softly, “ Susee?”

Her tone was leading and he was nearly worried about what she wanted to say. “Yes?”

“Have you seen your own healer recently?”

No. No he had not. He hadn’t seen Healer Anders in weeks . He wasn’t even sure he had told the man he was getting his legs replaced. He knew he had said nothing about his Lost status, or hiring Desert Children. So much had changed for him. It would make sense for him to see the healer once more. He was just hesitant on doing so. 

His silence was enough to answer Beru and she gave him a concerned look. “You should make an appointment, susee .”

He let out a heavy sigh, but nodded. “Okay. Okay, I will.”

He managed to find ways to procrastinate doing so as long as possible. Which wasn’t hard as he had a long list available to distract himself with. He had many things he needed to do to get his staff situated, including trying to reconnect with Kitster. He had physical therapy with Kix to consider. He had a Liberation to stay on top of. With all of that, he managed to draw it out a little over a week before Beru’s unimpressed looks finally made him cave and contact Anders. 

Unfortunately, the man was able to get him in that very afternoon. Was enthusiastic about doing so, even. 

Having a sudden appointment thrust on him, he knew he had to put a halt to his work. So, with an irrational feeling of dread, he left the last few things at the office to Bow, Kisofa and Ezi. They were happy to see him off. He was really beginning to feel gained up on. 

Anders gave him a truly extravagantly large smile when he shut the man's door behind him. It irritated Vader to no end, even more so when the healer greeted him with, “Was beginning to think you’d forgotten about me.”

“I did.”

He chuckled and motioned for him to sit. When Vader was seated completely, Anders asked, “How have things been?”

Vader hesitated. He didn’t know exactly how to answer that question. Every moment with his son had been as wonderful as ever. Everything else though, felt like a sandstorm on fire. 

“Ah. Complicated huh?”

“I replaced my legs,” he answered bluntly.

Anders’s expression became wide and his Force presence irritatingly delighted. He seemed almost as glad as Kix had been when he brought the idea up to the medic. It seemed healers of all sorts became outrageously delighted when you actually took care of yourself.

Despite his vibrating glee, he was calm when he asked, “I'm proud of you! Did that help at all? With the pain? With anything?”

“I do not feel any pain in them now.” he admitted and then in a softer voice added, “They weren’t prosthetics. They were chains.”

“What do you mean?”

“Palpatine had slave chips embedded in each of them. I wasn’t Se’ae’a. I wasn’t anything but re’ae’zauhrr rsuhe’a. He used, controlled, manipulated and lied to me for seven years! No, for my whole life!  He made me kneel at his feet!” 

Now that he had started talking, he didn’t know how to stop. “I freed myself. I was Se’ae’ahs! Yet, I let him put me right back in! I, I lost everything because I believed his lies! Everything, and every one!”

His anger evaporated suddenly and left him empty and pained. “I betrayed everyone for a zur’nuse . I am disgusted with myself.”

“Abusers are very good at making you feel isolated.” Anders said gently. “Feel like you can only trust, only believe, them.”

Vader scoffed faintly. “Abusers? Palpatine didn’t abuse me.”

“What does that word mean? Zur’nuse ?”

Vader cringed at the butchering of his language. “Slaver. Master. Owner.”

“I’m not sure about you, Vader, but I’m pretty certain a slaver is absolutely an abuser.”

He grit his teeth. Anders had him there, but he didn’t want to admit to any sort of abuse. So he didn’t answer. 

The healer sighed. “Okay. Let me ask this. When did your association with Palpatine begin?”

“When I was nine.”

“Nine? Did you have a choice on the matter?”

“No. He told the Jedi he wanted to meet with me. They saw no reason to refuse.”

“Did you want to?”

Vader hesitated. He wanted to say yes, but that gut response felt wrong. Had he wanted to? Everything about Coruscant had been new and scary to the tiny slave child he had been. Had he really wanted to meet with the intimidating man the then Chancellor had been? He truly didn’t know. 

So he gave a small shrug and told Anders as such. “I don’t know. I might have, I might have also felt like I had no option but to.”

“Okay, think of it this way. You have a son, yes? How would you feel if he was in the position you were?”

Ice cold fury flooded him at even the mere idea of his star being groomed like he had. Of being manipulated and used for a violent Sith lord’s glee. He didn’t even have to voice that thought. The feeling was enough that even the weakest Force user would feel it. Anders absolutely without a doubt could. 

“Can you see him as being abusive now?” Anders asked softly. When Vader still hesitated, he added, “Admitting to having been abused does not make you weak. In fact, it takes strength to admit the hard truths. To see when you have been wronged, been hurt, and move past it and grow is a powerful thing, Vader.”

He knew that Anders was right. That everything he was saying basically screamed truth within the Force. However much he knew that though, he could not get his jaw to unclench and speak the words. So instead he gave a sharp, curt nod of his head. Anders returned it with a smile. 

“Good. Because he was. And as I said, abuser’s thrive on making you alone and isolated, making it so that they are the only ones that you have. Then causing you to feel as if you are the one in the wrong, As if what they do to you, or make you do for them, was deserved or your decisions. Something that you wanted. Think on it hard, Vader. Was anything you did on behalf of Palpatine what you wanted?”

Vader didn’t have to think hard on that at all. From the moment he had found out Palpatine was Sidious, he had wanted nothing to do with him. He had only wanted to save Padme. And that backfired on him worse than any explosive. At which point, in his desolation, he had fallen too far to remedy anything.

“No.” he admitted softly. “No, not at all. That doesn’t change the fact though that I did, and am now Lost because of it.”

“Lost?”

“Sasuu. Ah umur ra za ah zur. Ra ah hraz za ah umur raz. Ah umur Sasuu uhrs za ah zuhss e’ai.  It meanest I can’t be who I once was, who I am now is wrong and my future is unclear. I do not deserve my Name. I do not have a Title. My life is no longer my own and I don’t know how to find it once more.”

Anders was quiet for a long moment before asking, “What do you mean you don’t deserve your name?”

Vader sighed. “My Desert name, even the Basic version, holds meaning. It holds honor that I no longer deserve. Until I feel I can once more claim it, I have no Name.”

“And Vader?”

“Is a title Palpatine gave me. It is not something I claim as mine.”

“I am sorry, I didn’t realize. Is there something else you would like me to call you?”

Vader shrugged. “No. I have nothing else. That is the point. I hold no Name. I have no Desert Title. Vader is all I have. I have lost the right to anything else.”

“Surely you don’t believe that entirely. You have support don’t you?”

“I have my son, Luke. My sister Beru. My, my adoptive daughter Ahsoka and brother Rex. I am not alone, no, but it is not their responsibility to help me be Found.”

“No one can find themselves entirely alone.” Anders stated gently. “You have to let those in your life show you who you are to them. What you mean to them. No one is totally adrift if they have someone to anchor them. You need those anchors so they can keep you secure as you Find yourself.”

Vader didn’t reply to that. He knew Anders was correct, but the idea of using those he loved to Find himself seemed, wrong. Like he would taint their purity. 

After a moment, the healer sighed and asked, “Why do you think you don’t deserve your Name?”

“Hahna’keen Zu’rhi means freedom. Its hope and elation and purity. It's light. I am none of those anymore. I am not him anymore.  Anakin Skywalker is dead, Anders, and I do not deserve his name.”

“Is your son not Anakin Skywalker’s? Your sister? Your daughter and brother? Are you not still the same man? Are you not the man who is bringing freedom to a whole galaxy?”

Vader once more ignored his questions so Anders continued gently. “Light cannot exist without the dark. You do not have to be one without the other. You do not have to lose your past in the face of your present.”

“I cannot be Anakin Skywalker.” Vader whispered resolutely. 

“Why is that?”

Vader looked up from his hands to meet the healer’s eyes. “Because Anakin Skywalker failed. He destroyed everything that he loved. He hurt everyone he touched. He was supposed to be a hero . A Liberator . All he did was destroy. He burnt his world to ash and left it to me. He didn’t deserve to be a Zu’rhi, and I do so even less. That is why I am Lost, Anders. My past is ash and my present is black.”

“Not all black though, is it? There is light and happiness in there too?”

“No, it isn’t all black.” Vader shook his head, his wonderful little star immediately taking over his mind. “No, I have my Lukkeen. He is all the light in my life.”

“All?”

Vader made to immediately agree, but stopped himself before he could even open his mouth. He thought of Beru’s soft comfort. Of Ahsoka’s smile and tight hug. Of Rex’s steady support given by a firm hand on his shoulder. Even his new staff were small sources of happiness he hadn’t expected. So instead, he shook his head. 

“Not all. There, there are more. Luke is just the brightest of them. He’s my happiness. He’s what changed my life.”

“Is he who you want to Find yourself for?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think you can?”

He thought of the devastated look on his star’s face when he found out Vader was Lost. The tight grip he had instantly had around Vader’s neck as he clung to him. He thought of the boy’s promise to be there for him always. To help him become Found. He knew he could do it. Because Luke believed he could do it. 

So he gave a very firm nod as determination swelled within him. “Yes. For Lukkeen, I would do anything. Would face anything.”

It was a promise he would always keep. Even if the things he ended up facing were his own personal demons. 

Chapter Text

Coming home from the healer’s, the first thing Vader did was pull Luke into a tight hug. His son seemed confused, but happily hugged back nonetheless. Though it was accompanied by worry oozing in their bond.

“What's wrong, daddy?”

“Nothing, my star. I just love you and had to show you.”

“I know you love me, daddy. You show me all the time.”

“Not enough.” he brushed Luke’s bangs from his face. “Not enough, Lukkeen. You are my whole entire galaxy. There is nothing I would not do for you.”

Luke frowned and placed his hands on his cheeks. “Daddy, are you sure you’re okay? You seem sad.”

“I’m not sad, little star. I promise. You know when you have a hard meeting with Healer Nije?”

Understanding sparked in his eyes. “Oh! You had a hard meeting! You need Rzuh’zan and cuddles!”

Vader leaned forward and kissed his forehead. “That sounds like an excellent plan to me.”

Luke beamed and grabbed Vader’s hand to lead him to the couch. He followed his son’s lead, giving the boy a soft smile as he tucked a warm blanket around his shoulders. 

“You going to sit too, Lukkeen?”

“Mhhm! Aunt Beru and I just have to get our tea!”

“I have it, sweetheart.” Beru said as she came into the room, three steaming mugs on a tray between her hands. 

Luke beamed and scrambled onto the couch. He curled into Vader’s side while Beru set the tray down on the caf table and herself down on Vader’s left. He lifted his arm and let her settle against him as well. With two of the most important people in his life surrounding him, he was able to let the stress of his meeting with Anders slide from his shoulders. 

Of course, he could have nothing go right. He was getting fully relaxed to the point of almost being asleep when the emergency comm line on his wrist started to blare. 

He, Luke and Beru were all jerked awake. His son and sister gave him wide eyed, worried looks as he blinked down at his comm in surprise and momentary confusion. 

“What's going on, daddy?”

“I don’t know, my star.”

He answered the call and Bow’s form appeared, a worried frown on his face. 

“Bow? What's wrong?”

“My lord, I’m sorry to interrupt your evening. Surface Marshall Cody just sent an urgent message. Gardulla the Hutt is going to declare war on the Empire if we do not relinquish hold of Tatooine to her.”

Vader froze while both Luke and Beru let out shocked gasps. Gardulla. Of course it had to be Gardulla. Who else would have the audacity to destroy his peace? A snarl escaped him at the mere thought of the vile, disgusting slug who had tormented him and his mother laying any sort of  claim to his people. 

“Oh, did she now?” he bit out, barely able to contain the roaring Dark inside him. 

“Yes, my lord. She’s, she’s on the other line.”

Vader stood swiftly, dropping his blankets to the ground and with them all the peace his evening had brought. “When I tell you to, transfer her to me.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Daddy?”

“I’ll be fine, Lukkeen. Why don’t you get ready for bed? I'll read you your story after I deal with this.”

Luke stared up at him with wide, worried eyes. After a long, painful moment, he finally nodded and said in a small voice, “Okay, daddy.”

He glanced at Beru, who also gave a firm nod, before swiftly moving into his office. Once there, he made sure everything was locked and secure and situated his mask and hood over his person. As soon as he was ready, he nodded to Bow. 

“Send her through.”

His faithful soldier was instantly replaced by the repulsive, lumbering Hutt and a slightly shaking twi’lek.

“Emperor Vader.” the twi’lek greeted. “Her exaltedness, Gardulla Besadi wishes you a fair evening.”

“I truly doubt that.” he replied bluntly. “Make this fast, Hutt. I have much more important things to be doing.”

“Tatooine is mine, Vader.” she grumbled in angry Huttese, her whole form shuddering as she spoke. “You will relinquish it and all the stolen property to me, immediately.”

He didn’t let the twi’lek translate before speaking in Basic with a derisive snort. “Tatooine most certainly does not belong to you, Hutt. And no member of my Empire belongs to anyone .”

She growled. “You will give me what is mine, or you will have me as an enemy!”

“Do you truly think you can take on the full might of the Imperial Armed Forces?”

“You don’t scare me, Vader.”

“All you do is disgust me. You stay in your space, Hutt, and you will not gain an enemy you cannot afford.”

She laughed. “You have made a fatal mistake here, Vader. Mark my words, you will regret not giving me what is mine.”

“Unlike you, I have nothing to fear. My people owe you nothing but vengeance. You are the one making the mistake here. And mark my words, it will be the last one you ever make.”

Her protruding eyes narrowed. “The fool is you. Your arrogance will kill you. You will see. We are not easily defeated.”

“I look forward to seeing you crushed by the Imperial Forces like the bug you are. If you take up arms against us, we will show you no mercy.”

She hissed at him so shrilly it was practically a shriek. Her eyes bulged and head shook as holographic spittle flew at him. He knew the tactic. He had seen her do it before. Had cowed to it before.  If she thought she could intimidate him into submission now though, she had more than one painful surprise coming. 

“You are all bluster, Vader. Don’t you not want war?” she taunted with a sneer.

