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Compromising

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Piett's first indication that the day was going to be a strange one was watching his commanding officer stagger and nearly collapse right on the bridge of the Executor.

The crew had been utterly unprepared for the sight of Darth Vader, Scourge of the Rebellion and Right Hand of the Emperor himself gripping a railing as if it were the only thing holding him up, and looked at Piett in growing panic.

Lord Vader blithely ignored them and just stared ahead, mask fixed on a distant point outside the ship. The chill of space somehow seemed to deepen, and Piett felt a strange pressure building in the recycled air. In growing horror, he noticed a series of cracks appearing in the half metre thick transparesteel the viewport was made of, and tentatively moved closer to the Dark Lord.

"Lord Vader." Piett enquired, not wanting to interrupt whatever was happening but slightly less willing for his bridge to be exposed to hard vacuum. "Do you require assistance?"

The black helmeted head snapped up, gaze immediately fixed on Piett who swallowed down the instinctive desire to recoil.

"Bring us out of hyperspace Admiral, we are changing course." He said as he straightened to his full height, voice full of more fury than Piett had heard since the aftermath of the Battle of Hoth. "Skywalker has been captured and tortured by mercenaries and I intend to reclaim him."

Not sure how he could possibly know that but disinclined to question the order, Piett just nodded. "At once milord. Do we have a heading?"

Lord Vader stared out into the black.

"The Voska system. There is a base hidden in an asteroid orbiting the fourth planet. That is where they are holding Skywalker."

Piett saluted. "At once Lord Vader."

 

***

 

Fourteen tense hours in hyperspace later and they'd arrived, and the hidden base was just where Lord Vader had predicted it was.

When Piett had asked Lord Vader if this was indeed the place he'd... seen, the Dark Lord had just continued to stare through the viewport, radiating tension.

"Skywalker is here." He'd growled. "The Force is strong with him."

And so, Piett had joined the landing party to coordinate the mission personally while Lord Vader went on ahead of the stormtroopers to secure Skywalker himself, as he could apparently sense him through the Force. Whatever the mercenaries were expecting, they were no match for the might of the Empire's flagship and an incredibly pissed of Sith Lord.

The fight was over in short time, and before long Piett was following a trail of corpses bearing the characteristic signs of lightsaber wounds to find his superior officer, who for some reason wasn't answering his commlink.

Hearing the rumbling bass of Lord Vader's voice in the next corridor over, Piett came around the corner just in time to see the small, blonde figure of the Rebel pilot they were here to retrieve stand up on his toes and kiss his Lordship right on the mouthpiece of his respirator.

Piett froze, steps slowing and completely unable to process what he was seeing, but still strangely hesitant to interrupt what seemed to be either a very intimate moment, or the fastest way to commit suicide via Sith Lord since Lieutenant Vance had speculated on the reproductive habits of the Inquisitorius while Lord Vader was in earshot.

Evidently it was the former because not only did Lord Vader allow it, but he then proceeded to hold the boy in an undeniably tender embrace, even going so far as to stroke his hair as he nuzzled - nuzzled! - into the gigantic metal chest and said something so softly Piett couldn't quite make it out.

It was only years as an officer in the Imperial Navy, many of those spent serving underneath Lord Vader himself, that let him keep his composure so that only the briefest widening of his eyes made it onto his face. He needn't have bothered really, Lord Vader had yet to even look up from the boy, but he still felt no small amount of pride at the accomplishment.

Knowing the penalty of shirking his duty or showing hesitation outweighed whatever awkwardness this situation might entail, he didn't stop walking until he was ten paces away from the unlikely pair. Once there he proceeded to stand stiffly at attention while facing a nearby bulkhead in an effort to maintain the illusion of privacy.

This close the boy was undoubtedly Luke Skywalker, the elusive Rebel pilot they'd been pursuing doggedly for the last four years for suddenly unclear reasons. He also appeared to be heavily injured. And mostly nude.

Piett coughed into his hand.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw his commanding officer's head snap up, finally registering his presence, though the pilot didn't move and was looking to be falling asleep on his feet with a small smile on his face.

Fully aware that if he were literally any other officer he would likely already be dead, Piett didn't dare so much as flinch.

"The base is secure and the surviving mercenaries have been apprehended milord." He reported, as if this was just another briefing on the bridge and his superior didn't have a barely clothed, barely conscious youth of questionable origin in his arms, and several grotesquely dismembered bodies a few metres away. "What are your orders?"

"Prepare my shuttle and alert medical they will be recieving a patient upon my return to the Executor." The Dark Lord boomed, and Piett absolutely didn't think about how he sounded slightly flustered at being caught in this compromising position.

"Yes milord, at once." He saluted the bulkhead and spun around on his heel, walking away just fast enough to be brisk but not so fast that it seemed like he was fleeing the scene.

Once he turned the corner heading back to the hangar he opened up his commlink and carried out his orders on autopilot, mind whirling.

Just what in the blazes was going on?

Ten minutes later, he was waiting outside Lord Vader's personal shuttle with a squad of stormtroopers and in the process of receiving a report from the Captain, when the Dark Lord swept into the hangar.

It was slightly less dramatic than usual as his trademark black armourweave cape wasn't in it's rightful place on his shoulders, but was instead wrapped around Skywalker's small form. Who was at the moment being carried bridal-style in the Dark Lord's arms, apparently unconscious.

Everyone present snapped a crisp salute and didn't say a word.

"Admiral Piett you will join me on my shuttle back to the ship." He said, stopping at the foot of the ramp. "I want the prisoners transferred back for interrogation and all remaining squads to sweep the base for intel before returning. I want to know exactly who they are and what they were doing with Skywalker."

 

***

 


The trip back to the Executor was silent.

Piett sat ramrod straight, facing dead ahead and mentally composing his mission report in as excruciating detail as he could manage to avoid thinking about what he'd witnessed. Was still witnessing if he was honest with himself.

Lord Vader hadn't taken over the cockpit as he often did, and was instead sitting a few seats down and across from him in the passenger compartment, the still unconscious Skywalker cradled in his arms like a sleeping child. Stars above the boy really was tiny, his petite frame dwarfed by both the voluminous folds of the black cape he was draped in and the hulking figure of the Empire's Supreme Commander who's lap he was currently occupying.

He'd been reading and re-reading the regularly updated dossier on the boy for the better part of 3 years, could tell you the nickname of his preferred astromech (Artoo), his piloting aptitude scores on the regrettably unsubmitted application to the Imperial Academy they'd found in the wreckage of his childhood home (frankly staggering), even his damned shoe size (a modest humanoid standard 9N), but this was the first time it truly sunk in just how young he was.

He had been 19 when he fired the shot that destroyed the Death Star, Piett remembered with a chill. Just 19 years standard and he had killed over a million people in the blink of an eye. How could a boy this small and unassuming possibly be so dangerous?

He realised he was staring about the same time as Lord Vader did.

"Do you have anything further you wish to report Admiral?" He asked cooly, the leather of his gloves creaking as his hands tightened - aggressively? protectively? - around the injured Rebel.

"Not at all milord." Piett replied promptly. "I was just wondering what security measures we should implement for Commander Skywalker. Would you like a cell in the detention area prepared for him after the medics have seen to him?"

