Sins of the Father:  Chapter 5
by indie

Padmé stands on the veranda of the apartment she once claimed as Senator of the Chommell Sector.  By rights, the penthouse should now be assigned to Padmé’s niece, Pooja Naberrie, the current publicly elected Senator.  However, the Naboo Embassy has been assigned new space in 500 Republica and this apartment has been expanded and is now reserved strictly for the Empress’s use.  Padmé appreciates Anakin’s kindness as much as she is bothered by her acceptance.
Pooja is a beautiful young woman.  Padmé has glimpsed her on HoloNet several times over the years.  Pooja’s older sister, Ryoo, is now married and living with her husband and young son on Naboo.  Padmé hasn’t seen either of her nieces since they were young children.  It is one of the many regrets she carries in her heart.  She hopes that one day soon she will find the strength to face her family, to offer them some explanation and beg their forgiveness.  But she is not yet ready.
The twins know their cousins, Leia moreso than Luke.  Leia spends a lot of time following the proceedings of the Imperial Senate.  In this, if nothing else, Leia is definitely her mother’s daughter.  Leia understands political maneuvering and the subtle art of persuasion.  Padmé always thought she would be proud to have her daughter follow in her footsteps.  It is not pride she feels. 
Luke, on the other hand, seems as disinterested in politics as his father.  Padmé watches her son as he gracefully moves through his lightsaber forms in the early morning light.  She clearly remembers Anakin doing the same thing during those golden days they spent on Naboo.
Luke finishes his forms and turns to her, crossing the distance and embracing her in a hug.
“I’m sorry I missed you last night,” Padmé says.  “We were at the ODP offices until very late.”
Luke’s expression is concerned.  “You should get some more sleep,” he says.
Padmé shrugs off his worry.  “I’ve spent quite enough time convalescing,” she says dryly.  “I’ll survive a few late nights.”
Luke escorts his mother to a small table on the veranda where a light breakfast has been arranged.  He waits until she is seated and then takes a chair. 
“How was your trip?” Padmé asks, pouring steaming caf into a delicate cup.
Luke studies her for a moment, taking the time to pour his own cup of caf before he replies.  “Important,” he finally answers.
Padmé nods, watching her son carefully.  As a child he was so open and gregarious, but with age, he has become more and more secretive.  Padmé has never pushed because her trust in her son is unshakeable.  However, she still worries.
“Where did you go?” she asks, knowing she is pressing him far harder than she would usually dare.
He’s quiet a moment.  “Ask me again sometime,” he says evasively.
Padmé silently wonders what answer Luke offered his father, but she allows him his secret.  Gracefully, she changes the subject to her eventful return to Coruscant.  They chat easily, both of them picking at their breakfasts.  Padmé’s vision falls on the lightsaber clipped to Luke’s belt and she can’t help herself from prying.
“Does your father instruct you and Leia in the ways of the Force?” she asks.
Luke’s eyes go wide for a moment.  Her question is unprecedented.  There were several years in the twins’ early childhood when she categorically refused to refer to her husband in any capacity.  She has always avoided asking the twins about their dealings with Anakin.
Luke wipes his mouth with his napkin.  “When we were younger, yes,” he answers.
“And now?” Padmé prompts.
“And now … we don’t talk about it,” Luke admits.  Padmé’s expression is full of curiosity and Luke shrugs.  “I think it was easier for him when we were younger,” he explains.  “It was more about deflecting blaster bolts with a lightsaber or levitating objects.  He spent a little time working on perception, influence, but …”
Padmé’s expression encourages him to continue.
“The older we got, the harder it became for him.  I think,” Luke adds wryly.  Padmé understand the reaction well.  She doubts Anakin has ever discussed his thoughts or feelings on this subject with either of the twins.  It’s entirely Luke’s intuition, which Padmé trusts.
“Leia and I reached a point in our training where we really needed to discuss the intention behind our actions.  Light.  Dark.  Balance.”  Luke sighs. “He shut down.  Shut us out.”
Padmé bites her lower lip and leans back in her chair as she crosses her arms over her chest.  “I saw him training a few days ago,” she says.
Luke’s eyebrows shoot up.  “Father?”
Padmé nods.  “He was sparring with one of his assassins.  He was using these animals called ysalamiri.”
Luke shrugs.  “He does that,” he says.  “Jedi and Sith are so attuned to the Force that its absence can be almost debilitating.  If someone with any sense were to attempt a coup or an attack against him, using ysalamiri would be their best bet.  It would level the playing field.”
“So he’s trying to be proactive?” Padmé asks.  “By training himself to be able to react without the Force as a guide?”
“Partially,” Luke says.  “I also think he does it just to see if he can do it.”
Padmé sinks farther back in her chair, considering this.  “Don’t you think that for someone who has dedicated his life to the Force, that it’s a bit …”  She tries to think of words other than perverse, deviant or abhorrent  to describe Anakin’s behavior to his son.  “Odd?”
