Title: Colors of The Wind
Summary: Darth Vader finds love on Naboo ten years after Padme's death. Can he trust his heart? Can he bring himself to trust her?
Disclaimer: Star Wars is owned by the head honcho, George Lucas and LucasFilmsltd.
Reviewing: Please feel free to review or ask question it fuels my creativity! I WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK EVEN IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT - thanks!
Comments: Yeah, it's like an old Harlequin Romance, with the selfish, sexist male and the abiding woman. I guess the early influence of books read during my teenage years are somewhat noticeable here. But I expect Vader to behave no other way.
Mariana Nafur/Olee Starstone
It was Vader's first trip to Naboo since his beloved Padme Naberrie died. Or to put it more aptly, ten years ago to the day since he killed her. A day which also shared the anniversary of his decade long confinement to the cage he was forced to wear. Vader washed the memory from his mind.
Anakin Skywalker had a wife. He was Darth Vader.
An Imperial troop from his special brigade commandeered Vader's ship as the Sith Lord stared out of the viewing window. There was nervousness in the pit of his stomach as they descended onto the landing strip just beyond the queen's estate, a large stone structure of beautiful and elaborate design. Naboo was just as he remembered it. Mountains etched into the landscape beneath a vibrant sky, flowers blossoming in every corner in pots, and in fields.
Beyond the queen's palace was a meadow that stretched as far as the eyes could see. He remembered frolicking about, rolling in it with his beloved Padme. No. Anakin's Padme- not his, he reminded himself. He shook his head. I am Vader. The trip to Naboo was to be a short one. It wouldn't take long to find the Jedi who hid there. This one escaped the purge more than ten years ago to hide among Naboo civilians. Ten long years he'd been on the run. The Jedi will be destroyed, Vader resolved.
He thought of Anakin Skywalker and the lights on his chest plates danced. Sometimes he suspected the emperor of using the panel to control his thoughts. Whenever he reflected on Anakin's life, his wife, his deceased child, the lights danced, flashed red, then he was suddenly back on task - amazingly focused.
Diplomats sent by the Queen approached his ship. One of was a young man who looked to be a teen. He had curly hair, tanned skin, and olive-colored eyes. The other was ayoung woman. Naboo still held its tradition of seating young politicians. Perhaps because they were naive and would bring fresh ideas to Naboo policy. Anakin was young when he met Padme Amidala. She was a politician, he thought.
Vader descended the platform and walked toward them - a shining black Lord of the Sith, his dark silken cape whipping wildly behind him in the wind. Ten armed Imperial underlings followed dutifully, none of them making eye contact with the fearsome Sith Lord. One of the Naboo diplomats, a woman, waved a hand and motioned for him to stop. Vader contemplated moving forward and crushing her under his big black boot. But instead, he paused...for now.
"Lord Vader, pleasure to meet you. I'm Mariana Nafur and this is my colleague, Dole Linot. We were sent by the queen to welcome you."
Mariana looked at Vader, her pointy nose raised proudly. He stared at the woman's dark eyes, high cheek bones, and shiny black hair. She had an air about her, almost like she thought she was better than him.
"I'm aware of who you are, Nafur."
The sound of Vader's voice was louder than usual, meaner as his gaze lingered on her face. The Sith Lord clasped both mechanical hands behind his back and strode past her to address Dole. For a second he thought he saw her looking through his mask, glaring directly into his scorched eyes. He suddenly felt exposed and wanted to strangle her it. He done so to others for much much less.
"Take me to your queen," Vader roared. He'd had enough of the underlings. For now.
Dole shook as he struggled to gather his words and looked to Mariana for support. Vader sensed his fear and mentally smiled. This was the way it should be, even if Mariana wouldn't allow him such an indulgence. In time, he decided, he would deal with her insolence. Who was this thing, this insect, who dared to gaze upon him so fearlessly?
"The queen is away on business, Lord Vader. As I understand it your business here is with a rebel. Dole will you show you to your room."
