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and if I were you, I would never let me go

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Mysterious are the ways of the Force, they say.

I.


Something, something monstrous slithers into him with sharpened claws sunk deep in his heart. He recognizes it is rage, and so he acts, oh how he acts. Oxygen fills his lungs and his blood runs hot once more as he boards the docking channel between the crippled Rebel flagship and the Alderaanian ship.

There’s a wickedness to his pursuit and a deadly accuracy to his aim. Men die as he moves towards them that hold the hard copy of the Death Star plans.

He is sure, thoroughly and completely, that the plans are his quarry; that this is what is making the Force sing inside of him, strengthening his limbs and bring speed to his motions. He is wielding a power stronger than the dark side; and it’s overwhelming, an intense inertia that drives him forward.

There’s a desperation inside him, a feeling like no other – success is his only option, the only balm to this growing wound.

But too soon, it’s over; his momentum interrupted by the ship detaching, sailing out into space and away from him. Red fills his vision as well as the stars.

He thinks: I will take you, I will have you.

What is left of his skin tingles as the Force flows through him with such longing as he hasn’t felt in years.

And out of reach, the flesh of his flesh, the blood of his blood, his daughter stands straight as steel.

*
When things were different, he held a senator in his arms and felt her skin against his bare skin. There was something marvelous about it, about her choosing to be with him despite the cost. She was light, incandescent. A glowing, wondrous being who loved him for all that he was.

Now, when deep in meditation, he sees her face but he cannot remember her name.

*
He knows about Organa’s daughter, of course. Princess, senator, now a confirmed traitor; famed for her ethical code and her wit. Some even remark that she is beautiful.

Now he knows that she is brave enough to face him unflinching with lies in her mouth.

The Force hums loudly as he considers that there is something impressive about her, and that it burns to know she will break under him – everyone does, after all.

*
Torture is an inelegant weapon that provides results, given enough time. He longs, oh how he longs for the ability to reach into a person’s mind and tear out the information himself. What a power that would be, he thinks.

Feelings, he can grasp, however.

The princess is afraid, she is very afraid, and she wishes for quiet and darkness. But there is also a fierce fire of determination within the depths of her that isn’t shaken, no matter what is done to her. She will not move, she will not speak, she will not succumb.

Curious, he reaches out with his mind, trying to understand.

She stares up at him; her gaze severe, and her mind a sturdy wall against him. And there’s something in her eyes that reminds him of—

And his skin tingles again.

*
Her devastation is complete with her planet in rubble. She leans heavily against him, and he notices his hand gripping her shoulder. When did I…? he thinks, and recalls it was to keep her still, not a comfort.

Still, there is something that pricks at his heart. He lost his whole world once, and it made him angry, made him hate. It made him powerful. Perhaps she would—

He stops, centers himself, and loosens his grip.

*
There is something ravenous within him as he stares into his old master’s eyes. He wants to consume him utterly, swallow him down, envelop the man into his hate. Hold his dying flesh close to hear his heart beating slow, slower, slower. This hunger tears at him like a flame.

And a thought rises up in him like a spring: too long have you been away from my side.

Through the sweet lulling of the dark side, a stillness guides his motions and a calm lingers in his mouth; but he smells blood in the water.

In the back of his mind, he knows the princess is escaping and there is some glimmer of joy in that. To know she will breathe a while longer before they meet again. He knows, and with pleasure, that she will be stronger next time.

He quiets all thoughts. There is old business to attend to first.

The air crackles with the sheer weight of the living Force, and it moves like ocean waves between him and his old master. It guides his hand, strengthens his decision as the man holds perfectly still.

He strikes and a young man screams.

II.


Time seems to blur and—

—Hunger rises through him as he stares at the mask, crumbled and burned and weathered as it is. Ben reaches for it, and is surprised that it still has a residual heat. Not from the bright sun over Endor’s moon. No, not from that. And a frenzied delight radiates through him as his fingers touch the—

—Her fingernails dig deep into her skin as she watches him leave with the Jedi, his small frame moving away across the sand and out of her view. She aches for her son, aches to hold him in her arms forever. Kiss his face and tell him he’s a good son, her beloved. Love burns within her and—

—Twin suns burn over a desert planet and a boy longs for his father, longs to know him and be like him. To walk in his steps and echo his life. Every time he flies his speeder, it’s one small step towards being a pilot in the stars; inexorable and brave. A true hero who—

—A villain has haunted her steps most her life, and the dark side sings silently to her every time she thinks on him. It reminds her of every cut and pang and urges her to hate. But she considers the man, torn asunder, and a curiosity creeps into her heart—

—With every inch of her heart, she shouts the words: “I love you.” And the feeling still radiates from her and from the depths of her belly as his power chokes the air out of her, bringing her to her—

—Rey falls to her knees, with hard and fast breaths rushing into her lungs. Her fingers grasp his lightsaber tight, tight enough to leave an imprint in her hand. The Force envelops her, and it’s suffocating. She’s found her family, broken in shards, and a hunger rises through her —

—and the Force ripples its way in, and out.

