The Lars name worked its way through the defenses Vader wore, the fine sand-grit of his memories penetrating impenetrable armor and the constant haze of pain to stab right at the heart of him. Another man might have regretted their ignoble deaths—through the Force he felt the fear their passing wrought on one another, smelled the char of their bones as stormtroopers left this place a wreck—but Vader was not any other man and he merely remembered Owen’s cowardice and complacency, Beru’s pointless kindnesses.
They were born of the desert and, if the fresh-dark turn of the ground nearby was any indication, they’d returned to it not long ago, placed there by gentler hands than they deserved. He’d caught a glimpse of a marker next to the homestead itself and that only angered him all the more. It looked so much like another marker that stood not far from here. Even now Vader knew which way to turn to find it and he hated that they shared something with her that he did not. His mo—
He hoped they choked on the weight of the dust that held them in place beneath the earth.
Tatooine destroyed all things quicker than most places in the galaxy and the homestead, though never a refined place to begin with, had been ravaged without the daily upkeep that made the place livable. Sand already clogged the front entrance and razor-sharp storms were hard at work eroding the dome that protected the living areas. The locking mechanisms on the door were jammed. They, too, failed beneath Tatooine’s disinterested sun. With the Force, he twisted and pulled the metal barrier until there was no longer a door to concern himself with.
For a moment, he stood there, boots braced on the threshold. He hadn’t needed to come here, had told no one where he’d gone. Except that he had. Ever since he found out the truth, he’d known he’d have to come back.
He had to stoop to gain entrance, the bulk of his armor too much for this place.
No sound save the rasping of his own breath greeted him. He hadn’t been sure what to expect to find here. Something extraordinary. Something terrifying. Something that answered his questions, pointed his way, gave him a path forward.
This was where his son had been forced to grow up.
This was Obi-Wan’s doing.
The cupboards in the tiny kitchen unit rattled and a few plates that sat on the table, their contents desiccated and impossible to identify, came dangerously close to being shattered.
If he hadn’t already destroyed his old master, he’d do it again just for this.
No son of his belonged in this hellhole.
Dust swirled and eddied in the light streamed in through the entryway, the presence of a breeze disturbing everything in the place for the first time in who knew how long. It was such a minor thing, the dust, but rage built in Vader’s chest all the same at seeing it in this home that had once been Luke’s.
Where was his son now?
He intended to find out and get him back. They would rule the galaxy side by side, just as it was meant to be. Who could stand against them, the two most powerful Force users in the galaxy? They would defeat the Emperor. They would recreate the Empire in their image.
If he were capable of smiling, he might have done so.
The Force lit him on fire from the inside out, his awareness of the lives and deaths that took place here inflaming him. He wanted nothing more than to leave, but wanted nothing less than to stay. His hatred of this place throbbed inside of him, poured through his veins like molten duraplast, sticky and slow-moving. It coated him in fury and burned him from the inside out.
So many echoes lingered, the screech of children, the fights he imagined all parents had with their offspring, the groaning malaise of hard labor done on a world ill-suited to life. The taste of bantha milk, thick and a little sweet, coated the back of his throat. He almost wretched at it, the flavor so much more than his system knew how to handle anymore.
His body swept through the home almost of its own accord. His eyes saw all; his mind felt more.
There was one room in particular where he lingered. Ships’ parts and droid parts and wires spilled across every flat surface. A model ship hung from a hook someone had drilled into the ceiling. Vader’s fingers pressed against one wing and set it to spinning. It looked ancient to Vader’s eyes, a reminder of the ships he flew Before, three sets of wings instead of two, like insects.
Every instinct told him to crush it.
It couldn’t harm him. And that, in its way, angered him, too.
The life of a sensitive, earnest boy lingered in this place. It wasn’t the upbringing Vader knew, but it wasn’t the one he’d expected for any child of his either. It was too ordinary, yet too harsh. All this time, he’d belonged with his true family. He never should have been shunted off onto people who weren’t his. He should have stayed with his father.
The Emperor should have known and he should have told Vader if he did.
And if the Emperor was as powerful as he proclaimed himself to be, he would have known. Vader’s son wouldn’t have been able to destroy the battle station he’d allowed to be constructed in his name. If the Emperor was all powerful, of course.
Perhaps he was not.
The desert made Vader bold, his rage incandescent beneath its scorching, vile atmosphere. The Emperor was a fool and a charlatan.
The Emperor was no longer the only thing Vader had to live for.
Twisting on his heels, his cape whipping around his ankles, he marched away from his child’s room, from his childhood home, from the people who’d been his parents in Vader’s stead. Standing outside the homestead, he turned toward the suns now setting over the dunes. Bad memories wove their way through Vader’s conscience—what little of it remained to him—a reminder of the sort of things that happened on Tatooine.
It still hurt all these years later, the wound still capable of opening at the slightest invocation. It was the only place in him not enshrined in scar tissue. His mother died out there. His remembrance of that fact never faded, never aged.
But for one shining moment, he felt peace, too, or as close to it as he still knew how to recognize, almost enough to send him to the cybernetic joints that made up his knees. At the same time, the faint, shimmering light of a golden-headed boy danced just out of reach. The mirage fooled even the enhancements in his helmet that allowed him to see and that should not have been possible.
He shook the image from his mind.
There was much still to do.
He would not be persuaded by gentle visions; he would be the one doing the persuading.
That mirage would be his, just as the galaxy would be.
And everything, he thought, would be set right then.