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Title: Arrival
Author: Maia (maia@bastcastle.org)
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Vader, OFC, a few other OC’s, and familiar faces.
Category: AU, Adventure, Romance, some Angst.
Disclaimer: I am not making any money from this, and he doesn’t belong to me. Darn.

Summary: Back in the Empire, Vader finds that deceptions eventually do catch up to you. To complicate matters, he quickly discovers that having a woman in his life is not as easy as he thought it would be. Extracted from the AU ‘The Sith Lord and the Scientist.’


The Executor, Fondor, Fondor System. Year 0, Month 4.

DAY 35

***

The familiar kaleidoscope of hyperspace disappears, replaced by stars and my new flagship hanging in space above Fondor.

Home. I have made it back.

I shift Maia a little in my arms. Holding her for two days has produced a few cramps and it will be a relief to have her off of my lap. She is still deep in the trance I put her into and doesn’t stir when I touch her face then brush my hand down to rest over our son. He’s considerably harder to find now, his presence swamped and concealed by the Force flowing around us.

Good.

I don’t want anyone to know of his existence until I can protect them both.

And I especially don’t want my master to learn about him.

Not yet.

Not until he has accepted Maia as my wife.

Not until I am sure I can persuade him to give my son to me.

I trace Maia’s cheekbone with a finger. My little goddess. Living with me will not be easy for you to adapt to. You won’t be free to do as you wish any longer. I can’t let you defy or disobey me in public. And breaking you of your stubbornness and impertinence, necessary as it is, is going to be unpleasant for both of us.

Her hair spills down over my chest as I move her again. A flashing light has told me the sentry beacons have picked up the identification signal from my fighter. Griff will be hailing me soon and I need access to the comm-panel.

‘Lord Vader?’ Griff asks, right on time.

‘Yes, Admiral,’ I acknowledge.

‘My Lord, we feared you were lost,’ he admits.

I doubt Griff was overly concerned because his ambitions are to replace me. His only worry would be what the Emperor might do upon hearing of my disappearance.

‘Not lost, merely detoured for a while,’ I calmly state.

‘Then we are grateful for your return,’ he offers.

More insincere interest in my welfare. I wonder how much of his time he spent maneuvering for political position instead of overseeing the construction of my ship.

I look down at my wife. Griff is a notorious womanizer who cannot be trusted. It would be wisest to hide her from him until I have settled her status with my master.

‘I will use the small hangar,’ I decide. ‘Your presence is not necessary, Admiral, and I would strongly suggest you use your time to prepare a full report on your progress or lack thereof while I have been away.’

That ought to keep him occupied and out of my way.

‘Commander Thirsk will meet me instead,’ I order, then turn off the comm.

My old friend can be trusted.

I fly into the smallest completed hangar and guide my TIE to the storage rack. Thirsk is already waiting, I note as I shut the engines down. With a gesture, I release the hatch, and swing the cockpit door open.

Now to get Maia out.

‘Commander,’ I call.

Thirsk promptly peers in to see what the problem is. He can’t hide his surprise at what he finds.

‘My Lord?’ he asks, staring at my wife and I.

‘Help me get her out, Thirsk,’ I order.

He reaches in to grab Maia under the arms while I lift her up. My cramped thigh muscles start screaming at me the moment her weight is off of them. I wait until she is safely out of my way, then try to pull myself upright. The pain gets worse. I ignore it and somehow drag myself from my ship onto the access walkway. For a moment I sway a bit drunkenly. Hopefully I can walk this off.

Thirsk is cradling Maia in his arms, but he hands her over the instant I have recovered my balance. I can see him speculating, measuring the situation, deciding if he should say something about it or not.

‘Permission to speak freely, Commander,’ I allow, wanting to hear what he is thinking.

‘Your bondmate she is,’ he rather astutely observes in his usual blunt manner.

I stare at him. This is one secret I don’t want out.

‘Thirsk,’ I growl in warning, letting a bit of menace creep into my voice.

He ignores it and bestows one of his rare smiles on me instead.

‘It’s about time, my Lord,’ Thirsk tells me. ‘You need an heir or two and she looks to be a good match for you.’

Speechless at his unexpected impudence, I push past him to cover my astonishment and begin to head to the Medical wing. Maia needs to be looked after properly.

‘You will be silent about this, Commander Thirsk,’ I warn as we walk to the turbolift I need. ‘Your oath to me requires it.’

‘I swore I would protect you and yours on Talasea long ago, my Lord,’ he reminds me. ‘I haven’t forgotten that day.’

I nod in answer. Thirsk has always been completely unshakeable in his loyalty.

‘She will need to be guarded when you are away. I will keep her safe,’ he offers, ‘you won’t have to worry about that.’

I let myself smile a little. Maia will be safe under his watch. Only my Noghri have ever been able to get the better of him.

The ‘lift door opens. We are here.

‘I will speak with you about this later, Commander,’ I dismiss him with a nod.

‘Doctor Trever,’ I call, drawing the Chief Medical Officer from his office. ‘I have a patient for you.’

That earns me an irritated look which is quickly concealed. Doctors, I think with a bit of contempt. A necessary evil. At least Trever is one of the best and he will do as ordered. I don’t give him a chance to defer Maia’s treatment to one of the 2-1B’s.

‘She’s unconscious and has been in that state for two days,’ I tell him. ‘You will need to treat her for that and repair her eyes. I suspect she has no immunity to any of the common diseases, so see that she is protected against them all.’

He looks surprised at that last bit. Then again, it’s rare to come across a world which has been without any outside contact.

‘I will do a complete work-up, then, my Lord,’ Trever confirms my orders.

‘I will call you when she is ready,’ I decide.

He returns to his office and whatever task he had been busy with.

I carry Maia into one of the treatment rooms and lay her down on the bed. With a curt command, the medical droid backs away.

I could let the ‘droid see to her, but no one but myself is ever going to undress my wife. The buttons are quickly undone, the laces loosened in back. Her dress comes off with a few strategic tugs. For a moment I struggle with folding her gown, then give up and shove it at the ‘droid.

‘Look after this and have it sent to my quarters,’ I order.

The ‘droid has no trouble dealing with the meters of cloth, I note, as I take a soft robe out of one of the storage compartments set in the wall. Wrapping Maia in the robe is far easier than fighting with her gown was. I remove her jewelry next, tucking the necklace and earrings in with our marriage contract.

I quickly plait her hair, remembering how I used to do this for Padme with each twist. There is a twinge in my chest with those memories which I quickly banish.

I settle her comfortably on the bed, covering her with a warm blanket as I do, and brush my fingers down her face before I leave.

Maia is my wife, my Lady. Padme is gone.

And Maia will be the one who replaces the child I lost with her.

***


Month 5.

DAY 1

My awareness returns to me slowly. First sound, then smell. I can hear my own breathing, the sound of my pulse in my ear and the beeping of monitors, but little else. The place I am in smells sharply of antiseptics, and soaps, the usual hospital odors. It is too bright in here so I don’t bother to open my eyes yet. Someone has twisted my hair into a tight braid from the tension on my scalp and the weight of the hair pulling on my skin. My dress has been removed and I am wrapped in some sort of simple robe. I know this because I can no longer feel the sleeves tightly buttoned against my arms. One arm is covered in tape and tubes, and I guess an i.v. drip is hooked up from the sensation of cold liquid running into a vein. Somebody must have been monitoring me because I hear a door open and footsteps approach the bed. No point in playing at being unconscious then, so I open my eyes and to my amazement can see perfectly without my glasses. Well, maybe your contacts are still in, I remind myself. The man I see is obviously a doctor, from his coat and demeanor. Time for the obvious questions.

