Darth Vader entered his private chambers aboard his flagship, the Executor, heading immediately for the inner room housing the hologram platform specifically designed for his meetings with the Emperor. As much as he despised these meetings, the Emperor expected a briefing on Vader's findings on Lothal. Waiting would only make Sidious angry, and Vader was not in the frame of mind to deal with his master's notoriously violent mood swings. Or, the Sith lightning often thrown his way if his master was feeling particularly...aggrieved.

He input his private frequency coordinates into the console to call the Emperor. As it connected with Coruscant and he waited for the Emperor to accept his holocall, he knelt on the platform on one knee, head bowed, his pose deliberately subservient and deferential, as Sidious demanded. In truth, he was half hoping the Emperor would be busy and ignore the call.

No such luck.

As always, the Emperor answered, appearing in his usual black robed garb. His master always wore that robe to conceal the majority of his disfigurement from the prying eyes of the galaxy, but Vader didn't see much of a point of his wearing the hood to all of their meetings. It wasn't like Vader didn't know what the Emperor now looked like—he had, after all, been there the day it had happened.

Shutting that thought out of his mind, he slammed his mental shields tightly shut, gritted his teeth and bowed his head before his Master. "Master." His voice rumbled from the helmet, distorted, but he made sure it was still a tone of respect. The moment that Sidious even thought that Vader was not humble before him, he would not hesitate to make sure that Vader was humbled, one way or another. Usually violently.

"Lord Vader. What did you find on Lothal?" Sidious asked. Always straight to the point. Vader did appreciate that about his Master—rarely did their meetings go very long...unless Vader was being punished. Sidious only started off indirect if Vader was to be the subject of his wrath.

Eager to get this meeting over with, Vader looked back up at the flickering image of his Master's face. "The lieutenant was indeed cut down by a lightsaber, my Master." He confirmed, watching and feeling for any hint that Sidious would get angry and lash out at him through the Force. He neither felt nor saw any change in the older man's behavior.

"Was it a Jedi?" Sidious asked, and Vader could hear the sneer of distaste in his Master's voice, though Vader couldn't quite see any changes in his facial expression due to the hood partially covering his face from view.

"There were no disturbances in the Force. I detected no lingering Force presence in the area." Vader explained, "Either it was staged to look like a Jedi-killing, or it was a Jedi with a very strong shield on their Force-presence, Master."

"And which do you suspect, Lord Vader?" Sidious asked again, and this time Vader could hear the impatience in his Master's voice. Vader fully understood the message: Get to the point quickly...or else.

"The killer shot the lieutenant in the leg to impede or prevent his escape before killing him. I believe there is a strong possibility that it isn't a Jedi, but rather, someone non- Force sensitive swinging a Jedi weapon."

Sidious mulled over Vader's observation for a moment.

"The Troopers guarding the body. Have they been...taken care of?"

"Yes, my Master." Vader replied.

"And so, there should be no issues with regard to rumors about renegade Jedi's assassinating our troops spreading through the Imperial ranks?"

"No, my Master."

"Good, good." From beneath the hood, Sidious frowned. "Very well, my apprentice. Treat this as a minor event for now, but I do expect this assassin to be caught and brought to justice. If you find anymore leads, Lord Vader, inform me immediately."

"Yes, my Master." Vader had barely finished speaking when the transmission was cut, a clear dismissal by the Emperor, and he was left alone kneeling in his chambers.

Finally.

He forced himself to his feet with a wince. The black suit the emperor insisted he wear to hide his visage from the galaxy was quite heavy, and kneeling for a long period of time caused quite a bit of stress on his knees. But, it was evening; the Bridge, under the watchful guidance of his second-in-command, General Firmus Piett, a man Vader trusted implicitly, had received all the orders he had for them at that moment, and everything on his ship was working in tip-top shape. He made sure of that before contacting the Emperor. Now, all that was left was to finally get out of the cursed suit and attempt to clear his head for a few, short hours.

