"Despite a reassuring voice inside him that had promised no harm would come, there had been, for a time, a chance that something terrible could happen. More than once his father's raised hand had made him cringe." – Darth Plagueis novel
Footsteps sounded in the hallway.
"Sheev! Come out here! Sheev!"
His head lifted sharply at the call, but he did not move from his place in front of the low bay window. The boy, slender and pale and not yet twelve standard years, never changed his relaxed position, even when the voice's owner rounded the corner. Yet there was a new rigidness in the small body that betrayed his confidence, a new tightness in the fingers that wrapped around the thick law tome.
"Didn't you hear me calling your name?" Cosinga Palpatine growled when he spotted his son framed against the backdrop of the Lake Country. He grimaced at the boy's quiet reply.
"Don't lie to me," the elder Palpatine snarled, advancing until he stood next to the low shelf of the window.
I didn't hear my name," the boy said softly, evenly, staring up at his father and barely blinking.
"Why do you insist on such foolishness?" Cosinga said.
"See it that way, if you must," and his thin shoulders rose and fell in a careless shrug. Not careless enough. Cosinga could see he was angry.
"How else am I supposed to see it?" He didn't receive an answer for that one. Cosinga sighed. "You have to start this today, of all days? You know I have important guests tonight."
"I don't know what you mean, Father." His son quirked his bushy eyebrows up.
"The blazes you don't!" Cosinga snapped. He received a condescending stare for his outburst. He had never liked that pale gaze, especially not when he remembered the grisly gold shining briefly from the crib after the difficult birth.
He shook his head to clear the memories. "Call yourself whatever you like on your own time, but here in my house, you'll answer me when I call, and you'll answer to Sheev Palpatine, by the gods!"
The insolent smirk on his son's thin lips incensed Cosinga, and without thinking, impulsively, he laid the palm of his hand against the high cheekbone in a sharp slap.
The sound reverberated through the cold, stone room, the ornate wall hangings doing little to soften the echoes. Cosinga, watched, fascinated, as the pale skin reddened in the pattern of strong fingers.
The boy looked at him steadily. Cold hate smoked the edges of the pale blue.
"Don't look at me like that, Sheev," he said.
He hadn't physically struck the boy in months. He hadn't needed to until Sheev became caught up in this useless attempt to change his name, to cut himself free of his rightful guardians.
"It's just a phase, darling," his wife had pleaded, but Cosinga knew better. The boy was challenging him, the thrown gauntlet impossible to miss. This time, they were both in earnest, and yet Cosinga determined not to be the one to break.
He made a small feint forward, thrusting one hand up. "Why can't you be more like your brother?"
"I am not my brother," his son replied, his tone as cold as the distant mountaintops framed behind him.
Cosinga looked down and flung his next words with calculated precision. "That's a pity. You might actually become something if you were."
"The next Grand Janitor of Theed Palace, Father?" His sharp teeth were clenched. "What a dynasty to be proud of. Almost as great as your own."
Twice in one day, Cosinga watched Sheev's cold eyes close against the pain as his father's hand descended. "Don't you dare speak of my son in that manner," the elder Palpatine hissed when the younger straightened from the blow. "And don't ever talk to me like that again."
Sheev did not look away. It unnerved Cosinga how the boy could seemingly ignore pain, how those condemning eyes appeared to stare straight into his soul. What he didn't like, he didn't tolerate.
"You can forget about joining us for dinner tonight," Cosinga said, taking a step back. "In fact, don't bother showing up until you fix this foolishness. I'll tell the servants you aren't hungry."
Sheev blinked once and then deliberately turned his back on his father, tucking himself further into the recesses of the bay window and pulling the thick book closer.
Cosinga felt dismissed in his own home. He hated it, and the hate twisted out of all control into his next words. "I'll also tell them to lock your door until you can be civil. Think about that for a while."
He felt helpless. And enraged. Spinning on his heel, Cosinga paced from the room, palming the door shut and locking it with his signature, along with the suite's windows. In the past, the boy always capitulated after about four days. This would be no different.
He was master of his own house, and no one would ever tell him otherwise. Thirteen days later, his wife's tears and soft, pleading eyes and the servants' alarmed whispering drove him back up the grand staircase to the cold, silent door. Even Sheev's siblings, ordered and promising, watched their father with wary eyes.
Cosinga stood for a long moment, hand hovering over the panel. Had he gone too far this time?
He shoved the doubt to the back of his mind and slid the door open. The main room was dark, as well as the refresher unit, but a faint light glowed from the bedroom lamp, and he padded silently across the lush carpet.
The boy lay curled on his side on the bed, looking thinner than Cosinga could ever remember. A pang of regret ran through him. This would not have been necessary if Sheev hadn't been so stubborn.
He crossed the long, narrow room. "Sheev, wake up," he demanded and saw only a hint of the slow rise and fall of the thin torso. Cosinga felt a brief stab of worry. His steps quickened. "Sheev?"
His son didn't reply. Cosinga rounded the end and drew up alongside the head of the ornate bed. He sucked in his breath.
The boy's eyes were open, wide in a sallow, jaundiced face, the red unwashed locks hanging carelessly in clumps over them. They flicked to Cosinga; a smile twitched on the exhausted lips.
"Thought... you might have had it in you, Father..." He whispered. "I was... evidently wrong."
Cosinga shuddered. "Your mother was worried about you."
"Nice of her... to have you check in..." His son's eyes blurred, grew unfocused, and Cosinga swallowed his fear. He could practically count the boy's ribs under his shirt.
"I'll have the medical droids attend to you immediately," he said, the closest he could ever come to an apology here. They had gone too far this time, both of them knew it.
Neither would ever admit it.
The boy reached out with surprising speed and latched his bony hand to the father's wrist. "Do you understand?" He asked, voice rough with disuse, rougher with urgency. His eyes burned with clear purpose in that moment, and the little fear Cosinga had for his son turned into great fear for himself.
And finally, Cosinga saw. Cosinga accepted. This was not Sheev. This was not his son.
He pulled free of the feeble grip and backed away. His own eyes blurred, surprising him, and he dashed the blasted tears away.
Death of a dream.
His voice dead, he said, "I understand."
The beginning of the end for this tragic duo… A game of control spun wildly, ironically out of control. I think about all the history books I've read, and about all the failed father/son relationships that led to such tragedy and terror. The Darth Plagueis novel implies that the relationship wasn't pretty at all.
Plagueis had no need to delve any further into whatever traumas had given rise to Palpatine's cunning, secretive nature. He simply needed to know: Does this young human have the Force?" – Darth Plagueis novel
I haven't gone this dark in a long time. Sorry, Palpatine. Apologies for any typos, and feel free to leave a review. :)