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Title: My Bitten Heart
Characters: Luke, Vader, OC, Xizor.
Summary: An Imperial witnesses the tragedy play out
between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.
WARNINGS: CHARACTER DEATH
TISSUES NEEDED. Also, non-gratuitous references to
suicide (not Luke or Vader) if you find these
topics upsetting, please don't read this story. I am
SERIOUS about the tissue warning. Also, use of an OC
yes, that fearsome creature to mirror the
extraordinary tragedy of the Skywalkers in the ordinary
lives of an Imperial family
My Bitten Heart
I am no stranger to silence, but it is hard to be silent
when there are revelations screaming through your mind.
That those revelations are deeply ironic does not comfort
me. I admit that I haven't truly been living since Misha
committed suicide, and now it is too late to change; now
I am about to die. There is a grim humour in that, though
I am too weary to laugh. There is an old, little-known
Ballil term of endearment that Misha and I used to use.
Swimming in the intoxication of summer wine and young
love, I can't remember ever stopping to think about its
implications. I suppose it was time I had the full
meaning of dragged across my throat.
Dr'shar. My Bitten Heart.
And so it's only at this moment I begin to understand the
endearment as more than murmuring `I love you', as it is
only at this moment that I can begin to wish I'd never
heard it. Ironic, too, that it would be two of the
galaxies most powerful men who would teach a lowly
officer this lesson.
Dr'shar. It is a tragedy, a curse and a redeemer.
Grant me time to explain
We're standing on the top floor of a disused building in
a state of festering disrepair. This is not something
that is easy to achieve on Coruscant; Xizor must be proud
of finding such an appropriate setting. It is as morbid
as my mood as My Lord Darth Vader runs towards the centre
of the room. The ceiling stretches above us, cutting off
the stars. The floor expands in front and behind us,
cutting off any escape. It's cold. It's colder than
anything I've ever known, but they say death has frigid
The windows have been blown in: they've covered the floor
in a carpet of winking plastisteel shards; they look like
the tears Misha should have been allowed to shed. The
room is draped in shadows and I imagine my dead wife
standing in a corner, watching on sorrowfully, wearing
the soft black cloaks of a mourning gown. Fanciful and
poetic, I wish the shadows would wrap me up and offer me
some comfort. Fanciful, poetic, indulgent. But if you
can't be indulgent in death, when can you be?
I should be watching, guarding, aiding My Lord as he runs
to try and save his son
but I'm thinking of Misha
and her dusky breath on my skin, and the fever of her
touch, and I'm mourning still, silently. There are tears
shining on the permacrete floor in a starless Coruscant
night, matching the ones crawling in silver-trails down
my cheeks. I wonder if denial would make this all go
away. Because denial is nothing new to me.
And it didn't work last time, either.
My Lord reaches the boy's side. The glass shards are
breaking under his feet as he quickly kneels and begins
to try to free him, the starless night painting them with
a sliver of grey. I'm blinking out the acrid sting of
smoke from my eyes. I'm pushing back the persistent cough
from the ozone of blaster fire. By the door, a single
guard should be standing sentry. He slumps against the
littered floor, eyes closed, his throat smiling wetly.
"Dr'shar." My Lord's voice is deep and
bleeding, a gaping wound yawning wider than the guard's
slit throat. I wonder how he knows that word. He surely
didn't learn it from me.
He slips the gag from the boy's mouth and throws it the
floor. The gasp of inhaled air is loud in the empty room.
The cough when he inhales the noxious smoke is louder.
Strange. I don't even show shock anymore when he says it,
I only look on with numb lips and skin at the quiet
compassion there. They contemplate each other for long
seconds, Skywalker's expression troubled. Two hundred and
fifty three floors up and the wind is cold here, stirring
those tears across the floor. I change my metaphor for a
second, and imagine the shards as salt to rub into open
wounds. I haven't moved from my spot in the darkness of
the room yet. I let my Lord and his son have their
privacy in the cold swath of Coruscant night through the
open window. What little light there is seems to hug
"Hold still." My Lord is trying to free his son
from the bonds that tie him to the floor, working in the
half-light. The metal of heavy cuffs has been melded
together and to a hook in the floor. Dark ebony shows
around his wrists where he's tried to free himself.
