Sins of the Father:  Chapter 17
by indie


Padmé comes awake with a start and finds herself staring directly into her husband's eyes.
"Where's Luke?" he demands with quiet intensity.

Padmé groans, pushing herself into a sitting position, staring blindly across the bedroom.  Next to her, Anakin props himself up on one arm.  Though mentally exhausted, Padmé knows they've slept for a long time and physically she feels better despite the ache in her heart and soul.  She can feel the intensity of his gaze without looking at him.
Turning, she looks down at him.  "What was that?  A dream?  A vision?  How did that happen?"
"I don't know," he says, impatiently shrugging off her question.  "Answer me.  Where's Luke?"
She stares at him for a moment and sighs in defeat.  "Oovo IV."
Roughly, he pushes himself out of the bed dressed in only his rumpled black trousers.  He paces the room like a caged beast.  "I don't believe you," he curses.  "You knew.  You knew I forbid it and you let him go see Kenobi."
"I didn't let him go, Anakin," she says.  "You said it yourself.  He's a man.  He felt he had to go, so he did.  With my blessing."
The glare he gives her is pure Vader.  "You knew," he says again, his voice soft, but filled with deadly intensity. 
"Is that what this was about?" he demands, gesturing to the rumpled bedcovers.  "Did you think I was so eager to fuck you I wouldn't notice my son was missing?"
She recoils from his words as if they were a slap.
"It disgusts me," he snarls, "that you're so eager to have Kenobi back you're willing to endanger your child's life."
She is willing to take a great deal of grief over this, but he has just crossed a line and they both know it.  Her glare is sufficient incentive for him to hold his tongue.  He postures defiantly for a few more seconds and then grabs the rest of his clothes, shrugging into them as he heads for the door.
As the door hisses shut, Padmé pulls her knees up to her chest and folds her arms around herself, spewing a string of curses that would make a Hutt blush.
It is early evening when Padmé finally emerges from her bedroom.  She is freshly showered with her hair pulled into a simple knot at the back of her head.  She spent a long while sorting through her closet for something suitable to wear.  Suitable for what, she's not certain.  She only knows that she doesn't want to wear one of Lady Soh's beautiful gowns and her clothes from Tatooine feel oddly inappropriate as well.  She searched through all the boxes Lady Soh sent over several weeks earlier and found an outfit.  It's oddly reminiscent of what she wore on Geonosis so many years ago.  She hopes that isn't a portent.  And rather than being a pristine white, this soft, close-fitting jumpsuit is black with matching black boots.  She smiles at the absurdity.  She and Anakin look like a matched set.  Or rather they would if they stood next to each other.  She doubts he's in a hurry to see her face to face.
Anakin isn't returning her messages or answering her coms.  She's irritated with herself for being shocked by Anakin's reaction.  She knew he would be angry – irate even – when he learned where Luke went.  But she didn't expect him to accuse her of seducing him as part of some elaborate plot to free her fictional former lover.  Honestly, his reaction isn't unprecedented and certainly shouldn't have been unexpected.   She feels like an idiot for believing a fourteen year separation was sufficient time to move them past such juvenile behavior. 
The apartment is empty save Astor.  Padmé knows there are a half-dozen other guards waiting in the hallway and out on the veranda.  Preferring to be alone, she cossets herself in the kitchen, warming her hands around a mug of H'Kak bean tea she can't bring herself to drink.  She is emotionally exhausted.
Padmé still has her hands wrapped around the quickly cooling mug when Mehht enters the kitchen.  Padmé doesn't say anything as Mehht joins her at the small table.  When Mehht crosses her arms over her chest and eyes Padmé speculatively, Padmé looks away.
"Is he talking to you?" Mehht asks.
"No," Padmé answers flatly.
Mehht's expression softens.  "Lorian says he's about ready to send the Imperial Navy looking for Luke."
Padmé's heart catches in her throat.  "Anakin can't find him?"
Mehht shakes her head.  "Lorian says the administrator at Oovo IV reported that Kenobi was missing, but he never saw Luke or the girl."
Padmé sinks back in her chair, heart racing.  What if Anakin's nightmare was right?  What if something unthinkable has happened to the twins?  She has no idea how literal his visions may be, but she knows that they certainly don't bode well for her family.  "What about Leia?"
