A/N: I had a dream about Vader and Padme the other night, so it inspired me to write a short fic about them. Keep in mind that this is AU.
Background: The Empire has recently been put into place. Anakin/Vader and Padme have never met before.
Disclaimer: Don't own, never will.
Darth Vader was on the prowl tonight.
Although this was a supposedly social gathering, he and many others knew better. Dignitaries, senators, various military personnel, and anyone who was anyone was attending the Emperor's Annual Unification Ball, held in honor of the day of the creation of the Empire, for some, it was more than simply a time to talk and dance. It was more than a social event.
For Lord Darth Vader, it was a hunt. A hunting of several officials who weren't exactly who they claimed to be. Several officials who possibly, most likely had ties to certain rebellious organizations.
All of those tied directly into the underground resistance movement, the Rebel Alliance.
A list of names denoted the likely traitors to the Empire, a list that Vader kept securely in his belt compartment. He'd been running over the list for the past few days, analyzing each suspect. Most of them hadn't come as a surprise. They'd been part of the two thousand that had tried to stop the former Chancellor from gaining more power.
He prowled the room, cloak sweeping behind him, the sound of his unnatural breathing amplified in the crowded grand hall. People avoided him like they avoided a carnivorous predator, doubling their efforts to stay out of his way. Of course, he didn't care one way or the other – among the simpering politicians, nervous or overconfident military officers, stiff, supreme Grand Moffs, and of course, the seductive palace girls, he honestly didn't care if any of them lived or died. They were insignificant in the grand scheme of things. They had their uses… well, some of them, anyway.
His first target: Fang Zar. The old man had long been a member of the Delegation of Two Thousand and a persistent irritant in the Senate. It had been difficult to trace any connections directly to any blatant traitorous activity, but the Emperor had recently decided that the Delegation would be declared traitors to the Empire. Vader had not been displeased.
He spotted the old man talking with the beautiful young Chandrilian senator Mon Mothma, another suspected Rebellion aide. When Zar saw him, he swallowed, and his eyes widened. Vader took in the man's fearful emotions as he slowed his pace and drew to a halt in front of them. Zar swallowed again and nodded shakily. Mon Mothma, to her credit, continued to look nonchalant and held that typical "Senator" expression Vader hated so much.
"Lord Vader," she said respectfully, folding her hands together. "May I help you?"
"Perhaps," Vader said icily. "I understand you and Zar have just returned from a meeting on Alderaan."
Mothma didn't move or show any emotion. Zar, however, paled. That meeting, Vader knew, was supposed to have been a secret. "Indeed. A meeting of old friends," Mothma informed him. "Our good friend, Senator Organa, recently lost his sister to a foreign illness. As his friends, we were of course there to comfort him."
"Indeed," said Vader darkly.
"What, exactly, are you implying?" Zar demanded, trembling even further.
"I am implying nothing," Vader snapped. "I merely came to inform you that the Emperor wishes to speak with each of you. Personally. I would advise you to be careful of your… friends." And with that chilling warning, he turned around and strode away, leaving the two Senators to dread the coming days.
Vader felt even more satisfied after he had delivered similar warnings to the others on the list. The last he met with was his least favorite: Bana Breemu. The woman stared up coyly at him through thick (probably fake) eyelashes.
"I don't know what you are talking of, My Lord," she purred. Her slinky satin dress shone gold in the light. But instead of looking elegant, the ensemble was cheap and unattractive.
"You will," he said shortly, storming away from her outstretched, clawed hands. Enough of her. He decided to make his way around the halls, keep an eye on the suspects, and slowly paced the grand hall and adjoining ballrooms.
While passing through a quieter connecting corridor, he moved past an open doorway. Normally, he would have not even bothered to look into the doorway, but something caught his senses.
It was so… refreshing. So fragrant. Like summer lilies in a dewy field at dawn. Vader halted. Glanced against his better judgment into the doorway. And simply stared at the vision before him.
She was standing, her back to him, some paces away on a balcony overlooking the city. Her sleek, backless dress trailed down to her feet and billowed out in shades of silver and white behind her with the wind. He watched, entranced, as she reached up to her elegantly coiffed hairstyle, pulled at the pins with delicate fingers, and yanked the hair free. It tumbled down in long, luxurious, silken curls down her back, fluttering out in the breeze.
