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An Absence of Fear

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The child wasn’t afraid…

Everyone was afraid of him, either it was his reputation or his appearance.

Yet... The child stood proudly in front of him, no fear visible, just open curiosity. He was young and so very short, not even passing his knees, but he craned his head to stare at his head. Everyone else talked to his chest.

It hadn’t been planned for him to be here and then someone managed to sneak up on him, something no one had accomplished in years, and it was a child. Before he was aware of the child, he had been kneeling on the ground, uncaring for the malevolent sand creeping into his armor.

“What are you doing on Gramma’s grave?” the child had asked.

He had stood then and glared at the child, but the boy wasn’t fazed and just looked imploringly at him, unafraid.

The child tilted his head questioningly, “You’re not going to rob it are you?”

Anger coursed through him at the thought of someone robbing the grave, his mother’s. The threat of her being disturbed explained why she lacked a gravestone. He wanted to kneel down again, beg for forgiveness for not being able to save her. He knew he had utterly failed her.

The boy’s eyes kept him from moving, so he explained, “She was my mother. I’ve never visited her grave before.”

The boy looked down, puzzling over what he had said, then the youthful and hopeful eyes looked back up at him, “Are you Daddy’s ghost?”

Daddy…

The boy had called him Daddy, the Emperor’s attack dog, was being called Daddy.

Wanting to reassert himself, he thundered, “I’m very real boy, I’m Darth Vader.”

The expected fear flashed through the boy, but then it faded and the boy held out his hand, “Nice to meet you Darth, my name is Luke. I didn’t know Uncle Owen had a brother.”

For a moment he felt as if the respirator had failed, “Uncle Owen?”

Nodding enthusiastically, “Uh uh, he’s my uncle. Daddy died. Uncle Owen says he was a smuggler, which is awesome. I bet he was a great pilot. When I’m older, I’m also going to fly ships. They’ll be the fastest ships ever!”

For a moment he saw his younger self standing in front of him, telling strangers about his dreams. He reached out with the Force, brushing against the child’s mind. His eyes widened as he, for the first time, noticed the potent Force-signature. The child, his step-nephew, was Force-sensitive.

“I once knew many pilots, what was your father’s name?”

A dreamy smile appeared on Luke’s face, “Not supposed to talk to strangers, but you aren’t a stranger, are you? She’s your grandma too. Wait does that mean you’re my uncle?”

“Yes,” he whispered staring at the child.

He had given up everything for his wife and child, but in the end it didn’t matter. Now, his step-family, the ones who had failed to protect his mother, had a young child, so similar to what would’ve been his own.

“So, did you know a smuggler by Anakin, Anakin Skywalker?”

The name tore through his mind, shattering long held beliefs. He knelt down in front of the child, his child. The Force rang in him, telling him it was true. For six years he had grieved for his wife and unborn child, then an impromptu trip destroyed all of that. On his journey here, he had cursed himself for being so weak and falling to temptation. Now, he was grateful.

His child was standing in front of him. 

Reaching out with his prosthetic arm, he touched his son’s face, wishing he could feel it.

“Once,” he whispered, “that was my name. I was going to have a child, but then…”

Luke, his beautiful son, smiled at him and grasped his hand, “So you are my Daddy?”

“Yes,” the next words felt so right, “You are my son.”

He searched his son’s face, for the refusal, the hatred, but found none. There wasn’t even fear, only happiness. His son was happy to have him, he didn’t care about him being a monster that destroyed everything. The child was perfect and he hoped that as Luke would grow older they didn’t fall apart, like him and Obi-Wan did.

“Are you a good pilot?”

The question was so innocent and he wanted to laugh, pure untainted joy coursing through his body, “Yes Luke, I’m an excellent pilot. If you want to I can show you, when you come with me.”

There was no way that he was leaving his son now that he found him.

The smile on Luke’s face faltered a bit, “But Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru will miss me.”

He grabbed the boy, his arms pulling his child closer to him, and giving him a hug, “Where are they?”

Anger coursed through his body as he thought of them leaving his son alone at home, where he could be preyed upon by the sand people. It seemed the Lars family was doomed to not being able to protect them.

Luke sensed his anger, “It’s okay.”

He looked down at his son, “It’s not okay, you might’ve been hurt.”

Tears were beginning to form in Luke’s eyes, “Don’t be mad at them. They didn’t want to leave me alone, but they had to talk with the Hutts ‘cause they need to pay taxes. It isn’t safe for me there.”

Thinking of Luke, the last remnant of his angel being taken by the Hutts, forced into slavery caused his anger to increase. On the other hand he had to admit to himself, no matter how he didn’t like it, his step-brother had made the right decision.