Dole stared at Mariana, not wishing to escort the Emperor's right hand anywhere. People had been known not to come back from such trips.
Vader sensed the boy's hesitation. But instead, found himself not only annoyed, but intrigued by Mariana's brazen attitude.
"Linot, you will tell your queen that I expect her to be in my company no later than sundown. Nafur, you will take me to my room," he thundered.
"Then follow me," she said, with a toss of her hair. The woman's response smacked of derision as she shrugged and turned on her heels.
The Imperial soldiers looked nervously at each other then at Vader.
"Are you okay, Lord Vader?" She dared herself to look into the mask.
"You will speak only when spoken to, Nafur. You will also address me as 'Your Lordship' from hence forth. Are we clear?"
"Yes- your Lordship."
She said it as though the words left a bad taste in her mouth. The Sith Lord was displeased.
Mariana walked with Darth Vader, the evil henchman of the ever-absent Emperor. The former Chancellor turned hermit betrayed the Republic when he left this bully in charge - Vader was now the face of the Galactic Empire. But strangely enough, he left Naboo to the queen. Most planets had to deal with the Governors he sent.
Mariana, Vader, and the troops marched past the palace. She had no desire for him to meet with the queen or sleep in her palace as a guest. Not yet. Vader couldn't be trusted. He was so volatile at times she wouldn't be surprised if he killed her Highness in a fit of rage. His reputation was known throughout the galaxy - he was not a man to toy with.
Mariana led him down a brick path that winded over a bridge, down a grassy hill, to the lake.
She could hear the sound of his mask with every breath he took "Chaaaaaaaaa Shiiiiiish".
They stopped in front of a tan colored ancient looking stone structure with large windows. The windows, didn't have glass in them though, which made the view all the more beautiful. The lake was as blue as the sky, so crystal clear that she could see fish swimming below its depths. She wondered if Vader stopped to look, or had even bothered to appreciate the view. Otherwise, why even waste it on him?
The mosaic tan and peach tiles on the floor buckled under his boots as they walked inside. He raised a hand and the troops came to a halt just outside of the door. Dole stood with them.
"See that my men are given proper accomodations," he ordered.
Mariana turned to Dole, raising a hand to his shoulders. "There's a guest house just around the bend. It's small, but they should find comfort there."
Vader watched. For some unexplainable reason seeing Mariana touch Dole on the shoulder irritated him.
She turned and caught him staring. Vader swore she looked through the mask right onto his face and wished he were as beautiful as he was all those years ago. Perhaps she would appreciate him as much as she did the view outside of the Villa.
"Your Lordship, I sincerenly hope you will enjoy your stay," she said, bowing her head politely.
"Is the suite properly staffed?"
"Of course, Your Lordship."
Every time she uttered the words "Your Lordship", he regretted telling her to call him that.
"Nevertheless, I will require your services here," Vader demanded.
"Then I will make it my business to return in the morning."
"You will remain at my beck and call. Understood?"
"How do you propose I do that?" Mariana protested.
"I'm sure you will figure something out. Or else I will be forced to assign a garrison to your Naboo - and they will meet my needs and properly tend to me."
"If you mean wait service, we have maidens for that."
"How many bedrooms are in this house?"
"You will take the one nearest mine."
Vader stormed away, He sensed through Mariana the location of his room and climbed the stairs to the top floor. He hated stairs. But he wouldn't let her know how much it pained his stubs as he walked up.
The room Mariana chose for Vader was too bright and cheerful for him to stay in. He felt less serious there, more civilian than military like some idiotic commoner taking a vacation. But the space was large enough to accomodate the medical facilities he needed to keep him alive. Equipment his troops would install when he beckoned them.
Vader walked toward the window and stared out. He wished he saw whatever it was Mariana thought too beautiful to waste on him. From his perspective, the view was an all red terrain with coordinates being measured out before him. But he knew there was a lake. A lake that flooded him with memories of his time on Naboo with Padme and the blue vibrant waves that crashed against the rocks piled beneath her terrace on their wedding night. He could even smell the air and the seaweed in it.