III.


A Star Destroyer saves him from merciless space soon after the Death Star; it’s not luck, he knows, the Force has a destiny for him, yet incomplete.

They take him at his command directly to Mustafar’s unforgiving heat, and oh how it warms him. And in the sweetness of bacta, he can finally think, think it all through. Consider the turn of events, consider what the Force is whispering to him.

You can't win, the man said. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

Words were the old Jedi’s specialty; they are not things to be taken lightly.

So, he thinks, with death, and in death, who did the man inspire?

*
After days submerged, he arises to inform his staff that a visit to the emperor is imperative, only to be interrupted with a priority message from Coruscant.

Imperial spies have discovered the name of the person responsible for the Death Star’s destruction.

And everything, everything changes.

*
He loved her; she was radiant, a shining light, a beacon calling to him. Her startling news stung at first, every hair on the back of his neck rose with the fear of discovery, the burden of responsibility. But then, but then there was only joy and a strange and new kind of longing.

He loved her; and he would have loved her child.

*
“Asteroids do not concern me, Admiral. I want that ship, not excuses.”

He is angry, so much so that the words almost come out in Huttese. And he knows his desperation is a weakness, but the Corellian ship is a lead to finding his son; the best lead he’s had in months. That’s why no expense will be spared, why an entire fleet will seek out one little ship and its crew.

It’s impossible that the obviously malfunctioning ship is evading them, them, the Imperial fleet. It’s almost, he thinks with rage, as if the Force wills it this way.

But this isn’t the first time he’s resisted the Force.

He reaches, scattershot, through the asteroid field to find them, search them out. With eyes closed, he thinks on the young Skywalker’s face and hunts for those who hold him in their hearts. Abruptly, and delightfully, he hits a wall, fierce fire and deeply hidden.

His lips curl up into a smile behind the mask. Better, and better.

*
It’s a city in the clouds; lovely and luminous. The perfect place for the perfect trap. He can taste victory in his mouth. Soon, very soon, it will all come together.

His body aches, sharp little agonies across scarred skin and deep inside. It’s the price he pays for feeling light, feeling pleasure. The anger he usually savors is absent in this moment of triumph.

But a ragged breath is met with a wall of hate, someone’s burning fire. He looks across the smoking and sour smelling pit in the belly of the city, and he feels the fevered heat from the princess. He almost has to take a step back as her hate swells through the air towards him, daggers of bitter fury. She’s such a little thing, but her feelings so powerful. It takes his breath away.

It was the plan to leave her here, let her stew in this deep rage and grow to be a stronger opponent, someone worthy of him.

Her stance is firm, and her stare is long, lingering. His hands ball into fists and the Force sings inside of him, a sound that reverberates and echoes throughout.

No, he thinks, no. He’s can’t let her go. He will have a matched set. The princess and his son. Their destinies lie with him.

When she breaks off the gaze, when she leans in to kiss the condemned mercenary, a memory worms its way out from the darkest reaches of his heart.

Her name was Padme.

*
Then, Luke looks up at him for the first time and it all falls apart.

*
Vicious is his tone, cutting are his words. His anger returns because his son is his old master’s puppet, almost a mirrored image. It will be laborious to turn this bright shining star; to twist him into something worthwhile. And he longs, for a moment, for a different child.

The Force whispers in his ear, but he does not understand.

IV.


Submerged again, he dreams about her.

The general learned from her father that meetings occur while standing. It keeps them short and to the point, no lazy conversations. Lengthy debate does not have a place here in the resistance. Words don’t win wars. Her feet stopped hurting years ago.

The general learned from her father that your hands get dirty if you are truly going to lead a rebellion to victory. Spies do their jobs and spies die in the service. Even before the original Death Star plans were obtained, drenched in blood: this was a tenet of success.

The general learned from her father that her anger can be channeled into something productive. It’s one thing to wallow in it, let it leach the kindness out of you; it’s quite another to redirect it into an indefatigable drive. Power is power, he said; use it wisely.

The general learned from her father that a Jedi brings a peculiar weight to the war room. Warlike guardians of the peace, their history is a contradiction to be studied and used for the benefit of the resistance. In particular, Kenobi had his uses; he could negotiate as well as he could slaughter, if pointed in the right direction.

The general learned from her father that people will follow your lead if you surround yourself with a smart team; no sycophants or weak willed, weak bellied individuals. They believe in you, believe in each other. And the people you trust the most, with your life, is family.

And the general’s son learned from her: blood will tell.

V.


