Sins of the Father:  Chapter 15
TEEN rated version
by indie


 

***
 
Padmé 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 simple attire would not be appropriate.  She needs to remind everyone – herself included – of her station and her position 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 features. 
 
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 when they don't have time to truly explore what this change means to them and their relationship. 
 
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 unshaven face.  Despite a second shower and clean clothes, she knows she looks tired.  There is no doubt Lorian and Mehht know what transpired between the 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.
 
Anakin scrolls through the data.  “How bad is it?”
 
“Thousands of Senators are involved,” Lorian says.  “I suspect that is a conservative estimate.  Taly only implicated individuals he was certain he could prove are conspirators.”
 
Padmé feels sick.  This can’t be happening.  “Involved how?” she asks.  “Credits?”
 
“In most cases, yes,” Lorian says.  “All funneled to Byss.”
 
Anakin’s vision 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 suspect whatever dark powers he used to sustain himself took a considerable toll.”
 
Padmé wonders if Anakin appreciates the irony of his words.  She doubts it.  “And Leia’s involvement?”
 
“We don't know,” Lorian says.  "There is nothing in the records Taly found to tie her to any of this."
 
“I’m leaving for the Imperial Detention Center," 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."
 
"You're not going," Anakin informs her firmly.  "It's not safe.  You need to stay here with Lorian and Mehht."
 
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, leaving her.
 
***
 
"Milady," the droid says, carefully setting the cup of caf on the table before retreating.
 
Padmé 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 herself - privacy.
 
Sitting here 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, to 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 again. 
 
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 doorway. 
 
“News of the explosion is all over Holonet,” Mehhts says, her lips pursed into a thin line as she looks Padmé over. 
 
Padmé 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. 
 
Mehht crosses the veranda and sits down, critically staring at Padmé.
 
Gently, 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.”
 
Padmé 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 knows 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 similar to Anakin.  For the first time ever Padmé 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 detention center.” 
 
Mehht shakes her head somberly.  “No, he didn’t.”
 
Padmé stares at her cup of caf.  “He’s going to torture Korto to death.”  She looks at Mehht, searching for something she can’t articulate, even to herself.
 
“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. 
 
“Anakin 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.”
 
Pushing herself 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 sensibilities, level upon level has risen toward the stratosphere.  Galactic City is constantly re-inventing itself.  Quadrants fall in and out of vogue, wealth migrates from one subblock to the next.  The only constant in this eternal metropolis is change.
 
And yet, there are certain places – even on Coruscant - where things never change.
 
Padmé looks at the damp stone walls still caked with countless layers of torch soot despite the fact that torches haven’t been used as illumination for 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 death since humanity first crawled from the primordial ooze.  Darkness seems to seep from the stone walls.  Padmé can’t suppress a shiver.
 
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?”
 
Completely unsure, Padmé swallows thickly before nodding.
 
Reluctantly, Lorian pulls the door open and stands aside so Padmé can enter.
 
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 hot within the flames. 
 
Padmé 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 dark, congealed liquid glinting off the stone floor and walls; the acrid stench of burning flesh; the wet, sucking sound of Korto struggling for breath; the nauseous bite of bile rising at the back of her throat.
 
Padmé 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 capable of making noise.
 
“What’s she doing here?” Anakin demands of Lorian.
 
Lorian stands his ground, holding his head high as he faces the Emperor.  “The Empress commanded I bring her here,” he says.
 
Padmé forces her reactions under control, turning to face Anakin.  She won’t let him punish Lorian for following her orders. 
 
The sight before her is shocking.
 
Anakin stands facing Lorian.  Though Lorian is slightly taller, Anakin is larger, his shoulders 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 skin glistens with sweat and blood.  The blood is undoubtedly Korto’s, sprayed across Anakin’s well defined chest, arms and even his stubble-roughened face.  His hair is completely soaked with sweat making it appear far darker than it truly 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.”
 
She swallows thickly, forcing herself not to cower.  “I’m not.”
 
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.”
 
Anakin,” she says softly. 
 
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 before he finally dies?”
 
Padmé 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 data repositories.”
 
Anakin nods 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?” she pleads. 
 
Anakin laughs 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 blade to absently scratch at his opposite shoulder.  The metal is covered with gore and  Padmé can’t help but gag.
 
Lorian steps closer, reaching out a hand to Padmé.  He is Force shoved backwards into the wall.  Padmé stops herself from running to Lorian’s aid.  She knows it would only spark Anakin’s wrath. 
 
Anakin crosses the distance to Lorian.  He looks his lieutenant over closely.  For the first time, Lorian’s stoic veneer cracks the tiniest bit and Padmé can feel how nervous he is. 
 
Leaning in closely, Anakin whispers, “You can’t protect her from me.  No one can.”
 
Lorian steels his resolve, his jaw clenches tightly.  Padmé knows he is about to do something fatally stupid.
 
“Lorian, leave us,” she says imperiously.
 
Both Lorian and Anakin turn to face her.  While Lorian’s features are incredulous, Anakin’s are smug.
 
“Milady – “
 
“Now, Lorian,” Padmé commands.  “Leave us.”
 
Anakin chuckles, 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.
 
Without taking his gaze from Padmé, Anakin says, “Your Empress bought your clemency, Lorian.  You best heed her words.”
 
Padmé is still staring into Anakin’s eyes when she hears the door clang shut.
 
“Why are you here?” he asks again, this time angrily.
 
“I want you to spare Korto.”
 
He snorts, 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.
 
Padmé 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.
 
“Korto’s already dead,” he says flatly.  “He died the second he intended you harm.”
 
She takes 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?”
 
She nods.
 
Anakin smiles 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 this 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 the other as the situation demands.  She realizes now the danger for both her and Anakin lies in denying his duality, in trying 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. 
 
Finally Anakin 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 through a door she hadn’t noticed. 
 
“His life is on your conscience,” Anakin says.  “I doubt he will think you merciful.”
 
Padmé 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 condensation 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 meager warmth.  There is a sleeping couch in the corner and a table with a computer terminal and a comlink. 
 
Most importantly - nobody is being carved into little pieces in this room.
 
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, quickly washing away the sweat and blood.  He takes his time and Padmé watches, unable to look away.
 
She swallows 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 own quickening breath. 
 
Like some great predatory feline, he stalks across the floor toward her, his bare feet making no sound on the stone floor.  Her heart pounds in her chest and she is overwhelmed by a primal, instinctive urge 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 oldest, most basic way a man can dominate a woman.  It would serve to remind them both what a monster he is, how separate he 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 darkness.
 
She will not run.  Not from Anakin Skywalker.  Not from Lord Vader. 
 
She stands 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. 
 
And she is. 
 
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.
 
She doesn’t 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 this intimacy.

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.  
 
“You’re trying to kill me,” he says seriously.
 
“Maybe,” she admits wickedly.  “But I promise you’ll like it.”
 
“I have no doubt about that.”
 
***
 End Chapter

***
 
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