‘Who are you?’ I ask.

‘Dr. Evan Trever, the Chief Physician,’ he replies, ‘I have been looking after you ever since you were brought in.’

I give him an odd look. Brought in from where? The observatory? My last memory is of saying goodbye to a certain Sith Lord before he was supposed to leave my planet. We were standing on the scaffolding beside his fighter and then what? I work away at the memory. I had turned away to think and then he had done what? Pulled me into his arms, held me a moment, and I had admitted my love for him, no doubt sounding like a cliché in a bad movie. If I hadn’t known he was leaving I would never have had the courage or nerve to say it. There was something slapped against my neck and all I remember after that is blackness. Obviously I had been deliberately knocked out. Well, I suppose it could be worse. At least the authorities should assume that what I have been up to during the last four days was done under duress.

I pose the next obvious question, ‘Where am I? Valley Central or Regional?’ I need to know which hospital I am in.

The doctor is reluctant to answer me, and deflects the question, offering, ‘Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?’

I shake my head in a negative and have a look about what appears to be a typical hospital room. No obvious information there on where I am. The doctor is middle-aged, with grey hair and soft brown eyes. He is watching me closely, and I don’t like the scrutiny.

‘All right. No more evasions. I want to know where I am,’ I say firmly, hoping I sound more confident than I feel.

‘You are in neither of the locations you just mentioned and it is not my place to tell you anything more about it,’ Trever admits.

Perfect. I am probably in some military hospital and in way over my head. Great. I don’t think my uncle Sam can get me out of this one either. He is probably fuming about the meteorite impact story I concocted to cover up Vader’s emergency landing.

‘All right, then,’ I continue to push, ‘what can you tell me?’

‘You have been unconscious for over two days and are mildly dehydrated. I am going to boost your immune system since you have been exposed to pathogens it doesn’t recognize.’ The doctor is precise and to the point, no wasted words here. He attaches a drip bag full of a straw colored fluid to the stand and replaces the other empty one with another of clear liquid. ‘I will be back in fifteen minutes to see how you are doing.’

The minutes tick away. I am bored of just looking at the walls, and decide to examine my arm and the drip bags. Two different i.v. taps have been expertly put into my veins and the tubes taped in place. I watch, fascinated, as the clear and slightly yellow fluids run down through the lines and into my arm. The bags I give a glance at, and then snap my eyes back to examine them in more detail. Something is not right here and it takes me a few seconds to figure it out. The labels are not in English or any language from Earth. They are written in Aurabesh, the script of the Empire. I stare at the bags in shock. What is going on here? I know there should not be enough room or air in a TIE fighter’s cockpit to transport two people. Unless, my brain’s logic circuit kicks in, he held you in his arms the entire trip and put you into some sort of hibernation trance to conserve oxygen. I close my eyes. This is not happening to me. This is not happening. I take another look at the labels. Nope, they are still in Aurabesh. I let out a reluctant sigh and half-heartedly accept the fact that I am no longer on Earth. Question is, where am I?

When the doctor returns, I pounce. ‘I am on board the Executor, aren’t I, and a certain Sith Lord is responsible, is he not?’

Trever stares at me, then removes the two needles from my arm. He doesn’t say a word, just bandages the bruised areas and leaves.

I hug my knees to my chest and wait. Sooner or later I suspect I will have a visitor and I have no idea what I am going to say to him. Somehow I know there is no point in demanding to be taken home. Vader has some reason for going to the trouble he did to get me here. I wonder what he expects a thirty-something astrophysicist and planetary geologist from an obviously isolated, backwater planet to do. My training must be hopelessly outdated compared to anything available in the Empire, so my scientific expertise can’t be it. While I am a mathematical savant, I will still need to learn their notation system to convey anything I discover. I can’t read their script, have no idea how their society really functions, and the only person I know is a cranky Sith Lord. Surely his choice to bring me here is not based solely on my love for him? The more I think about my situation, the more homesick and miserable I feel. I don’t belong here and I know it.

The door slides open. It is the doctor again, only this time he is carrying a bundle of clothes. I raise an eyebrow, but make no comment. Trever sets his burden down on the foot of the bed and says to me, ‘Put these on. I have orders to take you elsewhere. You have ten minutes.’

I wait until he has left before examining what he has brought me. There is a simple white underdress, ankle-length black dress, boots and belt, and assorted underclothes. Anything is better than the robe, so I quickly change and duck into what is their equivalent of a bathroom to wash my face and attend to my other needs. The doctor is true to his word, and returns on time. He walks me through the medical wing and down what appears to be a main corridor. After several turns and rides in transport tubes I am completely lost. We have been moving steadily up in the ship though, and I wonder where we are going. Trever has not said a word along our journey and I doubt he will tell me anything even if I ask. Finally we stop in front of a door, and when it opens, he waves me in and steps back. The door slides closed between us.

‘Maia,’ a rich baritone voice calls my name.

The room is dark and my eyes take a moment to adjust before I see him standing by a window with his back to me. I let my mind briefly wander over the possible approaches I might use, knowing he cannot sense my thoughts, a fact which greatly irritates the Sith Lord. In the end, I remain silent and simply walk over to stand beside him. He has been watching the various ships and construction vehicles moving about, I guess, as I look out at the scene in front of me. I rest my hand against the cold transparisteel and finally accept where I am. The question still remains as to what I am going to do about it.

I am determined that I am not going to make this easy for him and refuse to be the one who speaks first. He moves closer and I stubbornly keep my eyes fixed on the nearest ship. If his Lordship expects that he can take me away from everything I have ever known without asking me first, and get away with it, he had best think again.

‘You are an exceedingly stubborn woman,’ Vader finally acknowledges, ‘stubborn to a fault, in fact.’

When I give no response, he pulls me around to face him. I try to keep my eyes downcast, but he tips my chin up with his hand and forces me to look up.

‘Stop that,’ he warns, ‘I will not put up with any childish sulking from you. You are more than old enough to know better.’

‘You should have told me what you were going to do!’ I snap at him. My temper is going to get me into trouble, so I quickly rein it in.

‘You gave me permission to take you with me and I could not risk your refusal at the last minute, ‘the Sith Lord calmly tells me. ‘Regardless, you have sacrificed your career and probably your life on your home world in helping me. What would be left for you there?’ He pauses, then continues, his tone more serious, as he reminds me, ‘Maia, don’t ever forget that you swore yourself to me. You are mine. I will hold you to your pledge, your vow, and act on it as you asked me to tomorrow, when you have fully recovered. If you cannot accept this, then consider what I will do as payment of the debt I owe you.’

I yank myself away and glare at him, hurt to the quick. Somehow I keep my own voice level and firm, ‘I do not keep a balance book for debts owed by my friends. I would have helped you regardless of the price or reward, oath or no. I wanted nothing from you then and want nothing now.’

I spin away from him. The only thing I had hoped for was friendship and perhaps love or marriage since he appeared willing to offer it, but that seems to be impossible now. What a fool I have been. Tears threaten and I dig my nails into my palms. I will not let myself weep, not here, not now.

He stands behind me, motionless. The only sound is his regulated breathing. I wait, growing more dizzy and shaky with each passing moment. Something is wrong with me and I don’t know what it is. My entire body burns with a feeling of electricity and I am only half aware that he has started speaking again.

***

She doesn’t know or understand.

I wait a moment, hoping for some sort of realization on her part, but she simply stands there, back to me, shivering with shock and trying her best not to cry.

Lying to her about her oath was a terrible mistake. One I am now paying the price for.

‘It seems,’ I finally explain, ‘that you do not understand the situation at all or what your oath really means. Maia, you are my ...’