"There will be no more cells for Skywalker." Lord Vader snarled, sounding positively offended by the very idea. "After his injuries have been treated he will be moved to the private quarters adjacent to my own. I want them readied for his use and four guards stationed on the entrance at all times but he is not, under any circumstances whatsoever, to be harmed. Do I make myself clear, Admiral?"

Piett nodded crisply, outwardly as composed as ever. "Yes Lord Vader, I shall make the arrangements personally as soon as we return."

Inwardly however, he was finding it increasingly hard to keep his cool.

The luxury suite of rooms next to Lord Vader's own had been a source of much conjecture ever since the Executor had launched. Apparently they'd been built at his Lordship's request at great expense not long prior to the ship's completion, and no one could quite work out why. Lord Vader had never requested anything like it before on any of his flagships, and the engineers had been beside themselves because thanks to the proximity to the bridge they'd had to reroute conduits for several major systems.

If his commanding officer had been literally anyone else in the Empire Piett would have just assumed they were intended for a spouse or even a mistress, but not only was Lord Vader emphatically not the type to have either, in the three years since the Executor's launch they'd never once been used.

Until now apparently.

Had the rooms really been intended for him all along? Just who was Luke Skywalker?

Chapter Text

Piett resisted the urge to rub his temples and wished desperately that his headache would go away.

Ever since they'd returned to the ship it had been chaos, and even though they hadn't yet been ordered to rejoin the fleet and were still in orbit around Voska IV, everyone onboard had been working frantically to compensate for their departure from their scheduled operations.

Everyone that is, except for Lord Vader.

Apart from the shortlived 'questioning' of their prisoners (whose remains Maintenance were still having difficulty cleaning out of the wreckage of what used to be the interrogation rooms), and an audience with the Emperor in his holo chamber a few hours after their return, his Lordship had spent the entirety of the last three days in the medbay. According to the verbal reports Piett had quietly requested from his assistant, Lord Vader was apparently watching over Skywalker night and day, who had yet to regain consciousness. It seemed he was also regularly promising death to all responsible if the boy didn't wake up, in increasingly graphic detail.

In short, the medical staff were in a blind panic and the crew were beside themselves.

Piett hadn't shared what he had witnessed in the corridor with anyone, mostly because he didn't have a deathwish, but also because he still had no idea what it was that he'd actually seen.

According to Skywalker's medical files he'd been admitted suffering from multiple injuries conducive to a crash, the effects of enhanced interrogation techniques including severe sleep deprivation, and had even been repeatedly drugged to encourage compliance with his captors. All of this could perhaps justify the Rebel's odd behaviour in the corridor, he'd been pushed far beyond the limits of what many humans could even survive, but it did nothing to explain the Dark Lord's.

Between Lord Vader's agitation prior to Skywalker's capture (rescue?), the very dramatic way he had bought the pilot onboard and his increasingly strange behaviour since then, rumours were flying. Especially since sometime in the last day someone had let slip that once he was out of bacta that Skywalker was being moved to the previously unoccupied, but highly discussed, quarters next to Lord Vader's.

It was probably for the best then that his Lordship was otherwise occupied looming outside Skywalker's bacta tank like a particularly annoyed spectre he decided. If he got wind of the fact there was currently a betting pool on the lower decks regarding whether Skywalker was a deep cover agent, the Emperor's illegitimate son, Lord Vader's new Sith Apprentice, or even his lover according to some particularly brave folks, he was pretty sure heads would roll. Quite literally.

Piett sighed, making a note to requisition some analgesics and stim tabs after his bridge shift was over or there'd be no way he'd be able to catch up on his paperwork tonight.

 

***

 

It wasn't until he was already in the medbay that Piett realised if he wanted to avoid the current shipboard holodrama, he had really come to the wrong place.

He was waiting for one of the medics to retrieve the drugs he'd asked for when he noticed the unmistakable figure of the Dark Lord himself, standing over a hospital bed in the far corner and only just visible through a partially open divider. Skywalker seemed to not only finally be awake, but was sitting up in bed and scowling at Lord Vader with his arms crossed over his chest.

His Lordship also had his arms crossed over his chest, and although Piett couldn't hear anything from where he was standing they seemed to be disagreeing about something. The idea of anyone disagreeing with Darth Vader and not immediately being Force-choked was strange but, he reflected, still not the strangest thing he'd seen from these two this week.

Unbidden, the image of Skywalker standing up on his toes to kiss the Sith Lord flashed into his mind, and he immediately started reciting a technical manual to himself to bury the thought. A lot of officers thought the idea of Lord Vader reading minds was just heresay, but after years serving under the man Piett knew better.

He watched with morbid fascination as Lord Vader shook his finger in Skywalker's face, looking for all appearances to be scolding the boy for something or other. The boy in question just raised an unimpressed eyebrow, before his face twisted into a cheeky smirk and he reached out and grabbed Lord Vader's finger mid-shake.

Piett was dimly aware that his jaw had dropped, but it was like a slow motion speederwreck and he couldn't look away.

But instead of exploding and leveling the medbay in his rage the Dark Lord just froze, the stiffness in his shoulders visible even from where Piett was standing.

Skywalker was clearly feeling very smug at derailing whatever argument they'd been having, but his face quickly softened and he tugged on Lord Vader's huge hand with both of his own until it came up to rest on the side of his face. He said something that might have even been an apology before leaning into the black leather glove with that same contented, sleepy smile on his face.

Piett had just enough time to register that Lord Vader's thumb seemed to be stroking the boy's cheek before the medic returned with his drugs and he fled.

 

***

 

After Skywalker regained consciousness Lord Vader's mood improved drastically, and he returned to his regular duties without comment on his uncharacteristic behaviour or the Rebel pilot now residing one adjoining door over from him.

Piett refused to consider what it meant, but did start thinking longingly about the bottle of Corellian brandy stashed in his cupboard.

Chapter Text

The third time Piett saw the two of them together was a day later on the bridge.

It was midway through D-shift when he heard the quiet background chatter of the bridge crew suddenly drop away to nothing. Pushing away the feeling of foreboding suddenly tickling at him, he looked up and saw Lord Vader striding down the central walkway, Skywalker at his side.

Piett stared.

The Rebel pilot was looking considerably better than he had when he arrived onboard, dressed in expensive looking, slim-fitting black clothes with a sleek half cape draped over one shoulder that made him look more like royalty than a moisture farmer turned prisoner of war. Piett noted the clothes seemed to fit his slight frame perfectly and refused to speculate on where exactly they'd come from, though the extremely thorough dossier on the boy did spring to mind.

Skywalker also seemed perfectly content to be walking at the right hand of the man who had been relentlessly pursuing him for the better part of the last four years. Stars he wasn't even wearing binders, and Piett was especially disturbed to see the unmistakable metallic shape of a lightsaber hanging from his belt that looked suspiciously like the one Lord Vader had confiscated from the base at Voska IV. Which would mean that for some reason he had seen no issue with re-arming an enemy Jedi.

"Admiral." Lord Vader nodded as they drew level with him halfway down the walkway.

"Greetings Lord Vader." Piett replied with a crisp salute.

"I don't believe we've met." Skywalker said pleasantly, holding out his hand like this was a social function and not the bridge of a Super Star Destroyer.

"Ah yes, my apologies for my poor manners." He replied, not sure the correct level of formality for introducing yourself to a prisoner your commanding officer had apparently taken a liking to, but preferring to err on the side of caution. "Admiral Firmus Piett, commander of the Executor and Death Squadron."

