"I have better self control than you give me credit for, Admiral."
Vader’s hiss was a low, gravelly sound. Thrawn couldn't help but raise one dark brow; the disbelief in his eyes a rare occurrence. Vader was hardly in a position to chastise him, or to puff his own chest out.
"I would beg to differ," he simply said; a smirk briefly tugging at the corner of his lips before vanishing.
His only reply was a meek grunt; although the admiral couldn't tell if it was out of frustration, dismissal or actual pleasure.
The suggestion had mostly been a non committal suggestion. Delivered with a brief shrug; for Thrawn's own amusement as he noticed how tense the Sith Lord had become at the mere implication. Vader hadn't said another word to him for the remainder of their mission together. Had avoided him like the plague; keeping several additional feet of distance between them as they walked down the halls of the Chimaera. Even Thrawn must admit he half regretted bringing it up; seeing as how uncomfortable it had made the other man - despite the way he was feigning nonchalance.
A couple of weeks into battle schemes and tactical discussions with Governor Tarkin; they had found themselves alone without further scrutiny from the Emperor. Vader was snapping more than usual; his sharp tongue sending the Imperials he didn't downright choke for their incompetence scattering in fright. At times he barely even replied to their rehashed, stagnant research on the Rebel Alliance's whereabouts. Instead, he'd snarl like a caged animal. Thrawn had noticed him pacing by the viewport of the command bridge, the few times they had been on watch simultaneously.
Thrawn had been poised by his desk; in his pristine, crisp white office on the Star Destroyer when Vader finally had enough of the dancing around the subject. The admiral was preoccupied reading the holo news; eyebrows furrowed as he attempted to jot down some mental notes regarding the next move for the fleet meanwhile. The hydraulic doors had slid open; and when he'd peered up, face stoic as usual - there was Vader.
"Lord Vader. What a surprise. I was beginning to think I'd never be graced by the likes of your presence again."
Thrawn leaned back slightly; turning off the holo screen in front of him as he folded his legs. Waiting, patiently.
"Enough with the quips."
Vader's voice was the same booming sound as always; although the admiral could swear the man was baring his teeth behind that face plate.
"Very well. What brings you here, my lord?"
"Do not play coy with me, Admiral," Vader threatened; index finger coming up to perform its trademark point as the Sith Lord took a couple of long strides towards Thrawn's cleared desk.
"It was merely a jest, Lord Vader," Thrawn pursed his lips into a thin line; not seeing the issue with the suggestion - he hadn't taken Vader for a prude, and it was hardly his fault that the Chiss saw no difference in relations with men or women alike. "With all due respect, I always took you for quite the snarky sort yourself."
"I have my limits, and you are testing my patience."
Thrawn let his eyes travel over Vader's visage. He remembered all too well that Anakin Skywalker had been a rather handsome young man. Whatever had trapped Vader inside the life supporting suit, it must have caused him severe physical damage. But Vader still had power; next in rank only to the Emperor himself. Surely, he must be getting around as much as any man thus equipped. There was no shortage of willing, or unwilling, prey. On top of that he carried himself well, like a man with pride who knew what he wanted.
"So it appears. Still, there is no reason you should take it seriously."
Vader let his hand fall slack to his side; his mechanical breaths the only sound in the room for the longest while. Thrawn's crimson eyes searched the hollow lenses of the Sith's mask for a moment; before simply shrugging it off and reaching out to turn his holo screen back on.
"Let us… presume I would be seriously considering the suggestion."
Thrawn's hand stopped mid air; hovering over the discreet button located at the side of the desktop. Slowly, he raised his head to peer back up at the towering man opposite him. He tilted his read to the side; that tiny smirk crossing his thin lips once more as his hand came up to drum its fingers expectantly against the table surface.
"I see. Well, why not. Let us."
He noticed Vader tense; easily deducing the fact that the Sith was feeling like a fish out of water. He was supposed to have the upper hand at all times; now, he appeared insecure and a bit confounded regarding where to turn. Thrawn hadn't expected Vader would actually be interested in sex; but realizing it may well be the case, he wouldn't pass up on the offer.
"I... am not familiar with the customs of your species."
"You needn't be. It generally works the same way for any humanoids I’ve had the pleasure of involving myself with."
Vader did not immediately reply; but Thrawn noticed how his shoulders tensed, his large hands curling into fists.
"Neither am I... familiar with performing any sort of... intimate acts involving a male companion."
