Sins of the Father:  Chapter 8
by indie

***
 
Luke is waiting outside the war room's doors once again holding his bag.  Leia is nowhere in sight.  Padmé walks to Luke’s side and starts to raise a hand toward his split lip.  He pulls away impatiently.  "It's nothing," he says dismissively, wiping at the wound with the cuff of his shirt as he turns down the hall.
 
Padmé's heart sinks as she follows her son.  They walk several hundred meters before Luke turns onto a side corridor and heads toward a turbolift.  They enter in silence, but after Luke pushes in the appropriate floor, Padmé forces him to turn and meet her gaze.  She takes a handkerchief from her cloak and gently dabs at his lip.  The wound actually isn’t that bad and it has already stopped bleeding, but she still needs to inspect it thoroughly.  More for her well being than his own, Luke allows her to fuss.
 
Satisfied that there is little else she can do to heal the physical wound, Padmé hands Luke the handkerchief and steps back.  The turbolift stops and Luke leads the way down the hall and into another large corridor.
 
Padmé knows Anakin's temper is mercurial and vicious, but her stomach is tied in knots with the knowledge that he actually struck one of his children.  "Please tell me this isn't a regular occurrence," she says quietly as they walk side by side down the hall. 
 
Luke rubs his jaw, his expression rueful.  "No," he says.  "That's the first time he's done that.  I knew he wouldn’t take the news well, but I really didn’t expect to get hit."
 
Padmé takes an infinitesimal measure of relief in Luke's reply.  She knows the atrocities Anakin has wrought, but brutalizing his own children is worse by orders of magnitude. 
 
They walk several more minutes before they arrive at the suite of rooms Luke uses in the Imperial palace.  The rooms aren't luxurious, but they are far more opulent than Anakin's quarters.  A small hallway leads from the doors into a large living room, comfortably appointed with a repulsor couch, several arm chairs and an enormous fireplace.  There's another hallway which Padmé immediately inspects.  It leads to a bedroom, an office and finally to the small galley kitchen she needs.  She rummages through drawers, finding a small towel and using it to wrap up a handful of ice. 
 
Luke is waiting in the living room when she returns and he takes the ice pack with a smile of gratitude.  He has closed the doors and thrown his bag into a nearby chair.  There are large windows in the room with a panoramic view of Galactic City
 
Luke walks to the windows and watches ships traverse the high-speed air traffic lanes in the bright midday sun.  He clasps his hands, ice pack and all, behind his back, his stance wide.   It unnerves Padmé how reminiscent his posture is of Anakin. 
 
"Do you think there's any chance Father will release Obi-Wan?" Luke asks, still staring out the window.
 
Padmé is struck by how young he sounds in this moment.  She realizes that through Luke and Leia know their father has a violent temper, she doubts either of them have ever been in a situation with him that would set off his jealous and possessive nature.  Luke, for all of his wisdom and insight, is still only a sixteen year old boy.  He has no idea the magnitude of issues he's stirred up.  Padmé is torn between a desire to comfort her son and her need to stop trying to protect him from the truth.
 
"I think it more likely we'll see snow on Tatooine," Padmé says in reply.
 
Luke's shoulders slump, but he doesn't reply. 
 
"How did you find Obi-Wan?" she asks.  There are empty chairs, but she finds herself too tightly wound to sit.
 
"Ben?" Luke says, glancing at Padmé.  He shrugs.  "I think he found me."
 
Padmé waits patiently knowing that Luke wants – no needs – to tell her this tale.  She watches as he experimentally presses the icepack to his lip. 
 
"I was always drawn to the Temple," Luke says, his vision fixated in the distance on the ruins of the Jedi Temple.  "I found holocrons, records.  I pieced together what happened."
 
Padmé looks at her son and wonders what story it is that he wove.  It took her years of retrospection to realize just how sinister and devious Palpatine truly was – how perfectly he played the warring factions against one another.  How expertly he manipulated the Jedi and Anakin in particular.
 
"In my searching, I was drawn to a certain name again and again," Luke says.  "Obi-Wan Kenobi."
 