A solemn knock on the door broke into his thoughts. He was grateful. He wouldn't have to fight the depression that slowly crept into his heart. A tug of the force, and the door opened a crack. Mariana Nafur peeked in, then slid a shoulder into the door.
She had changed from the formal diplomat robes young politicians wore into a yellow shoulderless dress. She wore her hair wrapped in strange looking braids that coiled about her head like ropes which from where he stood, made the pattern of a star-fighter. Her necklace was an elaborate beaded necklace with what appeared to be blue and yellow colors, he was close enough to make them out. Strangely enough though, she didn't wear shoes. He felt underdressed. Overdressed actually, in his black med-suit and helmet. It was hot in there.
"The queen is here. She will be joining us for dinner"
Dinner? Did they even bother to consider how and what he could eat? Vader bristled.
"Then you will take me to your dining area," he said, his voice as flatter than usual.
"I'm well aware of what I need to do, Your Lordship. That's why I'm here - to escort you."
Why wasn't she afraid of him? And why did he suddenly feel as though he needed her approval ?
Vader walked across the room, but instead of walking out he pushed the door closed and stared down at Mariana.
"If you continue this disrespectful attitude of yours... I assure you, you won't last long around me."
"If you find my attitude disrespectful, then I owe you an apology. But you see, Your Lordship, too many terrible things have happened since the advent of the Galactic Empire, and -"
"Are you a rebel?" he asked.
A wave of fear flushed through her. Mariana swallowed.
"No, but I don't agree with some of your policies. I believe there's always a diplomatic alternative to war and fighting."
Mariana turned and opened the door a crack. She felt the heat of his gaze upon her back and for some reason, half expected him to strike her down. Who spoke such things to Darth Vader himself and lived to tell about it? But Vader said nothing as he followed her into the corridor.
The pair descended the staircase and entered the dining area, where the queen sat with jewels weaved into her elaborate hairdo. She wore white face paint, a dash of red paint on her lips, and a large dark robe over her body.
Mariana directed Vader to the opposite end of the table, the head and sat next to him.
Seeing Mariana and the queen at the same table reminded him of Padme posing as a handmaiden and Sabe posing as the queen. But Mariana was a diplomat. However, because of her arrogance he reduced her to wait staff and she complied for the good of Naboo.
The queen smiled graciously at Vader.
"It is good to see you again," she said to the masked military commander.
"Yes. So it is," he answered in a calculated voice.
Wait staff rushed the table to issue food to their plates. Then it dawned on Mariana. How does Vader eat? She looked at the queen, a question in her eyes. How terribly rude of them. Did he remove his mask? Was he fed intravenously?
Vader sat with both arms spread forth, each hand on opposite sides of the plate and watched as the queen and galactic senators from Naboo, scarfed down their meals between polite conversation. Mariana didn't eat at all, she simply watched between shooting ideas back and forth with the others.
He watched as Mariana arched her head forward, bony pointed shoulders leaning over her untouched meal as she spoke with great confidence to senators much older than she. Mariana looked to be in her early twenties.
"So, Lord Vader, tell us about this rebel on the run here in Naboo..." the queen requested.
"The rebel is a Jedi and must be captured. He is hiding here. He will be destroyed when we find him."
Mariana's lips drew a tight white line on her face. She looked at Vader... his body sat motionless, like a black lacquer statue.
"Your Lordship, you don't find the Jedi deserving of some kind of judicial process? Perhaps he is not a rebel. Perhaps he's been falsely accused..."
"Our policy is to seek and destroy all terrorist."
"I find your policies, and you to be barbaric."
The queen gasped, fork clanking to her plate. She shot Mariana a disdainful look but the young politician remained undaunted.