"Commander Luke Skywalker of the Rebel Alliance, pleasure to meet you." The pilot said, still shaking Piett's hand firmly with a bright, utterly disarming grin. "Vader's been giving me a tour. Your ship is a masterpiece, you must be very proud."

In spite of his misgivings about this whole situation, Piett was begrudgingly charmed right down to his boots.

"You are too kind Commander." He managed to reply politely, utterly confused about whatever was happening but mollified by the Rebel's respectful behaviour and apparent lack of murderous intent.

Lord Vader turned to the boy, and the two seemed to just stare at each other for a few seconds before Skywalker rolled his eyes and walked further down the bridge towards Lord Vader's customary place at the viewport. Apparently unconcerned with what would usually be considered a fatal amount of insubordination in anyone else, Lord Vader turned his attention back to his confused Admiral.

"Status report?"

With the briefest of glances at Skywalker, who seemed to be looking around the bridge curiously at all the activity before coming to a stop at the viewport and staring out into hyperspace, he stood a little straighter and answered.

"Nothing new milord." Piett replied. "We are projected to rendezvous with the rest of Death Squadron within 12 hours as scheduled. We have also received reports of possible Rebel activity in the Ondarr and B'Sek systems but nothing conclusive. No further orders from Imperial Centre."

The Dark Lord nodded, seemingly satisfied. "Very good Admiral."

They discussed ship operations (functioning at nearly peak efficiency minus the interrogation rooms) and the status of the encrypted records recovered from Skywalker's captors (proving stubborn, but the slicers were nearly done) for a few more minutes before Piett was dismissed to return to his duties, and Lord Vader moved to stand with Skywalker looking out into the endless swirl of hyperspace.

Within ten minutes Piett was wondering with no small amount of resignation if he was going to have to write up disciplinary forms for half of his officers, who seemed unable to keep their eyes focused on their displays.

Apparently the sight of their commanding officer, standing shoulder to shoulder and engaged in quiet conversation with the subject of the vast majority of the crew's current gossip, was just too much for them to handle with any level of decorum. Especially since neither had noticed that they both seemed to be standing there with their hands clasped behind their backs, like the oddest almost-matching set of bookends that Piett had ever seen.

He even found himself giving a very pointed, cautionary stare to the Ensign who was stationed at the console closest to the pair, and seemed to be trying to surreptitiously lean in and overhear their conversion. Because stars above if Lord Vader was the one to catch him instead the young man was going to be in for a very bad time indeed.

This continued for about twenty minutes before the tense silence was broken by the sudden, unmistakable sound of laughter. Looking up and already anticipating the paperwork involved in replacing whichever officer was about to be punished for impropriety, he was amazed to discover that it was actually Skywalker.

As the entirety of the bridge crew watched on in bewilderment Skywalker, apparently oblivious to the commotion he was causing, tried to stifle honest-to-gods giggles with one hand while the other rested companionably on Lord Vader's arm.

As if the terrifying Sith had just made a hilarious joke.

As if he wasn't the only person Piett could remember ever voluntarily touching the Dark Lord.

As if there was anything about this situation which made any sense at all.

Piett watched as the smirking Commander - who he noted with growing hysteria still hadn't removed his hand from Lord Vader's arm - leaned comfortably into the taller man's personal space like he had every right to be there. If anything, Skywalker seemed for all intents and purposes to be staring up at the Dark Lord through his eyelashes without saying a word. By this point Piett was pretty sure they were able to communicate telepathically with one another through the Force, but it was still highly irregular.

Not for the first time, Piett had the distinct feeling he was missing something very important.

Someone dropped a datapad, clearly overwhelmed, and the sound of it clattering to the floor seemed to remind Skywalker that they were in full display of the bridge crew. His hand immediately dropped and he took a step back, head ducking down in an attempt to conceal the delicate blush Piett could see colouring his cheeks even from his vantage point beside Navigation.

Lord Vader looked around for whoever had interrupted the moment, displeasure clearly evident. But Skywalker just shook his head and said something quietly to the older man, which seemed miraculously to placate him. The Dark Lord nodded, stepping aside and gesturing for Skywalker to walk ahead of him with as much inexplicable grace as a courtier.

Together they swept back down the walkway, capes billowing, and stopped when they were level with Piett so Lord Vader could address him.

"As you were Admiral, I expect those reports by the end of the cycle. I don't wish to be disturbed for anything else save the fall of the Empire itself until we reach our destination."

Piett saluted. "Yes Lord Vader, it will be done."

"Thank you for your patience Admiral." Skywalker added with a sunny smile. "I really enjoyed the chance to see a ship like this in action."

With a last nod from the Dark Lord, they departed. As they left the bridge, Piett could clearly see Lord Vader's hand resting possessively on the small of the pilot's back.

After the door closed behind them the silence was so profound you could hear nothing but the soft, incidental beeps of the equipment and the thrum of the hyperdrive.

Jolting himself out of his daze, Piett glared around at his subordinates. "I do believe we have a ship to run?" He snapped, loud enough for everyone to hear him.

That broke the spell and they all immediately went back to work as if nothing had happened. But from the low buzz of excited conversation Piett knew with a sinking heart that the ship's rumourmill was only going to run overtime after this latest encounter with the strange Rebel Commander.

 

***

 

In an effort to keep track of and understand his personnel's rapidly spiraling levels of distraction after The Bridge Incident, Piett asked his assistant to discreetly keep track of the rumours surrounding their prisoner (guest?) and report back anything of note.

He told himself it was just due diligence, but in all honesty it was a combination of perverse curiosity and self-preservation because he really did not want to be blindsided when this all inevitably blew up and he was held accountable for his crew's lack of self-control.

Later that evening, Piett sat down in his quarters with a well deserved glass of his Corellian brandy and a shiny new datapad from his assistant. As he started to read it, he suddenly realised with no small amount of horror just why Lieutenant Umatii had been so embarrassed when giving it to him.

After the display on the bridge earlier that day and in lieu of any more concrete information, it seemed his crew had almost unanimously decided that Luke Skywalker (Destroyer of the Death Star, the Last Jedi, and Hero of the Rebellion) was in fact betrothed to their commanding officer. The terms 'estranged', 'star-crossed', and 'childbride' were also being thrown about with frankly alarming regularity.

Piett blinked.

Blinked again.

Well then. They were all going to die, it was as simple as that.

Whether it was actually true or not was irrelevant, the fact that there were crew members, soldiers, officers and technicians all united in speculating about the Dark Lord's personal life meant they were all pretty much just marking time until the largest mass Force choking event in recorded history.

Piett felt strangely calm at the thought of his imminent demise. There was literally nothing he could do to nip it in the bud now that the entire crew seemed to be caught up in the madness, all he could do was sit back and try to keep things running smoothly until then and hope to all the Corellian hells that it didn't leave the ship.

It was truly a miracle that Lord Vader hadn't noticed the gossiping yet, considering he was not only very observant but could literally read people's minds. Though, Piett reflected with a pained grimace as he emptied his glass, he was undeniably quite distracted at the moment.

Piett determinedly made his way through the datapad, and a lot more of his bottle of brandy than he'd strictly intended. But when he got to the final section, which consisted solely of a lengthy apology from his assistant and a verbatim transcription of a discussion between a pair of Stormtroopers regarding the ah, physical logistics of a carnal relationship between Darth Vader and Commander Skywalker, he ended up dumping the entire datapad straight into the trash compactor and putting himself to bed.

