Come With MeAuthor :
jedinemoRating and disclaimer :
Rated PG-13.The Star Wars Universe belongs to George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd, and I have gained nothing but satisfaction from this fanfic.Summary :
On a landing platform on the moon of Endor, a decision is made. AU. Some events referenced are detailed in The Vader Chronicles
"Leave? You want to leave now," he said, gesturing towards the headless corpse,"when we have killed the Emperor and everything is going as it should?"
Leia's eyes grew large. "We belong with the Alliance, with our friends."
He rose swiftly. "And not with your father?"
"You know?" she said, easing herself up from Luke's side.
"Yes, just today," he said. "How long have you known?"
"Since yesterday," she said, and her gaze fell to the floor.
"And it means nothing to you?" he said, pacing the length of Luke's still form."He...and you...are everything to me. I would do anything
Her brow creased and her mouth formed silent words before she finally spoke."That's what he's afraid of. He doesn't want the same things you do. He won't do the things you would."
"No, because no one else can do what I can. Who else could have slain Palpatine?" he said, turning on his heel and walking away from her.
Rage swept through him in a blinding rush. Nothing had changed. He was still being used, used for his powers, then shoved away. Just like the Council. Just like Palpatine. He had never expected it from his own children. Or maybe it was just her. You will not take him from me
He whirled about and strode towards her, quickly catching up to her even as she stumbled backwards. He extended his arm, his finger pointing at her ungrateful face.He stared into her eyes, the scathing words that crowded his mind threatening to explode from him.
Her face bore the look of a trapped animal, fear filling her dark brown eyes. The eyes that were so much like her mother's that he found it hard to look in them now that he knew. He didn't want fear in those eyes, just as he had wanted to erase the horror in Padme's eyes that last day on Mustafar. How many times had he wished he could change the events of that day?
His finger curled back into his fist and his arm sank to his side. He couldn't change the past, but neither did he have to repeat it.
He glanced back at Luke, who had begun to stir, one arm folding across his belly. Kneeling to the floor, he smoothed Luke's hair and his son's eyelids fluttered at the touch. His hand trailed down Luke's arm and he rested it there, the warmth from Luke's skin penetrating his glove.
"He'll be awake soon," he said."If he tells me that he wants to leave, I will arrange safe passage for the both of you."
The clatter of approaching boots drew his attention and he returned to his feet. Two ensigns lowered a medical capsule to the floor under the supervision of an MD-5 droid. They lifted Luke carefully into the capsule and secured him as the Emdee began attaching the leads of the lifesigns monitor.
"I'm sorry, sir, we didn't know to bring two capsules," one of the ensigns said, his head bowed.
He followed the ensign's line of sight to Palpatine's body. "That one is beyond help. But I will accompany the Emdee and you may remain to clean up the mess."
Repulsors lifted the capsule to transport height, its controls activated by the Emdee. As the capsule floated forward, he walked next to it, letting the droid lead the way. He noticed Luke's lightsaber lying abandoned on the floor and he called it to his hand, then tucked it next to Luke's still unconscious form.
Leia came to the other side of the capsule."Can I go with you?"
He glanced at her."Of course."
"What were you about to say to me?" she asked with suspicion.
He focused on the display of the medical monitor. "It was of no consequence."
"Oh," she said, and looked away.
They walked on in silence until it grew too heavy for him. "When we arrive at the med bay I want you to be examined also."
"I'm fine," she said quietly.
He looked at her. "I would prefer to let the Emdee make that decision."
She stared at him for a moment, then nodded.
They had just exited the hangar when he was struck by the waves of nausea and weakness that heralded a large disturbance in the Force. His comlink chimed in his hand even as he attempted to contact the bridge. "Yes?"
Piett's voice carried uncharacteristic tension."The Death Star has exploded. We have been awaiting an order to engage the Rebels. Shall we deploy with the rest of the Fleet?"
Immediately his mind leapt to anticipate Palpatine's response. He relaxed when he remembered that was no longer necessary. The Empire knelt at his feet now."No. Order the entire Fleet to stand down."
There was a pause before Piett's bewildered voice came across the com."Surrender, m'lord?"
"Certainly not," he snorted. "But a cease-fire."
"On whose order should I say this has come?" Piett said.
"Mine, Admiral. The Emperor lives no more," he said."And tell any commander who hesitates to comply that I will enforce the order personally."
As he reattached the com to his belt he noticed Leia's stare."You have something to say?"
"You don't seem very upset about losing the Empire's greatest weapon," she said.
"It was an abomination," he said.