"Then perhaps you might join the rebels and we might find ourselves not only on opposite sides of the table, but opposite sides of the war. Then I might be forced to destroy you. Better yet, I might forego it all and dispose of you now."
Vader's fist banged the table.
"That won't be necessary, Lord Vader. I apologize, on behalf of Naboo and our young politician here... she's a bit headstrong. I will summon another diplomat to act as your liason to the palace. I assure you, this will never happen again."
Vader's shoulders relaxed and he fell back against his seat.
"That won't be neccessary. Thank you for having me, I will retire now... Nafur," he barked.
Mariana threw her napkin on top of her plate, pushed her chair back, and followed him up the stairs.
Vader stalked across his room with Mariana two paces behind him. He could feel her frustration, but could care less. Why didn't he just choke her to death and get it over with?
"I'm going to bed. Is there anything I can do for you, Your Lordship?"
"Perhaps you didn't notice amid all the interesting conversation... that I didn't have the opportuniteee to eat," he said in that weird mechanical accent of his.
"Sure you did. You chose not to take advantage of it. You sat at the dinner table with the rest of us..."
"You don't understand, miladeee. I assure you, no one at that table would have much appreciation for my table manners."
Did he just call her milady? When was the last time he called someone that?
"What can I do, Your Lordship?"
"That vial in the cabinet..." he said, pointing. "Retrieve it so that I might eat."
Mariana turned. Across the room in a wooden cabinet sat tall vials of liquid. The top shelf had been marked "breakfast" the second "lunch" the third "dinner".
Mariana walked across the room, opened the cabinet door and grabbed a vile from the dinner shelf.
She then scanned the room for a feeding syringe. Where was it? She thought Vader would point her in the right direction, but he stood silently, watching as she fumbled through containers and searched behind the sofa.
"Are you really that incompetent! How should I know?" he roared.
Mariana's hands dropped at her sides in exasperation. She returned to the cabinet, found a small drawer and opened it. Inside were plastic individually wrapped syringes.
Vader sat in a round arm chair and waited. Mariana kneeled at his side, found a small opening on the side of his neck and positioned the syringe. But how would she attach the vial to the needle? It made no sense.
"You incompetent fool," Vader raged. "If you knew anything you'd attach the syringe to my feeding pump then insert it into the opening of my suit."
Mariana sighed. Her eyes roamed the room until she located the pump. It sat in a box next to the special chair the troops brought to Vader's room.
Mariana poured the contents of the vial into the pump, then attached the syringe to his neck and throat. She clicked the pump's switch to the "on" position then watched as the liquid climbed the tube all the way into his neck.
"Anybody ever teach you how to feed yourself?"
"I am not surrrre that I could," he answered.
"I find it hard to believe a mighty warrior like you would have difficulties doing something as trivial as feeding himself."
He wasn't all bad, Mariana thought. He was an involent, in many ways as helpless as a newborn baby. Maybe his dependence on his underlings and servants fed his irritation.
Mariana looked down, suddenly feeling guilty. Why did she feel such sympathy for him? "I'll be back," she said.
Vader ignored her, sitting still as the pump fed liquid into his body. He was used to eating dinner alone. He assumed the diplomat had probably left in disgust. Who wanted to watch a mechanically enhanced fleshless asthmatic handicap eat chemically broken down food through a vial?
The liquid in the bottle had decreased by twenty-five percent when Mariana returned. She walked in, not bothering to knock, a plate of food in her hands.
Vader looked at her without so much as moving his head. Mariana couldn't be sure if he saw her or not. Or if he slept behind the mask. But she sat across from him anyway.
Tonight they would eat dinner. Together.
Vader watched as Mariana nibbled at the food on her plate. SHe stared at him ocassionally, a question in her eyes as she peeked at him through her lashes. He could tell she wasn't exactly sure if he were sleep or awake because he sat so still. Nor would he tell her. Instead he watched, as the liquid meal pumped articifical flavor into his senses.
