What is His
Summary: He feels her presence,
but he's not sure why ...
A/N: Thanks to Pallas-Athena for beta'ing. 724 words. Written for the Ani/Ami Index Challenge.
It is still awkward to walk,
though the Force helps him and he manages, moving gracelessly on mechanical
legs. He had twenty years to adapt to his old body; this one would take just as
long, he feels. There is still a mask over his face, but he can see now with his
own eyes. This body is less armor than simply a body; armor is not so necessary
Luke follows him from a distance, a comforting presence that does not intrude. His son is astute, leaving him alone to investigate the strange visions he has been having.
The buildings are mere dark husks, and the only sound is the wind flowing through the debris like a flute, except the sound is low and eerie, not high and beautiful.
Why does he feel her here?
This empty shell of civilization.
He swears he can feel her. Luke cannot; Vader does not know why, and neither does his son. It bothers Luke, thinking that the Force whispers to his father more than him. It is a petty thought, perhaps, but not entirely unexpected, given that Luke had joined him and had been influenced by flawed Sith teachings as much as Vader himself. They were the results of tattered remnants of Sith and Jedi; appropriate, Vader thought. Balance.
He walks into a house that has no roof. The floor is filthy, nearly ankle-deep in dust, dirt, and debris. He wonders why this place was burned by the Empire. It is a small planet, with few people. Were they foolish enough to resist? He didn’t bother to look in the records, thinking it didn’t matter.
But why does he feel her here?
It is a warm glow on the edge of thought. Padmé.
“Anakin,” and her voice is so soft he can hardly hear it.
“Padmé?” he whispers, his voice rough. His breathing pauses when he speaks; he prefers this more natural way of existing. More natural, but not total.
He steps forward, and he can see her hidden behind a broken wall. He can see her brown eyes, those gently arched eyebrows, those lips –
He stumbles forward. “Padmé?”
“I have missed you,” she whispers, and he moves towards her. But she also moves, keeping the wall between them. “Stay with me, Ani.” She smiles, and it’s the heartbroken smile she gave him on Mustafar.
He would do anything to ease the pain behind that smile. “Anything, Padmé, anything,” he says, his words falling over one another, desperate to please.
He walks to her, and she waits, and he reaches out to touch her – she’s like the Force, enveloping him, warming him utterly, and then -
Padmé vanishes, and suddenly Vader realizes he was being suffocated. Luke is running to him, kneels beside him as he falls, gasping for air. Luke wraps the Force around Vader like a shield, and suddenly he no longer feels Padmé.
“Father, what happened?” Luke asks, looking into his father’s eyes, clearly worried.
In the distance, Vader feels a surge of hate, not from Luke or himself, but … something other.
He looks down, and with his own eyes, he sees a scorched snippet of stone, the necklace itself burned, but the soft stone remaining. It should not be familiar, but it is, this meaningless piece of stone.
He reaches out in anger, and his rage burns away the fog of confusion: tendrils reach out for Luke, trying to hold him, trying to separate him from his father. No. No. Luke is his. She cannot have him. He lives; she does not. Luke is all that matters anymore.
“We must go, son,” Vader manages at last. “Return to our Empire. There is nothing here.”
“You don’t sense my mother?”
Does he? Vader wonders, then dismisses the thought as irrelevant. “There is nothing here but old demons, my son.”
Luke helps him to his feet, and he doesn’t feel ashamed for leaning on his son. Luke searches his face; for signs of what, Vader isn’t sure. But Luke eventually nods. “All right. We have much to do, the Rebellion to be rid of, Father.”
“Yes,” Vader agrees. This is his child, he thinks. His beautiful, powerful child. Like his father.
They leave as silently and quickly as they came, the hushed Force easily guiding their steps.
And Vader leaves Padmé behind.