The suit took a while to get out of due to the intricate machinery and layers, but eventually he got it off, took a long, cold shower, before drying off and tugging on a simple pair of black sleep pants. He stood in his private fresher, bigger than both his and Obi-Wan's old Jedi quarters combined, running a towel through his unruly, almost shoulder length, dirty blonde locks and headed to the sink to shave the week-old beard he'd allowed to grow. He had grown lazy in regards to shaving—there wasn't a point to now. No one ever saw his face anymore, and the reason he'd kept it shaved as Anakin Skywalker was dead and…

Intense anger and pain hit him, along with a wave of never-ending grief, and he quickly shoved that thought away and roughly turned the water on, focusing on his task. When he finished, he brought the towel up to dry his face, looking critically at the man staring back at him in the mirror. No longer did this new reflection unnerve him: He still had the long curls that he barely kept trimmed, still had the scar over his right eye. That's where the similarities stopped. His skin had paled from the deep tan he'd always had, courtesy of growing up under Tatooine's twin suns, to a much paler tone due to rarely seeing sunlight.

He dropped his gaze lower in the mirror and considered the changes in the rest of his body, and sighed. He was only twenty-five standard years, but he felt much older.

The heavily muscled frame he'd carried as a Padawan and then a Jedi had thinned somewhat over the last two years, due to both a lack of appetite and a lack of truly rigorous exercise. He ate enough to keep himself sustained, but the only thing left on his body were the still maintained and honed muscles he used to fight, but his muscle mass was still much leaner than before. Nothing extra. He had dark circles from lack of rest under his eyes.

His eyes.

His eyes were no longer the brilliant crystalline blue of the Nabooian sky. He couldn't remember the last time they were. Instead, they were Sith-gold, rimmed red.

He was a totally different person now than who he'd once been. Anakin Skywalker was dead. He had died that horrible night on Mustafar two years ago, along with…

Another flash of anger, of pain, of grief, pierced him. This time, the mirror cracked, the image of himself distorting along with it. Sighing in disgust, he turned and left the fresher. Yet another mirror to replace.

His actual bedchamber was even bigger than his fresher, but empty except for a bed large enough for three people, a bedside stand where a chrono and his commlink were kept, and a long cushion on the window seat that overlooked the endless span of space at the viewport. It was meticulously clean, as if no one had ever lived in the room, no hint of a personality of its sole occupant.

Vader preferred it that way.

Deciding, as usual, that sleep would only cause him less rest than anything else, Vader strode to the cushion on the window seat and sat down, crossing his legs. Sleep was too often plagued by nightmares, terrifying visions of the past, of the future...and sleeping in that monstrosity of a bed...well, it was too empty, too soulless without…

Forcing that thought from his mind, Vader, therefore, turned to meditation, something he had hated doing as a Jedi, but found solace in as a Sith Lord. Reaching deeply into the Force, he slipped into the trance easily, the darkness surrounding him, soothing his soul, rejuvenating his body and mind. There was nothing but glorious darkness, nothing but his own desire for power, to forget his past and fully embrace the monster his Master needed him to be to achieve total control of the galaxy…

And then…there wasn't just darkness. Images came unbidden into his mind, images that were all too familiar. No! Not here, not now! Vader thought, trying to slip back out of meditation, but as he tried to pull away, the Force seemed to wrap around him tighter, to hold fast to him, bringing the images into stronger, sharper focus.

Mace Windu was there, about to murder Sidious, but Vader's old lightsaber was slashing through the older Jedi's wrists, stopping him. He stood in the darkened council room, watching as the Younglings came out of hiding behind the Council's cushioned chairs, looking at him, as they always had, like he had every answer in the world to their problems. "Master Skywalker," The boldest of them, a blonde boy, said, coming forth to meet him. "There are too many of them. What are we going to do?" He waited for him to answer, looking at him with complete trust. He felt himself hesitate before he ignited his lightsaber, making the boy step back, confusion flitting over his little face. As he cut the boy down, the screaming and crying began, and…

He was on Mustafar. Obi-Wan stood there on the ramp to Padme's ship, glaring at him. The intent was clear in his eyes—he was there to kill his former Padawan. And, Padme…had she brought him? Had she betrayed him? He was so overcome with rage, he lashed out at his heavily pregnant wife, choking her with the Force as she began to declare her innocence, to protest her involvement. He wasn't thinking clearly. Everything was happening so fast.