Chapter Text

The fourth time Piett saw Lord Vader and Skywalker together they were arguing again.

They had reached the Myyroda system and rejoined with the rest of Death Squadron, and he was heading to Lord Vader's office for their scheduled briefing. After straightening his uniform and double-checking his chrono to make sure he was precisely on time, Piett was just about to press the doorchime when he heard muted shouting from the other side of the door. He was just in the process of tossing up the pros and cons of a tactical retreat, when the door slid open of its own accord.

"Do not hover in the corridor Admiral." Lord Vader called out from within, sounding irritated.

Piett hurried in, refusing to let himself jump when the door closed again without anyone touching it. "Of course Lord Vader. My sincerest apologies, I didn't mean to interrupt a prior engagement."

Once inside he silently cringed at his thoughtless choice of words as he was treated to the sight of Lord Vader, standing but leaning with both hands on his desk like a whole world was on his shoulders, and Skywalker, sans cape and apparently still free from binders, pacing the length of the office in a bad mood.

He very purposefully did not think about the accursed datapad from the night before, which the liberal application of alcohol had sadly not managed to erase from his mind.

"You do not get to censor me just because you disapprove of my supposed attitude!" Skywalker was shouting, hands gesturing wildly to convey the extent of his displeasure. 

Piett froze a few paces into the room, unable to do anything except stare in horror at what he'd walked into. This was the medbay all over again, except this time he was in the direct line of fire.

"This is exactly what I was referring to!" Lord Vader thundered right back. "Your behaviour is unbecoming of one of your station, and now you are making a scene in front of my crew."

"Where else would I be making a scene exactly?" The boy said petulantly, still flailing and pouting up at the Dark Lord. "It's not like I can going anywhere else right now. And I don't care what you say, I will not be seduced!"

Oh stars, it was worse than the medbay. It was so much worse than the medbay.

"Luke, we have discussed this. It is your destiny."

"I can't believe that! I am a Jedi, just because you have me now doesn't mean that has changed!"

"On the contrary, that is exactly what it means." Lord Vader snapped, sounding harried and completely fed up with the entire situation.

Skywalker's scowl seemed to deepen, and he grumbled something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like Huttese.

Immediately the Dark Lord stiffened, standing up to his full and utterly terrifying height, and rattled off a rapid string of furious Huttese right back at him while shaking his finger angrily.

The boy jerked as if electrocuted, face paling for a second before regaining his composure and seeming to get even more furious.

He stormed over until he was standing directly in front of Lord Vader's desk before squaring his slim shoulders, hands on his hips and chin raised defiantly, and continued on with whatever they were arguing about in more of the strange, identically accented Huttese they were both speaking.

Piett stood at attention staring straight ahead, and thought faintly to himself how he never knew that Darth Vader spoke fluent Huttese. What an unexpected development.

He didn't speak it himself, but thanks to the early years of his career spent fighting pirates he was familiar enough that he now knew the Dark Lord could apparently swear in it worse than an Outer Rim spice smuggler. Skywalker was giving just as good as he got too, which at least made some sense considering his upbringing on Tatooine, but it was still disconcerting to see such foul language coming out of such an innocent looking face.

Eventually Lord Vader's patience ran out. 

"That is enough!" He roared, slamming his hands down on his desk so hard Piett could hear the plasteel crack. "You do not have to always agree with me Luke, but you will show me respect. Is that understood?"

Skywalker's face was flushed and he was panting, still clearly annoyed, but Piett could see him breathing in calm and reigning in his temper.

"Fine." He huffed eventually, running his hand sullenly through his hair. "I'm going to work on my katas, come find me when you're done here ok?"

"I have duties to fulfill, but rest assured young one, that we shall continue this discussion once they are complete." Lord Vader replied ominously, but Skywalker seemed more satisfied than intimidated.

The impossible boy nodded and turned to Piett, apparently only just remembering he'd been there for the duration of their argument, and smiled bashfully. "Forgive my outburst Admiral, I do believe it's my turn to apologise for my poor manners."

"Not at all Commander." Piett replied tightly, wondering not for the first or last time why the boy wasn't dead yet, and when exactly he went from being one of the Empire's most wanted to on first name basis with it's Chief Enforcer.

With a polite nod to Piett and a wordless stare at the Dark Lord that lasted far longer than seemed altogether appropriate, Skywalker nonchalantly opened the connecting door to Lord Vader's private rooms and disappeared inside.

Not daring to move and vividly imagining his to-do list, Piett waited for his commanding officer to break the silence.

"You haven't ever been married, have you Admiral?" The Dark Lord eventually said, staring down at his dented desk and sounding more tired than Piett had ever heard him, even after a particularly prolongued siege which saw him fighting on the front lines for days on end. "No spouses or children?"

Piett shook his head, stomach lurching. "No milord, I've always considered myself married to my commission. A family or anything romantic would just lead to distractions."

The Dark Lord nodded curtly, a strange buzz of static coming from his vocoder that might have been a sigh. "Then you may be a far wiser man than I, Admiral."

Absolutely refusing to consider any of the implications of that loaded statement while within half a ship's length of its point of origin, he wordlessly passed a datapad to his commanding officer and started their belated meeting.

 

***

  

Evidently their disagreement, whatever it was actually about, wasn't resolved. After Piett finished his meeting with Lord Vader the man stalked straight off, supposedly to go interrupt Skywalker's katas. He had no idea what a kata was, but he was desperately hoping for it to be some strange Jedi ritual and none of the other things his brain was currently coming up with.

By this point Piett was resigned to regularly receiving new and incriminating datapads from his blushing assistant. Over the next three days he received no less than five reports of altercations between them, one culminating in minor property damage, and two of them devolving into more screaming matches in Huttese.

The fifth and final public altercation apparently took place just after dinner hour. It was in another language altogether that no one present recognised, and ended quite abruptly when Skywalker burst into tears right in the middle of the observation lounge turned battlefield. By all accounts Lord Vader had just stood there frozen for a good minute or so, seeming to have absolutely no idea what to do, before tentatively placing a hand on the sobbing Rebel's head. Said Rebel proceeded to throw himself into the Dark Lord's arms - the two bystanders were very impressed he didn't give himself a concussion on all the armour plating and control panels, but did credit it at last partially to Jedi reflexes - and sniffled into his tabards until the Dark Lord carried him off, presumably to his (their?) quarters.

In the wee hours of the ship's morning they were spotted by a lone mechanic working together on Lord Vader's TIE Advanced, waist deep in ship parts and covered in engine grease. Later that day the Quartermaster passed along a requisition order in Lord Vader's name for an additional TIE Advanced, shipped brand-new straight from the Kuat Shipyards, and Skywalker was once more smiling brighter than a sun.

Chapter Text

After that final, mystifying confrontation, Lord Vader and Skywalker weren't seen arguing anymore.

Piett was surprised by just how disconcerted he was by the silence.

Because they were still seen together with some regularity, walking through the endless corridors of the Executor and spending time in the hangars working on their matching TIEs, even making more joint appearances on the bridge.

They just did it all without talking.

Not out loud at least, and now Piett was certain there was some kind of mental communication going on. He tried to imagine what it would feel like having anyone constantly in his mind like that, let alone the undoubtedly overwhelming presence of Darth Vader, and had to restrain a shudder.