I break off mid-sentence as I see her legs give way. She slips to the floor, landing hard on her right hip and breaking her fall with her right arm. Her entire body is trembling violently in reaction to something. I move quickly to her side and drop to one knee in front of her. A hand stretches pleadingly towards me so I catch it in my own as I watch her try to ask for help before she slides into unconsciousness once again.

My wife needs medical attention right now.

‘Trever,’ I call, activating the comm as I pick Maia up off the floor, ‘something’s wrong. She’s collapsed on me.’

‘Your quarters are closer to both our positions than main Medical, my Lord,’ he tells me, ‘I’ll meet you there.’

He must be part way back to his office, then. If I need to I can always take Maia there later. I leave the meeting room, wife in arms and quickly cover the short distance to my quarters.

Trever is waiting for me when I arrive. I don’t give him a chance to ask what happened and start speaking the second the door closes behind us.

‘She was fine one moment, shivering the next, and then unconscious on the floor,’ I tell him.

The doctor follows me into my sleeping quarters where I set Maia down on the bed. She doesn’t show any signs of being aware at all - her body is completely limp. Trever waves me aside, sets about checking Maia’s vital signs, and draws a blood sample. He frowns at the results on the screen, looks a touch puzzled, then shakes his head.

‘Nothing appears to be wrong with her physically,’ he reports. ‘The readings are all normal. It’s probably just a delayed stress reaction, my Lord. I could rouse her for you with an adrenaline shot, but it would be better to just leave her alone. She’ll sleep for a while and wake when she’s ready to.’

I doubt the explanation is as simple as the one he just gave me, but the doctor seems satisfied that all will be well.

‘Good,’ I decide, then dismiss him. ‘You can go.’

Maia can sleep in my bed until I am certain I know what I am going to do with her. I make her comfortable, then retrieve a stack of reports from my office to read. In the days I had been away, these have been piling up and I need to finish going through them all. Settling myself at the small table with a datapad, I start working.

For a moment I pause, look longingly over at the bed. Last night I spent working, catching up on everything that I need to know about. I haven’t slept properly in almost two weeks and the lack of sleep has taken its toll on me. Tonight, I decide, once the hyperdrive engines have been tested, I will make sure I have a long uninterrupted rest. And, I add with a smile, have an enjoyable evening with my wife, once she is awake and I have asked her to marry me.

I force my attention back onto the report in my hand. The sooner I get through all of them, the better.

***

I do not know how long I was in that dark place before I woke, but now that I am conscious, I cannot figure out where I am. This is not a room in the medical wing, since the walls are a uniform gray color, not white, and seem to have a large number of closed compartments set into them. A complicated looking control panel is set into one wall but there are no hints as to what its functions are. There are two open doors facing one another and in the walls that run parallel to the large bed I have been securely tucked into. The only other furniture is a chair and table covered with plastic printouts in one corner of the room. Looking around reveals no obvious ways to identify where I have been taken, so I give up and take stock of how I feel. The dizziness and trembling are gone as is that peculiar, horrid burning sensation, and I am both tired and hungry. I am wearing only the light underdress, yet the temperature is warm enough that I am not cold.

I am starting to get bored, so I begin to muse. If I had wanted to make a fool of myself, I have certainly done an exceptionally good job of it this time. I should have somehow stayed on my feet until he finished what he was going to say before fainting on him. There is a part of me which knows that he will never complete the sentence he started before I blacked out. Another part of my mind wonders where the Dark Lord is.

As if in answer to my thoughts, the Sith Lord steps into the room through the door in the right hand wall. He glances at me, then walks over to the chair and gracefully seats himself before setting down the datapad in his hand. I idly wonder if he practices moving so that his robes and cloak fall into neat folds.

‘No, I don’t,’ he replies, ‘it’s a property of the fabric.’

I somehow know he is amused at my speculation though there is no hint of that emotion in his voice. The same idea must have occurred to both of us at the same time because I find myself gazing dumbstruck at him while he returns the stare. I had not spoken my musings aloud, only thought them to myself.

‘What,’ he asks me, curious, ‘did you just do?’

‘I don’t know,’ I admit, ‘just thought up an impertinent question.’

I am starting to feel nervous. How can I pick up on his emotions? I am no Force-sensitive, and he has never been able to sense anything from me before now, yet alone read a complete thought.

He rises from the chair and makes his way to where I have propped myself up. I watch him with a bit of trepidation, not sure what he is going to do. When he sits beside me on the bed, it is all I can do not to try to bolt, even though I sense no threat or menace in him, only intense curiosity. Vader leans over me and his hand touches my face. I can feel flickerings around my mind as he peers into my thoughts.

Once he has seen enough, he sits back and begins to speculate aloud, ‘You were an anomaly in the Force, a blind spot, and now you are not. So, what has changed in the last few hours?’

The Dark Lord leaves my side and begins to pace the floor.

***

This does not make any sense.

On her homeworld, she was completely closed off to me and now she is broadcasting her thoughts and emotions as clearly as if she is shouting them aloud.

I wish she would stop that.

My steps take me around the room again. Maia is watching me, a slightly worried look on her face.

I pause and look at her a moment.

She said she didn’t have midichlorians. No midichlorians, no Force potential, no way for me to sense her – all of that is perfectly logical.

But now?

I resume my path again.

I really don’t like puzzles that I can’t figure out.

Midichlorians…

Everyone here is born with them. Only a few have enough to effectively use the Force.

I wonder…

***

He stops dead in his tracks a second time, then picks up a comlink from the table.

‘Lieutenant Keol, patch me through to Trever in medical,’ he orders.

The doctor’s voice is clear through the link, ‘Yes, my Lord. What can I do for you?’

‘I need to know exactly what you did in treating Maia,’ the Sith Lord orders. ‘Don’t leave anything out even if it seems trivial.’

Trever begins a long litany of various things, ranging from vaccinations for the diseases common in the Empire to a complete scan for broken bones. He even repaired the retinas and lenses in my eyes so I no longer need those cursed glasses. Most of his inventory of procedures sounds pretty mundane to me, but when he nears the end of the list, Vader stops him and asks for clarification, ‘So doctor, you used an antibody serum. Whose?’

‘Yours, my Lord,’ the doctor admits, ‘of the thousands in storage, only you were a close enough match, to be more precise, you were a perfect match. There would have been an incompatibility reaction if I had used anyone else’s.’

The Sith Lord is silent and I can only stare at him in surprise.

Finally he dismisses Trever, ‘Thank you, doctor, that will be all,’ and sets the comlink back on the table.

His blood cells are racing around in me?

‘No, it’s the midichlorians which are important, not the blood cells, and in the blood they are concentrated in the serum,’ he clarifies, easily hearing my thought. ‘Trever has inadvertently added enough of them to your system to have them effectively colonize your body. I think a test is in order.’

I watch him vanish into whatever room adjoins this one on the right. When he comes back, the Dark Lord takes my hand and stabs the back of it with a needle, drawing blood which he smears on a glass plate. I gently rub the wound once my hand is free. He disappears into the other room again, and when he returns, he stands at the foot of the bed, his hands resting on his hips. I can sense him speculating.

‘So,’ I ask, ‘what’s the result of your test?’

‘You definitely have my midichlorians,’ he confirms, ‘and at a fairly respectable level, too.’

‘Oh,’ is all I manage to say. “Respectable,” I wonder what he means by that.

‘You don’t need to know what the number is,’ he scolds. ‘Don’t question me further about this.’

I find myself becoming confused. How am I to keep out of trouble if he insists on replying to or answering every question that pops into my head? At least I don’t hear any of what goes on in his mind.

