Fandom: Star Wars
Rating and Pairing: PG. No pairing.
Summary and Era: Vader is faced with a choice. Will he fail again? [Takes place in Return of the Jedi]
Warnings: Character death. It's a rewrite of a scene in Return of the Jedi.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by George Lucas and various publishers including but not limited to Lucasfilm LTD and Twentieth Century Fox. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: I put this together last night in a notebook at 1 a.m. and typed it up this morning. It has not been beta read and it may very well be a terrible piece of work. Posted for Weekly Challenge #1 at astromech_tech
Vader watched and listened in dark silence. He had attempted to apply his usual feeling of apathy to the situation as best he could, but his defenses were slowly breaking down and there could be only one logical explanation.
His memory was attacking him.
His past failure haunted him like the shadow haunts the light. He had failed just as he was failing now.
The word cycled through his mind over and over, repeating itself until it sounded alien and vaguely obscene. Failure. Failure. Failure. Failure.
It was no longer a word, but still had meaning.
Failure. FailureFailure. Failurefailurefailurefailurefailure.
More words ran ahead of his triumphantly advancing memory and clouded his thoughts. The ghost of his voice drifted back to him.
"Someday I will be... I will be the most powerful Jedi ever!"
Failure. He had failed again. He was failing even as he stood here.
No, that couldn't be right. The Emperor wanted this....Jedi....dead, and so Vader would kill him. If Skywalker didn't die, then Vader truly would fail. He would fail his Master and fail his duty.
Vader wasn't surprised that the voice proclaiming duty sounded so very much like Sidious's.
It was obscene. It was ridiculous.
It was fact.
It had become his duty to kill his son.
Vader stretched out in the Force, drawing the power to himself, making himself the center of the Universe. He took some of that power and shaped it, feeling out gently towards the minds that surrounded him. Sidious was his usual double-talking self. Skywalker was...
If anyone could have seen Vader's eyes, they would have seen them blink.
Skywalker was a waterfall of light--an ocean of peace and serenity. His presence shifted through the moment, sliding over the towering hate and resisting the temptation that constantly pulled on him. He was luminous, filled with compassion and understanding and morals and conviction and blind trust that spilled almost tangibly from his personality. He was something—someone—that Vader couldn't recall. Skywalker was the epitome of the Jedi.
He was also raw anger and an intense desire to end the reign of the Empire right there and then.
Vader listened as the boy continued to resist Sidious's mental attacks. Skywalker said he didn't want his lightsaber. He didn't want to kill the Emperor.
He was the only Jedi. He was skilled with a blade. He was a pathetic liar.
Skywalker wanted to strike Sidious. He wanted to slice the frail-looking man into a dozen pieces and watch them fall to the floor in a smoking heap—the final death of evil. He wanted to wring his neck and watch his eyes bulge out. He wanted to listen to his feeble gasps and sobbing pleas.
Skywalker wanted to make him pay for every injustice and every lie and every second of treachery.
And he possessed the power to do exactly that.
But he possessed the power to resist the temptation. Restraint.
Something Vader never had.
Something Vader never wanted.
Skywalker wanted galactic freedom.
Sidious wanted an apprentice.
Vader just wanted his son.
The lightsaber flew to Skywalker's hand and Vader reacted without realizing it, snapping the scarlet blade up and under the other. Apparently the Jedi-like restraint only lasted for so long. Skywalker's sense wavered; dark splotches peaking through the light.
Vader prepared himself: the shockwave of the Jedi's death would ripple through the Force—perhaps even causing a form of physical pain. He drew more of the Force toward him, commanding it, feeling a flush when the Force obeyed. He raised the lightsaber up, striking swiftly and looking for a break in Skywalker's defense, when he was momentarily shocked as the boy returned each blow with unconscious effort.
Skywalker had been training.
That was excellent. Devotion and endurance. Those traits would be very useful once he joined the dark side.
Perhaps it was because Vader had been thinking rather than concentrating. Perhaps it was because some unconscious trigger had made it near impossible for him to strike his son. Perhaps it was because Skywalker was good.
Whatever the reason, a boot with speed and power resembling terminal velocity struck Vader's chest and caused him to tumble down the steps, landing in a heap on the floor.
Skywalker had been training a lot.
"Good. Use your aggressive feelings, boy! Let the hate flow through you."
Vader desperately wished Sidious would shut up for a moment and watched as Skywalker shut his saber down. The black splotches left his sense as he visibly relaxed.
Vader said something to fill in the gap and Skywalker responded.
"I will not fight you, father."
His son was trying to save him.
Vader heard another voice inside him once more. "He is not your son. He is a Rebel. A Jedi. A threat to be exterminated without feeling or question. You will strike him down. YOU WILL KILL HIM."
Again, unsurprisingly, that voice was Sidious's.
Vader touched Skywalker's mind again. The shockwave ripped through him, clenching around his heart like an icy fist. Luke Skywalker, his son, the man who inherited his father's name and power had inherited something else as well.
He has inherited his mother's presence.
Luke was an embodiment of Padmé's character. He was her strength, her morals, her overenthusiastic trusting hope, and her ideals personified. His mother's sprit clung to Luke and surrounded him. The echo of her filled his Force sense.
And Vader had to fight him.
They fought again, but this time Skywalker—no, Luke—was defensive only.
Trying to save his father.