To his complete dismay, Skywalker had also started roaming the ship unaccompanied while Lord Vader was busy with meetings.

The first time he'd seen the Rebel sitting nonchalantly in one of the mess halls eating lunch by himself (with every person in the room trying and failing to look like they weren't staring) he'd panicked, only just stopping himself from ordering the boy to be apprehended, and sent a discrete comm to the Dark Lord instead. But upon hearing back from Lord Vader he'd just been told to allow Skywalker full access to wherever he pleased as long as he behaved himself, and that he was to be notified immediately if he wasn't.

Even the Officers Lounge, usually a quiet sanctuary, was buzzing. Piett tried his best to drown out the sound of his officers sealing their collective - and inevitably messy - fates over expensive spirits from a hundred different worlds, but with even General Veers loudly holding court in the corner like a haughty prophet of the end times he wasn't entirely successful.

In the two weeks - and stars had it really been almost a month since Skywalker had come aboard - since The Bridge Incident, it seemed the gossipmongers had moved on from the idea of Skywalker being engaged to Lord Vader (to Piett's resignation it was now widely regarded as fact) to how in the nine Corellian hells such a situation could have happened in the first place.

A few overly frivolous outliers were convinced that it was a forbidden love born on the battlefield, but the most common theory was that it was an arranged marriage gone pear-shaped.

Lieutenant Umatii, more twitchy than usual but clearly becoming increasingly invested in his current assignment, had gotten half way through an enthusiastic explanation of a theory involving a now destroyed Elder House of the Old Republic, a political kidnapping, and Lord Vader's quest to reclaim his stolen (and presumed dead) fiancé, when Piett reached his limit. He'd had to ask the young man to leave just so he could sit down by himself in the quiet of his office, and forlornly remember a time when his day wasn't full of so much speculation on his commanding officer's theoretical love life.

 


***

 

Later that day while Lord Vader was in a particularly long holomeeting with the Emperor, Piett stumbled across Skywalker in the aft observation deck. Upon reflection he was pretty sure it was the same one that had been the site of the last argument the pilot had had with the Dark Lord, and tried not to read into it.

Skywalker was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of one of the large, full length viewports, half-cape discarded in a messy pile of black Onderan silk on the floor next to him, staring out into space and looking more shaken than Piett had ever seen him. Not wanting to intrude but wanting even less to be held accountable by Lord Vader if the boy was in distress, Piett walked cautiously up behind him.

"Is everything alright Commander?"

"The slicers finished their decryptions last week." He said dully, still staring unblinkingly at the stars. "The frequencies were finally traced and apparently the order for my capture and interrogation came from 'unknown but highly placed persons' within the Rebel Alliance. Though I guess you know that already."

Piett did know that already, had known before the boy found out this morning, but he didn't think that was what Skywalker needed to hear right now. "That can't be an easy thing, to be betrayed by your comrades."

Skywalker shook his head. "It wasn't a betrayal, not exactly. A lot of them haven't trusted me since…since Bespin." He fell silent, flexing his gloved right hand. Piett remembered from one of his reports that it was the one he'd lost in the duel with Lord Vader on Cloud City. "I couldn't exactly explain what actually happened, how I got away. Not in a way they were satisfied with at least. Things started to feel strange after that, and no matter what I did they just kept looking at me like I wasn't - wasn't one of them anymore."

Piett was surprised by how much inexplicable sympathy he felt for the Rebel. He might not understand the appeal of being involved with such a ragtag group of violent insurrectionists, but he did understand loyalty, knew what it was like to give everything you were to a cause greater than yourself. To have that thrown back in your face, by people you trusted no less, was the ultimate insult.

"Well, were you intending to betray them?" Piett asked.

Skywalker stared up at him in horror. "Of course not!"

Piett allowed himself a small shrug. "Then you're not guilty of whatever they were accusing you of. You can't change people's minds for them when they're set in their ways, all you can do is know what you need to do and just get on with it."

The boy sighed. "That's that problem, I'm not sure what it is I'm supposed to be doing right now. Everything's changed, and it's only going to get stranger from here. I guess I'm still not used to my choices having so many consequences for other people. Force, I used to be a moisture farmer, and then I was with the Rebellion, and now I guess I'm with Vader. It feels like the fate of the galaxy is on my shoulders sometimes."

"I'm sure it's not quite as bad as all that Commander." Piett said dryly, but not unkindly. "The galaxy has a way of enduring regardless of what any of us do. It's true you've gotten yourself right in the thick of it, but I have every confidence that it will continue to spin on with or without your valuable assistance."

Skywalker burst out laughing at this wry observation, smiling warmly up at Piett with more fondness than he could remember anyone directing at him in recent memory.

Eventually the laughter subsided but the warmth remained. "Thank you Admiral. I think I needed to be reminded of that."

Piett smiled back, not entirely sure why he felt so accomplished about reassuring a Rebel through his crisis of faith but unable to pretend otherwise. "It was my pleasure Commander."

"Please just call me Luke." Skywalker said, scrunching up his nose. "I know Vader gets cranky about it but I really don't like all the formality."

Piett did not want to think about the Dark Lord being 'cranky' at him for any reason at all, let alone the perceived disrespect of someone who was clearly important to him, but was ultimately helpless in the face of the charming boy's good mood. "Very well then Luke."

Luke was about to say something when his head shot up, looking back over his shoulder and past Piett to the entrance. "In the interest of continuing the spirit of full disclosure, you should know that we're about to have a visitor."

"I beg your pardon?"

The question was barely out of his mouth when the door open and Lord Vader swept inside, the loud hiss of his respirator suddenly seeming to fill up the entire room. Piett immediately snapped to attention, surprised with how relaxed his posture had gotten while talking with Luke without him even noticing.

The Dark Lord strode over to them and joined the unlikely pair at the viewport.

"Admiral."

Piett gave him a short bow. "Lord Vader. I trust your meeting went well. Any new orders from the Emperor?"

"None that you need be concerned with Admiral. We are to proceed as scheduled to the Gorse system to reinforce security of the mining facilities and supply lines for the Emperor's latest project. The fleet has already been informed, and we will be making the jump in two hours once some minor repairs to the Adjudicator are complete."

Apparently finished with the discussion the Dark Lord turned his attention to pilot sitting at their feet, hands on his hips and clearly looking down at the boy with no small amount of disapproval for his lack of decorum.

"Luke."

"Ipa." Luke said playfully, still not bothering to stand up from the space he'd claimed on the floor.

Lord Vader jerked and a nearby light fixture exploded in a shower of sparks. Piett wondered what exactly the boy had just said to illicit such a reaction.

Luke just giggled softly under his breath.

"I see you're in better spirits than you were this morning." The scariest man in the Empire grumbled, visibly annoyed but apparently fine with being teased if it was by Luke Skywalker.

"The good Admiral was kind enough to give me some much needed perspective." The boy said with a grin, finally standing up and stretching like a lothcat. Even like this, his raised arms barely reached past the top of the Dark Lord's head. "Come on, you promised to help me with my katas. I could do with the workout to take my mind off things."

"Yes I did." Lord Vader confirmed. "And after my talk with the Emperor we have much to discuss about the future young one."

 "Yeah, yeah." Luke sighed, rolling his eyes.