‘You need to control your thoughts and emotions and stop projecting them so loudly. I will start training you in the techniques you need to know tomorrow.’ He anticipates my next question and answers it as well, his voice calm and absolutely deadly, ‘No, you don’t have any choice in this. Your midichlorian level is high enough that I can never let you go. The Emperor would have me hunt you down as a potential threat if I did. Be grateful you are already bound to me in a way he can never break otherwise I would be forced to give you to him.’

‘You aren’t seriously considering training me to be a Sith are you?’ I ask incredulously.

I won’t let myself become one, I decide, and I don’t care what he does about it.

The amusement is apparent in his voice. ‘No, you are far too old for the amount of work which would be required and I do not have the time to spare to fully train you, even if I chose to do so. I have something else in mind for you.’ He changes the topic completely now, noting, ‘You need to eat something and get some sleep.’

Once again, he disappears into the other room. I am beginning to wonder exactly whose quarters I am in.

‘Mine,’ his voice calls from the other room, ‘and you must be exhausted if you haven’t figured that out by now,’ he adds as he steps through the entry. He sets a glass with some sort of drink in my hand. I eye it suspiciously. ‘It’s the same thing I have several times a day.’ His tone brooks no argument, so I do as he wishes and drink it. It is surprisingly sweet, I discover.

Before I can ask what it is, he takes the glass from me and states, ‘You’ve had your quota of impertinent questions answered for today. Go to sleep,’ and I find that I can’t stay awake even if I fight to. After a minute, I give up and let myself slip into slumber.

In what seems to be only a few minutes later, I am thrown from the bed and onto the floor when the ship lurches suddenly down and to the left. Glancing towards the table where Vader had been working reveals that he too has been sent flying and is quickly picking himself up. Without a moment’s hesitation, he pulls me to my feet and pushes me backwards so that I am forced to sit on the edge of the bed. Seconds later a man’s voice is audible over the comm. The Sith Lord silences me by placing a finger across my lips and listens to the officer.

‘My Lord, there has been an explosion in the hyperdrive engine room during the first set of system tests,’ he reports, ‘The extent of the damage is unknown because secondary explosions are making it impossible for crews to get anywhere near where the problem is.’

‘Shut down the active sublight engines, Admiral, in case there is a further cascade effect, and switch to auxiliary power,’ Vader orders, ‘I will be there momentarily.’

Turning his attention to me once the comm-channel is closed, the Sith Lord advises, ‘I need to make sure that you are secure in case there are any further explosions.’ He moves to the other side of the room and pulls open a compartment. After rummaging around a bit, he selects a belt from its contents, shuts the drawer and returns to where I am seated.

‘This is a gravity belt,’ he instructs, as he cinches it around my waist and adjusts a dial beside the buckle, ‘it will keep you from being thrown about again, and out of mischief until I return.’

‘The only time in my life I have ever gotten myself into serious trouble has been in the last week, and that mostly because of you,’ I can’t help but retort.

‘Even so,’ he says with amusement, ‘I would prefer not to have you injured if it can be prevented.’

‘And I would prefer to be mobile instead of pinned in place like an insect on display,’ I protest to him, ‘What happens if I have to get out of here in a hurry?’

Despite my wishes, I find myself being tucked in once again, now anchored in place at the waist. He does not reply, but calls the comlink to his hand from where it had fallen to the floor. A quick adjustment or two and the Dark Lord puts it in my hand.

‘I have set it to my personal frequency,’ he tells me, ‘and added an override to it so that you will interrupt any signal except the Emperor’s. If you need me, call, but be sure it is important or I will be most annoyed with you.’ As he reaches the door, he adds, ‘I really I should send you to sleep again, but if something does happen, you will need to be alert.’

Right, I think to myself, alert and bored to death waiting for another explosion.

‘You could always try meditating,’ Vader suggests, his voice growing fainter as he walks away from me through his quarters, ‘you will be spending a fair amount of time doing that in the next weeks, so it would be a good idea for you to start practicing.’

I roll my eyes. Meditation. Just like my crazy aunt who went to India to study under the Maharishi. She used to insist that I spend several hours at it whenever I visited her. I usually picked some obscure mathematical problem and set my brain to working away at it instead. Letting out a sigh, I toss the covers aside and try to push myself up so I can sit cross-legged. It’s a good thing I am a stubborn person because I have to fight the gravity belt to pull my ankles and knees into position and stay upright. After a few minutes, I manage to strike a balance where I won’t tip over. I close my eyes then and set to emptying my mind the way I do before beginning a complicated spatial analysis. Everything drops away, and my concentration focuses on just being, feeling, rather than on what is going on around me.

When I finally decide to try looking outwards, I nearly fall over in surprise. All around me there is the sensation of energy. It moves around me, through me, whispers against my skin. Can this be the Force, I wonder? Well, if the stories are accurate, I should be able to manipulate it. I reach out with a thought and give one of the larger force swirls a nudge; it moves with my will. As I start to retreat back inside myself to consider what to do next, I notice a strong outward pull. I feel drawn elsewhere. Rather than fight the sensation, I allow myself to be directed.

The warm energy falls away from me as my senses move farther away from my body, and I begin to feel cold. There is someone dark nearby, I guess, and then realize that the Sith Lord is attempting to draw me to him. My obstinate nature takes over now. I refuse to be pulled any closer, and decide to see what he will do about it. It is not long before I sense him reaching out towards me, and I wait, warily, for his approach. His powerful, strongly shielded presence is unmistakable, but I feel no threat from him, only iron-clad control and a touch of amusement. Time does not seem to exist in this place, so I cannot tell if it is a few seconds or minutes before he is there with me. Like a siren’s call, the cold darkness around him beckons to me, tempts me, but I still refuse to budge or be intimidated.

Finally, he touches my mind with a thought, I see that lessons on meditation will not be necessary. You are, without a doubt, the most stubborn person I have ever met.

I don’t like being manipulated, I think back at him, I have put up with far too much of that in my life from people who figured they knew what was best for me or wanted something from me.

From his silence, he is obviously considering my stance, and I wonder if I have perhaps been a bit too blunt for my own good. But, dammit all, I am tired of being told what to do. How to manipulate someone? I can write books on the subject having experienced it first hand from family, teachers, and colleagues for a large chunk of my life.

So much pain in one so young, the Dark Lord observes. You must accept that you cannot change the past and let it go, or you will destroy yourself from within.

Jedi wisdom from a Sith Lord? I sarcastically send to him, letting my own anger get the better of me. I had forgotten he could pick up my thoughts, and realize he knows everything which has just run through my mind.

No, he quietly comments, from a friend who has been there. He is distracted a moment, then adds, I must go, there are matters requiring my attention.

His presence fades but I get a slight sense of regret from him despite his shielding. Immediately I begin to rue my hasty words. How stupid could I be? I want, need his friendship and love, and when it is obviously being offered freely, I strike out at him. Indecision paralyzes me for only a moment, then I am off after him, trying to follow before I lose track of his unique Force signature. When I finally find him again, he has retreated back into his mind, and his defenses are such that I can read nothing from him. Not sure what to do now, I hover about, reach out once to touch his shields, then yank myself away.

Pulling myself back to put some distance between us, I settle in to wait and see if the Sith Lord notices that I am nearby. Time to think about things, too, since he doesn’t seem to be paying any attention to me. First the easy admission to myself: I have considered him a friend before now, and he has just shown me that he is willing to offer the same on his part. There is no problem with this as I would prefer to have a teacher whom I can get along with on some level, and he is determined to fill that role whether I like it or not. Now the hard part - what do I want in the long term? I really don’t want to face my own feelings, but I may not have another opportunity for a while to sort myself out without having my thoughts eavesdropped on.

