Prologue - Planet Mustafar

Darth Vader watched as his wife's ship made its approach, anxiety swelling up within him. What is Padmé doing here? he thought as he ran down to meet her. Doesn't she know how dangerous it is? His wife's wellbeing was foremost in his mind, but, lurking beneath this, was his reluctance to let Padmé see what he had done here. He had spent the night murdering, something he felt compelled to do, but something that had left him shaking and sickened. I'm doing it for her, he kept telling himself. She won't die if I immerse myself in the Darkness...it's the only way to save her...

"Padmé what are you doing here?" Vader asked as he embraced his pregnant wife. She was trembling.

"Anakin!" she cried, looking up into his face. She could see at once that Obi-Wan had been right. "What is happening? What have you done?"

Vader frowned. "I'm doing what I must," he told her. "I told you I would save you, Padmé. This is the only way to do it."

"By killing innocent younglings?" she cried, the tears streaming from her face. "This isn't you, Anakin! You're a good person! Stop this madness, I beg you! Stop before you are completely lost!"

Vader wasn't listening to her at this point, for Obi-Wan had emerged from the ship behind them. Vader looked at his wife. "Why did you bring him here?" he demanded. "Did you bring him here to kill me?"

Padmé looked back at Obi-Wan, shocked and horrified to see him. "Anakin I didn't know!" she told him. "He must have stolen aboard , I promise you I had no idea!"

Vader looked down at his wife, and took her by the shoulders. "Get on board," he told her. "Things are going to get very ugly, and I don't want you here to see it."
"Anakin, please!" Padmé pleaded. "I'm begging you!"

"Padmé, leave! Now!" he said. He looked down in her face. "Please," he said, softening his tone a little. He kissed her forehead. "I don't want you getting hurt. Please, Angel, get on board."

Padmé looked back at Obi-Wan, resenting him for using her. She left her husband and headed to the ship. "Why?" she asked Obi-Wan as she reached the lending ramp.

"I'm doing what I must do, Padmé," he said. "Surely you must realize that."

Padmé shook her head. "If you kill him, I will never forgive you," she said. She gave Vader one more look and then retreated into the ship.

Later...

"Lord Vader, can you hear me?"

Vader slowly opened his eyes, horrified by the distorted perception that the mask created. He knew that he would never forget the pain, pain he'd not thought possible. And now he was trapped inside a monstrous breath suit that made him feel more machine than human. He turned his helmeted head to look at Palpatine, the one who had lead him down the path to Darkness, the one who had promised that this was the only path to save his beloved wife. Where was she now? he thought, remembering how heartbroken she had been when he'd seen her last. "Where is Padmé?" he asked, the menacing sound of his voice shocking him. "Is she safe? Is she all right?"

Palpatine's ancient face screwed into a deep frown. "Kenobi took her," he told Vader. "Her ship was departing when I arrived, and I'm sure he was on board. "

Vader digested this wordlessly, the thought that his wife had been taken by the man he once called friend . "Where...where is she?" He asked. "I have to find her! She..."

"She is dead," Palpatine interjected. "Killed by the Jedi in revenge for your attack on the Jedi temple. I told you they were treacherous, I told you not to trust them!"

Vader felt the rage exploding inside of him. Kenobi betrayed me...he took her from me, he's taken my child from me..my angel is gone... All around him, medical equipment began to burst, shattered glass flew everywhere. Vader pulled his arms from the constraints and staggered forward, the heaviness of the suit he wore oppressive. But it was nothing compared to the heaviness of his heart, the agony he felt as he thought of Padmé. "No!" he cried, his voice full of pain, full of anger. I will avenge you, Padmé, he vowed. I will avenge you both...

Two years later...

Chapter 1 - Planet Naboo

Padmé sat on the veranda, watching the sun set. Pink clouds drifted slowly across the darkening sky, the only sound to be heard was the rustling of leaves in the forest that surrounded her cottage. Padmé took another drink of her tea, dismayed that she wished it was something stronger. It had taken all her strength not to fall apart when the unthinkable had happened, when the love of her life, Anakin Skywalker, had fallen to the Dark Side. And then the horrors that had befallen him on Mustafar... the wounds of that day had not yet healed, and Padmé doubted that they ever would. But she needed to be strong for Luke and Leia, and vowed on the day they were born that she would be just that. The galaxy was too dangerous and chaotic for her to be anything less.

"Lovely evening, isn't it?"

Padmé turned to see Obi-Wan stepping out onto the veranda with his own cup of tea. He took a seat beside her and looked up at the sky with a smile. "Simply lovely."

Padmé nodded. "Yes," she said. "It will be nice tomorrow," she said.

"Perhaps we could take the children to the lake," Obi-Wan said.
A frown flitted over her brow. "I don't think so," she said quietly. "I don't think I'm up to it."

Obi-Wan didn't push, he knew her better than to try. He had spent two years living with Padmé and her children, Anakin's children, acting as guardian, protector, councillor, confidante - anything she needed him to be. Padmé Amidala Skywalker was the strongest woman he'd ever known, and it broke his heart to see her mourn the man she had loved beyond reason. Padmé never let her children see her cry, never showed her true feelings in their presence. She was an excellent mother, one who had dedicated her life totally to her children. She had vowed that their lives would not be diminished in any way by what had befallen their father. Luke and Leia were very intuitive, even at such a young age, and Padmé had learned to be guarded with her emotions. Obi-Wan, however, had heard her crying late at night, after the twins had gone to sleep; he had seen the look of despair in her eyes as she struggled to understand what had happened to Anakin, and why. He'd wished more times than he could count that he could turn back time and change the way things had turned out. If only he had seen the agony that Anakin was going through, if only he'd known the secrets he was so desperate to keep. Obi-Wan missed his friend, his brother, and agonized over the last moments he had seen him, burning alive, his yellow eyes full of hatred. Obi-Wan knew that those eyes would haunt him until the end of his days.