As they said goodbye and left, Piett could only think of two things. The first was wondering when Luke would realise that he'd left his half-cape on the floor of the observation deck, and secondly, just what was a kata? Stars above, please let it be a damned Jedi thing.


***


Later on while thinking on his strange encounter with Luke, Piett was surprised to realise how much he had genuinely enjoyed the younger man's company. After years of Imperial restraint and backstabbing, someone with such a sweet, open nature was a breath of fresh air. He quietly wondered if maybe that was at least part of Luke's appeal to Lord Vader, in whatever capacity they were involved with each other. As far as Piett could tell the strange boy was utterly unafraid of the Dark Lord, and he wondered if having someone treat him like he was a person was refreshing.

Some swore that Lord Vader was a droid, or some kind of evil spirit summoned by the Emperor himself to enact his will upon the galaxy and strike down his enemies. Personally, Piett was pretty sure he was just a man. An angry, incredibly terrifying man in possession of unknowable powers, but considering the sociopolitical landscape and hierarchy of the Empire odds were good that he was most likely human, or at least near-human.

Piett wasn't sure if that made him more or less intimidating.

Standing on the bridge next to his commanding officer as he stood in his customary place staring out at the stars, and inwardly cursing the stealthy looks his crew were shooting in their direction when they thought he wasn't looking, he decided it didn't really matter either way. Whether Lord Vader was a droid, a ghost, a human or a Twi'lek dancing girl was utterly irrelevant, he was still going to kill them all.

Suddenly, Lieutenant Umatii interrupted their discussion on the latest training reviews of the Stormtroopers by scurrying down the central walkway towards them, face flushed and gasping for breath like he'd been running. "Lord Vader, Admiral Piett. I'm terribly sorry to disturb you, but it's about Commander Skywalker."

The Dark Lord's head swung around, and with a sinking feeling in his stomach Piett heard the tell-tale creak of leather as his fists were clenched tightly.

"What exactly seems to be problem Lieutenant?" Lord Vader asked, voice colder than Hoth.

"I think he's gone sir." Umatii panted, and the bridge was plunged into silence. "No one had seen him for a few hours and I didn't think anything of it because he's usually in his rooms this time of day. But then one of the mechanics mentioned that he'd been in the main hangar with Commander Skywalker finding him a replacement hyperwrench, when a pair of Stormtroopers came to escort him to a meeting room to speak with you. But I knew you'd been here since the beginning of the S-shift and wouldn't have sent for him like that, and it seemed peculiar."

Lord Vader had frozen, the temperature in the room plummeting even further until Piett could feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. Clearly unsure what to do, Umatii continued rambling.

"After that I checked the registry and no-one had booked or used any meeting rooms for that hour. But twenty minutes later a small shuttle, which had docked approximately an hour before to audit some of our electrical systems, had taken off early without filing all the necessary paperwork for leaving before completing a work order. Security footage showed just the two technicians boarding the shuttle with a large crate. I have no conclusive evidence of whether they had the Commander or not, but the timing was very suspicious."

The Dark Lord was looking off into the distance, head tilted like he was trying to hear something far away. When he finally spoke again, his voice was dripping with such furious malice and panicked fear that Piett unconsciously took a step back.

"They've taken him. Skywalker is gone."

Chapter Text

Piett hadn't realised how much the ship had changed in the wake of Skywalker's arrival until he was suddenly gone.

With him now missing not only was the excited gossip absent, but the Dark Lord's murderous rage - which now he thought about it had been strangely absent ever since Skywalker had woken up in the medbay - was back in full force. Already he'd lost two stormtroopers and a Captain, all for relatively minor infractions.

The crew were walking on eggshells. And if they'd thought the hunt for Skywalker had been tense the first time around, this time it was positively frantic.

Half a day after Luke's capture Piett was going over navigational charts with Lord Vader in his office when the other man suddenly dropped the datapad he was reading. As Piett watched on in shock the huge man took a hesitant step back, shaking his head.

"No." He said quietly, before all the loose items in the room were shoved away in a vortex of crackling Force energy. "NO!"

"My Lord?" Piett said, utterly confused and suddenly very worried.

"He's gone." The Dark Lord said, sounding panicked. "I cannot feel him in the Force."

"Does..." Oh. Oh no. He took a breath. "Does that mean he's been killed milord?"

"He is not dead!" The Dark Lord bellowed, though Piett was wary of the note of desperation in his mechanical voice. "He can't be gone, I would have felt it. The very fabric of the universe would have felt the loss of his light."

Not sure if that was meant literally or figuratively, Piett nevertheless decided now was not the time to ask unnecessary religious questions. "What does this mean?"

"It means that unlike the scum who had him last time these kidnappers know how to deal with a captured Jedi." He snarled. "They've put a Force inhibitor on him."

Piett stared. He didn't know something like that even existed. Then something occurred to him.

"Are such devices...common milord?"

Lord Vader stilled, and for nearly a solid minute there was nothing except the harsh, metallic sound of his breathing before he spoke with such coldness Piett felt himself shiver.

"No."

 

***

 

They received the transmission six weeks and eleven dead crew members later.

A communications officer came and stood at attention three feet away from the two of them as they discussed the latest probe droid survey results. "Lord Vader, we just received an encrypted transmission addressed to you. Sender unknown."

"Show me." He ordered, already striding over to the comms station.

The officer hurried to keep up. "As you can see my Lord it has a short audio recording to access the message contents which we think is asking for a password, but it's not any language we have in our databanks…"

"Play the recording Ensign Drask." Lord Vader snapped.

With the push of a button the audio to life. It was poor quality, but the voice speaking was still familiar even though the words weren't.

The Dark Lord sighed in what sounded oddly like relief, shoulders sagging.

"Em vikka." He replied, with the smallest tremor in his voice.

It must have been the right answer because the file opened to reveal a short, pre-recorded video, and in the patchy static of the recording was the very person they'd been trying to find.

Luke was pale and far too thin, with deep bruises under his eyes and an awful grey tone to his skin. Sitting hunched in what seemed to be a tiny storeroom onboard a ship of some kind, surrounded by crates and broken machine parts and wearing old clothes two sizes too big for him, he looked haunted and exhausted.

Around his neck was a thick black collar.

"I'm here, I'm alive, and I didn't want to leave you so don't be upset." He rasped, his voice sounding harsh and like he'd been screaming. "I don't have much time. My friends rescued me from them but we're being followed and they're going to catch up with us soon."

He looked away, and the sound of cannon fire was clear even over the static of the recording. "They don't know I'm making this, and I'm going to transmit it before they know what I'm doing because I - I needed you to know I was ok, you must have been worried sick not being able to sense me." He tugged on the heavy collar in frustration, which now Piett could see had rubbed the skin underneath it raw and bleeding. "The collar cuts me off from the Force somehow and I can't feel you, or anything else, no matter how hard I try." He shuddered. "Feels like I'm cold and half-blind and empty all at once, I hate it. It won't come off either, nothing I've tried has even scratched it, though I don't have a lightsaber anymore so maybe that'd do it."

Piett's heart lurched at the sight of those kind blue eyes welling up with exhausted tears, and he could hear a nearby crewmember muffle a gasp.

"I can't go back to those - those people Ipa, I can't. Please, please come save us. I'll tell you where we are but please, don't hurt my friends. Our promise holds, I'll stay with you willingly, just don't... don't make me have their blood on my hands as well." He took a deep, shuddering breath, then let it all out in a rush. "I'm on the Millenium Falcon and we're just coming up on Kiriast. With the heavy fire we're sustaining there's a good chance we'll be making an emergency landing somewhere nearby. If we actually get away I'll find a way to send anther transmission."