Everyone….He had….and now

Vader finally broke free, slamming back into reality, breathing in tortured, rasping gasps. His body was coated in a thick sheen of sweat, and he practically tumbled off of the cushion and onto the carpeted floor, his entire body shaking. Distantly, he could feel Sidious' annoyance and disdain through his Force connection with him, but he knew his Master would understand what was going on with his apprentice and ignore it.

Because, like all the other times he'd been plagued with those memories, it had only fueled his anger, his need to throw himself into what he'd betrayed everyone and everything so dear to him for.

Still, he hadn't had a dream like that in over a year, and never during meditation. Not once. It was the reason he refused to sleep if he could help it. But, during mediation…?

He forced himself to stop shaking, channeling that awful guilt into anger to drown it out.

No longer was he the Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, husband, father, brother, and friend.

No.

He was Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith. He commanded the entire Imperial Fleet. He instilled terror wherever he went. No one challenged him, because those who did were destroyed. He was now the one hunting down the cowardly Jedi who still remained and ran from their fate at his hand. He was the one who almost single-handedly brought justice and order to the Galaxy.

So why, then, did he suddenly feel like he was the one running from something...something he couldn't see but could vaguely sense through the Force?

The feeling was as disturbing as it was elusive, and left the Dark Lord with more questions than answers.


It was evening when he came.

Padme had helped put her nieces to bed before. They had always been so happy that their aunt was putting them to bed that Padme thought bedtime would be easy.

She was wrong. So very wrong.

Perhaps it was because they were twins. Perhaps it was because they were Force-Sensitive. Perhaps it was because they were the children of the two most stubborn individuals in the galaxy. Whatever the reason, Padme always had to go into battle mode to get her twins to go to bed.

Obi-Wan helped sometimes. He tried coaxing them to calm down enough to sleep, or at least be quiet, through the Force. It worked on Luke, until it didn't work on Leia, and then they were both running around the house, looking for every conceivable excuse not to go to bed.

"Old you, Mama, old you!" Luke said.

Ahhh, yes. Luke's favorite way to try to sucker Padme into letting him stay awake. He reached his little arms up, wanting to be held, his eyes sparkling like the Nabooian falls (which his mother found as difficult to resist as she had his father's), but Padme knew that giving into her son's demands would only give him more excuses not to go to bed.

"Not now, Luke. In the morning, Sweet Boy." She promised him with a sigh, putting him back into his crib. It didn't matter that the twins still slept in a crib: They could easily get out of it. Far too easily, thanks to the Force. If she wasn't worried about them falling out of a bed in their sleep, she might have had Obi-Wan run out for their first actual beds already.

Luke pouted, that mischievous glint in his cerulean blue eyes, so much like Anakin's. Padme knew. She just knew that the moment she left the room, Luke and Leia would break free of their cribs.

"Luke," Padme began, but her mother walked into the room, her face pale. Immediately, Padme's insides froze, her hand going to the lightsaber attached to her belt. "What is it?"

"He's here." Jobal said, and as Padme's frantic mind began to picture the black-masked monster they were hiding from, she clarified, "Obi-Wan's...um...friend."

Padme relaxed. "Jeez, Mom," she groaned, "Did you have to make it sound like the Empire's forces were at our door?"

"Oh. Sorry, but he's still…well. Listen, why don't I take over from here? Or, attempt to. You go and see Obi-Wan's friend."

Padme smiled gratefully at her mother. "May the Force be with you," She told her mother seriously.

Jobal rolled her eyes, but there was a small, sad smile on her face. There seemed to always be sadness in her mother these days. "Thanks. I'm going to need all the help I can get with these two."

Padme headed back out into the living room, her mind whirling with possibilities. Who had Obi-Wan sent for? Obviously, he or she must be Force-Sensitive. Her mind went over all of the Jedi she'd known personally, or ever heard Anakin mention, in the days of the Republic. Most of them were dead, thanks to Sidious' vile extermination plot, dubbed Order 66. The few who were still alive, having escaped the purges, were strong in the Force, yes, but they were all in hiding from the Empire.

Whoever it was…

She rounded the corner and stopped dead in her tracks, staring wide-eyed.