"I don't know," Mehht replies with more than a little bitterness – unaware of Padmé and Anakin's shared dream.  "Lorian was supposed to be looking for her.  As far as he knew, she hasn’t left Coruscant."
"Dammit," Padmé hisses under her breath, rising to her feet.  She stares out the window, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth.  "Where is Lorian? The Imperial Palace?"
Mehht is still nodding when Padmé turns and heads for the door.  In the hallway, Astor snaps to attention.  Padmé glares at him.  "You're going to have to hurt me to keep me in this apartment," she says darkly.  "And regardless of how angry the Emperor may be with me at this moment, I need you to consider how dead you will be when he finds out you injured me. "
Astor seems to consider this information for a moment.  "At least allow me to escort you," he says.
"Done."  Padmé stalks out the door with both Astor and Mehht close behind.
Lorian doesn't seem particularly surprised to see any of them as they enter Leia's suite of rooms in the Imperial Palace.  He holds up a datapad.  "At least we know who stole the schematics from Korto's apartment," he says dryly.  Padmé knows he must consider Leia the bane of his existence by now.
Groaning, she screws her eyes shut.  If she can make it to dawn without discovering another of her husband or children's plots, she will consider herself incredibly lucky.  "What was Leia doing with the plans?" she demands, taking the datapad from Lorian.  Just as Anakin indicated, the plans are old, obsolete and unless you're an engineer, incredibly difficult to read.  She returns the datapad to Lorian.
"I don't know," Lorian replies.  "I doubt she was doing much of anything with them.  They have no value.  The project was scrapped.  What little headway was made was dismantled and sold to the highest bidder years ago."
Padmé nearly growls in frustration.  "Can we please assume these plans aren't useless?" she snaps.  "Regardless of how little certain people seem to value life, I find it impossible to believe that people are disappearing and being tortured to death over something that truly has no value."
Lorian shrugs.  "The amount of money and raw materials it would take to make use of these plans is absolutely prohibitive.  Without Imperial backing they're nothing more than a madman's fantasy."
Padmé stares at him impatiently.  He's not a stupid man.  He's going to figure it out any second.
Lorian's face goes pale. 
"I don't care if he doesn't want to see me," Padmé orders, "take me to my husband now."
"We have to find Luke and Leia."  Padmé's words are shouted over the din of the Imperial War Room.
Anakin meets her gaze, but holds up his hand to silence her as he concentrates on his comlink.  The room is bustling with activity and Padmé threads her way through military personnel, making her way to Anakin's private office.
“I expect to see you within the hour,” he snaps into the comlink before slamming it down on the desk and rising to his feet.
“Was that Leia?” she asks hopefully.
He shakes his head, his lips pursed grimly together.
“We found the schematics in Leia’s rooms,” Padmé says, rushing to get the words out before he orders her from his sight.
“I already know,” he says cutting her off.  He motions to one of the banks of computer terminals against the wall and Padmé recognizes both Taly and Piett.  “They’re running scenarios now, trying to figure out how much of the Death Star Palpatine might have been able to reconstruct since money began being funneled to Byss.”
“Did you find Luke?”
He looks at her, holding her gaze for a moment before shaking his head again.  “Taly had a tracer on Mara’s ship.  Imperial scouts located it abandoned in the shipyards at Aargau.  There were signs of a struggle.”
“Aargau?   That’s where Typho tracked Leia down with Solo.”
He nods.  “It’s a convenient jump point into the Deep Core.”
Her blood is pounding in her ears and she can barely wrap her mind around the possible scenarios.  She starts when wordlessly, Anakin reaches out, gently grasping the front of her sweater and pulling her flush against his body.  He lowers his head so his lips brush the shell of her ear.  “We’ll find them,” he swears.
Tears sting her eyes and she leans into him.  She doubts he has forgiven her, but at this point, she’ll settle for him ignoring what transpired if she can take comfort in his arms.  It’s progress of a sort, she supposes.
Steeling her resolve, she squares her shoulders and pulls back far enough to look him in the eye.  “Who were you talking to when I arrived?”
“My personal physician.”
Padmé gives him a questioning look and he elaborates.  “Leia has been seeing her.  I want to know why.”
More information only means more questions and still no answers.  She wraps her arms tightly around herself, feeling chilled to the core.  “What are we going to do?” she asks.