“With my own people. I do not want war with my people. You, Hutt, are not my people.” A dangerous shadowed expression came over his face. “I’d love nothing more than to give you the same end as your brother.”

She hissed at him again, this time in anger. “Consider us at war.”

The connection shut off abruptly and Vader’s whole form sagged. The last thing he had needed after the day he had had was to come face to face with his first zur’nuse . The only consolation he had was that he truly held all the cards here. 

It didn’t take him long to gather himself together, straighten back up and connect the comm to Cody. 

He answered immediately. His face was impassive, but eyes were worried. He gave a small nod and greeted Vader. “Milord. How did addressing the Hutt go?”

“It seems that Gardulla does not want to see reason.”

Cody’s mouth pinched. “So, it is war then?”

“Yes.” he replied firmly. “But Cody, this will not be war as you know it.”

“Milord?”

“The Hutts have no organized military. They have no structure, no guidelines. They will not fight fair and they will not be organized. Their soldiers will be paid mercenaries and forced slaves. They will fight violently and desperately, for lost battles won’t mean loss of ground to them, but loss of their lives.”

Cody’s jaw clenched and he met Vader’s eyes with steely determination. “How will we know the difference?”

“Sometimes it will be easier than others. They may not be fighting with as much fervor, with as much dedication. We may be able to see the hesitation. More often than not though, we will have no idea as they will be fighting to survive .”

“Milord, killing an army of slaves…..”

“Is not happening .” he inserted firmly.  “We will change our tactics. Instruct the men on non lethal force. Verify Freedom when possible. Kill only if there is no other alternative.”

“This will not be easy.”

“I know. Which is why I will lead the men myself.”

Cody’s eyes went wide. “Milord? You wish to leave Coruscant?”

“No.” he shook his head, grief at the idea of leaving Luke’s side already filling him. “I don’t wish to. But I will not leave my men to a war that I myself would not fight.”

“Understood, sir. I will prepare the Executor for your arrival.”

“Inform VS Commander Tano and High General Rex of what is coming. Ahsoka will inform Admiral Yularen and he in turn the Navy Command.”

“Yes sir!” Cody gave him a firm salute before cutting the transmission. 

All Vader wanted to do was hold Luke and forget this was happening. He wanted no part in a war. Wanted his men to have no part in a war. He was cursing Gardulla for forcing his hand as he in turn forced himself to continue to make calls. 

He informed Bow of the outcome of the call and instructed him to have a transport ready for the morning. He told Mabra to write a statement, in the very likely case it became necessary. He then called Kitster, who seemed more worried than Vader had expected. 

“She doesn’t know who you are, right?”

Vader almost chuckled at his wide eyed worry as he shook his head. “No. She does not.”

Relief sagged his posture. “Okay. Good. What do you need from me?”

“An address to the Senate. Mabra can help you. As well as one for the press.”

Kitster frowned. “Senate, I can do. Press, susee , I am not trained for the press.”

“They aren’t exactly hard, Kitster.”

“They are valueless and will probably eat me!” he exclaimed. “You need an actual press liaison. Someone who knows what they’re doing.”

Vader made a low groan in the back of his throat. “Another staff member? I don’t suppose this is one a Child can do?”

“I would suggest someone who already knows the dance, susee .”

He let out an annoyed sigh. “Fine. Fine. Find someone. Between the four of you and Bow, I trust your choices. I also trust you can keep my office running while I am on Tatooine.”

“The, the whole office?”

“Yes. Table any decision that I have to make. Call me for any emergencies. Everything else you are more than capable of doing.”

“If you’re certain?”

“I am.”  he nodded firmly. “You may call me if you need, Kitster. I will have one of the vod’e act as an assistant on the Lady. They will let me know of anything pressing if I cannot immediately answer. It will be fine.”

“Okay. Yeah. Run an Empire. We got this.”

Vader chuckled. “Now you sound like me. I am going now. I have one night to spend with my son for an indeterminable amount of time. I will not waste it.”

“Of course. Have a good night, susee. Nuiy Rase’hues fiuhse’a zuhrr’iyais.”

“Thank you, Kitster.”

The second the final transmission closed, he was hurrying from his office, shedding both his physical mask and Mask of Emperor as he went. Beru gave him a concerned look as soon as he entered the living room. A look he returned with a heavy sigh and frown. 

“Gardulla the Hutt has declared war on the Empire. I cannot leave the Five oh First to fend for themselves. I, I have to leave tomorrow.”

Beru gave a gasp that turned into a sad sigh of understanding. She nodded her head and stood to stand before him. “You better come home to us, susee . Don’t let that zur’nuse uhsz take you.”

“She couldn’t at her worst.”

Beru smiled and then startled him by tossing herself into his arms. He had only a very brief hesitation before he was squeezing her tightly to him. “I will be home as soon as possible.” he whispered into her hair. 

“I will miss you, susee .”

“You’ll have your hands too full with Lukkeen and Zevulon to miss me.”

She chuckled and stepped away from him. Her eyes were wet and full of both sadness and understanding as she asked softly, “Are you going to go say goodnight to him? I don’t imagine that he has even tried to sleep.”

“I’m going to go see if he wants to stay in my room with me.” he frowned and gave a shrug. “I probably shouldn’t be doing that. I just, I don’t know how well I’ll do being away from him.”

“I think he’ll like that even more than you will.” she leaned up on her toes and kissed his cheek. “I’ll see you in the morning, susee’ahs .”

“Sleep well, srafsee ahs .”

She gave him one more soft smile and then made her way to her room. Vader in turn opened the door to Luke’s room and quietly stepped inside. 

His star stopped pretending to be asleep the moment he touched the boy’s hair. Brilliant blue eyes snapped open and he gave Vader a nervous smile. 

“Is everything okay, daddy?”

“Not quite, little star.” he gave a heavy sigh. “Gardulla the Hutt is angry. She’s declared war on the Empire.”

Luke gasped and sat up, huge eyes staring at him as worry flooded their bond. “Daddy, do you have to go to Tatooine?”

“I do, buddy.” he replied sadly. “I wish I didn’t have to more than anything. I just can’t leave my men to the Hutts alone.” 

He brushed the boy’s ever growing bangs behind his ear and lightly held his small face in his hand. “I will stay though, Lukkeen, if you need me to. You are always my first and foremost priority.”

Luke shook his head without thought. “No, daddy. ‘Soka, Rex, Appo, Jesse and all their brothers need you. You have to help them.”

Vader gave him a proud, soft smile and pulled his star into his arms. “You are the most selfless, wonderful little boy in the galaxy Lukkeen Zu’rhi and I could not be more proud of you. Nor more thankful that you are my son.”

“I’m proud of you too, daddy.” he whispered into Vader’s shoulder. “You're the best dad in the galaxy and I’m so lucky you’re mine.”

He kissed his hair and rested his cheek on his head. Love swelled between them in pulses. Vader basked in it, not knowing when he would get the chance to experience this again.

“Will you stay until I fall asleep?” Luke asked suddenly, his soft voice breaking the bubble around them. 

“I have a better idea, ursee’ahs . How about you come sleep in my room with me?”

Beru had been right, Luke was beyond delighted by that idea.As soon as Vader finished asking, he was leaning  back and literally beaming at Vader as he nodded enthusiastically. 

Vader gathered him even closer and stood them both up to head to his room. He knew it was likely clingy. Likely not what most parents would do. He did not care though. He was leaving in the morning for who knew how long, he needed to absorb every bit of love he could. It needed to last the whole deployment after all. He had no idea what these coming weeks would bring, and needed to be as prepared as possible for anything to happen. 

Chapter Text

In the months since Lord Vader had taken over the Empire, Firmus had learned more about his Emperor then he had assumed he ever would. Not only had he been in his home, watched his son, briefly seen him sobbing , but he had just watched the man practically bare his soul. 

Firmus didn’t know what it was that he was feeling, but he knew he couldn't sit there with his Lord, the beautiful words the man had just spoken hovering around them. It was a no brainer for him to hurriedly follow after the Emperor’s sister.

She gave him a smile as they went about cutting up fruits to put in a pitcher. When the kids had their sweetened water and were eagerly running back to show their father’s, she whispered to him softly. 

“That’s him, you know.”

“What?”

She nodded to where the Emperor was seated. “His name, his birth one. It means ‘The Suns’ Liberator. If there is any truth in our beliefs, there is no other person more suited to be the Destined Liberator than him.”

“Yes.” Firmus gave a heavy nod. “I can see that.”

“He won't admit it.” she told him in an even softer voice. “Or even see it.”

Firmus watched the way Lord Vader interacted with his son and thought of all he had done to change the boy’s life. Not just him, but hundreds, thousands like him. It took no effort for him to see what Beru meant. He wondered what it would take for the Emperor to see it too.


Tray-Var had been worried that Vader had abandoned his mental health. It wouldn’t have been the first time he saw it happen. He just hoped that Vader wouldn’t be one of his patients who went down that road. He wasn’t sure that Vader could afford to be one of them. 

He had been far past relieved when he had called for an appointment. He even eagerly cleared his schedule to get him that day. He wouldn’t give the man another chance to avoid his needs. 

He was more than glad Vader had decided to come back. Relieved, even. Tray-Var didn’t understand the specifics of the Emperor’s culture, but he understood his feelings. He understood someone not being able to find themselves. Not knowing who they were anymore. He recognized someone disconnecting themselves from their past in order to live with their trauma. In order to protect themselves. 

He had morphed the Sith title thrust on him into a whole new identity. He was clinging to it to protect his heart. He was convincing himself his past was no longer his, that his own self was no longer his. Tray-Var had seen it before, admittedly not to the level of the Emperor, but he had seen it. He could help him. Only if Vader allowed him to do so, though. 

Tray-Var had faith that he would. He had admitted he needed his family’s help. That he wanted his family’s help. He had already taken important steps in order to move forward. Replacing his legs was a big leap forward, after all. He wasn’t even sure that Vader realized just how many smaller steps he had skipped by taking that plunge. 

Something told him that plunging was exactly how Vader approached everything. That he didn’t care for the slow process. He would approach his healing like a battle, head on and with everything he had. Tray-Var had a very strong feeling that next time he saw the Emperor, everything will have completely changed. 


Luke was so happy to have met Zev. He was even happier that his daddy had told the Asuhfuhr Suse’ar. His dad told it more beautifully than anyone else ever had. He was certain of it. 

Unfortunately, the happiness was quickly shrouded by a Hutt. Something Luke hadn’t expected to ever have happen again. 

The moment he had heard the unknown vod’e say the Hutts name, he knew. He knew his dad would be leaving. Would be fighting for the Desert’s, and all the planets like her, freedom. 

He was touched, and a little awed, that his dad had told him he’d stay here for Luke. Despite that, and the small part of him that wanted to beg him to stay,  he couldn’t let him. His dad belonged out there, fighting for their people. 

He’d miss him more than he could say, though. He clung to him as they went to sleep, knowing that it would be months before he saw him again. He hoped that he would still be able to feel him through their bond. If he had that, he knew he could handle any length of separation. Because a piece of his dad would be there and he would always feel his love. No matter what happened while he was gone.

Chapter Text

Vader attached the last piece of the black armor to his chest and stared blankly at his reflection. When he had had this armor designed for himself alongside the new ones for the troops and officers, he hadn’t expected to have to wear it for a long time. The fact that he was having to now left him feeling a little numb. 

Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last either, he cursed Gardulla’s insolence and stupidity. What had possessed her to think that taking on the entire Armed Forces was plausible? She had lost two large groups of ‘soldiers’ to his Five oh First. She’d be losing much more as this sham of a war continued. 

At the same time though, so would he. The losses on the Hutts' side weren’t the loss of life because his men had done as he had instructed and not fought with lethal force. He almost wished it was an order he hadn’t given, as it had raised the casualty rate higher than he thought acceptable. Certainly higher than if his soldiers had been shooting to kill. 

It was almost enough to make him rescind the order. It might have been, if his first stop upon arriving at the Executor wasn’t to check on the liberated Hutt army. 

They were exhausted and afraid, worn down to a terrifying extent. Beneath that was awe and relief and hope. Kix had told him most had cried when he removed their chips and treated their injuries, despite being visually afraid of him. 

“They’re torn between thankful and terrified, sir.” he told him softly. “I’m not sure how many of them fully understand what's happening. I don’t know how many speak Basic, we’ve tried Huttese, but that only seems to make them more fearful. They beg for, for information I think? For peace. For their children. We don’t know what to do to put them more at ease.”

Vader did. There were forty-seven newly freed slaves taking up an entire medbay wing. He knew that no matter how much he hated the fact, he was the only one who could truly communicate with them. He was nervous to the point of reluctance, yet made himself do so anyway. 

Standing before them in the dark military dress uniform he wore filled them with more fear than peace. The Force practically vibrated with it. That was, until he began to speak. 

“Do you all understand me ?” he asked them in soft Huesmic. 

Startled gasps and exclamations followed as most of them nodded, and the ones that didn’t just stared at him in shock. 

Do you know who I am? ” at the resounding, but soft, replies of no he continued. “ The galaxy at large knows me as Huhr’anze Vader. The Children of the Desert I have recently encountered, however, have referred to me as Hahna’ahs. 

“I have Lost my name, but I have not lost my connection to the Desert and her Mother. I am one of you, and I promise you this; you are Free. There is no more master. No more pain. The medics are here to help you heal. The soldiers are here to find your families. We will not let the Hutts win. We will not continue to let them bring pain and destruction. This is not an abduction. This is Liberation.”

They had nearly exploded within the Force with relief and awe. Not one of them seemed to be able to contain it. Normally, Vader would have felt uncomfortable by such pure reverence. Now though, he was swept along with it. He saw himself as one of  them and felt nothing but kinship with them. 

Thankfully, that kinship and his words had helped to calm them. He had left them that morning much more at ease than when he had arrived. Hopefully, Kix and his team would be able to treat them better. 

Now he was getting ready to make a whole other address. An address to another group he considered his. The soldiers he was asking to die for this cause. 

When he entered the hanger bay, it was filled to the brim with troopers. Troopers who snapped to attention the moment he stepped foot inside. 