Mariana knew nothing about the tyrant. Was he old? Or young? Was he human? Was he born in this terrible predicament or did something happen to him? For some reason, she wanted to know more. She had no idea the suit was there to protect him. She thought he wore it to intimidate and frighten. Who was the man beneath the mask?
Vader sensed her curiousity... concern, and dare he acknowledge it... care? When was the last time somebody really cared about him?
He thought about Padme. But Padme was a liar. She kept secrets from him. She brought Obi-Wan to Musafar to kill him. She conspired against the chancellor with the 2000 senators behind his back to embarrass him.
And why did Mariana care about him anyway? He was an evil tyrant, a role he humbly accepted because all other options were lost after Padme died and the emperor rescued him.
The pump made a loud sifting noise and Mariana realized it was done. How long was he going to let the pump pull air from the empty vial?
"I don't understand you," Mariana said. She felt foolish. Did he even hear her? It was like talking to a wall.
"What is there to understand?" he asked. "Understanding is useless," he added offhandedly.
So bitter... she thought. "How does someone as powerful as you, Your Lordship , become so..." Mariana shrugged-suddenly at a loss for words.
"That wasn't exactly my line of thought. I hardly think you're weak. Quite the contrary. I was going to say 'dependant'. People cater to you morning, noon, and night. Do you do anything on your own?"
Beneath the black mask, Vader smiled. He killed on his own. Wiped entire armies from the face of the galaxy on his own... what more did he need to do?
Mariana stood and walked toward the machine which sat next to his chair. She leaned next to him, then turned the air from the pump off. She was surprised she was able to reach it, since it was barely within her grasp. Why did he move it? Far enough in fact, to throw her off balance and cause her to fall right in his lap.
Mariana gasped and her face turned beet red. She was a dead woman...
But Vader was still again, like some a statue carved of dark obsidian rock. Mariana froze. Behind the darkness was a face of terror. She gazed at him... then tried to see the eyes beyond the mask... Up close, he didn't look real. He looked like a machine.
"Am I so hideous to your eyeeees that you can only stare at me?"
Mariana covered her mouth with a hand, "I'm sorry!" she exclaimed.
"I don't neeeeed your pity," he answered.
Mariana slid from his lap.
"I wasn't showing you pity. I was curious... Like, how old are you?" she blurted.
Vader sat still.
"I mean, are you young? Old? Alive?"
Vader did not move.
Mariana walked toward the door and opened it, certain she had crossed the line. "Nevermind..." she mumbled. "I'm sorry."
Then stepped into the corridor, and closed the door behind her.
Vader watched as Mariana slipped through his bedroom door. Why did he let her go? More importantly, why did he let her live? What was happening to him? Whatever it was, he didn't like it.
When he felt the soft curves of her body curled on his lap, he longed for more of her touch. He longed for Padme... his mother's warm hugs, even.
She didn't see his hands moving toward her, or him stopping himself from wrapping his mechanical arms around her. Arms he feared were so strong and so powerful that he would crush her just as he had crushed Padme that awful day on Musafar. He was a monster. Even his love killed people.
But he wasn't a boy anymore, full of unrequited love and desire. The suit made him feel old. Not even Mariana could be sure of his age, thinking him an involent and an old man when he was only in his early thirties and quite agile despite the suit. Even worse was her question... "are you alive?"
What did she mean?
Was he human?
He used to be.
Was he a droid?
His heart still beat, even with wires pumping blood through what remained of his body. He still felt things that humans felt... like hatred and anger. Sometimes he felt love - but only in his memories.
Vader remained in the round arm chair and felt himself drifting into sleep. He often dreamed of a peaceful galaxy. But there was little peace in his dreams on this night.
Mariana was there...
Vader woke with a start. A knock on his door intruded upon his dreams. He said nothing, but watched as the door creaked open. He sensed it was Mariana before she even walked inside.
"You have any idea what time it is?"