Luke smiles and Padmé knows he knew exactly what she had been intending to say.  ‘I’ve never noticed that Father is particularly bound by anyone else’s idea of what he should or shouldn’t be doing.”
Padmé bites back her cynical laugh.  Anakin destroyed a thousand generations of Jedi tradition.  No, he most certainly is not bound by anyone else’s standards.  
Padmé suspects that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Anakin was never disciplined.  Not as a Padawan, not as a Jedi Knight, most certainly not as a member of the Jedi Council.  He was always smart enough, charming enough and possessed of enough raw talent, ability and power that he didn’t need discipline.  That the same defiant, rebellious attitude is still firmly entrenched, regardless of the fact that he is a Sith Lord. 
Padmé’s knowledge of Sith tradition is spotty at best.  But she does know enough to know that Sith Lords probably don’t love their children – if they even have children.  If there is anything pure left in him, it’s his care for his children.  Padmé is staking all their fates on that bet.
Padmé glances at her chrono and sighs. It’s already past five and she told Anakin that she would make an appearance at a formal dinner for the Hapan envoy tonight.  There’s no way she’s going to be finished sorting through the latest round of asylum requests and ration dispersals.  She rubs the back of her neck with her hand. 
Anakin mentioned the dinner in passing two days ago when she contacted him to intervene in an incident with Grand Moff Tarkin.  Tarkin seemed to think that three Capital class ships were serving the Empire better in cold storage than by being used to deliver medical supplies.  Anakin sided with her, though she suspects it was due more to his loathing for Tarkin and the aristocratic snobbery he represents than any loyalty Anakin feels for her.  That's fine with Padmé.  She has no compunctions about using Anakin's inability to play nice with others to further her own causes. 
Regardless, Padmé doesn’t think tonight's dinner is overly important.  Maybe she’ll send her apologies.
“We need to go,” Mehht says again, arms crossed over her chest.
Padmé looks up, clearly exasperated.  “There’s still so much to do,” she says.
“Aren't you going?” Mehht demands.  Mehht doesn’t want to go. She’s made that painfully clear.  But she also doesn’t like changing her plans at the last minute.  It disrupts her sense of order.
“I don’t want to,” Padmé admits. 
She knows this is precisely the type of event for which Anakin wants an Empress.  He’s horrible with politics, negotiations and small talk.  Not to mention she knows it has been a constant affront to his pride that his wife has been absent so long.  She looks at the stack of paperwork.  It’s certainly not going anywhere.
“I want to see her,” Mehht says speculatively.  “I wonder what a Queen looks like.”  Her gaze flickers over Padmé and she catches herself.  “Oh, other than you, I mean,” she amends.
Padmé frowns.  She knows that especially at this moment, she is no one’s idea of a queen – or Empress.  She looked presentable enough when she left her apartment in the morning, but after so many hours of digging through mountains of paper and swilling old caf, she’s well aware her moisture farmer roots are showing.  But that still doesn’t explain what Mehht means.  “Queen?  What queen?” Padmé asks.
“Oh, the …” Mehht says, searching for the correctly words.  She makes a circular gesture with her hand, prompting Lorian.
Over the last few days, Lorian has warmed up a degree or two.  He’s still frozen to his icy, assassin core, but he will now occasionally respond to direct questions.  He gives Mehht a very put-upon expression.  “The Hapan Queen Mother,” Lorian answers.  “Ta’a Chume.”
Padmé’s brow furrows.  “The dinner is supposed to be for the Hapan envoy,” she says.  “Not the Queen Mother.”  The Hapes Consortium has existed in isolation from the rest of the galaxy for thousands of years. If this is indeed a dinner for the Queen Mother, it’s of vital importance.  It's an opportunity to re-establish relations with a potentially powerful ally.
“You really need to start watching HoloNet,” Mehht says dryly.
Padmé rises to her feet and starts towards the door.  Lorian immediately flanks her as Mehht hurries to catch up.  There is no way Padmé is missing this dinner.  She just hopes there is time to make herself presentable. 
“How long have you known about this?” Padmé asks Mehht as they climb into the transport to return to her apartment.
“It was announced this morning,” Mehht says, her tone now more conciliatory.  She obviously didn’t realize that Padmé didn’t know.  “The Vice Chair of the Senate arranged it.  He seemed quite proud of himself.  Massam Deeda or something.”
“Mas Amedda,” Padmé automatically corrects, her features tightening instantly.
“I take it you know him,” Mehht says carefully.
“He’s close friends with Orn Free Taa,” Padmé explains. 
The rest of the short trip is in silence.  Once the transport lands, Padmé quickly hurries to the private turbolift and her apartment.  She heads directly to the refresher where she quickly showers and washes her hair.  She’s still dripping wet, wrapped in a robe with her hair twisted into a towel on top of her head when Mehht walks into her bedroom.
