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Title: Lessons
Author: Maia (maia@bastcastle.org)
Rating: PG
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: Learning how to manage in the galaxy far, far away isn’t easy when you are stuck with a Sith Lord. Extracted from the AU ‘The Sith Lord and the Scientist.’

The Executor, Fondor, Fondor System. Year 0, Month 5



She’s asleep and I don’t want to wake her yet.

Today her lessons start, and from what I have read, she should rest as much as she can when she isn’t busy learning what she needs to.

I have, at most, a month to get her to yield to me. An early seeming birth can be explained, but not if I let too much time pass. And there are other things to consider. It will be about one and a half months before the signs of her pregnancy will start to become obvious.

Then there is the task of locating a suitable doctor for her. None but the very best will do. Price doesn’t matter - I will gladly pay whatever they demand.

I won’t lose her and my son the way I lost my angel.

Pulling my Favorite a little closer, I kiss the back of her neck a couple times. Hopefully she won’t become too sick. My poor Padme was terribly ill for weeks when I was away. At least I can be with Maia through most of that.

I won’t let anyone or anything come between us.

I won’t send her away to Bast Castle.

I want to keep her close to me.

I have had enough of living alone.


I feel happy and content when I wake up. My love is still next to me, and I can tell he is wide awake from the pattern of his breathing. This is one of the few times I have slept longer than he has when we have been together. Guess I was more exhausted than I thought I was. A quick check on my mental shield reveals that it has thinned again, so I look after it immediately, not wanting to get scolded for not properly maintaining it.

With my use of the Force, the Sith Lord finally notices that I am aware, and rolls me over from where I had been lying on my side onto my back. He props himself up on one arm, drapes the other over my waist, and looks down at me. I meet his gaze with a smile. I love you, I tell him with a thought, then reach up and pull him down to me for a quick kiss. A look of amusement, quickly hidden, flashes across his face when he pushes himself up and out of my arms.

‘Time to get up, Maia,’ he tells me. ‘We have both slept longer than we should have, and I don’t want to rearrange the lessons I have organized for you.’

‘Lessons?’ I question, puzzled, then remember he had said something about this a few days ago.

‘You will find out soon enough, now up with you and into the shower,’ he orders. ‘There’s no time for a bath today.’

I hate showers, but will obey him nonetheless. Dragging my feet a bit, I head to the ‘fresher.

My reluctance prompts a teasing threat from Vader, ‘If you don’t hurry, I will be joining you in there.’

That speeds me up a bit. Hiding behind my shield while I get washed up, I wonder to myself if he was serious or not. I am too shy to even think of sharing a shower with him. It’s not as if he hasn’t seen me before and he did get me out of my dress the previous day. I worry away at my feelings with the logical part of my brain. It’s not being close to him, I decide. We have shared a bed enough that his close proximity no longer bothers me at all. The nudity and setting, that must be it. Much too risky and it could lead to something I don’t want to do yet.

There is a tap on the ‘fresher door, so I abandon my musings, and pull a towel around myself. When I open the door, he is standing there, wrapped in his robe, waiting for me to finish, and looking a bit irked at me too.

‘Sorry, Ani,’ I apologize, ‘but I hate the feeling of water hitting my face. I washed my hair under the tap instead. Maybe you should go first next time.’

An eyebrow goes up at my admission and offer, but he makes no comment, just steps past me and closes the door after himself. I quickly change into my practical clothes, pull my cloak and boots out of the bottom drawer and wait for him to reappear. He will be putting on his armor next and I don’t want to appear rude by staring at him. Maybe I should find some reason to keep my eyes elsewhere while he does that. The book Bill gave me should do it, so I retrieve it from where I stored it and flip to Henry V. Nice historical play, I think, and military in character too. Within minutes I am engrossed in the text and the Sith Lord has almost finished getting dressed.

He watches me for a moment, then comes over to the bed to sit down beside me. I look up, surprised. Wasn’t he in a hurry a few minutes ago?

‘Your shyness might be appropriate for a young girl or a woman who is not bound to me in some way,’ he tells me, ‘but you are my concubine, my Favorite, and there is no need for it. I will not be offended if you look at me.’

I feel myself start to blush, so I do my best to relax and control it. My reaction produces a short laugh from him and the comment, ‘Very well, be shy, but I expect you will get over it sooner or later.’

Not a chance, I think to myself as I go a bit redder in shade. No laugh from him this time. Instead he moves closer, takes the book from me and sets it aside. His hand tips my face up and then I am being kissed rather thoroughly. This feels good so I slide my arms around him, and yield to him when he eases me backwards on the bed. When he shifts his lips from mine to run them down my neck, I wait for the bite which I am sure will follow. This time though, the nip is a gentle one, one which shouldn’t leave a mark. He only has enough time to take off my belt, open my tunic with the hand he isn’t leaning on and slide it inside along my waist before the comm goes off.

With a growl, he answers, ‘What is it, Admiral?’

‘Incoming transmission from Imperial Center, my Lord, highest priority,’ Admiral Griff informs him.

I can tell that the Sith Lord is not at all pleased with the interruption or the prospect of dealing with this particular communication, whatever it happens to be.

He shoves himself up and off the bed, gives me an annoyed look, then tells Griff, ‘Code the transmission to my private Holonet station in two minutes,’ before shutting off the comm.

‘The Emperor,’ my Lord says, ‘checking on what progress I made two days ago. No doubt he felt the disturbance from your loss of control as well. Stay in here until I come and get you.’

With that he quickly puts on his helmet and gauntlets and leaves the bedroom, closing the door after himself as he goes. I have no desire whatsoever to have anything to do with his master since the Emperor is one individual I truly am afraid of. I do as I am told. To pass the time, after I redress myself, I retrieve my book and keep reading.

A moment later, I hear along our life-bond, ‘Get into a gown, now, hurry, and come in here.’

I drop the book and do as ordered, putting on the Greek style dress since it is the simplest and fastest to get into. Since he wants me there quickly, I leave my feet bare. As I run to the other room, I enforce my shield and start some of my mathematical ones as well. Somehow I know I am going to need them. Sure enough, when I step into the room with the meditation pod and Holonet pad, I see the Sith Lord kneeling on the latter in front of a hologram of the Emperor.


My master’s insistence on an introduction disturbs me, but I give no hint of my feelings.

I hear Maia’s bare feet as she runs from my living quarters. Good. She’s been quick to obey me and not dawdled about like she did in the ‘fresher this morning.

‘Come over here and kneel beside me. Keep your eyes down and don’t say anything unless I tell you to,’ I instruct, again using our life-bond.