…was very strong in the Force.

Strong indeed.

"Senator Amidala," The Grandmaster himself, Yoda, greeted her with a smile, "Greetings to you."

He stood there in her living room, small, wrinkled with age, wearing his very worn-out Jedi robe, but he still seemed to be the most vibrantly alive presence in the household. Padme was not Force-sensitive, but even she could feel, rather than see, the power and wisdom the ancient Jedi radiated. "Master Yoda," She said, and she couldn't help but begin to smile, genuinely smile. "It's so good to see you again. It's been a while. Too long, really."

Yoda nodded his head, smiling a little. "Good to see you, Senator, it is." He replied, leaning on his cane. "Master Obi-Wan is not here?"

Of course, he would sense that. "No, he went to scout out the area to make sure no Imperials or other unwanted visitors are coming near the home. You just missed him."

Again, Yoda nodded. "Sent for me, he did. The Skywalker children are getting too strong, he said. Correct, is he?"

There was a seriousness in Yoda's gold-green eyes that suddenly made Padme bristle with worry. As much as she admired Yoda and respected him, she also was well aware of how Yoda viewed her keeping both of the twins together and raising them herself. He'd expressed that opinion within moments after they were born, before they'd gone into hiding. But, she could not...would not...lie to the Jedi Grandmaster, either. Yoda knew things that most live sentients didn't know. She had always suspected that he knew of her forbidden relationship with Anakin, but she'd never gotten the courage up to ask.

"He is correct, Master." She confirmed reluctantly, nodding her head once slowly. Over the few days since she'd come home, even she had begun to see that fact and could not deny it. The twins were levitating anything and everything they desired, and they were quite clearly communicating with each other through the Force. It wouldn't be long before they began to try other things with their growing abilities, things that would inevitably draw immediate attention to their presence, either from the Emperor…

Or worse...Darth Vader himself.

Yoda frowned, clearly troubled by this news. "Padme," he began softly, and she knew immediately that he was about to say something that she didn't, and wouldn't, want to hear. "Separated, the twins should be. Strong in the Force, each of them are, just like their father. Much stronger together, they will be."

"No." Padme insisted. "They're…they're not like other Force-sensitives. They're the children of the Chosen One, and twins at that. They have a bond that no one can fully understand, myself included. It would destroy them to be separated."

She could see the disagreement in Yoda's eyes, but he didn't press the issue. Instead, he suggested, "To Dagobah, they should go then. Shield them, the planet will."

That had also been discussed before. Padme may have been open to that, except that it meant leaving her. To take them to Dagobah, Yoda would be starting a new Jedi Order, which would have included not only the training of a Jedi...but the lifestyle of a Jedi as well.

She'd seen how that turned out, and she wouldn't do it. She refused to shackle her children to the Order as their father had been, constrained by its antiquated ideals, resigned to a life of emotionless servitude to the galaxy...A life devoid of family, of happiness...of love.

"Part of the reason Anakin became so obsessed with holding onto those he loved was because he was taken from his mother and ordered never to see or have contact with her again, to let go of and forget his love for her. My children may be young, Master Yoda, but I won't risk them developing that same worry and frustration and put them into the same lifestyle that ultimately destroyed their father." She shook her head. "No. They will have as normal a life as possible. They will learn to love and know the tremendous joy that brings into their lives. If they choose to become Jedi when they're adults, then so be it. Until then, they will remain with me."

"Hmm," Yoda was still frowning, his disapproval evident on his face. "Talk of separation, you do. Willingly putting yourself in danger, you are. Separated from you, they may one day be."

His words hit home.

It was a worry that she had every time she had left home for training to become the Rebellion's assassin. It was something she had fretted about the entire journey to Lothal. It was something that had fueled her hasty escape from Lothal after she had killed the Lieutenant. If she were caught, her children would be left orphans. They would lose the only parent they knew, and if that caused them problems with letting go in the future like their father…

Padme shuddered.

She didn't want to even think about it. She didn't want to address that fear with Yoda. Not now. "They're staying with me. That is final." She reiterated through numb lips, her jaw set with determination. Yoda sighed, but even he knew that Padme was not going to budge one iota on this matter. Her tenacity had been renowned as a senator.