“My private ship is being prepped for departure.  As soon as I speak with Dr. Hess I’m leaving for Aargau and then the Deep Core.”
“I’m going,” Padmé says firmly.
Anakin watches her for a tense moment and then gives her a small nod.
Imperial Physician Lieutenant Kyah Hess is everything Padmé isn't.  She's tall, blonde and blessed with curves more suited to a dancing girl than a doctor.  She is also quite young.  Padmé assumes that to have risen in the ranks at such a tender age, Lt. Hess must be quite a gifted physician – and quite ruthless.   Her imperial uniform appears tailored like a glove, displaying her figure to perfection while adhering strictly to dress code.  Luckily for Lt. Hess, Padmé doesn’t have the spare brain cycles at the moment to wonder whether or not her husband has been playing doctor with his doctor.
"My Lord," Lt. Hess says, giving Anakin a sultry smile.
On second thought, Padmé does apparently have enough cycles to wonder about her husband's fidelity.  While she has no intention of getting in a catfight over Anakin, she knows better than to provide him with too much temptation.  She makes a mental note to find some stodgy old Mon Calamari doctor to appoint as Anakin's private physician at the earliest possible convenience.
"Doctor," Anakin relies dryly, not bothering to look up from his desk terminal where his attention is fixated on the latest intelligence reports feeding in.
Padmé watches with a great deal of satisfaction as Lt. Hess's smile cools several degrees.  The doctor squares her shoulders, correctly reading this as a purely professional house call.  She stands at attention in front of Anakin's desk.
Finally turning away from the terminal, Anakin looks at Lt. Hess.  "What were you treating Leia for?"
Lt. Hess swallows thickly.  "My Lord, you must understand that I am not at liberty to discuss your daughter's medical treatment with you without – "
"I don't have to understand a damn thing," Anakin interrupts.  With a wave of his hand, he triggers the office door closed. 
Without the constant din of noise from the War Room, the office is shockingly quiet.  Lt. Hess looks around the office.  While Padmé knows Lt. Hess was aware of her presence, the doctor still startles visibly as their eyes lock.
"Padmé, may I present Lt. Kyah Hess, my personal physician," Anakin says tightly.  "Lt. Hess, my wife, the Empress Padmé."
Lt. Hess nods, obviously uneasy.  "Milady." 
"Tell me," Anakin orders darkly.
Lt. Hess frowns and then shrugs.  "Insomnia."
Padmé takes a step closer.  "Leia was having trouble sleeping?"
Lt. Hess's head snaps toward Padmé and again Padmé has the impression that the doctor is unnerved by more than simply her presence.  Lt. Hess clears her throat and nods.  "Yes, ma'am."
"For how long?" Anakin asks.
"Quite some time, My Lord," Lt. Hess replies.  "She's been seeing me for a little over four months.  I believe she had problems with the insomnia for several months prior to seeking help."
Padmé crosses her arms over her chest, eyeing Lt. Hess carefully.  "How did you help my daughter?"
Lt. Hess meets Padmé's gaze again and this time there is no uneasy undercurrent.  Padmé questioned the doctor's abilities and Lt. Hess obviously doesn't take such things lightly.  There is a steely quality in the young woman's bright green eyes.  "Medications, ma'am," she says tightly.  "I suggested behavioral changes, exercise, meditation, but the Imperial Princess was not interested in those suggestions.  She said she already tried them all and she was clearly exhausted."
"So you drugged her?" Padmé challenges.
"I medicated her, ma'am," Lt. Hess bristles in reply.  "With the latest generation of sleep medications.  They are highly effective with few if any side effects."  She swallows and shifts uncomfortably.  Her jaw is still firmly set, but it's obvious there is more.
"But?" Anakin prompts.
Lt. Hess meets the Emperor's gaze.  "Leia's constitution and metabolism are far more … efficient than most humans."
"So you overmedicated her?" Padmé demands.
Lt. Hess's expression tightens, but her tone remains stiffly proper.  "No.  I didn't.  I adhered to protocol.  I informed her I could not diverge from standard protocol without parental consent.  She declined."  Taking a deep breath, Lt. Hess continues, "Personally, I believe that Leia's problems are more psychological than physical in nature."
