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Sacred Land

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Anakin Skywalker had never met anyone who was like him.

He is a vergence, an impossibility wrapped in prophecy that grew up as a possession not a person, and this never really changes.

It is true when he is a slave, a tiny desert-coloured child who was almost too good with machines - and definitely almost too pretty - for a place like Tatooine.

It is true when he is a Jedi, a too-young Padawan who can never quite control his prideful temper, and then a too-young Knight-General who could not control his tendency to form attachments.

It is especially true after he becomes Darth Vader, and every new sentient he encounters falls easily into the categories of incompetent, irrelevant, or a target.

So it isn't entirely surprising that when he finally meets his children, he not only doesn't recognise them for what they were to him but also just what they were.

 

***

 

Because the Force likes irony, he first meets Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan when she is 14, the same age a young Queen had been when she met a slave boy in a junk shop on the Outer Rim and changed the course of Galactic history.

She had accompanied her father, the Senator for Alderaan, to Imperial Centre to attend the illustrious Empire Day Ball. Upon passing her during the festivities which he is annoyingly forced to attend, Vader almost does a double take, convinced for the briefest second that the ghost of his late wife was currently deep in discussion with the Senator from Muunilinst about corporate tax reform.

Of course she isn't a ghost, just another tiny girl with dark brown hair and big brown eyes and passion beyond her years, and any observations about the truth of her birthright that he might have made at this pivotal initial encounter were ignored in the face of the scorching anger that floods through him. 

She must be about the same age his daughter would have been by now - a girl, he was so sure it was going to be a little girl - and she was apparently Bail Organa's offspring, Bail who had been such a close friend to Padmé. He is certain that in another life they would have known each other.

Maybe she would have been his child's friend.

How dare this girl be here, alive and happy and blithely accosting senators when his own child isn't. It offends him, enrages him, even as that quiet whispersoft voice he tries so hard to bury points out he has no-one to blame but himself for not having his family at his side where they should be.

His teeth clench and he storms off, knowing that if he stays there is a good chance he'll do something to disrupt his Master's ball, which would be unwise.

After that, every encounter he has with the Alderaanian princess is an exercise in snide, cutting remarks and narrowly avoided property damage.

To everyone's surprise, including his own, it seems that not only is the tiny Princess not remotely intimidated by him, but apparently had a temper to rival his own. Their interactions never descend into outright fights, Princess Organa is far too well-bred for that, and Vader is very aware that if their disagreements got too out of hand they'd easily antagonise each other to the point where he'd snap and kill her in the middle of the Senate Rotunda. His Master had specifically warned him that he would be most displeased if he had to deal with the political backlash of his Apprentice murdering the child of a prominent Elder House family from the Inner Core, so he does his best to avoid the temptation.

Or at least he tries, the Princess apparently either has no idea that she only still lives by virtue of her last name, or she just doesn't care.

So they bicker and sneer and taunt each other, for years, neither willing to back down. Senator Organa was once overheard crediting his growing collection of grey hairs to his daughter's propensity for picking ideological fights with the Dark Lord every time they happened to do so much as be in the same system as each other. He is not exaggerating.

So the day they capture the Princess aboard a Rebel ship, actively (and provably) engaged in espionage and treason against the Empire, it is one of the best days in Vader's recent memory.

Despite Tarkin's irritation at the girl's stubbornness at refusing to divulge the location of the Rebel base, he feels a perverse sort of glee. Years of tension and annoyance and sniping and arguments with her safely hiding behind her father are finally over. There's no one left to protect her now, the Senate is gone, Alderaan is far away, and she's all alone.

Walking down the corridor of the detention block, his boots thumping heavily on the grates and the whirr of the interrogation droid hovering behind him, he feels something fluttering in the ruined pit of his stomach.

Anticipation.

 

***

 

Slipping into her mind is like falling into the flames of Mustafar all over again.

The drugs are clearly hurting and disorienting her, but she is so fierce and so angry that the pain just bursts out of her like a star going supernova, searing into his own mind the closer he tries to get. More than any he has ever felt before, Leia Organa's mind is a righteous inferno, and he feels the heat of her fire warming parts of him he thought to be iced over and cold forever.

