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“So, how painful is that suit?”

“Oh, look at that terrified Imp. You’re really going to kill him over something so small?”

“You eat through a tube? That’s gross!”

“Come on. You can’t ignore me forever.”

Darth Vader clenched his fist tighter as he tried to do just that.

The young Togruta danced in front of him and stared into his visor. “Do you see everything in red? That’s got to be annoying. Did Palpatine do that on purpose?”

Darth Vader would have taken in a deep breath if his respirator didn’t stop that from happening. He was trying to pay attention to a meeting on the various costs of the Death Star and how the Empire would regain its losses after than infernal pilot boy blew it up. Vader did not care so much for these meetings, but anything was better than listening to the ghost of his former Padawan annoying the absolute kriff out of him.

She had shown up shortly after the Death Star was blown up. She had appeared in front of him in his hyperbaric chamber, hands planted on her hips, and said, “Geez, Anakin. Obi-Wan really did a number on you. I mean, he told me as much, but wow.”

What?” He had rasped.

That was the only time he had ever spoken to her.

Months later and she still hadn’t left his side. Somehow, she was more annoying in death than she had been alive.

“Lord Vader?” An officer hesitantly called out his name. He snapped his attention to the offending officer. “The meeting has adjourned.”

“Very well.” He responded. He had nothing more to say, so with a swish of his cape, he left the room.

“You always were such a drama king.” The ghost chuckled. She stood up straight and set her jaw squarely. She placed her hands on her hips and glared out between furrowed brows. “How do I look? I’m trying to imitate you without all your apparatus on.” She raised a brow at the word and shrugged. “I’ll get better at it.”

Vader continued to ignore her. He had better things to focus on, such as the identity of the blasted pilot who blew up the Death Star. He wished the bounty hunters he hired would have something for him to get his mind off of the long-dead.

As he walked onto the bridge, his private comm link buzzed. He answered with a glance at the ID and a dark smile behind his mask.

“Aphra.” He said.

“A certain Mister Fett is interested in your audience, your Lordiness.” The young doctor smirked in the holo.

Vader paused. “My quarters. Send him immediately.”

Aphra gave him a mock-salute. “Aye aye, captain – “ and Vader cut the call. He was already on his way to the meeting place.

“I like her.” The ghost stated. “If she wasn’t working for you, I might think she was a good person.”  

Vader’s lip curled in distaste. He could have done without the ceaseless commentary.

“What can I say? She reminds me of me, in a weird way. Guess you really can’t escape the past, can you?” She laughed. Vader found it harder and harder to ignore the ghost’s incessant noisemaking. He stalked down the brightly lit corridor of the ship and did his best to ignore the pointless rambling.

The door to his quarters slid open quickly.

“Your room is so much more boring now. Where’s all your trash art?” She asked. “Obi-Wan and I used to bet on what you’d put in your room next. Come on,” she whined, “I’m sure no one would mind if you went down to the trash compactor and picked out a few choice building pieces.”

The doors slid shut in her face.

She walked through the durasteel door, a pout on her young face. “You know that won’t work on me anymore. You’re stuck with me, Skyguy.”

There was a quiet rumble as the durasteel beneath Vader’s feet shuddered. He made his way to the large viewport on his wall and glared out into the blackness of space. He could not let this girl’s ceaseless existence distract him any further. His Master was watching him closely after the Death Star’s destruction, and he would accept no mistakes. Vader was certain that Palpatine was putting together some kind of replacement for him. It wouldn’t be the first time. This was another test – Palpatine would find other lackeys, and whoever was strongest would be his right hand.

Vader always defeated the opposition. But something in the Force was telling him that his reign would not last much longer.

He could hear the blasted ghost wandering around his quarters. She ooh’ed and ahh’ed at the various nothings in his room – his desk covered in datapads, his hyperbaric chamber, his closet in which his other capes resided in… there wasn’t much to look at, but she was really taking her time with each stop. She had done this every time she followed him into his room, and she never failed to find something interested to gape at.