"There's no time," Skywalker says, his voice
difficult to understand. But when you've had a gag
stuffed in your mouth for the better half of the
Coruscant twilight, you speak in padded vowels. Still, we
both understand him. My Lord stops, his muscles tremble
slightly, and Skywalker continues, "There's a bomb.
You've only got another minute. You have to get
One minute. One minute before the Sali'ir and Sander
MunicipalConstructions Headquarters topples from a small
thermonuclear explosion at its base. We know this. We
knew this coming in. And yet we came.
My Lord is speaking. "This is not your
Destiny. Nothing but a seven-letter word for slow,
drawn-out agony. Misha would laugh and flick her fingers
at the sky, declaring `Destiny be damned!'
Skywalker shakes his head sadly, "Don't die
His voice is heady with persuasion, wide eyes forcing my
Lord to meet a demanding gaze. I want to walk forward to
try and be a part of the decision of all our fates. I
don't want to disturb them by crushing tears under my
feet. I stand still. Perhaps I should try and persuade
him to leave his son here, but I can't and I don't.
Misha, I'm sorry. This is my duty.
Somewhere below us there's the thump of blaster fire.
"You can't undo them. I've tried." His eyes
suck up the light and reflect it in stormy, saddened
blue. It is an ethereal beauty that demands attention. No
wonder this is the Alliance's fair-haired hero. He wears
his beauty like a cloak. I don't think he's even seen me.
Being disregarded is nothing new to me.
The bonds around his hands are welded to the floor,
keeping him kneeling. He is shivering. The bruise on his
cheekbone marks him as a victim, but the grim set of his
jaw marks him as a fighter. The bonds are welded to the
floor and my Lord doesn't have his lightsaber.
My breath is trembling. I want to urge My Lord to
disobey, so I can stay, so I can go back to my own
Dr'shar. Time is ticking by, my heart dutifully counting
it down against my ribs.
My Lord is almost gentle when he wraps his ebony cloak
around the shoulders of his son. Lord Vader is a man of
few words and less care. Here he obeys the first, defies
the second. "I'm staying."
They are kneeling in the starless night; I won't disturb
them, and all I can do is remember
* * * *
I am the faceless Imperial. I am the thin sliver of dark
thread that hems the Emperor's robes together. I am the
hardheaded Creishnut that, when crushed, forms the oil
which allows the Imperial cogs to turn smoothly. I am the
padding, the substance, the Imperial puppet that pulls
the lever, pushes the button and never, ever questions.
I'm Tan Dai'r, Personal Aide to Darth Vader - the man who
holds his cloak when My Lord exacts Imperial Revenge.
I am also human, and I cannot stop the shock from showing
when the image of Prince Xizor appears before us.
"Lord Vader, this is unexpected."
Indeed. I never question My Lord. He has a plan, he
always has a plan, and to question is to be removed from
that plan, and your life, permanently. The deckplates of
the Executor are grumbling as she accelerates. I cannot
see the Bridge viewport from here, but it wouldn't
surprise me to see Xizor's Skyhook approaching through
the battlefield. From here though, as ever, I cannot see
"I told you to leave Skywalker alone."
Skywalker was a name I knew well, a name that might drive
me to near insanity sometime soon, such was My Lord's
passion for finding the Empire's Most Wanted. His
near-obsessive hunt was well known. The emotions that
caused that search less so, even to me. Rumours spread
faster than disease aboard this ship, spitting out
morsels of information after chewing them into something
unrecognisable. My Lord's hunt for Skywalker is not
exempt from this. As the Dark Lord's Personal Aide I am
supposed to have knowledge. I no more know what drives
him than a droid knows the motivations of its Maker. I
only have my orders.
I am no stranger to confusion.
Of course, before Corusca fell under the skirts of
Coruscant's horizon, they would become abundantly clear.
Respected, even, by me. Loathed by Xizor.
"Let us not hold anymore pretences, Lord Vader.
Unless the boy is exempt from Imperial Decree, I believe
that - as a Rebel - he is wanted dead or alive."