“Nobody is ever going to take you from me,” he promised.

He stood up, grabbing Luke and hoisting him onto his shoulders. His Tie-fighter might be a little cramped with another person inside, but he’d endure. There was a person he cared about now and he wasn’t going to be letting Luke go. Ever.

“Daddy, I don’t want to leave Uncle Owen!”

He didn’t want to see his step-family either. Luke would soon get used to the Sith way, but he had a feeling that him killing the only family the boy knew wouldn’t go overly well.

“You,” it pained him to say this, “can visit them once a year, it’s going to be alright. They’ll know what happened.”

Before his son could protest more, he manipulated the Force, causing Luke to fall asleep. In time, his son would forget about his step-family. Like father, he’d never return unless the situation was dire.

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It turned out his son was a lot less like him, very aware of the past and future, never the present. Sometimes he wanted to shake Luke upside down and see what strange ideas were floating around in the youth’s mind. Every single year, the boy returned to his step-family.

His Master hadn’t been pleased when he found out about his son, but Luke’s skills never surpassed those of an Inquisitor. Reluctantly, the Emperor had allowed his son to live with his father.

Now, storming into a cruiser, he missed his son casually swinging his own red blade by his side. Luke, once again, had decided he wanted to visit Tatooine. He irritatedly snapped the neck of the man who he was choking. His Master would be most displeased if he didn’t find the Death Star plans. Should his master be displeased with him, Luke always suffered instead.

He stared at the Princess who was glaring at him, anger in her eyes. She wouldn’t hesitate to kill, unlike his son. His son, who despite his own best attempts, never became truly adapt with the Darkside, always weak. There wouldn’t be two Skywalkers overthrowing the Emperor any time soon.

The plans weren’t on the ship, of course. The only clue to where they could’ve gone was an escape pod… going to Tatooine, where his son was. He wanted to wring the Princess’s neck as she looked at him upon his entering of the cell.

“What? I’m not going to tell you anything, and tell your son, that he should stop staring at me. Where is he anyway?” the Princess complained, her tongue always moving.

Desperately praying to the Force, he hoped the Princess was imagining things and not stating the truth. He couldn’t bare the idea of his son having a relationship with her, one rebellious son was already enough. He didn’t need the rebel, literally, girlfriend.

It took almost three days for his son to answer his comm, which begged the question why he even got his son one. His troops couldn’t find his son either, who had apparently disappeared into thin air. Luke’s smiling face appeared, the goofy grin promising trouble.

“Luke, why didn’t you answer your comm?”

The grin didn’t fade, “I was busy and sort of forgot I turned it off. But Dad, you’ve got to let the Princess go.”

Sometimes the Force hated him, “You found the droids.”

“I pity the poor stormtroopers who try to pick them up, the golden one will drive you insane with his talking and Artoo is awesome, but man, he’s a sneaky little droid.”

“Luke,” he said warningly, “turn them in.”

His son shook his head, still grinning, “Nope Dad, not unless you let the Princess go.”

“Not happening.”

His son shrugged apologetically, “Sorry Dad. Before I go, one quick question why does Kenobi say he taught you and that you killed Anakin Skywalker, it doesn’t make much sense.”

The Force did indeed hate him, “You’re with Obi-Wan-”

Interjecting, “He goes by Ben now.”

“He’s a Jedi, Luke I’m coming to get you. Stay put.”

Someone was shouting in the background, “Gotta go Dad, talk to you later. By the way, I like your old lightsaber better.”

“Luke,” he growled and the comm turned off.

For years he had been waiting for Luke to enter his teenage years and drive him nuts. It seemed that his son had chosen the worst time possible and followed the Princess’s example. Not only that, Luke had somehow accidentally stumbled upon his nemesis, while visiting his family, and then decided to follow the guy. He had been searching for Kenobi for years and his son found him by accident.

Reaching into the Force he brushed against his son’s mind, letting his love for Luke show, in return Luke lowered his own mental shields to pour out his own love for him. He wanted to sigh in relief, his son would come back. In a couple days, his son would be disillusioned with the Jedi and return home. Everything would be fine, as long as his son didn’t do anything stupid, like decide to become a Jedi.

He stood still as the possibility presented himself and he instinctively knew that was what Luke was going to do. Wanting to groan he desperately prayed to the Force, the boy wouldn’t do anything more rash like joining the Rebellion by trying to blow up the Death Star.

His son wasn’t suicidal after all…

A memory resurfaced of his son surprising him by saying, “What are you doing on Gramma’s grave?”

It seemed like a lifetime ago, but that young boy was still present in his son, always unafraid… unlike him.

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