Once in the front of the room beside Ahsoka, Rex, Cody and Veers, he lifted a hand up towards them. 

“At ease, troopers. I am here for you right now.”

The gathered troopers arms’ snapped down and confusion bubbled up around them. Vader didn’t let the confusion last too long before he was speaking up. 

“Many of you have fought with me before. Many of you will know that my direction is almost always, shall we say, wild and reckless.”

Ahsoka at his side snorted and a very small part of him was tempted to turn his head and glare at her. As always, at least recently,  he ignored that part and continued addressing the troopers. 

“I know the reputation I have earned. I know that many of you have been confused by my orders considering this campaign. I do not know what VS Commander Tano, Surface Marshall Cody, High General Rex or General Veers have told you. Even if this is reiteration, I wish for you to hear it from me.

“These people we have been, and will be, fighting are not soldiers. They are either hired mercenaries, or they are slaves. I know that many of you have suffered under a master’s orders, have had to carry out missions entirely against your will. These men and women are in the same situation. They obey the Hutts, or they die.

“That is why there is a non-lethal order in effect. Unless you can tell they are fighting on their own volition, use lethal force only as a last resort. That does not mean I value their lives over yours. If killing is the only thing that will keep you alive, do so.

“I say this because I know, enslaved or not, many will be fighting with their all because that will have been their orders. Some may even enjoy it. I understand the people, I do not wish to slaughter them, but I will not  force you to put your lives above theirs.

“On that note, this campaign is entirely voluntary. If any of you wish to join the Two-Twelfth on Ryloth, let me or any of the people standing beside me know. I will not be forcing any of you to fight in such a hazardous maner.”

Murmurs swept through the gathered troopers and Jesse stepped forward. He nervously cleared his throat before stating, “Sir, this is a war. None of us, vod’e or natborn, would ever abandon a post.”

“This was not a slight on any of you, General.” he assured the man. “I know each and every one of you is brave and honorable. I am not suggesting otherwise. I am offering you the opportunity to choose your post.”

“We choose here.” a trooper Vader didn’t recognize declared. He wasn’t a clone, but he wore their determined expression with ease. “The Five oh First is most, if not all, of our family. We fight with our family.”

A loud, thunderous chorus of agreement sounded and Vader smiled behind his mask. “In that case, I will see you planetside.”

As one, the men snapped off a perfectly in sync salute. Vader returned it with a nod that was almost a bow of his head before he strode back out of the hanger. 

Quick steps followed after him and he didn’t need to reach out with the Force to know it was Ahsoka. He slowed his gait so she could catch up, sending a hello and brush of affection through their bond as he did so. 

They were returned in fervor, but she remained silent at his side until they reached his office. Though once there, she pulled him into an almost painfully tight embrace. 

“I’m sorry you had to come out here, Skyguy.”

“It isn’t your fault, Snips.” he assured her in a soft voice whispered directly into her montrals.

She froze for a very brief moment and then stepped away to beam at him. “You called me Snips!”

“I, I did.” he replied in almost as much disbelief as she had. He was as shocked as she was. The nickname, it just felt right, and despite the shock at it passing his lips he was glad he had used it. Something in him felt lighter, freer and more open. 

Ahsoka seemed to feel the same as well. An even stronger wave of affection, no love , than what she had given him earlier rushed at him and she once more stepped forward to squeeze him. He hugged her back just as tightly, but she pulled away incredibly quickly to stare at him pointedly. 

“It may not be my fault, but you still shouldn’t have had to come out here. Not like this. Not for this.”

“They’re my people, Ahsoka.” he whispered. “Not just because they belong to the Empire, but because I’m one of them. Luke, he’s helped me remember that again. I couldn’t leave them to Gardulla, and I certainly couldn’t leave the Five oh First to deal with her on their own.”

“Because you are a good leader. And a good man.”

Vader met her eyes with a look of utter disbelief. “Have the suns been getting to you already?”

“No.” she punched his shoulder. “I’m right, and I’ve realized the Jedi were wrong about something.”

“Everything?”

“Some things .”

“Most things.”

“Okay, I’ll give you most things. What I meant as my very important point, is that they were wrong about the Darkside. Using it doesn’t inherently make you evil. It's what you do with it that does. Palpatine was evil. You use the Darkside to help others, so obviously, you aren’t evil.”

“I think you are a little biased, Ahsoka.”

“I think you are a little dumb, Skyguy.”

“Rude.”

“True.”

He raised an unimpressed eyebrow and she sighed heavily. “Seriously, Skyguy, ask any one of the troopers on that planet, and they’ll agree with me that you’re a good man.”

“Perhaps they are biased too.”

“Or maybe you’re blinded by self hatred that monster filled you with these last few years. Hells, almost your whole life.”

“I don’t hate myself.”

This time, she was the one who leveled him with an unimpressed look. “I’d sooner believe you if you told me you were a twi’lek.”

“I’m clearly not a twi’lek.”

“And you’re clearly full of so much self hatred that a Force null could feel it.”

He crossed his arms over his stomach and glared. “This is a pointless conversation.”

She reached over and rested her hands on his arms. “No, Skyguy. It’s not. You saw those men. Kix told me about the freed slaves from this morning. Every person whose life you touch, well those whose life you help , sees you for who you are. It's time you began to see you as your family does. I don’t just mean me, Rex, Beru and Luke. I mean everyone who sees you as theirs . Just as you see them as yours.”

“You yourself had to put qualifiers in there, Ahsoka.” he pointed out roughly. “That doesn’t exactly read as ‘good’.”

“Well, of course I did. Everyone has enemies. Especially someone who likes to shake things up like you do. I doubt any of Palpatine’s cohorts like you one bit, and honestly, that’s a good thing.”

“Ahsoka, I’m a Sith.”

“Are you though? I mean, are you really? Sure, you use the Darkside but do you follow their Code?”

He snorted. “Did I follow the Jedi Code?”

She laughed as well and shrugged. “Okay, fair enough. Skyguy, you’ve been tearing yourself up because you aren’t the same Anakin Skywalker you used to be, but you also aren’t this dark menacing shadow you became in order to be Darth Vader. You don’t have to be either or. You don’t have to be a Jedi or Sith. You just be you , because who you are is the one who your people love. Or will love, as soon as they see who you are. Changing is good. Changing is not only natural, it's necessary. Trust me.”

Chapter Text

Vader trusted Ahsoka, of course he did. He just wished she hadn’t said anything she had the other day because now it wouldn’t leave his head. No matter what he did, the fact that apparently his entire Legion saw him as a good man was prominent in his thoughts.

They didn’t only creep in in the morning when he woke, ate, got ready and spoke to Luke. The thoughts would torment him at the least convenient of times. While planning tactics, issuing orders or even fighting. It was enough to make him question, second guess and wonder about every single interaction he had, especially with his men. 

He knew his sister and son loved him. He knew Ahsoka loved him. To an extent, he even knew that Rex did. He just assumed that all four of them had a very skewed idea of what a lovable person was. He couldn’t very well use that excuse if the entire Five oh First saw him as good also. 

He doubted they did, yet, she insisted that his men loved him too. Maybe not the same way his family did, but they did nonetheless. He knew they respected him, maybe even liked him to an extent. But loved ? He didn’t know how she could possibly think such a ridiculous thing, and it would not leave his head

So much so that, despite knowing it was stupid and likely intimidating, he more or less studied every single one of his men every time he interacted with one of them. Jesse was the first of them to notice. Or, more likely, the first brave enough to say something about it. 

It was after their third skirmish since he arrived, the first one where the enemy were paid mercenaries. Mercenaries who had been ruthless. They were all exhausted and he was working with the General to make sure all of the injured troopers were being seen by Kix or one of his team members. Despite the heavy exhaustion surrounding them both, Jesse suddenly spoke up out of the blue in a light, but worried, tone. 

“Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Jesse, just say it.”

“What's going on with you? Are you okay? Is Luke okay? You just, seem, I don’t know, lost? Confused? I don’t mean to pry, sir, it's just been a very long time since we’ve seen you like this.”

Vader thought for a moment. The him of a year ago would have brushed Jesse off. Then again, the him of a year ago never would have let Jesse even ask the questions, nor would the man likely have even wanted to. Now though, now things were different. Now, he was changing, as Ahsoka said, and he couldn’t get his mind to stop tormenting him. 

So, instead of telling him it was none of his business, in a quiet, hopefully emotionless voice, he asked,” Jesse, what is your opinion of me?”

“S-sir?”

He didn’t repeat himself. Didn’t think he could repeat himself. So he just stared the man down until he flushed and sighed. 

“You’re the best leader we could ever hope for.” Jesse informed him bluntly. “You always have been. Even, uhm, before. No, well almost no, other Jedi cared for us in the way you did. Myself, all the vod’e, and likely all the natborn men too, would follow you to any hell and back if you asked.”

Vader didn’t know what to say. He had no idea that any of them thought that way, and he was unsure why. It honestly made no sense to him. 

“Is it because I removed the chips?” he asked, knowing that his emotionless tone was long gone. He honestly couldn’t think of anything else that he would have done to earn their reverence. He had led far too many of them to their deaths for Jesse’s words to make sense.

“Well, sir, giving us our autonomy back does go a very long way.” Jesse remarked with a blasé shrug. “That’s an example of the reason why though, not the reason itself.”

“Which is?”

“You care .” he stressed the word as strongly as Vader was sure he could. “No matter what, you care about us as people. You don’t think that we’re canon fodder to go out and die for you. You don’t ask us to do anything you wouldn’t do. Something that has never changed, no matter what name you use.”

He sighed. “Forgive me if this is too blunt, my lord, but even hiding it behind a mask and Sith exterior you still are you. You’ve been, well, darker and angrier and sadder, but you’re you and you care about the men who put their lives on line under you. Doesn’t matter what color that saber you carry is.”

Vader was incredibly grateful for said mask covering his face because he was pretty certain, despite his desire not to be, he was gaping at the trooper before him. It wasn’t a dignified look to have for anyone, let alone an Emperor. He was relieved that the only thing Jesse could see were his widened golden eyes. 

He was so shocked by the man’s response that he had no idea what to say to any of it. He didn’t think there was anything he could say to that. Nothing that he could bring himself to say at least. So he just cleared his throat so his words didn’t come out choked, nodded his head, and said, “Thank you, Jesse.”

“Of course, sir. Does that, well, I mean,” he huffed and shook his head, “What I mean to say is, is that what was bothering you? Nothing else is wrong?”

“Nothing else is wrong.”

“Luke is fine?”

“Luke is fine, Jesse.”

“For sure.”

Vader chuckled. “For sure. Would you like me to send him your regards?”

He flushed for a moment before nodding eagerly. “Yes, please. Tell the little guy I say hi. I haven’t been able to call in a while and I know that he worries. Thank you, sir.”

Vader gave him another nod before leaving him in search of Ahsoka. He found her helping troopers he didn’t recognize set up temporary housing for the few slaves they had managed to save that day. 

The troopers snapped off salutes immediately, but he waved them away in order to pull Ahsoka’s attention solely. She raised her left eye markings questioningly, though didn’t stop gathering tent supplies, and he sighed. 

“You were right.” he told her quietly, so quietly that it was near a whisper. 

She smirked. “I usually am, but what about this time?”

He snorted at her reply, shook his head and said, “I spoke to Jesse.”

“Wait, did I tell you about how watching Luke has made him want to have kids even though he doesn’t think he ever can? Because I’m pretty sure I didn’t tell you.”

“He’s a grown man, Ahsoka. I’m sure he can have a kid whenever he feels ready.”

“Well, yeah, maybe, but like adopti-wait! Did I tell you about it? Because if so, I’m having blackouts.”

“You told me just now.”

She narrowed her eyes and stopped her task to rest one hand on her hip “Not cool, Skyguy.”

He snorted and crossed his arms. Despite the annoyed posture, his expression was all fond amusement. After a moment she sighed and the same look crossed her features. 

“Okay, okay. That was my bad. Anyway, what did you talk to Jesse about?”

“About what you said the other day. It has been, nagging, at me. Jesse noticed I seemed distracted, about something and was worried it was because of something at home. I asked him his perspective of me.”

“Ah. And he told you how much he loved you?”

He glowered at her. “No. He said he, and likely all of the Five oh First, would follow me to any hell and back.”

“That's basically the same thing, and I did tell you so.”

Vader huffed. “Ahsoka, please.”

She stopped wrapping the linen ties she was gathering around her arm and turned to give him her full attention. “Skyguy?”

“These men shouldn’t think of me that way.”

“Why? Because you use the Darkside?”

“No. Because I have used the Darkside for evil, no matter what you think. Because I have done things I never should have. Most importantly, because I failed them.”

“What!” she exclaimed, her arms falling down at her sides suddenly, all of her hard wrapped work swirling down to crash into the sand. 

Vader grit his teeth and moved his gaze to rest on the once more tangled linen straps. “I failed them like I failed Luke. Failed you. Beru. Force, like I’ve failed every person on this planet! I listened to a damn megalomaniac master and let him ruin everything. I was chainblind Ahsoka. I could have done something years ago! The men should have never lost their freewill. The Jedi should have never been slaughtered. And,” he hesitated, swallowed thickly, and then added in a near silent whisper, “and Padme should be alive.”

Ahsoka was silent for a long moment, and then she reached out to place a soft touch on his wrist. “How long have you been thinking about this?”

He gave a half hearted shrug. “It's been in the back of my mind since I found Luke.”

“What!” she gasped. “That’s, that's almost a year!”

“It's likely been there the entire time. Since everything.” he admitted softly before lifting his head to meet her eyes. As he moved his gaze though, he caught sight of a woman hovering on the other side of the tents. Instead of continuing what he was going to say he remarked, “Whatever it may be, this is not the place to discuss it. We will speak later. I just wanted you to know you were right.”

“Well, that's appreciated, but Skyguy…”

“Ahsoka.” he nodded his head towards the woman. She swung her own head in the direction and her eyes widened for a brief moment. The surprise didn’t last long though and she was soon giving the woman a soft smile. 

“Hello?”

“My son still there.” she told them in broken Basic.