Xizor betrays little emotion here. Anger stretches the
skin at his eyes; malicious pride tugs at the corners of
The Falleen does not appear to realise the danger of the
game he is playing. Speculation on My Lord's motives
brings more than idle past time. It brings death. I can
thank those rumours for my promotion. I can remember
dragging my predecessor's body from My Lord'squarters,
the corpse's mouth hanging open dumbly after he has
revealed the details of the latest rumour. My Lord,
there are rumours that you have a
in Skywalker. I remember walking from the execution
room as the Imperial Canon-Fodder that started that
rumour pleaded for their lives. They were not exempt from
"No pretences, as you say." A deep throaty
growl of displeasure. "Skywalker is a special case,
as you well know. I grow tired of this game. Where is the
A special case, yes. Special enough that I spend half my
time gathering snippets of information on the boy,
confiscating security tape of Cloud City, raiding the
commanders abandoned quarters on Hoth, even a trip to
Tatooine to rummage through the smoking ruins of his
homestead. I probably know as much about the boy as My
Lord does. Probably. Enough to respect him as an
adversary I never wanted to meet, anyway.
Xizor smiles, bows in a reverence that is as false as it
is tactless, and pulls a slight, blonde-headed youth into
the pickup by the tips of his hair. "Right
the puzzle begins to form an ugly picture. My
Lord is contacting Xizor because he knows the Falleen has
his quarry. I watch Lord Vader's response to this. He is
a man of few words and less body language, holding
himself in the perfect figure of restrained power. But as
his Aide, I've spent more time than is considered healthy
with him. His hands tense slightly into fists; that is
anger. His spine goes saber-straight; that is shock. His
feet shift slightly showing a need for action; his
fingers itch for his lightsaber and I don't think I have
to explain that action.
Skywalker looks dazed. Skin pale, bruises purple, eyes
stormy blue. His eyes go wide when he recognises Vader. I
start in horrified shock: for a moment they look like
Mischa's eyes as she stares sightless as the starless
"What do you want, Xizor?" Lord Vader's voice
is an exercise if deadly precision. It is the tone you
hear before the blood rushes from your brain and you
start gagging for breath.
"Prince Xizor." His hand tightens in the
"For now." I hear the silent promise. Xizor
doesn't. He twists his hand and Skywalker grimaces.
"What do you want?"
That repetition unnerves me more than My Lord's tense
movements. Lord Vader never repeats himself. He kills the
one who has dared defy him first.
"Money, power, revenge." Xizor considers. His
hand tightens. I wince as My Lord restrains himself
taking a step forward. "Mostly revenge."
I am no stranger to Revenge. I know it from kneeling
beside Misha's sightless, motionless body. I know crying,
and moaning and other sounds of mourning that I can't
remember how to make anymore. The Falleen is still
speaking. He has clean white teeth and a dirty smile.
"My people say revenge is like a good wine; best
served cold and matured."
The image of the Falleen and his prisoner (hostage?)
backs up a little to give a full view. Skywalker is
favouring his right leg, his hands are manacled, his
muscles are tensed. The Falleen's eyes are lapping up it
The thought crosses my mind, that his rampant libido
might be tempted by the fair-haired hero. They say you
can win a war with one hero appealing enough to make the
women swoon from a single look, and the men fight with a
rage of jealousy. Skywalker looks to be testing the
theory. Does the Falleen see it?
The thought crosses my mind - would he have wanted to
taste Misha too? And if it could have saved her, would I
have allowed it?
"This is beneath even you." I agree, such
thoughts would have Misha shaking her head sadly, those
blind blue eyes sorrowful. Then I realise my Lord is
referring to the Falleen. "Release my son to me and
I will cease the attack on your Navy."
His son? Surely everyone heard my startled
exclamation. I swallow my response around a tight knot of
comprehension. Suddenly my predecessor's death is more
understandable, as is My Lord's fervour.
Xizor raises a sculpted eyebrow. "You would let me
live?" The hand tightens again. Skywalker shows he
is more than an Alliance Symbol by resisting the hiss of
pain. My Lord hisses for him, in anger.
"Give yourself into Imperial custody and we can
discuss this then."
