of the Father: Chapter 15
TEEN rated version
straightens her gown, thinking of her clothes from Tatooine with
longing. As much as she wishes to
connect with the part of Anakin which yearns for his homeworld, such
attire would not be appropriate. She
needs to remind everyone – herself included – of her station and her
within the Empire.
She sighs and
glances over as her bedroom door opens. Anakin
stands there for a moment looking her
up and down. He is dressed in the same
black tunic and pants he wore earlier.
She easily reads the unmistakable look of satisfaction on his
She wonders what
it means to him to have his wife once again sharing his
bed. They have so many issues to
address, so much to resolve. It was
frivolous and self-indulgent to spend the afternoon in bed, especially
don't have time to truly explore what this change means to them and
He must sense
the flow of her emotions in the Force for his smile
fades. Wordlessly, he steps aside,
bidding her to walk past him into the hallway.
When they enter
the living room, Lorian and Mehht are waiting. Padmé's
cheeks pinken. The tender flesh of her
neck and jaw – and
some far more delicate, hidden regions – is abraded from Anakin’s
face. Despite a second shower and clean
clothes, she knows she looks tired.
There is no doubt Lorian and Mehht know what transpired between
Emperor and his Empress. As usual,
Lorian's face betrays no emotion. Mehht,
however, is positively buzzing with curiosity.
Padmé avoids her gaze.
Lorian hands a
datapad to Anakin.
“Taly’s final report,” he says grimly.
through the data.
“How bad is it?”
Senators are involved,” Lorian says. “I
suspect that is a conservative
estimate. Taly only implicated
individuals he was certain he could prove are conspirators.”
feels sick. This can’t be
happening. “Involved how?” she
“In most cases,
yes,” Lorian says.
“All funneled to Byss.”
is fixed on the screen.
"Palpatine amassed enormous repositories of incriminating
information on all sorts of people. I
suspect he’s putting it to use now.”
“Do you really
think he’s back?” she whispers.
Anakin turns to
face his wife, his expression softening. “I
do,” he says. “I don’t know how. Considering the length of his absence, I
whatever dark powers he used to sustain himself took a considerable
wonders if Anakin appreciates the irony of his words.
She doubts it. “And Leia’s
“We don't know,”
"There is nothing in the records Taly found to tie her to any of
“I’m leaving for
Anakin says. "If Korto knows
anything, I will find out.”
"I want to go,"
Padmé says boldly. She sees the
look on Anakin's face and
immediately heads him off. "Leia is
my daughter too. I have a right to know
as much as you do."
going," Anakin informs her firmly. "It's
not safe. You need to stay here with
He's lying and
she knows it. What
place could possibly be safer for her than inside his fortress at his
side? She steps closer to him, turning
her back to Lorian and Mehht. “You can’t
keep me safe if I’m at arm’s length,” she whispers.
He looks down at
her with an unreadable expression. “That
may be the only way I can ever keep
you safe,” he says. Without another
word, he shoots a pointed look at Lorian and then turns on his heel,
droid says, carefully setting the cup of caf on
the table before retreating.
gratefully sips the drink.
It is late afternoon and she sits at a small table on the
veranda of her
penthouse. Anakin left more than an hour
ago and Padmé retreated outside to give Lorian and Mehht – and
alone, she has time to think. Padmé
knows the danger of opening herself up
emotionally to her husband. She knows
how easy it would be to lose herself in her love and desire for Anakin,
overlook his sins. To overlook
Vader. She learned that lesson the hard
way. And it cost the entire galaxy a
great deal. She will not do it
But she doesn’t
want to live without passion. She doesn’t
want to live a stilted, desolate
existence without Anakin. She can feel
Anakin changing, feel his lightness gaining ground on his darkness. But he isn’t the man she married.
She is slowly growing to accept he will never
be that man again.
"Are you okay?"
Pulled from her
thoughts, Padmé turns to see Mehht standing in the
“News of the
explosion is all over Holonet,” Mehhts says, her lips
pursed into a thin line as she looks Padmé over.
hates that Mehht had to learn of her injuries second hand.
Mehht has been her closest confidant for
years and yet in the last few days, a distance has grown between them. Both of them have been so enmeshed in their
own affairs there has been little time to connect.
