Title: Before the Battle

Author: luxadalric

Characters: Firmus Piett, Darth Vader

Rated: T

Summary: Admiral Piett and Lord Vader share a night's watch before the Battle of Endor.

Note: written for the live-journal community fanfic50: #018 Share

The Imperial Navy was quick in dealing out privileges to those of status and rank. Thus Admiral Piett rarely, if never, was on duty during the ship's night cycle.

During nights like this, however, he found the stillness and quiet effectiveness of the night hours quite soothing. As he walked through the corridors and was greeted by the few he encountered, talked to them about current status and works and even private life, he thought to himself that this was probably the reason why he liked the nights so much: here he had a chance to interact with his subordinates, the lower officers and simple mechanics and maintenance staff.

The talks showed him that his worries and uneasiness which had driven him out of his bed this night were not unfounded and even, to a certain degree, shared by others.

Piett found himself a sitting space right by a viewport in one of Executor's many galleys and stared out at the stars, occassionally sipping at his stim-caf. The forest moon of Endor, with its lush green forests and blue sees, was spinning before him in front of the velvety blackness of deep space. He was roused out of his aimless musings quite suddenly by another man entering the galley—or, to be more precise, an entering sound which accompanied that person wherever he went and which always triggered immediate reactions.

Thus, he straightened almost immediately without thought and turned around, not quite believing what he saw.

Darth Vader never—never ever—went to such common places like the galley, crew quarters or other such places where people came together when off duty. It was not that the Sith did not care for his crew's well-being; rather he was simply too formal and reserved for such activities. Besides, Piett thought slightly amused, the crew members would certainly faint if he were to come and join in their evening activities. So, the Fleet Admiral was exceedingly surprised as he watched Vader first hesitate by the door, looking around slowly—the galley was almost empty—and then spotting Piett sitting at the window.

He came over with slow and deliberate strides and Piett straightened even more as he came to his feet to greet his lord properly. "Lord Vader."

Vader gave a brief nod, accompanied by a deep, rumbled "Admiral" and then motioned for Piett to take a seat who promptly complied. Vader himself, however, remained standing, stepping closer to the window and observed the view for a few of his regulated breaths.

Piett watched him closely. He had served the Sith for some years now and knew almost all his moods—the capricious, murderous ones as well as the more contemplative and thoughtful ones. Over the time he had learned and come to rely on reading the Dark Lord's subtle, bordering on almost nonexistant, body language for gauging his mood and feelings. Now, he was not quite sure what to make of this one.

He decided to take it on directly: "Is there anything I can do for you, mylord?"

Another few, uninterrupted breaths. "No, Admiral. I only had the wish to stop by."

To do what? Wish me an enjoyable night?, Piett thought wryly, however voiced nothing of the sort. Vader was quiet again, obviously absorbed in the view before him and seemingly content with the silence.

The admiral felt soon disconcerted about the lack of talking. Normally, Vader was all business, restricting himself and others only to the bare necessity of words; the other time he spent apart from people's company in solitude. This now was different and new: Vader had sort of invaded his space, no business in mind and with no intention of leaving soon. The thought of trying to small-talk with Vader seemed ridiculous to Piett.

So he said what first came to mind and was of some relevance. "Do you think the Rebels will attack?"

The helmet turned slightly in his direction. "The Emperor has foreseen it."

Is this a yes? During the last several years Piett had learned that Vader, while always seeming the loyal and obedient servant, did not always agree on Palpatine's views and orders. This tendency had been even more visible since the events on Bespin where Vader had supposedly, as was rumoured, met and battled Skywalker—and lost.

Was this what bothered him now? Skywalker and his rebel friends? … no, definitely not the Rebels. But Skywalker…? It was undisputable the Dark Lord and Skywalker shared a certain connection, of whatever nature that was. It was proven by the furious determination and single-mindedness that bordered on obsession with which Vader had been searching across the whole galaxy for the would-be Jedi. It was unthinkable that a mere boy from a third-rate desert planet could be a threat to the invincible Vader. Yet, Piett almost could sense the anxiousness that lingered in the air around the Sith. Despite Vader's outward calm and stillness there was a definite uncertainty and anticipation in his aura. Otherwise, he would not have come here tonight, Piett mused.

He found himself urged to say something of a supportive nature. "The fleet is prepared for whatever the Rebels might throw at us."

Now, Vader turned and looked directly at his Admiral. "Of that I am sure. You have done well, Piett. As always."

"Thank you", Piett answered quietly, a little bit flustered. Praise was a rare allowance when coming from the Sith.

"I will leave you now, Admiral. I suggest you take a good night's rest." Vader hesitated, then added: "Tomorrow will see a changed world."

A changed world? Changed in what ways? Surely Vader was not thinking of defeat!

He managed, however, to keep any surprise or horror at Vader's words from showing on his face and merely replied: "I bid you a good night, mylord."

Vader bowed his helmeted head slightly, turned and walked away. Piett's eyes followed him until he had reached the door and went out of the room.

During his last sips of the stim-caf, the long way to his quarters and all the time until he finally laid his head to rest on the soft pillow, he was wondering at Vader's strange words.