Sins of the Father:  Chapter 12
by indie


***
 
Padmé has absolutely no idea how long she’s been sitting in this uncomfortable chair in this uncomfortable waiting room at the Imperial Medcenter.  She is numb, inside and out.  The cloying, sickly sweet smell of bacta permeates the air. 

It is with great relief that she watches Anakin walk across the cavernous room toward her.  “You look like I feel,” she says, taking in his disheveled appearance and the dark circles under his eyes.

“I don’t know,” he says, critically looking her over, “I caught a few hours sleep on the way back from Csilla.  When was the last time you slept?”

Padmé blinks up at him.  “I have no idea,” she says honestly.

Anakin crouches down in front of her, grasping her hands in his own.  He looks pointedly at Astor. 

“We’ve been here for nine hours, My Lord,” Astor says.  “As far as I know, she hasn’t slept since the night before last.”

Anakin frowns, reaching up to brush a stray hair out of Padmé’s eyes. 

“The medical staff came and got Mehht,” she whispers, unable to prevent the quivering of her bottom lip.  “I don’t know what’s going on.  The doctors said Lorian would need to be placed in a bacta tank - if he survived the surgery.  They didn’t know if the damage to his liver was repairable.”

Anakin rises to his feet.  “Wait here,” he says.

She watches him disappear through the archway.  She glances around the room.  Luke and Astor are all that’s left of the group that originally accompanied Lorian to the Medcenter.  There are other people in the waiting room, small groups of individuals huddled together in silence.  Padmé wonders if Lorian's family has been notified.  She has no idea what the protocol is on Imperial agents grievously wounded in the line of duty. 

Anakin returns, striding purposefully across the room.  “Mehht will be out in a few minutes,” he says to Luke and Astor.  “Escort her home and then get some sleep.”

He pulls Padmé to her feet but she shakes her head, trying to pull free of his grasp.  “I can’t leave,” she says.

“Yes you can,” he counters, easily ushering her toward the exit despite her protests.  “Lorian is stable.  The doctors are going to send Mehht home shortly.”

“I need to be here for her,” Padmé protests again.

“She understands,” Anakin replies.  “I already spoke with her.”

Padmé shudders at the thought of Anakin’s conversation with Mehht, but she is far too exhausted to protest any longer.  She allows him to escort her to the shuttle and doesn’t complain as he sits next to her, urging her to rest her head on his shoulder.

She takes comfort in the feel of his shoulder against her cheek, the warmth of his arm around her back.  They will definitely have words, but not now.  Right now, their personal conflicts can wait.  Right now, she cannot be alone with this aching void in her heart. 

Padmé needs someone to help bear the burden.  Mehht, who was her support for so many years, is now consumed with worry for Lorian.  Padmé will not involve Luke, her constant touchstone, in this issue.  Anakin alone has as much vested in these events as Padmé.

Slowly, Padmé pushes herself into a sitting position, turning to look at Anakin. 

“What?” he says, his voice laden with concern.

Tears stream down Padmé’s cheeks but she doesn’t sob.  “Leia,” she says softly.

“What about Leia?” Anakin asks, color draining from his face.

Padmé shakes her head.  “Leia did this,” she whispers, finally giving voice to the truth she has known since finding Lorian last night.  “Leia and Mehht had an argument, an awful argument.  I know Leia did that to Lorian.  Then she left him for Mehht to find.  She - ”  Padmé can no longer form these horrible words.  She sobs softly.

Anakin reaches out and once again tucks Padmé against his side. 

“Ani,” she pleads in a whisper.

“We’ll discuss it,” he says.  “But not now.  Lorian is stable.  Mehht is safe.  It will wait a few hours.”

Padmé doses off, not coming fully awake as Anakin half walks, half carries her from the shuttle to her own bedroom.  He pulls the heavy curtains, blocking out the bright morning sunlight and climbs onto the bed with her, both of them fully dressed.  Padmé curls easily into his body and oblivion claims her in an instant.

***

Anakin is gone when she wakes, but the rumpled covers that bear the imprint of his body are still warm.  Padmé doesn’t remember the last time she felt this wretched.  A quick glance at the chrono shows that they slept for a little over five hours.  Her eyes are scratchy and her stomach is sour.  Her very heart and soul ache.

Pushing herself out of bed, Padmé crosses the room to the window and pulls back the heavy curtains, flooding the room with bright afternoon light.  She blinks against the harsh glare.  She glances down at herself.  The front of her gown is stained with Lorian’s blood.  Last night she managed to scrub her hands clean, but there was nothing that could be done for the gown.

