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Chapter 2: Diplomacy

Tags: Crack Treated Seriously, Pre-Relationship

Rating: G

Summary: Vader Does Not Dance. Except when he does. Based on this prompt and inspired by this excerpt from the comics.

 

Chapter 3: Trapped

Tags: Gen (largely), Pre-Empire Strikes Back, Luke POV.

Rating: G

Summary: Luke finds himself trapped with a rather strange, unassuming Imperial officer. Please read notes! :D

 

Chapter 4: Convenience

Tags: Crack, Crack Treated Seriously, Marriage Proposal, Jealousy

Rating: G

Summary: Piett thinks it might be time to get married and asks Vader if he can have some time off. Based on the first half of this prompt.

 

Chapter 5: The Guest

Tags: Post-Return of the Jedi, Leia POV, Light Angst

Rating: G

Summary: Vader brings a stranger back to Coruscant with him. Leia is forced to speak to him, finally. Partially based on this prompt.

 

Chapter 6: Propriety

Tags: Past Krennic/Piett. Post-A New Hope. Marriage Proposal (I just like them). Canonical Character Death (mentioned).

Rating: E (although fairly mildly I think).

Summary: Piett is recently widowed and Vader has a new proposition for him. Literally.

 

Chapter 7: Arrangement

Tags: Post-ESB, PWP, SPANKING, Power Play

Rating: E

Summary: Piett and Vader indulge in a favourite practice of theirs.

 

Chapter 8: Convenience, Part II

Tags: Crack Treated Seriously, Marriage of Convenience, First Time, Frottage

Rating: E (just)

Summary: Piett and Vader get married. Follow up to Chapter 4: Convenience.

Chapter Text

While he’d dreamt of becoming an admiral one day (perhaps not quite as soon as he actually had) Piett was never interested in the associated pomp and circumstance of higher rank. He was much better suited to carrying out and issuing orders than he was public speaking, and he certainly didn’t enjoy any kind of social networking. Still, there he was standing awkwardly upon a polished marble floor in his dress uniform, and with some basic dance classes under his belt, courtesy of Veers. Not that he was expecting to be asked, nor have his own offer accepted. Truth be told, no matter how far up he was promoted he would never hold the kind of money or power that might interest the sorts of people currently swirling around in front of him, and most of the time he would have been perfectly comfortable with the fact. Tonight, however, he was forced to admit to himself that it would have come in handy.

 

“Excuse me, Admiral Piett,” said a man he recognised as one of many resident dukes coming to stand in front of him. He was of middling age, and had a sharp look about him with his whitening hair, dark eyes, long nose, and the immaculate red sash worn across his left shoulder. There was a hint of amused disapproval about him, as though Piett were a small child caught doing something he shouldn’t be. “I am sent on behalf of Her Majesty to ask you one thing: why is it that Lord Vader will not dance?”

 

Piett barely concealed a wince, his gaze briefly venturing across the great hall to where his commander stood; a black, motionless shadow coldly observing all the spirited activity. He’d remained in exactly the same spot all night while Piett had made a few, largely abortive attempts at mingling. “I’m afraid that Lord Vader is not disposed to dance, Your Grace,” he replied as agreeably as he could manage, knowing there was absolutely no question of compromise. He’d heard stories about his commander and dances, and they really couldn’t afford any kind of incident while they were here. This transaction had to go smoothly or they would both be answering to the Emperor himself, and since the events on Bespin Piett was truly fearful imagining the consequences.

 

The duke huffed. “What? Is the practice an offence on his planet or something?”

 

Piett cleared his throat gently. “I believe it is – not done there, sir. However, I would be honoured to represent both Lord Vader and the Imperial fleet tonight.”

 

The duke looked him up and down. “That’s all very well, Admiral, but you must try to persuade your master to dance! I understand it’s ‘not done’ everywhere but it’s a single occasion and dancing is of the highest importance here. Honestly, if he won’t even indulge us once I wonder why he even bothered attend.”

 

Piett bowed his head, wishing they could just leave. There were a few Mid Rim planets where dancing was fundamental to the culture, and the inhabitants of Rijun were amongst those with the most enthusiasm for it. They were also – almost literally – sitting on a great deal of metal ore, and it was solely in metal ore that Vader would entertain any suggestions he partake. Unfortunately, it was also Vader who was the stronger contender for any offers. Piett did not know whether the word Sith meant anything to anyone else present, but the title of lord (and the intrigue surrounding him) had drawn the attention of a few of the nobles. Vader had so far acknowledged each one with a nod and a few words, but nothing more. Piett sighed quietly, remembering. It was somehow even more taxing being with him away from the Executor than when they were on it. These people hadn’t the first clue why they should be vigilant around him, or perhaps overlook their own customs just this once. Suffice to say, the admiral was already afraid that they had failed in this operation. He swallowed. “Begging your pardon, Your Grace, but Lord Vader does not attend these kinds of functions at all.”

 

The duke glanced at him. “He doesn’t?”

 

“No, sir. He is generally only present at assemblies held strictly for business.”

 

The duke looked considering at that. “His appearance tonight is... unusual, then?”

 

“Very much so, sir.”

 

“Well – that’s...” The duke trailed off, frowning across the room.

 

“I respect your feelings, but please believe that by accepting the invitation tonight Lord Vader is making a rare exception for your people.”

 

Puffing himself up slightly, the duke nodded. “I suppose that is an... honourable gesture. All the same – the Queen and all of us should be much happier if he danced.”

 

“Of course, sir. I am sure the Emperor will be most encouraged by your patience and understanding in this matter.”

 

The duke snorted. “And I’m sure he’ll let us know.” He turned to face the admiral properly, and gave him another look up and down that sent Piett feeling exposed in a rather different way than it had the first time. “Well, perhaps you might soothe a few injured egos by agreeing to dance with me, eh?”

 

Startled, Piett thought the man must be joking. “ – Oh, er...”

 

The duke leaned in. “I like the way you speak. Your master is fortunate indeed to have you.” He presented his hand. “Please, Admiral.”

 

Still rather blindsided – but extremely aware this might be his one chance to make amends to Vader’s behaviour – Piett took the duke’s hand in his own and allowed him to take the lead in a waltz. It was probably for the best, given his sudden nervousness. The height disparity between them was not so great as it had been with Veers, and so it was actually a little easier to get used to the pace and the rather intimate hold. He even began to enjoy himself as he actually listened to the music and felt his feet getting used to the rhythm. Even though this was likely more of an opportunity for the duke to show off than anything else, it was pleasant to have been asked, rather than to have to pick his way through a line of disinterested options.

 

“Do you know, I think actually I’m rather pleased,” said the duke as they pivoted round again. “I think if Lord Vader was inclined to dance he might have left you behind.”

 

Piett supposed that was probably true. Vader never discussed it with him, but he had assumed his reason for bringing him along was for him to engage in any required festivities so that he didn’t have to. “Perhaps, sir,” he replied, raising his voice just a little so that he would be heard over the music.

 

The duke was smiling as he spun Piett around the dance floor, guiding them smoothly between and around the other couples. Piett caught his eye and couldn’t help but smile back. He was possibly one of the smuggest men Piett had ever encountered, but he had to admit he had a charm about him, and he really was a good dancer. He was so good, in fact, that on his next left turn he continued going, releasing Piett and then spinning away from him completely, and then his entire body jerked violently up – about twenty feet into the air.

 

Stupefied, Piett blinked upwards as the duke just... hovered there above the congregation for a few seconds, before he dropped, straight into the central fountain with a colossal splash.

 

By now, everyone had stopped dancing. The music had ceased as the little orchestra gawped along with everyone else, each member clutching their instrument like a lifeline. It was then Piett noticed that a few of the stares appeared to be directed towards him, and all he could do was stare back in utter, helpless confusion.

 

The only sounds in the room were the rustling of clothes, a few nervous coughs, the trickling of the fountains, and then above it all – startlingly close – the rasping, mechanical repetitions Piett knew all too well.

 

Vader.

 

When Piett turned he found his commander looming over him as he’d expected, but not looking at the fountain, nor apparently prepared in some way to fight off whatever had attacked the duke. Instead he was standing before Piett with his arm extended, his large, gloved hand held out in a clear invitation.

 

An offer.

 

To... dance?

 

Piett looked up at him, wide-eyed. He did it, he realised. Vader.

 

Vader had just thrown one of Rijun’s noblemen into a fountain. During a public event. For no reason. And now he was... what was he doing? Had he completely lost his mind? Was he about to break Piett’s arm? Did he want to go now?

 

Or was he really asking to dance? Did he think that was how this worked?

 

Even Vader could not be this out of touch, surely?

 

There was a groan from behind them. Piett looked around to see the duke having emerged from the water, spluttering as a man and woman rushed over to help him out of the fountain’s basin. Whispers were beginning to sound out across the hall, growing louder by the second.

 

He whirled back around to face Vader. “My lord,” he began, somehow keeping his voice steady, “ – what’s going on?”

 

“I am asking you to dance,” replied Vader, his hand turning slightly as though to prove his point.

 

“But you – you just – ”

 

“What happened?” It was Queen Istoa. The crowd parted to one side and she swept in like some tall, grand bird.

 

“He threw Moas!” yelled an elderly gentlemen. “He just threw him!”

 

The queen looked over at where the duke was sitting on the floor, dripping wet and clearly dazed as his friends checked him over, and then rounded on Vader.

 

“Is this true, Lord Vader?” she demanded.

 

“It is,” replied Vader, retracting his hand as Piett shook his head in disbelief.

 

“And is this your way of expressing your wish to leave our company?”

 

“No. I wish to dance.”

 

Istoa’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Is that so? The word is that you have refused every willing partner. Before you attacked my cousin I would have guessed you’d get the pick of the room, but now I’m not so sure.”

 

“I shall dance only with Admiral Piett.”

 

Piett froze, aware of all the attention in the hall diverting to him. He had absolutely no idea what to say or do. Clearly Vader really had lost his mind.

 

Istoa regarded him curiously for a moment too, before replying, “The last I saw Admiral Piett was engaged with Prince Moas.”

 

Vader tilted his head slightly. “The last I saw, they had gone their separate ways.”

 

Istoa's nostrils flared angrily. “I am not at all pleased about this, Lord Vader, and you are not amusing, no matter what you think. However, as you are so willing now, and I know you do not make a habit of indulging, I may consider overlooking this insult to my family if you dance no less than three dances with your Admiral Piett.” She turned to Piett again. “That is, if you are agreeable, Admiral? I can quite understand why you would not be.”

 

“ – Of course, Your Majesty,” said Piett hastily. There was no question of his refusing – they had to fix this. “I will dance.”

 

“Excellent,” said Istoa. “It is reassuring to know that one of you has a sense of propriety.” She turned to speak to a protocol droid that had ambled up alongside her. “Fetch a medic and get Prince Moas checked over.” The droid nodded and marched off. She clapped her hands. “Music!”

 

Everyone who wasn’t dancing quickly cleared the dance floor, and the musicians rushed to prepare.

 

Piett gulped as Vader’s hand reached towards him again, and he took it without looking him in the eye. This proved tricky to maintain however, as Vader’s other hand took his waist in a grip that – while not tight – was certainly keen. If he did not want his face planted in Vader’s chest for the duration of this, he knew he’d better keep his chin raised.

 

The other dancers found their positions. Piett placed his free hand on Vader’s shoulder. The music started back up.

 

They began.

 

Piett tried hard to concentrate, still reeling from what had just happened, and what was happening now. Vader was so much taller than him it was an almost foreign experience after dancing with the duke. Both of them were pressed together, and having to adjust their gait for the other by a fair way, and so why didn’t it feel more uncomfortable? Whenever they spun Piett was lifted clean off his feet a few times, and on each occasion he felt a little thrill low in his belly. Wasn’t there something terribly... off about that?

 

It wasn’t that Vader was a bad dancer. In fact, he probably made quite an elegant spectacle. Piett meanwhile felt slightly like a rag doll in his arms, but Vader was there supporting him every step of the way.

 

But it was Vader, he reminded himself. He was dancing with Darth Vader! Since when did he dance? Hadn’t all the stress in the last few hours been because he didn’t? And so why was he dancing now, and with Piett? And why had he intervened so violently between him and the queen’s cousin?

 

There was one rather obvious answer, but Piett could not even contemplate it. It was too insane, and he was presently focusing rather hard on not passing out. He could feel Vader watching him the entire way through; one hand gripping Piett’s own; the other still on his waist.

 

During the second dance Piett forgot himself and looked directly into the dark lenses of Vader’s helmet, and felt a surge of emotions he was not entirely sure were his own. At that moment Vader picked him up again and twirled him, Piett going with it readily this time. He wanted to ask him about this, but he found he couldn’t seem to get enough breath for it, nor was he prepared to ruin the moment. What they were doing was mad and would certainly raise a few eyebrows when the news inevitably got back to the Lady, but it was also important. And... pleasant, oddly enough.

 

Many people continued to gawp at them, and Piett would occasionally catch their stares as they turned or whirled. There was to be no blending in. Among a crowd sporting mostly bright colours, the pair of them must have been utterly conspicuous; Vader with his helmet and cape, in black from head to toe, and Piett in his navy blue dress uniform. Vader was also the tallest person in the room by a long shot.

 

Between dances everyone would stop and clap, which Piett joined in with out another desperate bid to show politeness, while Vader did not, but kept close to him.

