He wanted the boy from the start. This unpredictable, dangerous boy, the Jedi’s Chosen One – as his apprentice.
To spite the Order, Sidious told himself. To snatch their self-serving hope, and fashion it into the most perfect of his weapons.
But those were all excuses, justifications for a slant within mind he was not prepared to anticipate, for an ambition which lay outside of accepted risk. A reasonable Sith would have the Chosen One destroyed, before the boy would have a chance grow up, know himself, and become a threat - devoured by the False Prophecy.
But Sidious was not being reasonable. He understood it, probably too late.
There, in the opera, Palpatine was not thinking about the web of possibilities coiling under his fingertips, in anticipation of the Jedi’s fall, or the permutations of color and sound in the performance. Instead, he thought of the sharp knees and tan wrists, an ease of a young man who treated war as an exercise, and believed the galaxy to be within reach.
They had won, both mutilated by the terrible power which went through them, and which they bent to their will.
Sidious hid himself in heavy robes and elaborate court procedure, not daring to show his face to the Empire he now ruled. And Vader became scar tissue, durasteel, and unbendable hate. A Sith, the like of whom had not walked the galaxy for centuries. A machine of Sidious’ own will, trapped within a casket of armor and corridors of his own guilt.
There was so little left of a young man with strong shoulders and a daring smile.
And Sidious could hear the voice of the Force, mocking him for thinking that he could claim its Chosen, only dug his nails deeper into what endured.
They both became monsters. Twisted by their power into tortured shapes, dependent on only each other for recognition and survival, loathing that in a way that only a master and his apprentice could.
And yet, whatever the Dark Side had left for him, Sidious would have it.
Of course, he remembered Anakin Skywalker - a young Jedi with bright eyes, firm handshake, and a hot head. And Tarkin knew that they will meet again, both perfect fits for the galaxy Chancellor Palpatine was so wisely crafting.
But now that knowledge was of no consequence, because Lord Vader was an abomination, a thing of nightmares that occasionally eased itself onto his bridge, a beast more terrible than any of that he met on Eriadu.
And he wanted it. He wanted it at his heel, or out of his way – but Vader knew how to play the game in his own right. And Tarkin frequently found himself grinding his teeth, when his path towards ambition was blocked by a creature encased in black durasteel.
Tarkin found its will remarkable, humor – bearable, and methods – effective, even as the latter two resulted in occasional asphyxiation of his officers.
Of course, he knew that Vader knew that he knew, and was grateful that he was allowed that knowledge - not that Vader could do much about it. But sometimes it was sweeter to have a prize willingly surrendered, than wrestled from your opponent’s grasp.
There was a dark kind of charm in that, their mutual familiarity, which occasionally travelled into different realms, ones of tentative, hands-on curiosity. With diligence bordering on worship, he studied this mutilated war machine, which -- with the charred flesh, failing organs, and tubes of life support -- was still the most effective one the Empire had.
He was constructing the Death Star, rearing it like his own child. A weapon which would be perfect, and and would have no fault, and will be the final solution to the Empire’s dominion. Deep, carnal satisfaction echoed within him, as he was watching the enormous sections of the battle station towed together, power shields falling into place and currents running through its mechanic body.
And yet nothing of it compared to breathing in the scent of bacta and rot, pressing his lips against cold, scarred flesh, and thinking of how the flames should have licked it.
He did not know what of it Vader could feel, but could imagine what Anakin would, with a Grand Moff kneeling before him.
His personal shuttle was on the way to Scarif.
And as his head ran wild with possibilities and fears, he lay tangled between the silken sheets of his chambers, sharply aware of every breath he could take. With the Death Star security potentially compromised, free time was a luxury, just like the Corellian brandy that stood on his desk, just as the fact that he was still living.
That still held his amusement.
Orson’s hand went over his throat, down the rich, purple bruises which had bloomed from a touch that was never there. It still hurt, even after the bakta salves and a shower, and the weight of the invisible gauntlet crushing his windpipe was tangible still. His breath caught, at the reality of it, at sticky fear pooling all around him, as his fingers hovered over the torn skin, outlining the shapes of the bruises, and nails grazing the places more sensitive.
It was a pleasant sensation, in addition to the quiet hum of the hyperspace drives, the coolness of his pillow, and the mess of his mind. He pressed harder, curious of where the sensation might lead, seeking to recreate what happened only a few hours ago, on Mustafar.
Lord Vader’s warning was supposed to leave him wrecked, vulnerable – and he was shaking a she collected himself from the castle’s floor, aware of how much not in control of his own life he was, no matter the Death Star. But it wasn’t fear alone he felt, but also a bizarre exaltation. As if he were pierced by the presence of a greater power, and it echoed through him like through an empty vessel.