It made Vader want to rip his room apart, just to shut her up.

He stared out of the viewport for a good while. He knew that whatever Boba Fett brought to him would undoubtedly change everything. The Force was roiling in his gut, a sure sign that he would not like what was to come next.

There was a knock at the door.

“Gee, I wonder who that could be!” The ghost exclaimed. “Come in, we’re decent!”

The doors opened quickly, revealing Boba Fett – but no pilot.

Vader had not moved from his spot at the viewport.

“I lost him.” Fett said as he walked into the room.

Vader closed his eyes and bit back a sigh. “That is most disappointing.”

Fett shook his head. “He got lucky.” He stood before the Dark Lord, arms crossed over his chest. Vader appreciated that brazen display of bravery. Clones always had been a bit of a soft spot for him.

“Lucky. None of them ever tried to shoot you in the back.” The ghost snipped at him irritably.

“Did you bring me anything of value, bounty hunter?” He asked, his voice deadly calm. What came next would decide if he would live or die. Fett knew this well.

“Not much.” He began. “Just his name.”

Vader, still facing the viewport, nodded.

“Skywalker.”

Vader felt what was left of his organic stomach drop to his knees. He did not move, but in that moment knew that everything was different.

“Wow, bet you didn’t see that one coming.” The ghost snorted.

Fett said something else, perhaps a farewell, but Vader did not hear him. He was stuck in the past, the one being he loved whispering a forbidden joy to him.

Ani, I’m pregnant.

Vader’s fists clenched so forcefully he was dully surprised that his mechanics didn’t crack. He could hear the transparisteel of the viewport crackling under the pressure of his emotion, but he could not do anything to stop it. It took all his strength not to run out of the ship, into the galaxy to search for his son.

He had a son.

“I’m surprised you never figured it out earlier.” The ghost said flippantly. “He’s just like you. A lot nicer, though.”

Vader momentarily forgot his unspoken vow to never acknowledge her. He whirled upon her in a rage.

“You knew?” He asked coldly. The ground beneath her feet shook. This clearly did not bother her.

“Oh, now you talk to me?” She had her hands on her hips – an achingly familiar pose he had seen in another life. “Well, yeah. I knew. Trained him a bit, too.” She grinned at him then, her sharp teeth suddenly a lot more vicious than before. “And if you want to find him, you’ll have to talk to me.”

Vader blinked slowly behind his mask. He considered the idea. Use the ghost of his old Padawan to find his son? She had been a Jedi, though, and he knew how trustworthy Jedi were. The fact that she kept such a secret from him was a testament to that in itself.

“Why should I believe you?” He hissed. “You’ve been nothing but a thorn in my side since you showed up.”

She shrugged. “You haven’t given me much reason to be anything else.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked at her former master. “And of course, I have ulterior motives for finding your kid. Important Force Ghost business. You wouldn’t understand.” She tossed her head to the side, her lekku twitching amusedly.

“I understand more than you know, child.” He growled.

Sure.” She rolled her eyes. “Let me see now… which of us left the Jedi Order peacefully, and which of us tore it down and reduced the entire galaxy to a place of pain and suffering?” She crossed her arms over her chest, an unfamiliar steely glint in her eyes.

Vader mirrored her stance. “Do not give me so much credit. The Republic and the Jedi Order were close enough to tearing themselves apart. I just provided a catalyst.”

The ghost did not buy it in the slightest. “Don’t try to fool me, old man. I know exactly what happened. That’s the great part about being a part of the living Force – I get the simple truth.” She huffed. “Neither the Order nor the Sith were right. You made a mistake, Anakin, but you can’t own up to it.”

“There’s no one left to apologize to.” Vader said simply. “And I am not sorry.” He added, almost as an afterthought. “I did what I felt was necessary. The galaxy would be in a time of peace, were it not for these rebels.” He said the word with disdain, but the vocoder barely registered such a tone of voice.