 

By some miracle they made it through all three dances without Piett fainting or Vader attacking anyone else. Vader’s hand lingered for a moment on Piett’s as they drew apart, before finally they separated awkwardly. Vader was called away by the queen, and Piett frantically hoped he would not say anything that might undo their hard work. To his surprise and embarrassment, he saw Prince Moas limping towards him through the crowd as he clutched at his side. His clothes were still evidently soaked, although he’d removed his sash and jacket and had a towel around his neck.

 

“Admiral,” he said in a rather strained way, although he did not sound angry.

 

“Your Grace,” said Piett, mortified. “Please accept my apologies, I have no idea what – ”

 

Moas raised a hand. “We’re a culture of dancers. These things are known to happen – oof! From time to time.”

 

“...Really?”

 

“Well – not that, specifically, but –  you know... jealousies and whatnot.”

 

Piett blushed. “Oh – I don’t think that...” He trailed off as he noticed Vader watching them both from beside the queen a few feet away. If he had to guess, he would say that Vader was glaring at Moas, although he couldn’t say for certain why. He looked back at the duke, and found he was being smirked at.

Chapter Text

Luke swore as the great hatch fell with a resounding crash. Darkness swamped the place for a few moments, before to his mild relief some kind of red emergency lighting was triggered. It was short-lived, however.

 

He was trapped.

 

No. They were trapped.

 

The Imperial was down, but still alive. Luke could hear his moans of pain, and glimpsed one of his boots sticking out from behind some barrels.

 

If he’d had to guess, Luke would say they had both been just as surprised to see the other. He had shot first – aiming for man’s leg – but the retaliation had been impressively quick, the Imperial blasting the hatch lock mechanism, sealing them both inside the small cave, and Luke... Luke didn’t have his lightsaber with him. If he’d remembered the fact, he probably wouldn’t have risked coming here.

 

It was typical. Of course he would be trapped now, when he’d thought they were in the clear. All to fetch a literal handful of spare parts for Artoo, who was in a mess thanks to getting blasted up during their quick escape, and was now out of commission. Luke had hidden him and his X-Wing well, but they were no good to him now.

 

He swore under his breath, staring helplessly at the blocked entrance, and then spotted the Imperial’s blaster on the ground a few feet away. He marched over and swept it up, tucking it into his belt before advancing on the man, crouching in front of him. He began to search him, and the Imperial hissed loudly as he was jolted, hands flying to his thigh where Luke had blasted him.

 

Luke pocketed a comlink, and when he was satisfied the man had no other weapon, hauled him up a little to prop him against barrel, and then backed away. While he was growing rapidly more worried, he also felt rather awkward. He’d never been alone with an Imperial in quite such close quarters before, at least, not unless they were engaged in battle. The Imperial appeared to be every bit as uncertain of their situation as Luke, and was regarding him with some trepidation, as though fearful he might be attacked. Luke wanted to feel some validation at the obvious fright, but instead was distinctly agitated. Enemy or not, he wasn’t about to shoot an injured, unarmed man, but he supposed that was what an Imperial might expect of Rebel scum like him.

 

It was difficult to make out much detail in their new, reddened surroundings. The Imperial had lost his hat somewhere in their brief struggle. There was a captain’s badge pinned to the breast of his jacket, and though he appeared to be of or approaching middling age, he was small, even more so than Luke. In the split second they had come face to face in the natural light, Luke thought he recalled fair skin and red or brown hair. He had not recognised him then, and he still didn’t now.

 

“Y-You’re Luke Skywalker, aren’t you?” croaked the man, still eyeing him nervously.

 

“No,” Luke answered shortly, getting up and wandering over to the hatch, feeling rather dizzy in the intense red hue.

 

“Of course.” The man’s voice was sarcastic as he hissed again.

 

Luke pressed a hand against the roughened metal, trying to listen out with the Force, to see if he could get something. He would never lift the hatch by himself, but could he maybe try to locate some wiring and trigger them. He had to try. He stood there with one ear and both hands pressed against it, trying to get something – anything.

 

“Why d-don’t you just wait?” asked the Imperial, observing his behaviour anxiously.

 

Luke released a small laugh, glancing at him. “That would be convenient for you, huh?”

 

“Yes, but... with respect if you try to blast your way out you might cause a cave in.”

 

“I wasn’t going to, I’m not stupid.”

 

Luke was irritated with the man, but even more so with himself for doubling back without telling anyone, and for not thinking to retrieve his lightsaber from Leia before they had separated. He really was a moron. If Han were here he would probably have laughed, if he didn’t start fitting with anger and cursing Luke for being so stupid.

 

He could attempt to communicate with Leia, it always worked the best with her, but if she came here she too would be at risk of being caught. He closed his eyes, reaching out, trying to remember what little Ben had taught him. He’d been getting better – he really had – but not fast enough, never fast enough...

 

He was jerked out of his concentration by a distant banging on the other side of the hatch. “Hey! I think – ” His momentary hope was quashed when he realised it couldn’t be anyone he knew. Either way, there was no hope he and whoever it was on the other side of the thick steel would hear each other speaking. “Who’s here with you?” he demanded, turning back to the Imperial.

 

“Just me and one other. I don’t think... I don’t think he’ll get in. We weren’t expecting – well...”

 

Luke strolled back over to scowl at him. “You mean you didn’t follow me here?”

 

The man just gave him a look. “If I had, don’t you think we would have been rather better prepared?”

 

“So what are you doing here? This is an old pirate hideout.”

 

“It was by chance, if you can believe it.”

 

The Imperial’s comlink started beeping in Luke’s pocket, but he ignored it. “I can’t. You’re hiding something.”

 

“Look,” said the man. “My name’s... Oh, to hell with it. It’s Piett. I’m not... important or anything I’m just – ”

 

Luke raised an eyebrow. “Not important? You’re wearing a captain’s badge, Mr Piett. Don’t they blast men for fraud in the Imperial forces?”

 

Piett flinched, evidently having forgotten he was wearing any indication of his rank.

 

“Why are you here?”

 

“Wouldn’t be much of a captain if I just started telling you everything.” Piett did seem truly blindsided by their predicament, although that could have been in large part due to the blaster wound. Luke recalled his shocked expression, mirroring his own, no doubt, as they’d come face to face in that brief moment before everything went to hell.

 

“Fine.”

 

~

 

About ten minutes later Luke was at the back of the cave, hastily searching the shelves there for some more weapons or tools he might use to get out. So far he’d turned up nothing.

 

“Will – will you not even consider just coming quietly?”

 

Luke glowered at the shelves. “Are you insane?”

 

“I’m serious. How long have you been hunted for? Two years? Have you never thought about it?”

 

Ignoring the question, Luke wandered back towards where Piett was slumped. He had of course thought about turning himself in; even offered to once or twice and come up against Han and Leia’s furious protests.

 

Piett’s comlink beeped again. The man was sweating, most likely from the pain as it was rather cold and damp in the cave. As such, no food or anything too precious was stored in here, and that reminded Luke as he watched Piett lying there, almost staring off into space as he waited for this round of beeps to cease.

 

“Aren’t you worried?” Luke asked him. “We could be here for days.”

 

Piett shook his head. “We won’t be.”

 

Luke’s heart leapt slightly. “So, it’s not just you, then.”

 

“My associate and I took a shuttle from our ship. How long it takes for us to be rescued depends on whether he can comm them from here or not.”

 

“Rescued – stars.”

 

“Listen – I know you’re Skywalker. It’ll be all right.”

 

“Yeah, I’ll just be handed over to a complete maniac and then killed.” As he said it, Luke suddenly felt his blood run cold.

 

“No, I don’t think that’s – ”

 

“What ship are you a captain of?” Piett swallowed at the question, and Luke released a shaky breath. “Vader’s there, isn’t he?” Piett’s uneasy expression told him all he needed to know. “Oh, no.” He closed his eyes.

 

Leia if you’re still around – get away. Get away from this system now.

 

And he had to get out of here, too.

 

He ran to the back again and began shoving the lids off all the barrels there frantically, discovering nothing more than screws and bolts. He knew he was unlikely to find much in the way of electrical parts that might fix the hatch controls. What else could he do? Barricade them in, maybe? It was a thought. Not a permanent solution, however. The only one of those he had rested in the two blasters in his possession. Could he take Piett hostage? Probably not. Stormtroopers had shot blindly at each other trying to get at him. He doubted if the Imperials might spare one man for their most wanted, especially with Vader behind them. Although, Vader wasn’t here yet, and if he did not arrive with the initial rescue there might be a chance.

 

Unless he took himself hostage? Would that even work?

 

“Please – Skywalker, calm down,” said Piett, having noticed Luke’s hand had gone to his own blaster. “Won’t you please think about hearing him out?”

 

“You think I’ll get time for conversation?”

 

“I do, really. You must know he's requested you be captured alive?”

 

“Lucky me.”

 

“Are you alone here? If you are – there’s no one else for you to worry about. You can – ugh – speak to him.” Piett grimaced, his eyes falling shut as he lay back against the barrel.

 

Luke regarded him for a moment, focusing and searching for his presence in the Force. He found it quickly enough. It was oddly... subdued, given that he was trapped with the Empire’s number one wanted criminal, but still Luke wondered how he’d missed it when he’d followed him into the cave. Especially since, now that he was paying attention, he could make out the rather strong trace of somebody else clouding Piett’s signature. “You know him,” he said.

 

“I...” Piett’s eyes opened blearily, looking at the ceiling of the cave. “He is my commander.”

 

Maybe Piett had become adept at concealing his presence in the Force, with a man like Vader around him? Luke was still blindly finding his way with training and meditation, but Piett wasn’t giving off any sort of telltale signs of being Force-sensitive. Surely, if he was, he would have attempted to utilise it by now?

 

Looks could be deceiving Luke knew – just look at Han – but it was rather difficult to imagine this small, quiet man conversing directly with someone like Darth Vader.

 

“I really think you might as well wait,” said Piett after a few moments. “You don’t even know why he wants you.”

 

“I don’t suppose torture and death rings a bell?”

 

Piett shook his head. “If he wanted to torture you, don’t you think he’d just let someone else do it? He’s expressly asked that you be turned in alive and unharmed. Anyone who tried to hurt you would have to be suicidal.”

 

“Maybe he just wants to do the honours himself.”

 

“I don’t think so. It would be a colossal waste of time and effort if he was just to kill you anyway. It’s – ah! – It’s clear he wants to speak to you.”

 

“For information, maybe.”

 

“If that were the case why hasn’t he applied the same terms to your friends’ capture? What reason has he to believe you know something they don’t?”

 

Luke huffed. He wasn’t about to tell some Imperial captain about his father, or Ben. Truth be told, he’d been just as thrown as everyone else by Vader’s obsessive pursuit of him... but it must be about them, or at least something to do with the Force. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said wearily.

 

“I know my orders. I know when my commander means to kill and when he doesn’t.”

 

“I don’t care. I’m not letting him get within a mile of me.”

 

“You aren’t even interested in what he has to say?”

 

“I might be if I thought he’d let me skip off afterwards.”

 

“He is not a mindless killing machine, you know.”

 

Furious, Luke rounded on Piett. “There’s a lot of people who would disagree.”

 

Piett actually smiled – a bitter, sad expression. “And what of the thousands of lives on the Death Star? Or do Imperials not count as people?”

 

For a moment the cave was silent. Water dripped down from somewhere, splashing into a puddle. “That was different,” said Luke eventually. “They had their weapon trained on us, it was kill or be killed.”

 

“It always is.”

 

Jaw tightening, Luke turned away. “Just – stop talking.”

 

~

 

Piett’s partner had not banged on the hatch for a while, no doubt having gone to summon help. The captain himself seemed to be faring reasonably well; his breathing was steady, and he was still conscious.

 

Luke found himself eyeing him again, and debated whether he should investigate if the water in the cave looked drinkable. If Piett was right, they might not have much longer in here, something that did nothing to relax him. Still, it was different speaking to an Imperial who didn’t just shout insults or spew Imperial propaganda as a means of protest. And this man actually worked with Vader – closely, Luke was certain of it. He found his old desperation to know more resurfacing, wondering if someone might finally be able to tell him something useful. As much as he’d come to despise Vader and everything he stood for, he did not actually know all that much about him. “Who is he, anyway?” he asked after a few moments.

 

Piett looked up at him. “I’m sorry?” His voice was tight with exhaustion and pain.

 

“Vader. He must have come from somewhere. I know he was a Jedi once, but that’s all. Doesn’t he represent a planet or system or anything?”

 

Shrugging, Piett sighed. “You know more than I do by the sounds of it.”

 

Disappointed, Luke knit his brow. “And yet you serve in his name?”

 

“ – In the Emperor’s name. I suppose Vader represents him.”

 

“I’ve heard he kills as many of his own men as he does Rebels.”

 

Piett snorted lightly. “If that were true we’d have no crew left at all. He is... a formidable commander, but if you stay on the right side of him he can be tolerant.”

 

“Sounds like a great deal.”

 

“He can be patient, even. He wields powers I do not fully understand, and while several people have made the mistake of trying to test that, I’ve seen him restrain his anger before. Give... second chances, too. And he knows – he always knows where blame should fall.”

 

Luke listened, intrigued. He couldn’t say for certain, but he had the impression that it was Piett himself who had been spared Vader’s wrath once or twice. “Quite the relationship.”

 

The comment visibly unsettled Piett. “I... have the very highest respect for him.”

 

“He’s hurt people I care about.”

 

Piett bowed his head slightly. “I’m sorry.” He looked it, too, even as he rested his head to the side slightly, like he was about to fall asleep.

