Vader was meditating when he heard it. A cry out in the Force, of pain, loss and a grief so deep he could feel it in his nonexistent bones. He knows the presence of the one it came from. He has been seeking it every night for the last three days.
Vader doesn’t even think, just reaches out, to touch that mind, to offer to kill whatever had caused this pain. He expects resistance, as he had encountered every other time he reached out, but instead, he walks straight into the remains of a battlefield.
Vader blinks, surprised. This is Leia’s mind, he’s sure of that. His daughter has a unique signature that is easy to pick out in the Force. It sings to him in a way no other has. But the walls he usually brushes against are gone. He is standing in the middle of a field, on a planet he doesn't know. She’s dreaming, or more likely, given the turmoil around him, a nightmare. But of what?
He takes a moment to get his bearings, aware she might not know yet he is here. He is standing on a grassy knoll, that is up against a large building. From the edges of smoke and steam he can see rising from it, it had been, until very recently, on fire.
He swings his head around, looking for her. But the only other person he sees here at all is an older woman, judging by the grey in her hair, her back to him. She is staring at the ruins, shoulders slumped, pain was written on every line of her body. She is dressed in a simple grey jumper, with a purple vest overlaying it. She was armed, but something about that hair draws his attention. It is done up in an elaborate braided style. Vader had never paid much attention to such things, but he feels like he has seen this style before. He had, he realized, on one of the members of the Alderaan delegation to the Senate.
“Leia?” he asks, shocked.
She whirls instantly, bringing her blaster up without thought to point it at him. He can’t even bring himself to care. The woman standing before him is not by any stretch of the imagination, youthful. She is still beautiful, the curve of her cheek reminding him so much of Padme it hurts, but there are deep lines carved into her face. Some are from laughter, but most are lines of stress radiating out from her eyes. Vader can only stare in astonishment. Just how old is his daughter?
Her eyes focus in on him, and he can feel astonishment, and worry flick across the landscape of her mind. Then recognition dawns, and he gets a bitter “What are you doing here?”
She does lower the blaster though.
Still thrown by this woman, who is so much older then he expected he says hesitantly “I could feel your pain. And when I called, I could get in.”
A look of disgust crosses her features and she snarls. “I don’t want you here.”
Vader stiffens. Foolish he knows, to think she would welcome him in any way, but there was some small part of him that hoped. He shoves the useless thought aside. She is in pain. That is what is important here and what he can not abide.
He waves his hand to the ruins around them. “Leia, you must leave this place.” He doesn’t know where they are, or what happened here. Did someone die here? Someone she loved? The husband? A friend? He knows it wasn’t the son. That doesn’t matter. Given the age of her face, this is something he can change. All he understands is that right now it’s tearing her apart.
She doesn't even think about it, just gives him an uncompromising “No.”
There was such vitriol and hatred in that statement. It whips across his shields, slicing into him, and he takes a step back in surprise. That had hurt. It had been so long since the open emotions of anyone could even touch him, never mind wound him. He hadn’t known it was possible.
He gathers himself and reinforces his own shields. Of course, his daughter would be a power to be reckoned with, even in her half trained state. Trying for an even tone he starts with “Leia,” taking a step towards her.
Before he can continue another presence walks into her mind. One he has felt before. It’s that damn Jedi he felt above the Death Star. The one, Vader thinks, who fired the destroying shot before he had time to reach Leia with his squadron. Vader hadn’t even had a chance to tell her that he had already set in motion the destruction of that abomination. That Leia should go, her home was safe.
This close to that presence in Leia’s mind though, Vader reevaluated his initial impression. There was a lot of power and complexity to this man’s shields. Not just a powerful Jedi, but a trained Jedi master . Not Obi-Wan though, Vader would have recognized that presence.
“Leia?” a voice full of concern asks. Then right next to her a short, older bearded man appears. He looks to be about Leia’s age, the one she actually is, not the one her face pretends to be. He is dressed in a dark tunic, with multiple layers and dark leggings. All over he is unkempt and shabby looking. Vader arched an eyebrow in surprise. In no way does this man resemble the Knights of the old order. More importantly, he isn't someone Vader recognized, at all. So, Leia wasn’t the only one who had time traveled, her tutor seems to be here as well.
“Leia what’s wro....” his voice trails off as he looks at the collapsed building behind her. His own grief and pain slap Vader in the face, and he has to grit his teeth on the impulse to lash back at the stranger.
Leia’s eyes widened as she catches that emotion too, and Vader can feel her worry. Immediately the ruins disappear and they are standing within the great stateroom of the Royal Palace of Alderaan. Vader wants to howl in jealousy and anger. He is Leia’s father, and he had asked her nicely to move them and was refused without thought. Her tutor comes and she immediately changes the background to avoid the possibility of upsetting him. He hasn't even said anything yet. Vader cuts off the impulse. He will get nowhere with Leia if he harms this man. Leia’s dead husband had been returned to her, and Vader was not fool enough to damage him in any way.