I let out a mental sigh. Well, I scold myself, you already told him you love him and want him. Remember that scene beside his ship, just before he knocked you out? And then there is that oath you swore to him, a pledge which is very important to him, though I do not really understand why. No way to take any of those words back, and, I slowly realize, I don’t want to either.

I begin to consider my situation with ruthless logic. This is Darth Vader, one part of my brain nags, you know what that means, who and what he is, and you are in his universe now, not back on Earth where he exists only in a galaxy far away and long ago. You will be playing with fire here and the results could be deadly. But, I argue back, there is a noble and honorable soul hidden under all that darkness, and that’s the man I love, the one who has teased and looked after me, not the Sith Lord, the persona he shows everyone else. He was trapped on your world with only you to help get him out of there, my logic circuit kicks in, so of course he would behave in a way to ensure you would do whatever needed to be done.

My mind begins to run in circles, so I abandon the logical approach and ask myself what I feel. This only makes matters worse. I have always been able to relate to his complicated character, perhaps because we are similar in so many ways. Both of us are gifted, isolated from those surrounding us by our talents, and tend to intimidate or scare people, though in my case it is not intentional. We are definitely lonely, solitary souls. So, I admit to myself, as an abstract being, you identified with and have always been rather fond of him, and most people would find that odd to say the very least. Now, what about the man you spent four days with? For a start, he’s just as stubborn as I am and has the same slightly warped, sarcastic sense of humor. He treats me like a normal person, and I cannot but like the Dark Lord if for no other reason than that. And, I prompt myself, what else? I don’t want to go where my thoughts are leading me, but if I am going to be ruthlessly honest, then I have to admit that I am hopelessly in love with him and told him as much. Or have I? He could not sense me or read my thoughts at that point, and may not have believed what he was hearing. Question is, what am I going to do about it, if anything?

I know that at the very least I need to apologize for my careless remark, but I am going to have to get his attention somehow in order to do so or wait for him to return to his quarters. If I delay, I know I will probably lose my nerve. Studying his mental shields, I realize that I have no idea how to politely let him know I need to talk to him. Simply wandering up and knocking, so to speak, seems a bit rude. I run a few possibilities through my mind, and decide to try communicating at the emotional level. It should be less distracting to him if he is busy and if he doesn’t notice, well, I can give up or try something else. Which emotion then? Nothing negative, I determine quickly, so a positive one then, something he will understand can only be coming from me. Love would be far too strong and I don’t want to go there yet, so I settle on affection which I hope is more neutral.

The dark side around the Sith Lord’s mind still exerts a pull, so I allow it to draw me closer to him. I let my own presence brush against his shields, and before my courage starts to disappear, send a strong burst of affection through to him. His reaction is instantaneous, and I sense surprise followed in rapid succession by a touch of amazement and then intense irritation, all brought quickly under control. Well, I have most certainly got his attention now. I feel him reach out towards me and only manage to catch from him, Maia? What are you doing ... then I am torn away and thrown back into my own body.

I find myself sprawled across the bed, still held in place by the blasted gravity belt. My head feels like someone has dropped a ton or two of bricks on it. The comlink is beeping like mad and is back on the floor, well out of my reach, despite several desperate tries to drag myself off the bed to where I can grab it. After a minute of struggling to move, I simply give up and lay there, exhausted by my efforts. Why doesn’t he just use the comm in his quarters to contact me?

As if in answer to my thought, Vader’s voice fills the room, ‘Maia, I have remotely activated the comm-channel to my quarters. Have you been injured?’

‘No,’ I tell him, ‘but my head is pounding and the comlink is out of reach. What happened?’

‘The back-up hyperdrive just went during a preliminary test.’ He does not sound at all pleased with the situation. I can just imagine what he will do to whoever is responsible for this disaster.

‘Isn’t this supposed to be the latest, greatest ship in the fleet?’

‘Yes,’ he curtly acknowledges, ‘and it is still in the shipyards under construction. It will be at least another two months before we leave Fondor for the shake-down cruise.’

Something is nagging at the back of my mind about this. I keep a tight guard over my thoughts and consider quickly what I know about this ship. The Emperor gave him the Executor for his flagship a few months after the Battle of Yavin. Well, at least I know when I am in the timeline now - he was telling the truth about that at the party. No wonder Dr. Trever gave me that weird look in medical. I should not have known the name of the ship I am on.

To buy myself more time to think, I ask, ‘Where are you?’

‘Briefing room off the command deck. Admiral Griff does not know about you and I would prefer to keep it that way for the moment,’ is his prompt response, but it has given me the chance to dredge my memory for the information I need.

‘I have a hunch you will find that some idiot in the shipyards has installed the hyperdrive’s energy dampers in reverse,’ I volunteer.

Somehow I had filed this obscure fact away in my brain. There is silence, except for his regulated breathing. Have I said too much, I wonder?

‘That would fit with the pattern and timing of the explosions,’ he admits. ‘I am curious, though, how you arrived at this conclusion.’

Oops. Time to equivocate a bit.

‘I told you my father is an engineer,’ I remind him, ‘and I just remembered a story he once told me about several boilers that blew up. When the investigations were over, they had found that one of the assembly line workers had managed to put several critical components necessary for controlling air and steam pressures in backwards and no one caught on to the problem until it was too late. Call my suggestion an educated guess.’

I cross my fingers and pray that he doesn’t press me any further. My knowledge of events in his future is going to get me into trouble and I had better lock away the memories of what I do know pretty soon.

‘A hyperdrive is hardly comparable to a steam boiler, but your intuition may prove to be correct,’ the Sith Lord states flatly, though I know he is amused nonetheless.

I hear the Admiral’s voice over the comm and I guess that he has entered the briefing room, ‘My Lord, there is sufficient power to maintain most functions in the short term, but it will take at least twelve hours to bring the sublight engines on-line again.’

‘Then do so, Admiral,’ Vader orders, ‘and have Engineering check the orientation of the energy dampers in both hyperdrives. Quickly, if you don’t mind.’

He emphasizes the last, and I can imagine the officer making a hasty retreat.

‘Maia, you will have to manage on your own for a while longer until I am sure that there will be no further surprises,’ the Dark Lord tells me. In thought, he coldly adds, And there are some issues I need to discuss with you. In private.

His mental comment freezes me in place, but he has closed the comm-channel so I cannot respond to it. I shut my eyes for a moment to help bring the headache under control. Part of me knows that I have no choice now but to hide my knowledge of the future from him because if he ever realizes how accurate it is, he will rip it from me and ruin everything. There is also the very real possibility that I will slip up and inadvertently make a mess of things because he can tell what I am thinking.

I am too tired to try to sit up, so I just stay where I am and start to plan out what I need to do. First thing is to conceal what I am up to. I don’t know how to use the Force to shield my mind, so I will have to hide my actions and intentions another way. Mentally partitioning off a section of my brain, I start it working away at Fermat’s last theorem, a favorite distraction of mine, and set the calculations running at the surface of my mind. Hopefully if the Sith Lord decides to see what I am up to, he will get a sense of how my mathematical talent works and nothing more.