He remembers how his daughter - he was so sure, so sure it would be a girl - was going to be called Leia, the Mighty One. Was going to be just as strong and beautiful as the krayt dragon disguised as a princess thrashing in front of him, baring her teeth and screaming her rage into his face and into his mind with such intensity that the Dark Side itself is erupting, writhing between them like a caged nexu. His Leia would have been like this, as smart and as beautiful as his wife, just as strong in the Force as he is, and they would have ruled the Galaxy and created a dynasty that would have lasted a thousand years.

But no, he doesn't have his child, or his wife. His family is gone, lost in the smoke and ash of his own failure, and all that's left is the great cosmic joke that is the traitor Princess of Alderaan, taunting him with everything that could have been.

Enraged, he pushes her roughly against the wall with his gloved hand, holding her by her throat hard enough to bruise but not enough to stop her breathing entirely.

Not enough to stop her from screaming.

She's flailing and fighting him, attempting to claw through his armour and one boot even trying heroically to kick him in his armoured codpiece, and Force if he isn't so damn close to swooning it's ridiculous.

The pull of the Dark Side between them is intoxicating, and in the last rational corner of his mind he wonders if somehow she's Force Sensitive. He tries to remember any suspicious reports from the Inquisitors concerning Alderaan, but the more he tries to penetrate her mind the more her pain and fury make the Force shudder like a bad spice trip, and it's getting harder and harder to concentrate.

Eventually he lets go of her, physically and mentally, and she slumps to the ground. She's a mess of white fabric and mussed brown hair and tiny, fluttering hands, and if his respirator allowed it he suspects he'd be panting just as much as she is. As it is, the satisfied purr of the Dark Side and his own errant neurochemicals are combining in a way that is positively euphoric.

He knows he should probably be feeling angry or frustrated by his lack of success, but the strange, violent intimacy of the moment has him captivated. For a second it's Padmé's face staring back at him with an expression he used to see in the mirror, furious and humiliated and hurting but not surrendering, not for a second. Not for anything in the whole Force-damned universe.

Inexplicably, and for no reason that he can discern, he's proud of her.

 

***

 

Tarkin is a fool.

The Princess bows her head demurely and names Dantooine as the planet they're seeking, but Vader doesn't need the Force to feel the steel in her spine as he restrains her on the bridge of the Death Star. Even with her planet on the line she calls his bluff, still believing in fairness and due process and all the other childish fantasies he gave up long ago.

She is foolish too.

He knows she's lying, and he knows what Tarkin is about to do as well but he stays silent, and hidden behind his mask he bares his teeth in a feral grin that cracks the worn skin of his face until it bleeds. They're both as bad as each other, expecting to impose their will on a universe that just doesn't care, and he is going to enjoy watching them both burn for their arrogance.

The horrified disbelief that erupts from her when Tarkin orders his dread machine to fire anyway is so intense he nearly stumbles, covering himself by grabbing her shoulder and pulling her small, shaking body back against his chest so she has no choice but to watch through the viewport as her world ends.

The only thing stronger than the billions of souls crying out in agony as they die, is the feeling of her heart breaking.

It's terrible.

It's intoxicating.

He never wants it to end.

He knows Tarkin wants her executed, but as she screams and thrashes her fury and sorrow under his hands, he wonders if he could perhaps keep her for himself. Like a songbird in a cage, only instead of pretty melodies she'll sing of brutality and the ruin of her people.

It would be so beautiful.

Chapter Text

Because the Force likes irony, he first meets Luke Skywalker when the boy is 19, the same age he was himself when he first went to war and never really came back. It would be another year or so before he learns his name, so his first impression is nothing but a quick glance after his duel with his old Master on the Death Star has just reached its final, bitter conclusion.

He is admittedly a bit preoccupied - Obi-Wan is dead he's gone oh god he's really gone I KILLED HIM - but he could still see an unfamiliar boy standing next to the junker of a Corellian freighter currently docked in the hanger, a boy with the Force practically erupting out of him like a newborn star.