"As you wish, Padmé," Obi-Wan said at last, and then sat with her in silence, drinking his tea.

Planet Mustafar

Darth Vader stood as though frozen as he surveyed the very planet where his life had changed forever. The emperor, ever sadistic, had presented Vader with a gift, one that Vader dare not refuse. It was no doubt the Palpatine's intention that Vader live in such an unforgiving environment, perhaps as a reminder of what had happened there, perhaps as a way to keep him firmly entrenched in the Darkness. Wordlessly, Vader looked at the tall spire of black stone that stood in stark contrast to the molten hell beyond.

"Magnificent, isn't it?" Palpatine said with a smile as he stood at Vader's side. Vader nodded as the shuttle drew closer, knowing that he must hide his true feelings from his master.

"It is, my master," Vader said. "I thank you."

"Think nothing of it, my friend," Palpatine said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "You need a place to call home, after all. And what better place than here?"
"I can think of none," Vader said as the shuttle descended onto the landing pad outside the structure that was to be Vader's fortress. He had vowed never to return to this hellish world, not after what had happened. Being here again caused a rush of memories to flood into his mind: Padmé, Obi-Wan, burning alive... "Thank you again, my master."

Palpatine left Vader to return to his ship, giving his apprentice time to get acquainted with his fortress. It was stark, cold, and imposing, which, Vader reflected, was quite fitting. He was grateful, at least, that the emperor had thought to install a large bacta tank which, he noted was guarded by imperial guards. Were they there to protect him? Or was there some more insidious reason for their presence? Vader knew his master well enough to know that he could not trust him, that he had a reason for everything he did. The kindly man who had befriended Vader as a child had turned out to be a self-serving monster who did nothing that did not benefit him in some way. But right now Vader was too tired to consider what Palpatine's intentions were, and decided to take advantage of the bacta tank to get some rest.

I missed you, Padmé. I've missed you so.

There were whispers . . . that you'd been killed.

I'm all right. It feels like we've been apart for a lifetime. And it might have been ... If the Chancellor hadn't been kidnapped. I don't think they would have ever brought us back from the Outer Rim sieges.

Wait, not here . . .

Yes, here! I'm tired of all this deception. I don't care if they know we're married.

Anakin, don't say things like that!

Are you all right? You're trembling. What's going on?

Something wonderful has happened. . . . Ani, I'm pregnant.

That's . . . that's wonderful!

What are we going to do?

We're not going to worry about anything right now, all right? This is a happy moment. The happiest moment of my life.

Vader forced himself to wake up, refusing to revisit the past. And yet, it seemed that was all he did when he slept. Dreams of his beloved haunted him when his mind was at rest. It was agony for him, an excruciating reminder of all that he had, and of all that he had lost.

"Lord Vader, a message is coming in from your ship," a hooded acolyte, Vanee, announced. "Priority message."

Vader left the bacta tank at once, returning once again to the breath suit that now defined his existence.

"Ready my shuttle," Vader told the acolyte. "Immediately."

Vanee bowed and then hurried off to carry out Vader's command.

Naboo

Padmé smiled as Luke and Leia sat listening quietly to Obi-Wan's lesson. Public education was out of the question, so Padmé and Obi-Wan, with the occasional help of See-Threepio, had undertaken the education of the twins. Each of them were highly intelligent, curious and quick learners. And what happened when they are older enough to want to leave this seclusion? She reflected as the smile faded from her face. How do I hold back the children of the Chosen One? But that was in the future, she reminded herself, they were barely two years old. But they are the children of Anakin Skywalker…how long can we hide them? How long before Palpatine senses their existence?

Obi-Wan looked up at Padmé, sensing her uneasiness. He had the same fears, the same misgivings, but did not voice them. Padmé had enough to contend with, she needed his steadiness, his calm.

"I think that's enough for today, younglings," he said to Luke and Leia. "Threepio has your snack ready, off you go."

Luke and Leia left at once, holding hands with the tall protocol droid, and for a few minutes Obi-Wan and Padmé sat in silence.

"They're getting stronger, aren't they?" Padmé asked finally.

"Yes," Obi-Wan replied at once. "Undoubtedly."

Padmé frowned, disconcerted. "How long can we keep them hidden?" she asked. "Be honest with me, Obi-Wan. How long before their father senses them?"

Obi-Wan sighed. "I don't see that happening, Padmé," he said. "He thinks you're dead, remember? And besides, Naboo is the last place he'd expect you to hide." In truth, he had no such confidence.

Padmé frowned, torn between the desperate need to keep Luke and Leia hidden from the emperor, and the love she still bore for their father. "I can't help but wonder if knowing would change him," she said.

It wasn't the first time that Padmé had said this, and it still bothered Obi-Wan. "You can't think that," he said. "The risk is too great, Padmé. You must remember that he isn't Anakin any more. You can't predict what he will do, you don't know the man he's become."

Padmé said nothing and looked away. She knew that Obi-Wan was right, she knew that Vader was extremely dangerous. I just miss him so much, she thought, feeling a lump in her throat.

"I'm going to check on the twins," she said, standing up.

Obi-Wan let her leave, her questions leaving him deeply troubled. Keeping Padmé and the twins hidden from Vader was imperative, for there was no doubt in Obi-Wan's mind that Vader would take Luke and Leia and let the emperor destroy them as he had destroyed their father. I will not let that happen, no matter what... he vowed. Vader will never find them, Palpatine will never take them...