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Stricken

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You look at him and you're stricken. Was there ever enough goodness in you to create something so beautiful? 

He looks like Anakin, you think. In the tilt of his lips, the set of his jaw. His eyes are the exact same shape and color his had been, though you haven't seen them in two decades, so there's no way to be sure. All the same, gazing into them, you can remember how it felt to be young. How it felt to care for something other than yourself.

It's cruel. To have him dangled taltalizingly before you, all blue eyes, blond hair, and righteousness. It almost hurts to look, but not to would be unforgivable.

He is a marvel. The best thing you've ever done.

After Bespin, you used to think he took after Anakin in temperament - angry, brash, so much younger than he knew - and the part of you that is still Anakin cringes at the thought. Now, however, you think that assumption might have been wrong.

Now you look at him and see her, gazing up at you.

Luke stands with his back straight, shoulders squared, eyes locked onto yours, and there is a balance in him, a serenity Anakin was never able to achieve. His build is slim, much like hers had been, though you can sense a raw power hidden there, wiry muscles rippling underneath that deceptively thin body.

His chin is lifted. His gaze still hasn't faltered, and there is nobility there. Calm. Tranquility.

There is caution, but underneath that, kindness. Warmth. His aura burns bright, and it reaches out for yours, tentative, but steady. Strong. He does not cringe from the darkness he finds.

He believes in you. Murderous demon though you are. And you can't understand it - certainly haven't given him any reason to look beyond this husk of empty armor.

You don't understand.

Then suddenly, you do.

His eyes may look like Anakin's, but they're bright with your wife's unselfish love.

Luke's pleading now, Come with me, and for a moment, you forget he's not her, begging you to leave it all behind. Desire seems a foreign emotion, but it's all-consuming, like the mid-day suns of Tatooine, and it slams into you like a tidal wave.

The boy's face blurs. Suddenly his hair looks darker and the blue of his eyes fades to Padme's warm, unforgettable chocolate brown.

Padme. Ah, to breathe her name again.

They're both standing here, mother and son united. Your beloved, and the child you'll never have.

Come away with me.

But why?

Luke's devotion is completely unfounded. You hunted him down like every other Jedi, backed him into a corner, disfigured him, and nearly sent him to an early grave. By all rights, he should hate you.

Against all odds, he does not.

He wants you to tell him you're not a monster. That there is still a scrap of humanity remaining in the walking corpse called Darth Vader. He wants so badly to believe there is good left within, but you're not sure there's anything to scrounge up, and you don't pretend to even entertain the thought of accepting his offer. Two decades worth of blood does not simply disappear on a whim.

The things you've done are beyond any sort of redemption this naive boy can give. He doesn't know that yet, but you do.

Don't you?

And all for this. All for Palpatine.

His crimes against you are so numerous, only a fool would miss them. You know that. You know what he's done. He is the cancer eating at every cell in your body, and your usefulness to him is practically at an end.

That is the whole reason he has indulged this...obsession with Luke for so long. He wants him just as badly as you do.

Amazingly, your blood boils at the thought. Hasn't he taken enough - but what can you do? Palpatine is your Master, and loathsome though he is, he is all you have left. The only thing you've ever touched that didn't crash, bleeding at your feet.

Luke...he's too good. Too pure. You'll break him.

Ruin him.

Like Mother.

Obi-Wan.

...Padme.

You could still overthrow Palpatine, you suppose. Take his Empire for yourself. But to what end? You'd be ruling alone.

This boy wears his heart on his sleeve, staring, staring, always staring with earnest eyes that are both Anakin's (yours?) and hers. There can be no doubt that even though your shriveled, black heart yearns for a future with Luke by your side, a part of you – the better part - knows he'll never turn.

And you don't want him to.

This time, it is you who locks eyes with Luke as he's marched across the hallway and ushered into the elevator. Unarmed, packed tight between stormtroopers with no way out. He knows he is being carted off to his doom, but he never wavers. His eyes stay fixed on you, as if your blackened armor isn't in the way, and you could swear a corner of his lips tugs at the barest hint of a smile.

"I can feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate!"

The heart you've forgotten swells with untold emotion, and for the second time, you're stricken.

You love him.

But you know better than to think that's ever enough.