Zuhs Susfis’zur? ” Vader questioned softly, which caused her eyes to go almost comically wide. 

“You are one of us?”

“Yes. Your son is still with the Hutts?”

She nodded. “They make him do horrendous things. They punish others if he does not listen.”

“Do you know how many more Children she has to make fight for her?”

“More than I could possibly know for sure. She has no shortage of people she can force to fight. No shortage of Children to bind in chains. She does not care how old or young you are. She expects us to fight. They have learned we do not fear death, and have found punishments much worse.”

She stepped closer and peered up at Vader. “You are the one in charge. You are the one freeing us.”

“I am the one in charge, yes.”

“What is your Name?”

“I, it is Lost to me.”

“To you, perhaps, but not to us. What did your mother name you, hue’ruhsuhr?”

“Hahna’keen.” he admitted in a whisper. “Hahna’keen Zu’rhi.”

“A true Liberator.” she whispered back, her tone reverent. “ A Skywalker down from the skies to free us.”

“I am only doing what should have been done long ago.”

“No. You are doing what you were Named to do. You are answering the Mother’s call.” she nodded her head to the troopers in the distance. “These men answer to you?”

They do.”

“And they listen?”

“Of course. I am their commanding officer.” He winced, because Huesmic did not have a proper term for military hierarchy. He more or less just told this woman that he controlled the troopers, and that was not the impression he wanted her to have. 

Luckily, it wasn’t the impression she took as she instantly scoffed at his explanation. “They are not slaves, no? They do not need to listen. They listen because they believe in you, because you are a true Liberator. An honest leader. You aren’t doing a job. You are fulfilling your destiny.”

She walked even closer in order to peer right up into his face. “I know my son will be saved, because you are the one saving us. I will be sure that all of the other Children know that their Liberator has come.”

She turned away at that and went back into the camp, leaving Vader to speechlessly stare after her. 

“What did she say to you?” Ahsoka asked in a slightly awed tone. “I’ve never felt you so, I dunno, stunned?”

“She said Destiny led me here.” he whispered hoarsely. He had not at all expected that interaction, and so soon after having talked to Jesse, it was leaving him practically reeling. 

“Like, the Force?”

“Maybe.” he shrugged helplessly and looked away from where the woman had disappeared to meet Ahsoka’s eyes. “She said I was fulfilling my Name’s calling.”

“You told her your name!?”

“In Huesmic, yes,” he admitted. “I hadn’t planned on it, but she phrased the question in a way I couldn't refuse.”

“What does your name mean?” 

“The Suns’ Liberator. He Who Will Walk the Skies.”

“Skyguy,” her awed tone was back, though this time even more evident. “That’s, that’s exactly you.”

“So everyone keeps telling me.”

“Why won’t you listen to us then?”

“Because under Palpatine I did far too many things that make me no longer worthy of such an important Name..”

She scoffed. “What a load of bantha poodoo that is. Do you blame any of the vod’e for following his orders?”

“Of course not.”

“How is it any different?”

“I didn’t have a mind controlling chip in my head.”

“Well, with everything else he put there and in the rest of your body, you may as well have.” she retorted bluntly before bending down to gather up her linen wraps. 

When she stood, she stared him right in the eyes. “Think about it, Skyguy. Think about every action you could truly say is yours. Those are what are important. Those are what make you you. Like that woman said, you are following destiny, the Force, whatever you want to call it. That name? That meaning? It is you, whether you like it or not.”

She too left him with poignant words hovering over him. He watched her go with a frown. He could really do with putting an end to these perception altering conversations. The middle of a war was not the place for them. At all. Vader had much more important things to focus on. However long a time coming, the identity crisis could wait. He had a war to win first.

Chapter Text

Vader had done what he could to prepare his men to fight an army of slaves. He should have done more to prepare himself. Especially after having spoken to so many of the freed. He really should have realized how quickly this entire endeavor would become draining.

Since speaking to the woman in the camp, he has led the Five oh First into three battles. Not once in any of those, or the few before, had he ever even removed his lightsaber from his belt. He didn’t dare to. The Children may not want to fight, but they still threw their all into it purely out of necessity. He refused to bring the harm a lightsaber could make to a single one of them. 

With that in mind, his entire fighting was morphed into nonlethal self defense. More often than not, that involved him using the Force to lull the assailants to sleep. Which was fairly difficult with them trying to kill him and resulted in a fair few injuries on his part. It was also something that Kix did not agree with him doing in any way. 

“I am sick of covering you in bacta.” he told him bluntly as he applied the third bacta patch to his chest that week. “I’m serious, sir. This is getting ridiculous.”

“I won’t kill them, and I don’t wish to harm them either.”

“Then pull out the damn lightsaber and point it at them! They aren’t going to attack someone wielding a lightsaber!”

“If they’re desperate enough, they will.”

“Remember that speech you gave about not putting their lives above ours?”

“Kix….”

He sighed. “I know these aren’t life threatening. I know you aren’t in any real danger, but sir, you have to stop thinking of your body as canon fodder. It's not a tool. You aren’t a droid. There are no spare parts laying around to fix you.”

“Not even the legs?”

Kix leveled him with an unimpressed look. “A year ago I would have said I would love to see your sass back. Now, I’m just annoyed. Sir, please.”

Vader sighed, but nodded. “Okay. Fine. I will try intimidation.”

Intimidation, it turned out, worked surprisingly well. Especially when the Children attempting to fight them were, well, children . Vader only had to stand before his men, turn his lightsaber on, and stare the small squadron of terrified teenagers they had come across down for them to surrender. The second they laid down their weapons, he was pulling them to him with the Force and informing the would be soldiers that they were Freed. 

It was a pattern he was able to keep up four more times, each one easier than the last. Any group they came across made predominantly of forced slaves were nearly eager to surrender. It wasn’t hard to assume that rumors about the Imperial army were spreading quickly. The woman from weeks before had said that she would be sure the Children knew their Liberator had come. From the way the would-be soldiers were almost awed to come across him, Vader was certain that word had spread faster than he had thought possible. 

He was even more certain of it when the battles they were coming across began very quickly to now be against people who seemed to want to be there. More than that, they seemed to enjoy it. Seemed to even take pleasure in fighting Vader. He had no doubt the more slaves Gardulla lost, the more she was resorting to using almost entirely paid mercenaries. 

One such mercenary had a, no doubt stolen, sword like weapon made out of just enough beskar that it was able to catch Vader’s saber with relative ease. Its owner seemed delighted by the fact and fought Vader with a relished fever. Vader allowed the spar to happen, mostly because that's exactly what it was. A far too easy spar. He had had training spars with Jedi that had been more strenuous than this fight could even hope to be. 

He only stopped playing with the mercenary when the man’s sword got a lucky strike in, the edge severing a large gash into his prosthetic arm. He grit his teeth at the radiating nerve pain it caused. In no mood to continue this farce of a fight, he tossed his lightsaber into the damaged hand in order to lift his flesh one up and squeeze the air from his opponent. 

When he had fallen to the ground, Vader took a quick survey of their ‘battlefield.’ Most of the hired goons had either fallen to him and his men or turned tail and ran. Without any opponents left, Vader turned off his lightsaber and let out a heavy, exhausted, sigh. 

With the suns setting and his body protesting functioning, he returned to the Executor with the men on their rest rotation. All of the troops carried a triumphant air about them. The skirmish had been quick and dirty with very few casualties and his troops were vibrating with optimism. He wished he could share in it, but this entire campaign was wearing him down. 

He just wanted it to be over. He wanted to be home with his family and not on this planet full of harsh memories, dreadful heat and vile, abrasive sand that forced him to wear the oxygen modulator near constantly. The brief respites on the Lady and video calls with his son were not enough, 

Calling Luke was the only thing on his mind as he set foot on his flagship. He knew he should have his spasming arm seen to, even if just by himself. Despite the pain it would intermittently shoot up his nerves, calling home took much more precedent. 

He has done everything he could to make sure he called Luke either every morning or evening. He was a soothing breath of real air and Vader would not miss out on speaking to him for any reason. He refused to let his star feel neglected in any way. 

He didn’t seem to be feeling that way. He delighted in speaking with Vader. He gushed about everything. Fox, who was one of his new favorites. Zevulon, his absolute best friend ever who he adored. Holoshows, books, toys. Literally everything and anything.

Vader was happy to listen to him talk too. Happy to have any time with his family, and he used it all to just talk about light hearted happy things. The only even remotely serious conversation these calls contained were when Beru updated him on the search for a good school for Lukkeen. 

This time, when Vader called, Luke’s smile was even brighter than ever as he practically squealed out a greeting in the holo. Though, it quickly became evident that he wasn’t the only one in the holo’s frame. 

“Lukkeen, what is that?”

“This is Foof!” he exclaimed as he lifted a literal ball of fluff. Its fur was so long and fluffed out that the tooka’s already huge head seemed gigantic. The thing was almost as big as Luke himself and staring at Vader with a wide eyed confused look. One he was sure he was returning. 

“Foof?”

“Yeah!” He lowered the tooka from the holo’s lens. “Fox and I passed an animal shelter hosting an adoption event today! I told him Miss Aazi says tookas help with brain scars and he said we could stop and look. I saw Foof and fell in love, so I begged him to let me bring him home. Please don’t be mad, daddy! He’s the best little tooka ever and I promise to take the best care of him ever!”

Vader wanted to point out that that thing was not little in any sense of the word. It was literally the largest domestic feline he had ever seen. He couldn’t disappoint his son in any way though so he just nodded. 

“I’m not mad, little star. Foof just took me by surprise is all.”

“You’ll love him, daddy! His cuddles are the best! And he purrs so loud it sounds like an engine! And his tongue is scratchy! It feels funny, but also super cool.”
Luke continued to go on and on about how wonderful his new tooka was and Vader happily sat there with a besotted smile on his face. Eventually, Vader had to go though, no matter how much he hated saying goodbye. 

“I love you, my star.” he told Luke softly, earning a sad smile from his son. 

“I love you too, daddy. Will you be home soon?”

“I hope so, Lukkeen. I’m doing my best to get home as soon as possible.”

“I know you are, daddy.” he lifted a little hand to the lens, and action Vader copied so his hand at least gave an illusion of meeting his son’s. “Be safe though, okay?”

“I promise.”

When the call ended, Vader buried his face in his hands, ignoring the twinge from the prosthetic. He didn’t know how much longer he could do this. How much longer he could be away from his star. Seeing him only through the comm’s holo was getting more painful than he could handle. He needed to end this and get home sooner rather than later. 

So after repairing his prosthetic to the best of his abilities, he called Cody, Ahsoka, Rex, Veers, Yularen, Ozzel and Piett to a conference where he addressed them all bluntly. 

“This has carried on for far too long, and I am done playing Gardulla’s game.”

“What do you have planned?” Yularen asked, his posture straight and proper even as he frowned at Vader in concern. 

“I will contact Gardulla and tell her I wish to meet face to face and she will surrender or I will make her.”

Ahsoka at his side gave him an alarmed look. “Are you out of your mind!”

Everyone but Rex took in a hissing almost gasping breath at the exclamation, but Vader just gave her an unimpressed look. 

“You know very well that I have had more insane ideas, Ahsoka. Gardulla does not concern me.”

“My lord, do you plan on going alone?” Piett asked softly. 

“Yes.”

“Okay, now I know you’ve lost it!”

Rex nodded along with her. “Sir, maybe some backup would be more advisable?”

Vader shook his head. “I won’t need it. That slug is no threat to me.”

“Well, yeah, she’s a blob! But her mercenaries are a threat.” Ahsoka crossed her arms across her chest and glared at him. “You are not indestructible, no matter what you think.”

“Ahsoka, I am fine .”

They stared at each other for a long moment. He tried to shove his reassurances at her through the Force, which eventually seemed to work as she gave a heavy sigh. 

“Fine. You be insane and confront her on your own, but Rex and I are coming on planet with you.” she stared at him firmly, eyes boring into his as her determination flooded the Force. “We can’t lose each other again.”

He relented with a sigh because he knew she never would. She was hard headed and determined. Always had been, and he knew always would be. He did understand her though, especially her fear of losing him. So he agreed to her and Rex going with him to Nal Hutta, as long as they stayed on the transport unless he needed them. 

With that settled, they hashed out the specifics of the plan. There wasn’t much to plan at all really, as he was just planning on walking into Gardulla’s so called palace and demand she cease this foolery.  It didn’t take long at all, and as soon as they had everything figured out, he left his leaders to their posts and made his way to the official comm center. 

He had one of the troopers on duty hail the Hutt and grimaced behind his mask when she appeared. Gardulla was just as vile as every other time he saw her. Her beady eyes were staring at him like a piece of meat and he had to resist shuddering.  He wanted this over and done with as soon as possible and didn’t even bother with false pleasantries. He merely sneered beneath his mask and spoke bluntly. 

“This is enough. Your forces are not enough to continue this sham. They will continue to surrender or die. This is the only time I will say this. You have one rotation to surrender to me, and I may allow you to live to see another sunrise.”

She hissed. “You dare threaten me!”

“It is not a threat. It is a promise. I will see you in person tomorrow, Hutt. At that time you will either surrender, or you will die.”

Chapter Text

As Vader made to depart the transport, Ahsoka’s hand reached out to grab his arm and stop him. He turned to face her with an inquisitive look, one that increased when she handed him one of her lightsabers.

“Ahsoka?”

“Don’t go out there with only one. Please.”

He grabbed the hilt, jolting at how it practically sang to him. He ignored its call and clipped it to his belt. He stared at it on his waist and then after only a moment’s hesitation he reached over and pulled Ahsoka into a hug.

“It's only a slug.” he whispered to her softly.

“Like Stinky, but bigger.” She replied in a wet voice.

The bittersweet reminder of their first mission together had him squeezing her a bit tighter. “Exactly. You don’t need to worry. I’ll be fine. There is nothing to fear from Gardulla.”

“Just don’t make us come save your ass.”

He smiled softly into her montral. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

She gave a snort and stepped back. “True. Though, it would be the first time as Emperor. You wouldn’t want that to get out.”

“Maybe it would be what's needed to get you the respect you deserve.” he remarked dryly and she gave him a pointed look. 