The apparition shook her head sadly. “There is someone to apologize to, Anakin.” She sighed softly and took one slow step forward. “Your son. Luke Skywalker.”

Vader stiffened in place.

“I will only help you find him if you promise not to… be yourself in front of him.”

Vader frowned. “What does that mean?”

“It means don’t get all weird on him. He’s going to freak out enough just meeting you. Try to be… nice.”

“Sith don’t do nice.”

“Yeah, well you’re a shitty excuse for a Sith Lord anyways.”

For once, Vader didn’t have anything to say to that. He was sure Sidious would agree, in any case. Instead, he strode towards the ghost, one hand on the hilt of his lightsaber. “We will get started at once. Where is he?”

“Oh, you expect me to take you to him right now?” She looked… taken aback, almost. “Um, no. You’re still not ready.”

Vader raised a brow. “Ready?

The ghost nodded. “Yep. If you two were to meet now, I’m sure one of you would end up losing a limb.”

Vader didn’t quite know how to feel about that. On one hand, he wouldn’t mind losing another arm. He was rather desensitized to such violence. On the other… he wouldn’t want to be responsible for harming his son.

“What will make me ready?”

She bit on her lower lip and sighed. “Obi-Wan doesn’t think you’re ready, but –“

“Obi-Wan is a fool in death much like he was in life.” Vader grumbled.

“Okay, uncalled for, but whatever.” She sighed. “You’re a real pain, you know that?”

“I don’t care.”

She groaned and tilted her head back until she was staring directly at the ceiling. “Sweet Force. Now I’m seeing what he meant.”

He held back another petty comment and watched her, his arms still crossed over his chest. “What did you want me to do?”

She looked back at him scathingly. “You’re going to drop the title of Sith Lord, first of all.”

“Not likely.” Vader responded. “I do not ever plan on returning to the Jedi way.”

“Idiot.” She huffed. “It isn’t just Jedi versus Sith. What do you think I was after I left the Order?” She shook her head in disappointment. “Come on now, Anakin. No one’s asking you to go back to the Order that did nothing for you.” She suddenly sobered, her voice no longer carrying that hint of amusement. “But you don’t have to be Sith because of that. This isn’t good for you, either.”

Vader let out a cold chuckle. “Do you really think I can turn my back on the way of the Sith? I’ll be killed.”

“You were planning on rebelling against the Emperor anyways, weren’t you?” She asked, one brow raised. “Why not go the extra mile and turn your back on the teachings that put you in this miserable life in the first place?”

He shook his head. “No, Ahsoka.” The name hurt to speak aloud. “It is too late for me.”

“If it really was too late, do you think the Force would let me stay here and annoy you for so long?” She insisted. “No. I see it in you, Anakin. I know you can still do some good in the galaxy.”

“Then you are blind.” He said coldly. “If the Emperor thought I was capable of rejecting his teachings, he would have killed me years ago.”

Ahsoka scoffed, her arms crossed over her chest. “Are you really so dependent on your master’s approval?” She shook her head sadly. “No, I think you’re just scared.”

“Sidious has great power. He would know if I planned on turning on him.” Vader let his voice fall flat. He didn’t want the ghost to hear how much it hurt to say those words. “I have no choice.”

“There is always a choice, Anakin.” She said, in that voice that pierced his heart. He clenched a fist and held back a scream of frustration.

“Where was my choice?” He growled.

Ahsoka looked at him sadly. “You made it.”

Vader shook his head stiffly. “If you thought that was a choice, then you truly never understood my reasons.”

“You can always make another choice, Anakin.” Her tone was soft.

“I can’t.” His vocoder did not translate the way his voice broke, but it was clear Ahsoka had heard it anyways.

“You can. And I’ll help you.” She stepped forward and held out one ghostly hand to her old teacher.

He stared at her outstretched arm, reaching towards him, for a long time.

Then, as if pushing through a durasteel wall, Anakin Skywalker reached back.