Vader turned his head, surprised that he slept so soundly in his mask. He usually closed the special chair which was also a hyperbaric chamber, over his head so he could sleep without his gear.
Sunlight streamed through the windows onto her peach colored dress. "The queen really had it for me," Mariana continued. "She said, I spoke too freely yesterday. That I should apologize."
Vader had a thing about apologies. They were for the weak.
"I only said what was on my mind. So I won't apologize for my words. But I do regret calling you barbaric. It wasn't fair. You're so much more than that."
His heart leapt at the words. But he said nothing. Mariana walked toward the wooden cabinet and grabbed a breakfast concoction from the shelf.
She then kneeled before Vader who sat motionless, as though he were not watching her... She grabbed his arm and pressed the vial into his hand.
Vader's fingers closed around the glass and snap! The vial shattered.
The look on Mariana's face was one of confusion. "What are you doing?" she asked.
Vader's hand moved to his lap. He looked at her face, the way her eyebrows furrowed, the way her eyes seemed to sparkle, the sad pout of her lips, the shine of her dark hair, which draped over her shoulders like a dark black cape.
Mariana stood, stormed across the room and grabbed another vial. She then walked back to Vader and pressed the breakfast concoction into his hand. He sat motionless for a second, until she slid the air pump close to his feet.
Using the force, he cracked the second vial. Liquid spilled to the floor.
"I gather you're not interested in learning how to feed yourself!" Mariana raged. "If so, get someone else to do it!"
Mariana stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind her.
She marched down the stairs in a huff. Who in the hell does he think he is? She raged. This type of service was beneath her. She was an educated woman, a decorated politician. Not some handmaiden or servant.
Mariana left the villa without her shoes, feet bearing down on the tile, the grass, the bridge beyond it, the meadow, all the way home.
Vader sat motionless in his chair. Run Mariana. Run as fast as you can, he said to himself. It is too late for me...
Mariana found herself running. This man...machine was rumored to have killed Padme Amidala, the former Naboo queen during the great Jedi Purge. A friend of her father's who also served on the Senate. Apparently two thousand senators, including her father, signed a petition to remove the chancellor from office. Forced confessions, jail time, torture and murder were their punishments. Mariana had even heard Vader was said to have executed the former queen with his own hands.
And yet... she pitied him. How could she? Her father survived, but how long did he live behind prison walls?
She had him... right there in her hands and let him go. She could have poisoned him the first night. But was she really a murderer? No. She needed him to poison himself, but Vader was too hard-headed to heed her advice! Mariana wondered if he knew about the toxic potion she slipped into the vial...
He couldn't know, or else he would have killed her already.
Mariana stood in a meadow, staring into the distance at the queen's palace. Tiny purple flowers stretched toward the clear blue sky around her. She would go to the palace and retrieve her clothing. Why did she feel so instantly drawn to Vader? Why was he so drawn to her?
It was enough to force Mariana to come to a decision. She must leave Naboo. She sensed, the situation was to become worse... especially if he found the 'jedi' he was looking for.
Mariana walked through the halls with the queen, hands clasped around her suitcases as paused before a set of romanesque styled columns.
"You can't leave. Darth Vader has summoned you back to the guest Villa," the queen said upon hearing Mariana's request.
Mariana gasped. "Why?"
"He admitted to being a bit harsh with you. That he might have frightened you."
"I wouldn't say that," the queen admitted. "But it sounded like he wanted to."
"I was only trying to help," Mariana said.
"Of course... if you leave, he's promised to send a baron to Naboo."
Mariana knew it was just too good to be true. Vader? Apologizing?
"He'll send a baron if I leave? What does he want with me?"
"I don't know, but he seems to have taken a shine to you, young lady."
"Has he found the rebel? The Jedi he's looking for?"
"Not yet," the queen said, walking again. "He seems to like you though. Maybe being around you will soften his heart."
"What heart?" Mariana griped.
"You don't mean that..."