“Leia…” the Jedi whispers, looking at her aghast “You went there?”
“Of course I went there,” she said defensively, arms crossing over her chest. “I needed to see what my son had done.”
So that scene was about the boy. His grandson. And how strange was that thought? He had a grandson. Or will have one anyway.
The man rubbed his hands over his face “You shouldn’t have done that.” he said tiredly. On that, and that alone, Vader agreed with the Jedi.
“Yes, I should have.” she countered. Then she frowned, and brought up a hand to rub the man's ragged grey streaked beard “What is this on your face?” she asked.
He snorted “There were no mirrors there.” Sorrow and guilt crossed his face “I really didn’t care enough to mind.”
Leia’s face was worried but she only complained “You look scruffy, like a scoundrel.”
He gave her a sad smile “Well I know how you like scoundrels.”
Leia rolled her eyes, but her voice was full of grief as she said “Yes.” There was something between them, an old joke, or inside reference, Vader didn’t understand. He also didn’t understand the grief and pain that followed both of them at the word scoundrel.
The Jedi grabbed her hand from his face and gave it a squeeze. “Not so much of a beard now?” His face twisted in self-mockery “With such a baby face how did anyone take me seriously?” Vader watched, fascinated as Leia’s face softened into love and affection. Then jealousy rose, hard and fast. That this stranger commanded so much of his daughter’s heart, and she would barely look at him.
“I’m assuming my alternate took you seriously?” Vader said darkly.
The man’s face paled at his voice and he turned his head slowly. “Oh…” he breathed, his startling blue eyes going wide in shock.
Vader stood ramrod straight. “Oh, indeed Jedi.” He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I assume you are the tutor she spoke of?”
The Jedi didn’t answer him, just continued to stare at Vader like he was some fantastical creature. Vader frowned. Surely this Jedi had sensed him on the Death Star? Vader was not the subtlest of presences himself.
Leia scowled at him. “Oh, right, you.” Vader was astonished. People never forgot him when he was standing right in front of them. Usually, he had the problem that they would hyper focus in on his presence.
“Look who decided to drop in,” she said to the Jedi, waving in Vader’s direction.
The man frowned and pulled his gaze back to Leia “Don’t be rude,” he chided her.
“No,” she shook her head “He dropped in unwanted and unwelcome. I don’t need to be polite.”
“Leia...” the man huffed.
“Do not take that tone with her Jedi,” Vader said threateningly, stepping forward “You will not like the consequences of your disrespect.”
Perversely, a huge laugh bubbled out of the man’s throat at that threat. His head fell back and he roared, he was laughing so hard. Leia only looked on at him, in exasperated fondness. When he got control of himself, he looked at Vader, a smile of true joy on his face “I missed you,” he said, truth and honesty radiating from him.
This Jedi Leia married was clearly delusional. “Are you insane?” Vader demanded. Had his death and subsequent rebirth shattered his mind? An easier enemy to kill, but Leia would be heartbroken. There was also the matter of his grandson’s existence to consider.
Leia grumbled, “I ask him that all the time.” She gave Vader a flat look “Be nice. He’s probably the only one in the galaxy who mourned you when you died."
The man’s face sobered at that reminder. “And yet here you stand again,” he said. Sounding wistful of all things.
“Leia?” Vader asked, ignoring this strange Jedi for the moment “did my grandson inherit this Jedi’s madness?”
Leia hissed through her teeth “You are not to speak of him again, do you understand?”
The Jedi’s face was just confused, he turned to Leia “Why did you tell him about Ben?”
Ben, his grandson’s name was Ben. Vader filed that away, to ponder and delight in later.
Leia shifted a bit on her feet, looking a little guilty. “I might have lost my temper with him?” she said.
Now it was the Jedi’s turn to roll his eyes, “There is a surprise.”
“I had it under control,” Leia insisted.
“Amazing,” the Jedi remarked drolly “Everything in that sentence was wrong.” Before Vader could come to his daughter’s defense, the Jedi went on “Do you know where you went wrong in that cell Leia?”
“Oh, I know where I went wrong.” she said, chin going up in stubbornness.
“No, it wasn’t thinking you could control the future,” he said, nothing but kindness in his eyes “It was thinking you could be in the same room as him, and not go for his throat.” This Jedi didn’t sound condescending or even disappointed, just a bemused affection. Like this was an old argument between them. There was no lecture, no shaking of his head, no dire warnings of the dangers of the Dark Side and her anger. Who was this man?