"Your father was his Padawan learner," Padmé says.
 
Luke nods.  "A few years ago I went through Father's personal files.  I found references to Ben and to Desolation Alley.  I couldn't ignore it.  I finally went there and spoke with him.  In secret."
 
Padmé marvels at her son's nerve.  She is both proud and terrified.  Anakin would be incredibly angry if he discovered Luke went through his private records.  She also knows exactly why Luke sought out Obi-Wan in secret.  His split lip is testament enough to how difficult it is to ask his father for forgiveness, but asking permission would have been a death sentence for Obi-Wan. 
 
"How is he?" she asks, her voice thick.
 
"Not well," Luke says gravely, turning to face his mother.  He lowers the icepack.  "He's blind, crippled.  I think the only reason he lived this long is because he was waiting on me."
 
Blinking quickly, Padmé tries futilely to stave off tears.  She knew before she asked what Luke would say.  For Obi-Wan to be imprisoned so long, there was no question as to the grievous nature of his wounds.
 
"Ben told me the truth," Luke says, his jaw set.  "He told me what happened."
 
Padmé finally collapses into the chair, her arms wrapped tightly around her middle.  She hates what she's about to do, but she can't stop.  As abhorrent as she finds defending Anakin’s actions, she can’t allow Obi-Wan to be the only voice to shape Luke’s perspective.  "You have to understand, Luke," she says, "that Obi-Wan isn't an uninvolved party in this."
 
Luke looks at her, his gaze narrowing.  "Are you saying Ben is lying?" he asks.
 
"No," Padmé assures him, "but Obi-Wan is only human.  There were many truths your father chose to keep from him."
 
Her answer seems to placate Luke and he visibly relaxes.  "Ben says that Father betrayed the Jedi Order, that he led the massacre on the Temple."
 
Padmé nods, grief-stricken.  "That's true," she says quietly.  "He did what he thought he had to do in order to protect those he loved – as hopelessly misguided as that was.  He also killed the Separtist leaders and ended the war."
 
Luke nearly growls in exasperation.  "Who was he trying to protect by murdering Jedi?" he demands.
 
Unshed tears shimmer in Padmé's eyes and her throat constricts tightly.  "Me," she says on a whisper.  She lowers her head, staring blindly into her lap.
 
Padmé doesn't know how long she sits there, but eventually she realizes that Luke is crouched next to her chair, his hand laid gently on her arm.  She looks up into his clear blue eyes.  "I'm sorry," she says heavily.  "This is the guilt that kept me on Tatooine for almost fifteen years."
 
Luke's expression is a mixture of frustration and sadness.  "It wasn't your fault," he says firmly.  "You didn't do this.  He did."
 
"I know," Padmé says.  Luke's words are completely reasonable and perfectly at odds with the truth in her heart.  "But no matter how horrible his actions, you have to understand that your father did what he believed was necessary – what Chancellor Palpatine convinced him was necessary – to save me.  And you.  And your sister."
 
Luke’s features harden and he rises to his feet.  “You can’t justify genocide,” he says firmly.
 
“No,” Padmé agrees, “you can’t.  But he’s your father, Luke.  And your legacy.  And even if you don’t agree, even if you’re repulsed by his actions – especially if you’re repulsed by his actions – you need to understand the forces that made him the man he is.  Or you’re destined to repeat his mistakes.”
 
Luke seems to wilt.  He slumps into a chair across from Padmé.
 
“You know the Tusken ghost camp in the Junland Wastes?” Padmé asks.
 
Luke looks at her in confusion, but nods.  “The place where the Sandpeople leave sacrifices to the evil ghost that killed an entire camp.”
 
Padmé nods.  “The evil ghost was your father.”
 
Luke’s brow furrows and he leans forward, bracing his elbows on his knees.  “Father left Tatooine when he was a child.”
 
“We went back,” Padmé says.  “Anakin and I.  Shortly before the massacre of the Jedi at the Battle of Geonosis.  I was an influential Senator and there were several attempts on my life.  The Council sent me home to Naboo with your father as my escort and protector.”
 