I want to keep our communication undetectable.

Once she has complied, I introduce her to the Emperor, ‘My new Favorite, my master. Her name is MažŠ.’

I can feel her discomfort as my master examines her like she is some sort of prized and pampered pet of mine on display for his pleasure. Maia finds it quite disconcerting, though she gives no outward sign, and I personally don’t like it one bit. She’s mine, I fume. He has no right to look at her like this.

Palpatine laughs as he finishes his evaluation.

Is that ever creepy, I hear my Favorite think.

‘You have excellent taste, Lord Vader,’ my master compliments, ‘beautiful, brilliant, and gifted with the Force. A most appropriate mate, but see to it that she doesn’t lose control again. I dislike it when my meditations are disturbed by childish nonsense.’

Flattery designed for her ears, not mine. But his rebuke was aimed more at me than her. Maia didn’t know what she was doing and I should have prevented it from happening.

‘As you wish, my master,’ I respond.

I hear Maia silently promise me she won’t have a fit like that again. She doesn’t want me punished for her failings.

‘You may train her as much as is required, no more,’ the Emperor orders, ‘and you will bring her before me when you are satisfied she will give you an acceptable heir. If she cannot or will not, dispose of her and I will find you a more suitable candidate.’

I see Maia cringe. My master is completely ruthless. That warning was to her, not me.

‘I will do as you command, my master,’ I answer, a bit relieved.

Her training will be with his approval. I won’t have to hide what I am doing.

‘Good, very good, my friend. Now there is another matter we need to discuss,’ the Emperor states, then falls silent, waiting.

‘Go, Maia, stay in the bedroom until I come for you,’ I order, sending her away.

She carefully gets to her feet, and I know she is making sure she doesn’t trip and make a fool of herself. I watch her go, half-dreading what I know will come next.

‘She is not exactly as you described,’ he observes.

I don’t reply.

‘My friend, you really should be more honest with me,’ my master says, ‘or are your feelings for her clouding your senses?’

‘She is a concubine, nothing more,’ I flatly state.

‘As Padme was just another senator?’ he slyly prods, looking for a reaction.

We are treading on very dangerous ground and we both know it.

I refuse to give him the response he wants.

‘She is my concubine,’ I repeat, denying the truth. ‘I chose her for her breeding potential, nothing more.’

‘Ah, yes, that,’ he notes.

I freeze inside. What is he planning now?

‘Five children she will give you,’ my master predicts. ‘Four sons and a useless daughter.’

That many? My breath catches a second. If he is right ... four boys. Four sons to be my allies. And the first is Force-strong...

His next words quash those thoughts, ‘The pick of your sons is mine. You may do as you wish with the girl. Keep or dispose of her as you please. It does not matter to me.’

‘Yes, my master,’ I intone automatically.

He won’t let me keep the child Maia is now carrying. Of that I am certain. Not once has he let an infant that strong escape his grasp.

I vow to find a way to keep my son from him.

‘Now, we need to discuss the results of that meeting on Teyr you were late for...’


I run back to the bedroom and close the door. That was one encounter I don’t want to ever repeat. A quick change into my tunic, and I am on the bed with my book again. After a few minutes, I give up on trying to read, too disturbed by what the Emperor said to concentrate.

Would the Sith Lord really get rid of me if his master told him to? I roll this about in my head, careful to keep it well behind my shields. He loves me, but that might not make any difference if he were forced to make a choice. Then there is our life-bond. How would that influence him? I know what happened to me when Michael died, and Vader did tell me that ripping his presence out would probably kill me. I won’t outlive him, I sadly conclude. We will both die when he does, orphaning any children we might have, and I wonder if he has realized or considered this yet.

Setting that last depressing thought aside, I continue to muse about our bond. What if I were killed, what effect would it have on him? Well, I decide, I have no intention of finding out the answer to that question. I will be a good, obedient little concubine and give him however many children he wants if that is what it takes to keep us together and the Emperor at bay.

My mind a bit more settled, I pick up my book again and resume reading. I am almost finished the first act when the Sith Lord enters the room.

‘The Emperor insisted on the introduction, not I,’ he admits to me, ‘I would have preferred to keep you out of his sight for a while longer. Unfortunately that storm you unwittingly created has drawn his attention to your potential. We must be careful in the future that it does not happen again.’

I wonder to myself if he means keeping storms from happening or getting his master’s attention, but decide not to ask since it is probably the latter. While I am curious about what else they discussed, I know better than to stick my nose into the Sith Lord’s business. And, I admit to myself, I really don’t want to know too much about what he does ‘professionally’ anyway. I might find it disturbing or upsetting.

‘A wise decision,’ he tells me, ‘since I do not want you involved in my work at all. You are my chosen companion, my Favorite, not one of my officers or agents.’

Checking my shield reveals that it has thinned again so I quickly look after it. If I want to keep my thoughts to myself, I had better keep it well maintained. Now that I can hide behind it again, my curiosity has me debating exactly what it is he does intend for me to do, but before I can ask, he beckons me to his side and we are hurrying out of his quarters towards the salle.

‘I had planned to spend an hour working with you in the salle, but there is no time for that now. We will do that tonight instead,’ my Lord informs me.

So that’s why he wasn’t too concerned about the time earlier even though he had been in a hurry at first. Rats. Too bad the Emperor called when he did.

He looks over at me, and I know he just heard what I was thinking. In response, I give my shield a nudge only to receive a sharp mental rap for it.

‘Don’t try to block me out, Maia,’ he warns, ‘I expect to be able to read you easily if I want to. You may shield your thoughts enough to practice control, but no more.’

I grumble silently to myself at that. Not fair. First he complains about hearing my thoughts all the time and now he wants to know what I am thinking whenever he wants to. I guess I can’t win this one at all.

No, he comments, amused, you won’t win against me, so don’t even try.

My stubborn streak starts up, and I ruthlessly suppress it. Behave, Maia, I scold myself, remember the consequences if you don’t. Don’t give him any reason to get angry or annoyed with you. You don’t want to be locked up again, now do you?

That was a most effective punishment for you. I will have to remember that for the future, Vader half-threatens, half-teases.

I have no desire to repeat that experience, so I again remind myself to behave.

By this time we have reached the salle, but instead of going into it, I am led down an adjacent corridor to another door which he keys to open for me as well. The room behind it is obviously a gymnasium. There is no one else in it, and I start to wonder what we are doing here.

‘Your second lesson each day, after a session in the salle with me,’ the Sith Lord tells me, ‘will be in here with Commander Thirsk, head of the 501st’s elite commando unit. He will be teaching you hand to hand combat techniques. You will obey him as you would me, Maia, and he will tell me if you do not.’

