Sins of the Father:  Chapter 13
by indie


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“Mama!” Leia runs, jumping and wrapping her small legs around her mother’s body, holding her tight.
 
Padmé wraps her arms around her child, holding her close as she crumples to her knees on the hard, unforgiving ground.  The winds are fierce today and the sand is more than enough to chase any sane person inside, but Padmé doesn’t move.  She simply holds her child.  “What’s wrong, baby?” she asks gently.
 
Leia is trembling, burying her face against her mother’s shoulder.  Several feet away, Luke hangs back, close to Typho.  The young boy’s eyes seem haunted.  In the distance, the ship is clearly visible, the gangplank still extended.  Typho probably had to chase the twins toward the house and didn't have time to secure the ship.
 
“Mama,” Leia whispers again.
 
This is her fault.  Padmé never should have sent the twins to Anakin, even for a visit.  They’re only five years old.  They’re still babies.  She buries her nose in Leia’s hair.  Breathing deeply, she cradles Leia’s trembling body closer.  She knows this scent intimately.  It’s imprinted on her very soul.
 
Padmé opens her eyes, blinking away the dream-memory.  The room is dimly lit, but she can clearly make out the dark head resting against her shoulder.  The smell of Leia’s hair is unmistakable.  She lifts her hand, wincing at the pain the movement causes.  But the pain doesn’t stop her from running her palm over her baby’s hair.
 
Leia blinks awake, sitting up and pushing herself back in the chair that she pulled close to Padmé’s bed.  “Mom?” she asks sleepily.
 
The smell of bacta and the beeping monitors clearly identify this place as the Imperial Medcenter.  The room is nicer and more private than the one afforded Lorian days earlier, but regardless of how it’s dressed, it’s still a hospital room.
 
Padmé looks up to see Anakin seated in a chair on the far side of the room.  He’s leaning back, watching her with a guarded expression.  There is a fresh cut along his left cheek.  His long legs are stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankle. 
 
“How long have you been here?” Padmé asks.
 
Anakin pushes himself out of the chair and walks to stand at Padmé’s bedside.  “A couple of hours,” he says.  “How do you feel?”
 
“Like I’ve been blown up,” Padmé says.  She squints up at Anakin.  “Did I get blown up?”
 
He shrugs.  “A little.”
 
Oh,” Padmé says, oddly numbed by the revelation.
 
“You were knocked unconscious,” Anakin continues.  “The doctors want to keep you overnight for observation.”
 
Padmé is not glad to hear the news, but honestly, she doesn't feel well enough to get out of the hospital bed.  She looks down at herself.  Her lovely gown is gone, replaced by an unflattering and rather scratchy hospital gown.
 
"Mehht was supposed to send over clothes for you," Anakin says.  "Your dress was unsalvageable."
 
Leia rises to stand.  "I'll go see if the clothes have been delivered."
 
Both Padmé and Anakin watch Leia leave the room.  With a tired groan, Anakin sinks into the chair Leia vacated.  "She hides it," he says, "but she was terrified when you were injured."
 
Padmé looks at her husband.  She reaches out, running her fingertips lightly over the cut on his cheek.  He wraps his hand around hers and pulls it flush against his face.  He turns into it, pressing a kiss to her palm.  His eyes are full of emotions he will not voice.
 
"How do you really feel?" he asks pointedly.
 
She swivels her head back and forth experimentally, grimacing.  "I think I'm okay," she says.  "My head is killing me and my ears are ringing."
 
He nods.  "The doctors said that would be expected," he says.  "You needed to rest.  You've only been asleep for hours."
 
"What happened?" Padmé asks, releasing his hand to pull the covers up over her less than adequate gown.  She finds the room uncomfortably cool.
 
"There was a bomb in the shuttle," he says tightly.  "Someone was trying to get rid of you."
 
"Was anyone hurt?" Padmé asks quickly.
 
"Three people were killed.  Your two guards and a bystander.  There were a dozen or so injuries, you included."
 
Padmé reaches up again and touches his wounded cheek.  "Are you included?" she asks.
 
"No," he says, grasping her fingertips with his own.  He brings her hand to his mouth again and presses his lips to the pads of her fingers.  "I thought I lost you today," he whispers.  Padmé can feel his lips move against her fingertips.
 
Reluctantly, she pulls her hand away and twines it through the covers.  "Who did this?" she asks.
 
He rubs his hand roughly over his face.  "We think at least one of your guards was involved."
 
"We?"
 
"Lorian and Piett are making inquiries while I keep an eye on you."
 
"And what do you know so far?"
 
"That Mehht Whitesun is an enormous pain in the ass.  Lorian had to pick her up and physically remove her from the room."  Anakin chuckles softly.  "She seems to think I intend to ravage you while you're unconscious on a hospital bed."
 
"She's a smart girl," Padmé replies with a wry grin that quickly fades.  She knows Anakin is trying to distract her.  "Who were the guards working for?" she insists.
 
His jaw muscles tighten.  Clearly, he does not want to discuss this. 
 
Which is a pity, because she does.
 
"Anakin," she prompts.
 
"Korto," he says darkly.  There is a menace in the way he forms the words, a betrayal that suggests Korto is not long for this world.
 
Padmé's mouth falls open.  She abhors everything about Korto but to think he would make an attempt on her life…  She is quite shocked he had the nerve.  "Was he working alone?" she asks.
 
"I don’t know," Anakin says.  "But I will  find out.  He was transferred to a military detention center.  Lorian is working on him."
 