 

Luke glared at him. He was irritated by Piett. He just seemed so... normal. Luke would hesitate to say ‘nice’ (the only way he might have determined that was if their positions were reversed) but he was so very... agreeable. Maybe it was only because he was trapped and helpless with an armed enemy, but he did strike Luke as genuine, and it bothered him. Why couldn’t he smug and vicious, like so many of his fellow officers?

 

Grudgingly, Luke went back to him, and tried his best to examine his leg. Piett yelped as he touched him, startled from his daze.

 

“Sorry,” said Luke distractedly.

 

“It’s – fine,” Piett bit out, pushing his hands, not exactly away, but as if to be ready to do so. “Quite a clean blast you gave me.”

 

“I think you should stay awake.”

 

“ – You’re probably right.”

 

“Why is it just the two of here, anyway? Are you... smuggling or something?”

 

Luke didn’t think he’d ever seen anyone look so offended. “Absolutely not.”

 

Frowning at him for a moment, Luke stood up and surveyed the place as well as he could. While his eyes had acclimatised somewhat to all the red, he was beginning to get a bit of a headache. One of the barrels near the hatch had its lid ajar, and he certainly hadn’t left it that way. Luke went over to it, lifted the lid, and peered inside before putting his hand in and feeling around. His eyes widened. “Kriff, I tripped your sensor, didn’t I?”

 

“No, I’ve just put that one there.” Piett heaved a sigh. “I knew you Rebels would find these sorts of places useful. Didn’t realise quite how on the money I was.”

 

Luke glared at him. “And how do you know about them?”

 

Piett sighed. “I doubt I know all of them. But... I used to hunt pirates a while back.”

 

Luke groaned. “And – I guess it was you that cleared the place out first time around?”

 

“Yes. Whatever went unclaimed was distributed back to the public – if we knew where it came from.”

 

That surprised Luke. “The Empire didn’t take it?”

 

Piett shrugged. “Depended on the contents. By and large we were left to decide what to do with it.”

 

Luke nodded, feeling despair begin to take hold of him. He now understood how and why Piett was here, but it didn’t offer anything in the way of an escape plan.

 

At that moment Piett’s comlink went off yet again. He still didn’t touch it.

 

“You know, they won’t slow their advance if no one answers,” said Piett, watching him rather morosely.

 

“But they might speed it up if you tell them Luke Skywalker’s in here with you.”

 

“That’s true.”

 

~

 

They felt the ship land. All the barrels vibrated lightly, setting all the metals off clunking and chiming inside them.

 

Luke whipped his head around to look at Piett, his eyes wide. He scrambled up from where he’d been sitting on the ground and pulled out his blaster.

 

“Please, Skywalker,” said Piett, smiling at him now. “Hear him out. Just speak to him.”

 

Luke thought about it. Everything he’d done to keep away. Every person who had risked their life to cover for him.

 

Perhaps this was for the best. He was just one person. One out of billions.

 

A loud bang sounded on the outside of the hatch. Both men jumped.

 

“What’s going to happen to you?” Luke asked, feeling numb.

 

Piett sounded taken aback. “What do you mean?”

 

“ – You’re injured.”

 

“I’ll... get treatment, I’ll be all right.”

 

Another bang, quieter this time.

 

“And if I fight? If I got away... what would happen to you?”

 

Piett’s mouth thinned briefly. He looked mildly ill now, but had he already looked like that? “I – ”

 

Luke understood. If he fought his way out and managed to escape again, Piett could well face the consequences. It wasn’t just Rebel and civilian lives on the line for him right now. How would Vader do it? Choke Piett? Seal him in here and leave him to suffer alone? Vader’s silhouette seemed to be at Piett’s shoulder now – how had he missed it?

 

He’s one Imperial. Don’t give yourself up...

 

But it wasn’t just one Imperial. One person. How many more lives would be taken in Vader’s hunt for him? If he gave in now, his friends were far away, unlikely to get caught in the crossfire if he tried to get free.

 

But if it was Vader did he have even a hope of escaping?

 

He still yearned to fight him, make some motion to avenge his father and Ben. But he didn’t even have his lightsaber.

 

Crash!

 

Dust and light burst around the edges of the hatch as it was forced outwards; metal twisting and groaning, before finally being torn away completely.

 

The red emergency lighting flickered – the hiss of wires frying up sounding – and then went out.

 

For a moment, all Luke could see was hazy, yellow cloud.

 

And then he heard him. Breaths – in, out. A rasping, powered cycle.

 

Vader emerged from the light, blocking most of it and casting a long shadow over both men. He paused at the entrance, staring at Luke.

 

“Please – Luke.” It was Piett. “P-put the blaster down.”

 

Hatred and rage boiled inside Luke, his eyes never leaving Vader. But the Sith lord did not go for his lightsaber, nor did he attack. He just watched him.

 

Luke thought about it. He wasn’t getting away, whatever he did. He dropped the blaster. It did not hit the ground, instead stopping in mid air about halfway down, and then flying into Vader’s outstretched hand. He started as he felt a tug on his belt, and looked down in time to see Piett’s blaster follow suit.

 

Footsteps sounded outside, and two Stormtroopers appeared behind Vader. Vader handed them the blasters, and then approached slowly, coming to tower over Luke. “Skywalker,” he rumbled.

 

“Vader,” Luke whispered back, glaring at him.

 

“Where is your lightsaber?”

 

“I don’t have it.”

 

“It’s with the girl.” Vader sounded almost angry. “You should take more precaution.”

 

Luke shrugged. “It’s in good hands.”

 

Vader just stared at him.

 

The next few seconds, minutes – he couldn’t tell – passed in a blur. The Stormtroopers cuffed and searched him, Vader watching all the while like a great, black statue. Piett was right about one thing – he didn’t seem about to kill Luke on the spot.

 

Luke glanced back at the captain. Piett was still his enemy, he knew, and yet a peculiar sort of dread arose in his chest as they made eye contact. What if these people just left Piett there? What if Imperials didn’t take care of their own? What if the rank of captain really wasn’t high up enough to be deemed important enough to save? It was incredibly foolish given the resources he knew the Imperials had at their disposal, but he didn’t like the way Piett was going virtually ignored while the Stormtroopers dealt with him. Was there no friend of Piett’s among this group? Someone who might joke with him, distract him from his pain?

 

Luke had been through a lot in the last few years, but he’d always had a shoulder to lean on.

 

Piett was still slumped, lying there on the cold, hard rock in Vader’s shadow.

 

As Luke’s cuffs were checked, the Stormtroopers stood on either side of him, preparing to leave. He couldn’t believe he was doing this; giving himself over without so much as a fight. Practically gift-wrapping himself for the Empire. What would Leia say? Would he ever see her again? Or Han? Chewie? Artoo? Threepio? He swallowed the grief rising in his throat, and looked back at Piett. Vader was approaching him, and Luke flinched, making one of his guards grab his shoulder warningly.

 

Vader glanced back at him, looking almost curious as his helmet tilted slightly. His attention returned to Piett, who was staring up at his commander silently, reverently.

 

There was absolutely no reason for Luke to get the impression he did at that moment, in fact, the opposite was true. Piett had, for all intents and purposes, caught Luke Skywalker singlehandedly, and persuaded him (how, Luke had no idea), to come quietly. And yet... watching Vader stand over the other man, put Luke uncomfortably in mind of a person regarding some tiny, helpless creature right before they stamped on it.

 

But to his surprise – and Piett’s judging by the startled look on his face – Vader bent down, loaded Piett easily into his arms, and then stood up. Piett cringed from the pain, fisting a hand in Vader’s cloak and Vader stilled, allowing him to adjust.

 

“Are we ready, Lieutenant?” asked Vader, cradling Piett securely.

 

“We are, sir,” replied the Stormtrooper still gripping Luke’s shoulder.

 

“Then lead on.”

 

Luke tore his gaze away from the spectacle, and turned towards the light.

Chapter Text

 

“You always seemed to really get along with her, and if you’re in the system anyway... Well, please think about it. Miss you.”

 

The message ends on his mother’s hopeful gaze, and Piett sits down on his bunk with a sigh. He's been expecting this. Despite some lingering reservations he has recently given a lot of thought to contacting Xari and asking if she would be open to marrying again. He would never dream of holding her to the innocent pact they made all those years ago, but remembering it certainly makes him feel a little more comfortable about approaching her.

 

He wonders if his mother has any idea about it, although it wouldn’t matter either way. She married for convenience and found love, and she is determined the same will happen for her son. Piett has been sending her money since he received his first solid pay check, but that will not last her forever, even with her frugality inherent in so many Axxilians. The law is – he can admit – rather backwards in places, but he’s always thought it might be nice to share that connection with someone, especially so fine a person as Xari.

 

He is still rather intimidated by the idea, however. She is, and always was, a complete force of nature; motivated far beyond the prospects suggested by her background, unafraid of challenge or failure. Why she has separated from Jorg he isn’t sure, but she certainly won’t struggle to attract offers. She was always good looking, talented and vivacious, and he hopes she won’t be offended or anything when he asks her. He intends to be completely upfront about the nature of his proposition, and he’s quite sure she would know even if he weren’t. Like him, she has ageing parents to consider, and he can imagine they are already pestering her to settle down again. The financial side of things will be simple – she knows the customs as well as he does – and presumably it was the same situation with her ex-husband. He’s willing to be patient if things are not yet settled on that front, and it’s not as though he has any personal designs on her income. He isn’t sure about children, and neither was she for all the time he’s known her, but if she’s changed her mind it’s also a conversation he’s willing to have.

 

He sighs again. He will never marry the great love he’s hoped for, but that can’t be helped now. If he’d really wanted that above all else he wouldn’t have spent the last few years working so hard. Maybe he wouldn’t even have joined up in the first place. Still, he has a good deal for both Xari and him; one of freedom and minimal sacrifice on either side. If she refuses him the pressure will be mostly off... but he knows there is a chance she might not.

 

Mind made up, Piett stands and gets ready for bed. He could just message Xari, but he thinks he would want to be asked in person, and as this will be a marriage of convenience – if it takes place – he would like to try and make it just a little bit special. She deserves that much.

 

~

 

After giving his evening status report the next day, Piett works up the courage to ask for the unusual concession of Vader. Now seems to be a good time. His commander has spent most of their meeting gazing out at the stars through the viewports normally obscured by black shields. He seems occupied with his own thoughts, barely aware of Piett's company. The fleet do not currently have any leads in their search for Skywalker, and Piett is confident his visit to Axxila will be a short one, no matter Xari’s response to his proposal. Vader shouldn't mind the request, at the very least.

 

“My lord, may I request your permission to take a couple of days leave?” Piett asks, folding his hands together in front of him.

 

For the first time since Piett arrived, Vader turns to face him directly. “Is it an emergency?” he replies, giving nothing away.

 

Piett isn’t entirely surprised by the question. There’s a good reason he never asks Vader for anything unless it’s work related. “Not really an emergency, my lord, but it is somewhat urgent.”

 

“May I ask why?”

 

“Of course, my lord. I might be getting married.”

 

There’s a long pause. The air has gone very still.

 

“Married?” Vader repeats.

 

“Yes, my lord.”

 

“You might be getting married?”

 

“That’s right, my lord.”

 

Vader takes a moment before speaking again. “I was unaware you had any attachments.”

 

Piett blinks, unsure of how that is relevant. Relationships and other personal matters simply aren’t the kind of thing one speaks to Vader about. Perhaps he’s displeased that this is why Piett is requesting time off? “I don’t... exactly, sir.”

 

“And yet you intend to marry?”

 

“It’s not uncommon on Axxila for people to marry by the age of forty.” Piett gives a minute shrug. “I suppose it’s about time.”

 

“And what is the purpose of marrying if you intend to return here? We do not host spouses of the admiralty.”

 

“No, of course, sir. I don’t expect that will be an issue. This is really more of a... financially motivated decision.”

 

Vader appears to lean back a little. “Are you not paid enough?”

 

“Oh, more than, sir. But it’s – for my family’s sake, really. And my friend's, if she’s interested... Stability is really why most Axxilian’s get married in the end.” Piett isn’t sure if it’s necessary to tell Vader all of this, but his high commander does appear – for all he can actually see – most unhappy. There are more reasons he could list, such as the fact he desires a marital link, and that his parents have never made his own month’s wages in a single year, not to mention that he has no idea how likely it is he’ll live long enough to see a pension. Somehow he doesn’t think any of it will help.

 

Vader’s voice is like ice. “And who is this woman you intend to marry, or have your family decided that for you also?”

 

Piett swallows. “She’s an old friend, my lord.”

 

“And you think her likely to accept?”

 

“It’s possible. We used to say we might marry if we hadn’t met anyone by a certain age, and – she has recently divorced.”

 

The dark lenses glint at Piett. “So you do not have feelings for her?”

 

“...I hold her in the highest esteem.”

 

“That does not answer my question.”

 

“We were never romantically inclined, my lord.” Truth be told it’s men who dominate Piett’s romantic history, but that isn’t important. He has no expectations that Xari wouldn’t seek out pleasure or even love if she wished, and he fully expects that sentiment would be mutual.

 

Vader regards him coldly. “It does not look a promising match.”

 

Piett is struggling to come up with a response. “It... would be an arrangement of convenience, my lord. I don’t expect – if she agrees – that I will see much of her.”

 

Finally stepping away from the viewports, Vader advances on him. “You would not desire proximity?”

 

Piett stares as Vader looms over him, close enough to touch. “ – If things were different, perhaps – ”

 

“If she were someone else.”