So far, so good. Next I review what I know from the movies and books. Anything about his past and other earlier events that I shouldn’t know about and everything post-Yavin after this point in time I will need to bury deep in my mind where he won’t find them. I will also have to conceal the fact that his universe is considered to be purely fictional on my world. This should not be too difficult as I have often hidden away painful memories where they will not easily be retrieved. Part of me accepts that I shouldn’t tamper with his destiny, but I really don’t think I am capable of standing back and watching him get killed over Endor. It will be critical for me to be in the right place at the right time to prevent this and still have events run close to how they should. I could set up a warning system of sorts, and have something trigger the information required to save him when I need it. There is a technique I use for remembering appointments that should work - I just have to decide which events will trip the alarms. It takes almost an hour to mentally set up what I am going to do to myself. When I am finished, I hesitate. I am going to lose so much, and I don’t know what effect it is going to have on me.

Before I can reconsider, I activate what I have decided to do and chunks of my memory rearrange themselves and vanish. It is the most disconcerting thing I have ever felt. In a few minutes, the process has run its course, and while I can sense there is something I should know about the future, other than one specific event, it is impossible for me to say exactly what it is. There seems to be no other obvious effects. Perfect, I think happily to myself. Now, I hope he is unable to detect what I have just done to myself. Since I have no idea how long it will be before the Dark Lord returns, I chose to lose myself in and completely concentrate on the mathematical problem I had selected until he does so.

I don’t know when Vader finally returned to his quarters, but I now find myself being gently shaken out of the induced trance I had put myself into.

‘Maia,’ I hear him call, ‘you must wake up.’

I manage to prop myself up, resting much of my weight on one arm, and quickly note that the gravity belt is gone. And good riddance I think to myself. The second thing I realize is that I am shivering. The temperature has plunged and I feel frozen.

‘Why is it so cold in here?’ I ask, trying not to let any shake get into my voice.

In an attempt to warm up, I pull my knees into my chest and wrap my arms around them.

‘There is only enough power to maintain minimal life support,’ he tells me, ‘and it will stay that way until the sub-light engines which serve as the ship’s power plants are back on-line.’ Some annoyance creeps into his tone, now, ‘I tried to contact you, to warn you, but you were busy with some arcane mental puzzle and would not respond. It was impossible for me to leave the bridge any sooner, so now you are chilled and I am going to have to warm you up.’ He does not add, ‘yet again,’ but I somehow know that’s the thought appended to the end of the sentence.

With that he unhooks his cloak and wraps it around me. He straightens the sheets and cover with a couple of strategic tugs, and tosses a heavy blanket from one of the drawers set in the wall onto the bed. I watch his every move with growing curiosity. Apparently satisfied with his arrangements, he retrieves his cloak despite my attempt to hang onto it, and I find myself being tucked back under the covers yet again. This is quickly becoming a habit of his, but this time I don’t raise any protests. The Sith Lord waves a hand towards the door and I hear it slide shut and lock. His lightsaber is tossed towards me and lands neatly on a shelf above my head. I resist the urge to have a closer look at it than the one I had at the party.

He picks up my thought and gives his permission to satisfy my curiosity. ‘Go right ahead and have a look, just don’t turn it on or change the settings, and put it back when you are finished.’

I push myself into a sitting position and very carefully retrieve the lightsaber, making sure I have the blade end pointed away from me. It is a bit heavier than I remember, and far too large for my small hands. Turning it about reveals several knobs for making adjustments, but I know better than to play around with them. I place my hands in an experimental grip, and note that the balance is towards the blade end. This is just too cool, so I smile happily to myself.

‘Your grip is incorrect,’ Vader notes. ‘You cannot hold a lightsaber the way you do your chosen weapon.’ He comes over and sits beside me on the bed. Reaching behind me, he wraps his arms around me and sets his hands on top of mine. As he adjusts where I have put my hands, he coaches me along. ‘Here, like this. If you hold it the way you were, you could get your wrists broken. It is also much easier to control if your hands are farther apart, and you need to avoid putting pressure on the blade controls.’

To make his point, he moves the saber’s hilt to show how the position he has set my hands in will allow me to easily control the weapon. Keeping his hands over mine, he ignites the blade and I can’t stop myself from flinching in surprise. His amused chuckle quickly follows.

‘You can’t be afraid of it if I am going to teach you how to use it.’

There is no weight to the blade and I watch the spark of photons along its edge. He lets me move the weapon back and forth into a few high, experimental parries, still leaving his hands over mine. After a minute or so, he shuts the lightsaber off and takes it from me, returning it to its spot on the shelf.

The Sith Lord stays where he is beside me, leaving one arm around my waist while waving his other hand at the control panel on the wall. I hear the hiss of air and feel the change in pressure against my skin. A sharp smell of antiseptics and medication permeates the atmosphere, and the oxygen content climbs drastically. Finally a light on the panel turns green and only then does he rise and head towards the table in the corner of the room. I retreat back under the sheets, watching his every step. He is not moving as easily or steadily as he normally would.

‘You are completely exhausted, aren’t you?’ I scold, ‘When was the last time you had any sleep? The day we left my home world?’ I throw back the covers on the other side of the bed and order, ‘Get in here right now. You need to lie down before you fall down.’

He turns to look at me, surprise leaking through his shields.

‘What?’ is all he manages to say.

‘You heard me, your Lordship. If you won’t look after yourself, then maybe I should.’

His response is to kill the lights in the room.

Well, fine, have it your way then, I think hard at him, just remember I am not strong enough to pick you up and drag you into bed if you do fall over.

I pull the sheets up to my chin and listen intently to try and figure out what Vader is up to. A wall compartment is opened then various pieces of his armor are being removed and stowed in it from the noises he is making. Then I hear the sound of air seals breaking and I know that he is taking off his helmet. The movement of fabric follows and I guess that his tunic has come off. The creak of leather next and a snap and several clicks, but I have no idea what they may represent. With the soft sound of cloth being wrapped around a body, the compartment is closed. Finally, he pads on bare feet over to the bed.

‘I trust your offer is still open?’ he asks, in his unamplified, but still distinct baritone voice.

‘Of course,’ I confirm, ‘You need to sleep and it is your bed after all.’

His weight shifts on the bed and I feel the sheets and blankets being pulled over him. A moment later he has moved closer to me, and his hand gently touches my cheek.

‘You are still quite chilled,’ he observes, then orders, ‘Come here.’

When I simply stare in his direction, he reaches over, wraps an arm around my waist, and drags me backwards into his chest. I am far too surprised to do anything other than stay there. I feel his breath above my ear when he speaks.

‘I have no reason to spend the night using the Force to keep myself warm when you are here,’ the Sith Lord decides. ‘You are also quite aware that this is the fastest way to raise your body temperature, so behave yourself. None of that foolishness you tried earlier, either. I won’t put up with it.’

Foolishness? What on Earth is he talking about?

‘You know very well what I mean,’ he coldly states. ‘I did not appreciate having my mind flooded with your misplaced feelings for me.’

I retreat into myself at his words. Cruel, oh he is so very cruel.

‘And I won’t let you run away from this discussion like a spoilt child, either.’

He slips into my mind and easily blocks my path, yanking me back out to awareness.

‘So out with it. All of it,’ he orders. ‘I can’t teach someone who keeps secrets from me and refuses to be honest with me about their emotions.’

Cruel and merciless, I note.

‘Yes, I can be,’ he admits, the annoyance becoming audible, ‘and I am rapidly losing my patience with you.’

‘And what do you want to hear? That I love you? Would die for you if you asked it of me?’ I confess, and as I continue, I let him hear my distress in my voice, ‘Is that so very hard for you to believe? This is the only secret of any importance that I have now.’

I dig my nails into my palm, opening some of the almost healed cactus wounds and causing blood to flow. There is absolutely no way I will let him drive me to tears.

