Negotiations
by indie
set in the The Senator's Wife au universe.
Takes place 7 years after 'Revenge of the Sith'



“Are you sleeping with her?”

 
He turns from the datapad he is reviewing to watch Padmé walk into the living room.  Her head is held high, her features taut with righteous indignation. 
 
He takes a moment to marvel at her beauty.  It has been more than half a standard year since they were last alone together.  Seven months ago the tense negotiations with the Chiss pulled him to the Empire’s border.  Six months ago Padmé miscarried the tiny life that was their fourth child.
 
She isn’t supposed to be here.  Not tonight.  Tomorrow afternoon maybe her curtly worded message informed him only this morning.  She has been in no hurry to see him.
 
But that was before this evening’s Imperial dinner.  He doesn’t need to ask who it is to whom Padmé refers.  Padmé is angry about his dinner companion.  To the outward observer, Padmé spent the dinner perfectly poised and coolly controlled.  But he felt her anger, buffeting against his consciousness, inescapable as Tatooine’s sweltering heat.  It's why he's here waiting for her in their apartment rather than retiring to his personal residence.  He has never been one to turn away from conflict.
 
“Lovely to see you, Senator,” he says, rising to his feet.  He uses her former title solely to court her rage.  He shouldn’t, especially in light of her mood, but he can't resist. 
 
“Don’t avoid the question,” she counters, her voice deathly quiet, her tone icy cold.  “Is she your lover?”
 
He looks at her, blinking slowly.  “No.”  It’s the truth.  He isn’t sexually involved with his beautiful young dinner companion, though not for lack of invitation. 
 
Padmé seems only slightly mollified.  She shrugs out of her heavy dark cloak, revealing the ballgown he saw earlier.  It’s an artful arrangement of crimson red silk that drapes her feminine curves to perfection.   She is a stunningly beautiful woman and he's half erect simply from looking at her.
 
“Who is she?”
 
“Her name is Kyah Hess.  She’s a Lieutenant in the Imperial Navy who was assigned to the Executor six months ago as my personal physician.”
 
Gaze narrowing, Padmé stalks toward him.  She is most displeased and he understands why.  As his personal physician, Lieutenant Hess has the one thing that up until now, has been Padmé’s alone, intimate physical knowledge of him.  Of course, the situation with his physician is vastly different from his relationship with Padmé.  For all of her innuendo, Lieutenant Hess is a very competent, professional physician and there has been no inappropriate contact between the two of them. 
 
Padmé comes to a stop directly in front of him, arms crossed over her chest.  “Your physician?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“Since when are medical droids insufficient?”
 
He looks down at her, his face betraying no emotion.  “Since the scars on the right side of my chest refused to heal and grew painful to the point of distraction.”
 
Her expression immediately softens.  “Anakin,” she says quietly, reaching out to him. 
 
She gently, but insistently, pulls at his cloak and overtunic.  When it becomes apparent she won’t be satisfied by anything short of a visual inspection, he humors her, shrugging out of his clothes until he is bare to the waist. 
 
He doesn’t look.  He never looks.  He has no desire to bear witness to the monstrous scars covering his chest from collarbone to navel. The damage is far more extensive on his right side, flowing down his right arm to the elbow much like the fire from which it sprang.  The shiny, puckered skin continues down his torso, past his hip.  The injuries consume most of his right leg until both the scars and the leg abruptly in a prosthesis above his knee.  The flesh of his back and left arm is unmarred, but it is little consolation.  He feels far more machine than man most days, a freakshow, an oddity.
 
Pressing her fingertips gingerly to his skin, she hisses through her teeth.  The newest set of graphs is still raw and they probably look quite gruesome.  But despite the appearance, he is far more comfortable now thanks to Lieutenant Hess’s expert attention. 
 
“I’m sorry,” she says.  “I had no idea.”
 
“Why would you?  We’ve been apart for months.”
 