It was a quality she still had in spades.

"Stay I will, then. Protect them, I must." He studied her critically. "Train you as well, I must."

That threw Padme for a loop. "Wait," she said, "What?"

"Just as the galaxy needs the Skywalker children, they need you. A beacon of hope for the common people, you are. Die, you must not." Yoda explained patiently.

"But I've been trained. I've been trained by the top assassins in the galaxy. I've been trained to use a lightsaber by Obi-Wan. I'm going on missions now, how much more do I need to learn?" It wasn't that she didn't want to be trained by Yoda, but it was rather intimidating. He was wise beyond his years, and strong, too.

"Stronger, you must become, if you intend to free the galaxy of the Empire. The same mistakes as your husband, you must not make." Padme knew what he was referring to. Anakin was confident in his abilities, a confidence that had often kept him alive, but had also limited him in many aspects.

It was yet another reason behind his death.

Reluctantly, she nodded. "Alright," she began, "When do we…"

Suddenly, the Loth-cat (that the twins had affectionately named "Kitty") sprinted around the corner, making a mad dash for the underside of the couch. Hot on its heels were none other than Luke and Leia, giggling in delight, while her mother rushed to catch up with the rambunctious twins. "Get back here right this instant, you two!" Jobal huffed.

Kitty managed to get to the couch, dashing underneath it, and both Luke and Leia scrambled to a halt, peering underneath the couch at the cat. "Luke," Padme said firmly, "Leia."

Both of the twins tensed, and slowly, as if noticing for the first time, they turned to face their mother. Padme put her hands on her hips. "Just what do you two think you're doing out of bed?"

Leia, at least, was honest in her response. She pointed under the couch. "Kitty." She proclaimed. "Want Kitty, Mama."

Luke defaulted back to his usual excuse. He held up his arms. "Hold you, mama. Hold you."

"Don't you lie to me, Luke." Padme scolded, going to each of them and picking them up, wincing at their weight. They were getting heavy, almost too heavy for her to hold both of them at the same time. It filled her with a sense of longing—it seemed like only just yesterday that they were tiny, easily held in her arms, staring at her with their wide, intelligent eyes. They were growing too fast.

"Sowwy mama." Luke said, but he didn't seem very apologetic about it. In fact, he seemed happier that he was now being held by his mother, just as he claimed to want.

Padme sighed and turned, finding Yoda studying the children intently. "Luke, Leia," Padme began as the children noticed the other Jedi in the room. Both of them immediately tensed, moving a bit closer into her side as if that would protect them somehow. It was not often that they met a stranger, particularly one of another species. "This is Master Yoda. He's going to be staying with us to help us stay safe."

She had no idea how much the twins understood of what she said, but both of them looked at each other warily and then back at Yoda. "Bob?" Luke whispered, and Padme groaned in embarrassment.

"Bob?" Yoda questioned, but there was a smile on his face now. Yoda was also very good with children. Perhaps that was another reason why Obi-Wan had called the Grand Master here.

"Bob." Luke said, this time more firmly.

"Bob," Padme explained slowly, not sure how the Jedi Master would react, "Is the frog Luke found the other day. He named him Bob." And apparently, Luke had decided that Yoda looked like Bob the frog.

To her relief, the Jedi Master didn't seem to take that offensively at all. He began to chuckle. "Bob, I am not. Find Bob, perhaps we will." This seemed to satisfy Luke, and Padme could feel him relax a little in her arms.

"Well." Padme said, "I need to try to put these two to bed." She glanced at her frazzled mother. "My mother will show you around. Please, make yourself at home."

"Thank you, Padme." Yoda smiled. Padme looked at him for a moment, reflecting on the strange turn of events their lives had taken, again, before she turned and brought the children back to their room to be put to bed.


Another chapter done! Thank you SO much for the support! Reviews make me happy, and happy Sarah= faster chapters. Although, like I said, I like Assassins. It's not going to be a problem lol.

Someone asked if this is going to be a Anidala story, or if they're going to be enemies. Well. You'll have to see! (I don't do spoilers ;) )

Thanks to my Beta, SW! Couldn't do it without you!

Review!

Love,

Sarah