Luke nods and shifts uncomfortably in his chair.  He undoubtedly has figured out that’s how his parents became involved and he’s slightly embarrassed by it.  Nobody wants to think about their parents being intimate.  Luke is already scarred by last night.  It’s such a human reaction that Padmé almost has to smile despite the gravity of the conversation. 
 
Her next thoughts force her mood to sober.  “We didn’t know it at the time –  I didn’t find out until many years later – but Chancellor Palpatine ordered the leader of the Separtists to pay off a group of Tuskens.  Dooku bribed them to kidnap your grandmother, Shmi.  Your father had violent nightmares the entire time we were on Naboo.  Visions of his mother in pain, being tortured.”
 
Luke’s eyes narrow as he tries to recall details he overheard from conversation snippets throughout his childhood.  “Thirty men went looking for her, but only four came back,” he says.  “That’s how Grandpa Lars lost his leg.”
 
Padmé nods.  “Your father went out alone,” she says.  “The next morning he returned with his mother’s body.”
 
Luke looks at the ground.  He has heard portions of the story for years, but no one has ever laid it out so plainly.
 
“She was still alive when Anakin found her,” Padmé says.  “The Tuskens tortured her for weeks, prolonging her suffering as much as possible.  She died in his arms.”
 
Luke swallows thickly.  “And he slaughtered the entire village.”
 
“Even the women and the children,” Padmé says.
 
Luke rises to his feet and paces to the window.  “It’s inexcusable that she was tortured that way,” he says, “but it doesn’t justify his vengeance.”
 
“He believed it was his fault,” Padmé says. “He still believes it.  He thinks if he had trusted his dreams, if he had gone to Tatooine earlier, he could have saved her.”
 
Luke turns to look at Padmé and she forces herself out of the chair.
 
“The war was so violent,” Padmé says, “and fought on so many fronts.  Our time together was precious and scarce.  I was far into my pregnancy by the time your father found out he was going to be a father.”
 
Luke squirms and quickly looks away.
 
“Anakin was elated,” Padmé says.  “But the nightmares immediately started.”
 
Embarrassment forgotten, Luke once again meets her gaze.
 
“He was convinced he was going to lose me, that I was going to die in childbirth.  He was unable to foresee if the baby – we didn’t know you were twins – survived.”
 
Luke is silent, absorbing his mother’s words.
 
“Palpatine offered him the means to save me – to save us,” she says.  “He took it.  Regardless of the consequences, he took it.”
 
Luke turns to look at the window, staring blindly for several long moments.  Finally, he turns back to Padmé.  “Why didn’t you ever tell us any of this?” he asks.
 
“I don’t know,” Padmé says, blinking back tears.  “It was so painful to remember.  Speaking about it seemed impossible.  Plus, Owen and Beru weren’t going to bring it up.  They disapproved wholeheartedly of the life I led, the life your father led and the circumstances that sent me to Tatooine.  They were more than happy to hide it all away from you and Leia."
 
She takes a deep breath.  "I suspect your father feels the past is irrelevant.”
 
Luke shakes his head.  “Obi-Wan didn’t tell me about the Tusken camp,” he says.
 
“Obi-Wan didn’t know,” Padmé replies.  “Your father chose to confide in me and in Chancellor Palpatine rather than in his Master.”
 
Luke slumps against the back of the chair with a weary sigh. 
 
"Have you lost faith in him?" Padmé asks gently.  "You were so adamant when you convinced me to return to Coruscant."
 
Luke stares into the unlit fireplace.  He finally looks at Padmé.  "There's good in him," Luke says quietly.  "I can feel it."  He rubs his hands roughly over his face.  "I'm just so confused."
 
"Obi-Wan loved Anakin like a brother," Padmé says.  "But the path Anakin chose … Obi-Wan couldn't stand back and watch.  Anakin's fall to the dark side killed something inside Obi-Wan.  As far as he is concerned, Anakin Skywalker died sixteen years ago.  Obi-Wan came to me after the slaughter at the Jedi Temple.  He wanted me to tell him where Anakin had gone – so he could find him and kill him."
 