‘Why do I need to know how to fight like that?’ I ask.

I have no intentions of getting into a situation where I have to brawl with someone. Learning how to use a lightsaber I can understand, but this?

‘You admitted yourself that you will be a target because of me. Any time you are off-ship and away from my protection, there is the risk that one of my enemies or the rebels will make a try for you,’ he warns. ‘Knowing how to manage in close quarters could save your life or allow you to escape. Don’t argue with me about this. You will learn what I decide you need to.’ He emphasizes his last few sentences by pointing a finger and shaking it at me, so I know he is serious about this.

‘Fine, I won’t argue,’ I grumpily agree, ‘but there are other things I would rather be doing with this time.’

‘I know that,’ Vader admits, ‘but this is necessary. You must learn how to defend yourself.’ He looks at me for a moment, then comments, ‘I have been rather lax in how you address me. From now on, consider any place outside my quarters as public, even if we are alone. While the ship is not monitored yet, once it is closer to completion, almost all areas except private quarters will have recording devices in them.’

That bit of information surprises me. So much for privacy, but then again, this is a military vessel after all.

‘Even on Imperial Center, everything is recorded and monitored,’ he adds to his previous comment. ‘Ensured privacy, for us, does not exist except in my personal quarters here or there, at Bast Castle on Vjun, or in thought.’

So that’s why it is so important that my behavior gives no hints. I think a bit about this. Rick had said that the Sith Lord was unconsciously letting things slip from time to time. Maybe I am not the only one who needs to be watching what they are doing.

Another thought occurs to me, so I look up at his mask and tell him, You deliberately let people know what your feelings were at the party, didn’t you, even pretending to let things slip out, just to make a point of it and have a bit of fun watching my friends’ reactions, too.

Perhaps, he answers, and I know he won’t admit to any more than that.

While I am thinking of what to say next, the door opens and my combat instructor walks in. From the way he moves and his attitude, I can tell that this is one confident and dangerous man. He can’t be much older than Michael was, I decide, and to be still alive and a commando at that age says something about just how good he is at what he does. His short brown hair has a fair amount of grey, probably due to his job, I think, and the scars on his face are old ones. As I size him up, the Commander’s brown eyes are doing the same to me.

Is this the man who was stranded with the Sith Lord?

I glance at Vader, who I can sense is amused at my reaction to my teacher, but he says nothing, just hooks his thumbs in his belt and watches the two of us.

‘She’ll do, my Lord,’ Thirsk finally says. ‘Your Favorite is obviously no spoilt and pampered daughter of some Core World noble. There’s plenty to work with there. You must have found her in the Outer Rim somewhere, I would guess.’

Blunt and to the point. This man reminds me of my grandfather, and I suspect he will be just as strict a taskmaster too. I won’t be able to slack off or do any less than my best here.

‘You are willing to train her then?’ my Lord asks.

I must have missed something here.

You’re asking him to teach me?

The Commander has little time to spare. It is his choice to teach you or not. Be grateful if he agrees. Twice now he has turned down an instructor’s position at the academy.

He must be one of the best then, I reply.

There is only one I know of who is better, the Sith Lord confirms.

The Commander looks me up and down once again and gives a quick nod. ‘Leave her here for an hour my Lord, and I will give you my answer when I am finished with her.’

‘As you wish,’ my Lord replies, and I am left alone with Thirsk.

‘Sit down on the mats, my lady,’ the commando orders, ‘I want to find out just what you do and don’t know.’

I quickly comply and Thirsk joins me, positioning himself two arms’ lengths away, facing me and the door. He’s cautious even in here, I note. No wonder he has lasted as long as he has.

‘Tell me what physical and combat training you have had. Don’t leave anything out, even if it sounds trivial,’ he asks.

‘Gymnastics and dance as a child,’ I start, ‘At five I started training with my grandfather in foil and blade. My father insisted I have some basic self defense training before I was sent to university, and my brother Jamie tried to teach me some more codified martial arts. He gave up in frustration after a few months.’ I look down at the floor and admit, ‘I am more than a bit clumsy, Commander. My grandfather managed to train some of that out of me, but it tends to show up at the worst possible times regardless of anything I can do about it.’

He gives no response to my admission, yet I still get the feeling that my honesty impressed him. Well, I know that there is no point in hiding my klutziness from him. It will show up soon enough of its own accord.

‘Let’s see what you can do then,’ he finally states.

Almost an hour later and I am quite tired. The Commander was most thorough in testing me, I realize, and without leaving a mark on me either. At least he seemed pleased with how I blocked some of the blows he threw at me and my knowledge of how to fall without getting hurt. Too bad my clumsiness had to show up when it did. That was embarrassing, but I had warned him.

When the hour is coming to a close, Thirsk has me sit on the floor again. Here’s the verdict, I think, ‘too clumsy to do anything with’.

‘I won’t lie to you, my lady,’ the Commander tells me, ‘it will be hard work to get around your co-ordination problem, but I may have a solution for that.’

I stare at him in surprise. A solution?

He continues, ‘I will also treat you as if you were one of the new recruits. Your rank means nothing to me. You will do your best every minute and hold nothing back. No slacking, whining or complaining. My time is valuable and I have no patience for such nonsense.’

I was right. A younger version of grandfather in every way.

‘You have decided to train her?’ Vader asks as he comes into the room a moment later.

‘Yes, my Lord,’ Thirsk answers, ‘but I can spare only one hour a day for this.’

‘Then that will have to be enough,’ the Sith Lord states. ‘Thank you, Commander, I will see to it that my Favorite is here at the same time tomorrow.’

I watch Thirsk get up, give my Lord a quick military salute and leave the gym. For one hour a day, I will have to do my best to meet his standards or I will be in trouble with both him and the Sith Lord. Well, I will just treat the Commander as I would have my grandfather when in the salle and all should be fine.

The Dark Lord looks down at me and offers a hand. I am quickly pulled to my feet and we are soon heading out of the gym to another part of the ship. Now what, I wonder, my curiosity threatening to burst out.

‘Flying lessons,’ my Lord tells me. ‘You may need those skills some time in the future and I do not have the time to teach you the basics myself. My two wingmen will be responsible for that.’

I refrain from rolling my eyes. This ought to be entertaining to say the least. The last time someone tried to teach me how to fly was when Sam stuck me into one of the F-14 simulators. I was fine until he put me into a dogfight. Much to his disgust, I managed to hit everything but the enemy fighters. It was a total disaster.

There is a low chuckle from the Sith Lord and I know he has been eavesdropping on my thoughts again.