 

“...No, I – I always valued her friendship, but – ”

 

“If it did not intrude on your career.”

 

“Well – yes, I suppose. I believe she would... feel the same way.”

 

Vader stares at him for a while, and Piett starts to wonder if he should say anything else. He is nervous to – it seems his relatively innocuous request is under rather more scrutiny than he’d anticipated. “And what if you had another option?” Vader says finally.

 

Piett hesitates. “My lord?”

 

“What if someone else were to make you a proposal? Or are you bound only to your friend’s interest?”

 

“I... depends on the person, I suppose, sir. I don’t have any other prospects.”

 

The next question is slow and considered on Vader’s tongue. “Not even me?”

 

Piett blinks. “Sir?”

 

“You would not consider me as a prospect if I offered?”

 

“Are you... likely to, my lord?”

 

“I am doing so now.”

 

“I – ”

 

“I am second only to the Emperor. I think you’ll find my finances best the woman’s. I can offer both you and your family stability and protection. Wouldn’t you say that makes me a serious contender?”

 

Piett is stumped. “But... why, my lord? I mean – Why would you want to be a... contender?”

 

“I do not wish to lose your service.”

 

“...I am not going anywhere.”

 

Vader leans in a fraction, nearly making Piett’s back bend in order to look him in the eye. “Would you prefer to marry her?”

 

Biting his lip, Piett thinks about it for a moment. He does not wish to offend Vader, and declining such a proposal – serious or not – almost certainly will. He is utterly blindsided by the situation. Discussing one’s marital prospects can notoriously invite unsolicited proposals on certain planets, but he never imagined one might come from Vader. He has never refused his commander anything before now – and if he is going to be choked to death over anything – it will not be this. “ – No, sir,” he says finally, horribly aware of the stammer threatening to overtake his voice.

 

The atmosphere in the room changes almost instantly. Vader is triumphant; the helmet flashing in the light as he straightens up, chest expanding, satisfaction dripping from his next words. “Good. We shall marry tonight.”

 

Startled, Piett gaped at him. “But – m-my lord – we haven’t – !”

 

“If you are agreeable, Admiral Piett?”

 

“ – Y-yes – I mean, I suppose...”

 

“Then it is settled. I think this will suit us very well. Of course, it will have to remain a secret.”

 

“ – My lord?”

 

“Yes. I will handle the formalities.”

 

“What about my family?”

 

“I’m afraid they cannot know either. I shall give you money to send them.”

 

“...But they will ask questions.”

 

“Tell them you were not permitted to marry the woman, but you were left a small fortune by a wealthy benefactor. That will satisfy them.”

 

Piett falters as he imagines it. His mother will never believe it in a million years, and she’ll be disappointed to not have Xari as a daughter-in-law. But... having a bit of spare cash around always helped everyone in the family get along. It might get them off his back for a while – but not forever.

 

“...Very good, my lord.”

Chapter Text

It was three weeks after Vader abruptly left, that he returned.

 

The ship he’d taken – without asking – was sighted and reported back to Leia at breakneck speed. Assuming he would return to where he got it from, she rushed to the palace’s defence hangar bay. Luke was already there, of course. He’d returned to Coruscant when Vader first vanished, and had likely sensed his approach before the message even came through. As the ship docked, looking none the worse for wear, he shot her a conspiratorial look, and she recalled their last rather awkward exchange. He’d asked her if she’d fought with Vader, apparently under the impression that might be why he’d left.

 

Leia didn’t blame him for his suspicions, but in any case it wasn’t true. Despite all the times she’d sensed Vader looming there just out of sight – and she was becoming more and more attuned to it – she had successfully maintained her distance from him since their ‘happy’ reunion, and Vader had largely respected that. No doubt her frostiness had contributed to this strange melancholy – and that was almost certainly what it was – of Vader’s these last few weeks, but she was certain he held no expectations that she would accept him any time soon. Not as her father, nor as her teacher. His bitterness at the rejection was palpable to all, but he had not once complained, nor displayed any intent on forcing the issue. Instead, he’d become a ghostlike presence, almost at the back of her mind she so rarely saw him. She did not like it, but it had been tolerable enough. Still, his lack of action had been frankly unnerving. She’d presumed he would have his own matters to address – she’d readied herself for the inevitable fight over what he could and couldn’t do – if he was to be accepted by the New Republic.

 

But it never came.

 

Whatever the reason for the man’s sudden disappearance, she was certain it had nothing to do with their relationship – or rather, the lack of it. Although, she had wondered if he’d finally given up. Perhaps then, they ought to be more cautious.

 

The ship finally docked, the engines dying down from a roar to a low hum, and then finally to silence. Luke was watching with rapt attention, his hands balling into fists at his sides. Leia knew he was still troubled by his own personal little drama with Vader, but she was also aware it would have destroyed him if the man really had abandoned them.

 

Leia readied herself to angrily demand an explanation – without sounding as though she’d cared – as the hatch slid open.

 

Vader was standing there all right, his red eyes practically glaring ahead from above the oxygen mask he wore in place of the helmet. But he wasn’t alone. The other was a man she’d never seen before. He was short, certainly against Vader’s bulk, and the word that sprung to Leia’s mind was ‘ordinary’, perhaps also due to the effect of Vader looming behind him. He was pale with dark circles around his eyes, and was very thin, as though he’d been ill. His ramrod straight posture and his very short, cropped hair were both telling, too. This man was blatantly an Imperial; the only things missing were the uniform and a haughty expression. Instead, this man had a sort of nervous, lost look about him.

 

Vader placed a hand on his shoulder – and although the man blinked at the contact – the grip on him was unmistakably tentative; gentle. Encouraging as opposed to controlling. As the pair began to descend the ramp towards them, Leia noticed the stranger was limping.

 

“Father – where were you?” asked Luke, snapping out of it first as the two men stepped onto the hangar bay floor.

 

“Luke,” said Vader behind his new oxygen mask as he stopped, and then turned to Leia. “Senator Organa. This is Firmus Piett. Piett, this is Luke Skywalker and Senator Organa.”

 

“Senator Organa,” said Piett, bowing his head. “Commander Skywalker.” His words were clipped with military precision, and also tight with fatigue and pain, or whatever was afflicting him. And yet it was still a softer voice than Leia would have imagined; the civility perfectly genuine.

 

Leia nodded at him in acknowledgement, but raised her eyebrows up at Vader expectantly. “You did not inform anyone you were leaving.”

 

“Is everything all right?” asked Luke, and Leia heard – or perhaps felt – a little frustration evident in his question.

 

Vader glanced at them both again, and Leia fought to not direct her own gaze away. “Later, both of you. Piett needs rest.”

 

Leia frowned as he passed by, taking Piett with him. Whether it was down to the depression or not, Vader was generally more cooperative of late. Yet again she had prepared herself for a fight, and this time had seriously intended to push it. But... Piett – whoever the hell he was – did look rather unwell, and the unexpectedness of his appearance had curbed her annoyance by a fair amount.

 

She widened her eyes in Luke’s direction, and found him already doing the same. They both turned to watch the two men head off towards the exit, Vader still with his hand upon Piett’s shoulder.

 

The shorter man was stammering as he tried to make eye contact with Vader. “My lord, please – I’ll find somewhere to stay – ”

 

Vader shook his head. “You shall take my room.”

 

Luke and Leia’s attention flew straight back to each other at precisely the same moment.

 

Piett was every bit as startled as they were by the sound of it. “No, I-I couldn’t – ”

 

“I insist.”

 

The pair disappeared through the large doors, leaving brother and sister gawping in their wake.

 

“Well...” said Leia, absolutely no idea of what she was going to say.

 

“Uh-huh,” replied Luke, equally stunned.

 

There was quiet for a moment.

 

“Did you recognise – Piett, did he say?” Leia asked finally.

 

“No.”

 

“Has Vader mentioned him, or any... friends?”

 

“No, never.” They both stared at each other. Luke had that far away look he often wore these days. “Did he seem... different to you, just now?”

 

Leia nodded. “Yes.” She did not like to voice it, for it would be admitting she’d been observing Vader these last few weeks; that she was intrigued by him, even. But she knew, spotting that near imperceptible twitch at the corner of Luke’s mouth, that he had some idea of what she was thinking anyway.

 

~

 

Neither of them glimpsed Vader again for the rest of the day, nor the next. Luke went to try and speak to him, but was denied entry on the grounds that Piett was still unwell. It was extremely odd. Despite their difficulties, Vader was usually open to Luke’s company. Now, he seemed unwilling to even accept his help. Meals were taken up and apparently eaten – but Vader sent away every single medical droid – the last of which was so ferociously dismissed that his gears were rattling when he returned to inform Luke and Leia his assistance was ‘not required’.

 

Leia, meanwhile, launched an investigation into Piett’s background. As courteous as the man had been on arrival, she could not let just anyone reside inside the palace walls. Vader was here primarily to keep watch in case anyone else made a bid for power, and so she was disinclined to think Piett might be a threat on that front. All the same, he had to be of some notoriety for Vader to be keeping him close, let alone nursing him, if indeed he was.

 

The immediate results of her search revealed that Firmus Piett was the previous admiral of Vader’s prize Star Destroyer, the Executor. Leia’s interest was quickly piqued. This was the other man who had assisted Vader in capturing them on Bespin, the one none of them had met. There was surprisingly little background on him, and what was very strange was that he appeared to have jumped straight from the rank of captain to admiral, skipping the whole five positions in between. Unless there had been a mistake, or an omission somewhere? Leia tapped the edge of her datapad distractedly.

 

He’d been injured and initially presumed killed when the Executor went down, but upon waking in a medical facility somewhere in the Axxilian system, had turned himself in. No doubt because of the lack of reliable information available, it seemed that there had been some debate on whether he really was who he said, but the truth had been confirmed by a fellow Imperial.

 

Leia sent out a further search, baffled by how few sources the man’s name turned up. Many high-ranking members of the Imperial military were widely hated – in some cases even by their own men – for their tyrannical behaviour and since Palpatine’s demise all manner of accusations, death warrants and bounties had been issued. While Piett had been quickly placed under formal arrest, Leia could not find any evidence of calls for his blood on either side. Maybe it was testament to his good character. Or maybe it was simply down to time, because they all should have been alerted to the news of his survival and detention.

 

And yet someone had intercepted it.

 

If Leia had heard about this Piett before Vader’s return, she would likely have jumped to the conclusion that he’d gone to murder him – that perhaps he feared the admiral might testify against him or refute any claims he’d been acting as a spy for the Alliance. And yet Vader hadn’t. He’d gone straight to Axxila, freed him, and brought him back here.

 

Her research had far from eased her suspicions. There was a great deal of information missing, and if it wasn’t Piett’s doing, she thought she might know of whose it was. She was angry. There was more than enough work to do – victory was a strenuous business – and she and Han had barely seen anything of each other in a month. He was being more patient than she would ever have given him credit for, especially considering his own unhappiness at Vader’s proximity. And it turned out that he had his own thoughts on the Piett issue, as they discussed it one evening over a rare meal together.

 

“You don’t think Vader... likes this guy, do you?” Han trailed off, clearing his throat awkwardly.

 

“You think he’s capable?” asked Leia thoughtfully. She’d considered the possibility that Vader’s concern for Piett might be born from more than loyalty or respect, but still doubted he could share anything like a healthy relationship with someone.   

 

“Well – I know you don’t like to talk about it, but he did... produce you and Luke.” Leia might have been irritated at the reminder, if she wasn’t enjoying how uncomfortable Han looked at that moment.

 

“I still want to know what’s going on.”

 

Han wrinkled his nose. “Do you?”

 

“Not that. Just... why he’s here.”

 

“But I meant, you know, maybe they’re already together. Maybe that’s all it is.”

 

She frowned at him. “You’re usually more distrustful where Vader’s concerned.”

 

Han smirked. “It’s just... Vader’s been off, that’s what you said, right? And then you think he must have heard this guy’s alive and went to rescue him. You said he was different when he came back. Sounds like a love story to me.”

 

Leia snorted. In actual fact she did not know for sure whether Vader had believed Piett dead all this time, and she had to admit it would account for his strange mood... if he truly cared for the other man. But the conversation with Han set off an uncomfortable niggling at the back of her mind. She’d worried that Piett might be dangerous, but it now occurred to her that they did not know for certain that Piett was safe with Vader. No one had seen him for a few days, and while she did not believe Vader would have gone to the trouble of bringing the man here if he intended to harm him, she still recalled Piett’s clear confusion as he was herded along by him. Vader might be respecting her boundaries, but she might be the lucky exception.

 

Just look at how he’d pursued Luke.

 

~

 

“Lord Vader. May I come in?”

 

Vader’s blistering glare made it abundantly clear her presence was unwelcome, but Leia stood her ground. After a few moments, Vader finally stood aside, and Leia walked through the door.

 

The apartments Vader was occupying consisted of a series of vast rooms that – as it turned out – he actually needed. Leia knew there was all manner of medical equipment around here somewhere, including a bacta tank and some kind of oxygen chamber. Standing in this living room, looking at the perfectly ordinary furniture and fittings, she recalled all the stories about how Darth Vader did not eat, sleep, or ever, ever stop.

 

She had never been completely alone with him before. Not even when he’d interrogated her.

 

“I would like to speak with you,” she said busily, turning back to him. “Preferably with Piett. Is he here?”

 

Vader was eyeing her carefully over the mask. One of his gloves was off, she noticed, and was reminded strongly of Luke shaking and sweating as Lando brought him into the sanctuary of the Falcon. “He is resting,” he rumbled.

