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Title: She Walks in Beauty
Author: Maia (maia@bastcastle.org)
Rating: G
Characters: Vader, OFC
Category: Romance, poem fic (is there such a genre?)
Disclaimer: I am not making any money from this, and he doesn’t belong to me. Darn.
Summary: A masked ball, a Sith Lord, and a woman.

Note: My co-author of sorts is Lord Byron.

‘She walks in beauty, like the night ...’

The words come unbidden into my mind as my eyes once again find themselves fixed on a swirl of black mothsilk. Her face is hidden, of course, behind a velvet and jewelled mask, not to be revealed until the appropriate moment. Only I, of all those in attendance, am excused from that indignity at the stroke of midnight.

Laughter, light, easily flowing from her lips reaches my ears. She is new to Coruscant, new to the Imperial Court, and has drawn the attention of all who are here as a compass unerringly points northwards. I step backwards, hiding myself in the shadows, and continue to watch.

Does she feel my gaze upon her, my curiosity?

The odd glance in my direction suggests she does.

‘Of cloudless climes and starry skies ...’

I retreat farther into the darkness and turn away to stare out from the balcony towards the horizon. Weather is controlled on Coruscant. Not one cloud blocks my view, nor is a single star visible. Even on this night, of all nights, there is too much light from the city for it to ever truly be twilight.

Another peal of laughter prompts me to return my attention to the crowd.

‘And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes ...’

Two eyes meet mine despite the masks we both are wearing. Caught, I decide, I am trapped now. She holds me frozen in place for a moment with just her two blue orbs before I sense her smile as she turns away, freeing me again.

If I were younger, if my pulse were not regulated, it would be racing.

How is it that such a simple flirtation can have this effect on me?

Don’t be a fool, I chide myself. You are no longer twenty, no longer a desirable catch. What woman would be sincerely interested in you now?

‘Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies ...’

A courtier approaches. I wave him away, unwilling to allow anyone to interrupt my meditation, and continue to watch her, observing the dance of etiquette and formality as each of her suitors vies for position and her undivided attention.

How they move in an orbit around her, I note, as moths drawn to the flame of novelty. Will she have this appeal in a day? In a month? In a year? After her innocence of political games and plotting is gone and she is a jaded as they?

‘One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace ...’

She deftly avoids the grasp of someone who tries to remove her mask. I frown, annoyed that anyone has dared such a thing, and move from my place.

A voice is raised; a second attempt is made. This time the veil covering her hair is torn away, to drift slowly to the floor.

But her mask remains fixed to her face.

‘Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face ...’

Hair spills down to her waist from where it had been twisted, forming a cascade of curls. Her reaction is to back away from her molester to presumed safety, not into me, her apparent rescuer.

I stop my forward progress as she freezes against my chest.

She knows exactly who is directly behind her.

‘Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.’

Slowly a head turns to look upwards, confirming her suspicions.

I say nothing.

My presence is enough.

The crowd of peacocks, those foppish fools putting on their display of fancy feathers, have fled. Not one of them will challenge me, for a Sith Lord is the equivalent of a casting hawk.

But does this victor gain the spoils?

‘And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow ...’

The chimes of midnight echo through the room, and those around us quickly remove their masks.

We stay where we are, this woman and I, frozen in a motionless tableau, until her fingers reach to rid herself of her now unnecessary disguise.

The smile she bestows on me is amused and sad, innocent and wise, revealing knowledge far beyond her years.

There is no fear of me in her, I sense, as she rests a hand on my arm, accepting the protection my actions have offered her.

Accepting me, I quickly realize.

‘But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below
A heart whose love is innocent!’

I hesitate, waver with indecision, as old memories return from my past to haunt me for a brief moment.

Does she really know what she has just done?

Her grasp tightens when I start to leave, and I have my unspoken, silent answer. My reply is to set my free hand over hers and lead her slowly away into the depths of the night.

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