Luke's eyes go wide and she can feel the war inside him.  He trusts Obi-Wan, considers him a mentor.  She cannot fault Luke for that.  Obi-Wan told him about the past, engaged him in it when so many others – herself included – were complicit in keeping the twins' true heritage a secret from them.  But the lines of loyalty are not clear.  Anakin is his father – dysfunctional yes, but still his father.  Anakin is the one who helped him build his lightsaber, who taught him to pilot a starfighter.  Luke's path is not clear and Padmé does not envy the choices he has to make.
 
"I couldn't do it," Padmé says on a whisper.  "I couldn't betray Anakin.  I still can't.  I love him.  I have to have faith that even if he's too far gone to save himself, that he still has the strength to save Leia from his fate."
 
***
 
Staring into the fire Luke lit in the hearth, Padmé slowly sips her H'Kak bean tea.  She is drained emotionally and physically from the day's events.  Luke is in the 'fresher showering and changing the clothes bloodied by his split lip.  Outside the windows, the sky darkens as dusk fades into evening.
 
Padmé reflects on the words she said to Luke.  I love him.  She was shocked to hear herself speak those words.  She loves the memory of her Anakin Skywalker.  Without a doubt, Emperor Skywalker, Lord Vader provokes a tumultuous rush of emotions in her. 
 
But love?
 
She doesn’t know.  She doesn’t want to love Lord Vader.  She was proud to love Anakin Skywalker, to be his wife.  That sentiment does not extend to Lord Vader.  Loving Lord Vader would feel shameful.
 
She shifts in her chair, setting the mug on a nearby table.  As she shifts, something digs into her hip and she reaches into the pocket of her cloak.  She removes the white box that Threepio handed her this morning.  Was it only this morning?
 
She turns it around in her hand.  It looks innocuous enough.  The only detail Threepio offered was that it was delivered by Imperial courier.  Exhaustion makes her reckless and she releases the clasp on the box, peering inside.
 
In the dim light, the gem twinkles.  Padmé stares into the box for several long moments.  With a curious expression, she tips the box, dropping the gem into her palm.  She holds it up to the firelight.  The gem is a rectangular, step-cut sapphire of the deepest blue threaded onto a strand of braided chersilk.  Onto the surface of the sapphire is etched the same Tatooine sand symbol as her Japor snippet.
 
Padmé ignores the way her eyes burn and pushes herself to her feet.  From the moment she returned to Coruscant, she has tiptoed around Anakin, afraid to provoke his wrath.  In this moment, she is finished tiptoeing.  She has assumed many roles when speaking to Anakin; concerned mother, dutiful former Senator, friend of Obi-Wan.  Right now, she needs to speak with Anakin. 
 
As his wife.
 
***
 
Anakin is in the ballroom again.  Not the Grand Ballroom where they hosted the Hapan dinner last night, but the Fijisi wood ballroom where she found him training the first time she visited the Imperial Palace.  The porter who escorted her from Luke's suite walks her to the base of the stairs and then with a quick bow, retreats, leaving them alone.
 
Anakin steps through lightsaber forms and judging by the way sweat plasters the fabric of his shirt to his body, he’s been at it since the altercation in the war room.  His hair is completely sodden, making it deceptively dark.  His skin is flushed from physical exertion and the scar over his right eye stands out sharply.
 
He gracefully executes three moves in quick succession and fluidly turns to face her, deactivating the lightsaber blade.  He’s breathing hard and his jaw is set in a rigid, defiant expression.
 
She doesn’t say a word as she crosses the room to stand directly in front of him.  With equal silence, she takes his right, leather-clad hand and presses the sapphire to his palm.  She turns, walking back to the grand staircase.
 
“You don’t like my gifts?” he demands.
 
She immediately turns, glaring.  "You hit my child," she seethes.
 
"He's not a child," Anakin replies coldly.  "He's a man.  And if he had been any other man, I would have killed him where he stood."
 
With a look of disgust, she again turns to the stairs, striding angrily toward them.
 