With a heavy sigh, Padmé decides that perhaps a shower will help her feel more human.  The once beautiful gown is unsalvageable and she tosses it into the recycler. 

She stays in the shower for a very long time, allowing the steaming hot water to pour over her aching body.  Padmé finally turns off the shower and reaches for her towel.  It’s not there. 

Brushing her wet hair back from her face, she pokes her head out of the shower – and finds Anakin perched on the sink holding her towel.  She extends one hand expectantly, using the other to wrap the shower curtain around her body.  His only reply is a predatory grin. 

I do not believe you,” Padmé says in disgust, throwing back the shower curtain and stalking nude and dripping wet across the room to snatch the towel from his hand.  “Our daughter tried to murder someone and you’re playing games with me.”

Anakin frowns and appears chastised – though not chastised enough to stop himself from raking his eyes over Padmé's glistening flesh.  “Leia didn’t try to kill Lorian,” he says absently.

Padmé wraps the towel around her body, tucking the end over on itself securely.  “I beg your pardon,” she counters. 

Without her naked body as a distraction, Anakin immediately looks more downtrodden and surly.  Padmé wonders how he would have handled Leia's attack on Lorian in her absence.  She suspects that he would ignore it entirely if possible.  She wonders how much he has ignored up to this point.

“If Leia had tried to kill Lorian, she would have succeeded,” Anakin says plainly.  “His wounds weren’t mortal.  She left him where she knew he would be found and quickly given medical attention.”

Padmé stares at her husband, aghast.  The fact that he can defend Leia’s action is absolutely unconscionable to her.  “Get out,” she snaps. 

She turns her back on him, relieved when she hears the ‘fresher door hiss shut.

***

When Padmé emerges from her bedroom, she finds Anakin conferring with Astor and one of the other guards.  She is taken back for a moment, to the precious slivers of time they stole together during the Clone Wars.  He has that same look about him, overly-tired, stubble darkening his jaw, rumpled clothes. Despite being almost two decades older, he still seems to hold up well on little sleep.  He probably has a lot of practice.  Padmé wonders how he manages to sleep at all with his myriad sins weighing on his conscience.

As she approaches, Anakin dismisses the guards and turns to face her.  "I contacted Leia," he says.

Padmé watches him carefully.  "And?"

"She isn't to leave her quarters until I speak with her," he says.

Padmé shakes her head and stalks through the apartment to the veranda, away from Astor's prying eyes and ears.  She never dreamed she would long for the days when Lorian was her constant shadow.  Anakin follows and when he steps onto the veranda, she turns to him. 

"Do you have any intention of disciplining Leia at all?" Padmé demands.

Anakin crosses his arms over his chest, regarding his wife with an unreadable expression.  "You’re being overly sentimental,” he says dryly.  “Lorian is my best assassin.  He is not an innocent victim."

"I don’t care about Lorian's innocence or guilt!" Padmé yells.  "I'm not Lorian's mother.  His soul is his own business.  I’m worried about my daughter." 

Anakin looks away, walking to one of the curved couches and taking a seat, clearly uncomfortable with the conversation.

Padmé knows that it is himself he is trying to delude – not her – in regards to Leia’s actions.  Anakin doesn’t want to believe it anymore than Padmé does.  But Anakin didn’t see Leia last night.  He didn’t see how distracted, insolent – and in retrospect, guilty - she was.  He didn’t see Lorian’s bloody body or Mehht’s anguish.

She takes a deep breath and releases it slowly.  "When you spoke with Leia, did she tell you why she and Mehht argued?" Padmé asks, moving to stand in front of Anakin.

Anakin looks up at her.  "No," he says, shaking his head.  He looks weary, even more so than he did only a few minutes ago.  "I didn't ask."

"Leia took us to see Angel," Padmé says, watching him carefully for a reaction, bracing herself.

And as if to illustrate the fact that Anakin will forever fail to be predictable, he does not rage.  He does not offer hasty explanations or try to bend the truth to suit his needs.  He just sits there. 

And then, he shrugs. 

"What would you have me do with your clone?" he asks dispassionately.  "I won't destroy her like a malfunctioning droid.  I can't turn her loose in the galaxy; she's too much of a security risk."

He rises to stand, pacing the veranda.  “Zemda Farr presented her to me as a gift years ago,” Anakin says with a humorless smile.  “He was trying to curry my favor.  He wanted the Executor contract to go to the shipyards at Duro.”