The words are spoken without rancor, but there is much left unsaid.  He has been away for months and aside from a brief and agonizingly cryptic message informing him of the miscarriage, they have been out of communication.  There is an unmistakable distance between them now, much more profound than the physical distance that normally separates them.  He returned to Imperial Center two weeks ago and they both know they’ve been avoiding one another.
 
He stares down at this woman, the mother of his children, the woman he loves; the only woman he will ever love.  The charade grows old for both of them.  Luke and Leia have started school, Annaé is a toddler, walking and quickly learning to talk.  He doesn’t know his children.  He will never know them.  It is an impossible risk he is not willing to take. 
 
His long months on the Imperial frontier provided ample opportunity for reflection.  Padmé miscarried her third pregnancy very early.  No official announcement had been made that she was expecting.  He doesn't know if that makes it easier or harder.  It's as if their child never existed at all.  He grieved the loss of a child he would never know, at the same time grieving for the loss of Luke, Leia and Annaé.  His living children are as lost to him as the tiny life. 
 
He thinks perhaps the Force is trying to deliver a none too subtle hint.
 
Perhaps it is time he lets Padmé go.
 
He has been cursed with agonizingly long months to consider his next step.  Padmé’s life would be safer, better without him.  The same for the children.  It both wounds and enrages him to contemplate living without her, to imagine her happy with the Viceroy.  Yet more and more often, he does imagine such a fate.
 
It shames him to realize in spite of his monstrous visage, he is vain enough to require female companionship.  It is a weakness, his greatest failing as both a Jedi and a Sith.  He needs human attachments, human contact.  He may find the strength to free Padmé, but he cannot live chastely in her absence. 
 
He has considered the perks and pitfalls of a relationship with Lieutenant Hess.  Such a relationship would be free of the constant fear of discovery.  Lieutenant Hess is a creature of pure ambition.  He knows she sees a connection with him as an easy ascent to Imperial heights.  There is no chance his heart would be involved – much less wounded - in a relationship with the good doctor. 
 
Such an arrangement would also have the benefit of further camouflaging his attachment to Padmé.  He doesn’t believe the Emperor suspects anything, but he has learned to never underestimate his master.  Forming a highly visible relationship with Lieutenant Hess would divert any unwanted attention from Padmé and the children.
 
“Are you leaving me?” Padmé asks quietly.
 
He looks at her, dumbfounded.
 
She smiles at him softly.  “You would make a very poor politician, Anakin.”
 
He turns away, crossing his arms over his bare chest, feeling absurdly vulnerable.
 
"You are leaving me," she says softy, shock resonating clearly in her voice.
 
He shakes his head sharply, still not facing her. "No," he says.  "I mean, I don't know.  I haven't made any decisions."
 
She steps closer, not touching him, but so close he can almost feel the heat from her body.  He hears the threat of tears in her voice when she says, "Your decision.  I see."  She takes a deep breath.  "Do you love her?"
 
He laughs aloud, turning to face her.  She is confused, wounded.  He shakes his head, leaning in close.  "No, Senator," he says softly, vehemently.  "I do not love her."
 
Her brow furrows and her pain gives way to irritation.  "I don't understand you."
 
He shrugs, staring blindly out the window.  Padmé isn’t the only one confused by this troublesome new territory.  He hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in months.  The lone lamp sitting on his elegantly stylized desk provides enough light that when he looks at the darkened window, he doesn't see the skyline, but the room's reflection.  Padmé stands behind him, staring at his back.  He can see the heartbreak etched on her features.
 
He takes a deep breath and releases it.  "I am thirty standard years in age."
 
She blinks at him.  "I already knew that."
 
He turns, frowning at her.  He has no idea how to articulate the churning mass of emotions in his heart and mind.  What galls him the most is that in the last few months he has come to truly appreciate some of the lessons Obi-Wan so laboriously (and fruitlessly) tried to teach him.  Sometimes, it is necessary to deny one's self the object of one's desires.  There can be danger in attachment. 
 
