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1. When he's eight years old he decides that freedom means never having to say "Yes Master" or any variation thereof again.

2. Two days later, he starts counting. In one day, he says it 13 times. Kitster says he said it 16 times, and Anakin wonders if that's worse, or just more of the same.

3. When the Jedi comes, Anakin calls him "sir." He hates that word, too, but he's learned the hard way that it's safer. The Jedi doesn't correct him.

4. Even so, for a few days after leaving Tatooine he almost believes he's free. He's off planet (and that's where all the freed people go, isn't it?), and in a starship, and he's going to be a Jedi. He's heard a lot of stories about the Jedi, but none of them say they're slaves.

5. He was wrong, though. He has to call all the Jedi "Master," and there are rules to follow, and they cut his hair and dress him and tell him where to go and how to behave and what to do. Master Obi-Wan tries to explain the difference, but he can't see it, so he doesn't understand.

He chafes, but never too much. He's always known just how far he can push, and no further.

6. By the time he's nineteen years old, and in love, he's said "Yes Master" 22,753 times.

7. Padmé is upset that they have to hide their wedding, that it has to be private and unshareable. She pretends that it doesn't bother her so much, and in return he pretends that it does bother him, too.

It doesn't, though. On Tatooine, all slave marriages are like this. He's always known he would get married this way.

8. He's going to be a father, and he's joyful and giddy and terrified. (He's now said "Yes Master" 35,802 times.)

There's a corner of his mind that repeats the old Tatooine law like a mantra. Children follow the mother. His child will be free.

9. There's something to be said, he thinks, for choosing one's own master. Or at least having the illusion of choice. He's now said "Yes Master" 35,998 times, and as he kneels before Palpatine, he could almost believe this is what he's always wanted.

10. Luke is twenty-four years old, whole, and beautiful, and he's never said "Yes Master" in his life. Vader doesn't know this empirically, of course, but he knows it all the same. The slave can always recognize the free man.

It's not until Luke lifts away his mask and looks at him with desert blue eyes that Anakin realizes he's said "No" for the very first time.