“The Executor was built at Fondor,” Padmé counters sharply.

Anakin’s lips curl into a smile of satisfaction, obviously pleased with his wife’s knowledge.  “Yes,” he replies.  “And Senator Farr … met with an unfortunate accident.”

Padmé flinches.  With Anakin as a role model it is no wonder that Leia attacked Lorian.

"Angel likes puzzles," Anakin continues with another shrug.  "I make sure she has puzzles.  I make sure she is treated well.  I also make certain that no one ever learns of her existence."  His smile turns hard, humorless.  "Obviously I need to work on that last one."

Padmé is at a loss for words.  She was mentally prepared to try and counter his rage, to try and protect Anakin’s relationship with Leia.  But Anakin isn’t angry.  He seems to find this entire exchange inconvenient.  Her own rage, which she set aside in the interest of protecting Leia bubbles to the fore. 

"You're not a victim of circumstance in this," she snaps.  "You named her.  Angel was what you called me.  It was something special between us.  Zemda Farr may have commissioned her … creation, but he couldn’t possibly have known that.  You chose to give that thing my name."

His cool, collected façade cracks a bit and he glances at her out of the corner of his eye.  “In retrospect, that was a regrettable decision."

She snaps.  Despite his casual demeanor, Anakin never meant for her to find out about Angel.  Padmé will not stand here and listen to his pitiful explanations another second.  She grabs a nearby vase and lobs it at his head.

He makes a startled noise and ducks, but to both their surprises, the vase clips him in the shoulder.  "What are you doing?" he demands, rubbing his shoulder, more shocked than pained.

“It’s no wonder that my child is morally bankrupt!”

He scoffs.  “I’m morally bankrupt for not destroying your clone?” he demands.

She glares one last time and then turns on her heel and stalks back inside the apartment.  She nearly runs over Mehht.

Mehht reaches out to steady Padmé after the near collision and Padmé immediately envelops her in a hug.  They retreat to Mehht's bedroom.  Padmé is glad for the excuse to avoid Anakin. 

Mehht relays the doctors' findings.  Lorian is expected to make a full recovery, but he needs to spend the next day in a bacta tank.  No one is thrilled about that, least of all Lorian, who complained extensively to Mehht prior to being submerged.

"Does Lorian remember the attack?" Padmé asks carefully.  Anakin is the only person to whom she voiced her opinion on Leia's involvement.  Padmé doesn't know how much Mehht might suspect.

Shaking her head, Mehht says, "He doesn't remember anything."

Padmé nods, inwardly wondering if Lorian truly doesn't remember, or if he's attempting to spare Mehht's feelings.

***

Padmé's heeled sandals echo loudly on the cheaply tiled duracrete floor.  The smell of bacta seems to cling to her very skin and Padmé suspects she'll have to recycle this gown.  While she has never cared for the scent of bacta, the last day has made it particularly revolting.

It is late evening and the hallway is deserted, save Typho who stands guard outside the bacta treatment room.  Despite Anakin's concern over Typho's ever increasing age, he seems as reliable as ever, impervious to the long hours he keeps.  Padmé wonders if Leia deigned to be escorted or if Anakin gave her no choice in the matter.  Either way, Padmé approves.  Typho, despite his age, is far more adept at keeping track of Leia than anyone – Leia's parents included.  Padmé still doesn't know how he managed to locate Leia on Captain Solo's ship.

The lights in the treatment room are dimmed to mimic the natural light – or lack thereof - outside.  The only illumination comes from low intensity lights inside the bacta tank itself, casting a reddish glow over both the treatment room and the observation room.  Only medical droids are allowed inside the treatment room, but it is entirely visible.   The wall separating the treatment room from the observation room is made of transparisteel.

Leia stands in the observation room, silently watching Lorian float in the healing synthetic chemicals.  Thanks to Typho, Padmé knows Leia has been here for hours, though she is uncertain why her daughter is keeping this vigil.  She prays that Leia is not here to gloat or bask in her dark deeds.

"Lorian should be released tomorrow," Padmé says.

Leia turns to face her mother.  Her face is too pale and her cheeks seem unnaturally hollow.  It doesn't appear that Leia has slept since Padmé last saw her.

Leia looks from Padmé back to Lorian and nods.  "Dad told me," she says quietly.

Padmé wonders what else Anakin said to their daughter.  She hasn't spoken with him since the incident on the veranda several hours earlier.

Padmé takes a deep breath and releases it slowly, squaring her shoulders.  "Did you do this, Leia?" she asks.