As his mother had.
He touched Luke's mind gently, probing deeper, looking for fear and attachment. Those were the downfall of a Jedi, and how Vader wanted Luke to fall. Vader knew that was the only way; those were the things that made him fall to the dark: fear and attachment.
He tried to talk his son into it once more.
"Give yourself to the dark side. It is the only way you can save your friends. Yes, your thoughts betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially for..."
He searched more. Luke was far from being the perfect Jedi. In a sense, he was far from being a Jedi at all. His control was terrible. Skill with a lightsaber did not a Jedi make. His son had the mental abilities of a Padawan. They'd have to work on that once Luke turned. Vader shrugged off this line of thought and continued looking.
Fear. Attachment. Fear and Attachment.
He found them both in plenty—the boy was afraid for his sister and the Rebell—
Again, if he'd been able, he would have openly and unashamedly blinked.
Vader sensed more than saw his son squeeze his eyes shut. Anguish flooded through Luke like a dirty streak of black piercing through the light.
"Sister! So...you have a twin sister. Your feelings have now betrayed her, too. Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will."
Vader prodded his son's mind once more, looking for a reaction of some sort. Luke was just the kind of person to sacrifice himself for a loved one. A millisecond later, Vader thought that perhaps threatening the boy's sister wasn't really the best idea he'd ever had.
The thought was confirmed when the boy gave a flying leap, screaming "Never!" at the top of his lungs, and pelted towards him with a bar of green whirling death in his hands.
Really not a very good idea. Perhaps it would have been better to appeal to Luke's sense of morality.
Luke's strikes were erratic and wild, but what he lacked in technique he made up for in raw power and speed. Fueled by hate and fear and anger and betrayal, Luke advanced, each step a strike and each strike a step.
Vader couldn't keep up with Luke's pace, and he stumbled backwards in slow motion, holding up his lightsaber against the furious strikes that rained down against him. Seconds later, Vader’s mechanical hand was gone and his lightsaber with it. A blade the color of life moved to his throat. He could smell the ozone.
"Good! Your hate has made you powerful. Now, fulfill your destiny and take your father's place at my side!"
Vader watched Luke look from his father's severed hand to his own.
Vader watched Luke throw away his lightsaber.
"Never! I'll never turn to the dark side. You've failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me."
Blinding bolts of energy flashed from Sidious's hands and snaked toward Luke. Vader remembered the Force lightning. He remember watching one of the Masters of the Jedi Council deflect it with a blade for awhile. Luke didn't have a blade. Luke didn't have the skill. Luke didn't have a chance.
The young almost-Jedi tried to use the Force to deflect it, but the amount of control required for such a trick to work was beyond his capacity. Vader had only heard of one Jedi who'd managed it, and that was Yoda. Luke was no Yoda.
Vader reached out to sense his son once more. His heart stopped beating for a moment.
Padmé. She was...dying.
Luke was a physical representation of her presence.
Luke's sense intertwined with Padmé’s until the two were indistinguishable to Anakin. Anakin had not felt her decades. He found her personality and her sense in Luke.
And he was dying.
And she was dying with him.
Luke writhed on the floor as more bolts hit him, draining the life from him. He opened cracked lips and a voice wracked with pain gurgled out a desperate, half-chocked sob. "Father, please. Help me."
Anakin did not hear the voice of a young man crying out to him. He did not even hear the voice of his dying son. He heard a plea from the past echo in his mind. "Stop, stop now. Come back! I love you."
He heard Padmé.
He felt her dying with her son.
Anakin looked over and saw Sidious laughing as he killed Padmé's son on the floor.
Killing. Killing Luke. Killing Padmé.
Killing. KillingKilling. Killingkillingkillingkillingkilling.
The moment stretched to eternity. Anakin had a choice. Again. He'd failed her--them--once.
He would not fail again.
Grasping Sidious with one hand, he lifted his ex-Master above his head. With movements that felt agonizingly slow, Anakin threw the Sith Lord down.
He threw his chains and his failure and his past offences down as well.
It had cost him, though, his private rebellion against the dark.
Too weak to walk on his own, the man he'd tried to kill moments ago struggled to help him to safety. They collapsed on the floor together, father and son, and Anakin made another decision.
He was deadweight and he wouldn't let his son die for him as Padmé had once tried to die for him.
"Luke, help me take this mask off."
Anakin wanted to look at his son, but even this last request was a deception. In his final seconds of life, he closed his eyes and felt Luke through the Force. Luke was....luminous. He was Padmé's sense. He was Anakin's son. He was both of them twisted together in a knot, bound with strength and justice.
Anakin stilled for a moment, trying to concentrate on self-healing methods he
hadn't used in years and most likely wouldn't need in a few moments anyway. It's very hard to self-heal when your body is liquefied in a reactor implosion. He tried to open his eyes again and found he couldn't. He didn't need to; he could see.
The edges of his conscious were fraying, unfurling into something much larger. Anakin felt like a drop of water that tried to fill a bottomless vessel. He tried to reach out with the Force but couldn't. He didn't need to; the Force was reaching out for him and consuming him. A stab of fear sliced through him like a lance, but it was calmed immediately by understanding.
Wisdom and knowledge floated around him. The light was everywhere. It pressed against him and it took a moment for him to realize he was a part of the light.
He was of the light.
He was a Jedi again.
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