“Don’t even think about it.”

“I will be back soon, safe and sound.” he promised with one more soft smile before departing the ship. 

He could hear her playfully complain to Rex, but paid it zero mind. No matter how much he wanted to stay and banter with her, he needed to get out of there. He had much more important things to concentrate on. 

Nal Hutta was no less unpleasant and Gardulla’s Palace no less revolting than Tatooine and Jabba’s. There were only a few differences. The most obvious one were the armed mercenaries watching him and flooding the Force with a sickly combination of fear and anger.

That was nothing compared to the difference of Gardulla herself. And more importantly, the feeling Gardulla gave. Seeing her on a comm’s hologram was one thing. Standing in front of her was a whole other. One that had his entire body flooding with the feeling of heart gripping ice.

He knew the feeling of her in the Force. It was a twisted, painful reminder of a past long forgotten and had him floored in an instant. It wrapped around him like a disease; sick, abhorrent and crushing. It felt like possession and greed. Fear and starvation. It felt like he was a child again getting tossed across the room by a thick disgusting tail. 

He could barely breathe. Could barely think. He felt like a weak, helpless child. In only lasted for the brief entirety of a second. Until the Force grabbed hold of  him and shook.

Not just the Darkside, but to his astonishment the Light as well. The Force in its entirety caused him to mentally convulse until he was no longer stuck in a fear he had thought long gone. As soon as he was back to himself, the Force wrapped itself around him like a blanket and practically purred. 

It felt like something otherworldly. Like something he had never once felt before. It was safety and solace, as well as strength and survival. Vader knew it was the Force as so few will ever feel it. Unified and entirely his.

It was also exactly what he needed to lift his head and meet Gardulla’s eyes directly. There was no more lingering fear or anxiety from his years of slavery. Only certainty and confidence that he was exactly where he was supposed to be. That he was doing exactly what he was supposed to do.

“Vader.” she sneered with a smug laugh. “Foolish of you to come here alone.”

“The only fool I see is you, Gardulla.” he replied in bland, unimpressed Basic. “I have come for your surrender.”

She laughed uproariously, her whole form shaking. “You are here alone. You are surrounded. What threat do you make?”

“I am surrounded by lackies, thugs and slavers with no substance. Not one of you is a threat. End this farce of a campaign, admit your defeat, and you will not follow the same path as Jabba.”

She laughed and waved a stocky arm to the surrounding audience. In a delighted sneer she ordered, “Kill him.”

Before she had really finished speaking, both his and Ahsoka’s borrowed lightsaber were in hand and deflecting the rain of blaster bolts. With the glowing white blade still in his flesh hand, he used the same appendage and Darkside to crush the life out of three of the assailants. At the same time he swung the Lightside at four on his left to crash them roughly against the wall. Their breath left them in choked off sounds and pained gasps. Sounds that he cared nothing for as he stalked further into the palace atrium.

Mercenary after Mercenary falls under his blades and from the combined sides of the Force thrumming through him. The Darkside brought his enemies to their knees and severed their airways as it dramatically and violently took their lives. While at the same time the Light hummed around him to keep him safe and whole. For the first time, likely ever, he felt complete. Truly powerful. Unstoppable, even.

He truly was, too. There was nothing that would stop him from cutting down the deplorable slug. Nothing to stop him seeking the vengeance he had vowed so many years before. The pathetic beings that tried to stop him fell as easily as an ant beneath his foot. He was a Liberator, a true son of the Force and there was nothing that could stand in his way.

He could see that now. The way it came to both sets of fingertips as easily as breathing. The way it moved through him as if it was a piece of him. There was no separating Vader from the Force. He wasn’t one with the Force. The Force was him. An extension of his heart and soul. A living breathing piece of his will. 

When he finally reached Gardulla, it was with a trail of bodies in his wake. Bodies he paid no mind to as he climbed the Hutt’s dias. She was practically writhing in place to get away from him, but could go nowhere. When she realized there was no way out, she desperately tried to implore him. 

“Why bother!? Why care? They’re slaves! They’re nothing! They’re lesser! Beings like us Vader, we’re superior.”

Vader moved as close as he could and leveled his red blade beneath her many chins, casting her face in an eerie glowing light. He bent forward to be right in her space so his face was lit menacingly as well and whispered to her in harsh Huttesse. 

“I was born Anakin Skywalker. They are not lesser. They are my people . My brothers and sisters, each and every one of them. The Galaxy is ours now, and there is no room for beings like you within it.”

Her expression went impossibly wide as she stared at him in shock. “Skywalker!”

He lowered his mask so the last thing she saw was the feral grin that graced his face while he nodded. As the reality of exactly who was ending her life settled in, he jerked a set of chains up with the Force and tangled them around her neck. He pulled them taught and relished in her life leaving her body. 

Its blubbery, excessive expanse crumpled down to the floor at his the moment she took her last breath. He stepped away quickly to avoid it touching him at all. After replacing his mask, his eyes flickered around the room. He still paid no attention to the carnage he had wrought in his path to Gardulla. Movement at the corner of his eye did catch his attention though and he reached out with the Force to pull the being to him. 

It was a struggling, terrified, weequay who looked at him with wide panicked stricken eyes. “Please!” they gasped. “I’m hired security! That’s all!”

“I’m not going to kill you.” Vader told them bluntly, causing their entire body to slump in relief.

“You’re not?”

“No. You’re going to go to every remaining Hutt and tell them about what you saw today. Tell them the Emperor will not do business of any sort with slavers. This is the future. They remain in their bubble of despair, or they relinquish any and all sentient beings they claim are property. 

“You tell them there will be no warning. No chances. Any rumor, hint or noise of Imperial citizens being taken as slaves, I will do to them as I have done to their kin. Understood?”

The weequay nodded empathetically and Vader released them. They immediately went scurrying from the room like a madman, leaving Vader alone with his masacre. 

He was sure that he should be feeling something more. Relief. Fatigue. Vengeance or Victory. The only thing he felt though was numb and overwhelmed. He wanted nothing more than to be back on Coruscant with his sister and his star. He was certain that Luke was the only person in the galaxy who could pull him out of the shock and near emptiness the sudden lack of unified Force and adrenaline had left him in. 

As if thoughts of his family conjured her worry, his comm began to vibrate with Ahsoka’s extension. With fond exasperation, he sighed and answered the call.

“Ahsoka. I told you I would let you know if I needed assistance.”

“Skyguy.” The tone of her voice had alarm bells ringing immediately and he froze. 

“What is it? What happened?”

Her response chilled him to the core and filled him with the most terror he had ever felt. In an instant, the Force was roaring back to life in pure horror and rage as he literally saw red.

“Someone just attempted to kidnap Luke.”

Chapter Text

There were a lot of things about this campaign with Emperor Vader that felt almost nostalgic to Kix. He felt, well, felt like before in a way that was nearly painful. Watching the way he spoke to the liberated slaves, the way he spoke to his own troops, was like watching Anakin Skywalker through a distorted film. Exactly right, but completely wrong.

Jesse had told him it was the same thing on the battlefield. He fought with the same intensity as he always had, yet somehow more . Like he was a strange combination of their Emperor, and the General they had thought they had lost. Jesse had insisted that it was intense and Kix was missing out. 

He was sure that all of the vod’e were seeing this change. Hells, the natborn leadership likely saw it too, they just had no idea what exactly they were seeing. Though really, he doubted most did. All anyone knew is that there was something new and different about their Emperor. New, yet so very him . Kix knew exactly where this change was coming from too. A fact that made him even more grateful for it. 

Which was why when the vod assigned as the Emperor’s aid came to him urgently, nothing but apprehension and fear swelled within him. 

“Commander Kix, sir! Do you know where the Emperor is?”

Kix frowned. “No, soldier, I do not. Why?”

The man bit his lip and then handed over a comm recording. Kix took it with some apprehension, a feeling that increased tenfold as he played the message.

It was Fox. Knowing his brother’s current assignment, that fact in itself was worrisome. The worry was amplified by the freshly bleeding gash that crawled over his jaw, deep bruising around his cheekbone and eyes, and the blaster scuffs that covered his armor.

“Fox!” he couldn’t help gasping out, even knowing this was a recording and his vod could not actually hear him. It was just incredibly jarring to see the usually put together Commander so haggard. 

When he began speaking, Kix was certain he had never heard him so urgent and angry before either. “This is an emergency hailing for Emperor Vader. I am Coruscant Commander Fox. Fifteen minutes ago, my partner and I barred an attempted kidnapping of my charge. I do not care what time of day it is, what the Emperor is doing, or any other excuse you can think of. Find him now. This is an emergency he will not want to be kept waiting on.”

The tiny Fox disappeared and Kix felt like his chest was being compressed. Someone tried to take Luke. Someone knew about Luke. This was not good.

He nodded to the vod who brought it to him as he clenched the small disk in his fist. “Thank you. I will get this to the Emperor right away.”

He didn’t wait for the man to respond, just turned on his heel and strode down the hall. His only problem in giving the message to Vader was, well, he didn’t actually know where Vader was. Hopefully, Jesse would.

The younger man answered his call immediately with a beaming grin on his face. “Kixie! Having fun up in the Lady?”

“Jesse, is Vader on planet?”

Jesse’s jovial expression sobered immediately and he shook his head. “No. He seemed really pissed after our last well, sorta battle. Said he wanted to ‘end this farce of a war now’ in that way of his he has. Then he, Rex and Ahsoka went to have a meeting with Admiral’s Yularen, Ozzell, General Veers and Cody.”

“So, he’s on the Executor?”

“Yes? Why? What’s wrong?”

“Someone tried to abduct Luke.”

Jesse’s entire face darkened and he bit out an angry string of very colorful Mando’a curses. “Fox had better have killed that demagolka or I swear I’m going to hit him in the face with my boot.”

Kix snorted. “He might have saved that for the Emperor. I’m going to go find him. Stay safe, Jess.”

“You too, Kixie. Tell the Emperor I want a piece of whoever tried to hurt our ball of sunshine.”

“I’m pretty sure that you will have to get in line, and I’m not sure what will be left after Emperor Vader gets to them.”

“You can’t suggest he leave some for us?”

“You literally just told me to be safe.”

“Well, true.” 

Kix gave a fond shake of his head and disconnected before the other man could say anything else. He wasn’t going to suggest anything to Vader, but he would certainly hope that he leaves something for the vod’e to destroy. No one tried to hurt their Luk’ika and got away with it. 


Firmus was tired. He was sick of the multitude of stupidity this whole situation was wrapped in. He was sick of the Hutts undermining tactics and deceit. He was sick of not being able to just blast their ships out of the sky and call it a day. 

Yet, despite all of his wariness, he was actually grateful for its existence. Not because he liked feeling the way he was, but because it broadcast so very clearly the sort of man that Emperor Vader was. 

Ever since Beru had told him about the man’s given name, he had seen it more and more. In every single interaction he witnessed between the Emperor and the freed, he saw it. He almost never knew what the man was saying to them, but he recognized the awe and reverence he saw on their faces. He saw the same look on the soldiers of the Lady. He was sure there were times it was on his own face even.

Firmus had always respected Vader. Maybe even feared a little, but that fear did not diminish the respect. His esteem for the Emperor had only grown in the last months. Seeing the sort of ruler he was was awe inspiring. More importantly, seeing him with his son has helped with the fear Vader was capable of producing. Which in turn allowed Firmus to truly see how good of a leader their Emperor was.

It was also a huge reason he felt his blood freeze at Medic Commander Kix’s entrance to the bridge. The way the man’s dark eyes bounced around the area made it clear he was looking for someone, and there was no doubt in Firmus’s mind who that someone was.

Before Ozzell or Yularen noticed the medic, he was quickly making his way to the clone with a concerned look on his face. 

“Commander Kix, what is it?”

“Where is Emperor Vader, Captain sir?”

“Nal Hutta with VSC Tano and High General Rex.”

Kix muttered something under his breath that Firmus was certain was Mando’a, and not nice Mando’a at that. He then bowed his head. “Forgive the intrusion, but it is imperative that I speak with the Emperor. Now.”

“Well it just isn’t possible, clone.” Ozzell interrupted harshly. “Issues with the slaves can certainly wait.”

The medic’s jaw tightened and he moved his gaze to stare directly at the man. “Forgive me, Admiral, but it most certainly cannot. It has nothing to do with the freed. Its of a personal matter.” he directed his gaze back to Firmus to add, “And more of an emergency than I could possibly express. 

“A personal matter for the Emperor?” Yularen questioned softly.

Kix nodded and Firmus understood immediately. Whatever this was, it had to do with Luke. Emergency didn’t even begin to cover the urgency of the situation. 

“Come with me, Commander.” he said already walking from the bridge. “We will get the message to VSC Tano at the very least.”

The medic followed him out quickly, likely so that neither of the Admirals could try and stop them. Once they were alone, he asked Kix what had happened.

He wavered for a moment, so Firmus gave him a reassuring half smile. “I know about the Emperor’s family, Commander. You aren’t breaking his trust to tell me anything.”

“Someone attempted to kidnap Luke.” he told him in a whisper. “Nearly succeeded too, I believe, if the look of Commander Fox is anything to go by.”

Firmus cursed. This was not good. Whoever thought it wise to even attempt to lay a hand on the Imperial Prince was about to be in for a very, very harsh lesson. A lesson Firmus would be happy to assist with. 


Ahsoka was worried about Skyguy confronting Gardulla on his own. Not just physically, but mentally too. She had kept a close eye on him the last few weeks to make sure he wasn’t doing to badly with this fight. Unfortunately, it was easy to tell just how much these battles were beginning to drag on him. He needed to go home before he cracked. She could only hope that after this confrontation, they would finally be finished. 

Her worry for his emotional health was what had her eyes glued to her comm. She was unsure what she hoped for more, him calling and saying he was successful or that he needed their help. Either way, she desperately wanted to hear from him to calm the roaring pulse of her heart.

She was thankful for her attentiveness though, because it allowed her to answer Captain Piett’s call the moment it began to ring. It wasn’t a call she was expecting, and was honestly much worse news than anything her Skyguy could give.