He is not a big enough hypocrite to delude himself into believing he has found the strength and maturity to stop loving Padmé, but perhaps he no longer needs to keep her chained to him.  He grieves the loss of the boldness he felt when pursuing Padmé after the battle of Geonosis.  He was so self-assured, so absolutely convinced they belonged together.  He believed they could beat the odds, that it was worth any price to be together.  These days he is convinced he was an absurdly naïve child who carelessly endangered both their futures and the futures of their children. 
 
"I’m not … a boy anymore," he says, feeling intensely lame. 
 
"Well, that is a relief," she replies sarcastically.
 
His frown turns even more sour.  "I'm trying to truly be a man.  I'm trying to do what's best."
 
"And leaving me is for the best?" she demands.  "Leaving our children?"
 
He flinches as if she struck him, his pride grievously wounded.  "I can't leave our children," he snaps bitterly.  "They've never truly been mine."  He looks out the window and then back to her.  "I'm an orphan," he snarls.  "Alone.  The only Skywalker.  Can you even begin to appreciate how difficult it is for me to know my children, my flesh and blood are so close?  Everyone remarks on how much Leia looks like you, but when I see her, I see my mother.  It's almost painful to look at her.  Everyone tries to figure out who Annaé resembles.  She resembles me!"  He stops for a moment, raking his hand through his hair in frustration.  Crossing his arms over his chest, he gives Padmé a sharp look.  "Luke is my only son.  Do you want to imagine how many times I have fantasized about helping him build a light saber or learn to fly a speeder?"  His words trail off the longer he talks, his rage replaced by frustration and sadness.
 
She watches him carefully, unshed tears shimmering in her eyes. 
 
He looks away, not wanting to see her pain.  He doesn't want to feel as sorry for her as he feels for himself.  He wants to lash out at someone.  He starts to pace the living room, his anger simmering again.  "What about you?" he demands.  "What about your husband?  You accuse me of infidelity while you return to his bed every night.  Is that what you want?  Me alone, chastely pining away for you while you and the Viceroy live a model life with my children?"
 
“I would never wish for you to be lonely, Anakin,” she whispers.
 
Listening to her soft words, he regrets his accusations.  Padmé is many things, but cruel is not among them.  She would never wish to torture him.  He kept these emotions secret from her for a very long time.  He didn't want to upset her.  He didn't want to admit how agonizingly isolated he feels. 
 
He closes the distance between them, pulling her close, cupping her cheek in his hand.  “Padmé.”
 
“Lieutenant Hess is very beautiful,” Padmé grudgingly admits, unable to keep the jealousy from tainting her words.  "And blonde.”  She pulls away, putting several steps between them.  She doesn’t go far.  “And young."  She turns to face him.  "I'm sure she could give you children."
 
The desire to smash his fist through the wall in frustration is nearly overwhelming. 
 
"I don't want more children," he says tightly.
 
Too late, he realizes the folly of his words.  But she has already looked away, a tear streaking down her cheek.
 
He goes to her, turning her toward him, though she still refuses to meet his gaze.  "I love the children," he says.  "I want them.  I wanted the baby we lost."  She finally looks up at him.  "I have absolutely no intention of having a family with Lieutenant Hess or anyone else."
 
She pulls away from him.  Her arms are wrapped protectively around her body.  "Of course not," she says quickly.  "I know you wouldn't.  The Emperor would be as much of a threat to your children with another woman as he is to our children."
 
He watches her carefully.  "That's true.  But it's not why I wouldn't do it."
 
She looks at him skeptically.  "You'd rather chastely pine for me?"
 
He doesn't react to her throwing his words back at him.  He expected as much when he said them.  He suspects her long years in politics make it more habit than any true desire to wound him.  "I love you.  You are the mother of my children."
 
She sniffles, looking away.  "But you're leaving me."
 
"I didn't say that," he corrects.
 
"But you're considering it."
 