“Padmé,” he barks.
 
She ignores him, taking the stairs two at a time.
 
“Padmé!”
 
With a growl, he clips his lightsaber to his belt and bounds up the stairs. 
 
Before she reaches the top, he’s right behind her, sapphire still clutched tightly in hand. He doesn’t reach out.  She doesn’t slow.  He’s half a step behind her and Padmé knows in the back of her mind that this is absurd.  A physical confrontation with Anakin is pointless and bound to be humiliating.  She can’t possibly win.  But something in her cannot stop and will not surrender.  Not this time.
 
She pushes her meager weight against one of the gargantuan doors at the top of the stairs.  She slips through the opening, shoving it closed with one hand even as she strides down the enormous corridor.  She can hear Anakin’s growl of irritation as the door swings closed at him and he easily pushes it out of the way.
 
She’s almost running now, swinging her arms and walking as fast as her legs will carry her.  Anakin easily falls into step next of her, apparently contented to simply keep pace.  Her teeth grind together.  Her heart is pounding like she’s about to have a coronary and he looks like he’s out for a gentle stroll.  She stops abruptly.
 
He takes another step and gracefully pivots, turning to face her.  He crosses his arms over his chest and smirks at her.  For once, his smirk is playful rather than malicious. 
 
Her glare narrows even further.  “I am not playing with you,” she fumes.
 
Her words sober his mood and the smirk disappears.  After a moment of hesitation, he once again holds out the sapphire.
 
She smacks his hand out of the way and only his Jedi reflexes prevent the sapphire from falling to the ground.  “You can’t buy me off,” she informs him curtly, stepping around him and continuing down the hallway.
 
“I wasn’t trying to buy you off, Senator,” he replies, this time falling into step directly behind her.  His feet hit the floor milliseconds after her feet leave it.
 
She ignores him and continues to stalk down the corridor.  They walk for a minute, then another in silence.  Padmé looks around and realizes she has no idea where she’s going.  She stops, swiveling to face him.  She glares up at him and he looks down at her, their faces mere inches apart.
 
“You’re lost,” he says smugly.
 
“I’ll figure it out,” she replies, turning away.
 
He sighs as she strides away.  He lets her get a dozen paces ahead before he follows.  Padmé doesn’t know how long she walks, but the windows they pass show that evening is giving way to night.
 
“Where’s Lorian?” Anakin asks.
 
“I sent him to The Works with Mehht,” Padmé replies sharply.  She doesn’t want to talk to him, but she also doesn’t want Lorian to be punished for following her explicit orders.
 
“And Luke?”
 
She stops walking and turns to face him.  “Luke was in the shower when I left,” she says.  “Washing the blood off his face.”
 
Anakin has the decency to look away.  He stares at a window, then the wall, then the floor.  Finally he meets her accusatory stare.  “It wasn’t one of my finer moments,” he grudgingly admits.
 
Padmé knows that’s as close as either she or Luke is going to get to an apology from him.  She crosses her arms over her chest, still glaring.
 
“What do you want from me?” he demands. 
 
“Nothing, Anakin,” she replies sharply.  “I don’t want anything from you.”
 
***
 
Patience was never one of his virtues.  She suspects it still isn’t.  But he is patient tonight.  Either that or he intends to let her walk herself to exhaustion.  Even if that isn’t his plan, it’s working.
 
She has walked for hours, too proud and too angry to ask for directions or help.  Her feet and calves ache.  She slows her pace and eventually comes to a stop.  He continues walking until he's even with her.
 
She looks at him.  "Where is Luke's suite?" she demands.
 
He points over his shoulder in the opposite direction.  "About a three hour walk that way," he says.
 
She growls audibly wishing she had something to kick.
 
"My rooms are just up the hall," he says.  "You can com' Luke and have a seat while you wait for him."
 
"Do you even have a chair?" she demands.  "I don't remember seeing one.  I'm not sitting on the floor.  And don’t think for one second that I’m going anywhere near your bedroom or your sleeping couch after the way you spoke to me last night."
 