Xizor laughs. There is no humour there. This is more
foolish than he can possibly imagine. "I think it
would be wiser for me to carry out the Imperial doctrine
on dealing with Rebels. Guri?"
He looks off screen; a gun is placed in his hand. He
raises it to Skywalker's temple. I take a step backwards
despite myself, anticipating the fury that action will
"Xizor, my patience is gone, as is my mercy. I
suggest you desist from this suicidal quest for your
pitiful revenge before you learn the true meaning of
"Pitiful!" Xizor manages to look angry, but it
barely comes within spitting distance of My Lord's ire.
The skin on Skywalker's temple has gone white beneath the
barrel of the blaster. "You murdered my family, Lord
Vader. I do not call a search for retribution
"Murdering a helpless boy is hardly an act of great
courage and strength, Xizor." Skywalker glares a
little at that, stubborn defiance that I have noted many
times showing through. He subsides with a slight
inclination of My Lord's helmet and I wonder if they are
My Lord has the wicked taste to ignore the alien's anger
at his lack of title. "I once thought you a clever
opponent, Xizor. Now you have simply placed yourself into
the direct sights of the Empire, a stupid and pointless
gesture that is a direct result of your attempts to get
revenge on an action that was perfectly reasonable, if
regrettable. Your family died to stop the plague
spreading to the whole planet. They died a heroic death.
You, however, will die a painful and humiliating death
eventually, if you do not return the boy to me."
"Is neither present nor interested in your petty
vengeance. I speak for the Empire here, Xizor.
Hand Skywalker over."
Xizor's eyes are forming slits as his mind works. Is only
just now realising the stupidity of this attempt? I stand
patiently by as the gunners inform us the skyhook is
within firing distance.
"I feel, Lord Vader, that I must do my duty to the
Empire and kill the Rebel traitor. Of course, it will
satisfy my own ends too, but I assure you that is just a
bonus." He eyes reflect hate. "Or
if you were to call off the Navy, Lord Vader, I might be
able to safely get the boy to you as you wish. With all
this fighting, it could make his escape possible. I can't
possibly attempt to get him to you under those
There's something like a growl rumbling in My Lord's
throat. He has never been a man of many words. He has
never been speechless, though. The murmur of the ships
crew readying the main guns snarls in the silence.
"You still hide behind pretences, Xizor. I will call
off the ships and you will bring my son to me."
I look at Skywalker and he is tense, anticipating death
or something worse. It seems the lottery of life dealt
I am no stranger to loosing the Lottery.
this is still barely beginning to register,
and it brings memories to the surface, tainted with the
black sorrow of mourning. Misha, smiling at me, crying. We
won the lottery, Tan! We won! She's throwing her arms
around me, and I smell soap, and perfume and something
I think it might be victory. We can have
a child, Tan! Our number came up; it's our turn!
Then, walking in Ballil's muggy night, crying, laughing,
singing. The Lottery of Life was drawn, and we won. The
Birthing Commission picked us, gave us permission to have
child. Misha, you cried so hard, your red eyes were the
most beautiful thing I ever saw.
There's a stab of jealousy then, as I stand behind My
Lord where I can't see the stars, and he has the chance
to fight for his son. A chance I never had. I am a
stranger to second chances.
Skywalker's eyes show twin displeasures at the idea of
being murdered by the Falleen or being taken to his
father. His face only shows grim determination. Misha,
would our child have been so strong?
"I don't think so, Lord Vader. I don't think you
would let me live now I've held a blaster to his
head." True enough. "Perhaps an exchange? My
survival, and that of my organisation, for his?"
Lord Vader betrays no emotion in his voice, but I am
adept at reading him. His fists are balling furiously,
itching to crush the Falleen's neck. Maybe he'll get the
"Very well." I think that perhaps this is the
first time I have heard him give in to another's demands.
Normally he just kills them. I frown; couldn't he reach
out across the distance and kill the `Prince' with the
Force? Perhaps he thinks others on the Skyhook's bridge
would kill Skywalker in retribution. "You
Skywalker is moving then, so fast I feel the muscles in
my back jumping in shock. The wrist restraints are
falling to the floor, open. He twists, stabs the Falleen
viciously in the midsection, then rolls on the balls of
his feet. He kicks out, a roundhouse blow that nearly
takes the Falleen's head off with the Force off. The
manacles haven't even hit the deck yet: I said he was
fast. There's a wince on his face from stretching old
injuries and strange, nearly silent encouragement coming
from My Lord. I catch Focus, Luke
rest is lost as the thud of the manacles and Xizor's body
hitting the deck impacts over the comm.