He nods, looking down at his hands, one flesh, one artificial.  Why she would want him baffles him.  She is supposed to be the reasonable one, the voice of maturity and duty.  Only now is he realizing perhaps he has forced her too far.  Perhaps it is now incumbent upon him to make the difficult decisions.
 
He clenches both fists.  "I am considering it."
 
She is quiet a long time, staring blindly at the expensive painting decorating the living room wall.  He didn’t pick it out.  It came with the apartment.  He doubts Padmé has ever given it a moment's notice.  And he doubts she truly sees it now.
 
“Is it because of the baby?” she asks quietly.  “Is that why you’re leaving?”
 
He can’t prevent the wave of pain and shame that washes over him.  Before he can school his features into a mask of indifference, she turns. 
 
“I see,” she says, her voice a trembling whisper.  She takes a deep breath, looking away.  “I’m sorry, Anakin.”
 
“See what?”
 
She gives him a wry, watery smile.  “It was my fault."
 
He stares at her, dumbstruck.  "Your fault?"
 
She nods, looking away.  "Women weren't made to have children forever.  The doctor warned me that my age could be a factor.  Birth defects and miscarriage are more common as maternal age increases."
 
He is silent so long, Padmé finally turns to look at him and finds him gaping at her.  "What?"
 
"I'm barely human and you think it's your fault?” he demands incredulously.  “It's not you, Padmé, it's me."
 
She stares at him, truly confused.  "What do you mean you're barely human?  Of course you're human.  How could you think otherwise?"
 
He gestures impatiently to the scars covering most of his visible skin. 
 
"You were injured, Anakin.  You're talking like you think you're Grievous."
 
He can't look at her.
 
"Anakin."  She closes the distance between them, placing her palm against his cheek and forcing him to meet her gaze.  "You're a man, Anakin, not a monster."
 
He stares at her mutely.  His gaze drops to his chest, to the raw, angry scars that comprise his flesh.  He hold up his prosthetic arm, flexing his mechanical hand.  "Really?"
 
Padmé looks at him for a moment and then lowers her eyes.  “Lieutenant Hess obviously finds you attractive.”
 
“Kyah Hess is an opportunistic bitch.  I could be a Hutt and she’d still offer to fuck me.”
 
Padmé frowns at him, irritated her attempt at appealing to his vanity failed so spectacularly.  “What about me?” she demands.  “If Lt. Hess is mercenary, what does that make me?  I jeopardize my marriage to be with you.  I’m the mother of your children.  If you think so little of yourself, what must you think of me?”
 
He studies her silently.  “I think you’re an angel,” he answers honestly.
 
She rolls her eyes.  “And I think you’re being maudlin and overly dramatic.  You’re a man, Anakin.  Nothing more, nothing less.  And I continue our relationship because I love you and I am attracted to you."  Her expression turns bitterly wry and she adds, "And quite possibly because I've gone completely mad.”
 
He looks away, frowning sourly.  She is right, of course, he is human.  And he is being overly maudlin and dramatic.  But he cannot deny there are days when he feels decidedly inhuman, removed from the entire species, set aside like some piecemeal monster of Palpatine’s creation.  It is a sentiment he knows his master does everything to encourage.  Palpatine wants him set apart from humanity.  He wants, no needs him to be feared throughout the galaxy.
 
Yet despite how fearsome he may seem to the majority of the galaxy's inhabitants, he finds himself more fearful by the day.  Every day Luke, Leia and Annaé grow stronger.  He watches them from a distance and he can feel them shining in the Force like impossibly small but  bright beacons in a sea of darkness.  He hopes beyond hope it is his connection to them, his affinity for them that makes it seem this way.  He prays the Emperor has not noticed them. 
 
“I want you to take the children and go to Alderaan,” he finally says.
 
Her brow furrows.  “No.”
 
He looks at her, his features tightening.  “It’s dangerous to keep the children in such close proximity to the Emperor, especially when I’m on the other side of the galaxy.  I would be unable to protect them.”
 
“I can protect them,” she says with determination.
 
