Padme sat next to the suited stranger, halfway across the galaxy by now. Worlds away from her oppressive husband, thinking of how much she loved him. The man beside her sensed her thoughts, and in a small way took solace in knowing Anakin had lost the very woman he betrayed the Jedi for. The secret wife was not a secret anymore to anyone. But his dictator like ways had turned her against him. As far as Padme was concerned, Mace Windu knew that he and Master Yoda were the lesser of two evils.
Mace steered the ship, casting an ocassional glace at the former Senator.
"Things must have been bad to leave so quickly with a stranger. No mere stranger, but one of curious appearance."
Padme brought the babies close to her chest. "I'll always love Ani."
"He's not who he used to be," Mace replied.
Padme sighed. How she wished she could bring herself to disagree. Mace sat beside her, smiling inside of the mask, sensing her thoughts.
"He loves me," she whispered, her mind reaching into the past...
Obi Wan Kenobi moved boxes from one area to another. Boxes that held memories of the former Jedi that lurked the very halls he walked. Halls resonant with emptiness and now, the sound of children's laughter. He turned, looking over his shoulder and saw a lovely Dorme with a school of children behind them. All perfect and obedient in her stead.
She looked at the Jedi Master, giving him a short but sweet smile. He nearly dropped the boxes on his foot as she turned the corner, the children disappearing behind her.
"Oh dear..." he mumbled. "What am I doing?"
He continued his path to a storage area and couldn't help but feel angry at Anakin for having did what he did. But he had to put it behind him. He had an Order to rebuild.
Obi Wan left the last of his boxes in a storage closet, dusting his hands on his pants leg. He sighed, heart heavy with sorrow as he closed the door a final time. "Good bye, old friends," he whispered. The pushed the latch, securing the items forever.
He walked to the Room of a Thousand Fountains, a place he used to commune with Master Qui Gon, whose spirit, often spoke to him there... a spirit he couldn't decide was of his own making or truly there. Still, he trusted the whispers of his old master, as much as he trusted the Jedi when he was alive.
Obi Wan walked in and found Anakin sitting in his chair, feet propped where Master Yoda once sat. The Master looked close to smacking his former Padawan's feet away. But taking the cue, Anakin moved them on his own, a knowing wave of his hand.
"You wanted to speak with me, Master?"
Obi Wan gave the young man a thoughtful look, hand rubbing his beard. "How are things between you and Senator Amidala?"
"You mean Padme," he corrected.
Obi Wan shrugged.
"She's fine, Master. Why do you ask?"
Obi Wan walked across the room and sat in a neighboring chair, his eyes gazing into Anakin's blue orbs.
"The Senator needs a break. Some time to herself. Remember why attachment was forbidden? Attachment leads to possession, possessiveness leads to the dark side?"
"I'm not a Jedi anymore. How I feel is my business," said Anakin firmly.
"You'll always be a Jedi, Anakin. You're the Chosen One."
"I did my duty. Why can't you just leave me alone?"
Anakin rose, a slight puff to his cheeks.
"There you go," Obi Wan chided. "Back to pouting as though you are a young Padawan again. You have children and a wife at home," Obi Wan said, rising to stand beside them. "There won't be a home to go to should continue along this posessive path."
Anakin's head dropped. "I've done terrible things, Master. I know. But I love Padme."
"Well if you love her, then please... for your sake. For your children's sake... don't make Padme forget why she loved you to begin with. You're not the same person anymore and that's difficult enough."
"I try, Master. I'll do my best Master."
"You always do," Obi Wan replied, a comforting slap on his former Padawan's shoulder. "Please send Padme my condolensces.... I heard about her mother. I knew her well. She was a good woman."
Anakin did what he could to bite his anger back. So Padme went running to Obi Wan did she? He feigned a smile as he looked at his master.
"Thank you," he said, a slight bow to his head. He only hoped it was enough to hide the near murderous glint in his eyes.
The smell of Padmeís sweetly scented perfume haunted the room. She sat before her vanity clasping a pair of earrings into her ear, in preparation for a dinner she arranged with her husband. This night she wore her hair pulled to the back of her head in the shape of a bun. Tonight she would wear her favorite dress. A burgandy gown with velour tassels swept beneath her amply exposed cleavage.
She lit a candle. Then another then gazed into its flicker. The mood was set.