Leia turns to face her mother, her chin jutting out defiantly despite her frown and sad eyes.  "Yes," she says.

Padmé cannot help but be reminded of that day in the garage of the Lars farmstead when Anakin confessed his slaughter of the entire Tusken camp.  Not just the men, but the women and the children too.  It was as if he was daring her to condemn him.  Padmé senses the same intention from Leia. 

That day, so many years ago, Padmé comforted and consoled Anakin.  She freely offered him every bit of acceptance she possessed.

… and he went on to murder thousands, to rule the galaxy with an iron fist.

“This behavior is not acceptable, Leia," Padmé says quietly.

Leia does not move, but something shifts in her eyes.  "I know," she says and this time she sounds almost smug.  Without a word, she turns to watch Lorian and ignores her mother until Padmé leaves.

***

Luke is waiting at Padmé’s apartment when she returns.  She puts on a brave smile for him, hoping that he will not sense how deeply upset she is.

Her charade is no use, of course.  Luke frowns at her.  “Leia's behavior is escalating,” he says softly, rising to his feet.  Next to him on the living room couch is a travel bag.

“It definitely appears so,” Padmé responds wearily.

Luke motions for her to sit and she takes the suggestion gladly.  “You’re leaving again?” she asks, nodding toward the bag.

“I have to see Ben,” Luke replies softly.

Grimacing, Padmé hides her face in her hands for a moment before returning her gaze to her son.  “Luke,” she says without trying to dissuade him, “you know that your father won’t take this well.”

Luke looks at her, his features open and honest.  “I have to take Ben somewhere safe,” Luke says.  “The longer I leave him there, the more likely Father's patience will run out and he will order Ben's execution.”

Padmé wishes she could argue, but she can’t.  Luke is absolutely right.  She sighs, tears welling in her eyes.  She knows, as does Luke, that this may very well be the final transgression as far as Anakin is concerned.  Anakin goes to absurd lengths to defend Leia, to deny just how dangerous she is.  Luke, however, the even tempered and dependable twin is afforded no such consideration from his father.

Padmé knows that Luke does not court his father’s disapproval.  Their personal friction is merely a side effect of the fact that their goals are often at odds with one another.  Padmé knows that regardless of how it appears on the surface, Anakin and Luke do care for each other deeply.  She also knows that care in no way means they can exist together peacefully.

“How will you get there?” she asks.  “I thought your ship was still impounded.”

“It is,” Luke says.  “Mara has a ship.  She’s going to take me.”

Unable to prevent her shock, Padmé’s gaze snaps to him.  It is not lost on Luke and he watches his mother intently.  “Do you think that’s wise?” Padmé asks, trying to recover.  “You will be putting Mara in harm’s way.”

“I know,” Luke replies.  “I’ve explained the situation to her.  She knows the odds.  She is insistent on helping.”

There is a beautiful synchronicity to it and Padmé can’t stop herself from smiling a sad smile.   A Skywalker and a Kenobi teaming up for a mission.  She never dreamed she would see that again.

She wonders for a moment if she is losing her mind.  She's sending one of her children off to the far reaches of the galaxy at the same time that she's trying to keep the other confined to her room.  It's not fair and she knows that.  However, the bottom line is that she trusts Luke – and Mara – in ways that she simply cannot trust Leia right now.

She rises to stand and presses a kiss to Luke’s cheek.  “May the Force be with you,” she says quietly.  There are so many more things she wants to say, but she knows they would only embarrass him so she holds her tongue and allows her son to be a man.

He takes her hand, squeezing it once.  “May the Force be with you,” he replies.

***

Anakin looks up from the schematics he is reviewing.  "I didn't expect to see you," he says, his face betraying no emotion.  It has been two days since their argument on the veranda and they have not communicated.  Padmé finds his silence suspicious.  Through Typho, she learned that Anakin did have some very pointed words with Leia the previous day.   Padmé is somewhat shocked Anakin didn’t try and use that information to get back in her good graces.  Of course,  he still has time to try that tact.

"Lorian was released from the medcenter," Padmé says.  Lorian has mostly recovered from his wounds.  He is currently in Padmé's apartment, being cared for by Mehht.  Padmé suspect that Lorian is taking advantage of the situation, but she hasn’t complained considering her child was the one responsible for his injuries.

Anakin turns off the schematic display and swivels in his chair to face his wife.  "Yes, I know," he replies coolly.

Padmé stands there waiting for Anakin to say something, anything of import in regards to their daughter and her actions.  He doesn't.