One eyebrow arches in disbelief.  “Palpatine destroyed the entire Jedi Order.  One former Senator will not stand in his way.”
 
Her cheeks flame with insult, but they both know he’s right. 
 
“They are the legally recognized children of an Imperial Senator,” she says.  “Palpatine needs the Senate.  He can’t simply abscond with people’s children.  There are limits.”
 
He stares at her for a moment, knowing they are both thinking the same thing, Palpatine has no limits.  He shakes his head.  “You have to go.”
 
She crosses her arms over her chest, defiantly meeting his gaze.  “I won’t run.”
 
“It’s not about you.  It’s about keeping the children safe.”
 
He can see her jaw muscles clench.  “That’s not fair,” she hisses quietly.
 
His lips purse together in a bitter smile.  How many times did he utter those exact words to Obi-Wan?  Older now, wiser and disillusioned, he knows the truth.  “Life isn’t fair.”
 
She looks away for a moment and then back to him.  “I love our children and I would do anything to protect them, but I will not hide us away on Alderaan.  And I don’t appreciate you trying to use them to manipulate me.”
 
“I’m trying to keep all of you safe.”
 
“If Palpatine truly suspects something, it won’t matter where we hide.  It’s safer to maintain a high public profile.  Palpatine is evil, but he’s not stupid.”
 
“He’s the Emperor.  He’ll do anything he damn well pleases.”
 
She shakes her head.  “No he won’t.  Despite the propaganda the Empire churns out, his control is not absolute.  He needs you.  He needs the Senate.  Maintaining control is always harder than winning it in the first place.”
 
He turns away.  As much as it pains him to admit, she has a point. 
 
“This is all a ruse.  You’re trying to end our relationship on your terms,” she accuses, her voice tightly measured.  “The children and I aren’t available at your convenience, Anakin.”
 
He rounds on her quickly, snapping, “Nothing about this relationship has ever been convenient.”
 
Her eyes narrow as she watches him.  Slowly, she crosses the distance that separates them.  He watches as she lightly traces one perfectly manicured fingernail up the length of his unmarred left arm.  “You are as much mine as I am yours,” she says quietly.  “And I will not give you up to some blonde bimbo with a medical degree and a military rank.”
 
He knows it’s dangerous and stupid, but a tendril of dark pleasure curls in the pit of his stomach at her jealous, possessive words.  She is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, with a fiery passion and intellect to match.  Inexplicably, she wants him. 
 
She steps closer, her silk-draped body barely brushing against his naked chest.  Her fingertips skim over his skin, coming to rest at the waistband of his pants, tickling the unmarred flesh.  She lowers her head for several moments and then looks up at him from beneath her dark lashes.  She sways back and forth slightly, biting down on her bottom lip.  “What’s she like?” she asks in a bare whisper.
 
“Who?” he asks dumbly, every bit of his attention focused on Padmé.
 
She gives him a sultry, satisfied smile.  “Your young Lieutenant.”
 
He shakes his head slightly, trying to focus on what she’s asking.  Impatiently, he frowns.  “I don’t know.”  He doesn’t want to think about Kyah Hess.  He wants to think about Padmé.  And touch Padmé.  And taste Padmé.  And have Padmé.  Of its own volition, one of his hands traces the bare flesh of the delicate shoulder artfully revealed by her ballgown. 
 
“Is her skin soft?”
 
He leans in closer, dipping his head to skim his lips along the column of her neck.  Her skin is warm and fragrant, subtly perfumed with the scent of ladalum blossoms.  “I don’t know,” he answers distractedly, “I never touched her.”  His hand finds Padmé’s hip, pulling her flush against his body while he nips along her neck and jaw.  She lifts her hand, threading it through his hair, pulling his lips to her own.
 