Skywalker coughs. There's blood on his lips. He twists
suddenly as another figure blurs the image. Both tumble
from view, My Lord stepping forward involuntarily as
Skywalker cries out and there's the crack of a broken
bone. How do I know it's a bone that broke? I've heard
that sound too many times in My Lord's presence not to
recognise it. I remember the first time I heard it; it
reminded me of when the coroner had to break Misha's jaw
to close it from the strangled exclamation of death. It's
not appropriate to lie in State screaming.
There's a crackle of stun bolts over the comm and Xizor
is shakily rising to his feet, expression sour. He rubs
at the sore spot on his temple where Skywalker's boot
connected, rubbing the blood in. "That was
impressive," he says begrudgingly, and he's right.
If he had been human, he would be dead. They drag the
limp, clearly unconscious form of Skywalker upwards, a
blonde woman holding him upright. His attacker, or
Xizor's rescuer depending on your point of view, I
My Lord is close to pacing in frustration.
"Prince Xizor." This is tiresome.
"Call off your ships, take the Executor's guns off
my Skyhook. I will take Skywalker down to the planet
surface for you to find him. You will allow me the time
All my senses are screaming it's a trap. But what can My
Lord do? Abandon his son? No, he has the chance to save
him, unlike I did. "Very well." He's remarkably
Xizor narrows his eyes. "As incentive, I'll leave
him with a bomb. A small gift he tried to give me."
He smiles, then scowls. "Did give my
He destroyed the Black Sun headquarters? I find myself
wanting to cheer. My Lord seems equally unable to hide
his approval of that particular action by his son.
"If you kill him, I will not merely kill
you." My Lord lets emotion drip in his voice. Is it
deliberate? I doubt that. There seems to be a crack in
that armour that surrounds him in darkness, letting in
what? The light. Like a star. And the boy who is
responsible for it is slumped unconscious in his enemy's
There was something in the Falleen's eyes then. I didn't
identify it at the time, but now I know it. It was
betrayal. I should have recognised it.
I am no stranger to Betrayal.
Betrayal is screaming, and crying, and doing all those
things I can't remember how to now whilst trying to force
the door open. Betrayal is seeing Misha's body lying on
the lounger in the smoggy garden, naked. Betrayal is
mourning for them both, wife and son, when it won't open
and the wind is stirring her hair over her body, her head
tilted back, face upturned to the sky.
"Come without weapons. They'll be a scanner, if you
have any weapons, including that saber, the bomb will
There's the smallest hesitation from My Lord. Then he
unhooks the saber from his belt and places it by the comm
unit with a solid thunk.
I know that sound. It's the sound of a mistake. It's the
empty pill bottle rolling from Misha's limp hand to hit
the stones, Misha's eyes rolling sightless to the sky.
Not that they would have seen anything. Ballil is too
polluted to see the stars.
It's the sound of the stamp hitting the papers that sign
me over to the Empire as an officer in training. It's the
sound of running away from a dead wife and an unborn son
into an Empire that ultimately cares as little for me as
Misha must have when she took those pills.
My Lord tells me to ready his shuttle. Yes sir, I say.
Yes sir, certainly we'll go rescue your son. Perhaps
there won't be a locked door in the way for you, sir.
Perhaps you won't hear the bottle hit the stone and
shatter, and recognise the sound of your heart breaking
into as many broken shards. Sir. But I don't say that, I
only think it, and My Lord, in His Greatness, never
deigns to read my mind.
The shuttle falls through the atmosphere some time later,
into Coruscant twilight. She lifts her skirt for us and
we enter the darkness that is never truly black. My Lord
commands me with him, and no one else. That's not an
honour; it's a lackey's job. Perhaps I'll have the honour
of laying my life down for his son. Perhaps I'll get to
hold his cape when he rushes to the rescue.
