He knows the look on her face when she turns away from the plasteel viewing port.
There are no tears, because this sort of tragedy can know no tears, but her eyes are red-rimmed and her fury echoes through the sudden, black absence of life in the Force with hot, roiling waves.
He would smile, if he could, at the familiarity of it. At the futility of it.
“Take her away,” the Grand Moff Tarkin says, and Vader nods, seizing her shoulders and hauling her bodily out of the room.
She’s tiny, but her fury is still echoing around them, a pit of red in the Force that had been completely black for a few blessed seconds, and it’s once he’s got the familiar presence of several troops of the 501st around them that he realizes something very important about Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan.
“You’re angry,” he says once they’re in the relative privacy of the corridor. He reaches out deliberately through the Force, tasting her ire and testing it, wondering at its raw power.
“You’re damn right I’m angry!” the girl snarls, shrugging free of his grip and rounding on him. Her fist doesn’t even come near him before he’s got her held tightly with the Force, and he can feel her pushing against his hold with both body and the Force, and he wonders.
She should have been found, been broken by the Inquisitors or made into one of them, but here she is in all of her glorious passion. How?
He’s not sure it matters. Her eyes, still dry, still red-rimmed, still glinting with a fury that fills the spaces between them, are almost familiar.
It’s an absurd thought. The memories that well up are shocking and unkind in their intensity, and he drops her. Instead of taking the opportunity to hit him, she just crosses her arms over her chest. “Well?” she demands. “No platitudes? Threats? Are you going to torture me some more, Lord Vader?”
Vader ignores her, because he has some idea that this will be the thing that infuriates her the most, and turns to the Commander standing patiently next to him. “Tarkin wants this one executed,” he says, and the commander salutes and presses the button to open the lift doors again. Once they’re left alone with only one guard, Vader pushes the button to indicate his private quarters.
She glares, and he probes her, finding nothing but the walls of steel he’d found before, even amid the fury that must be consuming her for him to feel it so strongly. He feels strangely content, for all that she’s the strongest Force-sensitive he’s encountered in at least two decades.
She has familiar eyes, he thinks again, and this time he lets the painful memories pour through him, twisting in the agony of their emotions and letting his own remembered betrayal mingle with hers until he’s certain she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t consumed with this sort of fury.
No matter where he goes in the Empire, his quarters are always spacious, exorbitant. Ironic, really, that he has the sort of outrageously luxuriant accommodations that he’d only ever imagined as a child, only to be unable to enjoy them in any way.
He hopes that the girl will think the rooms suitable, because she’s going to be trapped in them for as long as the Emperor insists that he continue this asinine inspection, and for now, with the memories as fresh as raw wounds, he needs to meditate.
“Stay here, or someone will see that you are executed in actuality, no matter how clever my commander may be in arranging otherwise.”
“You can’t just keep me here!” she snaps, and he feels the burn and twist of tender flesh and unused muscles trying to smile.
“Until you have learned to stop me, little one, I can do whatever I like with you,” he replies.
The hiss of the hyperbaric chamber closing her away is not quite enough to drown out her answering snarl of “What’s that supposed to mean, anyway?”
He slips into meditation, where her furious glare slides into the softer curl of Padme’s smile, and no matter how he tries to direct the Force, he can’t get away from the similarities.
The room is larger than any room she’s ever occupied, and she’s not naive enough to think that maybe hers have been particularly small. There’s a bed laid out with pillows and synthsilk covers like something out of a more adult-geared holovid, and a well-apportioned kitchen complete with fresh foodstuffs from dozens of worlds.
A sitting area is just adjacent to the pod that Vader had inured himself within, and she avoids that in her pacing. Of all that she has experienced in the last few days, for some reason the sensation of his hand on her shoulder as they both watch Alderaan be destroyed is the worst of all, because she can’t shrug off a lingering sensation, the sense of him touching her clinging to her as tangibly as the anger that seems to ebb and flow as she remembers over and over the betrayal of Governor Tarkin.
She’s always known the man was scum; he’d never made any point of hiding it, and her father had always enjoined her to avoid him at all costs when she attended any functions he was at.
And Vader-- well. He got called “Lord” out of courtesy and out of fear, but everyone knew he was only good for following orders, that the Emperor sent him out to terrify people but he hardly ever did anything on his own terms.
That thought stops her short, and she wonders if that means that it’s the Emperor who’s decided she’s meant to live.
Her heart thuds hard in her chest when she thinks of having to face the emperor and his Inquisitors: she’ll never be able to keep the Rebellion safe from them. A better fate would be to break out and let Tarkin find her and have her killed directly.
She likes the idea, when it occurs to her, that the emperor will be displeased with Tarkin if that happens.
Maybe he’ll even have the man killed.
The only thing that would be better would be to kill him herself. The thought should horrify her, but the man was a monster.
He’d just watched while millions of people were killed in all of a heartbeat, and the emperor having him killed couldn’t happen to a more deserving man.