 

“Ah.” Leia clucked her tongue. “Is he all right?”

 

“He will be.”

 

“You don’t think he might be better off some–”

 

Vader interrupted her sharply. “He stays.”

 

Leia tried not to wince. He really was starting to resemble that man she’d feared so much; his stubbornness was back in full force.

 

Stubborn.

 

She hated the word. It was what she’d been called, many times, by her own father no less.

 

“Are you sure that’s wise?” she asked.

 

“He is not leaving here – not unless he wishes to.”

 

Leia raised a eyebrow. “May I speak with him?”

 

“He is asleep.”

 

“Well, do you mind if I check on him?”

 

Vader bristled. “To see if I have smothered him?”

 

It was Leia’s turn to glare. “Is that likely?” There was silence for a moment. She sighed. “Vader, if he’s staying with you I really need to know who he is.”

 

“No doubt you know plenty.”

 

“I know he’s important to you.” Vader narrowed his eyes at that and Leia continued, unmoved. “Why else would you be protecting him; unless you know he should be held accountable for something?”

 

“No. Everything he did was on my orders.”

 

“That doesn’t reassure me.”

 

Vader practically snarled. “He is no criminal.” He took a step towards her. “I will do anything you please except to condemn or abandon him. Speak to others who worked with him; Maximilian Veers – he still lives – ask him about Firmus Piett.”

 

Leia was startled. “You... really care for him.”

 

“And all I ask is that you leave us be.”

 

Staring up at Vader, Leia – despite herself – felt a small amount of pity begin to well up in her chest. “...We are already asking ex-Imperials about him. I’ll look for this – Veers.” She bit her lip. “...If Piett’s truly harmless, you have nothing to fear. But I would feel... reassured if I could see him – from time to time. If you’re being honest with me, he shouldn’t have to be hidden away.”

 

She wasn’t really certain if she should be saying this now, while she still didn’t know who Piett – nor Vader – really were. But it felt right, somehow, to offer some kind of agreement.

 

Vader too, looked as though he did not know what to do with her statement, but she didn’t doubt he understood it. “You may see him now. But he is sleeping.”

 

“I’ll be quiet.”

 

He led her over to a door on the right, and they walked through a room that looked to have been intended as a study but was currently a mass of various mechanical pieces. Vader’s other glove was resting on the desk. 

 

Vader approached another door at the end of that room, and carefully opened it. Leia followed, and stepped into the darkened room beyond cautiously.

 

The bedroom was rather lavish, and appeared as though it was not used by Vader as much as the others. There were no bolts or wires anywhere, nor could she see any sections of the various forms Vader’s suits took these days. The bed, however, was definitely huge enough to accommodate him, and Leia had to stifle a laugh when she saw Piett curled up in the centre of it, almost disappearing entirely amongst the sheets and pillows. She crept a little closer, watching the rise and fall of his chest, the soft sounds of his breathing. A board belonging to some kind of game was resting on an armchair beside the bed, and there was a glass of water and a jug on one of the nightstands.

 

Leia turned and quietly left, softly pulling the door shut behind her. She nodded at Vader. “Thank you... Are you sure you won’t take a med droid?”

 

Vader shook his head. “I am used to monitoring a patient.”

 

Leia nodded tiredly. “I suppose you are.”

Chapter Text

Piett was stuffing a few essentials into a bag; content to leave his best clothes at home along with anything else that would make him stand out a mile on Axxila. His sister had immediately agreed that he should come to stay for a while, grumbling about unsupportive neighbours and unfaithful friends, but making no mention of Orson. Given that the last time she’d referred to him her exact words were, “You’re not bringing that arse-head, are you?” Piett knew it was probably for the best that she hadn’t, even now that he was dead and it might have been proper for her to do so.

 

Besides, Piett had received quite enough comments on his late husband and all holding him accountable for one thing. The project, the Emperor’s great weapon; reduced to dust in a single blow. Piett was not meant to have any knowledge on it, of course, but Orson had been far too proud not to boast about his pride and joy, and since the disaster, it seemed that many of his enemies had also overlooked this fact in order to turn their wrath on Piett instead.

 

Messages had been flooding in for the past three weeks, several of them containing unbridled rage and hatred towards Orson for his incompetence. Piett had stopped opening them after the first few, but he had a good idea of where it was believed the fault lay. He’d read many of assertions of laziness and conceit, mentions of integral vulnerability within the space station and even a built-in weakness. Piett knew more than he should, but not enough to recognise the truth in any of these claims.

 

Whatever the facts, he’d developed an even greater urge to kick Orson in the groin lately. But he was gone, and as was usual in his absence, Piett was left with the fallout. His career was very likely over, and his movements would be under scrutiny for a long time, because worst of all, there had even been an accusation of treason; a claim that Orson Krennic had deliberately ensured the Death Star’s destruction, and that therefore he, Piett, must also have plotted against the Empire. The very idea was laughable. Loyalties aside, Orson simply never had that level of foresight (no matter his own beliefs), but that did not make the accusation any less worrying. So far it seemed that the Emperor was content to ignore Piett, but still he had stalled going anywhere in case it looked suspicious. He was growing so desperate he almost wished he could appeal to Tarkin, for he’d always complained that Piett’s career was wasted on ‘the Director’ – although that may have just been to annoy Orson – but the Grand Moff was gone too; killed along with the rest of the thousands on board the Death Star, even if the official cause of death had not been made public.

 

A beep from the door interrupted Piett’s brooding. He dumped his datapad on top of the pile in his bag, and went to answer it. He took care to approach quietly. None of his antagonists had yet come to him directly, presumably because his address was not widely known, but it would just be typical if they did so now. Peering at the little screen beside the door, he felt a spike of alarm when he saw two Stormtroopers standing just outside.

 

“Yes?” he asked, pressing the button on the intercom.

 

Both troopers looked up at the cam. “Lord Vader has arrived,” said one of them. “He requests an audience with you.”

 

Piett’s eyebrows rose in further astonishment. Unless ordered to do so, Darth Vader did not visit people; they were usually summoned to him. It had always been one of Orson’s particular grievances – that he did not command the kind of power that Vader did, whatever it entailed. Now that Piett thought about it, the dark lord never  ‘requested’ to see anyone, either. He did exactly as he liked; walking straight through or killing everyone in his path if it came down to it. A strange pairing of excitement and trepidation crisscrossed up along his spine.

 

Of all the people who had disliked his late husband, Vader was always the most open about it. He was not known for reining in his emotions, but his disdain for Orson had been shockingly apparent. Piett might have thought it was simply a clash of two powerful personalities... but Orson really hadn’t held that much sway (or, frankly, personality) by comparison.

 

“...I’ll see him,” Piett replied. There wasn’t very much else he could do.

 

He watched the troopers leave. Maybe he was just projecting given that he only had a small picture of them, but he’d gotten the sense from their demeanour, and the way they marched away even more stiffly than was usual for their type, that they were every bit as baffled by this as he was. Vader didn’t need guards, and if he was come to arrest Piett he certainly didn’t need back up.

 

The thought that this might be a trick came to him, and he stalled unlocking the door while he waited. He felt mildly guilty as he remembered Orson bemoaning the last time he’d come back from reporting to Vader. As bad as things were between them in the end, Piett had still regarded him with some fondness. Orson was just so... hapless with everything in life, although he would never have seen it that way. Was this the reason Vader had scorned him?

 

Or was it something else?

 

At that moment, Piett spotted Vader approaching on the screen. Hastily, he unlocked the door, opened it, and then backed away from the hall into the entryway to the living room. As heavy footsteps drew nearer, he made an attempt to straighten his clothes, swallowing the rising hysteria at the thought of fussing over his appearance for his supposed executioner.

 

Vader loomed in the doorway, almost too large for it it seemed. “Lieutenant Piett,” he said; deep, mechanical breaths on either side of the greeting.

 

Swallowing, Piett blinked. His rank, though never officially changed since his marriage, was very rarely used in conversation these days. “Lord Vader,” he replied. “This is an honour.” He kept his tone even, for although it was in his best interests to be polite, Vader was not one for flattery. “Won’t you come in?” He stepped back into the living room, and the dark lord followed him, never taking his attention off Piett. The spectacle of Darth Vader standing in his home was extremely odd.

 

“Forgive my intrusion,” said Vader. “I am aware you are in mourning for your late husband.”

 

“ – That’s right, my lord.”

 

“My condolences.”

 

There was not an ounce of regret in Vader’s manner, but Piett nodded. “Thank you.” There was an uncomfortable pause. “Won’t you take a seat, my lord?”

 

Vader just looked at the leather sofa Piett had awkwardly gestured to; a sleek, rather spindly-legged design Orson had favoured. “I would prefer to stand.”

 

Piett nodded again, folding his hands together. “What brings you here, my lord?”

 

“I have come to make you an offer.”

 

Piett’s heart skipped a beat, and he tried to calm himself. It was likely a job offer or something, he told himself sternly. In truth, working for Vader was not something he would ever have previously considered, but it would be a million miles better than sitting idle for another year.

 

“An offer of marriage.”

 

Piett stared. The best he’d dared hope for was the suggestion of a quick, one-time encounter. “...Marriage, my lord?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Floundering slightly, Piett wished he could see Vader’s expression. He was quite familiar with the man’s blistering sarcasm, but now he was wondering if he ever made actual jokes or was known for pulling pranks. With no visual clues available, he decided to tread lightly. “I did not know you were... looking to marry.”

 

“I do not seek matrimony for its own sake.”

 

“Then – may I ask why you wish to marry me, my lord?”

 

Vader tilted his head slightly to the side. “You are unattached.”

 

Piett eyed him dubiously. “...Because my husband has just died.”

 

“I could ask again in a month, a year, five years. He will still be dead.”

 

Startled by the insensitive comment – even from Vader – Piett almost laughed, but stopped himself by quickly responding. “That’s… I mean… it would be rather disrespectful to his memory if I immediately contemplated taking another husband.”

 

Vader remained unaffected. “He exhibited enough disrespect towards you during your marriage.”

 

A flash of indignation overrode Piett’s confusion for a moment. He’d known all about Orson’s numerous affairs, but he’d never discussed it with anyone. Orson had always goaded such disaster that eventually all he’d been able to do was ignore his various shortcomings – at least while he’d put a case for divorce together, which hadn’t been necessary in the end. “Yes, well...”

 

As though sensing his changed mood, Vader took a step forwards. “I know that Krennic’s enemies persist in harassing you. You need not suffer such impudence. If you were to marry me the messages would cease.”

 

Yes, thought Piett. Just about everything would cease, including the messages he might actually want. “And – what would happen once we were married? I mean – where would we live for one thing?”

 

“You would live with me at my residences on Vjun and Mustafar.”

 

Piett swallowed. He’d been to Mustafar – with Orson. Vader had once sent for both of them when Piett had still been acting as a sort of secretary to his husband, despite the fact he’d had to remain back in an antechamber as the other two privately discussed the Death Star.

 

“It was so he could get a good look at you, Firmus,” Orson had joked on the journey back. Piett doubted his husband had had any inkling he might be right, or he surely wouldn’t have been quite so amused.

 

As far as Piett knew, the cold, austere fortress was the only habitable place on Mustafar, and as for Vjun, he didn’t know it, but couldn’t imagine it would be much more welcoming. “And... would I be expected to stay there when you’re away?” he asked Vader uneasily.

 

“No, you would accompany me. I would secure you a more appropriate rank befitting your skill and expertise, and you would be well-cared for.”

 

A pleasant kind of shiver running through him, Piett hesitated. “So... that’s why you wish to marry me? To... help me?”

 

“That and I feel we would make a good match. Your poise and loyalty in the face of these indignities has done you credit. A union would be beneficial to us both.” Vader paused, looking Piett up and down. “What is your answer?”

 

Feeling oddly brave all of a sudden, Piett took a step towards him. He should be more careful, he knew. Vader could easily kill him for overstepping but he’d always wondered... “I’m not sure. If I were to marry again, I would hope for something a little more affectionate this time.”

 

Vader gave a twitch, as though he’d been shocked, although he sounded unmoved. “I see.”

 

Encouraged, Piett took another step closer. Despite his fear, he’d never shaken off those little jolts of exhilaration he felt whenever Vader was near. His very presence was so great and powerful, although he did not always say much, at least not to him. He tended to stare more than anything else. “Might that be something you think you can provide, Lord Vader?”

 

Vader stared down at him, façade impenetrable, voice so very deep. “I believe so.”

 

Piett took one more step, until there was barely a centimetre between them. Gazing up, he tentatively settled a hand on Vader’s breast, where the tabard sat above his armour. “Orson didn’t have much time for me in the end.”

 

“He was a fool. I would treat you like a prince.”

 

The passion in his words made Piett smile. “Really?”

 

Vader’s tone seemed to darken somehow, as though he were angry. “Like an emperor.”

 

Hoping to bring him back slightly, Piett brought his other hand to Vader’s chest, admiring its expanse. “And what could I do for you, my lord?”

 

A large, gloved hand skimmed down Piett’s side. Ever so gently, Vader bent and rested his forehead against his; the cold metal of the helmet against his skin making Piett shudder. His voice was quieter than the smaller man had ever heard it. “Let me.”

 

Piett gasped as the hand trailed from his hip to his crotch. It held there for a moment, before starting to massage over the area carefully. The thrill in his very veins seemed to kick into overdrive, as beneath Vader’s palm and several layers of fabric his erection swelled. His eyes closed, his pelvis jerking slightly and he gave a moan.