Another solid thunk and we land.
I think I've already described this building, haven't I?
Dark, huge, black, smothering, wide-open, enclosed and
suffocating. It's all of that. And something more. A
My Lord is running. He's not hiding his distress anymore,
his haste, he's running and he's never run before. When
you've stuck out five years in the Imperial Navy as
Lieutenant you get a taste for trouble.
It tastes like
sour citrus fruit crushed under your
tongue. Like mourning flowers covering the scent of death
in the mortuary where your wife lies in State. Like the
perfume gathering in the air to smother the smell of
My Lord knows where he's going. I'm following in his
shadow, as always, where I can't see the stars.
When we reach the door,
there's a guard. My Lord ignores him and rushes across
the teary floor to the huddled figure in the shaft of
light. The guard lunges at me. He has a knife strapped at
his belt that he never thinks to go for. It's sharp and
cuts open his throat easily.
And then I think we're back where we started? And I still
can't think of anything to say to these two: My Lord and
We have one minute.
One minute until the Sali'ir and Sander Municipal
Constructions Headquarters is to be felled by the bomb
meant for Xizor. The explosion will kick out the
foundations like a child would kick out the bottom of a
sandcastle. Two things could happen then. The floors
could collapse inwards on themselves then, toppling one
into the other. In that case, we'll feel the floor drop
from under us and fall with it. Possibly the shards of
tears on the floor will fly upwards and cut us open in
the few seconds it takes for our floor to descend.
But then, it always hurt to see Misha cry, didn't it?
The other possibility fells the tower like toppling a
tree, sending it falling into adjacent towers and killing
more than one Dark Lord, his son and the silent, still
Perversely, I hope we get the second.
My Lord wraps the ebony cloak around Skywalker's
shoulders. He is crouching down beside him. The intention
is clear, and I understand. Looking at Misha's cold,
sightless body in our garden at midnight, kissing the
cold lips one last time, all I wished for was that she
had not taken all the pills for herself.
Dr'shar. My Bitten Heart. Misha, Dr'shar, looking
at My Lord and his son kneeling on the floor I know now
why I never asked for an explanation from your last
I wanted to remain a stranger to my guilt.
I remember running into you in the street that first
time, returning from the Seekar Perfume Plant with the
smell of alcohol in your hair, your eyesight lost to the
noxious chemicals. I always felt such pride for pulling
you from that existence, for dredging you from Ballil's
poverty lines. I didn't realise it would kill you.
"You have to go," Skywalker says, still
speaking in padded-vowels.
"There's no time, my son."
I want to step forward but I don't want to crush Misha's
tears under my feet like I did her dreams.
I was not idle on the journey down. There's sweet
retribution in knowing that soon Xizor will receive a
gift entreating entry to Black Sun. A bottle of Seekar
Perfume, the finest Ballil offers, containing a sample of
the contagion that killed his family. In his vanity he
will surely open it, test it, die screaming. My Lord, I
think, has a sense of humour. Or Destiny.
"There is, for you. I want
My Lord tips the blonde head up gently. Only now do I
realise the size of the crack in that dark persona, and
how much light has gotten through.
Dr'shar. My Bitten Heart. You bit me, you hurt me, you
took my heart when you took your life, but you bit open
the crack that lets the light in. This I understand, as
I've said, only now, seeing these two re-enact that scene
in the garden with the pill bottle and Misha's
poverty-blinded eyes. I am just a spectator, just the
hard stone that gets crushed to form the road over which
the troops will pass.
I'm just waiting for the stars to come out and the guilt
to go away.
"What do you want?" My Lord, still gentle, is
I am no stranger to mourning, am I Misha? It's so easy to
kill someone when you're so intent of saving them.
"I want to save you," Skywalker pleads. His
eyes wide open, the colour of Mischa's when she says that
if she could see anything, if she could rid herself of
the blindness for just a second, she would look at the
stars. I've always had my eyesight but I've never quite
seen them, either.
The blood hits my temple one last time and the ground
groans, rumbles. Our minute is up. The glass shards jump
into the air, and fall back down. Like tears.
My Lord is holding his son as the floor plunges
downwards. He sighs quietly. "Dr'shar
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