Stop that, I think at him, it wasn’t that funny.

Flying a TIE and flying one of your military’s atmospheric craft are quite different. You will be fine once you have the basics and spend some time in the simulator.

Right, sure, I think to myself. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This thought produces another quiet laugh from him.

That’s it, I decide. I’ve had enough of his constant eavesdropping on me. I stop dead in my tracks, set my hands on my hips, and glare at his back as he continues past me for a step or two.

I WANT YOU TO STOP THAT, I yell at him

His reaction is instantaneous. The Sith Lord whips about and stares at me.

Now that I have his undivided attention, I proceed to let him have it.

My private thoughts are none of your business and I don’t like being spied on, I growl at him. If you are going to insist on hearing everything I think, then be prepared to either do the same for me or spend the next month being miserable sleeping in your meditation pod.

Silence from him in response, but I know he’s considering whether the conditions I have dictated for his free access to my mind are worth it or not.

Very well, your private thoughts are your own, he concedes after a minute or two, just remember that the louder you think about me, the easier it is for me to hear you through our bond, whether I want to or not, whether you are shielding or not.

I nod my acceptance of this. If I can’t keep my thoughts under wraps, it will be my own fault that he can hear me.

He offers his arm, almost in apology, so I take it and let him lead me along. As we walk, I try to keep track of where we are going.

The door we stop at is marked in Aurabesh with “TIE Simulators”. This is obviously the right place. Vader doesn’t key the door to me, but indicates that I am to comm in my presence instead. Guess I am not allowed to just wander into this room. He opens the door for me today, and the two men who are waiting inside quickly get to their feet. These must be his wingmen, I realize. Night and day, I decide. These two are nothing alike. One is a tall, blonde Norwegian type, the other stocky and with a dark complexion. Both are younger than I am though they probably think I am junior in age to them both.

Once again the Sith Lord watches my reaction to my instructors and theirs to me. I hide behind my shield and don’t let anything show, while the two pilots give me the once over with their eyes. The blonde raises an eyebrow and looks over at his companion, and I can just imagine what he is thinking.

Well, these two are a bit insolent, I note, but like Commander Thirsk, they are probably among the best there is. If they were not, they wouldn’t be your wingmen.

True, Vader tells me, they are two of the best pilots in the fleet. They can also be a bit disrespectful from time to time. I tolerate some nonsense from them because of their abilities, but they know better than to try anything foolish where you are concerned.

‘Commanders,’ the Sith Lord begins, ‘my Favorite, Maia. I will be back for her in an hour.’

With that brief introduction, he spins about and is gone, leaving me to his two wingmen.


I leave her with my two wingmen and go to my meeting with Thirsk. It’s important to hear his evaluation and find out just what Maia needs to learn.

‘Commander,’ I acknowledge as I enter my office.

‘My Lord,’ he responds.

‘Your report,’ I prompt, not mincing words as I pace the floor.

‘She’s in good shape physically, for someone who has spent most of her time behind a desk that is, and she’s smart and a quick learner,’ he notes, ‘but that clumsiness of hers might be quite troublesome or impossible to get around.’

‘Yes, Thirsk,’ I patiently reply, ‘I know all this already.’

‘In time, I could bring her up to my standards, but right now, she needs basic self defense more than anything else,’ he advises.

‘She’s had no training at all then,’ I decide.

‘A little. She can fall without injuring herself and knows a few simple blocks,’ the Commander reveals.

I stop instantly and spin about.

‘You were careful with her?’ I ask, letting him hear the warning in my voice.

He knows what I will do to him if Maia or my son have been harmed.

‘Of course, my Lord,’ he answers me, hiding a smile.

‘Thirsk,’ I growl.

My old friend raises an eyebrow and looks amused. I would not tolerate even this small show of insolence from any other officer.

‘It’s safe enough in the first month,’ he tells me, ‘and I will make sure she can protect herself with all the basics before it becomes a problem.’

‘Good. Now about her security when I am gone,’ I start the next topic I need to cover with him.


The three of us stare at one another for a moment or two. Finally the blond pilot gives his name, ‘I’m Black Two, my lady, but you can call me Rik.’ He nods at his companion, ‘Black Three prefers to be known as Torin.’ I nod an acknowledgment at them. Now what?

Rik takes over the situation quickly, and I discover that he is quite the chatterbox once he gets going. I am waved over to a desk with a paper copy of a control panel layout on it.

‘First you need to learn the controls, and his Lordship was quite specific about the configuration he wanted you to work with, too,’ Rik tells me. ‘This should take you most of the next hour. If you are faster at it, we could have a go in the simulator and see how you do.’

I look carefully over the sheet in front of me, making note of what is where and only having to ask once what one of the labels in Aurabesh says. Rik is very patient with my questions and Torin adds his own quiet comments from time to time. The minutes goes by quickly, and once I am confidant I know what and where everything is, I find that the hour is not yet up.

‘Let’s see how you manage in the sim,’ Rik says, obviously pleased that I finished before he thought I would.

He hands me a helmet and shows me how to properly secure it. I am then shown into the simulator and told how to strap in. This ought to be fun, I think, well, at least until I do something stupid. A moment later I hear Rik and Torin’s voices over the helmet’s comm-channel.

‘Start her out in space,’ Torin suggests, ‘we can deal with take-off and docking another day.’

‘Good idea,’ Rik agrees, then instructs me, ‘We won’t do anything too complicated at first. Just try to follow us so you can get a feeling for how the controls work.’

Follow the leader. Alright, I can do this. They start out slow and I easily keep up. This is simple enough, I decide. A few minutes later, though, they are going much faster and starting to pull more complicated maneuvers. Somehow I manage to stay close behind, but I have to concentrate on what they are up to and use my mathematical gift to help predict their movements. By the time the Sith Lord arrives, I am totally focused on what his two wingmen are doing and keeping up with them. It is not until his voice breaks in on the comm-channel that I realize he must have been watching for a number of minutes.

‘That is quite enough,’ he tells the two Commanders, and I can tell he is rather annoyed with the two men.

I don’t hear their responses because the comm in my helmet is suddenly muted. Not sure what to do, I just sit in the simulator waiting to be told what to do next. A few minutes later, my Lord is ordering me out of the sim and when I climb out, I find that his two wingmen have already left. What was all that about, I wonder. The Dark Lord doesn’t enlighten me, so I can only assume that his wingmen weren’t supposed to put me in the sim today.