"I'm fine," Padmé says softly.
the veranda and sits down, critically staring at Padmé.
Padmé presses the pads of her fingers to the bruise at her
temple. "Considering I was almost
killed, I don't think it's too bad," she says.
Mehht shakes her
head. “Not bad
considering. You’ll be good as new
before you know it.”
inwardly marvels at the situation.
As recently as a few weeks ago, Mehht would have vilified Anakin. Mehht would have blamed him for putting her
in jeopardy. Yet now, Mehht remains
silent. In that instant, Padmé
Mehht truly loves Lorian. Mehht is many
things, but a hypocrite is not one of them.
Mehhts now understands what it means to truly care for a man so
to Anakin. For the first time ever
feels as though she has a confidant who truly understands her plight.
Setting her cup
in its saucer, Padmé looks directly into Mehht’s
eyes. “He didn’t want me with him at the
Mehht shakes her
“No, he didn’t.”
stares at her cup of caf.
“He’s going to torture Korto to death.”
She looks at Mehht, searching for something she can’t
“Korto tried to
have you killed,” Mehht says plainly, her jaw firmly
set. It is clear she finds no fault in
Anakin’s actions. Any justice to be
found on Tatooine is of the vigilante variety.
In their combined history is plenty of precedent for this
situation. Owen Lars participated in more
than a few
raiding parties solely for the purpose of exacting justice.
destroyed the Jedi Order and toppled the Republic in order to
protect me. I lied to myself.
I ignored the signs. I held my
tongue until it was far too late,”
Padmé whispers. “I won’t do it
again. I can’t condone this path. Even if Korto is guilty, no good will come
from his death.”
“Your husband is
the Emperor,” Mehht says firmly, but not cruelly. “You
can’t stop him.”
to her feet, Padmé looks at her friend with sad
eyes. “I have to try.
Not for Korto, for Anakin.
I have to try.”
The first of
Coruscant’s innumerable layers of buildings were erected
hundreds of millennia ago. Through
countless governments, social movements and architectural
upon level has risen toward the stratosphere.
City is constantly
itself. Quadrants fall in and out of
vogue, wealth migrates from one subblock to the next.
The only constant in this eternal metropolis
And yet, there
are certain places – even on Coruscant - where things
looks at the damp stone walls still caked with countless layers of
torch soot despite the fact that torches haven’t been used as
millennia. The Imperial Senate Complex
was once a shipyard. Before that it was
an apartment block. Millennia before
that, it was one of the giant Rakatan foundries. Yet
unlike the Senate Complex, Padmé knows
Imperial Military Detention Center H5 has been a place of pain and
humanity first crawled from the primordial ooze. Darkness
seems to seep from the stone
walls. Padmé can’t suppress a
At her side,
Lorian betrays no hint of his reaction to this place.
His lips are pursed into a thin grim line and
he is not happy to be here. He did
everything he could to try and prevent Padmé from coming here,
but short of
physically restraining her, he had no choice.
Their way is
soon blocked by a heavy iron door. Lorian
grabs the handle, but rather than
pulling it open, he turns and looks at her.
“You’re sure you want to see this?”
unsure, Padmé swallows thickly before nodding.
Lorian pulls the door open and stands aside so Padmé can
In this room,
torches burn in their sconces as they did millennia
ago. There is a stone pit in the middle
of the room where a fire crackles. It
would seem more welcoming if there weren’t branding irons glowing red
within the flames.
sees the scene before her but in what is no doubt a
self-preservation tactic of her mind, it doesn’t immediately register. Little by little details come into sharp
focus; the cold damp feel of this place seeping into her bones; the
congealed liquid glinting off the stone floor and walls; the acrid
burning flesh; the wet, sucking sound of Korto struggling for breath;
nauseous bite of bile rising at the back of her throat.
turns away, coughing quickly to stave off retching.
She covers her face with her hands, but
nothing can block out the horrifying smell of Korto’s burning flesh. The twi’lek doesn’t moan or cry out in pain
and Padmé knows it isn’t because the repulsive creature isn’t in
pain. It is because he isn’t physically
doing here?” Anakin demands of Lorian.
his ground, holding his head high as he faces the
Emperor. “The Empress commanded I bring
her here,” he says.
forces her reactions under control, turning to face Anakin. She won’t let him punish Lorian for following
The sight before
her is shocking.