Their tongues tangle wetly and he groans, knowing any plan he had to end things with Padmé is as good as dead.  He isn’t strong enough to fight this war – and he isn’t certain he ever truly wanted to win at all.  He quickly cedes total victory to Padmé, pulling her even closer.  His fingers find the clasps at the back of her dress, nimbly releasing them until the lavish gown is nothing more than a pile of silk pooling around her feet.
 
His pulse quickens as he realizes she wore nothing beneath her gown.  He watched her so intently during the dinner that he knew for certain she was wearing undergarments.  The thought of her calculatedly removing them in the shuttle on her way to the apartment has him rock hard in seconds.  He kisses her deeply, running his hands over her naked flesh, languishing in the feel of her skin against his own.  The sensations aren’t the same as before his injuries.  Too many of his nerve endings have been irreparably damaged.  But his eyes still function perfectly and the sight of her creamy pale, flawless skin pressed oh so willingly against his own marred flesh is a potent aphrodisiac.  In this capacity, at least, he is still completely whole, completely virile.
 
"Ani," she begs, fighting to get impossibly closer.
 
He chuckles softly, savoring her impatient hunger.  He urges her backwards, step after step until her bare buttocks connect with the desk.  She makes a small, startled sound as he effortlessly lifts her and sets her on the edge.  Before she fully comprehends his intentions, he has insinuated himself between her thighs, splaying her knees wide to accommodate his body.  He sifts through the wiry hair covering her sex and growls deep in his throat at the feel of her intimate moisture quickly coating his questing fingers.
 
"Did it excite you to fight over me?" he asks in a wicked tone, knowing full well it did. 
 
She doesn’t reply, too lost in sensation.  Each of her hands clasps one of his biceps, her fingernails biting into his muscles as he fondles her intimately.  Her eyelids fall shut, her breathing rapid and shallow.  He teases her.  Fingertips coated with her own moisture circle her clitoris, applying just enough pressure to tantalize before backing off. 
 
She whimpers, her eyes fluttering open as her eager hands find the waistband of his black trousers, quickly releasing the fly and pushing the material down over his hips. 
 
While he loves the breathy whimpers his teasing elicits, neither of them is in the mood for a protracted coupling.  They have been too long without one another.  Foregoing further preliminaries, he pulls her to the very edge of the table.  Her legs instinctively lock around his waist as he guides the head of his cock to her entrance.  Slowly, he pushes inside her welcoming warmth. 
 
Their position is not ideal and he knows it must be uncomfortable for her, but the groan she makes is not one of pain.  He continues, not stopping until his entire length is buried deep within her body.  He rests there a moment, his breathing labored.  It has been so long since he felt this connection with her and the sensations are nearly overwhelming.  He looks down at her, noticing her tears.  Releasing a shuddering breath, he cups her cheek in his hand, wiping away the tears with the pad of his thumb.
 
“What’s wrong?” he asks softly.
 
She looks up at him, meeting his gaze, her eyes wide and bright.  Quickly, she shakes her head.  “I love you,” she whispers.
 
He smiles and captures her lips in a searing kiss.  She meets his kiss with equal ardor, biting down gently on his lower lip, her fingers threading through his hair.  It’s more than he can take and he has to move, withdrawing slightly and pushing back into her body.  She breaks the kiss to gasp at the sensation and he urges her to lay back on the desk.  She does, her luminous, pale skin offset sharply by the ebony wood of the desk.  Her rosy pink nipples contract to hard points in the cool air and her dark locks fallen loose from their pins cascade around her like shimmersilk.  This position is more conducive to their coupling and he glides slickly in and out of her body, his hands biting into her hips as he drives into her. 
 
She arches her back, tightening her legs around his waist.  "Missed you," she pants, her fingernails digging into his forearms.
 
He missed her as well, but he is beyond the capacity for speech.  All of his concentration is centered on her tight, wet heat around his cock, her breathy moans of pleasure.  It was insanity to think he could ever live without this.  One of his hands releases her hip and his fingers find her clit, rubbing it in time with his thrusts.  Her breath catches and her body shivers as her climax overtakes her. 
 