The Sith Lord sets my hand on his arm, surprising me with his action. He did say that was the proper way to do things and did this at the party, but this is one of the few times he has done so here. I am then led back to his quarters. He makes no comment along the way, merely looks over at me a few times. I can sense him speculating again, like he did that first day I was on the Executor. What on Earth is he thinking? It must be somehow connected to my session in the simulator. Well, I decide, I won’t ask. I must have been truly abysmal to produce this sort of response.

Once in his quarters, he takes me into his office and I am handed a printout. Time to practice reading, I surmise, so I settle myself in the chair next to him and get started. Vader busies himself at his data terminal, staying silent as he works. I look over the first few pages of my assignment carefully. A series of supply inventories and theft reports? Puzzled, I look over at the Dark Lord but he just ignores me. Alright, then, I’ll read these things even though I don’t know why he considers them important.

An hour later, I realize that there are some subtle but consistent anomalies in the reports I am going through. Something is wrong here, I think. Put your brain to work, Maia, figure it out. That’s why he gave these things to you. I carefully look through the pages again, filing everything I can think of that might be at all important into my head. Closing my eyes, I set to the problem. Half an hour later I am still working away at it. By the time I have a solution, over an hour has passed. I open my eyes and wait to be asked about what I have worked out.

Vader glances over at me, then spends another few minutes finishing his own work before asking, ‘Well, what have you discovered?’

‘A very efficient spy, I think. Someone with an excellent memory is getting into the storehouses and targeting very specific items. These are then stolen later with a minimum of time and effort being wasted since the thieves know exactly where to go for what they want,’ I tell him.

Not a word from the Sith Lord, but I can tell my conclusion has surprised him. He sits back in his chair for a moment, just looking at me. Finally he dismisses me with, ‘Go get the jug and a pair of glasses from the kitchen. I will join you in the bedroom shortly.’

I guess he isn’t going to explain things to me today so I quickly obey him. Once in the bedroom, I find that the mess from my fit has been removed and a new table with two chairs has appeared. Good, I won’t have to kneel on the floor or sit on the bed. Setting the glasses down, I fill both and wait in one of the chairs for my Lord to join me. He doesn’t show up for almost an hour, and when he does, he is obviously in a hurry. Darn. There will be no kisses from him today.

Fifteen minutes later, after we have both had our allotted drinks, I am left standing in his office to wait for my next teacher, a Lieutenant Keol, while Vader is off to a meeting elsewhere. I had heard this name once before, so I am curious who this person is. A few minutes later, she appears. Oh. One of the rare female officers. She gives me a wary stare. This woman is nothing like me. She is about my age, and quite striking, short, petite, dark haired and eyed, with an air of superiority and arrogance about her. I get the distinct impression that I have been measured by her and found lacking in every way.

Not sure what else to do, I start to introduce myself. ‘My name is Maia, ...’ but she breaks in rudely.

‘Yes, I know who you are,’ the Lieutenant snaps. ‘Lord Vader’s new Favorite. I do not have any time for this, but I will do as I am ordered to. Don’t bother trying to be friendly with me because I have no intentions of returning the sentiment.’

How rude can you get? I have no idea what she is so mad about. Stunned, I sit down in the Sith Lord’s chair behind his desk and just look at her. What is her problem? I have never met her before, so it can’t be that I have done anything to her personally. I try to be hospitable and wave her into one of the other chairs, but she shakes her head and continues to stand there, glaring at me.

Curious to see if I can pick anything up from her, I thin my mental shield and watch her carefully. Resentment, definitely there, anger, hurt pride, and, to my surprise, intense jealousy. She’s jealous of me? I thicken my shield instantly and hide behind it to have a think. Oh no, she wanted the Sith Lord for herself and I ended up with him instead. This is going to be a rather unpleasant situation. Well, I will try and make the best of it and be polite even if she won’t be.

‘Lieutenant, you are one of my Lord’s aides, aren’t you?’ I ask, though I am sure I already know the answer.

‘Yes, and you are his concubine,’ she snaps again. ‘Don’t ask stupid questions. It makes it far too apparent that you are a know-nothing from the Outer Rim.’

I narrow my eyes at this. Know-nothing, am I? Well, I can easily tell that she doesn’t like me one bit and the feeling is rapidly becoming a mutual one. Would the Sith Lord put up with rude and belligerent behavior from this woman? Unlikely, I decide, and neither will I.

‘Sit down, Lieutenant, and shut up,’ I order, trying to use the same tone of voice and choice of words that my Lord might do with this officer. ‘If you can’t be polite and address me properly, then stay silent instead.’

Her mouth drops open, but she doesn’t say another word before sitting in the chair I had indicated to her earlier. Good. Putting her in her place seems to have had the desired effect. I watch her carefully for a minute or two. She’s debating what to say or do next, so I keep my face expressionless, refusing to give her anything to work with.

‘It’s not fair,’ she finally states and resentment is all too apparent in her voice. ‘I have worked for years to get close to him, and then what happens. He’s gone for two weeks and comes back with you.’

I stay silent and wait to hear what she says next.

There is another glare from her and then the statement, ‘You won’t last any more than a month. He will soon tire of you and I will still be here. I’m the one he really loves, and you had better accept that.’

My only reaction to this is to raise an eyebrow at her. She sounds like a spoilt child who has been told she can’t have what she wants. How embarrassing for her, though she doesn’t seem to recognize this yet.

‘What does he see in you anyway? You don’t belong to a noble house and you aren’t worthy of him,’ the Lieutenant needles.

Good grief, she sounds like a female version of Nigel. This foray though, I refuse to let go by.

‘Oh,’ I calmly reply, ‘and how would you know that?’

Her response is a laugh, then another dig at me, ‘It’s rather obvious, my lady. Your accent is appalling, you have no idea how to behave, and how you move is a dead give-away.’

Now it is my turn to laugh a little. ‘I know of royalty, Lieutenant Keol, who have manners far worse than mine. My family is related to every noble house on my homeworld. For a thousand years we have served as the right hands, the military leaders, of our rulers. There is more noble blood in my veins than in yours, I suspect.’ True, every word of it, I note, if a bit poetically put. One of my ancient ancestors was the Conqueror’s chief knight and finest warrior, and Sam still fills a similar position today. I can claim direct, if distant, descent from every European royal house, too.

The Lieutenant’s mouth drops open, then promptly snaps shut. ‘My father is a Baron,’ she boasts.

This is going to be amusing, I decide, as I match and trump her claim, ‘My mother is the rightful heir of the house of Stuart, my father, the Plantagenet.’ Somewhat true for my first statement, if a slight exaggeration for my second. The descent on that side is from a daughter of Edward III.