Having lost him, the search for the boy is now all consuming. There is only ash and dust in his Mustafar sanctuary – no time for respite. Surely the boy’s anguish will have tinged his heart, made cracks in his soul. He has little memory of the how and the why he himself went from embracing the light to kneeling under the weight of the dark side; but surely, he can repeat it with the boy.

A report reaches him that Skywalker and his friends were on Tatooine. Gone now, having left Jabba and his palace in shattered ruins. A good man, he thinks, would have negotiated his way out, not this abject bloodletting. Perhaps the touch of his old master wanes.

It’s a peculiar sort of feeling as he thinks on the desert planet. The boy had lived there with his mother –

No, he thinks. That was another boy.

*
They sit together, man and wife, and her lips are at his neck, whispering promises. He called her an angel once, looked up into her eyes and only saw the stars. Now, his hand is at her belly, willing the child to know it is precious, it is loved.

He will do anything, even change the will of the Force itself to care for the child.

*
It’s the blaring of an alarm, and it seems to echo against steel and concrete. His son is on an Imperial shuttle headed for Endor’s moon, a blatant siren of rebel forces falling into the emperor’s trap – and only he can hear it, sense it.

His trusted admiral stares up at him with curiosity, patiently waiting for his command. What little he knows.

A tractor beam, he thinks, could bring about a swift end to his hunt across the stars for Luke Skywalker.

With a smile, he can sense that Luke knows this, realizes his folly, and is experiencing the delicious chaos of panic. But as he expands his reach, he feels the wall of her mind, and a fleeting taste of her hate for him.

This catch of the day would be simple and sweet.

But his master had said: in time, he will seek you out. And his master never lies.

Breathing is always difficult but especially now. “Leave them to me. I will deal with them myself.”

*
Endor’s moon is a paradise, he thinks, and wonders if it will be the first demonstration of the Death Star’s full firepower.

With every bit of his strength, he searches out into the wilds for his son, and confirms his presence in the dark night. And curiously, the boy’s light seems to brighten, an intense accumulation of the Force in one singular location. It’s almost as if he – as if he doubles, cloned.

And then the Force whispers in her voice: What does your heart tell you?

*
Padme’s son looks up at him, prepared to win a debate not a fight to the death.

Behind the mask: the smallest of smiles.

*
There is something, something deeply safeguarded within Luke’s mind. Something momentous since all his other thoughts lay bare and naked to the slightest probe.

There is his anger and confusion towards his old master.

There is the desperate hope for the rebel’s foolhardy plans.

There is a growing fear of the emperor, and understanding of his words.

And there is love, an aching expanse of love for his friends and for – and for –

The ground beneath his feet suddenly feels unstable.

He first sees the curve of her mouth, the flash of her eyes, and then a full face forms in his mind. Her voice sweetens the thought and he can see her at her brightest, when not consumed with hate. Her light is incandescent, a loving kindness, and so familiar.

He drinks it all in, breathing easy for the first time.

“Sister,” he hisses and his heart expands.

He is sure, thoroughly and completely, now that she has always been his quarry; that this is what is making the Force sing inside of him, strengthening his limbs and bring speed to his motions. He is wielding a power stronger than the dark side; and it’s overwhelming, an intense inertia that drives him forward.

He’s stuck by a vision of standing beside her, lightsabers bared. The start of something truly, truly wonderful. The galaxy would tremble.

Every inch of his skin tingles, and he opens his mouth: “If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will.”

The air becomes electric as sheer rage ignites in the boy. A fierce fire floods out of him, sharply in tune with the dark side. NEVER is the scream ripped out of the boy’s mouth and shrieked vehemently through the Force.

Nothing could have prepared Anakin Skywalker for this moment.

Nothing.

*
Are you alright?, he said. You're trembling.

And she replied: Something wonderful has happened.

*
He’s never really considered his death; the only legitimate threat to his life has been the existence of a son, and even then, he didn’t have much concern. The dark side would protect him; he has a destiny to bring balance to the Force.

Yet here he is. With the sizzle of a lightsaber over his head, and the surging power of hate pressing against him from all corners.

Fighting for oxygen, he stares at the flesh of his flesh, the blood of his blood. And his heart changes.

*
Systems are failing rapidly, tinny alarms ring in his ears without cessation. Knowledge is one thing, accepting it is another. “Help me take this mask off”, he begs his son.

The Force whispers to him in Obi-Wan’s voice: the ability to defy oblivion can be achieved. listen to me, listen to me, my friend.

His heart beats like a drum against all odds.

*
The cold air touches his skin, and something tight and wretched enters his lungs: he’s not accustomed to unfiltered air.

But her face is all he can see. She’s a beacon to him, bright as her mother. Stronger than steel and shining like a star. She hovers in his mind’s eye, unyielding and magnificent. What worlds they would conquered together, or, or, what grace she would have passed on to him.

He grips the boy’s elbow and lacking the strength to shake him as he says: “Tell your sister, you were right.”

She is his last thought; Leia, his heir.

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