Vader's first thought is one of astonishment that he somehow hadn't felt him before now, followed closely by the realisation that Obi-Wan must have been shielding him before his death, which most likely makes this boy Obi-Wan's Padawan.

This boy is his replacement.

The red-hot rage that floods him is staggering, even with his long familiarity with the darker side of human emotions. It's so intense, and he's still so completely overwhelmed by the fact that he's finally killed his former Master - I'm sorry Obi-Wan I'm so sorry I didn't want this I'm sorry - that he doesn't react fast enough to stop the Rebels and the damnable Padawan escaping with his tiny Princess.

Later on when he's in his TIE Advanced trying to take out the Rebel fighters before they can destroy the Death Star, he feels that same presence again, the suns-bright Force presence of the boy who had replaced him as Obi-Wan's Padawan.  He notes with interest that while incredibly strong, he is actually still very untrained. It's possible Obi-Wan only took him on recently, and he feels a flash of greedy satisfaction at the thought that the boy spent so little time with his former Master.

Even later still, when he's floating along the edges of the Yavin system, his TIE's engine damaged from when he was thrown from the Death Star just prior to it's destruction and waiting for an evac, he's left to think of the boy again. For all that he is untrained in the ways of the Force he is staggeringly powerful in it, and an incredible pilot for one so young.

Just where had Obi-Wan found him? The foolish old man certainly had a type he thought bitterly, wondering snidely if the boy was from some backwater desert world too.

Black ugly feelings of jealously creep in when he isn't looking, and he realises that even though his Master will be furious and want the boy's head on a Force-pike, that he doesn't want that at all. No, Vader wants to turn him to the Dark Side. What better way to punish Obi-Wan from beyond the grave than by stealing his new Padawan, and ensuring that his final legacy is nothing but darkness and ash?

It's this thought that sustains Vader over the next two days as he watches on his long range scanner as the Rebels evacuate the system and he's too far away to do anything about it.

It's this thought that makes him grin under the cover of his mask, old scars and new wounds on his face pulling painfully as his Master berates and eventually punishes him for allowing his prized weapon to be destroyed.

He will find the Rebel pilot, Obi-Wan's last Padawan, and he will make him bow before him. Even if it kills them both.

 

***

 

He finds that he fixates on the pilot just like he used to obsess over Obi-Wan's death, picturing all the ways he'll break the boy with something that might even be called excitement were he any other man. After their pitiful excuse of a duel on Cymoon-1 and he's had a closer look at him, his short frame and scruffy blonde hair and boyish face twisted in anger as he accuses Vader of killing his father, his imaginings get even more detailed.

Hating the boy makes him feel more alive than he's felt in years.

Some days Vader thinks about breaking his small hands so completely he can never use a lightsaber again. Other days he thinks about locking the boy up in his personal interrogation room with nothing but his heavily modified torture droid and no human contact until he breaks. One particularly bad day after an especially humiliating defeat, he consoles himself imagining what it would be like to cut the boy's limbs off and throw him into one of the lava rivers of Mustafar.

That daydream in particular fills him with such pleasure and satisfaction that if he were still physically capable of it he suspects he'd be aroused.

So naturally, after a year and change of chasing the cursed boy and his Rebel friends across the galaxy, when he's contacted by Fett to let him know he encountered the boy on Tatooine of all places and has new information on him, he's in a very good mood indeed.

Then Fett opens his mouth and everything, everything, changes. Later, Vader will swear he felt the very spin of the Galaxy shudder around him.

Skywalker.

The boy is a Skywalker. His son, Padmé's son.

He can feel it in his bones, the Force clicking into place and singing tragic exultation at the truth of it. The boy's supernova presence in the Force, so similar to his own now that he really thinks about it. The desert-blonde hair and blue eyes such a spitting image of Anakin Skywalker that he can't believe he never saw it before now, despite staring at the holo on his bounty notice during daily briefings for months now. His slender build and delicate face though, they're all Padmé's.