The Captain greeted them with a sharp bow of his head, but skipped pleasantries entirely. “VSC Tano, High General Rex. Is it the two of you alone there?”

“It is, Captain.” she replied. “We are waiting for the Emperor on a shuttle as he confronts Gardulla.”

“I pray it goes well, as I do not come with good news.”

“What’s wrong?” Rex asked, a furrow wrinkling his brow as he frowned in worry. 

“There has been an attempt to abduct Prince Luke. I do not have specifics, but know that Emperor Vader will rightfully prioritize that above all else.”

Ahsoka felt a burning fury bloom in her chest at the thought of someone even thinking about looking at her baby brother wrong, let alone trying to touch him. Through a tight jaw she asked, “Do you know anything about what happened, Captain?”

He shook his head. “No, sir, I’m sorry. I’m a middle man’s middle man. The trooper Emperor Vader assigned as an assistant for himself brought the message to Medic Commander Kix, who brought it to me. All we have is a recorded message from a very banged up Commander Fox saying that they thwarted an attempted kidnapping.”

“Thank you, Captain. I will alert the Emperor immediately.”

Piett gave a salute before his form vanished. Ahsoka stared at the blank comm once more as a questioning battle raged in her mind. 

Skyguy would want to know immediately. She knew that. But she couldn’t just call him. What if he was in danger? What if he was fighting and the comm call put him in danger? What if he hadn’t yet spoken to Gardulla? She refused to cause him harm or add fear and stress to his already stressed and exhausted mind. 

“Ahsoka?”

“Give me a second, Rex. I just, I need to make sure he’s safe before I call him.”

She knew that she had promised him to stay away from the Darkside, and there was no more likely time for him to be using it than fighting the Hutt and her mercenaries. She couldn’t not verify his safety though, so she reached out with her mind for him. 

What she felt shocked her immediately, for he wasn’t the icy wall of Darkness she was expecting. He was of course full of the expected anger and adrenaline. As well as the familiar rush of excitement battle gave him. What was unexpected was the Force wrapped around him. 

Though, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t so much around him as it was flowing through and from him. Which in itself was a surprise. Though nowhere near as much as it being perfectly balanced . He was pulsing with a utterly stable pulse of light and dark power. It flowed through him like it was his own limbs. He was not the burning hot supernova she had met all those years ago, but nor was he the blistering frozen tundra he has been recently. 

No, her former master was something new all together. He was a warm sea that met a frozen ocean. He was the light and dark combined perfectly to make a brilliant, all consuming purple fog within the Force that expanded out to touch everything. Though at the moment that power was whipped up into a frenzied typhoon that she was certain was drawing all those within its path. 

It didn’t take long for it to calm though. To turn into a beautiful current made of so much power it was awe inspiring. Beneath the power though was a steadily growing feeling of shock and numbness that almost caused Ahsoka herself to feel empty. 

Feeling all of his adrenaline fade gave her enough clue to know he was no longer in a dangerous situation. She hated to spring this on him when he felt so raw, but she had to. He was no longer in immediate danger, and she knew that she had to call him. It was time for her to bring that Typhoon right back out. Force help the fool that will have incurred that wrath. He was going to need it.

Chapter Text

Luke’s dad being away on Tatooine sucked, of course it did. He missed him like crazy every single day. He was sure he only handled the separation as well as he did because they at the very least got to talk every day. It wasn’t the same, but it was something. 

He refused to mope around though just because his dad wasn’t there. He had so many things to be grateful for. He had his aunt. He had Zev. He had wonderful body guards. Including Fox! Which in itself was a wonderful thing. Because Fox was wonderful.

Since his dad wasn’t there, he even got to have Fox with him nearly all the time. He had even taken over the guest room that Piett had stayed in when his dad was in surgery. Having Fox there all the time didn’t make up for his dad being gone, but it certainly made it much better.

Fox really was amazing. He was funny in a dry way that Luke didn’t always understand, but enjoyed anyway. He joked about Luke’s holo shows with him, even asking questions and engaging in a way most adults didn’t! He drank more caf than water, which Luke thought was silly but said nothing about. He was also very good at playing soldiers with him. Most importantly though, he made Aunt Beru smile. 

Luke had first noticed it even before his dad had left. It was faint, but there. Now, he noticed things all the time. Like the fact that the way Fox smiled at her was different than anyone else. Softer. He was really just softer with her all the time. He would make her tea every morning despite calling it bland leaf water. He helped her with things around the house that she wouldn’t let Luke do. He was so unfailingly kind in his every motion and deed when he interacted with her. 

Each of these things made Aunt Beru’s cheeks turn a dusty red and had a soft smile crossing her face. Luke didn’t really understand what the interactions meant at first. It wasn’t until he saw the near starstruck way that Fox would watch her do almost anything that he finally understood. They liked each other in that sweet fluffy way that only adults truly got. 

What Luke didn’t get at all was why they didn’t do anything about the obvious liking each other. They just bounced around each other ignoring the obvious and it frustrated him to no end. Wouldn’t they be happier if they told each other how they felt and did the gross kissing thing?

So one afternoon when Aunt Beru went out to buy groceries, Luke insisted that Thire go with her. The man didn’t complain, but both he and Fox gave him contemplative looks as Aunt Beru and Thire left. As soon as they were gone, the look on Fox’s face became pointed. 

“Alright kid. What was that?”

“You like my aunt.” he remarked without any hesitation or build up. If they were going to walk around this issue blindly, he would be blunt about it. Someone had to.

“Of course I do. She’s a very wonderfully talented and kind woman.”

“No. You like her.”

Fox’s dark eyes went wide and his skin paled. “Luke…”

He clamored onto the couch in order to sit on Fox’s lap so their eyelines were directly even. “Why are you embarrassed? And scared?” he didn’t get it. What was scary about liking his aunt? She wasn’t a scary lady at all. 

“Luke, its unprofessional of me to have those feelings for Beru. She is my charge. I’m not meant to develop, well, any feelings for her at all. Let alone the ones I have.”

“Poodoo!” Luke basically spat. “Love and stuff is good! Even gross love that involves kissing. Its still good, especially if you both feel it.”

“Wow, little guy. No one said anything about love.”

Luke crossed his arms and leveled Fox with an incredibly unimpressed look. After a moment he gave a sigh that turned into a fond chuckle.

“You look just like your mom when you do that.”

He beamed immediately. He hears that about his dad all the time. To know he also resembles the mom he knows so little about easily brings a wide grin to his face. “She was your friend, yeah?”

“Yeah.” he replies softly. 

“What would she say about you having feelings for Aunt Beru?”

“That I should follow my heart.” he replied without hesitation.

“See!” he exclaimed. “Doesn’t your heart say you should show Aunt Beru you have feelings for her?”

“Well, yes, but my mind reminds me that it is a very foolish thing to do.”

“Why.”

“Well, for one, your father could and might literally kill me.”

Luke snorted. “No he wont.”

“You’re certain about that?”

“Yeah! He would want Aunt Beru to be happy. You could make her happy, Fox.”

“Luke, it isn’t that simple.”

“Is so!”

Fox raised an eyebrow. “And how do you know that?”

He shrugged. “Life can be short. Its stupid to deny yourself happiness because is scary. Everyone knows that.”

The Commander stared at him for a long moment before he nodded with a soft, awed smile. “You know what Luke, I think you’re right.”

“Yeah?!” he asked eagerly. 

“Yeah little guy. So, how do I show her I like her?”

“Plants and fruit!” Luke exclaimed immediately, jumping off of Fox’s lap to bounce around in front of him.

“Oh?”

“Yeah! Those are the best love gifts ever!”

“What about a fruit plant?” Fox asked.

Luke cheered and jumped in place once more. “Yes! Yes! Fruit plant! Come on! Lets go!”

“Wow, calm down there little man. I should call your Aunt and let her know we’re going out.”

“But it has to be a secret .” he whined. 

“And it will. But we have to at least tell here we are going to the markets. We can’t have her worrying.”

Luke sighed, knowing Fox was right. “Okay. I guess you’re right.” he relented with yet another dramatic sigh.

“Glad you agree kid.” Fox remarked with an amused grin and shake of his head. “Go get ready to go while I call her.”

He cheered again and hurried off to find his favorite shoes, which were black and white with the Imperial symbol on the side and lights in the heels. They were fancy and made him feel awesome. Especially as he basically skipped over to Fox and they flashed bright green as he went. 

Fox gave him a grin as he reached his side. “You ready?”

“Yep!”

The Commander held out his hand and Luke happily took it. They upper level market they were headed to was within walking distance, so unfortunately they didn’t bother with taking any of his dad’s awesome speeders. Instead, they just continued on hand in hand as they left the penthouse and made their way through town. 

They were completely unsuccessful in finding something at the closest market though. It was completely inadequate in the sense that there were no fruit plants. Luke would have been way more frustrated if they hadn’t come across something even better. 

The closest shelter was hosting an adoption event. It was only Fox’s gentle, yet firm, grasp of his hand that stopped Luke from bolting over to peer at the many animals. He did drag Fox to them though and couldn’t have been more glad for it.

His eyes landed on one particular tooka immediately. He was huge and so fluffy Luke ached to sink his hands in his fur. It was long and thick and deep chocolate brown with swirling black patterns everywhere. Luke adored him in an instant.

He ran as fast as he could with a very tall adult attached to his hand to the fluffy tooka and without hesitation stuck his hands into his fur. The little guy made a delighted chirping noise and Luke beamed. First at the tooka, and then up at Fox.

“We have to get him!”

“Luke…”

“Healer Aazi says animals are good at helping with healing. Especially healing mind scars! I love him Fox! Please!”

“What would your father say?”

“He’d say yes.” Luke replied without hesitation because he knew that his dad would immediately do exactly that.

Fox sighed and Luke knew that he had won. The Commander would end up loving Foof. Luke knew it. After all, his dad ended up liking him even through holo! Foof was impossible not to love. He was just so fluffy and loveable!

Foof was an all around wonderful addition to their home. Luke was so grateful to have found him. It didn’t change the fact that they had failed to find a love gift for Fox to give Aunt Beru. So they set out again a couple days later. They were going to the largest upper level market this time as they likely had more options. Which meant that Fox made a very amused Thorn come along with them. 

“So, what exactly are we doing?”

“Finding a fruit plant.” Fox replied bluntly.

“Why?”

“So Fox can give it to Aunt Beru as a love gift!”

“Ahh!” Thorn grinned brilliantly at his brother. “Courting with a fruit plant. Lovely idea, vod.”

“Luke said it was perfect.” Fox informed him snappily. “I think his opinion is a little better than yours.”

“Ouch. You wound me.”

Luke giggled and jostled Thorn’s hand. “Its okay, Thorn. I’m sure you’re good with love gifts too. You just don’t know Desert culture.”

Thorn grinned down at him. “Thanks pipsqueak!”

“You’re welcome!”

Fox chuckled and ruffled his hair, an action that had Luke beaming even wider. It was a good day to help one of his favorite vod’e find a love gift for the best aunt in the world. He was sure of it.

Unfortunately, he was wrong. They were just coming up to their third nursery stand when everything changed. One minute they were looking at plants. The next, Thorn was curled around Luke as blaster shots and fighting sounded around them.

Luke tried to see over Thorn’s shoulder, tried to look at what was happening, but the man wouldn’t let him. He pressed his hand to Luke’s head and stopped him from being able to look out at all. So he had no idea what was going on around them. 

Worry and fear for Fox had his heart pulsing painfully. It wasn’t until Thorn called out his brother’s name that Luke even knew that the Commander was safe. Though the shout did cause him to panic some as he didn’t understand it. Or at least most of it.

“Fox!” Thorn  had yelled. “Stop!”

The two Basic words were followed by a long string of Mando’a. The only world among them he understood was the title most referred to his father as. Vader.

Refusing to be kept hidden any longer, he jerked his head off of Thorn’s shoulder and immediately wished that he hadn’t. 

The stand to their left was smoldering broken down rubble. Fox stood before it panting heavily with a blaster in both hands. His face was streaked in blood and already discolored. Damage that was easily explained by the three unmoving bodies at his feet. As well as the fourth being held at blaster point that was staring up at Fox in disgust.

“Who sent you after him!” Fox snapped, causing Luke to realize that these beings wanted to hurt him. 

He gasped and looked wide eyed to Thorn who tightened his grip on him. Part of Luke wanted to bury his head in Thorn’s shoulder and block the entire world out. More of him though wanted to know why these people wanted to take, or hurt, him. So he stayed staring the man down with as much bravery as he could muster.

He didn’t get to learn anything though, as the man at blaster point just sneered. 

“I don’t have to say anything to you, meat droid.”

“Maybe not, but I can guarantee you’ll say something to Emperor Vader.”

The man seemed to pale drastically at likely would have bolted if Fox hadn’t knocked his blaster right into his face.

“Vod, you should take Lu’ika home.” Thorn advised softly. “Send a message to A’lor. Get your face cleaned. I’ll call more Guard and take care of this fool.”

Fox only hesitated a moment before he backed away, his blasters still trained on the unconscious would be kidnapper. As soon as he was within Luke’s range, he let go of Thorn and vaulted himself at Fox’s legs.

The Commander picked him up with ease and tucked his face into his shoulder. “Its okay Lu’ika. Its okay. I’ve got you.”

“What did that man want with me?”

“I don’t know little man. Trust me though, your dad is going to find out.”

That was automatically enough to make Luke feel better. His dad would always protect him, and maybe this would bring him home sooner. Which was something Luke had been hoping for for weeks. He knew that with his dad home, no one could hurt any of them. No matter how much they wanted to. 

So instead of being worried, he sent a sad look at the trampled and ruined plants and asked, “So, we aren’t getting a fruit plant again?

Chapter Text

Vader wanted nothing more than to rush home to his son the moment he landed on Coruscant. The flight had been torture. No amount of holocalling could substitute actually being home and holding his son. Nothing would stop the gnawing pit of fear in his chest until he saw in person that Luke was whole, healthy and safe at home. 