 

Vader increased the pressure slightly, his hand dipping a little lower this time right between Piett’s legs. Piett was just beginning to thrust forwards into the touch, when suddenly Vader pulled away. Before he’d even opened his eyes, Piett found himself turned, lifted, and then suddenly he was seated in Vader’s lap on Orson’s sofa.

 

Vader’s fingers lifted the hem of his tunic and then found the fastening of his trousers. “Did he give you these clothes?” he asked Piett huskily.

 

“Y-yes...”

 

There was a tearing sound as Vader pulled the garment almost completely apart to the gusset with one tug. Piett gasped as the remaining fabric was shoved aside, and then a gloved hand was working its way into his underwear. Vader grasped Piett’s shaft, giving it a gentle stroke before swiping a little wetness from the tip to ease the next glide of his hand. Piett groaned, backside shifting over the ridiculous codpiece as he squirmed. Vader began a steady rhythm, pumping his cock up and down, his breathing loud against Piett’s ear.

 

Piett blearily took in the sight of Vader’s hands on him; his spread, leather-clad thighs beneath his own, and thought it was better than he’d ever imagined. He began to thrust, chasing the sensation Vader was giving him in pure exhilaration.

 

“Yes,” Vader hissed in his ear, making him tremble. “Take your pleasure how you wish.” Piett gasped, eyes shutting once more and his feet barely touching the ground as he started to rock unsteadily on top of the other man. “I will give you whatever you desire, whenever I can. You will be mine.”

 

Vader’s furious strokes quickened and Piett, sweating and whimpering, tried to keep up. His right arm rose almost automatically, and he placed a hand behind Vader’s head, scrabbling slightly at the back of the helmet for purchase. He cried as his orgasm peaked, collapsing back against Vader’s chest.

 

Vader gently worked his gradually softening member through the last of it, and then released him, seeming to weigh something up in his mind before finally his arms wrapped around Piett.

 

Piett sighed and clutched him back in return. All these clothes were probably a write-off now, he thought as he realised his left hand had picked up some stickiness from somewhere.

 

Vader gave him a few minutes before asking, “Have you decided on my offer?”

 

“I must think about it, Vader, but – ” Still panting, Piett shifted as best he could to face him. “Is there nothing I can do for you in the meantime?”

 

Vader was quiet for a few moments, and Piett began to fear he’d angered him, until he finally said, “I don’t suppose you still have your uniform?”

Chapter Text

 

Piett was startled when, having removed his belt, jacket, shrugged off the suspenders and then unbuttoned and lowered his trousers, he was not sent over to the desk by the window, but instead was pulled down across Vader’s lap. His hat tipped forwards and fell, rolling slightly across the room before landing on its crown with a soft noise. A sharp jolt of panic accompanied his surprise, but he complied with Vader’s wishes and did not protest. Usually this increasingly regular practice between them would be carried out with some level of detachment; some semblance of the idea that this was a formal punishment and nothing more. On a ‘normal’ day, Piett would place his hands upon the desk and count the smacks out loud. The strikes were the only contact that was made between them.

 

There was to be no distance between them today apparently, and Piett’s usual concerns abruptly ramped up several levels as he was tipped further across Vader’s knee, leaving his front half practically dangling above the floor, the blood gradually running to his head. They were in Vader’s personal study. There was no chance they would be caught, but still Piett felt himself blush as he was exposed.

 

When they did this with Piett standing facing the desk he could partially conceal himself with the front of his shirt (leaving the back suitably risen for Vader’s access) but like this he would have nowhere to hide; no chance of disguising the effect the treatment was having on him – unless Vader chose not to acknowledge it.

 

Vader tugged impatiently at his underwear as Piett flailed slightly in an attempt to try and support himself better. There would be no escaping Vader, not with that powerful arm resting across the small of Piett’s back, but he knew he’d better find a somewhat comfortable position before –

 

Smack!

 

Piett gave a surprised grunt and jerked at the impact, his feet squeaking slightly against the floor as he tried to find purchase somewhere. One hand braced against the ground as the other flew almost involuntarily to Vader’s calf, gripping the armour-plated boot for a second before he remembered himself and let go. The sound of the first slap echoed across the vast, dark room, and he felt the impact vibrate in both arse cheeks as they began to sting.

 

Piett’s cock, which in truth had begun to harden as he’d removed the jacket, now twitched and filled rapidly against Vader’s powerful thighs.

 

Vader slapped him again, making Piett hiss slightly as he inhaled and tried to prepare himself for the rest. He was not very successful. Each hit gave the result of emptying him of breath, making him gasp audibly and jolt like a frightened animal. His own respirations steady, Vader allowed about four or five seconds between each slap, heightening both the smarting pains and the anticipation.

 

No demand came for Piett to start counting, but it would have been fruitless already. They were on either the fifth or seventh... or was it eighth? It would be impossible to tell anyway as Vader brought his hand down firmly yet again. Piett didn’t dare make a start without being asked. Vader would likely know he’d lost count and just make him start from the beginning anyway if it was what he wanted. A shudder of both fear and something rather more pleasant went through him at the thought.

 

There had to be something terribly wrong with him, he knew, as he stared at the polished floor, for taking any enjoyment from this. For looking forward to these sessions.

 

Of course, that was not to say that either of them could possibly be under any illusions right now. Piett was being neither whipped nor beaten – he was being spanked, and by Vader’s own (mercifully gloved) hand. This was neither regulation nor common practice on Vader’s part, and there was no question of whether he was getting something out of it too, but of how much Piett couldn’t say. The suit, and in particular the codpiece, prevented him from gauging if Vader took anything like as much gratification from it as Piett did. Still, Vader was the one who had asked. The one who always asked.

 

He would privately corner Piett and say, “You are in need of my attention, Admiral Piett.” And Piett always was. Oh, he was.

 

At that moment, Vader gave him three spanks in fast succession, and Piett could not stop the whimpers leaving his throat, nor the tears blurring his vision as his fingers scrabbled uselessly at Vader’s boot again. To his mortification he felt his cock begin to leak; swiping pre-come along his commander’s inner thigh, but Vader merely returned to his initial pace, tapping one sore cheek and then the other hard, seeming intrigued by how it looked, before giving both a good full-palmed smack at once.

 

Piett trembled and steadied himself with both palms against the floor as he broke out into a sweat. His own interest, he knew, was as obvious and sordid as the act itself. Vader handling him like this – keeping him still and obedient as he punished him – was something he’d come to realise he desperately wanted over the last few months, although he was still rather baffled as to why. He prided himself on being efficient and loyal – and to Lord Vader above all others. He needed neither correction nor incentive to improve his work performance. The physical side he’d been curious about for a long time, although he’d never dared investigate with anyone else. And yet here he was, investigating with one of the strongest and most dangerous men in the galaxy. And this change in their routine was surely a sign Vader knew what to expect of him. Even the way they usually did this allowed him to feel the force of the strikes in every part of him; in his palms flat on the desk; ricocheting ever so gently in his jaw and teeth, down both legs and between them where his shame only grew and grew.

 

Right now, his most sensitive area had a kind of dual feedback as it pressed and jerked against Vader with each hit. It was a reminder that the other man must be able to feel it; that this was not really a punishment at all. A punishment would require a crime to have been committed, and while the failure at Bespin still hovered in Piett’s nightmares and waking mind, they never spoke of it. Not since they both stood up before the Emperor and Vader had taken full responsibility for all of it, taken all the agony upon himself while Piett had watched, frozen in helpless terror.

 

Piett gave a small cry that was only partially related to the fresh, scorching pain that had just bloomed across his arse. He wiped at his eyes furiously. At first he had theorised that this arrangement between them was Vader’s own way of taking payment for that unpleasant day on Coruscant; that while he did not want his admiral tortured or killed, he would take his chastisement into his own hands. Literally.

 

But if Bespin was really the issue here, Piett would expect to be long dead or worse, not alive, well and getting a biweekly treatment he undoubtedly craved. He had never once denied Vader this, and although he held some concern over how his commander would react if he did, he knew these encounters were carried out on his own assent.

 

Given what Vader was capable of he was practically being gentle, but that did not mean he would stop before Piett’s backside was red all over. Yet the more he hurt, the more desperate he became. Piett’s cock was a hard, throbbing line against Vader’s thigh. He slipped a bit where it had spread an already copious amount of fluid beneath him, and Vader steadied him by wrapping an arm around his upper torso, hauling him in closer and delivering yet another hard series of smacks to his burning cheeks. Piett sobbed through each one, not bothering terribly hard to try and muffle them as tears in his eyes spilled over.

 

Vader liked to hear him. He’d never said, of course – they never discussed anything – but Piett knew. Still, he was starting to grow nervous about his own pathetic state. Usually Vader would finish and dismiss him, and Piett would redress, march out, and then dash to his bunk to stroke himself frantically to completion. Vader was showing no signs of stopping, and Piett was in a rather advanced condition than normal due to the contact between them.

 

As Vader gave his rump a few gentle caresses by way of reprieve (although it did nothing to help with the mounting need trapped between them both), Piett thought to say something – to break this strange atmosphere between them for the first time and warn him that he couldn’t do this for much longer – he just couldn’t last.

 

As if sensing Piett’s thoughts, Vader stopped his petting and grabbed him by the waist, hauling him closer still and twisting him slightly so that he was straddling one brawny thigh with his upper half held at Vader’s side, facing the back of the room. Although he held onto him firmly, the leg Piett was straddling was stretched out slightly, as if to allow him to easily dismount from it.

 

“Will you take more?” he asked, his breaths sounding slightly louder than usual, or was that just because they were alone?

 

“Y-yes, my lord,” Piett whispered breathlessly from behind him.

 

Vader gave a strange, rumbled noise of approval, and stroked Piett’s bottom in such a way the affection behind the contact was obvious despite the way it caused a terrible stinging. He then carefully bent his knee, so that the smaller man’s lower half was lifted slightly, and Piett sighed in bliss as he finally could get some adequate pressure on his cock. He shivered, knowing that the next round of smacks was going to hurt, but as Vader’s belt dug into his stomach, and the balls of his feet made solid contact with the floor, he knew it would be worth it. He could not spread his legs very far; his trousers were bunched around his knees and also braced against Vader’s shin, but he had just enough traction for what he required.

 

Vader smacked him, making Piett groan as the burning increased tenfold. Another three seconds and he was smacked again, and again and again...

 

Stars, he was so helpless like this – he would be anyway given that Vader was the one doing it. The span of Vader’s hands were enormous too; Piett’s bottom had been well covered by the first couple of spanks, and no doubt it was already bright red. He could feel the seams running along the leather as his rigid shaft skidded against the material. Feet shifting and knees buckling, he began grinding with what little purchase he could get, moaning in pleasure as he finally – finally – got the rest of the stimulation he needed.

 

“Ah!” Piett yelped, voice thick and utterly wrecked as Vader hit him treacherously close to his balls, where they were drawn up so, so tight. “Ah! Oh, my – my lord!”

 

He must look obscene, he knew, pelvis dragging up and down along Vader’s leg, arse pink, moaning and writhing shamelessly. He tried to shift again for better friction, but the top of his thigh touched the edge of the chair between Vader’s legs and his trousers caught maddeningly stopping him, and he growled and struggled impatiently so that he could thrust as hard as he could against that glorious, hard muscle.

 

Vader began spanking faster now, almost matching the pace of Piett’s frenzied humping. He kept shifting his thigh up and down ever so slightly, so that Piett’s shaft was forced against it even harder on each strike. Although his amusement and hunger permeated the very air, the only audible noises were his respirator, Piett’s gasps and cries, and the sounds of leather striking against flesh.

 

Piett’s eyes were closed, he was grunting and moaning uh, uh, uh, like he was being fucked. He rode Vader’s thigh fast and hard, two more hard spanks all it took to send him over the edge with a series of cries. Pleasure cresting, he came hard all over Vader and himself; the come that escaped from beneath him spraying out in long lines, running down Vader’s legs and pooling between his boots and on the very edge of the seat. He convulsed with the last of his orgasm, and then collapsed, quivering, still straddling Vader’s leg. He was exhausted, sweating, his face a mess of tears and perspiration as his head hung and panted deeply. Now it was over it hit him just how loud he’d been. As he lay there and came back to himself, he wondered what was going to happen.

 

Vader had stopped the spanking when he’d come, and was now smoothing his palm ever so gently over Piett’s abused skin. He gave him a few moments, and then took Piett’s waist and helped him up, allowing him only a second on his own two feet before he pulled him back down to sit on his lap.

 

Piett’s arse was hot and aching, and he whimpered as it touched the cooling mess he’d left on Vader’s suit, both of them shifting so that he was able to distribute most of his own weight to his thighs instead. He buried his face in Vader’s pauldron as his commander wrapped him in an embrace. Tears, sweat and come were drying on his skin, but he couldn’t have moved if he’d wanted to.

 

Vader spoke then, “You must – ” Good lord, was that his commander sounding out of breath? “ – Stay with me. Let me care for you, Piett.”

 

Piett exhaled slowly against Vader’s chest unit, and smiled softly. “Yes, my lord. Thank you.”

Chapter Text

 

About half an hour later Piett still can’t quite believe what is happening, but makes his way towards the quarters of the senior army. After some gentle querying on his part, Vader finally acknowledged that their marriage, secret or not, would need a witness, and there is only one person Piett could ever ask, although he hasn’t the faintest idea of how to go about it.