Vader's breath grew abruptly ragged. He swallowed and tried to control his furiously beating heart. He wanted to look away. He had to look away. She was just a girl… no. A woman. He hadn't even seen her face.
Against his better judgment, his master's teachings, and everything in him, he took a step closer, up to the doorway. But his breathing – his cursed breathing – alerted the angel to his presence.
She stiffened, turned sharply to face him.
Vader sucked in a breath.
Those eyes. Those brown eyes.
Brown eyes were by no means an unusual color for human females, but her eyes…
A brilliant mix of chestnut, hazel, amber, and chocolate… mixed with an intense blaze of passion, determination, and shining light.
They were the most incredible eyes he'd ever seen.
Her lips parted as she faced him – in shock, perhaps – but to his astonishment, he detected no fear in those brown eyes. Surprise... maybe. But an even more determined light shone there.
Then, his world turned upside down when she said: "Hello."
Not "Lord Vader!" or "How do you do, My Lord?" No preening or false pretense, no overly exaggerated pleasantries. Just a simple, plain, "hello."
He'd never heard anything so refreshing in his life.
"Hello," he greeted in his deep timbre.
There was a small silence between them until she looked away from him and up to the stars. Her eyes glittered, and a small, dreamy smile appeared on her face. "They're beautiful, aren't they? Like crystal lights. Or wishes of fire."
Crystal lights? Wishes of fire? Who was this woman?
"I hardly know," he said, surprised. He took another step towards her. Then another. He was now on the balcony, but only a few feet away from the doorway. He wasn't sure whether to leave or… or stay.
"Let's pretend," she said suddenly. "Let's pretend that for one night, for one moment, neither of us is who we are. Let's say..." She turned again and leaned back on the railing. "I'm a daring smuggler off the southern rim, and you…" She looked at him. "Who are you going to be?"
He didn't know what to say, just stared at her. "I…" He halted, uncertain for the first time in his life.
Her eyes glittered in amusement. He should have been annoyed, irritated, furious even, but he was too distracted by the way the lights from the stars and city glistened in her eyes.
"All right," she said with a smile. "I'll make something up. You're… a pilot."
"That isn't very interesting," he said before he could stop himself.
She grinned. "Fine. A racer pilot. One of the best. You've just won the Metellos World Trophy, but you want more gritty races. Like in the outer rim. That's how we met."
He folded his arms over his chest. "Indeed." Although it came out in a cynical tone, he couldn't help but be intrigued. She was young... under twenty-five, most likely. Not too much younger than he.
But she didn't look taken aback or deterred by his tone, just nodded. "Yes. Let's say… you needed a certain part for your ship. But it wasn't legal. So you had me smuggle in the part and agreed to give me a share of the winnings."
"I highly doubt I would hire a smuggler for an illegal ship part."
She laughed, and curls fell into her eyes. She tossed her head to shake them away and pushed herself off the stone wall, taking a step towards him. He froze, unable to move, think, plan… he could only feel.
"But that's why," she said playfully, "it's called pretending."
His breath was the only sound for a second. Then, he said grudgingly: "Very well." His arms fell to his sides. "So… if we met in the outer rim, how did we end up here?"
What was he doing? He wasn't actually… playing her little game, was he? Lord Darth Vader of the Sith, second in the entire galaxy only to the Emperor himself, playing a pretend game with some girl.
The angel with brown eyes.
This was ridiculous.
But he couldn't tear himself away.
"Good question!" she said. "Perhaps we joined forces because you won so far above everyone else that you decided to keep me as a personal smuggler to help you if you ever needed a certain part. Or maybe we went our separate ways and just happened to be at the same place at the same time."
"Destiny?" Vader said wryly.
She grinned again. "Destiny. You don't believe in it?"
"But, of course," she added, "If I were a daring smuggler, I probably wouldn't believe in all that hokey destiny stuff. But if you were a brave, undefeated pilot known around the galaxy, you probably would, and maybe you'd try to convince me."
"Why do I have the feeling that it would be difficult to change your mind about anything?" he said in sudden dry amusement. He couldn't believe it. He was actually bantering with her. And he still didn't know her name.
Not that it mattered.
