Of course the first thing he saw was her. His dream made flesh. He had had such strange dreams now, dreams of the Force abandoning him, of a brighter kind of Power poisoning him and healing him at the same time. He had seen his own blade and the blade of a Jedi swinging to his head, had all but felt it cutting through the muscles in his neck, cleaving his head from his body, ending his life before he had even begun it.
Then he had heard her voice. Strong, soft, everything he ever imagined it would sound like and like nothing he had ever imagined at all. He knew atavistically that she was saving him with her words. Of all times for his strength to fail him. He had wanted to raise his head and watch those lips form his salvation but his bones and muscles hung limp, lifeless in his bloodless body.
He had wanted to look at her, to thank her with his eyes because he would only ever be grateful to her, to take her in his arms and spirit her away to a golden cage where only his eyes would ever gaze on her beauty; only his ears would ever listen to her voice;
Or failing that, he wanted to crawl to her, lie docile at her feet, her willing slave, ready to do anything she bidded, willing to be anything she wished.
Or failing that, he wanted to hide from her, to crawl away like a legless creature because that was what he was – legless, defeated, shamed before her.
The choice had been taken from him. He had felt the last of his life seep into the cold duracrete floor of the landing platform. He had died. The Jedi’s Force had brought him back.
Not the Dark Side that loved him, that cloaked him with pain and power. It was some other Side of the Force, a Side that didn’t love him, that burnt even as it healed, that wounded his mind and soul by giving him back his memories like shards of a broken mirror.
Vader wondered why his Master had always called the Jedi’s Force the ‘weaker Force’. It was useless in combat of course but if wielded properly, it could injure in more subtle ways. It could drive a person mad.
It passed through his essence, cutting a burning swathe as it prodded each midichlorian, making them squeal with pain as it poked, examined, turned them over so that they lay raw and harmful against each other.
It healed him by poisoning him.
And that was when Vader opened his mouth and screamed. Only no sound came in. Only breath. First the one, then another, and another until his lungs were pumping air instead of blood, his hearbeat pumping stronger and fiercer and with it his soul. And finally, as easily as flying from the heights of the Imperial palace, he was calling on the Darkness, the Side of Force that loved him and drove the other from him.
Only then did he open his eyes and see her before him, no longer a dream, no longer beyond his reach, her face was so near he could kiss her…
(…The needle slipping into his neck… another kind of poison in his blood…)
…would have kissed her even through the falling darkness, but she had slipped away from him, back into the light, and when he reached for her, she was no longer there.
The last thing he heard was Kenobi’s hated voice in his mind:
“Better luck in your dreams.”