He has the decency to look contrite.  "I have a chair," he assures her.
 
He takes the lead and she follows him the several hundred meters up the corridor and around a bend to his quarters.  The door hisses shut behind them and he takes a tall metal stool from where it's tucked under one of the workbenches and motions for her to sit. 
 
Anakin moves to dig in his pocket for his comlink, but first he looks at the sapphire rune in his hand.  He glances at her cautiously. 
 
"Don't you dare," she seethes, taking a seat on the stool.  "You will not placate me with baubles.  I'm insulted at the implication."
 
"I'm not trying to placate you," he says, frustrated, but not angry. 
 
His expression is so utterly clueless that were the circumstances any less grave than they are, she would have laughed.  She isn't laughing.
 
"Why are you insulted?" he asks rather than demands.
 
"The only reason you gave me that is because Ta'a Chume embarrassed you," she snaps.  "And for you to try and re-create my Japor snippet …" she falls silent, sputtering in exasperation.  "I am not one of your women and a shiny trinket will not put you back in my good graces."
 
"One of my women?" he repeats.  "What is that supposed to mean?"
 
She slides off the stool, rising to her full height as she glares at him.  "You have the gall to accuse me of infidelity when you know damn well that you're the only man I've ever been with.  You punished Obi-Wan for it.  You killed Nar Dooja.  Do not pretend for one second that you've been faithful to me."
 
He crosses his arms over his chest.  Pointedly, he looks around the room.  "Does this look like a lair of seduction to you?" he asks.
 
Her glare is withering.  "The location is quite irrelevant to me," she bites out.  "Though I suspect that you are just twisted enough to think that if it isn't happening in your bedroom that it doesn't count."
 
He falls silent, realizing that his lame argument won't work.  She finds it quite pathetic that he is challenged so rarely that he thinks his flimsy rebuttal would mollify her.
 
"Are there other heirs to the Empire I should know about?" she demands.  "Should Luke and Leia be worried about half-siblings trying to take their places."
 
This time he does look quite offended.  He steps closer and leans in toward her, a nasty expression on his face.  "You are the mother of my children," he says.  "My only children."
 
She watches him cautiously for a moment, but begrudgingly believes him.  With a huff, she turns, resuming her seat on the stool.  He gives her the comlink and she calls Luke who is relieved to hear from her.  He promises to arrive shortly.
 
Padmé returns the comlink to Anakin and leans back in the chair.  It's not very comfortable.  She tries to make the best of it.
 
Anakin stands on the opposite end of the room, leaning against the dull gray wall.  His hair and shirt have dried from his training session, but look worse for the wear.  The shirt is rumpled and his hair, though short, is sticking up at odd angles, doing its best to curl.  He doesn't look Imperial.  He looks like a spacer who hasn't had shore leave in months.
 
Pointedly glancing around the room, she says, "Why bother being the Emperor if you're going to live like this?  Your room at the Jedi Temple was nicer than this hole.  It looks like the Lars homestead garage."
 
His gaze travels the room and he shrugs.  "I like it," he says.
 
"No you don't," she counters.
 
Frowning, he says, "It feels familiar."
 
That answer, she believes.  As a slave and then a member of a monastic order, he certainly should be accustomed to austere accommodations.
 
She crosses her legs, her foot tapping the air impatiently.  "Why did you kill Palpatine?" she asks baldly.  "As Emperor, you let Mas Amedda run the government.  Korto handles all your personal affects.  Palpatine handed you the military as soon as he declared himself Emperor.  I don't understand why you needed more."
 
He pushes off the wall, crossing his arms over his chest as he meets her gaze.  "Palpatine was evil," he says.
 
"I know," she replies dryly.  "He had company."
 
He walks to the workbench and picks up a broken droid part.  He turns it over in his hand.  "I didn't want to be Emperor," he admits, not meeting her gaze.
 
She snorts derisively.  "I remember you making me an offer to the contrary."
 
He turns his head and looks at her.  "And I remember you refusing."
 
"It wasn't any fun if you weren't going to have a playmate?" she asks, her voice thick with sarcasm.
 