Thrawn couldn't help but allow his amusement to grow; one eyebrow quirked again. He hadn't expected Vader to have been involved with men; but the fact that he was considering it was interesting. And that the Sith Lord, supposedly so intimidating, was clearly struggling to find the right words to speak. From the body language, and the way Vader was shrinking back; the admiral was fairly sure that if anything - the other man was anxious. Impatient. Was he aroused? There were no visible signs, none that would be easily spied anyhow.
"I am. As for yourself, I would presume you know the way around yourself."
The implication went unspoken; and Vader made no attempt to reply. Instead, he simply turned his helmeted head briefly to the side. It was enough of a confirmation.
"I imagined as much."
"I have better self control than you presume, Chiss."
If he had been a less restrained man; Thrawn would have chuckled at the scene in front of him. It wasn't hard to see that Vader was inexperienced, to say the least. Skywalker had been in a relationship, had he not? It had been blatantly obvious, as soon as Senator Amidala was breached in conversation or appeared in the flesh. They would no doubt have been intimate. But, may she have been his only one? If one considered how handsome Skywalker had been with the golden curls and deep blue eyes, it seemed highly improbable. But judging by Vader's behaviour right now, it could not be ruled out. In fact, it seemed like the most plausible explanation. And with that realization, another was quick to follow - Senator Amidala had passed away six years ago.
Had Vader not had sex at all since she died?
And there was a stingy honesty to the way in which he had angrily retorted; regarding the brief mentioning of masturbation.
Thrawn almost, almost gaped.
But as per usual, the surprise would not be visible on the outside. Or palpable through the Force, as Vader would usually point out. No wonder the Sith was constantly worked up; surely he must have a boatload of rampant sexual urges left unresolved. Despite the way he was now, so different from the young man Thrawn had once fought alongside; he was still fairly young. Must have the same lusts and desires any other man, or person in general, his age suffer by. Shaking his head in mild disbelief; Thrawn laced fingers together, elbows resting atop the desk.
"You must be starving," he said, in a low husky tone; watching Vader flinch notably and snap his covered face back towards him. "Am I not right?"
Vader growled darkly at him; whirling around in a flurry of livid objection to begin to hurry towards the exitway.
Only to stop mere inches in front the sensory door openers; wavering. Contemplating the still open offer between them. Silently, Thrawn simply flicked one of the buttons offered at the control panel board; locking the outside motion detecting system. As well as flipping his status to preoccupied, not wishing to be disturbed. Slowly; Vader turned back towards him. Thrawn wanted to chuckle at the shudder that seemed to pass through the man's bulky frame.
"I meant it when I made the offer. Indeed, it was a jest, but I would not mind lending you a helping hand," he said casually; well aware of the implication behind the words as he slowly begun to rise out of his seat.
Vader, normally so impenetrable in his defenses; looked like he was torn between stalking off to hide and never speak of this again - and staying to find some relief, in a way he had not for so long. The closer Thrawn stalked to him; the more secure he became in his conviction that Vader had indeed had no sexual experiences since the death of Amidala. And none whatsoever with another male, as he had halfheartedly professed.
"It means nothing, but I am quite assured that you are already well aware of, and content with, that fact. And that you support it."
Vader said nothing; but Thrawn noticed only then that the periodic breathing had switched to a slightly quicker pace; synching itself to the way Vader's pulse must be hammering. Thrawn could smell it; he may not be Force sensitive, but he had a warrior’s deduction. A predator’s keen, hightened senses.
"Certainly," the Sith finally reaffirmed; and Thrawn noted that the deep tone came at a slightly higher pitch than usual, ragged and strained.
"Indeed. Now, let me see what I can do for you, my lord. Think of it as a favour, one you either may or may not return, within an unforeseeable future."
Vader showed little resistance.
Afterwards; Thrawn made a mental note of four very significant realizations.
One; Vader was the mostly silent type it seemed - offering barely any vocal response; his spasming muscles doing all the talk.
The only sound he’d made had been during the climax; an almost surprised “oh”; thighs quaking.
Two; it had been trickier than he'd expected; and that was taking into account that the only thing he himself had used was his own hand.
So many restraints; with the suit, the armour, and the cybernetics. There should have been more forethought and planning involved on both their parts. And the only thing they’d needed to move now was the damn codpiece.
Three; whatever sex Vader had been devoting himself to when he was still in a relationship, it had been the single outlet for his urges, and it had been very basic.
He responded to anything; as if he were still a young teen or an untouched, inexperienced virgin. Amusing, but it did leave Thrawn confused and unable to figure the man out.
Vader said nothing as he left the quarters; although his shoulders did appear slightly less tense and taut. His step seemed just a tad lighter.
And four; he would be back.