Mariana sighed. "I'll go back. But only for Naboo. Hopefully I'll convince him that he doesn't need me. That a servant will do much better with him than I will."
"You're a public servant . So I am," the queen corrected. "That means doing things you don't want for the good of the people...for the good of Naboo."
"I know..." Mariana admitted.
"I'll have your luggage sent to the villa."
"How long will Vader be on Naboo?"
"For as long as it takes him to find the Jedi."
Cont'd:It was nightfall when she finally returned to the Villa where Vader waited. Mariana stood near the bridge and watched the shadow of his darkly cloaked figure as he gazed through the window toward the lake.
Instantly she felt his pull. It was as though he planted a voice in her head...his voice.
The villa was dark and the staff apparently had gone for the night. Under a spell of some kind she drifted across the grassy hill and climbed the crumbling stone staircase to its entrance.
She pushed the door open and dropped her luggage on the tile floor.
Mariana looked around. Had she imagined the silhouette in the window? The pull, the voices in her head? She sighed.
Mariana dragged her suitcase up the stairs and pushed opened the door to her room. It was late and Vader was probably asleep. In the few days she spent with him he went to bed early.
Mariana showered quietly in an adjoining bath, hoping not to disturb his hyperbaric rest.
She toweled herself dry and found a gown to sleep in. She silently mulled over the selection. The villa was cool, with a breeze from the lake blowing through the windows. But she chose a sheer tan colored gown.
Mariana slipped it over her body then slid into bed.
Mariana closed her eyes. She pulled the covers to her neck and couldn't help but wonder what her conversation with Vader would be like the following day.
No sooner than she had drifted into sleep, did a howling wind blow the door to her room open. Mariana shuddered, then climbed out of bed and walked toward the door. It didn't take long for her curiosity to best her. Instead of closing it, she stepped into the corridor and tip toed down the stairs.
Mariana sat on the stairs and peered through the banister. Fire crackled in the fireplace and Vader's shadow danced on the wall. He turned and looked at her, flames flickering in the black orbs of his mask.
Who lit the fire for him? She wondered.
Mariana slipped down the rest of the stairs and walked across the room prepared to douse the flames with the growing pile of ash beneath it. He needed his rest. But instead of admonishing him, she paused.
Vader stood as still as he sat...as though he'd been chiseled out of stone.
Behind the mask, he watched...concentrated, spoke without speaking. This connection - whatever it was, was bigger than them both. His gaze worked its way over her form. She was young. About the age he was when he turned to the dark side. The gown she chose to sleep in - he chose for her to sleep in, was thin enough for him to see what was beneath. Her freshly washed hair flowed to her shoulders a like a blanket of thick black oil over her back and shoulders.
They were silent as she took a step forward and lunged forth into his arms, her legs coiling around his waist, her arms tight around his shoulders.
What am I doing? Mariana panted...
She couldn't breathe. Something had stolen her breath away. But she held tight, not even loosening her grip when she felt his arms fold around her.
Her neatly coiffed hair was now wild, mussed all over her head and covering her eyes as her face sunk into the depths of his collar. What was happening to them?
The only time Vader held anyone this close, was when they were taking a dying breath. Perhaps her outcome would be the same. Maybe not. He felt the need in her hold, the passion. He sensed her confusion...there they were, he a Sith, and she a...
Vader pushed her back against the side of the fireplace. For ten long years he felt as though he spoke, communicated, and interacted with the universe and all the people he met from behind a locked door. But with Mariana he felt as though she alone had made an effort to unlock it and walk inside.
He felt alive.
More man than droid. Less droid and more like a man... Like Anakin Skywalker and less like Darth Vader - killing machine.
Electrical impulses sent messages to the nerves in his brain that allowed him to feel his mechanical hands roving over the small mounds beneath her gown. He heard her exhale...then sigh. He looked at her face, her closed eyes, then leaned against her.
What was he doing?