"You didn't seem to feel that way when you captured the Tantive
," she said."You acted as if it was the most important thing in the Galaxy."
"It was Tarkin's pet, and the Emperor's," he said."At times even I have had to follow orders."
"Is that all it was, what you did to me? Following orders?" she said.
Her words stung him and he lowered his head."Had I known of our relation, I would have never questioned you so...vigorously."
Her eyes narrowed."If I had known, I still wouldn't have told you anything."
He looked at her across the medical capsule."From you, I would expect nothing less."
The ebb and flow of sound rocked him gently, a sound not unlike the recordings he had heard from the Mon Calamari homeworld. The steady rhythm lulled him even as a part of him struggled towards wakefulness. At last he recognized the sound : not an alien sea, but his father's ventilator.
His eyes blinked open, taking in the stark brightness of the room. Lying in a bed of pristine white sheets, he was alone except for the black masked figure who stood at his shoulder. "Am I dead?"
"No," his father answered.
Something didn't make sense. "But you're here."
am not dead," his father said.
He thought about that for a moment. Grief was still circulating in his mind, grief and desperation strangely mixed with a transcendent resolve. Because he had gone to the hangar to stop the Emperor...
His memory came back to him in a rush and he bolted upright in his bed, struggling to free himself from the confines of the sheets. "Leia..."
"She is fine, merely being examined by the Emdee," his father said, guiding him back down into the bed."Do not strain yourself."
A wave of dizziness came over him, and he decided that was good advice. He fiddled with the bed controls to raise himself into a sitting position."Was I out long?"
"Long enough," his father said, moving to the side of the bed.
He ran his hand through his hair and looked into the mask. "I was afraid I'd never get to talk to you again. I'm glad you're all right."
Vader was silent for a moment. "We have a lifetime to talk, if you wish."If you wish
. The phrase puzzled him. "Then the Emperor is dead?"
"Quite dead," his father said.
"But how?" he said, remembering the events in the hangar."I felt your pain. And then I couldn't sense you at all."
"Like you, I was rendered unconscious by Force lightning," Vader said. "Fortunately, Artoo found me and was able to reset the controls of my suit."
"The droids," he said, rubbing his hand over his face. "I'd forgotten about them."
"It's understandable. Once Piett told me you had gone after Palpatine I knew you would be in over your head."
He rolled his eyes. "Thanks for the vote of confidence."
"It is not an insult. He very nearly killed me," Vader said."That you had the courage to oppose him alone is impressive."
Warmth spread through him. That compliment meant something, an assessment from a man who had shared the experience. They had faced a common enemy, working together in spirit if not side by side. To think of himself and his father as a team felt right
His guilt burst out of him. "I should have never doubted you. I'm sorry I didn't wait for you."
Vader took a step back."Then it is true that you want to return to the Alliance?"
He winced."Did Leia tell you that?"
"Leaving was virtually the first thing she mentioned after I killed Palpatine," Vader said, walking to the far side of the room.
The hurt in his father's words was also palpable in the Force. A sigh escaped him, and he swung his legs over the side of the bed. "We were on our way out until I sensed that you had been injured."
"And now? Do you still wish to leave?" Vader said.
Easing himself off the bed, he stood for a moment to make sure his legs were steady before retrieving his boots and pulling them on."I don't know. I learned a few things about you since then. You know that Piett is one hell of an officer."
"I am aware," his father said."Why do you still hesitate?"
"If Palpatine is dead, does that mean you're the new Emperor?" he said, grabbing his belt and his lightsaber from the side table.
Vader turned back towards him."It could. I have control of the military, and the military holds the Empire togther."
He was about to ask what 'could' meant, but then the door slid open and Leia rushed in, leaving behind the medical droid in the hallway. She threw her arms around him, squeezing tight, and he returned the hug with enthusiasm. Any trace of weakness left him when she leaned back and he saw the smile that lit her face.
She embraced him again, and her voice was in his ear as she addressed Vader. "Don't get any ideas that you're next."
"Maybe someday," Vader said."For now all I require is your cooperation. Come, we have much to discuss."
The door to his private quarters slid open and he led them inside. Though twice the size of an ordinary cabin, it was sparsely furnished and unadorned.He hadn't thought there would be much to draw their attention, but when he went to speak he found both Luke and Leia staring at the transparisteel wall that divided the cabin.
"The room is pressurized on the other side of the wall so that I may remove my armor," he said, watching Luke absorb the information and nod."But I brought you here because it is the most secure site on the ship, not to discuss my personal affairs."