Leia opened her mouth to dispute that, and shut it before anything came out. She hissed in aggravation “I hate it when you’re right.” she complained, hands coming to her hips.
“I know,” he said, smugly.
Her eyes narrowed “And you are so gracious about it too.”
“You said it, not me.”
“Shows what you know,” she said. “Personal growth for me. I didn't even try to kill him.”
Vader wasn’t going to take this man’s side in this argument, although Leia had come a lot closer then she believed with that punch she had thrown. He took a small bit of comfort in the fact she wasn’t deliberately trying to kill him.
The Jedi nodded his head “Good job.”
He cleared his throat, interrupting this strange dance between them. They both turned, startled, to look at him. And they had forgotten him, again. Vader wasn’t sure if he was amused or insulted by that.
The Jedi’s eyes looked thoughtful “What did you tell him?” he asked.
Leia looked frustrated “Thought you didn't want to know. That it was hopelessness and despair, and you were done with everything?”
The Jedi gave her a sharp look, and Leia sighed in defeat. “I might have implied we were married,” she said carelessly.
Implied? Vader found himself riding a twin wave of anger and relief. Anger that she had lied to him to protect this fool, and relief that she wasn’t stupid enough to marry him.
“Why?” the old man asked.
Leia rolled her eyes “Because someone wasn’t answering my call,” Vader thought of the horror Leia must have gone through, to wake up on the Death Star, with no way to understand what had happened, and how afraid he must have been. Then this idiot had ignored her cry for help.
The Jedi looked troubled “Sorry about that. I thought I was having a psychotic break.” Vader stared at him. The Jedi gave him a rueful smile “I was alone for a long time before all this happened. I honestly thought I had lost what was left of my mind. Time travel didn’t actually occur to me until I ran into Obi-Wan.”
Leia gently shoved him with her shoulder “So I was operating under the impression I was alone. And that meant you were nineteen-years-old.” The man turned his face to Leia, eyebrow arched “I was trying to protect you,” she said firmly, “well, younger you, from him.”
The man’s face went slightly amused “Hmmm. Yeah, I can see where that would lead to a disaster.”
She gave him a flatly unimpressed look “You think?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Vader intoned, breaking into this strange rhythm the two of them were caught in “Because the moment I find you, in reality, I will kill you.” He pointed his finger at the Jedi “Now that I know my grandson can exist without your presence, I will not let your poisonous teachings spread through the galaxy again. The Jedi are extinct and shall remain that way.” He put as much determination and threat as he could in the next statement “And there is nothing either of you can say that will stop me, no matter how much my daughter cares for you.”
Vader expected certain reactions when he threatened people. He had people make strange noises, piss themselves, or on several memorable occasions faint. Nobody, up to this point in his life, has ever looked amused.
A knowing mocking smile crossed Leia’s face “I’ll take that bet,” she said.
“What?” Vader asked, dropping his finger in surprise.
“I’ll take that bet,” she answered, “I bet you that if I tell you his name, you will no longer want to kill him.”
Vader did not trust that smile “And the stakes?”
“If I’m right, you tell me where the 501st is currently stationed,” Leia said.
“And if you are not?” he asked, looking at the Jedi, trying to figure out where he stood on all this.
The man only gave him a small smile “Don’t look at me,” he said. “You are on your own with her.”
Leia snorted “I won’t be.”
“But if you are?” Vader pressed.
Leia looked at him, “I’ll let you in my head for the next month, and we can talk about anything your dark heart desires.”
Sensing the trap, but unsure as to where it could possibly be, he asked hesitantly “You would really tell me? Just like that?”
“Just like that.” she agreed coolly. The Jedi only looked amused as they bantered about his fate.
“Very well,” Vader said. “I accept your terms.”
A nasty grin crossed her face, and the sense of malicious anticipation filled the air.
To Vader’s surprise, the Jedi put a restraining arm on Leia. “I think I should be the one who handles this,” he said. Leia snorted but stepped slightly to the side. The Jedi came up until he was a few feet from Vader. “My name is Luke.” he said softly, “Luke Skywalker.”
Leia’s hands went out in an exaggerated fashion “Surprise! It’s twins!”
Vader stopped breathing. He was in a dream, Leia’s dream, so this was something that could actually happen. He just stared at this older man, with his bright blue eyes, and hopeful smile.
This Jedi’s name was….
Leia had said…..
His mind lost focus, as he tried to wrestle with the information he had been given.
The next thing he was aware of was a hand on his arm and a concerned voice asking “Father?”
A shiver of pure pleasure went through him at that title. Father, he was a father.
That wrinkled face was peering into his mask, worried “Leia, I think we broke him.”
“Who cares?” was Leia’s response.
“I care!” Luke hissed, his face turning to meet his twin’s gaze.