Leia crawled into the room, then struggled to her feet, having taken her first steps already. Luke, however, was still learning to keep up with his sister, who was ahead of him. He toddled in behind her. Padme spun around, a smile that lit up her face. She opened her arms wide, welcoming them both.
Padme squeezed the girl, her eyes shut close. "Oh, look at you Leia, youíre so grown up!" she exclaimed.
She hugged Luke next. "Mommyís little boy," Padme whispered, kissing their foreheads. She held them close to her, just enjoying the moment when Colla walked into the room, pushing a tray of various foods.
"I shall take the children to their rooms for early bedtime as requested, Mílady."
"Thatís fine, Colla. I think theyíve had enough for the day."
Colla gave a slight bow of her head, then left the room with the tray. She returned minutes later and collected the babies. "Will you and Master Skywalker want a bit of privacy this evening? I can stay in the east wing of the house if need be."
"Sounds fine, Colla. I suppose Iíll see you in the morning, then."
Colla gave her a warm smile then carried the babies off. Padme watched, waving to the little ones who peeked over the womanís shoulders, their large eyes wide.
Padme wondered if Anakin would be much longer. For the first time in a long time she felt... happy. But there was a hollowness to it all as she tried to make sense of the changes. The changes to the Republic as well as her husband. In time, she would help him understand just how wrong his actions were at the temple that awful night. Less, sheíd never forgive him for it. She would never forgive herself. After all... in his estimation, he did it for "her".
Padme sat there, gazing into the mirror for the longest time, her emotions unsteady. And soon, the candles she let burn beside her, were nearly burned down to the end of its wick when a drunken Anakin stumbled into the bedroom.
She turned, feeling so disappointed. How could he forget their plans?
"Anakin? What happened? Iíve been waiting here all evening. Are you okay? I was so worried."
He walked past her, a gloved hand sliding from one side of her neck to the other sensually.
He kneeled beside her, turning his head to examine the dress... and the way she seemed to spill out of it.
"Youíre beautiful," he replied.
"Thank you, but-"
He touched her shoulder, then pressed his nose against it. "You smell good too."
"Anakin? Have you been drinking?"
"What...what makes you think that?"
"I can smell it. We were having dinner tonight, remember?"
He waved a hand in the air dismissively. "Iím surprised you didnít just sneak out," he quipped.
"I donít think I have to sneak anywhere."
She turned completely around and laid her open palm on the side of his face.
"Dinner is still warm. Itís not too late," Padme whispered.
"Youíre right. Maybe dinner will bring me down a bit."
"Of course, you need something on your stomach to counter whatever it is you drank tonight."
"Just wine," he droned. Her constant nagging was beginning to wear on his nerves.
He pulled Padmeís chair and she rose. She walked across the room to the door, then stole a peek at an admiring Anakin from over her shoulder. "You cominí or not?"
He smiled, shrugged his cloak off and followed.
They sat across a large dining table, a candle glowing between them, the light shimmering against Padmeís dangling earrings. She wished she were close enough to hold his hand... the way they used to at the old Republica apartment. It was a smaller table. Padme couldnít help but realize, the wealth they amassed with Anakinís new role, distanced them more than it brought them together. Everything seemed out of balance now, when before, they were equals in every way. He had all the money, all the power, and she had been relegated to the role of desperate housewife.
"So... where were you today?"
"Here at home. With the children," Padme answered. She took a bite of food, then glanced at Anakin. "Although, I missed the days when I was in position to serve the Republic full time."
"Are you serving the Republic part time?"
"Not at all."
"And thatís the way I wish to keep it."
Padme shot him a look that could slice steel.
"Thatís not how I feel."
"Really? Iím sorry to hear that."
And that was all he said.
Padme bit back a retort. She wanted the evening to be pleasant. He was right in a way. They were too many problems and issues between them. They were in need of working out their problems. Once solved, she would return to work, and was consciously choosing to put husband and children first. For now.
Anakin threw a napkin onto his plate, then rose. Padme watched as he walked toward her, reaching into his pocket.
"I have something for you, my love."
Padme couldnít help but smile. Always, he was thinking about her.
Anakin walked behind her, his hands grazing her neck as he wrapped an intricate gold and ruby necklace about her.
Padme looked down at the jewelry, drawing her breath sharply at its extravagance. She turned to Anakin, tears in her eyes.
"Oh Anakin, itís beautiful!"
"Iím glad you like it," he drawled.
He pulled her chair, then took her hand. "Letís take a walk."