Unfortunately, he knew he couldn’t. He didn’t know if he could leave his son’s side when he finally got there, and he had pressing matters he had to attend to. Such as figuring out what asinine foolish dead man had tried to take him in the first place. 

The entire way to Coruscant, Vader kept wracking his mind in an attempt to figure out who had let slip the existence of his son. He couldn’t even begin to figure it out, however. The vod’e would never endanger Luke. Ahsoka and Rex would sooner cause themselves harm. He fully trusted Piett and Veers’s discretion. The only thing he could think of is that somehow, somewhere, Vader had been watched. Been stalked and observed until a weakness was found. And the weakness they found was his son.

It had him livid . He couldn’t ever remember being as angry as he was at that revelation. Both sides of the Force surged around him with the burning desire to punish . Something he had every intention of doing.

So instead of home and to his star, he, Rex and Ahsoka went directly to the detention block. They had barely left the elevator when Thorn and Thire approached them. After quickly snapping to attention they lead them exactly where Vader wanted to go without having to be asked to do so. 

The man inside the cell they stopped at was gritty. His hair color was barely discernible as blonde beneath the dirt blood and grime that coated it. It was lank against his forehead and his eyes were bloodshot. One arm was held at a weird angle at his side. He looked a wreck. Vader wished he looked worse. 

“So you are the fool who thought to try and take my son from me.”

The man lifted his head to peer up at him. The defiance in his eyes wavered for a moment before he stupidly settled on sneering in Vader’s direction. 

“You’ll get nothing from me.”

“Trust me, I will.”

The man stupidly sneered once more. “Torture me all you want, I won’t say a thing.”

His lip curled in a snarl and with a barely there flick of his fingers, the field separating him from the prisoner vanished. He stalked into the cell and lifted the pathetic excuse for a man up with the Force.

Once they were eye to eye he said bluntly, “You either tell me, or I will have it straight from your mind and I assure you, you will be asking for torture by the time I am through with you.”

The man blanched and tried to uselessly wriggle out of his grip. When he realized he couldn’t he adamantly shook his head. “I don’t know who he is! I swear!”

“You never saw him?” Vader scoffed as the would be abductor shook his head.

“No! He contacted us through a comm channel! We weren’t allowed to save it, we had to memorize it and then delete the history completely.”

“Give it to me. Now.”

The man prattled it off without hesitance and Vader turned his head to Thorn who had been hovering in the doorway with Rex and Ahsoka.

“Find that channel.”

Thorn met his gaze without hesitation, his jaw clenched and fury in his dark eyes. “I don’t need to find it, my lord. I recognize it.”

“Who does it belong to?” both he and Ahsoka demanded in tandem.

His face became grim as he replied, “Mas Amedda.”

Vader dropped the prisoner down to the ground without care and turned on his heel quickly. He didn't care at all about what happened to the pathetic excuse of a man. He had much more important targets to take care of.

Without looking to see if Rex and Ahsoka followed, he more or less stalked to the Senate like a man on a warpath. Mas Amedda. How dare that spineless little sycophant even think about touching a hair on Luke’s head. The man had many things to answer for, and then he would pay. There was no question about it. 

Publicly, it seemed, as Vader was not subtle about bursting the doors of the man’s office open. An office that contained at least for senators and an array of their assistants. 

They all startled at his entrance with varying levels of surprise. Amedda though stared at him with a wide eyed expression akin to horror. 

When he managed to gain his wits about him, he cleared his throat and stood before stuttering out, “Em-Emperor Vader! I was not aware you were back on Coruscant! Welcome home!”

“Silence!” he hissed. “You, Amedda, have made a grave mistake.”

“My Emperor, I don’t know what you speak of.”

“I said, be silent!” his eyes quickly flickered around the room to the gathered senators. None of them had the same sense of panicked terror that Amedda had. They were all shocked, confused and alarmed but none feared for their lives so desperately. He doubted they had anything to do with this, and he truly did not want an audience.

So he jerked his head towards the doors. “Get out. All of you.”

They scurried like little rodents in order to do so as quickly as possible.  The moment the door shut behind the last one’s back, Vader had his hand out and the deplorable waste of air pressed firmly against the wide windows behind him. 

“You dare,” Vader hissed as he approached Amedda. “Arrange a kidnapping of my son, using your personal comm no less, and not expect me to find out !”

“Your Highness, I swear! It was not my idea! I was coerced!”

“Do not lie to me!”

Amedda flinched at the roar and Vader tightened his grip on him. “You will tell me, now, how you found out about my son.”

His eyes flickered around in an effort to avoid Vader’s face. When he tightened his grip even more, the man squealed and made desperate eye contact. “There, there was a security device in Emperor Palpatine’s office. It was keyed into me, only for emergencies. I heard you speaking about him to your people.”

“When.” he growled. 

“The day you announced the military reform!”

“What else have you heard!”

“Nothing! Nothing! It was removed before you even got your staff. Your Highness, I swear!”

Vader’s glare darkened. He only believed him because he knew that was when Beru had cleaned his office out entirely. So instead of furthering that line of questions he demanded, “Who did you tell about Luke?”

Amedda hesitated and Vader tightened his grip enough for him to let out a violent choking noise. “Who!”

“Grand Admiral Declann!” he finally let out through terrified gasps. “He, he expressed the desire to have something to hold over you. Something we could use to guide you back to Palpatine’s vision.”

“You thought that I would obey you if you kidnapped my son!” He roared in Amedda’s face, causing him to flinch back and shake his head. 

“No! No, it was Declann’s idea! Please, Your Highness, believe me! It was all him. I was just the mouth piece. The pawn. I swear!”

Vader studied him for a long moment. After the tension began to get too thick he stated coolly. “I believe you.”

“Oh, Your Highness, thank you! Thank you! I promise…-”

Vader cut his air off, causing his words to cut out in a painful choked off breath. He narrowed his eyes and gave a slow, shallow shake of his head. 

“I believe you, because you do not have the spine to do something so bold on your own. It changes nothing. I care not for your promises. Mas Amedda, you have committed treason by conspiring against your Emperor and attempting to abduct the Imperial Heir. Your sentence is death.”

He only gave the man a moment to register his words. Only a moment to truly understand his fate. Only enough time for a futile pleading fear to enter his eyes before Vader was snapping his neck and letting the body fall to the floor. 

Vader stared at it in disgust for a moment. He shouldn’t have been surprised that Palpatine’s lackey pulled something like this. It was exactly like him to do so. Yet, here he was. Surprised and infuriated.

When he could no longer look at the body crumpled to the floor without wanting to incinerate it, he turned his head and met Rex’s steady gaze.

“Get someone in here to take care of that.”

“Yes sir.”

“Ahsoka, where is Declann?”

With a grim look on her angered face, she pulled a pad from her waist pocket. After a few clicks she said brusquely, “Here. Coruscant. He took leave a tenday ago.”

“Find him.” he said as he tried to move past her and out of the office.

She reached out and laid a gentle hand on his arm, her expression morphing from furious to worried. “Skyguy, where are you going? You should go home. See Luke.”

“No. I have to get on top of this. Get Mabra and Kitster to prepare a statement. I am not letting Palpatine’s lackeys make their own spin of this.”

He turned and looked at her, his expression softening as he met her eyes. “Then I will return home. As will you both, and we will not leave for a very long time. Agreed?”

“Agreed.” They chorused together.

He gave them both a nod and a thankful, loving brush with the Force before continuing his fast paced trek to his office across the city. 

He was not at all expecting what he found there. His staff (including a blonde woman he did not recognize that he assumed was his new press liaison) and Bow were gathered around Ezi’s desk. All of their attention was focused on the door to Vader’s personal office. Something that instantly had him on edge. 

“What is going on here?”

They twisted to look at him, varying degrees of worry and surprise on their faces. Bow snapped off a salute and Ezi frowned as he gestured towards the door. 

“Some Admiral came in and said he need to be here when you landed. He wouldn’t listen to us when we said you probably wouldn’t even stop here.” she explained. 

“None of us trust him.” Mabra said bluntly as the others nodded immediately. 

“We wouldn’t have let him in, sir,” Bow assured him. “But he was armed and seemed unafraid to use it. I didn’t want to chance him hurting one of the kids so I just let him in.”

“With good reason.” he nodded. “You made the right choice, Bow. All of you, stay out here.”

“Wait, you’re going in there with some unknown armed and hostile threat who likely wants to hurt you?” Kitster asked incredulously. 

“Yes.”

“I’m going with you.”

“No, you aren’t.”

“Yes, I am!” He crossed his arms and glared. “ Susee , please. You shouldn’t go in there alone.”

“I am more than capable of handling him alone, Kitster.”

“But you don’t have to.” he implored. “You aren’t alone. Please, susee’ahs. Let me be there for you.”

It went against Vader’s every instinct to allow his friend into what he knew was going to be a violent confrontation. He didn’t like the idea at all, but he knew there was no keeping Kitster in the atrium. He’d follow him even if Vader said no, and he would rather not have his arrival be a surprise.

So he nodded, earning a relieved and thankful look. 

“Thank you.”

“Just stay behind me.”

He didn’t wait for Kitster to agree, just strode to his office door and snapped it open with a swish of his wrist.

Chapter Text

The door swished open to reveal Declann standing behind Vader’s desk. His gaze was directed out the transparisteel window to take in the city below them. When Vader and Kitster entered, he turned his head and gave them a small smirk.

“Vader.”

He narrowed his eyes. This man was so egregious. He couldn't believe the self satisfied disregard practically oozing from him. It was more than enough to have him sneering behind his mask. “Declann. This is a very gutsy move from a dead man.”

He chuckled and his expression somehow became even more cocky. “You’re so sure of my death then, are you?”

“Yes.”

Declann’s eyes narrowed. “You know, I always wondered what Emperor Palpatine saw in you as an apprentice? You’re cocky and far too self assured for such a hot headed impulsive child.”

“Well, it could be because of the years of actual Jedi training and true Force power instead of a few months at a darksider camp,” he replied bluntly. “Or, even more likely, the actual ability to use the Force for anything more than party tricks.”

Fury crossed his features. “You think you have the upper hand here Vader? You think you’re so strong? You know nothing. You have nothing. Not when I have control of your precious son .”

Terror grasped Vader for all of a second, but Kitster’s snort at his side halted the gut reaction. He turned his head to meet the other man’s eyes and was given a small amused grin. 

“It's good to know the tactic worked.”

Declann turned his angry eyes onto Kitster. “Tactic?” he practically hissed.

“There are many laws of the Desert, and one of the most important is that it's always good to make your enemy think they’ve succeeded.” Kitster remarked before adding to Vader, “It’s a fact that Commander Fox agreed with. It wasn’t hard to let it be believed that the kidnapping was successful”

Vader was never more thankful for Kitster and his resourceful Commander. Leading the abductor to think they had succeeded not only gave him a false sense of superiority, but was very successful in sending Declann into a brief panic when he realized how wrong he really was.

“It seems, Admiral , that all you have done successfully is show your hand.” Vader drawled. He removed his lightsaber from his belt and ignited it. “You are so certain that you are a proper Sith? That you should have been Palpatine’s second? Show me. Fight like one.”

Declann growled at Vader like a feral animal as he drew a lightsaber from his own belt. He lunged at Vader without a second thought, swinging his blade wildly as he went. It took no thought at all for him to deflect the charge and send him flying back into his desk.

“You think you’re any sort of Force user? You have no form. No structure. No chance of winning this. Surrender now and I may not make your death as torturous as you deserve.”

“I will not surrender! You are a weak Emperor! A failure! You have thrown everything away that your Master created!” he pushed himself to his feet and pointed the lightsaber furiously towards Vader. “You are the  one who is not a proper Sith! Your power is wasted on a failure like you!”

“I have no Master!” Vader snarled. “Palpatine deserves nothing from me. He was a tyrant, a stain. The Galaxy is better for his death, and will be better for yours as well.”

Declann snarled and once more foolishly, and sloppily, charged in Vader’s direction. Vader had no desire to draw this out. No drive to play the man’s game. He only parried his truly atrocious attacks a couple of times before he grew tired of the dance. 

The second he could no longer stand to encourage this farce a moment longer, he ended it In a likely unnecessary maneuver. He twisted his blade at just the right angle to disarm Declann in the very literal sense. The man let out an agonized howl and fell to his knees, clutching the smoking stump to his chest as he did so.

Vader kicked both the hand and the lightsaber away, keeping his own blade trained on the furious glaring man at his feet. 

“Ezi!” he called out into the atrium. “Call Ahsoka. Tell her I have found our misplaced Admiral and to get the Guard over here.”

“Yes, Hahna’ahs!”

As soon as she replied, he belted his lightsaber and said to Kitster, “Don’t let him out of your sight.”

His next action was foolish. Cocky. He should have known better than to assume a disarmed wounded man was truly defeated. That assumption was there though and was what had led him to turn around and pick up the man’s discarded lightsaber. Yet, it was the wrong choice to make. He really should have known that and not done so. He really should have done so many things differently, starting with handing the man who was like his brother his lightsaber. 

Or perhaps, he should have just never turned his back on an enemy. Even a seemingly defeated enemy was dangerous. Vader knew that. He should have remembered that, but he didn’t. His lapse in judgement would haunt him, as it was an opportunity Declann did not hesitate to jump on.

He took advantage of Vader’s foolishness without a moment's hesitation. No sooner was Vader no longer facing the man, than Force was screaming in warning alongside the whir of blaster fire. Unfortunately, it came too late. By the time he spun in an attempt to deflect the oncoming bolts, the shot had already been taken. By Kitster.

The other man must have jumped in front of it. Instead of off to the side, he was now standing directly in front of Vader. In front of Vader and sporting a gaping wound in the chest. 

Vader was immediately terrified by the growing circle of blood. It and Kitster’s falling form was all he cared about. Declann’s retreating figure, the shouting of the atrium, none of it mattered. The only thing that mattered was catching his brother’s crumpling body.

When Vader had gathered him to his chest, Kitster’s dark eyes were wide and shocked. Pain resonated from them and into the Force. Vader had to quickly look away from his gaze and put as much pressure as he could onto the gaping wound. 

