Sins of the Father:  Chapter 16
by indie

He walks half a step behind her, his hand resting at the small of her back in a gesture that is both possessive and protective.  Her palms and knees ache, her flesh abraded from the rough stone floor.  Not that Padmé's complaining.  At least he isn't actively trying to scare her away.
She doesn't know who he is right now – Anakin, Vader; she's not certain.  She doesn't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  He hasn't shown any signs of feeling inclined to converse so it's difficult to get a read on his emotions or thoughts.  She has the impression she scandalized him with her earlier actions – shocked him to his core.  She doesn't think he quite knows how to handle the recent change in their personal dynamics.  She is beginning to believe that for all of Lord Vader's aggression, what he was really trying to accomplish was to protect her from himself.  She doesn't think he believed it possible she could know the real him and accept him.
On that point, she doesn't necessarily fault him.  She knew – years ago – that Anakin Skywalker was changing.  She could feel the darkness in him, the secrecy mounting, the lies, the misdirection.  And she looked the other way.  She told herself he was a good man – and he was.  But she denied any possibility that darkness, true darkness lay in wait inside him.  She was so busy deluding herself, pushing the truth away with both hands that when he finally admitted to her what he was doing, she was completely unprepared. 
It took Padmé years to come to terms with his actions, with her contribution to the outcome.  But fourteen years of hiding on Tatooine didn't change anything.  It didn't help anything.  She thought she was so wise back then.  She was a Queen, a Senator.  She achieved so much, experienced so much.  And yet, when it was all said and done, when the Republic fell, when Anakin fell, she felt like a naïve child.  She was heartbroken, humiliated, lost. 
Time may not have healed her wounds – she doubts anything can ever heal those wounds – but it gave her a great deal of perspective.  Despite the depth of her personal tragedy, she did continue to live, to draw breath.  She cared for her children, watched them grow.  And somewhere along the way, she learned to live again.  It wasn't a glamorous life, not particularly joyous most of the time either, but it was a life.  And she is a far different woman today from the heartbroken girl who followed her husband to Mustafar hoping he could take it all back.
Lord Vader is going to have to learn to accept her – and himself.  Because neither of them are going anywhere.
They turn a corner and the hand-hewn stone gives way to modern duracrete.  Padmé breathes easier.  If she never has to venture into the bowels of Imperial Military Detention Center H5 again, she will consider herself blessed.  They continue walking in silence until they come to a small hangar bay.  He ushers her inside the shuttle, ordering the pilot away and taking the controls himself.
Sitting in the co-pilot's seat, she is surprised to find it is still night.  Time seemed to stop inside that eerie place.  A quick glance at the console's chrono informs her that dawn will be quickly approaching.  She's so exhausted she isn't even certain if she feels tired.
Turning, she studies his profile for a moment.  “What did Korto tell you?”
He doesn't turn to look at her, keeping his vision straight ahead.  “Nothing useful.”
Undaunted, she presses, “What about the schematics?”
He finally turns and looks at her.  “The plans he stole are old, obsolete.  They’re from a project that was abandoned as soon as I became Emperor.”
“But Korto stole the plans and then someone stole them from him?”
Padmé waits a moment, then another, her patience wearing thinner with every passing second.  “Anakin, what were the damn plans?” she demands.
He looks at her again, smiling in amusement at her show of temper.  ”The plans were for a technological terror Palpatine was hell bent on constructing.  It was a ridiculous waste of money and resources.  I objected to it from the very beginning and as soon as he was dead, I scrapped the entire project.”
Padmé sinks back in her seat, chewing on her bottom lip.  The deeper they dig, the more questions they find.
The sky is pinkening with dawn as they step out of the turbolift and make their way to the door of her penthouse.   When they step inside, Mehht and Lorian are waiting.  Mehht immediately crosses the room to Padmé.  "Are you okay?" she asks.
"I'm fine," Padmé says quietly.  She can only imagine what Lorian might have told Mehht about the scene at the detention center.  She supposes it is quite a testament to Lorian's attachment to Mehht that he mentioned anything at all.  She doubts he is accustomed to having confidants himself.
A quick glance at Anakin confirms her suspicions that he's glaring at Lorian.  Across the room, Lorian's expression is completely unreadable.
"Have you seen or heard from Leia?" Padmé asks.
"Not since she ran out of here yesterday afternoon," Mehht replies.
Padmé frowns.  With a few mumbled excuses, she leaves Mehht and Lorian in the living room and walks toward her bedroom with Anakin following close behind.  "We may have scarred Leia for life," Padmé says wryly as her bedroom door hisses shut.
Anakin shrugs, unconcerned.  "She was more than happy to insinuate to you that I had a sordid affair with your clone," he says.  "She can learn to live with our relationship."
While Padmé thinks he's being a bit too flip about the whole situation, she supposes he has a point.  Leia is for all intents and purposes, an adult.  She may not want to know the intimate details of her parents' relationship, but she will have to accept that it exists. 
Padmé now knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that this thing between her and her husband is a relationship and it is going to continue.  She walks to the windows and pulls the heavy curtains closed against the blossoming dawn.  She glances over her shoulder at him.  "We need to sleep."
She doesn't have to open her eyes to know that she knows this place.  The wind whips around her and she can feel the tiny pebbles of sand beat against her exposed flesh.  Slowly, she pushes herself up into a sitting position, shielding her eyes with her hand as she carefully opens her eyelids.
It's night.  The cold of the Jundland Wastes bites into her very bones.   Before her is a Tusken camp.  She can see bodies spaced randomly around the habitats, lying awkwardly where they fell.  Carefully, she rises to her feet.  She has no shoes and the uneven rocks and sand dig painfully into her cold feet.  She stumbles forward, carefully picking her way between the bodies and the dwellings.
The howling wind is the only noise.  Several fires burn, untended, in pits providing some illumination.  She searches from habitat to habitat looking.
She finally sees him, crumpled to his knees in the doorway of one of the habitats, his back to her.  Rushing to his side, she falls to her knees next to him.
"Anakin!"  She calls his name, but he doesn't respond.  His vision is riveted on the scene in front of him, his face expressionless.
She turns and is frozen with terror at the sight before her.  Luke lies in the middle of the floor, his eyes open but sightless, blood seeping from the corner of his mouth.  There is movement in the corner of the dwelling and Padmé's head whips toward the figure shrouded in black robes.  Unable to move, she watches as the figure pulls back the hood, revealing Leia's face.
Padmé shakes her head, silently mouthing 'no' over and over again.  She turns, shaking Anakin hard.  She calls his name again and again, but he won't look at her.
She finally succeeds in getting his attention.  He turns and looks directly into her eyes.
Padmé comes awake with a start and finds herself staring directly into her husband's eyes.
"Where's Luke?" he demands with quiet intensity.
End Chapter

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