A/N: Also available on my livejournal, where the strikethoughs actually work.

Disclaimer: George Lucas owns Star Wars. I am not making any profit from this work of fanfiction, but I do enjoy a good Sithly creep-out every now and then. :)

He Will Learn

He's so beautiful, I think, watching him pace - no, prowl - around my office, driven by an internal storm of anger and angst, a boil of frustrated feeling that I can't ever remember.

Even as a Sith apprentice, my fury was always cold. I never had this burning furnace inside to fuel me. Always cold fusion.

I've wondered, from time to time, whether Darth Plagueis ever saw me the way I see this wild fury of a boy, but I can't imagine it. The only passion I ever had was hate (though that has proved to be more than enough). And I was - I admit it - certainly never beautiful. If anything, age has improved my looks: at least now I can claim to be distinguished. (It is doubtful whether the boy in front of me will ever be distinguished, but then I can't see what use he would have for it, either: he has the kind of grace that will never grow old, the kind of spark that is eternally young. I wonder, sometimes, if my inability to imagine him as an older man means that he is destined to a brief and bitter life, but in the end it doesn't matter. If he can destroy the Jedi for me, it will be enough and more. What happens after that is mere detail.)

Anakin Skywalker told me once what he had said to the Jedi Council: I burn like a sun inside, He knows himself better than they ever will, and he was right. He was afraid, of course: afraid to hold so much power, afraid he couldn't control it. But the only reason he was afraid was that he thought - he still thinks - he should control it. He is desperately concerned with doing the right thing. To be a Sith Lord, he will have to get rid of this burning, bothersome conscience, and learn to put no restraints on his power. He will have to realize that he has the power to do whatever he wants, and then he will have to learn (from me, someday) the ultimate lesson: might makes right.

In the meantime, his desperation to do the right thing lends even more fierce urgency to his frustration, makes him more tormented every time he fails. Makes him more tormented still when he can't figure out what the right thing is. If Anakin's emotions were a perfume, I'd bathe in them. The boy is absolutely delicious. I'd eat him alive, except I'm fairly certain that cannibalism wouldn't be as enjoyable in the concrete as it is in the abstract. Also, then who would be the heir to the Sith throne? Anakin has a purpose to serve, first.

The fact that I'm looking for an heir suggests that I at some point intend to vacate said throne, but nothing could be further from the truth. I'm sure my master once thought the same. But the life of a Sith allows for so little human contact, and an apprentice is guaranteed adoration and hatred and a ready-made well of feelings, and a competent - or, in the case of the young man before me now, probably a supremely powerful and irresistible - executor of one's will - living will, that is, not last will and testament. Anakin satisfies me and tempts me in ways I had no idea were possible for a man as cold and as long abstinent as myself.

Some day I will have to pluck this fruit, and then the sweet temptation will be over, and the attraction of novelty will be gone, and I will settle into the business of ruling the galaxy by command while my apprentice takes care of its execution. Of that I'm sure. I cannot allow myself the flood of feelings a continued titillation would bring forth. For now, though, I can revel in the sheer power of these feelings, in the hollow effulgence of my own unfulfilled desire.

He does another turn, and I admire his sleek grace. He's muscled like a cat, this one, all lean energy.

Energy is just directed power.

"Can you believe it?" he demands, eyes blazing at whatever injustice he's witnessed this time, and I realize that I've only been listening with half an ear.

Some platitudes suffice for all occasions. "My boy," I say gently, "you must realize that not all beings will share your sense of fairness. And very few of them will pursue it with such passion."

He glows under my oblique praise, pausing in his restless motion, his seething subsiding, just a little. This means that he wasn't really all that wound up to begin with, or that he didn't think it terribly important, because otherwise he would undoubtedly have said, "Well, they should!" with great vehemence. I suspect that his latest grievance must be personal, but not too personal: some perceived slight on the part of the Council to an extremely gifted, highly unstable young man they can't trust because he isn't like them.

The real tragedy of this little drama, if you're inclined to tragedy (and I am), is that the Council has absolutely no reason not to trust young Skywalker, except that their patent distrust is making him wary of them in turn. It is supremely ironic, and I am one of the galaxy's great connoisseurs of irony. If they trusted him, they would have no reason to ever doubt him: he would live and die for them. But because they do not trust him, he serves them with reservation.

In fairness, and so that we do not overstate the drama of the case, their decisions often do not merit the unconditional trust of a truly conscience-driven young man. They often turn a blind eye to suffering, sentient and otherwise, and they have a long and frequently objectionable history of serving a manifestly corrupt Senate. Not that I'm complaining: they are making my job all too easy. In order to woo young Skywalker and all his wrath and glory away from them, I have only to tell the truth. It's a bit novel, for a Sith Lord. Refreshing, really. It's been such a very long time since I have had any use for that particular skill. But the Jedi Council is making it positively necessary. I'd thank them, but I hate them too much.

"I only wish I understood why they don't trust me," Anakin says now, proving my suppositions correct (he's really very predictable; if I were a kinder man, I'd find it an endearing trait).

"My boy," I say, remembering my role in all of this, "you must recall that all beings, even wise" - ha! - "Jedi, tend to fear what they do not understand and cannot control. Your power is something new to them, something they have never had to deal with before. It must be difficult for them to sit there and lecture you, knowing that your powers are already beginning to surpass theirs in certain ways. It makes them feel uncomfortable. And so they will try, harder and harder, to control you. To harness your power for themselves. To make sure you think - and feel only as they instruct you. It is, after all, only natural." Only natural has become my code in these conversations for anything Sith-like, anything the Jedi wouldn't approve, but I don't think Anakin has noticed that yet. Natural still sounds good to him, clean: he has forgotten (or perhaps he never knew) that death is fully as natural as life. Most of the deaths he has experienced have been vicious, violently unnatural ones, so perhaps the boy doesn't have much of a frame of reference.

Never mind. He will learn.