The boy's lips quirked in the ghost of a smile. "Help me Darth Vader, you're my only hope."

The vid ended, and there was dead silence.

"How long ago was this made?" Lord Vader finally asked stiffly.

Eyes wide and making a heroic effort not to stare, the Ensign replied. "Approximately 38 minutes ago milord, assuming it was transmitted directly after the recording was completed."

Lord Vader nodded, before turning to the rest of the bridge crew who had been discreetly trying to get a glimpse of the vidscreen without looking like they were trying.

"Set course immediately for Kiriast." He barked, making everyone jump and scurry into action. "And have all fighter squadrons prepped for launch by the time we arrive to search the area. I want that ship found."

 

***

 

Lord Vader's intuition must have been steering them in the right direction even before they received Luke's transmission, because they were only a few hours away from their destination. Piett spent the trip quietly coordinating with the TIE squadron leaders and keeping an eye on his commanding officer.

Said commanding officer was alternating between staring out of the front viewport, and pacing the length of the bridge's central walkway with an almost visible cloud of barely restrained fury and agitation following along in his wake. If he'd been anyone else Piett would have suggested he have a sit down and a cup of tea to calm his nerves, but despite his strangely protective impulse he kept quiet.

Once they emerged from hyperspace and began sensor sweeps, it quickly became clear that there was an unusual amount of activity around the planet, lending weight to Luke's guess that thanks to the pursuit they'd be making an emergency landing.

In what felt like no time at all the squads had reported back, and Lord Vader was flying down to the surface with what felt like half the stormtroopers on the ship. Piett stayed on the bridge to coordinate the fighter squadrons to keep the enemy ships clearly after the same prize they were off their tracks. He did however keep the feed from the unit Commander's helmet cam active on his datapad to keep an eye on what was happening on the ground.

After finally destroying or running off the worst of the enemy vessels, he glanced back to his datapad and noticed to his surprise that their ground forces had found the Millenium Falcon in a canyon, partially hidden under a rocky outcrop. It looked like a heated battle between the troopers and the unidentified enemies was underway, and Piett realised that the troopers seemed to have set up a perimetre and were actively defending the Rebel ship.

The Commander swung his head around to gesture sharply at his Lieutenant, and Piett was shocked to see Lord Vader standing nearly back to back with none other than the blaster-wielding Rebel Princess Organa while the Wookie Chewbacca was providing cover fire with a lethal looking energy crossbow. It all made sense when he spotted the slight figure of Luke Skywalker hunched behind them with a blaster of his own, apparently determined to aid in his own defense despite the fact he looked dead on his feet and was only standing by the grace of the ship's landing gear he was leaning against.

Before long the remaining attackers were dead, captured or retreating, and the Commander's head swung back to look at Lord Vader. Despite the lack of audio it was obvious that Lord Vader and Princess Organa were arguing, the former looming over the dainty Princess with his hands on his hips, and the later utterly unconcerned and apparently yelling at him while pointing furiously at Luke, who was standing between them and clearly trying to referee with little success.

The Commander seemed to be stuck staring at the unlikely group just as much as Piett was, so they both saw the moment that Luke staggered and nearly collapsed. The only thing that kept him upright was the quick reflexes of the Princess and Lord Vader, who despite still holding a blaster and having sustained an arm injury respectively were now both holding him up, and simultaneously fussing over him and trying to move him away from the other without jolting him too badly.

It was a decidedly unsuccessful venture.

Eventually they seemed to reach a consensus, and the poor boy was lowered gently to the ground instead of being tugged around like a doll, his head leaning against the Princess's shoulder while Lord Vader supported his torso with one gloved hand, and placed the other gently on his face.

The Princess was scowling, clearly trying to work out why the Dark Lord was being so uncharacteristically gentle with her friend. Eventually she snapped something at him, and after a moments hesitation Lord Vader looked up and met her gaze straight on. He must have said something to her, because the next second her face drained of colour and she just stared in open-mouthed horror and shock. She shook her head furiously, holding the unconscious Luke even tighter to her chest, but Lord Vader just nodded and pushed a stray piece of hair behind Luke's ear with that same gentle touch he only ever used on the boy.

Princess Organa's face crumpled, and she buried it in Luke's hair.

The Commander was shaking his head minutely and turning to a Sergeant who despite the full body armour looked just as confused as he must have been.

Piett didn't know what to think.

Trying his best to continue on and do his duty while thinking longingly of his quiet office and nearly empty liquor cabinet, he eventually received a private comm from the Dark Lord.

"Admiral, the mission is complete and we are mobilising to return to the ship. We have some prisoners and I want them all sent directly to the high security cells when we arrive, and a double rotation of guards at all times."

"Very good milord, an escort will be prepared and waiting in the main hangar."

"Additionally, Commander Skywalker is injured, and I want medical to be prepared to receive him as soon as we return."

There was a slight hesitation on the other end of the line, brief enough that most officers would have missed it. Piett didn't.

"I would also like a squad of TIE fighters to escort the Millenium Falcon offplanet once their repairs are complete, and allow them to enter hyperspace unmolested. If they deviate from the approved course then they are to be disabled and bought onboard via tractor beam."

Piett wished he could sigh in resignation. "Yes Lord Vader, as you command."

 

***

 

Much later, after several harried briefings and a particularly terrifying holomeeting with the Emperor (who even while halfway across the galaxy was apparently somehow capable of knocking Darth Vader into the position of second scariest man in the Empire), he found his feet had taken him to the medbay without even realising until he had gotten there. Once inside he walked through to the series of private rooms at the end of the wing which were exclusively for Lord Vader's use.

He'd never dared before, somehow knowing instinctively that his commanding officer would not welcome his presence while he was the closest he ever got to vulnerable, but after everything that had happened he found he needed the reassurance that both the Dark Lord and Luke were ok. He was just in the process of quietly pulling rank on the attending medic to let him in when Luke stuck his blonde head out of the door.

"It's ok Doctor, he can come in."

The medic pursed her lips disapprovingly, clearly annoyed. "Young man, you know full well my orders are for Lord Vader to have complete privacy during any of his medical procedures..."

"Yes I know, but it's Admiral Piett." He said with a shrug, as if that explained everything. "And besides, before Vader was put under he told you that you had to follow my orders, didn't he?"

She glared at him, puffing up and folding her arms across her chest. "I have been Lord Vader's primary physician for many years, and never has anything of this nature been allowed. It is most irregular."

Luke looked like he would have rolled his eyes if he hadn't been so exhausted. Piett looked at the ring of bacta patches around his neck and the deep shadows under his eyes, and wondered at the last time the boy had slept properly.

After fending off the grumpy medic he followed Luke inside, and was immediately witness to the sight of Lord Vader lying down on a very large, very sturdy looking treatment bed while a specialty med droid worked on his damaged left arm. The armour for that limb was removed, revealing a rather old model durasteel prosthetic which had replaced everything from the mid-bicep down. The scant inches of real flesh visible above the join was deathly pale and covered in vivid, angry looking scar tissue, but was surprisingly... human.