Vader suddenly shudders violently, oblivious to the increasingly severe damage to the observation deck appearing around him. The amount of times he's pictured that face bruised and bleeding, the amount of times he's imagined that slim body turned into a symphony of viscera and broken bones under his own cold, durasteel hands is uncountable.

Almost hysterically he realises he's spent the better part of the last year enthusiastically fantasizing about torturing his own son to death in every single way he knows how, and now that he's confronted with the reality of exactly what that means he is completely unprepared for the conflicting feelings he's suddenly drowning in for the first time in years. He's loved the boy since before he was even born, apparently still does to his complete and utter shock, and now instead of the decades-old dreams of a happy family all he can see when he thinks of him is what his insides would look like.

He falls to his knees in the empty observation deck, the ghost of Anakin Skywalker screaming in horror from somewhere deep inside the soul he refuses to think of as his anymore. Every brutal, errant daydream he's had replays through his mind on fast forward, so vivid he can taste the boy's blood in the back of his throat.

Vader wonders what his name is.

The only reason the nausea isn't making him violently ill is because his suit is an occupying force that took control of his broken body long ago. The only reason he can still breathe is the machinery forcing oxygen into his ravaged lungs, oxygen he doesn't deserve.

Finally a thought penetrates the maelstrom of his agonised self-loathing.

He lied.

His Master lied.

Fury explodes out of him in a wave, a rage that burns so hot the air itself started to shimmer. Obi-Wan had clearly stolen the boy away, and while he wishes he had made the man suffer for this new and greatest transgression far more than he did, he was now beyond his reach. His current Master on the other hand…

He growls, the vocoder reducing it to a buzzing snarl of static.

His Master had lied, had let him believe for the last twenty years that he'd killed his beloved wife. If he'd known she had survived, even just long enough to give birth to their son, he would have burned the very stars to find him. Clearly his Master had known this, made sure to keep him ignorant to use him as he stabilised the fallen Republic's transition into the Empire.

He was just a tool after all. Vader had known it for a while now - his whole life - so he was surprised at how much the knowledge hurt, how bitter the sting of betrayal was.

Yes, his Master would pay. Vader would find and claim his son, and then together they would destroy his Master, take his Empire from his cold, dead hands and then his son would rule it, just as Padmé should have done. It was destiny. This second chance, this opportunity to make right all of his mistakes. It wouldn't be in vain, not if he could have his son at his side.

Chapter Text

If there were any doubts in his mind that the boy really was a Skywalker, they would have been very thoroughly erased in the face of his apparently preternatural ability to evade capture.

It had been nearly four years since the destruction of the Death Star, and three since he'd found out that his son had lived. And despite an alive-only bounty that could ransom a Mid Rim system, he was still no closer to capturing him than he had been then. There had been near misses of course, Vrogas Vas in particular making him grit his teeth, but his son - Luke his name is Luke - stayed stubbornly out of reach.

Vader was struck with what might in another life have been sympathy for anyone who had ever tried to keep up with him in his youth: this constant feeling of thwarted frustration was absolutely intolerable.

After the latest impossible escape following the Battle of Hoth, Vader has had enough. If his son has indeed inherited so many of Anakin Skywalker's bad habits, he'll do the one thing that always worked on him without fail and use his friends as bait.

 

***

 

It is truly a pleasure to once again have Princess Leia in his custody.

To his immense satisfaction the intervening years have not diminished her fire at all. If anything she's even more furious, more controlled, more determined to ruin him than ever before. After revealing himself to them he takes great delight in not laying a hand on her at all, but torturing her filthy smuggler right in front of her instead. Her outrage makes the Force sing just as it did on the Death Star.

It is a shame, he thinks idly as she screams at him over the barely conscious form of her smuggler, apparently just as fearless now as his prisoner twice over as she was as a girl on Imperial Centre. Such anger. If she were Force-sensitive, she would make a remarkable Sith.

He sighs to himself, savouring the hatred in her endless brown eyes as he waits for his son to arrive, and decides yet again that regardless of the deal he's made with the Baron-Administrator of Cloud City that he's going to keep her for himself.