Luke turned away from the wall. "What is there to worry about now that the Emperor is gone?"
"You are apparently unaware of the serpent's nest that surrounded Palpatine," he said."The Grand Vizier Sate Pestage as well as the whole of Palpatine's Inner Circle would each desire to become the next Emperor. Not to mention the Grand Admirals and Moffs who would like the same."
"You really think they would be a threat to you?" Leia said. "Seems to me you've done a fine job keeping them in line."
"I have been a soldier, not a politician," he said."Half my life was spent keeping the Galaxy safe for Palpatine. If I were to rule I would need someone to perform that task for me."
Leia face dropped and her eyes darted towards Luke.
"Don't worry. That is not the role I envision for you, son," he said. "Neither do I see myself as the Emperor, if all goes as planned."
Leia leaned forward and squinted. "You want me to believe that you don't
want to be the Emperor?"
held that dream dear. But it would all mean nothing if he ruled the Empire alone."Once I did wish for that, because I thought it the only way to end the conflict and save the Galaxy from war. But now I see another."
She shook her head. "I would have never thought you cared about such things."
"You underestimate me.I lived through the destruction of the Clone Wars," he said. "Now tell me, does your Rebellion truly believe in its own name?"
"You mean, the Alliance to Restore the Republic?" Luke said."Yeah, that's what we've been fighting for."
"Then if I offer to hold the Empire together while they reinstall the Senate, they will accept?" he said.
"Are you talking about an Imperial Senate, as it was under Palpatine?" Leia asked.
"No. The Senate as it existed for millennia in the Republic," he said. "To represent a new Republic."
Leia looked stunned. "I'm sure they'd be interested. I just don't know that they'll trust you."
"That is why I want you to present my offer," he said."Politics is your realm, as it was your mother's."
"Me? Represent you?" She blinked rapidly."I've got to sit down."
He pulled out the chair from his desk and she sank into it, her gaze focused on the floor. Luke rubbed a hand reassuringly over her shoulder.
"What if they don't accept?" Luke asked.
"They would be foolish not to. The Rebellion owns not one ship as powerful as a Star Destroyer, let alone one like Executor
," he said."Remember the old saying : he who controls Coruscant controls the Galaxy. They will have a difficult time achieving that control without my help."
"You didn't answer my question. What if they don't?" Luke said.
"Then I will do what I must to keep order in the Galaxy. But I have had to choose between those whom I love and what I believe in once before, and I do not wish to do it again," he said.
Luke looked him straight in the lenses and slowly nodded."I know exactly what you mean."
Leia put her hand across her forehead."So if I present this idea to the Advisory Council and by some miracle they agree to it, then what?"
"When the Senate has been restored, including those systems still in the Empire, not just those in the Rebellion, control of the military is relinquished to the new Republic."
"And you would step down without a fight?" she said.
"My abilities will be best used against the attempts to seize power that will come from Palpatine's followers," he said."Some of them are Force users and I would like Luke to join me in going after them."
"We would be working as part of the new Republic?" Luke asked.
"Yes, as the Order protected the old," he said. "Along the way I could teach you everything they taught me."
As the words left his mouth, he suddenly had a taste of what the Jedi Masters must have felt : the responsibility and honor of passing on a tradition of knowledge. In spite of what he had done, the Order wasn't dead, not so long as there was at least one teacher and one student.
He turned to his daughter, still sitting silent in the desk chair. Never had he called her by her name and he tried it in his mind before he said it out loud."Leia. Will you do what I have requested?"
"It's all so unexpected," she said. "I need time to think."
He nodded."As much as it pains me to think like Palpatine, it would be foolish for me to take you into Alliance space. But I will allow the Millennium Falcon
to board Executor
. You must know the correct channel to reach Solo?"
"Yes," she said.
"Then you may use my desk com to contact him," he said, heading for the door."For now I will be on the bridge addressing the Fleet. I am sure the admirals are getting restless."
More peaceful than his meditation chamber, the view through Executor's
bridge windows always soothed him most. As far as he could see Star Destroyers hung in space, flanking the twisted skeleton of the Death Star. Beyond the Endor moon he could just make out the twinkling lights that marked the Rebel Fleet. All motionless, all waiting. Waiting for his next order.
He had studied the face of each commander as he announced through the holoprojector the death of Palpatine and his own assumption of ultimate control over the Empire. After the initial flicker of surprise, to a man they had acknowledged his authority and bowed their heads. The feeling of power was intoxicating, rivaling what he felt from the Force.