She tries the door again, out of form, and wishes she had a droid with her, or a competent slicer, or even a spanner or a tool that she could use to force the door open. When wishing doesn’t do her any good, and when she accidentally tears a fingernail trying to get at the lock with her bare hands, she settles back on her heels and regards the door with no small amount of frustrated irritation.
She hears the hiss of the pod as it opens again and elects to ignore it, right up until she can feel Vader’s hand on her shoulder again, somehow a perfect reflection of the echo she’d been feeling before.
“I did tell you not to leave,” he says, and she tips her head back to scowl at him, though there’s no way to tell whether it’s working or not with that omnipresent mask between them.
“And you expected me to just listen?” she demands, huffing out a furious breath. “Why you--”
His laughter, huffed in time to the respirator and badly warped by the vocoder on the mask, startles her mid-sentence, and she freezes.
“You’re still so angry,” he says, and his hand moves from her shoulder to her hair, just the brush of gloved fingertips across her scalp, and she shivers.
“You just stood there and made me watch while that, that, that bastard murdered an entire planet!” she exclaims, scrambling back to her feet so she can face Vader head on. “You think I’m going to be grateful just because you decided to disobey his next orders and keep me locked up in your little pleasure palace here? I would rather rot than live here as your little pet.”
“You want revenge,” Vader replies, and his hand strokes firmly across her head this time, doing nothing to dispell the sensation that he wants to keep her here like a pet. “You want to kill Tarkin, and me, and the emperor himself for all the pain they’ve given you.”
That all seems truly obvious, so she ducks her head to throw him off of her and then storms across to the viewport on the other side of the room.
It’s a mistake, because the debris from the destruction of her home is still floating past, a silent testament to the evils of the men her Rebellion is fighting.
“I can help you,” Vader says.
“Help me?” Leia demands. “Do you think I’m crazy? What kind of help could you possibly--”
“I can teach you all you need to know to destroy Tarkin, and the emperor, and even me, if that is what you wish,” Vader says, completely nonsensically.
“You definitely think I’m crazy, if you think I’m going to believe you’ll teach me how to kill you.”
“We can start right now, if you like,” Vader says, ignoring her outburst. She felt a sudden desire to stomp her foot and shout some more, but her father had told her even when she was an age where that sort of reaction might be expected that it was unbecoming of a girl of her station.
“I’m not starting anything with you,” she snarls, and he laughs again, this time no less startling than the time before.
“You’re still angry,” he repeats, and then both of his hands are resting on her shoulders again. She wants to shrug him off, but that hasn’t worked, and she wants to punch him, which didn’t work either.
“You keep saying that,” she says. “Like it means something. “
“For you, little one,” he says, pausing to let the rasp of his respirator punctuate his words, “It means power.”
He tries to think of something more to say, to sway her, but before he can put words to any argument, she whirls on him, displacing his grip and staring up at him with defiance and determination, the set of her chin and the spark in her eyes that same painfully familiar expression that has haunted him for decades.
“And I can kill that scum Tarkin?”
“You can have revenge for every wrong done to you, little one, and more. The power to bring about the Empire you would see for the universe, you and your little band of Rebels, or to break it apart.”
Her lip disappears between her teeth in a brief, breathless moment of vulnerability, and then she nods. “What’s the worst that can come of this, anyway?” she asks, more of the universe at large than of him.
He doesn’t answer, taking the opportunity presented by her somewhat unexpected acquiescence and turning her back to the plasteel she’d been gazing at. The planet is floating around them, an asteroid belt to all appearances, except for the occasional piece of crust large enough to identify a building or landmark from this distance.
“This all should have been yours, Princess,” he says, and lets his fingers trace the ridges of her spine through her dress. “But instead, you will have the galaxy.”
She laughs a little, disbelieving. “I wish I could believe that,” she replies. “But I have no doubt that you are as trustworthy as the company you keep, Lord Vader.”
He feels the laugh in his diaphragm, the movement of the muscles foreign and painful, the way it fights his ventilator almost terrifying in the way it promises his demise.
He refuses to control the sensation.
“Very well,” he says. “We shall begin now. What do you know of the Force?”
“Jedi use it,” Leia answers promptly. “Like General Kenobi, who fought in the Clone Wars.”
The matter-of-factness of her response, as much as the content, sends a stab of sharp pain into him, an emotional wound suddenly reopened that he’d long since thought mostly scarred over. A memory to be pulled apart when pure hatred eludes him, and nothing more.
He has no idea how she can tell she has elicited such a foolish reaction from him, but she does, whirling in a rush that brings her close to his chest, her hands, small and smooth coming up to rest on his chest. “Lord Vader?” she asks, her voice both concerned and calculating. “Do I need to call anyone?”
“Would you?” he asks, mastering the pain with the ease of long practice. “If I did.”
“I…” she ducks her head down, and from this angle he can see the startling length of her eyelashes outlined against her cheek. “I want to say I would, but I don’t know.”
He indulges in the urge to touch her again, to tilt her chin back up so she’s looking directly into his eyes.
There is compassion there, and he regrets, for just a second, that his training will one day destroy that spark.