“I talked to Kore,” Mehht says quietly.
Padmé knows from Mehht’s tone that it’s not good news.  Kore’s mother, Dormé, married Giddean Danu, an influential Senator from the Kuat Sector and political ally of Bail Organa and Mon Mothma.  Any information from Kore is on good authority.
“And?” Padmé asks.
“Dormé seems to think that this is Mas Amedda’s attempt to get rid of you.”
Padmé snorts.  She already had that figured out.  “What I want to know is if the Hapan Queen Mother is complicit,” Padmé says.  “I’m sure Mas Amedda and Orn Free Taa think it would be incredibly convenient if the Emperor threw me in jail and married Ta’a Chume.”
Mehht gives her a wry look.  “Yes,” she says bluntly.  “And if half the things HoloNet says about that woman are true, it was probably her idea.”
Padmé isn't sure about that.  It's impossible to know Ta'a Chume's motives at this point – if ever.  Padmé rather doubts that the Hapan Queen Mother has designs on Anakin, but she knows enough to avoid ruling out any scenario.  The Hapans have been isolationists for thousands of years and as such, the Imperial intel on them is dubious at best.  The only thing Padmé knows for certain is that the Hapans are a merciless, opportunistic society obsessed with court intrigue and power.  Ta'a Chume has been the Queen Mother for at least a decade which is more than sufficient testament to her own ruthlessness.  Padmé has no idea what the Queen Mother might have to gain by forging formal ties with the Empire.  Snaring Anakin would most certainly add to Ta'a Chume's power base, but such a union would likely prove more trouble than it's worth -  for both parties.   Anakin has never been one to feel threatened by powerful women, however, the Hapans are a matriarchal society.  Anakin may be attracted to strong females, but Padmé seriously doubts he has any intentions of taking orders from one.
Anakin's intentions aside, Padmé knows that Ta'a Chume is very adept at finding ways to get what she wants.  Anakin's abhorrence for politics and subtle manipulation leaves him paradoxically vulnerable to such attacks.  And Padmé cannot discount the rumors of Ta'a Chume's attractiveness.  The Hapans have been bred for beauty for thousands of years.  Padmé has never seen Ta'a Chume, but she's willing to wager the Queen Mother is nothing short of stunning. 
Padmé bites her lower lip and stares at the wooden trunk at the end of her bed.  She takes a deep breath and steels her resolve.  She walks to the trunk and opens the lid.  Mehht watches as she carefully removes item after item until she finds it. 
"Is that what you had us all digging around closets for the other day?" Mehht asks.
Padmé nods.  Reverently, she unfolds the material and lays the dress out on the bed.
Mehht looks at the dress and then arches a judgmental eyebrow at Padmé.  “You’re not leaving the apartment in that, are you?”
Padmé blushes, but holds her head high.  “It still fits,” she says defensively.
Mehht doesn’t look convinced.
“I need help with my hair,” Padmé says, walking toward her vanity.
The heat of the moment has passed along with almost all of Padmé’s bravado and she is trying not to feel ridiculous in the gown she has chosen to wear for the evening.  The Felpajh 10A shuttle's windows are dimmed, but the lights of passing air traffic are still visible as they make their way to the Imperial Palace.  Despite the state of the art climate controls on the luxury shuttle and her own heavy black velvet hooded cloak, Padmé is still cold.  She pulls the cloak more tightly around her body.
The last time Padmé wore this gown, she was a girl.  Perhaps not in age, but definitely in her heart.  She was careless and perhaps a bit cruel the one and only time she ever wore the gown.  The cruelty was not intentional.  She was ignorant and naive.  She only knew that she felt womanly and empowered wearing the gorgeous gown, but she had been supremely unclear on her own intentions.  She hadn’t known what she wanted, other than to attract the attention of her handsome young Jedi protector.  She most certainly succeeded. 
She is hoping it will work again.
This time Padmé’s intentions are painfully clear.  She has ignored the persistent rumors of Anakin’s consorts over the years.  His fidelity isn’t the issue tonight.  He can entertain himself with as many dance hall Twi’leks as he wants.  What is not permissible to Padmé is a threat to her throne and her children.  Ta’a Chume would make a potent political ally and a stunning Empress.  Padmé cannot allow that to happen.  She knows exactly what this dress means and what it promises. 
Anakin still wants her.  Padmé has known that since their standoff shortly after her return to Coruscant.  She isn't naïve enough to think that he loves her – that emotion is reserved for Luke and Leia.  But he still finds her physically attractive.  He wants to possess her.  She supposes she should take some measure of comfort in the fact that he would never use force.  The same pride that will never allow him to beg also prevents him from using coercion, Force manipulation or physical strength to cow her into submission.  He wants her - but he wants her to want him.  He wants her to willingly walk into the demon's embrace. 
Mas Amedda has forced her hand.
She may take that leap.
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