I sense him measuring my words, weighing them. He invades my mind then, and rifles through my thoughts and emotions from the previous days. In response I pull away from him, curl into a small ball, and make no show of resistance. It would be foolish and futile anyway, I quickly realize, for I have no defense against his actions. Tears slide down my face and I give up on trying to stop them.

‘What have you done to your mind, child?’ he asks in dismay, gently brushing the tears from my face, and pulling me back into his arms. ‘There are huge bleeding holes everywhere in your psyche.’

‘I knew things,’ I manage to get out somehow, ‘things which would be dangerous to you, so I removed them.’

His shock is palpable to me.

Finally he comments quietly to himself, ‘Without any training at all and you did an exceptionally good job of it, too. I can find no trace of anything which you have ripped out.’ To me he directs, ‘The damage you have done to yourself must be repaired, and quickly.’

‘You aren’t angry with me?’ My voice is barely audible, yet he still hears me.

‘What would be the point?’ he asks, again sounding annoyed with me. ‘The damage is done and there is no way to retrieve any of what you once knew. I cannot train someone whose mind is in tatters.’

He still wants to train me? After this?

‘Even so. As for your feelings for me,’ he pauses, and I wait, dreading what he is going to say. ‘I am a Sith Lord, Maia. Love is forbidden to me; it is a poison to the dark side of the Force as surely as anger is to the light.’ Part of me wants to die at his words, yet he continues, with some humor, ‘My friendship, such as it is, is yours. It is rather flattering to know you still love and want me, but I must admit that I can never promise that I will ever love you in return. If you feel you must pursue me, go right ahead.’ His voice becomes fierce as he finishes, ‘Passion and possession I am allowed, but if you do catch me, be aware that you will be mine and mine alone, bound to me tighter than with any oath. I am a jealous man, Maia, and will tolerate no rivals of any sort in your thoughts or heart.’

He pulls me over, onto my back as he says this, and to my astonishment, sets his lips hard against mine. I gasp in surprise and he exploits it, forces my lips apart, tastes my mouth, possesses me entirely in a few brief seconds with only his kiss. When he pulls away, I keep my lips on his, trying to follow him as he moves. I sense his amusement at my reaction, and as he breaks away, he gently pushes me back onto the pillows.

Not bad, I suppose, considering I have never been kissed before except by him in my dreams.

‘I find that rather hard to believe,’ he quickly counters.

‘Believe it, because it’s true, Sith Lord.’ I can sense him starting to speculate on other things so I decide to pull the same trick on him that he does with me and answer the yet to be asked question. ‘And I haven’t done anything other than what I have just done with you, and especially not what you are thinking right now. You will need to be my husband to do that.’

Ah, it must have been a good guess for what he was wondering, judging from the startled reaction I just picked up on.

‘You may have set yourself an impossible goal then,’ he warns, ‘I had intended to have you recognized as my wife, my consort, tomorrow, but marriage requires my master’s permission now that you are attuned to the Force and that will not be easy to obtain.’

The third question, I remember, the one he never had the chance to ask. Well, being married doesn’t matter to me if I can still have him without it. I smile wickedly at him, knowing he can use the Force to see my expressions if he wants to.

‘Worried, are you?’ I tease. When he doesn’t answer, I add, ‘You should be because I have every intention of getting exactly what I want, and I want you.’

As I speak, I carefully shift my position and ready my playful attack. Before he can stop me, it is my lips which are brushing against his in a light kiss and I have him loosely held down on the bed with my hands pressing against his shoulders. The Dark Lord must be truly exhausted for me to get away with this. I know he can still toss me aside easily if he wants to, but I am pulled into his arms instead and he rolls us both over. I am now securely pinned beneath him. He rests most of his weight on one elbow and looks down at me.

‘So eager are you to experience my passions?’ he flatly asks.

I can’t tell if he is teasing me or not, but I am afraid to answer him because I have no idea what he is planning to do. This is definitely not the reaction I had intended to get. His response to my silence is another kiss, deeper, longer, and more demanding than his first. I can feel the intensity of his desire now, his consuming need to possess me, to make me entirely his, and it frightens me. Finishing the kiss on my mouth, his lips trail down my throat, stopping partway down, where he lightly bites me before resuming his progress downwards. This is not the way he behaved in my dreams at all. He was gentle with me then, not aggressive like this. Think, Maia, I scold myself, what should you do here?

‘My Lord?’ I question, hoping to distract him.

He pauses in his journey, returns to look into my face judging from where I feel his breath on my skin. Now what, I wonder. Not sure what else to do, I lift one of my hands to touch his face, only to have it caught and firmly held down on the bed.

‘Don’t,’ he warns me, ‘you do not have my permission to touch my face.’

My hand is released and I set it back on my stomach. The Sith Lord runs his fingers over my face for a moment, then returns his lips to my neck. I flinch when he bites me again, much harder this time, and I know that one will have left a mark. Well, Maia, that didn’t help much, now did it? Kicking my logic circuits into gear, I start running possibilities through my mind. Nothing I can come up with will allow me to avoid the inevitable direction this is going to go in. I have two options: try to control how he goes about it or let him do as he wants.

I decide to try the first one.

‘Kiss me, please,’ I ask him. ‘Teach me how to do it properly.’

I can sense his amusement at my request. His lips lightly brush mine in answer, then he pauses, waiting. It takes me a moment to realize he expects me to repeat what he has done to me, to him. A few minutes later the kisses are no longer chaste ones. My shy nature now wars against what he expects me to do. As he pulls back from his latest kiss, I shake my head in a negative to let him know I will not return it.

A light laugh is his response to my refusal, and he slides his hands down from my face, under the sheets to my chest. I can feel the Dark Lord’s annoyance now, but it is not directed at me. He grabs the neckline of the underdress I am wearing, and gives a sharp tug using the Force. The seams split and the fabric rips away from my body. Too shocked to do anything, I stay frozen in place wondering what he will do next. Without a thought, he throws back the sheets and tosses the destroyed garment and the underclothes that came off with it onto the floor.

Knowing I had better try something else to distract him, I move my hands to touch him. He makes no attempt to stop me, so I slip them underneath the robe he has wrapped himself in. Following the muscles of his chest, my fingertips bump against a small box attached to it. Curious, I trace the edges.

‘Remote primarily for controlling my diaphragm and pacemaker,’ the Sith Lord tells me, ‘I can’t breathe or survive without it. Serves the same functions as the control panel on my armor, but is more compact, and it only works in here.’

I let my fingers travel further, down and across his stomach, around to his back, tracing various scars as I do so. Just as in my dream, he is heavily muscled. He must work out quite a lot to stay in as good a shape as he is. My thought produces a touch of amusement from him, but he makes no comment, simply pulls my hands away and kisses me on the mouth, deepening it until I become uncomfortable and try to get away from him.

Stopping his kisses for the moment, he runs his hands over my face and arms instead. His touch is light, just his fingertips, and it leaves goose bumps everywhere he goes. This feels good, I admit to myself; hopefully he will just do this for a while. When he moves his hands to touch my waist, I shiver a bit. It’s cold in the room and my bare exposed skin is becoming chilled. Reaching to my side, I try to yank the covers protectively over myself.

***

I stop her attempt to cover herself by pulling the sheets out of her hands. Maia’s childish game of playing coy has got to end.

‘Stop that,’ I order. ‘I want to touch you.’

‘But I’m cold,’ she protests, hoping I will relent and let her hide under the sheets.

‘You won’t be in a few minutes,’ I comment, amused. When she wonders if that’s a promise or a threat, I reply to her thought, ‘Both.’

She stubbornly shakes her head, and I can tell she doesn’t want me to go any further with this at all. I abruptly sit back and consider what I should do. Maia was shy at first, then welcoming, passionate and eager that night on her homeworld, but this nervousness is no act on her part. She really is scared of what I might do to her. Perhaps I need to remind her of her situation.