Though Lorian is slightly taller, Anakin is larger, his
broader, his frame muscled by a lifetime of physical training. Bare to the waist, he is dressed only in a
pair of loose fitting black pants. His
glistens with sweat and blood. The blood
is undoubtedly Korto’s, sprayed across Anakin’s well defined chest,
even his stubble-roughened face. His
hair is completely soaked with sweat making it appear far darker than
is. In his right hand is one of the
branding irons. In his left is a
knife. It isn’t a vibro blade. It isn’t a technological marvel.
It’s simply a piece of sharpened metal forged
solely for the purpose of inflicting pain.
He looks at her,
his expression cruel.
“I didn’t realize you were so eager to watch me work.”
thickly, forcing herself not to cower. “I’m
He laughs. “Really? You
forced Lorian to bring you here.” He looks
at his most prized lieutenant,
sneering at him. “I’m sure Lorian tried
to talk you out of it. He never shies
from this sort of thing, but he prefers to keep his dark deeds secret. He’s very concerned about protecting the
gentle feminine sensibilities.” He turns
to Padmé, smiling broadly. “Are you
going to tell your little moisture farmer about this?
What do you think she’ll think about her
dashing young Imperial operative now? He
got a pretty good start on Korto before I arrived.”
But unlike their
exchange at the medcenter, this time her gentle plea
seems to enrage him further.
“Why are you
here, Padmé?” he demands.
“Do you want to see how many pieces I can carve Korto into
shakes her head vigorously, biting the inside of her cheek to keep
from gagging. “Lorian said you were
trying to find engineering schematics Korto stole from the Imperial
almost casually like he isn’t standing in the middle of a
dungeon covered in his victim’s blood.
“Korto had them,” he confirms. “His
quarters were searched, but someone ransacked them before we had a
chance. The plans were gone.”
“Why are you
doing this if he doesn’t have the information you want?”
again. “Oh, Korto
couldn’t tell us anything even if he wanted to,” he says with sickening
cheer. “He no longer has the ability to
speak or write. So unless Twi’leks have
learned to communicate telepathically, he’s not telling anyone
anything.” He uses the back of the knife
absently scratch at his opposite shoulder.
The metal is covered with gore and
Padmé can’t help but gag.
closer, reaching out a hand to Padmé. He
is Force shoved backwards into the
wall. Padmé stops herself from
to Lorian’s aid. She knows it would only
spark Anakin’s wrath.
the distance to Lorian.
He looks his lieutenant over closely.
For the first time, Lorian’s stoic veneer cracks the tiniest bit
Padmé can feel how nervous he is.
closely, Anakin whispers, “You can’t protect her from
me. No one can.”
his resolve, his jaw clenches tightly. Padmé
knows he is about to do something
us,” she says imperiously.
Both Lorian and
Anakin turn to face her.
While Lorian’s features are incredulous, Anakin’s are smug.
“Milady – “
leaving Lorian’s side to return to his wife. He
stops directly in front of her and Padmé
stands perfectly still, back ramrod straight.
Anakin reaches out and traces a finger along her jaw. She knows it leaves a trail of blood, but she
does not react.
his gaze from Padmé, Anakin says, “Your Empress bought
your clemency, Lorian. You best heed her
still staring into Anakin’s eyes when she hears the door clang
“Why are you
here?” he asks again, this time angrily.
“I want you to
turning away. He walks
over to the fire, stoking it with the branding iron.
He finally drops the iron into the
flames. He looks down at the knife he
holds, studying it in his palm. He
tosses it several times, easily catching it again.
knows he is trying to scare her.
She is fully aware he is capable of using the knife to harm. However, she does not truly believe he would
ever physically harm her. He wants to
scare her, to chase her away, not to maim her.
dead,” he says flatly.
“He died the second he intended you harm.”
several steps and reaches out, pressing her palm to the bare
flesh of his muscled back. Her nail
marks from several hours ago are still clearly visible on his skin. “I don’t wish his death,” she says.
He steps away,
breaking the physical contact and turns to face her.