‘You’re a Princess?’ Keol blurts out, just as the Sith Lord walks in.

He stops dead in his tracks. Blast. I have some explaining to do here.

‘By descent, yes,’ I admit, ‘by title, no. A war lasting almost a hundred years and a rebellion on my homeworld saw to that. Both my parents’ royal houses were nearly exterminated. Those who claim those thrones now have no true right to them.’

Really? the Sith Lord asks.

Yes, Ani, but those events happened hundreds of years ago. They are ancient history, now, I reply.

Even so, your family should have done something about it. I am surprised at this, he states.

There was nothing that could be done about it at the time, and my mother’s family spent two hundred years trying to reclaim their heritage and failed, I admit. I don’t really have a title, just a group of illustrious, displaced ancestors. I only told the Lieutenant what I did because she was being thoroughly obnoxious to me.

The woman in question is looking back and forth between Vader and I during our quick telepathic exchange. After a moment, a shrewd look crosses her face. She knows we are communicating with one another in thought and suspects that she is the topic of the conversation.

Open your mind to me, my Lord orders, let me see what she did.

I drop my shield and wait for his mental touch. A moment later he is carefully sifting through my recent memories. As he leaves, he throws my shield back in place so that I do not need to.

Maia, you must not say anything at all, not react to what I am going to do now, he commands. Do you understand?

Yes, I understand, I confirm. Then I consider what he just told me to do. Ani, what are you going to do to her?

Something I should have done years ago, when the Emperor forced me to accept her as part of my staff as a favor to her father. Do not interfere, Maia, he warns.

The Sith Lord steps past where I am seated behind his desk to where the Lieutenant is waiting for him. I thicken my mental shield as much as I can manage, suspecting I will need it and my control to deal with what he is planning to do. He stands with arms crossed over his chest, for a long, quiet moment in front of Keol, who watches him closely without letting anything show on her face. If I were her, I decide, I would be getting quite nervous about now. However, she has worked with him for years so maybe she is trying to bluff her way out of this.

‘So, you think yourself more worthy than my Favorite, my chosen one,’ Vader finally states.

The Lieutenant simply stares at him, refusing to answer.

‘When I ask a question,’ he snaps, ‘I expect an immediate, truthful answer.’

I see a flash of fear in Keol’s eyes, but she stubbornly remains silent.

‘You leave me no choice then,’ the Sith Lord warns.

There is a gasp from the Lieutenant as he exerts pressure on her throat with the Force. I refuse to watch any longer and keep my eyes glued to the desk in front of me. There is no way I can shut out the noises she is making or my Lord’s voice though.

‘I will have an answer from you, Lieutenant,’ he calmly tells her, ‘and I can do far worse than this to you if that is what is required to get it.’

She still remains silent, other than making gasping noises as he collapses her trachea.

Please let me leave Ani, I think at him. Having to stay and listen to what he is doing to her is starting to make me feel ill.

You will stay, Maia, the Sith Lord orders.

Keol has slipped to the floor, from the sound of the thump I just heard. Vader simply stands beside her, waiting and listening to her increasingly desperate attempts to breathe.

‘Well, Lieutenant,’ he prompts, ‘I am still waiting, and your time and my patience are running out.’

He’s torturing her to make her yield and answer him, and making me stay and watch to drive a point home with me as well. This is what he would be forced to do to me in public if I were to be overly stubborn or defy him.

Ani, I will behave in public. You won’t need to worry about that ever again, I promise him.

Good, you have learned your lesson from this, the Sith Lord tells me. I can release her now.

I hear a terrible gasp from the woman on the floor, then her breathing becomes more regular again.

‘You will stay with the Lieutenant, Maia, and see to her needs. When she is ready to go, you will escort her to her quarters and remain with her until she tells you to return here,’ Vader orders before leaving me alone with the stricken woman who is still sprawled on the floor.

The second he is out the door I am at the Lieutenant’s side. I carefully, gently roll her onto her side, making sure she will not choke. A cushion from one of the chairs goes under her head as a pillow and my cloak makes a good blanket, so I cover her with it. Checking her pulse reveals that it is strong and her breathing is clear if labored, so I sit beside her on the floor to wait for her to regain consciousness.

This is my fault, I think miserably to myself. I should not have told him how she had behaved. He would have left her alone if hadn’t done that.

No, Maia, I would have done what I did regardless, the Sith Lord tells me, obviously having inadvertently overheard my thought. The Lieutenant knew what she was doing and will tell you as much when she recovers.

I don’t have an opportunity to answer him because Keol starts to moan.

‘Don’t move,’ I tell her, touching her shoulder to keep her from moving too much. ‘Stay still for a few minutes longer. You need time to recover.’

Her eyes open next and she looks up at me, then smiles. Why is she doing that? I just about got her killed.

‘I think we will be good friends,’ she quietly tells me.

Too surprised to do anything else, I just stare at her, shocked, while she follows my advice and stays where she is for five or six minutes.

‘Help me sit up,’ she tells me next.

I lift her under the arms and hold her up until she can steady herself in a semi-seated position on the floor. Once she is settled, she waves a hand to indicate I should sit beside her, so I do as she wants and wait while she gets her breathing back to normal.

‘Lord Vader asked me to provoke you as a test, to see what you might reveal,’ the Lieutenant discloses, ‘and he needed to ensure you understood the consequences if you refused to behave appropriately in public. I volunteered to help him.’

They set me up? That was a nasty, cruel thing he did to her even if she did subject herself to it willingly. My expression must be speaking volumes judging from the look on her face, so I quickly exert some control over myself.

‘It was necessary, my lady,’ she tells me, almost as if responding to my thoughts. ‘His Lordship doesn’t want to hurt you in public and if you continue to be stubborn and defy him, he would have no choice in the matter. He told me this himself. That’s why I offered to help.’

‘He must trust you, then, to reveal so much,’ I state, a bit of my own jealousy starting to creep into my voice. I wonder just how much of her envy and resentment was an act, how much was real.

‘My lady,’ Keol says, grabbing my hand as she does, ‘I can talk freely to you in this room and in your quarters, but nowhere else on the ship. Now listen to me carefully. I have worked for Lord Vader for almost a decade. It has always been a strictly professional relationship, no more, no less. My statements were an act he designed to provoke you, and only that. He tricked you into believing the emotions he projected were from me as well.’

I watch her as she tells me this, and I know somehow that she has been completely honest with me. ‘I believe you,’ I finally admit.

‘That’s good,’ the Lieutenant tells me. ‘Now help me to my feet and into a chair.’

Once I have her seated in a chair, with my cloak wrapped around her, I take one for myself and wait for the next set of instructions from her. Instead, I am given a short lecture.