Padmé doesn't know what that means and she will not ask.  She knows that Lorian won't kill Korto, only because it's quite obvious that Anakin intends to do that himself. 
 
She doubts it is a good sign that she doesn’t even care.
 
Leia returns with the clothes Mehht delivered, but Padmé finds she doesn't have the energy to change.  Anakin and Leia find her another blanket to ward off the cold and encourage her to sleep.  Leia decides to leave, claiming she intends to return to the Palace.  Anakin makes himself as comfortable as he can in the chair at her bedside.
 
Despite the thoughts swarming in her mind, Padmé finds sleep pulling at her.  Resting her head in the pillow, she watches Anakin.  His face is the last thing she sees before fading into unconsciousness.
 
***
 
His thrashing wakes her and she rolls over, watching him in the dim light.  His forehead is beaded with sweat, his head restlessly moving from side to side.  He murmurs in his sleep and all at once, jerks awake, sitting up in the chair.
 
His breathing erratic.  He drags a hand through his hair and looks at her.  He holds her gaze for a moment and then leans forward, elbows braced above his knees as he cradles his head in his hands. 
 
Padmé props herself up on one arm, pulling the covers tightly around her body.  “When did the nightmares start?”
 
He turns his head to the door and she watches him in profile.  He won't look at her.  "They're not nightmares.  They’re visions,” he says, his voice scratchy from sleep.
 
There is something in his tone, something dark and distant that unsettles her.  “Okay,” she says gently.  “When did your visions start again?”
 
He laughs, a hollow sound.  “My visions never leave me,” he replies darkly.
 
She pushes herself up in bed, wrapping the blankets around her shoulders and reaches out, touching his arm.  “Ani,” she says softly, her voice rife with concern.
 
He looks at her.  She senses he is not pleased with the name she used.  She shivers for a moment, but shrugs it away quickly.  She has always known about Anakin’s duality, the war between his darker nature and the tender, caring man she married.  But the divide between the two is rarely so evident.  She swallows thickly and asks, “You have these … visions often?”
 
He nods.  “Most nights …  When I manage to sleep.”
 
Though she is fairly certain she doesn’t want to hear the answer, she asks, “What did your visions show you tonight?”
 
He is silent for a long moment and then rises to his feet, doing his best to pace in the confined space.  “The same thing they always show me," he says without look at her.  "The consequences of letting down my guard.”
 
“Somehow I doubt they’re that esoteric,” she says carefully.  “You were very agitated in your sleep.”
 
“Your death,” he says flatly, thrusting the words at her.  “The children’s deaths.”  He stares at the wall and she can see his jaw muscles flexing.  “The same thing they have shown me every night for the last sixteen years.”
 
She is dumbstruck.  She knows how turbulent these visions are, how profoundly they affect him.  She cannot believe they have continued unabated for so long.  “Anakin,” she says softly, “they’re not real.  I’m not dead.  The children aren’t dead.”
 
“Because I heed the portents of the visions,” he whispers.  “My powers, the powers Palpatine initiated me into – those are the only things keeping the visions from becoming reality.  They’re the only things keeping you and the children safe.”
 
Unable to answer, Padmé stares at her husband.  It is true enough that she and the children are alive.  But safe?  How can he equate fourteen years of estrangement with safety?  Leia’s forays into the Deep Core certainly aren’t safe.  The same could probably be said for Luke’s involvement with Obi-Wan.  Anakin’s intentions are understandable, possibly even admirable.  But she wonders to what degree he is deluding himself.  He is obviously trying to keep his visions from becoming a reality, but at what cost?
 
“You have always been enough for me just as you are,” she says, trying to soothe this dark, insatiable need inside him.
 
He turns, regarding her.  Slowly, he crosses the room to her and reaches out and running his fingers lightly along her jaw.  It should be a tender gesture, but it’s not.  There is something in the gesture – something in his intention – that is unmistakably predatory.  There is no doubt this is Lord Vader, not Anakin Skywalker, with whom she is dealing.
 
“Is that true, Senator?” he asks, leaning even closer.  “Am I enough?”  He meets her gaze from scant inches away.  His lips curve into that cruel, predatory smile she loathes.  “I was beginning to wonder.  You stayed away so long.”  He reaches down, his fingers playing lightly along the flesh of her chest exposed by the ill fitting hospital gown. 
 
Reflexively, she leans away from him, pulling the sheet up under her chin.  He chuckles cruelly.
 
She doesn’t flinch, but she does look away.  She knows this is a pointed attack.  Lord Vader wants - no needs - to keep her at a distance.  This is the same tactic he used after the Hapan dinner, the same oh-so-effective insults.  Lord Vader needs to restore the status quo, the animosity and detachment.  Padmé doesn’t know why this is so.  Perhaps he can’t commit the atrocities necessary to maintain his dark powers if she is looking over his shoulder.  Perhaps he doesn't believe he can love her and protect her at the same time.
 
All she knows is that she cannot, will not, let him win this time.  She will not let him push her away.
 
She reaches for his hand and he starts, clearly shocked she initiated physical contact.  She looks up at him.  "I'm cold, Ani," she says softly, shivering.
 
Her words and actions have the desired effect.  They remind him she is in a hospital bed, in a hospital gown.  They remind him she is injured. 
 
The leering smile vanishes and in the space of a heartbeat, Lord Vader is gone and Anakin has returned.  Wordlessly, he sits next to her on the bed and pulls her close.  She curls into the warmth of his body.  She tugs at him and he complies, stretching out on the bed next to her.  As she drifts off to sleep, she feels his lips against her forehead.
 
***
 End Chapter

***
 
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