Padmé looks at Anakin.  "Visions?"
Anakin's jaw clenches.  "That will be all, doctor."
“Kenobi was here,” Anakin says tightly.
Padmé watches him inspect the confined space of Mara’s ship, saying nothing.  This is her fault and they both know it.  She shouldn’t have let Luke go.  He may have an old soul, but he’s still so young.  She should have convinced him to stay, to wait. 
“Is there anything else?” she asks quietly.  Padmé doesn’t know what she was hoping for, some insight from the Force that would tell Anakin where Luke, Mara and Obi-Wan are, if they’ve been harmed.  “Can you sense him at all?”  She has no idea how reasonable her request may be.  She has only ever had the most rudimentary understanding of Jedi powers, but even if she was better informed, she suspects this situation would be an anomaly.  Unlike a Master's bond with his or her Padawan or even a bond between two powerful Jedi, Anakin, Luke and Leia's connection to one another is bolstered by a visceral, physical bond.  They are blood relatives who have spent their entire lives in close proximity with one another.  But Padmé has never questioned the twins’ bond with one another or their father through the Force.  She has no idea if they can sense each other over great distances or not.
He gives a terse shake of his head.  “Nothing.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” he snaps impatiently.  “Nothing at this point.  I don’t get the sense that he’s been harmed or killed.  He’s just … gone.
Anakin turns abruptly and passes her as he exits Mara's ship.  Padmé follows him as he stalks his way across the busy dock toward his private ship.  The trip to Aargau wasn't long but Anakin didn't speak to her at all.  He didn't appear to be fuming the entire way – which she considers a positive turn of events – but she has no idea what he's thinking. 
When they enter the cockpit, there is a message waiting.  It's from Lorian informing them he cannot find Leia or Typho and it's beginning to look like Leia may have left Coruscant.
"Dammit!" Anakin swears, punching one of the instrument consoles.  The console sparks and fizzles, the lights going dim. 
Padmé's eyes burn with tears she will not allow to fall.  Both the children are gone.  Luke was obviously taken by force.  Leia is missing.  She may be involved with Luke's disappearance or it may simply be coincidence.  Padmé's stomach churns painfully.  She knows Leia's absence isn't a coincidence.  Padmé refuses to allow for the possibility that Leia willfully harmed her twin, but Padmé knows her daughter's disappearance is related to Luke's disappearance in some way.
And it's all her fault.  In returning to Coruscant with the hopes of righting her wrongs, she ruined everything and endangered her children's lives.
"It's not your fault."
Padmé looks at her husband and is unable to prevent a tear from tracing down her cheek.  She shrugs, wiping impatiently at the tear.  She doesn't want to show this weakness to him.  Not only is he likely to be unsupportive, it's entirely possible he'll accuse her of trying to manipulate him.
"It's not your fault," he says again, more softly.
She looks at him and then away again quickly.  "I thought you were convinced I seduced you and endangered Luke to free my lover."  The words are bitter, the emotions behind them even more so.  She doesn't want to be this way, but she is so raw right now with worry for Luke and Leia, she can't seem to stem the tide of vitriolic emotions.
Anakin takes a deep breath and releases it slowly.  He looks absolutely exhausted.  "Sixteen years ago Palpatine used my fears to manipulate me to perfection.  I do not intend for it to happen again."
She watches him for a long moment.  "Does that mean you believe me?"
He looks at her, holding her gaze.  "As difficult as it is at times," he says with a mirthless smile, "I can learn from my mistakes."
"You made a mistake?" she prompts in a tone that is more goading than is probably prudent, especially given his oddly charitable mood.
He smiles at her but it is not an entirely friendly gesture.  "I don't believe you betrayed me with Obi-Wan." 
Given the effort he puts into forming the words, Padmé isn't at all certain he does believe what he's saying.  Though the fact that he's saying the words at all is rather astounding.  "Good," she says tentatively.  "Because I didn't betray you."
As Padmé watches, Anakin sighs and closes his eyes, taking a moment to center himself.  Opening his eyes, he wearily scrubs a hand across his face.   He looks at the damaged instrument console.  He doesn't seem concerned, and Padmé assumes the panel didn't regulate any mission critical systems.
"What now?" she asks.
Turning he looks at her.  "There's only one place left to look."
He nods. 
End Chapter

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