“One of you get a medic!” he shouted over his shoulder. 

Susee , hey, a medic won’t make it.”

“Do not talk like that, Kitster! You are not dying.”

Kitster’s hand reached up to lay over Vader’s. “Yes. I am.”

“No. You can’t . You are not allowed to die for me, Kitster. You aren’t.

“You can’t command Life, susee’ahs .” he told him softly. “I am your Kitazase’azsas. I think I was always meant for this. To Protect you. To make sure you carry on.”

“No.” Vader growled. “Kitster, no.

“You’ve always been argumentative, Ani, but I never thought you’d argue with Fate.” He said in a wry tone and then winced. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to use your name.”

Vader lifted one of his hands to wipe away the blood gathering at the corner of Kitster’s mouth. “No, don’t be sorry. You should have always been able to use my name.” his breath shuddered painfully and he added weakly. “This can’t be your fate. It can’t. Kit, I just got you back.”

“Maybe just so I could be what I was always meant to be.” he reached up a shaking blood stained hand to rest it over Vader’s chest. “You were born to be Hahna’ze’as. I was born to be Kitazase’iyais.” 

Vader bent forward and pressed their foreheads together. “I don’t know how to lose you again susee .”

“I won't be lost to you forever, Ani. I’ll be in the Moons and we will find each other again. You have to let me go. You have to not beat yourself up for this. This was my choice.” He cleared his throat roughly. “And it's a choice I would make again and again.”

Rasee'se'a zuhss'ass iyai e'ansuze'ne'as. ” Vader whispered hoarsely before removing his face covering to add weakly, “And you will be in my heart always.”

“I love you, Hahna’keen Zu’hri, and I am proud to have been your brother.”

“I love you too, Kitastr Bai’niy. “ Saas’ahs uhr saas’iyais. Ze’a Unuruhsiy.”  

Saas’ahs uhr saas’iyais. ” Kitster breathed back softly before his weak breath against Vader’s cheek stopped completely.

He sat there pressed against his brother’s forehead for a very long moment as grief and rage fought within his chest. The grief won out quickly and a stream of hot tears began to fall down his cheeks.

He had no idea how long he knelt on his office floor, holding his limp brother against him as silent tears crawled down his face. It could have been seconds, it could have been hours. He likely would have remained trapped in that ball of despair if Ezi didn’t speak up softly.

“Hahna’ahs?”

Vader inhaled deeply, cleared his throat, and asked hoarsely, “Is his mother still alive?”

“No, Hahna’ahs.” Kisofa replied gently. “We’re all the family he had left.”

“Then we will see to it that he receives the honorable Kitazase’azsas burial he deserves.”

Vader lifted his head, his heart feeling like it was trying to break at the sight of Kitster’s seemingly peaceful sleeping face. He lowered him gently to the floor and then stood. With one last painful gaze he ripped himself away to face the gathered people at his doorway. 

“Where is the narsee’ei  that did this?” he asked harshly. 

“He got away.” Ahsoka’s angry, yet saddened, voice had his head turning to look at her directly. She met his gaze with a grim expression and brush of condolences in the Force. “He was gone by the time Thire, Thorn and I arrived.”

“He blasted his way out, Hahna’ahs.” Ezi replied in a near whisper. “We were lucky to not have been hit. I’m sorry we let him get away.”

“No. Do not be sorry. He could have taken you as well. I’m glad you’re okay.” he assured her. “I will find him, and I will make him regret his every breath.”

“Skyguy, go home.” Ahsoka implored. “Hug Luke. Cry. Let the Guard, Rex and I command the search. He won't get away. We’ll be sure of it,”

“I, I have to change.” he whispered, refusing to look down at his blood stained clothing. Just the feel of it against his skin was enough to make him feel sick. He didn’t know how he would handle seeing it. More importantly, he knew Luke couldn’t be allowed to see him like this, and said as such. 

“I have a spare set of blacks here, my lord.” Bow told him softly. “They’ll be a little short, but they should work.”

“Thank you, Bow.”

He absentmindedly took the clothes from his faithful aid, but didn’t move to change into them. He couldn’t get himself to move at all. He was stuck. Frozen in a limbo where if he acknowledged the blood on his clothes, it would mean his brother was truly dead. He didn’t want to leave that limbo.

He probably wouldn't have too, had Ahsoka not touched his arm lightly. “Come on, Skyguy. Let's get you changed and home to Luke, yeah?”

The mention of his son had him snapping back to his surroundings and reality. He needed to get himself together. He had to be strong for Luke. Later, when his son had gone to bed, he could break down. He could let himself be weak. He could mourn.

Chapter Text

Vader was almost certain he had never once moved as quickly as he did in order to get home. Part of him was sure he hadn’t even gotten there any way other than teleportation. One moment he was leaving the warzone of his office, the next he was hurrying through the penthouse doors.

As soon as he was inside though, he wasn’t sure who moved faster, he or Luke. The little boy let out the most delighted, shrill sound Vader had ever heard the very moment he saw him and immediately vaulted himself at Vader. He moved in the same instance as Vader had and they met in the middle of the living space.

He didn’t hesitate to sweep his star into his arms and hold him as tightly as he dared. His flesh arm gripped him tightly to his chest as his other hand threaded through his hair in order to hold his head against his shoulder. Luke in turn wrapped his arms around Vader’s neck and clung to him near desperately. With his son securely in his arms, Vader tilted his head to rest against Luke’s and just basked in his Force presence. 

After so long gone and the day from the worst sort of hells he had had, holding his star felt almost surreal. Like he had stepped into a perfect fantasy realm he shouldn’t be allowed into. He had no desire to leave it and was determined to stay there for as long as possible.

“I missed you so much, daddy.” Luke whispered into his shoulders faintly, their bond thrumming with love and relief. 

“I missed you too, my star. I’m so sorry I was gone. I am sorry you were almost hurt and I wasn’t here to keep you safe.”

“Don’t be sorry, daddy. You were busy keeping us all safe.” he lifted his head and leaned back enough to meet Vader’s eyes. “You won though? You won and you’re home now?”

“I won and I’m home now.” Vader promised.

A blinding smile came over Luke’s face as the relief and love in their bond intensified, “Good! I’m so glad you’re home! It is way better with you here!” he gasped and his face somehow lit up even more. “You can meet Floof! Let me go get him!”

He wriggled to get out of Vader’s arms and he reluctantly let him down to the ground. The moment he was released he darted off into the penthouse. Vader turned an incredulous look onto Beru, who shrugged before stepping into his space to hug him tightly.

“He hasn’t been afraid at all.” she whispered against his shoulder. Alarmed and confused, but never afraid.” she shuddered. “I was terrified.”

“Me too, srafsee’ahs .” he whispered into her hair. “I am so sorry I wasn’t here.”

“None of that.” she squeezed him firmly. “You were where you were meant to be, and you assured that we were not alone. That is what matters.”

Her words reminded him that someone had been here to protect his son. Someone he owed everything to. Someone who was also still there.

Vader lifted his head in order to meet Fox’s eyes. Well, eye. One of them was still black and swollen mostly shut. A stark reminder of how he put himself on the line for Luke.

So Vader gave him a soft smile and nod of his head. “Thank you, Fox. You have my gratitude more than I can express. Anything I can do for you, anything you want, name it and its yours.”

Fox shook his head. “You don’t need to thank me, my lord. I care for Luke and will do anything to keep him safe.”

“Whether you need it or not does not change the fact that I am thankful. Luke is my everything, and you have kept him safe.”

“I always will.”

Before Vader could reply to that, Beru was pulling out of his arms in order to study him with a worried frown on her face.

Susee , what happened? Did you find out who was behind everything?”

“I will explain when Lukkeen goes to bed.” he assured her as the sound of Luke’s slightly burdened footsteps began to approach.

“I found him! Isn’t he the best, daddy!”

Vader wouldn’t necessarily call the giant ball of fur in his son’s arms the best, but the delighted look on Luke’s face certainly was. And anything that put that look on his face, Vader immediately loved. 

So he accepted the tooka from his son with no complaint. He even scratched behind his overly large ears which caused it to purr loudly and burrow more into Vader’s chest.

“Daddy, he likes you! I knew he would!”

“I like him too, buddy.”

Luke’s smile only grew wider and Vader fell into his happiness eagerly. The joy seeping off his star was the only thing keeping him from breaking dowin into either a pained weeping mess or falling into an angry explosive fit. He couldn’t be more thankful for Luke preventing that disaster.

Luke’s happiness only grew when Rex and Ahsoka came home. Having his entire family home had him happier than Vader had ever seen him. He was far past radiant and practically filling the entire Force with joy. 

He needed that happiness more than he needed air. So much so that he held off on even mentioning the attempted kidnapping for as long as he could. He waited until he was getting him settled into bed to softly bring it up.

“Lukkeen, can you tell me a little about the day the bad guys tried to take you?” he asked as he brushed Luke’s hair from his face. It had grown much longer in the time that he had been gone and framed his face at his chin. It was impossibly cute, but Vader still made a mental point to teach the boy how to tie it back.

Luke leaned against him and nodded his head as it laied on Vader’s shoulder. “We were looking for a fruit plant for Fox to buy for Aunt Beru.”

“Why was Fox buying a fruit plant for Aunt Beru?” he asked abruptly, shock at the meaning behind such a gift striking him with a small panic.

“Because Fox has many lovey feelings for her,” he replied simply. “She returns them, I know it. So we were looking for a love gift when Thorn suddenly pulled me to his arms and hid me against his chest. He didn’t let me see anything but I could hear fighting. I’m glad I didn’t see it though, because Fox got all beat up and that’s scary. But he saved us! Which is so wizard! Did, did you catch the leader bad guy, daddy?”

“Almost, Lukkeen,” he told him sadly. “Almost, but he sent my brother to the moons and got away.”

Luke gasped and turned on his knees to toss his arms around Vader’s shoulders. “Oh, daddy! I’m so sorry. He has the best spot on the moons, I know it.”

Vader’s eyes watered and he had to blink away the tears as he turned his head to press a kiss to Luke’s temple. “Thank you, my star.”

“Can I make you feel better?”

“You already do. And it is not your job to do any more, Lukkeen. I should be comforting you .”

Luke made a loud scoffing, almost spitting, noise by Vader’s ear. “No. You lost a brother. I didn’t lose anything. I have all my family back. I don’t have any reason to be sad.”

Vader squeezed him gently and kissed his forehead once more. “You truly are the most amazing boy in the galaxy, buddy.”

“So are you.”

He gave him one last kiss to his forehead and then asked, “Shall we read Is Your Mama a Bantha?

“Yeah!”

Vader stayed in his star's room all the way until Luke was completely asleep. When he started to softly snore, Vader set aside the fourth book of the night in order to take a moment to revel in the fact that he was actually here, safely and comfortably asleep in his room. It was painful to think that there had almost been any other alternative.

After a long moment watching him peacefully sleep, Vader left said room as silently as he could. The second he entered the hall; he was pulled into a tight embrace.

“Ahsoka and Rex told me what happened. “Oh, susee . I am so sorry.”

The embrace and comforting touch were all Vader needed to break down in Beru’s arms. Silent, body wracking sobs escaped him as he collapsed into her. He was unsure how she managed to do so, but somehow, she got them both to the couch. He was grateful, most certainly not helpful in the endeavor at all.

Once they were settled against the cushions, she pulled his head down so it rested against her shoulder. Gentle fingers then began to run through his hair as she comforted his weeping.

A part of him couldn’t help thinking that he shouldn’t be crying like this. That it was many things, a waste of water, unbecoming of an Emperor, not something either a Sith or Jedi should be doing. He should just be letting it go, sending it to the Force. Anything but sobbing like a child.

As if she could hear his thoughts, Beru made a comforting humming sound and said, “I’m here, susee . It's okay to cry. You aren’t alone. I’m right here.”

When he truly could cry no longer, he lifted his head to meet her eyes and whisper, “He told me this was his Fate. that he was my Kitazase’iyais . That he was destined to die to save me.”

“It might have been.”

“I don’t want that Beru!” he exclaimed. “I don’t want anyone to die for me.” he lowered his eyes and added in a whisper, “All I have ever wanted was my family. Kitster was my family. I may have made myself forget, but he was .”

“I know, susee. I know. It hurts us to lose him, but he’s with Rashee’ze now. He’s resting and at peace. We have to honor him, and his choices. We can’t cling to what we would have rather had happen. We need to accept and work through the pain of what happened.”

“That simple?"

‘“Oh, it's anything but simple.” she reached out to lightly wipe away the tear tracks on his cheeks. “You’ll be angry. You’ll be sad. You’ll want vengeance. All of them are normal, just don’t let yourself drown in any of them. And even more importantly, never think that you have no support through it all.”

Vader’s brow furrowed. All of that sounded more than reasonable, but he couldn’t help saying vehemently, “I will bring him to justice, Beru.”

“Of course you will.” she replied firmly. “There is no doubt in my mind he will face the justice he deserves. Just don’t lose yourself to the vengeance, susee . Don’t give him any part of you. He deserves nothing. Not one bit of your energy. Okay?”

That, he could do. He knew exactly what she meant. Normally, it would not have been hard for his desire for vengeance to fester in his mind and drive him to obsession. He knew he had done it before. Before, though, he didn’t have a family. Before, he hadn’t had people who actually deserved his energy. He no longer had any desire to waste it on monsters like Declann.

So he gave an easy, slow nod. “Okay.”

She gave him a soft, proud smile and squeezed his hand. “Is there anything I can do for you right now?”

After a small hesitation, he nodded and asked softly, “Could you put a mourning braid in my hair?”

“I would be honored to. Let me go see if I have some red ribbon somewhere.”

He watched her leave, hand raising to absentmindedly play with the ends of his hair. He had never worn any braid other than his Padawan. He had thought about putting a mourning braid in during the War (and more importantly, for Padme but at the time he believed himself to be the one responsible for her death and saw no way to ever bring her death justice) but had never truly settled on doing so. It had never felt right.

It felt right now. Kitster deserved the honor, and Vader would happily wear the braid until the moment Declann fully paid for what he had done. No matter how long it would take.