He let her go and she slid to the floor on top of a fur rug. Embers flickered and sparked out of the fireplace, the flecks glowing about her.
She curled her legs, knees pressed against her chest.
"You were unwise to return," Vader said.
"I came back because you asked. I did it for Naboo."
"This...changes nothing," he said. What did he care about politics? Or keeping his word?
Orange colored flames danced in her eyes. She felt his presence in the force, touching her in ways only the force could. She closed her eyes and wished she wanted him to stop.
Mariana exhaled and crossed both arms over her knees. Vader was using Naboo to control her. Leaving was in fact, her only recourse.
Vader crossed the rug. The room had grown so quiet she could hear the whirring of the machinery in his knees that enabled him to walk.
Vader climbed the stairs. How long until she fully realized that he was truly a monster?
Mariana opened her eyes. She looked around, the night's stress washed from her eyes. She laid in bed with the covers pulled to her neck. Somehow she'd found her way up stairs. Or did he carry her there? Either way, she couldn't remember.
Mariana climbed out of bed and hurried into the adjoining shower, washed herself, then dressed. Her plan was to get someone from the staff to care for Vader's breakfast. She would resume her normal political duties and save the work Vader sought her to do for those who should be responsible for doing it.
She walked down the stairs dressed in full Naboo political regalia. Elaborate hairdo, makeup, a dark dress, covered by a robe. She would visit the palace and join the queen for formal daily briefings.
Nervous servants scuttled by, cleaning and getting the villa to his Lordship's specifications. Vader stood in the living room with imperial troops flanked at his sides. She could hear the clipped tones of his voice as he dressed them down. Mariana opened the door then hurried out. But two guards with blasters in their hand stood on the other side.
"We're not allowed to let you pass," a troop dressed in white armor informed.
Mariana opened her mouth in protest.
But instead of saying anything she turned, opened the door, then stormed back inside. She marched toward Vader, hand crumpled into a fist. "Just what in the hell do you think you're doing?"
Vader nodded at the troops, signaling them for a bit of privacy. He turned away, hands clasped behind his back as he walked across the room. Mariana followed him with her eyes.
"What is the meaning of this? Tell your guard dog to let me by," she ordered.
"My arrangement with the queen means you are in my service from hence forth."
"Surely you're mistaken. I have a permanent role as a diplomat here in Naboo. In fact, my plan is to join Queen Miracova at the palace for daily briefings."
"Perhaps I haven't made myself cleaaaaar," he said in a menacing mechanical voice. "You no longer report to the queen, you report to me. You are my liason to Naboo. A garrison will be stationed here in this villa soon. They will update you and you are to brief me. Understood?"
"This is insane! You...you can't push the queen out of power. And you certainly can't force me to accept this! Naboo doesn't need a garrison, we're the most peaceful planet in the Republic."
Vader bristled at the word "Republic".
"Then I will leave the queen to Naboo and you will join me on the imperial starship. Permanently."
"Permanently? Doing what?" she exclaimed.
Vader was surprised by the disappointed sound of her voice. Especially considering the night before.
"You sound displeased with our the new arrangement."
"I've been groomed to serve as a politician. Someday I plan to sit on the senate."
"Not anymore," Vader said.
His hand found her chin and squeezed. But Mariana pointed her nose in the air and challenged his gaze with one of her own.
Vader remembered being young and begging Padme Amidala to be with him, to be her secret love. But now, he was mature beyond his years. His new life as Vader saw to that. He saw no need to ask. He was in control, he was most powerful now. The new Republic, the Galactic Empire did away with such formalities. There were no Jedi to tell him what he could or could not do. Whether he could or could not possess. With him, she would have a new life and no one could say or do anything about it.
"I like what I do!" she spat.
"What you do or do not like matters little to me."
"If you cared about me at all then it would. Forget anything nice I've said about you. I hate you," Mariana raged, turning toward the stairs.
Vader followed her with his eyes as he parted. How many times had he said those words as a young Jedi and meant it?