Slowly and hesitantly Vader brought his hand up to touch that face, still turned away from him. As his fingers brushed his cheek, Luke froze and slowly turned back to face him.
“Father?” he asked. “Are you back with us?”
“You’re my son?” Vader breathed.
His eyes crinkled at the sides in amusement “Yes.”
“And Leia is my daughter?”
“Unfortunately yes,” Leia said from behind Luke.
“Twins. You’re twins,” Vader repeated, hand tracing over Luke’s cheek, over his nose, up to his forehead. Vader had the impulse to run his hand through his son’s too long hair. Leia was right, he did look scruffy.
“Twins,” he breathed. “I have twins.” This wasn’t possible. Leia had been a miracle enough, but for two children…..Vader didn’t get such luck in his life. Then the anger rose at the full implications sank in. No, he didn’t get lucky did he? He should have had them all along.
“I am going to kill Obi-Wan Kenobi very slowly,” he announced calmly.
Luke blinked but didn't move away from Vader. “Why?” he asked, not worried, just curious. Foolishly brave child.
“Because he took you.” Vader dropped his hand, aware of the damage he could inadvertently do with it. “Both of you!” he snarled, the red rage dancing along his senses as he looked at Leia. She at least had the sense to feel fear, even if it wasn’t showing on her face. “You should have been raised with your family!”
Leia opened her mouth to say something, probably about the Organa’s but Luke put up a hand, and she maintained her silence. “Who says I wasn’t?” Luke asked mildly.
Vader’s teeth gritted “I do not care what he told you! Obi-Wan Kenobi is not family!” he howled. “Besides the two of you, I don’t have any family!”
“Owen and Beru Lars don’t count?”
“Owen and Beru?” he repeated.”Who the hell-” And a memory, long buried came crawling up to the forefront of his mind
“I guess I’m your stepbrother.”
Vader felt like the air had been knocked out of him. Obi-Wan had taken Luke to Tatooine? Then Leia’s words in the cell came back to him. Not only had Obi-Wan taken his son to be raised on that hell hole of a planet, he had stayed there, guarding Luke.
Luke nodded solemnly. “Yes. They took me in and raised me. They don’t count?”
Vader’s mouth gaped. Of all the places to hide, Obi-Wan had chosen there?
“No,” he said finally, “They were not my family. I only met them once.” There was disappointment in the boy’s eyes, so Vader reluctantly went on “They were, however, my mother’s family.”’
Luke’s posture relaxed. “Okay then,” he said gently.
Leia's voice was bitter and cutting “Not that this isn't fascinating, but can we skip all the family drama?” She pointed her finger at Vader “You owe me an answer.”
A deal was a deal, and she was certainly correct. He had no desire to kill Luke. “Aria Prime,” he said.
She looked taken aback for a moment, then a haughty mask descended over her features. “Thank you,” she said, nothing but frosty politeness. “Now get out.”
“Leia,” Luke said.
She shook her head “No, my head is not a conference center. If you want to talk to him in your own head, that’s your prerogative. You’re a big boy, and the gods know you’ve never listened to me about him.” She gave Vader a long distasteful look “Besides I think I’ve had enough of him in my head for one lifetime don’t you?”
The implications of that statement sent chills down Vader’s spine.
“Alright,” Luke agreed, grabbing his arm. Vader looked down, completely bemused. It had been a long time since anyone had voluntarily touched him, never mind pull him around like a recalcitrant child. “I’ll see you in the morning?” Luke asked his sister.
“Yes,” she gave Vader a hard look “You break his heart and I don't care what it costs me, I will kill you.”
Vader opened his mouth, to say what, he wasn’t sure before he felt a tug, and suddenly they were standing on what looked like a lush green hilltop. Vader felt himself wobble for a second as he realized that Luke had just pulled him from one mind into another, seamlessly.
“Sorry,” Luke said apologetically, “I should have asked before I did that. But Leia was about two seconds away from trying to burn you out of her mind.”
Vader only offered “She seems to have inherited my temper.”
“Oh, we both did,” Luke waved a hand dismissively, “Mine just takes longer to get going.”
Vader stared at him, unsure how to proceed “Was there a reason you brought me here?” he asked.
Luke looked nervous “Only to talk,” he said, with a shrug “We didn’t have a lot of time last go around and I thought…” his voice trailed off uncertain. “Unless you don’t want to?”
“My son there is nothing in the galaxy I would like more.”
Luke’s face broke out into a wide beaming grin. “Okay then.” Then that grin slipped a little “I won’t answer any questions about Leia, but everything else is fair game. What would you like to know?”
Everything. From his grandson, to why his son was so sad, to what his alternate did to Leia. So many things, but Vader determined it was perhaps best to start with the basics “How old are you two?”