She laughed again and said sheepishly: "It's one of my worst faults, I'm afraid. Stubbornness and I go together like sun and earth. Can't have one without the other."
"I've been told something similar," he admitted.
She tilted her head to one side and regarded him with a more serious, thoughtful expression. "Perhaps the smuggler and the pilot are more alike than one would think."
"I doubt that," he said, retreating somewhat into his familiar dark shell.
She just gazed at him, still unafraid of his coldness. "Let's say," the brown –eyed woman said softly, "that the pilot and the daring smuggler were so different that no one and nothing could change them. What was the one thing that kept bringing them together?"
"I don't know," he said coldly.
She smiled gently, her brown eyes warm. "Destiny."
The two regarded each other for another moment of silence, until he said in a more quiet voice, as quiet as his could get: "It's only pretending."
She nodded slowly. "Only pretending." To his unexpected dismay, she moved to leave, brushing past him. Her scent invaded his senses.
Before he realized what he was doing, he turned and reached for her. "Wait." His giant gloved hand touched her bare shoulder.
She stopped, dead still, and tilted her head towards his direction, but not fully, so she still wasn't looking at him. Uncharacteristically uncertain, he pulled away regrettably.
But why was he uncertain? He was Lord Darth Vader. High Commander of the Empire. He could do anything he wanted, say anything he wanted, and there was no one, besides the Emperor, who could say anything about it.
So why did he hesitate now, in front of this slip of a girl?
She didn't speak, drifted away from him. But when she reached the doorway, she turned around and faced him. "See you 'round, pilot," she said with a sudden mischievous gleam in her eyes. Before he could reply, she slipped away and disappeared around the corner.
Vader stood there for a long time, wondering if he'd imagined the whole thing. He shook his head, clearing his mind of wayward thoughts, and decided to never think of her again. He had a mission to accomplish. His master would want to know his progress. But for some reason, his hunting senses were more reluctant as he returned to the grand ballroom.
His masked gaze swept over the room's hundreds, maybe even thousands of occupants, irritated and restless. He continued pacing throughout the room, more unfocused than before, and more agitated.
Until he caught a flash of silver and white out of the corner of his eye, far across the room. Instinctively he turned, his distracted gaze now sharp and searching for a particular person. He moved through the crowd towards the spot where he'd seen the familiar gauzy fabric. But when he reached the spot, she was not there. Taller than many of the humanoids there, he looked around to see where she'd gone. He almost missed her – but when he caught another flash of silver, he found her talking with… with, oh, Force – Bail Organa and Mon Mothma. Two of the most suspected Rebel sympathizers, most likely connected with the Alliance as well.
But that didn't stop him. Maybe she and stubbornness went together like sun and earth, but he and she were as different as day and night, sun and rain. And even more different, if she were connected with suspected Rebels.
But he continued on the same. His hunting instincts had returned, even more vibrant and purposeful... but in an entirely different way. He needed to find her. He needed to see her.
He needed her.
When Mon Mothma and Organa saw him coming, they stiffened simultaneously and started murmuring in lower voices to the angel, who was, for the most part, facing away from him. As he approached them, she turned to face him. She looked surprised for a split second but quickly covered that surprise.
"Lord Vader," Organa said stiffly, "what a pleasure… again. May I introduce Senator Padme Amidala of Naboo?"
Vader didn't even look at him. She wore an insufferable "Senator" mask and gazed up at him calmly, the picture of elegance. Her wild, untamed locks were smoothed back in that detailed hairdo.
But her eyes… those brown eyes were glittering.
She reached out a hand, and Vader bent over it, internally savoring the feel of her small, light hand in his, even if he couldn't actually feel her skin. He imagined it would be smoother than he anticipated.
"Good evening," he rumbled, and added in a much lower voice, "Smuggler."
Neither Bail nor Mon Mothma understood why in the Emperor's name Vader called her that… or why Padme's eyes were shining.
The End... Maybe.
OK, I know they were a little OOC. You probably think that she would've been much more hostile towards him - after all, he IS Darth Vader. But I'm making her character a little different in this... she's determined, headstrong still, but a little more lively and daydreamy, I guess you could say. Starry-eyed. She's not there to fight. And she saw an opportunity to maybe find out more about the man behind the mask. :)
I'm not sure if this is going to continue... depends, I suppose. It really can be a oneshot.