Not mine. Written for fun, not profit.

Takes places in the same universe as Inversion (read: Leia the farmgirl, Luke the Alderaanian prince), but can be read on its own.


aggressive negotiations


i.

"You shot the bridge controls, didn't you?"

Leia mutters something that might be Huttese and definitely isn't polite.


ii.

There are plenty of places he wouldn't mind having this argument. A very public corridor on an ice planet isn't one of them, but beggars and princes can't be choosers.

"Of course I'm not surprised," he says levelly. "You've made it very clear that you only stayed long enough to collect your reward."

Han makes an exasperated nose - not quite anger, but getting there. "Then why the hell are you following me, Your Worship?"

"To tell you to say goodbye to Leia, and to clean up your mess in the hangar bay before you leave." He nods crisply and dismissively and wishes that Han were a senator instead of a particularly crass smuggler; he has no idea how to deal with the latter. "Good day, Captain Solo."


iii.

"I believe we can reach some kind of understanding," he says, each word sharp and precise. He is well aware that lives are at stake here - his own and his friends', if not everyone on Bespin. "I've never made a secret of the fact that I'm a member of the Alliance's leadership."

Vader says nothing. His mask makes him impossible to read sometimes, but today it's easy to see the anger and impatience in the set of his shoulders.

He thinks of Alderaan and the people he's lost, and then all the people he can't afford to lose. "I'm more valuable to the Emperor than a starfighter pilot. Whatever you want Skywalker for - "

There are invisible hands around his throat.

"You are worthless to me," Vader hisses.

A moment later the pressure eases up enough for him to breathe in ragged gasps, which is how he knows it's true. He's here as bait, nothing more.

Leia's the only reason he's still alive.


iv.

Jabba laughs; he feels the floor open up under his feet.

("You beat a rancor?" Han says later.

He adopts an expression of dignified serenity, because princes don't get huffy.)


v.

He is Bail Organa's son. The addition of more family - some welcome, some decidedly not - will not change something so fundamental. He tells himself that this explain what he says next; he is an Organa first and foremost and he is doing what ought to be done.

"What if there's something left in Vader?" he asks, and the careful formality he's felt slipping for years falls away completely. "If he knows who we are, then perhaps we can - " And he stops, because he isn't sure what he means to say at all.

"We can what?" Leia snaps.

"Reason with him." Endor seems to swallow his words. "Talk to him. Maybe there's still something good left in him."

He looks at her face, at the anger and resignation engraved on it, and knows before he finishes speaking that she doesn't believe him.