‘Listen to me, Maia. If you are to be my wife and bear my children, you will have to let me touch you in this way,’ I lecture her like a child, but am unyielding in my tone.

There is a burst of fear in response to my words, so I sit beside her and gently caress her face. Since I used suggestion to blur her memories, she doesn’t know we have made love before this, and I can never let on that we have. Not now. Not ever. She will never trust me again if I do.

Now that I am sure I know what the problem is, I speak softly to her for a moment, to reassure her, 'I know you are frightened because you have never done this before, so I will be gentle with you.’ Then I remind her, ‘You willingly, freely offered yourself to me when you swore your oath, and you have just told me that you want me. I want you now, tonight, so stop resisting.’

She lies beside me, trembling, while I wait patiently for her decision. Stop acting like a frightened child, Maia, I think, and behave like an adult. You told me you loved me, wanted me, and you need to learn that you can’t say those things and then refuse to yield at the last minute when I decide to act on your words.

I sense her burying her fears deep down inside her mind, hiding them from me. Her body stops shivering with her determined efforts.

Good. She’s calmed herself, for the moment, and decided to yield without further resistance, but her fear is still there, waiting to reemerge at a later date.

I do not want my wife to fear me.

I want her to burn for me, desire me, crave my touch.

Maia won’t if I force her - she will dread it instead. And every time I go to make love to her it will be a battle.

She reaches her arms to me, letting me know she is ready. I allow her to pull me in close, but I won’t take advantage of her compliance. Not tonight. Not until she yields to me of her own free will.

‘Much better,’ I tell her. ‘It will be easier for both of us if you are a willing participant. Now, let me check on you before I go any further.’

I want to see how my son is. And I will use my action to support my excuse for letting tonight go.

Her stomach is warm under my hand. I send my senses within, locate our child and spin shields around him, hiding him from his mother. Explaining her pregnancy to her if she happens to find him could be difficult. Now for a bit of acting. With a frustrated sigh, I pull my hand away and toss the covers over top of us.

‘Is something wrong?’ she asks.

I can sense her relief.

‘If I were to continue, I would be a father early next year,’ I lie to her, saying whatever comes to mind as a good excuse. ‘It would be a daughter, a girl with my Force potential and your analytical mind, too formidable a combination for my master to let us keep her. He would simply take her as he has done with other potentially useful children in the past. It would not matter that she was my daughter, and I would not be able to stop him, either. Would you want our child to become one of his puppets?’

***

Oh, this is hard, so very hard, for I would dearly love that child, but there is only one choice here.

‘No,’ I whisper sadly.

I am surprised when he takes me into his arms and just holds me steady.

‘There will be other times, other opportunities,’ he softly tells me, and promises, ‘If you are determined to have a child, I will give you one, after I meditate in the Force and work out when would be best to have one with little or no Force potential at all. And without enough to be useful to him, my master will have no interest in it.’ He kisses me on the forehead then, before turning me onto my side and pulling me back into his chest once again.

Child? He would willingly give me a child? The one thing I have always wanted but never thought I would ever have?

‘I just promised you I would, so stop fussing about this,’ he tells me, sounding a bit irked at my disbelief.

‘I have caught you, haven’t I?’ I tease him playfully, knowing that he has just given me the reward I had asked for minutes before he knocked me out.

The Dark Lord allows himself a short laugh and admits, ‘So you have, but I will never love you as you do me and I can never promise that you will be my wife.’

I feel his lips graze the back of my neck, down my throat to my shoulder, stopping once to lightly bite me for a third time close to the same spot. He must be trying to leave a mark on me for some reason. Well, I don’t care at the moment. With a sigh, I move in closer to him. His arms are warm and strong around me and I no longer feel cold, but safe, protected, and content. Mine, I think happily to myself, mine, he is all mine and he will give me the child I have always wanted.

So I am, and yes, I will, and tonight, now even, regardless of the consequences, if you don’t stop bothering me about this, he half threatens, half scolds in a thought.

I am too happy to let his crankiness affect my mood, so I tell him instead, One heart’s desire granted a night is enough, my love. I have you all to myself and that is plenty for me.

He does not reply, just pulls me tighter into his chest, nips me again and kisses the back of my neck. I gradually begin to doze, but after about half an hour, Vader turns me onto my back and gives me a shake.

‘What?’ I ask sleepily.

‘You have warmed up sufficiently. I need to repair the damage in your mind and put you into a healing trance,’ he advises.

‘Can’t it wait,’ I grumble.

‘No,’ the Sith Lord is unflinching, ‘now turn over and face me so I can get started. You are not the only one here who needs sleep and the sooner I am finished, the longer I can rest.’

I give up protesting since it is not going to work and roll over to face him. His hands cup my face; his forehead rests against mine.

‘Settle your mind. I am not going to hurt you. I need you to pull me in since the worst of the damage is at a level which I can’t get at any other way without a great deal of difficulty and time.’ When I obviously don’t understand what he wants me to do, he sighs in exasperation and explains, ‘The simplest way to do this is with emotions. You love me, don’t you? Project that feeling outwards and when you feel it connect with me, pull my presence back to you. You tried and almost succeeded in doing exactly that earlier today, when I was in the middle of a meeting, much to my annoyance.’

‘That was not what I meant to do!’ I admit. ‘I just wanted to let you know I was there, so I could apologize for being rude to you.’

‘There will be no more experimenting with the Force without my supervision, since you obviously have no idea what you are toying with!’ His rebuke is stinging and I can hear the anger close to the surface. ‘I won’t have you creating any more messes for me to clean up either. Promise me this, Maia. No more playing about. I could easily bind you with a compulsion, but I will trust your word if you give it.’

I feel thoroughly miserable at his scolding.

I’m sorry, I didn’t know, is my anguished answer, I won’t ever do that again.

I will take that as your promise then. Now shall we begin?

Hesitating for a moment I reach out towards him with my feelings and wait for his approach. When I know his presence is beside my own, I step backwards into my mind, pulling him along with me. I wish I could help him in some way since this mess is my own creation.

Very good, he tells me, now I am going to drop you into a healing trance so I can work without fighting your conscious mind. No, you can’t help, and it will go faster without an audience.

Before I can protest, I am in darkness once more.

***

I roll Maia onto her side and carefully pull her into my arms.

I won’t vent my anger at her, but I am furious with what she has done.

I knew she was keeping secrets from me – I could sense it when she told me what caused the explosions - but I would never have guessed what they were.

She knew about my eldest son, the child I thought dead with Padme. The son whose existence that fool on her homeworld revealed, though I refused to believe it was true at the time.

She knew my past history and what the future held in store for me, and never admitted to that knowledge.

I brush a finger across her temple. The traces of that knowledge are still there, in wisps, in snippets, in faintly echoing memories - none of which I could pin down, all of which faded the instant I tried to trace them. Perhaps careful questioning will pull some of that from her mind, but I suspect much of her unsettling past- and fore-knowledge is gone forever.

Shifting my hand to her waist, I settle her close beside me. The room is cold and even with her next to me I will need to use the Force to keep us both warm.

While I wait for sleep to claim me, I ponder what to do about two far more pressing issues.

I want her to be my mate willingly, so I will test her again tomorrow, see how she reacts. And if I must, I will give her what time I can afford to. I can’t wait too long for her to decide to yield to me on her own. Even with my restrictions on her use of the Force, eventually she will sense him and her pregnancy will become impossible to conceal from her.

And I will have to ask my master to give her to me.

***



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