 

He finds Veers in his room, and his friend waves him in jovially, heading straight to the small drinks cabinet in the corner. “What did he say, then?” he asks, and for a moment there Piett is confused, before remembering why he’d gone to see Vader in the first place.

 

“Er... I wasn’t able to get time off,” he replies, accepting the glass of something dark Veers pushes into his hand gratefully and taking a deep swig. The whiskey burns his throat and making his eyes water, but he does not care.

 

“Steady on, Firmus.” Veers’s expression goes dark. “Typical. He really is loath to part with you these days.”

 

Piett emits a breathless kind of laugh, with only a little humour behind it. “Yes, well. There’s also... been a change of plan.”

 

“Oh? Are you thinking of leaving off marriage for now?”

 

“Erm, not exactly.” Piett sinks into a chair as Veers takes the one opposite. “I… I am getting married.”

 

Veers gives a slow nod of acceptance. “You asked her anyway. Well, congratulations I suppose.”

 

Piett shakes his head. “No, I didn’t get around to asking her.”

 

“…Oh.” Veers pauses. “Well – who then?”

 

Piett bites nervously at his lower lip. “Before I tell you, this must absolutely stay between us. No one else can know. I’m telling you because I – we – need you to be witness… if you would?”

 

Veers looks as though he is about to laugh. “Well… of course I will – if you want? But what’s all the secrecy for? Vader hasn’t banned you from marrying altogether, has he?”

 

Piett cringes slightly, dreading having to tell him. “No, but... it has to remain a secret. Indefinitely.”

 

There’s a spark of concern in Veers’s eyes now. “Stars, they’re not married already or something are they?”

 

“No! At least… I don’t think so.”

 

“You don’t think so? Do you even... Firmus, you haven’t said yes to some stranger, have you? I know this is important to your family but it’s not worth that gamble.”

 

“He’s not exactly a stranger.”

 

“Oh, he’s a he then?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And what do you mean by ‘exactly?’ Do I know him?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Oh hell, who is it? Someone in the admiralty? Please say no. I can’t think of a single one who deserves you.” Although touched, Piett chuckles bitterly and Veers groans. “Oh, no. It is one of them, isn’t it?

 

“No, it isn’t.”

 

“It isn’t?”

 

“No, he’s a little higher up than that.”

 

Veers frowns. “What – army?”

 

Piett nods wearily. “Yes, I suppose he is.”

 

Eyes widening, Veers gawps at him. “You don’t mean – ?” He snaps out of it, a bark of laughter escaping him as he slaps the table. “Good one, Firmus!”

 

Watching him tiredly, Piett shakes his head. “It’s not a joke, Max.”

 

“Oh, come off it. It’s one of your stranger ones, but not even you can keep this one going!”

 

He’s still chortling as Piett leans across the little table between them and covers a hand with his own. “Max – You know I don’t joke about Vader.” Veers rolls his eyes, grinning stupidly. “I really need your support in this. Otherwise he’ll pick someone else to witness and... I’m not sure I want to know who that would be.”

 

A sickly look overtakes the mirth in Veers’s expression. “You – really are serious.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Veers reels back in his chair, horrified. “H-How?”

 

Piett watches him, fearful of his friend not wanting anything to do with him now. “He offered. He wasn’t at all pleased when I said I was going to ask Xari. Questioned me about all sorts. And then when I explained it’s just the done thing on Axxila and that we wouldn’t expect to see each other much, he made his own offer to me.”

 

“But you didn’t accept him?”

 

“I think I did.”

 

Veers’s eyes practically bulge out of their sockets. “Firmus.”

 

Piett glares at him. “It’s not like I could refuse him!”

 

“Did you even try?”

 

“Of course I questioned his reasoning, but how could I say no? We all know what happens to people who insult him.”

 

Veers stands and begins pacing up and down, rather grey in the face. “Kriff, Firmus you should have just married me.”

 

Piett scoffs. “No, I shouldn’t have. You’ve just left one unhappy marriage, I’m not pulling you into another.”

 

“We could have made it work! We would have had an understanding!”

 

“It’s too late anyway.”

 

“No – it isn’t.” Veers gestures wildly with his hands. “Let’s marry now, and then you can’t marry Vader!”

 

“But he can choke the life out of us both.” Veers just stares into space and Piett sighs, rising to his feet and walking over to place a hand on his shoulder. “Look… I – I think I’d better just go through with this.”

 

“Or we could just leave.”

 

“Oh? And outrun the fastest and most powerful fleet in the galaxy? Outrun him? Where would we go? Who would take us?”

 

“So... so I have to just stand by while my friend sacrifices himself do I?”

 

“I don’t know what’s about to happen here, but if I am still useful to Vader then he has no reason to hurt me. And besides, I don’t have anyone else I can really trust. And … it would mean a lot to have you to talk to… about things.”

 

Grimacing, Veers closes his eyes for a moment. “Oh, kriff it.”

 

“Please, Max?”

 

“What the hell do your family make of this?” Piett doesn’t reply, and Veers opens his eyes. “They don’t know, do they?”

 

“Like I said, it has to remain a secret.”

 

“Then in what way does this benefit you? I thought you were going through with this to please them?”

 

“...He’s come up with an explanation I can give them.”

 

Veers snorts. “Oh he has has he?”

 

“Yes. And – technically speaking there’s no greater offer I could have accepted.”

 

“Oh, well thanks a bunch.”

 

“Excluding you, of course.”

 

“Hmpf.”

 

Piett pats his friend’s shoulder. “So – will you be witness?”

 

Veers groans softly. “Fine. But I tell you now, Firmus, I’ll be watching the way he treats you very closely. If I don’t like what I see we’re taking our chances elsewhere.”

 

“Fine. Only if we can pick up Zev and raise him as our own.”

 

“ – Zevulon is twenty-two, Firmus.”

 

“And you need to see more of him.”

 

“Very well.” Veers frowns again and shifts. “Speaking of treatment, Firmus, does Vader intend to, erm – consummate – this arrangement?”

 

Piett blushes crimson. The question is one of many he’s had since Vader propositioned him, but it’s easily the most pressing, and he hasn’t the faintest clue. “I don’t... know. I don’t think so?”

 

“Don’t you think you ought to know? If he wants to marry you, he’ll likely want... the extras.”

 

“Well... I don’t know that he does want to. I think he’s just doing it to stop me from suddenly up and leaving or something.” Piett coughs. “I suppose we’ll... address that if it comes up.”

 

Raising an eyebrow at Piett’s unfortunate choice of words, Veers answers, “I think you’d better find out.”

 

Piett knows he’s right but he cannot possibly imagine even trying to broach the subject with his commander. Before today he would have wholeheartedly supported the theory that Vader did not do marriage, relationships or intimacy of any kind. Now he can’t be certain of anything. “There’s not time,” he says in anguish. “We’re marrying in two hours and he’s gone to organise everything.”

 

Veers blanches. “You’re marrying him tonight?”

 

“Yes. You – will still be there, won’t you?”

 

“Yes, yes, of course. Bloody hell, Firmus, you really do get yourself into scrapes when... Come to think of it it’s always to do with Vader. I think you’d better prepare yourself for any eventuality tonight.”

 

~

As instructed, two hours later Piett heads back to Vader’s quarters, Veers in tow. Unsure of what to do with himself after their conversation, he showered, shaved and put a freshly pressed uniform on, in some effort to smarten up. Whether it will mean anything to Vader he has no idea, but at least it has passed the time.

 

The two friends do not speak as they make their way through the ship. They’re both nervous, and it is only made worse when they reach Vader’s quarters and see the door is flanked by a pair of red guards, which is unusual. Piett and Veers glance at each other uneasily as they approach, but they are not stopped and the doors open for them without incident.

 

The viewports at the back of the room are still unshielded, revealing a mass of stars. The meditation chamber is closed, and the lights in the main room have been turned up slightly instead.

 

Vader is standing on the platform before them in conversation with a thin man of middling height, clutching what looks like a large datapad against his chest. Both of them turn as Piett and Veers enter and stand to attention.

 

“Admiral Piett,” says Vader, observing him intensely for a few moments before turning to Veers. “General Veers.”

 

Veers bows his head as he and Piett walk over to stand in front of the other two men. “Lord Vader, sir.”

 

“Admiral Piett has explained the circumstances to you?”

 

“He has, my lord.”

 

“Good.” Vader gestures towards the stranger. “This is Chief Compliance Officer Auctor.”

 

Up close, Piett vaguely recognises Auctor from personnel and realises with a small lurch of the stomach that he must be here to officiate. The thing he took for a datapad in Auctor’s arms is in fact a board upon which a piece of paper lies flat. Paper documents are rather a strange commodity these days, and Piett knows it can only be one thing.

 

“Admiral Piett,” says Auctor. “General Veers.” He turns to Vader. “Shall we begin, Lord Vader?”

 

Piett blinks at his cold, clipped manner, but he knows it’s the perfect way to deal with Vader, and he can already see why Auctor was chosen to do this. He gets another leaping sensation in his stomach as Vader offers a hand. Piett cannot resist hesitating before reaching for it, and watches uneasily as his own gloved appendage (looking comically small all of a sudden) takes his commander’s. He climbs the three shallow steps up onto the raised floor to join Vader, unsure of how he manages not to trip in his anxiety.

 

Vader does not let go of him, keeping both their arms slightly raised, and Piett spies Veers glaring at their joined hands before Auctor begins speaking.

 

“May I remind everyone present that this ceremony is legally binding,” he says coldly. “The practice of matrimony is a sincere and solemn one. If either one of you is unwilling to enter into such an arrangement I would urge you to speak now.” His eyes flash in Piett’s direction, but it only takes two seconds before he’s moving on. “And if anyone else has any protests?”

 

Veers’s foot shifts, but he says nothing. Piett feels a lump form in his throat. He still half expects Vader to suddenly turn to him, claim this was all a test and take his head off. He doesn’t dare look up at him, although he seems to be occupied with everything Auctor is saying. His grip on Piett’s hand is unyielding, and Piett finds himself grateful for the gloves. His palms are sweating, and the sight of his friend standing at the bottom of the steps, watching the proceedings fearfully, does nothing to help.

 

The ceremony – if one can really call it that – is very brief. ‘Solemn’ is exactly the word for it, but Piett is grateful he’s being spared having to stand and read out vows, or parade in some way. It wouldn’t make much sense to do so given the need for secrecy, but all the same he is relieved – until he remembers that the sooner these proceedings come to an end, the sooner he will find out just what exactly he’ll be getting up to on his wedding night. Veers is evidently thinking the same thing. He keeps shooting Piett increasingly concerned looks, hands balled into fists at his sides.

 

“Lord Vader, will you take Firmus Piett to be your husband?” asks Auctor promptly.

 

“I will,” says Vader, the two words practically a growl that nearly makes Piett’s knees buckle.

 

“And Firmus Piett, will you take Lord Vader to be your husband?”

 

“I – I will,” Piett stutters. He is acutely aware of his hammering pulse, and wonders if Vader can feel it through their combined grip.

 

Auctor presents the certificate for them to sign, holding it out (wisely) to Vader first, making him finally release Piett. The pen looks almost miniature in Vader’s grip, as he scrawls his title across the document, and Piett has to blink a few times to stop his vision from swimming. Vader holds the pen out for him to sign next, which he does, signature rather messier than usual. Finally, Veers is called up, and he scribbles his own name above the witness line, looking as though it takes every ounce of strength to do so.

 

“I hereby declare you both wedded,” says Auctor when Veers steps back, and Piett swallows.

 

“Very good, Auctor,” says Vader, while Piett is only able to nod stiffly.

 

“A pleasure to be of service, Lord Vader. Admiral Piett.” Auctor rolls up the certificate and gives it to Vader.

 

“Will you take care of the rest?”

 

“Yes, my lord. Everything will be finalised this evening.”

 

Vader inclines his head and turns to Veers. “And you, General Veers also have our gratitude.”

 

Veers nods awkwardly. “Of course, my lord.”

 

“I trust you will keep your silence?” There’s a hint of something in Vader’s tone that makes both Veers and Piett flinch.

 

“ – Of course, my lord,” repeats Veers uneasily, and then turns to Piett. “Well, er – congratulations.”

 

Piett almost laughs at the madness of it. Veers looks very much as though he wants to hug him (and most likely pick him up and make a dash to the nearest fighter), but he clearly decides against it. “Thank you,” he says quietly.

 

“The area is deserted,” Vader says to Auctor and Veers. “You may both leave.”

 

Veers shoots Piett one last look, saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Firmus,” sounding almost as though he’s asking a question, and then follows Auctor out through the doors.

 

Once they are alone, silence descends between Piett and Vader.

 

Vader just stares at him and Piett has no idea what to do or say. What if now is his cue to leave; his only chance to? Vader breathes steadily in and out. The low hum that is always present on board the Lady but usually imperceptible beneath the crew’s activities and Piett’s own intense concentration, seems even louder in here than in his quarters at night.

 

He glances down at the certificate in Vader’s hand. Stars – he’s married to Darth Vader. What exactly does that mean? He wonders what else Auctor is ‘taking care of’. Legal business, he assumes, and making sure to keep it all under wraps. How exactly, he isn’t entirely certain he wishes to know. He’d never have thought his own marriage would be so completely out of his control. With that thought in mind, he clears his throat. “It’s... er – it’s late, my lord.”

 

Vader gives an inquisitive tilt of the head. “Yes,” he replies.

 

“...I have an early start tomorrow.”

 

“Indeed.” Vader is still completely still, his mood unreadable. “You are tired.”

 

At that, Piett wonders if he’s expected to leave after all. “I suppose, then, I should retire for the evening.”