‘My lady,’ Keol starts, ‘you may call me Mia when we are in private here, or I am off-duty. Lord Vader has asked me to teach you how to cope with the cultural, technological, and material differences between your homeworld and here. I am going to assume you know absolutely nothing about our technology, society, government or anything else. That way I won’t leave out something important. Your first lesson will be tomorrow at the same time as today, in your private quarters rather than in here. I will start with the basics of how to survive on ship, since I suspect his Lordship has not covered much of that at all.’

I smile at her last statement, then divulge, ‘No, Mia, he hasn’t told me anything really. I don’t even know how laundry is looked after.’

‘That’s easy,’ the Lieutenant admits, ‘there is a bin in the kitchen for that, and one of my jobs is to look after it for you.’

She’s the laundry lady? I stare at her, surprised.

‘What exactly do you do?’ I ask her.

After an easy sounding laugh, she tells me, ‘Well, until a week ago, it was purely my job to look after his Lordship, but I guess some of my duties will be yours, once I have taught you what he needs you to do for him. I make sure his quarters are properly stocked and in good repair, retrieve whatever public files and documents he wants, keep the media at bay if he is on planet, those sorts of things. Basically I am a personal aide and do whatever he demands which doesn’t require one of his more specialized agents.’ She smiles at me then adds, ‘I hope to include being your friend in my list of duties. You will find it hard to live on ship with only Lord Vader to talk to, and he will never allow you to become close to any of the male officers or crew, or a female one even, if he does not approve of her.’

‘I knew this, Mia, before he brought me here. He warned me what it would be like,’ I admit, ‘but I do miss my friends from home.’

‘Then my lady, you will have to tell me about them,’ she suggests, then looks at her wrist, ‘but not today. His Lordship needs his office now and I will require your help to get back to my quarters. I am still a bit shaky.’

She hands me my cloak and I help her to her feet. It takes only a minute or two for her to become more steady, but I refuse to let her walk back to her room alone. Her quarters are not far from the ones I share with the Sith Lord, and once she is settled in a chair she quickly sends me back to his.

When I enter the room with the meditation pod, I can hear Vader talking to someone. He has left his office door open, but when he hears my footsteps heading towards him, the door quickly slides shut and is locked. Guess that’s one conversation he intends to keep me out of. Not sure what else to do, I go to our bedroom, stopping in the kitchen to retrieve the jug and glasses which I set on the bedroom table. Soon it will be time for something to drink. When the Dark Lord fails to appear in a few minutes, I steal his pillow, curl up on top of the bedcovers, and spend some time mulling over the last hour. I like Mia, I decide. She could be a good friend to me.

What I really don’t like is what my Lord did to her.

I am well aware of what he is capable of and didn’t need a demonstration. That was not necessary at all.

‘You didn’t need to do that,’ I tell him when he finally appears in the doorway.

‘Yes, I did. It was necessary,’ the Sith Lord scolds in return, sounding a bit irritated, ‘you needed a graphic and lasting reminder of what I would do to you if you did something to deserve it. Stop questioning my decision on this.’

There is no point in arguing with him about what he did to my prospective friend, so I let it go rather than annoy or anger him further.

Is it time for another lesson? Almost in answer to my thought, he steps through the door, locks it, and waves a hand at the control panel. A few minutes later, his helmet is off and we are facing one another, seated cross-legged on the bed.

‘You did very well at control when I had Mia provoke you,’ Vader reveals. ‘I did not expect you to be as civil in your responses as you were, so I will let you continue to practice control on your own. Today we will work with shielding techniques and I will let you try to layer your shields. I know you did this with your mathematical ones earlier today, but it is more important for you to learn how to do this with the Force.’

So Mia’s comments were yet another test for me to pass. I guess I will have many more of these in the days to come. No time to ponder this now, I scold myself, concentrate on the lesson in front of you.

‘This should be an easy lesson,’ I tell him.

‘Easy?’ the Sith Lord comments with a bit of disbelief in his voice. ‘Hardly. Since you consider it so simple then, go right ahead and try it.’

I lift an eyebrow at him. Alright then. Reaching for the Force, I make the shield I already have a bit thicker. A second pull and I am spinning a second one outside it. The third one I place outside the second. When I start to work on a fourth, Vader stops me with a tap on the third, outermost one I just put in place. It holds against him and I settle in to see what else he does. Seconds later, I feel him slam against it with the Force. I sway a little where I am sitting but my shields somehow hold. That hurt, I decide, as I give my aching head a shake.

He sits back and watches me now, an odd, measuring look on his face.

‘Good, very good,’ Vader finally compliments. ‘I gather you partitioned your mind to do that, using the same technique as for those mathematical constructs of yours.’

I allow myself a smug smile.

‘Yes,’ I admit, ‘I figured it would work with the Force, too.’

‘Obviously it does. Now drop your shields and do the same, but without using any mental divisions to do so,’ he orders.

What? Why do I need to do that? What I have will work well enough. Keeping my mental grumbling to myself, I set about doing as instructed. It takes me almost two hours to finally erect shields this way which satisfy the Sith Lord. No wonder he thought my comment about this being easy to be a foolish one. Keeping each shield in place is not at all easy when they are just stacked and not neatly separated like I can do otherwise.

‘After a while,’ he tells me, once I have met whatever goal he had for this session, ‘shielding becomes reflexive. I rarely think of my own defenses unless the situation requires it.’

He calls the jug and a glass to hand, then decides, ‘That’s enough for today. You may use your own shielding technique since it is easier for you to maintain’

Vader hands me the filled glass, then the second one is in his hand and he is drinking from it himself. He watches me closely, as he has done several times today, and I wonder what the problem is. Have I done something wrong? I consider the day’s events. We have spent little time together today, despite his promise to stay in his quarters with me. My lessons are going to take up much of my time. Perhaps he has done this deliberately, to keep me occupied while he is working, but I wish we could have at least a little private time to ourselves.

The Sith Lord gives no indication that he has heard my last thought, simply finishes his allotted amount of the drink in silence before replacing his helmet. I am then gestured to his side and led to the mirrored salle for the postponed session from this morning. Once there, he pulls my bag with the rapiers from the storage compartment and keys the bin to open for me. I remove the four swords and check each one carefully. My heirloom blade needs oiling, so I take the small bottle and rag from the bag’s side pocket to look after this immediately before replacing it in its scabbard. That blade I only use for forms. It is far too valuable to risk in a duel. The other three are my dueling blades. I have not used any of these in years, so each gets a close perusal to check for damage and flaws. As soon as I am satisfied, I set the lightest one aside for myself. The heaviest I hand to my Lord who steps away from me to try it out.