"It's ok he's out cold." Luke said, clearly sensing Piett's hesitance to come closer. "Emtoo is replacing the neural plates which got damaged during the rescue, and you can't be conscious while they're being fitted or it botches the relay connection."

The boy sat down at a chair he'd obviously dragged in from the main section of the medbay and set up to the right of the Dark Lord, taking his gloved hand gently in his own.

"Did he sustain any other injuries?" Piett asked, half from genuine concern and half just needing something to distract himself from the strangely disconcerting sight of someone holding Darth Vader's hand.

Luke nodded tiredly. "Yeah, there was damage to some of his synthorgans, and his respirator needed a quick refit. The respirator was taken care of first since it could have been life threatening if it was left, but he's refusing further surgery for now until I'm taken care of, the stubborn old bantha. He's only allowing this much because it's fast and I refused to go into bacta until it was done."

"Well that's a small victory at least." Piett said, marveling at both the sheer nerve of the boy's tactics and also the fact that it worked.

He smiled crookedly. "Misfiring prosthetic neural relays are excruciating, they just keep looping pain signals to your nervous system until they're fixed or replaced. I didn't want him to put fixing it off and just endure it, not when he didn't have to."

Piett thought about the several conversations he'd had with the Dark Lord since the injury had been sustained, and how he'd had no idea that his commanding officer was in that kind of pain. He also wondered how often in the past he must have been in a similar situation and not sought prompt medical care, and no one even knew. It made him feel oddly fragile, thinking of the indomitable man in pain and alone.

"Well, I'm glad he's getting the care he needs then." Piett said quietly. "We all think he's superhuman most of the time, it's hard to see him like this."

The droid finished up and left, informing them that Lord Vader should regain consciousness shortly, and left them alone in the silence of the treatment room.

Finally Luke spoke, looking lost. "I - I don't know what I'd do if anything ever happened to him."

Piett smiled softly. "You must really love him." 

Luke smiled like his heart was breaking.

"Of course I do." He said simply. "He's my father."

Piett stared.

"W - what?" He stuttered.

Just.

Stared.

He was in the process of rapidly going through every single interaction he'd ever seen them have and getting ready to kick himself for not working it out sooner, but Luke - his son, nine screaming Corellian hells Luke Skywalker was Darth Vader's son - just kept on talking.

"I know I know, I probably shouldn't considering everything he's done to me, and my friends and the galaxy at large. But despite everything, I can't not. I spent my whole life thinking I was an orphan, looking up at the stars and wishing my father would come back and take me away on adventures. It might not have happened exactly how I'd expected, and Force knows he's not exactly what I expected either, but in the end he really did come back for me." He looked up, meeting Piett's eyes with so much exhausted, burning sincerity that he felt breathless. "As soon as he knew I was alive he chased me, for years. And he didn't give up on me, not once, no matter what I did or what stood in his way. How could I not love him?"

Suddenly everything made perfect, terrifying sense.

"Your father." He said faintly, mind blown and experiencing growing amounts of horror for how incredibly off the mark the entire crew had been (were) about their relationship. "Lord Vader is your father."

Luke blanched. "You mean you didn't know?" He yelped. "But we'd been talking just before I was kidnapped, he said he was going to tell you!"

Piett sighed, once more thinking longingly of his depleted liquor cabinet. "I think he has been a bit distracted Your Highness."

The prince's face immediately screwed up. "Oh please don't start with all that title nonsense, you're as bad as Father."

Dutifully ignoring the slow motion speeder crash that happened in his stomach when Luke Skywalker referred to Darth Vader as 'father' as naturally as if he'd done it a thousand times, Piett coughed awkwardly into his hand. "If you'll pardon my bluntness Your Highness, it isn't nonsense at all. Lord Vader is the Emperor's heir presumptive. Which means that unless His Imperial Majesty has children one day, your father will inherit the throne of the Empire. As his son that makes you the second in the line of succession, and an Imperial Prince."

The impossible boy winced. "I really don't like thinking about that." He pouted, apparently quite inconvenienced by the prospect of ruling all of known space. "I was raised as a moisture farmer, I'm not a prince of anything. Let alone a corrupt, totalitarian dictatorship like the Empire."

Piett stared. "Do you mean you're still loyal to the Rebel Alliance?" He asked incredulously. "Even after they horribly betrayed you? Twice?"

For someone actively denying his royal pedigree, the young prince squared his shoulders and levelled an incredibly regal look at the confused Admiral.

"The actions of misguided individuals do not change my personal morals." He declared. "I am, and will continue to be, dedicated to the cause of the Alliance to Restore the Republic. I intend to see the Senate and democracy reinstated, and the galaxy free from tyranny and oppression, or die trying."

Piett raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "I imagine Lord Vader isn't particularly happy with your political alignment Your Highness."

The prince's shoulders slumped. "No, he certainly is not." He sighed, rubbing his face with his free, non-Sith-holding hand. 

"May I speak frankly Your Highness?" Piett asked quietly after a moment. "And without it being overheard or repeated?"

Prince Luke nodded tiredly. "Yeah of course. There's no recording equipment in here, I already checked."

Piett looked down at his hands where they were clasped in front of him, all the things he'd been thinking and suspecting and really trying not to think about coming to the front of his thoughts. "Was your capture really orchestrated by the Rebels, or was someone else behind it?"

The prince looked surprised, and then he just looked pissed off. It passed quickly, but it was the first time Piett had seen him like this, and it was a far more disconcerting sight than he had anticipated for those blue eyes to be narrowed in anger. He wondered suddenly what Lord Vader's eyes had looked like before whatever injuries had led to him being in that suit, whether he had the same blue eyes that flashed with that same all-encompassing, righteous fury as his son.

"Yes." He said finally. "It was the Emperor. He's the reason for everything."

Piett couldn't stop staring, his mind and his worldview reeling at the implications of that statement.

Prince Luke stared down at the Dark Lord, looking like he was deliberating with himself. Finally he looked up at Piett, expression serious but cautious. "Admiral, my father trusts you. I think you of all people know how rare that is. It was also his plan to discuss this with you at some point in the near future so I feel comfortable in telling you this now: we are going to overthrow the Emperor. Together."

Piett's jaw dropped. He couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"But…but that's treason." He said weakly. "Why?"

"Because he's a monster and he's kept my father enslaved for as long as I've been alive. Because he's the Sith Master who started the Clone Wars, destroyed the Republic and ended countless lives, and he deserves to be held accountable for that. And..." He paused, hand tightening around his father's. "And he's the reason my mother is dead."

For some reason it hadn't yet occurred to Piett that Lord Vader being a father meant that there had to have been a mother involved at some point in the process as well, and it just about more than he could handle right now.

"Can we count on you Admiral?" Luke asked quietly, holding his gaze relentlessly. "When the time comes?"

Piett felt like he was in freefall, so many things had changed in such a short amount of time. But there was only one answer he could give, and he was surprised at how happy he felt to give it.

"Yes of course Your Highness."

The prince smiled, and it was like the sun peeking out from behind clouds. "Thank you Admiral."

Piett smiled and bowed to them, and moved to the door to leave. They were both silent for a few moments, Piett still standing in the doorway, but something holding him back from pressing the button to exit the room. 

"It's going to be difficult, isn't it?" Piett said thoughtfully. "You and your father are so different, and you disagree on so many things. How do you plan to take on the Emperor together?"

"What can I say?" Luke said over his shoulder with a wink. "We're compromising."