Disclaimer: I do not own Anakin or Palpatine and all I am making is amusement.

Authors Note: Torrid Palpatine/Vader romance has only one true dedicatee: Ziggy. This is a thank you for Synergy, which I re-read late last night. Fanfic is just pouring out of me at the moment. Anyway: a tribute to your Vader.

In His Hands

The first time I saw those hands they were by his sides. In the crush of people: Jedi, handmaidens, politicians, and security, I caught for a brief moment the sight of them twitching against blue fabric. His fingers were rubbing across his thumbs, curled into half-fists. I don't know why I remember that – just something curious that caught a child's eye.

My next experience was when those same fingers clamped down on my left shoulder. A few days ago, a slave was dreaming on the Outer Rim, and now the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic was touching my shoulder and smiling down at me. That thought struck me like a shaft of sunlight. If I were capable of laughter, I'd laugh at that thought and that little boy.

Seeing the hands on the holonet was a revelation. It was then, sitting in a class of padawans, that I became aware of their instrumentality. The youngling behind me was chattering, so that the words of the holo were drowned out; all I had was the image, the posture, gracefully held. I knew I wanted to steal that poise; to be able to hold my purpose in my body like the man in the holovid.

In the next few years I saw them on occasion, when they would shepherd me through red corridors and rise languidly into the air to illustrate some philosophical point.

I did not touch them myself for some time yet. In all my years I have never seen him extend them to anyone. Oh, they easily caress the arm or dip between the shoulder-blades, and once they even ruffled my hair, but they are never given to hold. There is a proverb: a man's soul is in his handshake.

No, they were never given – but I have taken them a few times, snatched them from the wings of their drapery and clasped them tight, like pearls inside a clam. He would leave them in my custody then, making no attempt to snatch them away, patiently waiting for me to give them back.

Warm and ripe with age, palms much smaller than my own; the softest I have ever touched, softer even than Padmé's. But then, her hands were fresh and strong. His are hands of power – corrupted by high office; they have gone too long without sunlight, resting in state, existing only as fluid illustrations.

When I saw them bound, a fissure split my heart. That the separatists had shackled the wrists of the Republic and fixed those delicate hands against cold metal… it fired such anger in me.

Then, of course, I discovered that they were not an instruments at all, but a finely calibrated weapon that could rip savagely through the flesh; though to be tortured by them was an honour reserved for only the highest of beings. When servants abound, only the great merit their attention.

But when I was created anew, glazing burnt black in an infernal kiln, raw and suffering as I have never suffered, then white fingers came for me. Gentle. They tendered what remained of my body. What mercy and what viciousness they possessed!

And then it was that I loved and hated those hands. When they would stroke my mechanical breastplate affectionately, or come to settle on what is now only leather and machinery; when I can no longer experience their touch.

Kneeling before the Galactic Sovereign in a dream I might reach for those hands and kiss them reverentially; for though they are the arbiters of my fate, I cannot but cherish them, for alone among my memories they have not abandoned me.

Until now.