This comforting cocoon of power could be his to savor forever.There was still time to change his mind and solidify his solitary position atop the Empire, where at last he would answer only to himself.
And yet he had offered to give it all away. He understood himself well enough by now to know that his heart sometimes initiated actions before his head had a chance to think about them. His heart didn't want the cool safety of power; it craved the warmth of belonging, as he had known with his mother, and with Padme', and if he let himself admit it, even with Obi-Wan and the Order. Power did provide protection, but it also delivered lonliness.
He sensed Piett approaching behind him and turned away from the window.
"That all went quite smoothly, m'lord," Piett said."Not a bit of dissension among the Fleet."
"None," he said, returning his gaze to the depths of space. "I have forgotten to thank you for watching out for my son."
Piett moved alongside him to face the window."It was an honor, m'lord. Although after spending time with him, I do have a question."
He glanced towards Piett. "Yes?"
"That Separatist ship in the Battle of Coruscant, the one that broke in half coming through the atmosphere. Did you really land that?"
"Yes," he said, as the images flashed through his mind. Images from another lifetime."Yes I did."
The smile that spread across Piett's face said it wasn't that long ago.
The first time she had seen the Falcon
, she had still been a child of privilege, unused to the rough-edged craft used by ordinary citizens of the Galaxy. Once the Rebellion had begun in earnest and she had become just another soldier, she had grown accustomed to less than optimal conditions. Sometime in the last four years she had ceased to see the Falcon's
imperfections and instead saw something else.
Warm comfort filled her now as she watched it enter Executor's
hangar. A thought came to her and she wasn't sure if she was speaking to her father or her brother or just talking to herself. "I can't believe I'm about to go negotiate on behalf of Darth Vader."
The reply came from within the helmet."Then negotiate on the behalf of Anakin Skywalker."
She didn't appreciate the difference but it seemed to mean something to Luke and his eyes became riveted to the mask."You told me that name had no meaning for you."
"Palpatine gave me the name of Vader," he said,"and I no longer wish to be burdened by anything of his. I will reclaim the one my mother gave me."
The explaination didn't bring her the same joy that it appeared to give to Luke, but she had to admit it did make the situation more palatable. Maybe without Palpatine he was
a different man.
Vapor reflected off the hangar floor from the Falcon's
repulsors as the ship set down.She looked at Luke."We'd better get going."
She could feel the awkwardness of the moment as she and Luke headed towards the Falcon
. They had walked about ten meters when she turned around. "I'll make contact with you as soon as I know of the Council's reaction."
"I will be waiting," came the deep voice.
She was turning back when the voice called her.
"Leia," he said," the next time you see Mothma, ask her to tell you what she remembers of Senator Amidala."
He said the name with such reverence that she knew she had just heard something important. She answered in an equally solemn tone. "I will."
When they started once more for the Falcon
she saw that Han, Lando and Chewie were all descending its ramp. It seemed to take an eternity to cross the hangar but at last she felt Han's arms around her and his voice in her ear.
"You don't know how worried people have been about you," he said.
"Even you?" she said, her arms tight around him.
"Especially me," he answered, finally letting go of her to face Luke."Good to see you, junior. Wasn't sure we'd meet again. Though I have to say that tip your old man gave us about the Death Star was very useful."
"Wait 'til you hear what else he's got to say," Luke said from within a Wookiee embrace.
Lando surveyed the hangar. "We can trade stories later. Let's get out of here."
"Yeah. This place gives me the creeps," Han said, glancing towards the rows of TIE fighters.
Luke tapped Han on the shoulder. "Just make sure you take good care of my sister."
She watched Han puzzle over the words until enlightenment finally hit him, but she heard a different meaning. "You're not coming with us?"
He looked almost bashful, but there was no uncertainty in his eyes."No, I'm staying here."
"Kid, are you sure?" Han said.
"Completely," Luke said."But don't worry, we'll all be together again soon."
He kissed her forehead, then turned away. She wanted to reach out and grab him, but Han was already pulling her up the ramp.
Once inside the Falcon
she settled into her usual place. Lando said something to her, and Han and Chewie began their customary pre-flight chatter, but it was all background noise as she watched her brother walk away from the ship. Her eyes leapt to the end of his path and there she found Vader waiting patiently as if he had known what Luke would choose. When the ship lifted off the deck, she leaned back in her seat , the feel of it comforting and familiar, and at last she understood. Just as home for her was no longer a specific residence or even a certain planet, so it was for Luke. And while she had needed the Falcon
to bring her home, Luke was already there.Epilogue