"I don't know why I bother," Padmé counters, turning on her heel and leaving his office.  She stalks through the Imperial war room and out into the Imperial Palace's grand hallway.

"Wait," he says, grasping her upper arm and ushering her to a stop.  It is a request rather than an order which is the only reason she complies.  He could drag her to a stop to be certain, but had his tone been the tiniest bit less contrite than it was, she would have forced him to do just that.

She turns to face him.  “Did you find out why Leia was trying to hitch a ride into the Deep Core?”  She isn’t ignoring the issue of Lorian, but despite how discouraging she finds it, Leia’s attack on Lorian is no longer the most pressing issue. 

Anakin looks at her with another unreadable expression.  He waves off Astor who dutifully retreats into the background.  Anakin then escorts her down a smaller corridor that leads to the busy landing platform where her shuttle is docked.  The two supplemental guards whose names Padmé has never bothered to learn stand sentry outside the shuttle.  The landing platform is noisy, windy and swarming with people and droids.  Yet because of that, it affords them a great deal of privacy.

Padmé squints in the late afternoon light at Galactic City’s skyline while Anakin hovers closely.  “Did you?” she demands.

“No,” he says, frowning tightly.

Padmé sighs.  “You’re the Emperor.  Shouldn’t you have spies to keep track of your children?” she asks dryly.

“In case you missed it,” he says, “Leia stabbed the best spy I have.”

It is now Padmé’s turn to frown.  “I thought he was your best assassin,” she counters in irritation.

“The two are not mutually exclusive,” he replies.

She watches several shuttles land.  “Taly showed me his preliminary report this afternoon,” she says.

“I know,” he replies.

Raising an eyebrow, Padmé looks at him.

“I am the Emperor,” he says.  "Lieutenant Piett hand delivered the report."

She shakes her head and looks away.  For all his assertions that he neither cared nor wanted to know about her activities, he certainly keeps close tabs.  “Do you know anything about Byss?” Padmé asks.

She looks at him expectantly, but he won’t meet her gaze.  “Nothing good,” he replies.

“What is that supposed to mean?” she demands.

He frowns and looks at her.  “Palpatine discovered several hyperlanes into the Deep Core.  Byss was his personal retreat.”

“You didn’t feel the need to tell me this?” she yells, putting several feet of space between herself and her husband.

“I’m telling you now,” he counters.  “I just saw Taly’s report.  What did you want me to do?”

Padmé shakes her head and looks away.  “I don’t know,” she says honestly.  She snaps her gaze back to him and she steps closer.  “Do you think this has something to do with Palpatine?” she asks in a low voice, chilled to her core at the very idea.

Anakin looks at her and from the intensity of his expression, she knows she is not going to like his answer.  “Palpatine knew how to cheat death,” he says flatly.  “You and the twins are proof enough of that.”

“No,” Padmé whispers, pressing the heels of her palms against her eyes.  “No.  Not my baby.”

He reaches out for her and she dances back out of his range.  She turns, bolting for the shuttle.  It isn't Anakin's fault, at least not directly.  He would never willingly place his children in Palpatine's grasp.  Point of fact, he murdered the Emperor to prevent such a thing.  But she doesn’t care about Anakin's intentions right now.  He chose to become a Sith Lord and crown himself Emperor.  He chose to present this role model for his children.  Whether he intended it or not, he is guilty and she cannot be near him.  Right now, she needs to put as much distance between herself and her husband as possible.

Anakin lets her take several step before he follows.  “Padmé,” he says, loud enough to be heard over the din.

Blindly, she makes her way to the shuttle, threading through people, cargo and droids.  She doesn’t want to talk to him now.  She can’t.  She can’t face the idea that her daughter may be retracing all of her father’s footsteps.

The guards see her coming and they open the shuttle doors.  One of them steps inside to pilot.  Padmé is almost to the shuttle, but Anakin grabs her shoulder, angrily pulling her backwards.

“Dammit, Padmé!” he snaps.

She doesn’t hear the explosion, but she definitely feels it.  She is slammed forcefully into Anakin and they are both thrown away from the fiery remains of the shuttle.

She doesn’t know how long she lies there.  She is staring up into the shimmering sky.  She blinks, coughing violently and her vision falls on Anakin.  He is crouched over her, mouthing her name over and over, but she doesn’t hear a sound.

There is a deep cut across his left cheek and soot and ash cover him.  She reaches up and gently touches the trail of blood on his check.

And then everything fades to black.

***

End Chapter
    
***
 
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