Without a doubt Luke will appreciate his mercy at keeping her alive, and this way he can continue to enjoy the singular burn of her fury like a fine wine. And once Luke is turned and the Rebellion is crushed, surely she will be made to see the error of her ways as well. He fully intends to make his son the new Emperor of the galaxy, and he will need an Empress to stand by his side and ensure the continuation of their dynasty. Indomitable, passionate, intelligent Leia Organa is perfect, already so closely bonded to his son, and that way he would have her as his daughter after all.

As the smuggler is lowered into the carbonite chamber following pointlessly dramatic declarations of love and the mournful cries of his Wookie co-pilot, her pain is a singularity that threatens to eclipse them all in it's radiance.

 

***

 

In what seems like no time at all the trap has been sprung, and he feels the blazing star of his son's Force presence entering the atmosphere of Bespin and approaching Cloud City.

Fett is leaving for Tatooine with the frozen block of carbonite containing the reprobate Solo, and both the Wookie and Princess Leia are in the process of being transferred to the Executor. Vader is lying in wait in the carbonite room, still slightly drunk on the residual Dark Side energy of the Princess's anguish and confident that Luke will find his way here to him once he lands.

In short, he's in a very good mood.

The good mood isn't even shaken when his son refuses to listen to reason and insists on dueling, he fully expected that to be the case. After all, he never did anything the easy way either.

Nor is it threatened when Luke manages to escape the carbonite chamber just in time to evade being frozen, rendering the chamber useless. Truly his son has become powerful. He wonders if any of the piercing looks the boy is giving him is because he can sense his dark pride in his son's improved abilities leaking out past the shields he's barely paying attention to. But as the duel progresses and Luke will not give in or listen to him at all, he finds himself getting frustrated.

This is not going how he intended at all.

He was expecting a fight of course, but his son's dueling skills are far more advanced than they should be with no mentor to instruct him, and he didn't factor this into his plans. At this rate it's going to be impossible to wear the stubborn boy down without injuring him. And while a burn here or a bruise there are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, he's still haunted by the violent daydreams he used to have about Luke before he knew who he really was, and is hesitant to do any real damage to his infuriating, perfect child. He's scared that if he starts he won't stop.

Because there is no question in his mind that the boy is his. He could be blindfolded in a vast room with every sentient in the galaxy and he would still be able to pick out his son. No genetic tests are required, dueling him is like dueling the ghost of his former self - stop please don't hurt him I can't please - and he is amazed at the depth and ferocity of the possessiveness he feels seeping out of him like thick tar.

Their blades lock, arms straining and bodies pressing together, and he can hear his son's panting gasps of air. He can even smell him, his sweat and the sharp chemical burn of ship fuel clinging to his clothes.

Luke is so close, the closest he's ever been to his father in his whole life, and Vader wants nothing more than to knock away their weapons and hold his son to his chest so tightly that they aren't two separate people anymore. Every cell, every single inch of him is demanding he reclaim what is his, to consume him, like the boy had been a part of himself that he'd lost somewhere along the way. Like he needs him if he is ever going to be whole again. The intensity and ambiguity of that impulse is almost dizzying.

Frantically trying to suppress the endorphin cascade threatening to overwhelm him with inappropriately timed ecstasy, he realises - Sith hells you absolute MONSTER - that he wants Luke to be inside of him. Like all the parts he'd lost over the years had made a hollow space behind his armour where he would fit perfectly, where Vader could finally finally keep him safe forever.

He's known for a very long time now that he isn't a good person. So he's not sure why this latest example of his apparently never-ending capacity for depravity really shocks him as much as it does.

He's disgusted with himself even as the hungry yearning makes itself a home deep in his chest, excruciatingly aware that this isn't a particularly healthy thing for a father to be feeling for their child. The epiphany is guilt-inducing enough that for a second his defense slips, and Luke manages to land a glancing blow on the still flesh section of his upper arm.

Vader cries out in pain, but he knows intimately just how easily lightsaber wounds scar. He finds the idea that he'll carry a mark from this duel with his precious son for the rest of his life to be perversely reassuring. That no matter what happens, this small part of Luke branded into his skin is now his to keep.