"As you've already pointed out," he counters, "I can't do it alone.  I'm not any good with politics or infrastructure or paperwork.  Palpatine had all that figured out.  He knew how to make people work for him, how to manipulate them into a corner to accomplish exactly what he wanted."
 
She eyes him cautiously.  "Even you?" she asks, quirking an eyebrow.
 
"Most of all me," he says with a humorless laugh, setting the droid part back on the workbench.  "I was Palpatine's monster, the big scary creature in black to strike fear into the heart of the Republic so no one would dare defy him.  I was his vengeance, his anger, freeing him up to play the role of benevolent dictator."
 
"And the monster chose to bite his Master's hand?" she baits.
 
He turns to face her, leaning a hip against the workbench.  He studies her carefully.  "No," he says.  "I didn't plan to kill him."
 
Padmé fights the urge to laugh.  "Was it an accident?" she asks.  "He slipped and fell on your lightsaber?"
 
Anakin's lips quirk into a hard, humorless smile.  Obviously, he isn't accustomed to being questioned in any capacity, much less being given a hard time.  "No," he replies.  "He didn't slip.  I hated him.  I wished him dead.  He promised me the power to save you – and I did.  But at what cost?  You couldn't even bear to look at me.  No, I hated him.  I hated what he turned me into."
 
Padmé watches him for several long moments.  She believes his sincerity, but she still isn't inclined to feel any compassion for him.  "And yet you didn't intend to kill him?" she asks.
 
"In theory, yes.  But an actual plan, no.  I had too many weaknesses, you, Luke, Leia."  He shrugs and runs a hand over the growth of stubble on his jaw.  "That was Palpatine's mistake," he says, "I already knew the score, but he wanted to drive home the point.  It didn't turn out like he planned."
 
Padmé is truly curious now.  "What happened?"
 
He meets her gaze, holding it for a long moment.  "Are you sure you want to know?" he asks.
 
She nods, filled with bravado even though she isn't certain she wants to know.
 
"He summoned me to his throne room," Anakin says.  "He was there – with Luke and Leia.  I acted before I formed a thought."
 
Padmé's blood runs cold at the thought of her babies – and they would very nearly have been babies at the time, barely toddling – in Palpatine's grasp.
 
"That's probably the only reason it worked," Anakin continues.  "Palpatine was the best swordsman I've ever seen – better than Yoda, better than Mace Windu.  I could never have taken him in a fair fight.  But I reacted before I knew what I was doing.  I killed him."
 
Padmé stares at him in silence.
 
They both turn as the outer door hisses open and Luke steps into the room.
 
Luke looks from Padmé to Anakin and back, fully aware that he has stepped into the middle of something.  He takes in their collective disheveled appearance, but is visibly relieved they aren't touching each other.
 
"Are you ready to go?" Luke asks Padmé.  "Mehht's commed me a dozen times.  She really wants to speak with you."
 
Padmé nods to look and then gives Anakin one last speculative glance.  She has no idea what to think of the mercurial creature she married.  She slides off the stool and takes several steps toward the door.
 
A thought strikes her and she stops.  Turning to Anakin, Padmé says, "I need a slicer to look at Korsa Dae's computer terminal at the ODP offices.  Do you have any good ones?"
 
Anakin nods, his expression guarded.  He seems as confused as Padmé as to the state of their union, but he doesn't seem inclined to provoke her.  "Taly Fry," he says.  "I'll talk to him."
 
Turning to Luke, Anakin asks, "You okay?"
 
"Yes," Luke replies.  He waits a beat, then, "Is my ship still grounded?"
 
"Yes," Anakin replies firmly.
 
"Leia took off," Luke offers with a bit too much enjoyment.  "Offworld.  Just so you know."
 
Anakin pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.  "I should have been a monk," he grumbles under his breath.
 
Padmé ignores him, following Luke out the door.
 
***
 
Feedback to indie

On to next chapter

Back to previous chapter

Back to Story Index

Back to Ouroboros main page
 
Back to indiefic.com main page