 

Vader just inclines his head.

 

“Well, erm... good night then, my lord.” Piett nods at him respectfully and turns, when Vader speaks again.

 

“Where are you going, Piett?”

 

Piett’s heart flutters. He looks back at him tentatively. “...To bed, my lord?”

 

Vader seems unhappy again – just as he had done when Piett told him about Xari. He points at him sternly. “You will stay with me tonight, and then take new official quarters nearby when they are ready.”

 

 “ – My lord?”

 

There is an unmistakeably indignant air about Vader now. “We are married, Piett. I would like you to be close.”

 

Startled, Piett gapes up at him. “O-Of course, my lord, but – surely it will look suspicious? If it is to remain a secret?”

 

“As you never moved from your captain’s quarters, I shall say the decision was made in order to keep an eye on you, given my disappointment in your predecessor.”

 

Not at all comforted by the reminder of Ozzel’s fate, Piett clears his throat. “Right. Well. I’ll... just go to fetch some things from my room, then, my lord.”

 

Vader takes a step forward, making Piett quiver as their fronts nearly touch. “Everything has already been prepared for you.”

 

“Right.” Piett’s fingers interlock and unlock from each other busily. “I’ll... follow you, then, sir?”

 

Vader nods, and then he turns and sweeps off along the platform towards the large blaster doors at the right, Piett just about avoiding catching the cloak with his boots as he hurries to keep up with him.

 

He wonders just what the hell he’s gotten himself into as the doors open and they step through into a corridor. Up until now he’s been able to convince himself that Vader does not actually want a relationship; that he does not desire sex or intimacy or any real emotional claim on Piett of any kind. But the possibility of Vader not having any of those inclinations appears to be rapidly disappearing, especially if Vader wants him to stay the night.

 

Vader approaches another blaster door at the end of the corridor, which also opens, leading to a small antechamber. He stalks over to yet another door and then whirls around to face Piett. “You will find everything you need inside,” he says. “There is a refresher, too.”

 

Piett nods, and Vader gives him one final, lingering look before the door opens to reveal a darkened room beyond. To his surprise, Vader then walks passed him back out into the corridor. Piett peers after the big man as the doors shut.

 

Is Vader... not coming to bed, then? he thinks. He’s hardly about to complain – it certainly takes the pressure off him, but he’d rather thought...

 

Time for bed.

 

He steps through into the chamber and presses the door controls so that the entryway seals itself behind him. He noticed that all these entrances have a set of controls beside each of them, but assumes Vader must operate them with his powers.

 

Vader’s bedroom, he thinks feeling completely at odds with himself. As with all the other rooms that make up Vader’s private quarters, it’s rather a vast, spartan chamber, but right in front of Piett there is a bed, which seems such an ordinary, mundane piece of furniture for the man to own. It’s huge as well, to accommodate such a large occupant, although as Piett gets closer it looks barely slept in, although there is a neat pile of items at the end of it. The sheets and shape of the mattress beneath look unnaturally crisp, and there is nothing on either one of the nightstands; not even a glass of water or a clock. Far across to the right of the bed is a wall of shielded viewports, and Piett thinks it must make a fairly opulent room when they’re open. Behind him and to the left of the entrance he spies a simple door that must be the ‘fresher. The little pile at the end of the bed turns out to be a towel, a toothbrush, and a set of standard issue pyjamas that, while a couple of sizes too big for Piett, would still be absurdly small on Vader. Taking the hint, he gathers everything into his arms and wanders over to the ‘fresher.

 

Inside, he finds that while the facilities look conventional, they are again bigger than what the rest of the crew might use. Everything has been built to Vader’s specifications, and there are also several panels with buttons on the wall that he assumes might have some medical or mechanical appliance, but he does not explore further, and instead sticks to brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. He is not unfamiliar with using amenities designed for someone larger than himself, but he feels quite absurdly small in here.

 

He returns to the bedroom, finding it still empty, and does another quick scan around. There doesn’t seem to be a closet of any description, which would make sense given that he knows that sections of Vader’s suit are stored in his workshop, but he would have thought the man must sport underwear of some description. He settles for placing his own neatly folded clothes on the nightstand to the left of the bed, the furthest from the viewports in case Vader favours that side. He places his hat on top and then just stares at it for a moment; strangely reminded of the first time he received his uniform.

 

He hesitates, looking around again. While the room is dim there are still lights on, but he can’t see where or how to turn them off. Not wishing to be caught poking about, he sighs and climbs into bed. It seems rather impolite to lie in the middle, especially as he still has no idea whether Vader will be joining him. There would be more than enough space either way, but he still tries to favour the edge of the mattress, rather than the centre. He shivers. The sheets are soft and luxurious to the touch, but also thin and he wonders if he should leave the bed in order to search for a blanket. Dismissing the idea, he curls up, gripping the sheets around himself, and surprisingly, finds sleep within minutes – his overtired brain all too willing to let go.

 

~

 

He is woken by the hiss of the door opening. It takes only a split second for him to remember where he is, and he knows without seeing the time that it cannot be much later. As he hears footsteps approach the bed he wills himself to fall back to sleep and potentially spare either of them any awkwardness. But then he feels the mattress dip a fair way behind him, and a hand touches his shoulder.

 

“Piett,” Vader rumbles with unexpected softness. He’s not wearing the helmet, Piett realises.

 

“My lord,” he murmurs back, thinking it stupid to try and ignore him. Cautiously, he opens his eyes and looks over his shoulder.

 

While he expects to see those piercing, red eyes, they still take his breath away. With the lower portion of the helmet gone Vader looks far less trussed up, and Piett can admire his strong jaw line. He’s handsome, even with the cruel scars twisting over his scalp and across his cheek, and that’s not the only thing that grabs Piett’s attention.

 

Vader is shirtless. Piett can see where the flesh of his arms end and the prosthetics begin, and how his scars do indeed continue down and around his entire torso. And he is an impressive sight; broad-shouldered and barrel-chested, so pale in contrast to the black suit he’s normally encased in. The scarring is particularly severe upon his chest, surrounding a panel imbedded into his flesh that must correspond with the front panel on the suit. One nipple is almost completely gone; perhaps burned away and then grafted over, leaving a curious skin formation in its place that Piett’s gaze lingers over for several beats until he notices what Vader is holding.

 

Clutched in Vader’s other hand – still with a glove covering the prosthetic to about halfway up the forearm – is an oxygen mask, similar to the one inside the meditation chamber, although this appears to be self-contained. He places it on the nightstand on his own side of the bed (and the very thought of the pair of them possessing sides of the bed is just too insane), and then turns back to Piett.

 

Piett remembers himself and Vader smirks at him. He swallows and looks away, and Vader moves, sliding beneath the sheets. Lying on his side, Vader returns to stroking Piett’s shoulder, and then moves the attention up to his head, digits carding through his hair. His touch is curious and pacifying, as though Piett is a frightened animal that might run away if he isn’t careful.

 

It wouldn’t be an entirely inaccurate comparison, but it’s not as though Piett can ask him to leave. This is Vader’s bed, and Piett didn’t argue his case when he had the chance earlier. And if he is perfectly honest with himself, it’s not like he really wants to protest all that much. This is certainly the most bizarre and alarming situation he’s been in for a long time... but he is still in bed with a very tall, attractive, powerful man, who has requested – in fact, practically demanded – this of him.

 

Nevertheless, he is anxious.

 

He breathes steadily, trying to relax. They’re in bed together. He wouldn’t have thought this possible; that perhaps the galaxy would burst into dust before such a thing could take place. He should have known better when that didn’t happen once Auctor pronounced them legally wed.

 

As Vader thumbs at his hairline, he shivers. The leather-clad touch is not cold, but it is not particularly warm either as it caresses one side of his face, tracing over a sideburn and continuing down along his jaw. Piett’s own movements have allowed what little warmth he’d made on his own to escape, but Vader’s bulk behind him, by contrast, is very warm, and Piett has to resist the urge to shuffle back against it.

 

He risks a peek over at Vader again and gulps. He would not describe himself as someone of vast experience, but he knows all too well what a man who wants to have sex looks like. Even Vader, with his red, glowing eyes and otherworldly aura is as obvious in his intentions as anyone else. If that isn’t enough, his fingers move to Piett’s neckline, toying ever so delicately at the fabric of Piett’s shirt, the request as clear as day:

 

Take it off?

 

Piett exhales shakily. Despite his nerves, he can feel himself hardening. Perhaps it’s the contact; he has been rather deprived of late. Or maybe it’s the way Vader is looking at him. Possibly it is just Vader himself.

 

Vader grows impatient, and uses his grip on Piett’s shoulder to tentatively pull him and roll him onto his back. Every bit of contact is insistent, but ever so soft, and it’s a side of Vader Piett is completely unfamiliar with. He only hopes his patience holds out.

 

Vader places a hand on his chest now, and moves it down, tickling ever so slightly over his ribs, and Piett gasps and twitches in response. Vader seems to enjoy it, and he smiles in amusement and does it again. Piett squirms beneath the sensation, as Vader’s hand travels lower, and lower, as he leans down and presses his face in the crook of Piett’s neck.

 

“My lord,” Piett forces out unsteadily. “ – I should say, if you – I-I mean if you want to – it’s just I haven’t... not for a long time.”

 

“Mmm,” Vader hums against his throat, making him tremble again. “There is no rush.” He pulls away and then returns to kiss him on the lips, and Piett’s hands fly to his shoulders, despite his frantically beating heart. The contact of skin on skin is gentle, but the kiss is firm; Vader audibly relishing it as he hums again and strokes Piett’s cheek.

 

Piett moans, eyes fluttering shut and holding on tight as he kisses back, uncertain of whether he should avoid the worst of Vader’s injuries, if they might be painful or sensitive. Vader gives no indication of being in discomfort, and in fact groans softly into the kiss, flattening his hands over Piett’s belly and then sliding around to take his hips.

 

Vader is just so big, thinks Piett as he dares to lock his arms behind the man’s neck. His chest hovers above Piett’s own, making him feel even smaller than when he was alone in the bed. His arm muscles contract slightly as he braces them on either side of Piett’s head, the mechanisms in both prosthetics whirring ever so quietly.

 

Vader deepens the kiss, carefully working Piett’s mouth open as his knees also unconsciously part, and he must take it as an invitation because he crawls between them, pressing against the smaller man. He begins to grind, rubbing his body along the full length of Piett’s, thrusting a sizeable bulge against his hip.

 

Vader is not just shirtless, Piett realises with a gasp.

 

He can barely remember his last sexual encounter, and the memory vanishes completely in favour of taking in every last detail about Vader. He’s so big, so strong, so attentive.

 

Vader is fondling him just above the hips now, where his own top has rucked up. His hands suddenly join Vader’s, and he breaks their kiss for a moment to pull the too-big garment over his head and off completely. When it’s thrown out of the way, Vader is back on him in no time, bare skin pressing together, shifting and forming to each other perfectly.

 

For a moment, Piett wonders if he has been blind all this time; if he ought to have identified that Vader wanted him like this sooner. After all, Vader is a human being, with as many feelings and desires as the next man, and Piett has more or less known it since first being introduced to him. He was actually surprised by how obvious Vader was in his anger and want, having been described by so many others as being almost without agency; a mere brutal extension of the Emperor’s will. But he cannot recall any particular signs of Vader holding him in any particular regard.

 

Not before today, in any case.

 

He moans as Vader bends his head to suck on his collarbone, hands stroking over his pectorals. The man is still rutting against him, leaving him with a suggestion of his colossal weight with each thrust. Curious, Piett smoothes his palms down Vader’s back, admiring undulating skin and muscle – the pleasing width of his torso – until they reach the swell of his arse. Greedily clutching the cheeks in each of his hands, he shudders and begins grinding his pelvis up against Vader’s.

 

They’re moving in tandem now, Piett sighing loudly with each push. He feels the heat in his lower body, the pressure gathering in his balls, and then he’s biting at Vader’s jugular as he comes, soaking the pyjama bottoms with a satisfied grunt. Vader kisses him again as he maintains his pace for a while, growling quietly when he finally spills across Piett’s belly and then comes to a stop.

 

For a few moments, they are both silent. Vader’s face remains buried in Piett’s neck, and Piett stares up at the dark ceiling over his shoulder, still clinging to him.

 

He has just had sex with Darth Vader, he thinks. Enjoying one’s wedding night like this is hardly remarkable, but this is Vader. What will happen now? Will they do it again? Or will Vader decide he’s taken his fill already; unless he feels they have not gone far enough? Then will he lose interest?

 

Vader pushes up off him, a smug look in his eye. “You enjoyed that,” he says rather decisively, reaching to stroke Piett’s undoubtedly pink face.

 

“I – I did, my lord.”

 

Vader’s grin widens slightly, even as his eyes go oddly dark. “You could not have enjoyed this with her.” He rolls off Piett and onto his back with a thump that shakes the entire bed frame. He puts a hand on Piett’s thigh, and gazes up at the ceiling thoughtfully. Not sure of what to make of his words, Piett watches as he grabs up the oxygen mask from the nightstand and takes a few deep breaths from it, eyes closing.

 

Piett hesitates. “Did you enjoy it, my lord?”

 

Vader’s eyes snap back open and he looks at Piett as though he’s mad. “ – Very much,” he says after a beat.

 

Piett bites his lip, and then cautiously rolls towards him, curling up against his hot side, resting his head on his chest. Vader pauses, as though taken aback, but then he brings his arms around him, and kisses the crown of his head.