He was scared, of course, but that fear was like a shot of caf in the mourning, which brought his mind to a point of singular clarity and - underneath it - pleasure.
So now he was desperately fucking his hand, thinking of a Sith Lord, nails digging deep into the throat, hoping to relive that sensation of a crushing power. To feel whole again.
He couldn’t tell what it was at first, why the air was not passing down into his lungs, why his chest suddenly felt heavy. And the uncertainty left him paralyzed, hovering above an abyss he could not even start understanding. He felt himself collapse, and circles danced before his eyes, and the booming voice reached through the blood rushing through his ears, in an admonition.
He smiled then, cowering at the feet of a monster - and he was gasping in pleasure now, as and he imagined the coolness of metallic fingers actually hugging his throat, and the mythical Force commanding his body, twisting it open.
And now, falling limp, he rasped.
“Yes, Lord Vader.”
She was never more scared for her life, and more thrilled to be living it.
And tried not to think of where it lead her: the physical sensation of black, cool armor under her thighs, the steady, cycled breathing, and a pair of eyes following her work from behind the helmet’s lenses.
There was, of course, a good, rational reason for why things ended the way they did.
Spaces got complicated within the narrow confines of a starship, spaces got convoluted, spaces got contrived with each other. Spaces lead to a mechanic malfunction within Vader’s shoulder, and her - to a conviction that she could fix it, and them - on the same pilot’s chair and too close to each other.
Aphra had a knack for detail: the only way to make it through the galaxy in one piece. And after weeks of their - she hoped - mutually beneficial arrangement, a lot of things about Lord Vader which before were obscured by the sheer aura of terror the man produced became clearer - and yet, through that somehow even more terrible.
The right arm, from which she was now carefully removing the armored casing, was fully robotic, she was certain. The joints and servers were attached to the chestplate in a design almost barbaric in its brutal straightforwardness.
In the left, the prosthetics might have gone only as far as the elbow. Not that it mattered, in any way. But she liked to think about it, of all the parts and pieces which composed the man, brought him into motion.
She gave a huff of appreciation, tracing the bundles of crude wiring. The problem was not there, but possibly within the matrix which commanded the motion. Her fingers hovered uncertainty over the panel on Vader’s chest.
A hand, the left, the more living one, came to hold her by the hip. And she hoped that she won’t die. She hoped that he won’t crush it. And she looked straight into the helmet’s lenses - and saw nothing there, except her own twin reflections, full of wide-eyed, teasing curiosity.
“So what happens if I open this panel?”
The helmet moved, just a little. And in the language of what Vader’s body permitted him, that read as a shrug. That much she knew.
“Pity you don't come with a manual.” She grinned at it, bending down to undo the clasps, and run her fingers over the edge of an exposed circuit board.
A hand on her thigh dug in deeper.
His number one rule was to never fuck clients.
There was a surprising amount of rules, when it came to the business of bounty hunting, actually. One had to be very careful, navigating the tentative balance between the Hutts, the Empire, and multiple independent factions that littered the Outer Rim, to get away with the kill and the money safely.
But now he was ready to throw all of those rules out of an airlock, for this terrible gambit he was pulling. And this was about his life, not only the paycheck.
After delivering another insurgent politician’s head, he stood bargaining with Lord Vader. He wasn't dead yet, which in itself was an excellent sign.
“With all respect,” he was speaking. “Credits only won't exactly do.”
Two slow, mechanical breaths filled the space between them, and Fett would have sworn that there was curiosity in Vader’s tone.
“What do you want?”
...And here went nothing.
Fett rose his chin, daring. “You.”
The rumbling sound that came from behind the respirator must have been a laugh, because he was still alive, and the red lenses were still upon him.
Fett licked his lips under the helmet – he really didn’t think it through this far. But if he wasn’t strangled to death, or thrown out at this point, maybe he was getting somewhere…?
“And how do you envision that happening?” Dark Lord of the Sith cocked his head, watching him.
Boba just shrugged. He spent his childhood on Kamino, and then wandering between the Galaxy’s stars and systems, and really preferred it that way. He had seen creature of nearly every gender and ability come together with another. Whatever Vader was under the mask and armor, he was sure that there could find a mutually pleasurable way to spend time.
So he – carefully, for the gesture not to be misread as aggression – took off his helmet, to look at the Dark Lord with his own two eyes.
“In any way that pleases you,” Fett spoke with more courage than he felt, “Just no choking.”