He grits his teeth, continuing to pump into her as he feels her orgasm shudder along the rigid length of his cock.  It's too much and he tries to pull away, but her legs lock tightly around him, holding him inside her.  "Padmé," he begs, but she rolls her hips, flexing her vaginal muscles around his cock and he is lost.  He spills inside her, his body shuddering with the force of his release.
 
He braces his palms on the table on either side of Padmé’s hips, hanging his head as he tries to regain his breath.  After several moments, he lifts his head and looks at her, his lips twisted into a wry expression. 
 
Gently, he urges her legs from around his waist, pulling her into a sitting position.  He takes the several steps to retrieve his discarded tunic, placing the coarse, dark material around her shoulders before re-fastening his trousers.
 
She folds her knees up to her chest as she perches on the edge of the desk, pulling his tunic tighter around her body until she is completely covered.  One of her hands fists in the fabric and she pulls it closer to her face, inhaling the scent.  She looks up and realizes he’s watching her.  Caught in the act, she smiles a small, self-conscious smile.  “It smells like you,” she says quietly.
 
He snorts.  “I’d wager you do too at this point,” he says sourly.
 
She frowns.  “Just enjoy the moment.”
 
“This is lunacy,” he snaps, pacing in a tight circle.  With the heat of passion gone and the afterglow quickly fading, he is once again assaulted with the reality of just how ill-conceived his actions have been.  Again.  He stops pacing and looks at her.  “What if you get pregnant?”
 
“Pregnant?” she repeats sarcastically.  “I don’t see how that could happen.  I’m too old and you’re not even human.”
 
”Padmé.”
 
She rolls her eyes, hopping off the desk and crossing the room to stare out the panoramic windows.  She stands there for several long minutes.  “I want another child.”
 
He groans, coming to stand at her side.  “It’s too dangerous.”
 
She looks up at him, her features pinched with irritation.  “You and I,” she says impatiently, motioning with her hand between their two bodies, “will always be dangerous.  First you were a Jedi and I was a Senator.  Now I’m married and you’re Palpatine’s apprentice.  Anakin, it’s doomed, but it is our life.  The only chance we get.  I love you and I love the baby we lost and I want to have another child before it’s no longer an option.”
 
He looks down at her, silence hanging between them.  With a sigh, he looks away. 
 
“I do too,” he says quietly.  It shames him to admit it, but it’s true.  He does want another child.  Not to replace the baby they lost.  Nothing can ever replace that baby.  He wants another child because he loves Padmé and he knows no greater joy in his miserable excuse for a life than seeing her with their children.  He knows it’s a bad idea, but it seems like his entire life has been one bad idea after another and considering how he just spent the last hour, it occurs to him that perhaps the bad ideas occasionally to lead to good outcomes.
 
He sighs, reaching out for Padmé’s hand and she eagerly twines her fingers through his, allowing him to pull her close.  Palpatine is still a threat.  He will always be a threat and there is no doubt that grave consequences are inevitable.  But it won’t happen today.   Or tomorrow.  And allowing the fear of what Palpatine might do dictate their actions feels too much like the Emperor has already won. 
 
He places a gentle kiss on the top of Padmé’s head.
 
“How long will you be on Coruscant?” she asks.
 
He shrugs.  “Until the Emperor devises another test for me.”
 
Her hand rests on his chest, over his heart.  The skin beneath her fingertips is uneven and discolored.  “What happened with the Chiss?”
 
“Everything turned out to the Empire’s advantage.”
 
“That’s not what I asked.”
 
He looks down at her.  “I know.”
 
She frowns, knowing he won’t elaborate.  She also knows the reality of what happened to him along the Chiss border is probably far worse than she can even imagine.  “If you won’t tell me, then at least do me a favor.”
 
“What?”
 
“Give your talented young lieutenant a promotion and send her on her way.”
 
The smile slowly spreads across his face.  “I believe Captain Hess will be a valuable asset to Admiral Ozzel’s command.”
 
***

End

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