Vader hasn't felt this close to his child since the last time he held his mother and pressed soft kisses and whispered promises into the smooth skin of her swollen belly.

It feels so good that it's rapturous, transcendent.

But it distracts him, and his lightsaber is still moving, and before he even realises what's happening the ingrained muscle memory of decades means he's parrying and then slicing through the delicate tendons and bones of his son's right wrist like it's silk. He watches in shock as the hand and the lightsaber it still clutches fall down the gaping mechanical abyss and are lost from sight.

Luke is screaming - oh god how could you he's your son he's HER son HOW COULD YOU HURT HIM - and clutching the cauterized stump where his hand used to be, and even through his respirator he can smell the all-too-familiar stink of burned flesh. It's a smell that he is far too acquainted with but it still manages to send him back to another lifetime, to the memory of a red lightsaber eating through his own right arm and leaving behind nothing but blinding pain and humiliation.

He shudders. Luckily, the boy is too distracted to notice.

Trying to ignore the warring guilt and sickening flare of animal satisfaction at the fact he's marked his son so profoundly, he tries to salvage this disaster of a confrontation and take advantage of the duel ending to talk properly. "Obi-Wan never told you what happened to you father."

"He told me enough!" Luke snaps, cornered and clearly in agony but still trying to inch his way along a gantry and put as much distance between them as he can. It's quite impressive really, when Dooku took his own arm he'd passed out almost instantly from the pain. "He told me you killed him!"

"No." Lies. So many lies. "I am your father."

He can see the exact moment Luke understands, sees the words sink into his mind like rain into the desert. The Force crescendos in terrible glory at the revelation, and he's the sole witness to the dawning horror in his son's eyes as he realises he's telling the truth. That the terrifying creature who just mutilated him is his own father.

"No. That's not true." The boy sobs, face contorted in a rictus of grief. "That's impossible."

The Dark Side is roaring like a sandstorm around them, trapping them together in a merciless vortex of their own making. "Search your feelings, you know it to be true."

Luke is screaming denial even though Vader knows that he believes him, can feel the hurt and the conflict and shameful longing he's trying so hard to bury deep down where Vader can't see it.

It's exquisite.

His son is crying and Vader wishes he could drink the tears and blood off his face. He thinks it would be purifying, the closest thing to absolution a beast like him could possibly receive. Instead, Vader holds his hand out to his son and starts ranting about destiny and revolution.

He's desperate to tell Luke that he belongs to him, that he wants him so badly he'd destroy the galaxy for it (that he once did exactly that), that he'll give him anything - everything my son absolutely everything - but is somehow only just barely managing to avoid stumbling over his own words. Thankfully the vocoder strips the tremor from his voice, and Luke seems too overwhelmed to sense the conflict he's struggling to control within himself as he slowly realises with dread that it's happening all over again.

That even though Luke wants to be with him, he's still going to refuse him. That despite the aching emptiness and desperation to know his father resonating down to his bones, Luke still won't take his hand. 

Just like Padmé.

He wants to give him the galaxy, what else can he do, what else can he possibly offer the boy to make him stay with him. Love? Vader doesn't know if he even knows how to love his son without blood and pain anymore, all the gentleness was burned out of him long ago on the banks of Mustafar. But for Luke he'd try, he decides desperately. He'd do anything, give anything, as long as it means he'll never be alone again. If only Luke will accept him and love him back he'd give it all up and surrender on his knees to him, and he's just about to open his mouth and tell him so.

Then time seems to freeze.

For one crystalline moment, he can't hear the wind or feel the ever-present pain deep in what's left of his body. His son meets his eyes, somehow knowing exactly where to look despite the mask, and the look on his bruised, bleeding, completely angelic face is indescribable. It's the face of someone who knows they're about to lose, but still have one last card left to play.

It's the face Obi-Wan had just before he died.

He realises what that face means a fraction of a second before it happens, but by then he's too shocked and it's too late to do anything about it.

Luke falls.

His beautiful, precious son lets go of the railing, choosing death over the love of his monstrous father. He plummets down through the shrieking wind like a falling star into the darkness of the Cloud City underbelly, and then he's gone.