He is just as competent in single-handed fencing techniques, I note, as he is with a lightsaber. Pitting his Force abilities against my mathematical ones should be interesting. I watch him warm up for a minute, then get to my feet and join him, mirroring the form he has chosen. Three or four sets later, we are both ready to try a bout or two.

‘I won’t use the Force to find out what you are planning, Maia,’ he instructs me. ‘I want to see what you can do without using that advantage.’

I nod my acceptance to him. This is a rare concession, but then again, if he wants to make a fair evaluation, he has no other choice.

We both slip into ready positions. I watch him carefully to see if he will give any hints to what he might do. There is a slight shift to the right so I throw up a high parry to block the attack which I predict will come and immediately follows. I start a riposte to his left, then suddenly alter the angle mid-course so that it cuts low, only to have him back-pedal and block it. Darn. That always worked on Rick. He tries another high attack, this time to my left. I side step and let my momentum carry me out of its path, swinging my own blade high in return to again be parried. That one usually threw Bill off. I narrow my eyes. There was that trick I tried on my brother, but I will have to get him into a series where I can use it, and if my timing is off I will get a nasty cut at the least, skewered at worst.

I toss an experimental attack to his left, letting him parry it easily before binding our blades. Good. I step sideways again, freeing my blade and getting myself ready for what I have planned. A feint followed by a backhanded counter-attack are next, forcing him to step away from me, then a quick spin, changing my sword hand from right to left when my back is turned to him. As I turn to face him once more, my next attack comes to his off-side, landing low and hard against his blade, next to the grip. I have him in an awkward, difficult position for him to keep a hold on the rapier. When I feel his grasp start to go, I lean all my weight into it, only to have him somehow reestablish his grip and use my closeness to throw me backwards onto the floor. The edge of his rapier opens a cut on the back of my left hand as I fall. Well, that happened when I tried that on Michael, too, and I have a scar on my hand from it. Rats. That was my best move and it didn’t work.

I quickly pick myself up, ignoring the blood now dripping from my hand onto the floor, and step back into a starting position, waiting for the Sith Lord to take his place opposite me. To make a point, I leave the rapier in my left hand. Maybe I should try some of my grandfather’s left-handed moves against a right-handed opponent. Vader merely shifts his own blade into his left hand to match me. So much for my idea to use off-hand tactics. We start another bout.

About an hour later, I am soaked in sweat and have managed to land just two touches on the Sith Lord, and those only because I forced him to let me do so. Both times I did something quite risky, using tactics which relied on my own split-second timing and him moving to prevent his own blade from running me through. He’s far better than Michael ever was, I silently concede, since many of my attempts to disarm or score, which would have been successful against my brother, have failed here.

I pick myself up from the floor once again, and decide that I have had lots of opportunity today to practice falling down without injuring myself. Setting myself in position again, I wait for the attack to come. To my surprise, Vader steps back, lowering his rapier.

‘Enough,’ he tells me. ‘I have seen more than enough.’

I lower my own blade in return. Thank you, I think quietly to myself, I was just about to fall over.

‘You need to work on your conditioning and the strength of your off-hand,’ the Sith Lord decides as he puts his rapier away. ‘We will concentrate on those two things for the next few weeks.’

He turns to face me again, and I can hear his concern when he speaks his next words and see it in the finger he waves at me, ‘And no more risky maneuvers just to score a touch. I do not want to be taking you down to Medical if you try anything as foolish as that last move again.’

Thoroughly chastised, I answer, ‘Yes, my Lord,’ before putting my own rapier away in the compartment with the other ones and the blade he had just used. Nope, I won’t attempt that move again. He almost sliced my shoulder open when I tried that one.

Vader steps close in to me, then takes my left hand in his. He holds it gently while examining the cut he inflicted earlier in the evening. With one finger he traces the parallel scar beside it.

‘You tried that once before, I see, and with the same result,’ he observes, ‘against your brother, no doubt.’

‘Yes, my Lord,’ I admit, ‘and it’s my best trick move, too. I was sure it would work.’

He gives an amused chuckle. ‘You don’t have the physical strength required to have that work against me. Once I have taught you how to augment your skills with the Force, though, perhaps you would have a chance.’

My injured hand is released, and I am led back to his quarters with my other hand on his arm. Once there, though, he heads straight for his office, sits behind his desk and starts the terminal again. I watch him from the doorway, but he shoos me away with, ‘Go look after your hand and clean up. I still have work to do.’

I go back to the bedroom, enter the ‘fresher and pull out the medkit stored in the compartment in there. My hand needs to be stitched, but glue or tape can work as well. Ten minutes later, the cut is sealed shut, and my hand neatly wrapped. A hot bath follows, then I am propped up in bed with Henry V once again, picking up my reading at the end of the first act. Hours later, long after I have finished reading the play, the Sith Lord has still not come to bed. Too tired to wait any longer for him, I set my book on the floor and try to fall asleep.

I give up after a few minutes. My mind is far too busy to let me sleep even though I am physically exhausted. Time to get up and do something to make myself sleepy. I slip out of bed, pick up the book and return it to the compartment. My special wooden box is in there as well, so I take it out, sit in one of the chairs and open it. Michael had given me the statue which is carefully packed inside and it is one of the things I treasure. I lift it out, set it on the table, and look at Darth Vader in an action pose, cloak swirling about and ‘saber drawn. After a few minutes I put it back in the box and return the box to the bin I had stored it in. Why bother looking at a statue when I have the real thing a few rooms away?

Opening my bottom compartment, I take out my cloak and wrap it around me, draping it so that my nightgown is covered up but my arms are free to move. It takes a minute or two to work up my courage, but once I have, I am walking through his quarters back to the office. The Sith Lord is still at the desk, still busy at the data station. Not wanting to disturb him too much, I quietly settle myself on the floor beside him and lean my head against his side. A few minutes later, I feel his hand in my hair, but I stay silent, letting him continue his tasks uninterrupted.

At some point I fall asleep next to him, only waking when he lifts and carries me back into the bedroom. He uses the Force to pull back the sheets, then sets me down, takes my cloak away and tucks me in before leaving again. A moment later he is back, with the jug and glasses for the morning in his hands. I doze a little as he does this, only becoming partially aware again when I feel his weight beside me, his arms shifting me about as I am carefully drawn into his chest.

I love you, Ani, I tell him, as I pull his arm tighter around my waist and snuggle close in.

It has been a long day, Maia, go to sleep now, he orders.

So I do.

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