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On the Day Before

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The alert pops up on Vader's datapad with an annoyingly cheery chime, interrupting his meditation. He frowns down at the summary describing the recording as a conversation between Senators Mon Mothma and Leia Organa from earlier that day. Both are known rebels, thorns in the Empire's side, but he's been forbidden from killing them until his Master says so. They have their parts to play, Sidious tells him, and Vader acquiesces without question. He has his orders and he follows them, and the ISB monitors all senatorial conversations as a matter of course; there is little of interest to him in their pointless natterings.

Still, it must have been forwarded to him for a reason, so he adds it to the list of reports to comb through when he has a moment. Perhaps one of them has finally let something interesting slip, though he would be surprised if that were so; Mothma is a wily politician to have survived so long in the Imperial Senate even with her known rebel sympathies, and Organa, despite her youth, is a durasteel trap waiting to spring.

The datapad chimes again fifteen minutes later, more insistently, and he gives up on meditating altogether. The Force clearly has other plans for him this evening.

He settles at his desk with a sigh. Mothma is a known quantity, all her rough edges and enthusiasms smoothed away by time, but Organa is tiresomely young and angry, a tiny spitfire with a surprisingly cutting tongue for someone raised by a career diplomat like Bail Organa. She reminds him--He cuts the thought off ruthlessly, only to let out a muttered curse when the recording begins.

"You remind me of a very dear friend," Mothma is saying.

"Senator Amidala," Organa replies.

Vader's throat aches suddenly, more than usual. This is why the recording was flagged for him. He'd set up the alert years ago, back when he'd used her death to stoke the fires of his rage rather than allowing his grief to swallow him whole. Her name had faded from the lips of the galaxy, but it could still rouse a tempest in his heart.

"Yes," Mothma says, surprised. "I suppose Bail told you about her. They were also good friends."

"Yes," Organa says. Her voice drops to a whisper. "I believe she was my birth mother."

Mothma's sharp intake of breath is drowned out by the pounding in Vader's ears, the exultant triumph blaring in the Force, and her next words seem to come from very far away. "Bail didn't tell you that."

"No, I went to Theed with the junior legislators and on our last day there, we visited her tomb, and even though they say she died pregnant, I just--I knew." She lets out a soft huff of laughter, as if she's afraid of being disbelieved. "Papa says she was good friends with a Jedi, a Jedi he was also friends with, who he has spoken of, so I thought perhaps--"

"Leia--" Mothma's tone takes on a warning the young senator would do well to heed, but of course, she doesn't.

"Obi-Wan Kenobi was my father." The words tumble out in a breathless rush.

The datapad crumples in on itself with a sharp clatter and a shattering of plastic.

After several long moments during which Vader's respirator forces him to breathe evenly despite his roiling emotions, he calms enough to reach for another pad from the many littering his desk. On it, he cues up the recording again. This time, he steels himself against Organa's misapprehension and discovers that Mothma has corrected it.

"No, not Kenobi," she says with a soft laugh. "Though I can understand why you'd leap to that conclusion, as he and your father were close. He was friendly with Padmé, and quite dashing, but she only had eyes for his partner, Anakin Skywalker. They thought they were being discreet, but one only had to look at them..." Mothma trails off with another laugh.

Vader feels a fierce sense of vindication at being acknowledged as having the sole claim to Padmé's heart, accompanied by a brief, unexpected burst of shame that he had ever doubted, that he had killed her with his doubts. In becoming Vader, he thought he had shed all vulnerability to Skywalker's awkwardness or humiliation, but now he feels himself flush at Mothma's gentle teasing, even though it's not directed at him.

"What happened to him?" Organa--no, Leia asks, and though the recording is sound only, and from hours ago, Vader thinks he can feel her aching curiosity through the Force.

"He died in the assault on the Jedi Temple."

Vader snarls, though it's true enough from a certain point of view. Certainly he's claimed credit for Skywalker's death himself, the brutal, bitter end of the weak boy in favor of the powerful man he's become.

"Oh." Leia sighs. "Can you tell me about them?"

"It's not safe," Mothma replies. "Not here, anyway." She changes the subject to a reception both of them will be attending that evening, and Vader grits his teeth. Even if he were on-planet, it would be too late now to seek her out there, but soon, he will track down Padmé's daughter and claim her as his own.

Before he can do that, there is much work to do to keep her secret, and safe from his Master. Vader settles in for a long night at his desk, plotting his revolution.