The Way of the Dragon
Sins of the Father vignette
by indie

[Three years after Revenge of the Sith]

He isn’t Anakin Skywalker. He is Darth Vader. But he still uses the name Skywalker. Emperor Skywalker. (Though he openly prefers being addressed as Lord Vader). He doesn’t cling to his old name out of any sentimentality. It’s simply a matter of efficiency. Holonet made Anakin Skywalker the hero of the Clone Wars. His face was one of the most recognizable in the galaxy. It would be absurd to think the Empire’s constituents wouldn’t recognize their new Emperor. So he accepts his former life, even if it is grudgingly.

Yet for all his belief in the fact that he is no longer Anakin Skywalker, he still possesses all of his former self’s memories. And this is definitely Skywalker’s memory. Because Lord Vader has never been owned by anyone.

The memory was formed when Anakin was a young boy, not yet seven standard years in age. He hated the particular task, but being a slave, he had little choice in the matter. He hid his dislike of it from his mother, not wanting her to know how much he despised being sent into Tatooine’s desert canyons. There was nothing she could do to prevent it and it seemed cruel to worry her. So he put on a brave face and went. And hated it. Not because he disliked the work. Even as a child, Anakin Skywalker never shied away from a hard day’s work. He disliked it because of the dragons.

Lord Vader can appreciate the krayt dragon, even feel a certain kinship with it. But Anakin Skywalker, the boy, was terrified of them. Their cries echoed through the canyons making all his hair stand on end. On this one particular day he was forced to take cover in a narrow crack in the canyons’ smooth rock face, wriggling his small form deeper into the fissure until he was thoroughly bruised and abraded – but beyond of the dragon’s reach. He was pinned there for hours watching the krayt dragon with its pups. He remembers watching the tiny, vulnerable young boldly harassing the parent with teeth and claws. He remembers the absolute passivity of the parent as the pups gnawed mercilessly on various body parts. Obviously the adult krayt dragon could have eviscerated the young with one swipe of a powerful claw. But the parent never did.

Such is nature.

He sucks in a sharp breath as the bony little knee unerringly finds a tender space between his ribs. The initial assault is followed up by a kick to his upper left thigh as Luke thrashes around in search of a more comfortable sleeping position.

He lifts his head from the pillow and watches as his son finally settles, his small form taking up an inordinately large proportion of the bed. He continues to be baffled by the physics that allow a child less than a meter high to occupy at least four square meters of sleeping space.

Lord Vader stares up at the darkened ceiling of his room. His empathy for the krayt dragon grows by the day. He sighs and looks over at the bedside chrono. It will be daylight in two more hours and he hasn’t slept. As if to illustrate why, Leia, stretched out along his right side, suddenly rolls over, flinging her arm out and smacking him square across the face.

Having reached his limit, he sits up in bed and pushes himself back against the headboard. He knows better than to attempt to leave the bed. He tried that last night and both twins instantly woke, crying for him as if someone was attempting to flay the skin from their little bodies. So, he endures the constant kicks and smacks and jabs because he is a parent and apparently this is what parents do for their young. He wishes someone would have told him that several years ago. Though he can hardly fault the Jedi for that particular oversight. It isn’t a lesson they ever intended him to learn.

Of course, he doesn’t have to endure the abuse. He is the Emperor – has been for more than a year. He has forced entire star systems to their metaphorical knees. Two three-year-olds shouldn’t pose much of an obstacle.

But they do.

The fact that Padmé finally sent the children to him is nothing short of startling. For the first two years of their short lives, Luke and Leia lived on Coruscant with their mother. Even though he and Padmé rarely communicated, he did see Luke and Leia often. Since Padmé fled to Tatooine, he has seen less and less of his children. He was beginning to think he would have to forcibly remove them from Padmé in order to spend time with them.

But two weeks ago Padmé sent word Typho would bring the children to Coruscant for a visit. He immediately hired the most highly regarded nanny credits could buy. Luke and Leia hated her. It probably had more than a little to do with her central belief that children were to be neither seen nor heard. No expense was spared when outfitting the nursery, but Luke and Leia refused to stay in their beds. The nanny’s answer was to lock them in their rooms. When he came to investigate, she sternly informed him he would be doing more damage by coddling them.

His Jedi training was a bit unorthodox, but he still had his turns tending the crèche at the Temple. He wasn’t entirely unaccustomed to caring for young children – though he never felt particularly adept at it. But listening to the cries of the Temple younglings was nothing like listening to the cries of his own children. Both Luke and Leia are gifted Force users. That fact combined with their physical, familial bond made it excruciating.

He promptly dismissed the nanny and let the twins out of their rooms. He was shocked at the speed with which they recovered from their supposed trauma. Both of them wasted no time in scaling him and demanding Fizzade and chocolate. It occurred to him far too late just how expertly he had been manipulated. He also expressly avoided thinking about the fact that they never would have even tried that with their mother.

He spent half a sleepless night trying to convince the twins to sleep in their respective beds, but they categorically refused. He finally gave up and took the both of them to his formal suite of rooms. When left to his own devices he often fell asleep in his small private workroom. But the old sleeping couch in there certainly wouldn’t accommodate both him and two toddlers. So he did something he never did – he slept in his ridiculously oversized formal bedroom. To his eternal shock, the twins instantly curled up next to him and drifted off to sleep. He almost fell asleep himself, but that’s when the thrashing started. First Luke, then Leia, then Luke, then Leia. On and on. Poke after jab after smack – all night long.

He sits there in the dark for an hour and then another before the first rays of light begin to filter through the windows. By virtue of his retreat earlier, he is spared additional bodily harm, but three days with little sleep is beginning to wear on him.

He watches as Leia begins to stir, stretching and squirming before she pushes herself into a sitting position. She sits there for a moment, blinking her huge brown eyes – so like her mother's. Their gazes meet and a giant, toothy grin brightens her face. "Good morning, Daddy!" she chirps.

He forgets the sleepless night, the pokes and jabs. He reaches out for her and she immediately bounds into his arms, giggling as he presses a loud, smacking kiss to her cheek.

Such is nature.

End Vignette
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