“And you think I should spare his life
because you ask?”
cruelly and offers her the knife. “It
would be far more humane to finish him
off. With the extent of his injuries, he
won’t have much of a life.”
She looks at the
knife and then back to his eyes. “I am
asking you to spare him. For me.”
There is a moment, a connection.
She is no longer his wife in name only.
Her lips are still swollen from his kisses, her body still aches
deliciously from their lovemaking.
“I will not stay
at arms’ length, my lord.”
Silence hangs in
the air for innumerable heartbeats. She
does not know where exactly the
demarcation resides in her husband’s soul and mind, but she knows in
moment he is more Vader and less Anakin.
And still, she cannot turn away.
Both sides of him are always present, one ceding dominance to
as the situation demands. She realizes
now the danger for both her and Anakin lies in denying his duality, in
to deny his darkness. Darkness is part
of who he is. It doesn’t have to rule
him as it has for so long. But to deny
the darkness, to fight it, only feeds Vader’s power.
shrugs, tossing the knife onto a nearby table. He
yells something in a language Padmé
doesn’t understand and several robed creatures scurry into the room
door she hadn’t noticed.
“His life is on
your conscience,” Anakin says. “I doubt he
will think you merciful.”
turns away. Anakin probably
has a point, but she is not willing to concede that now.
He turns, walking through the door and she
follows. They walk down a short hallway
and down a set of narrow, curving stone stairs.
She runs her fingertips along the wall, wetting them with the
and wiping frantically at the blood trail on her jaw.
They walk down a short hallway before
entering another room with a heavy iron door.
This room is
much like the previous.
Same damp stone walls, ceiling and floor. However
the illumination is provided by
standard electric lightbulbs and a small heater in the corner provides
warmth. There is a sleeping couch in the
corner and a table with a computer terminal and a comlink.
- nobody is being carved into little pieces in this
In one corner
is a showerhead with no enclosure.
Underneath it a grate is cut into the stone floor.
She watches as Anakin quickly discards his
pants and steps under the showerhead.
With the turn of a faucet, water rains over his naked flesh,
washing away the sweat and blood. He
takes his time and Padmé watches, unable to look away.
thickly, exhaling loudly. His attention
snaps to her and he stands there under the water, watching her
predatorily. Without taking his eyes
from hers, he reaches out and turns off the water.
The abrupt lack of sound is startling and
Padmé is excruciatingly aware of the deafening cadence of her
great predatory feline, he stalks across the floor toward her, his bare
making no sound on the stone floor. Her
heart pounds in her chest and she is overwhelmed by a primal,
to run. She forces herself to stay
rooted to the floor. If she runs, he
would most certainly give chase. There
is little doubt as to how quickly he would catch her.
She suspects Lord Vader would love nothing
more than to run her to ground, to catch her and dominate her in the
most basic way a man can dominate a woman.
It would serve to remind them both what a monster he is, how
is from Anakin Skywalker.
She knows he
tortured Korto. She knows he has done
far worse. And in spite of that, she
still cares for him. She still believes
he is a good man and he is strong enough to fight his way out of this
She will not
run. Not from Anakin Skywalker. Not from Lord Vader.
there, her chest heaving as she watches him approach.
He stops several feet from her, examining her
with a cruel, ravenous gaze.
He wants her
to be scared.
But she is
more than simply afraid. For better or
for worse, she physically hungers for the man before her.
She is not pleased by the desire she feels
for him in this moment, but she is finished with trying to deny it.
Perhaps he is
not the only one with a dark side.
She takes one
tentative step toward him, then another.
She lifts her hand, tracing her fingertips lightly over his
chest. She can almost feel his shock
though he tries
to hide it, tries to act nonchalant. She
looks up into his eyes. He stares down
at her coldly.
buy his act for a second. He wants her,
here and now on this cold stone floor. She
knows that truth beyond a doubt. His
attempt at denial gives no doubt as to just how much Lord Vader fears
She smiles up
at him and it is a carnal, giddy smile full of feminine power. It doesn’t take long before the coldness
leaves his eyes and is replaced by something else.
to kill me,” he says seriously.
“But I promise you’ll like it.”
“I have no doubt
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