Still a bit overwhelmed by the gesture, Padme held tight as they walked throut the living room and out the door... outside until they circled the house to the garden.
There, among the varying flowers and swaying trees, she pulled him into her arms and kissed him. "I donít know how to thank you," she whispered lovingly.
"Iím sure youíll think of something."
And that was all he said. No emotion behind it. But then he bent to kiss her again, then finally set her loose. Anakin walked off, heading toward the gazebo at the center of the garden. Padme followed, though not as closely for he seemed to walk faster than she had been able to keep up. And instead of stopping at the gazebo, he continued further toward the bridge which was over the stream, itís waves glistening under the moonlight.
Again, Padme followed...wondering what he was up to when suddenly, a stinging pain shot through her body. Padme clutched her throat, falling to her knees, gasping and out of breath. Anakin turned and watched, simply standing there observing her reaction almost clinically, a remote expression on his face.
"Anakin?" Padme wailed. She stopped in her panting briefly. Just long enough to glance at him. He didnít run toward her, nor did he seemed the least bit concerned. Padmeís hand trailed her neck... and she realized the source of her pain was the necklace he had strapped around her neck. She tried to pull it free, but it stung all the more.
Finally, Anakin waved a hand. "Go back!" he yelled.
But Padme, too paralyzed with pain could not go on. So he raced toward her, dragging her by one of her arms over some imaginary line only a few paces away, which caused the pain to cease almost immediately.
He looked at her precious face, the beads of sweat on her forehead. Slowly Padme composed herself after some squirming on the ground.
"You..." she gasped. "You did this to me!" Her face burned hot with hatred. She couldnít believe the amount of rage that coursed through her. Not even did she feel this much rage toward Viceroy Gunray and he tried having her assassinated several times over. But to have someone she loved, someone who says he loves her do something like this was unthinkable. This wasnít her Annie. This was... someone else.
Anakin kneeled beside her and Padme hauled her arm around and slapped him. He pulled her close to his body, alcohol tinged breath blowing into her face. He held her until she could move no more, until she was too tired to hit him again. Exhausted, Padme collapsed into a heap, her shoulders haunched as she cried into her hands.
Anakin didnít like what he had done to Padme. In fact, he hated it. It filled him with such terrible remorse that he was driven to drink before he could actually go through with it. But... he couldnít have her running to Obi Wan again. He couldnít have her sneaking out of the house and going Force knows where!
He gathered her close and carried her aching body inside. "Iíll never forgive you," Padme cried.
But he didnít need her forgiveness. He was content with simply having her. Whether she loved him or not didnít matter anymore. At least, thatís what he told himself. Her feelings for him had seemed to waver for some time. Hadn't she told him before that she longer loved him? Were those not her words on Mustafar? Words that crushed him so badly that he nearly killed her?
Anakin carried Padme to their room then dropped her on the bed. He stared in her eyes, and there was an emptiness in them. A hurt. She gave him the look of someone whose spirit had been broken.
"Why did you do this?" Padme asked him again.
Anakin crawled over her, an arm on each side of her body which made small depressions in the bed.
"Itís time you accept that things have changed. I donít want you leaving the house again without my knowing. Or without my permission. Iím the emperor. And I donít need any senators making things difficult for me. Youíre a trouble maker. And I donít need you stirring things up, or challenging my authority. Any senators caught making trouble for my empire, will be thrown in jail or executed."
"Everyone was right. Youíre drunk with power."
"No. Just drunk," he burped.
Padme tried rolling away from him, but he pulled her back. She slapped his face and Anakin pushed his hands into the bust of her dress and ripped it apart.
She reached to slap him again. But the gloved hand, the metal one, bent her arm back until it was fully pressed against the bed.
"You call me power hungry, but you canít accept the fact that you no longer outrank me," he accused.
"I meant what I said on Mustafar, I donít want you, I donít love you anymore!"
"You donít have to," he quipped.
This she thought, was probably the most horrible fight they have ever had. Things were being said that neither of them could possibly mean.
She blinked away tears. Those precious tears. Suddenly, Anakin brought his face toward Padme and claimed her mouth hungrily.
She turned her head away, gasping in frustration. But he brought her back. One of Anakinís hands pinned both of hers to the bed. He pried her legs apart with one of his own and wedged himself between them. He was excited, for all the passion ignited between them. The obvious conflict of her being a senator and his being the new EMPEROR no less, had dulled their relationship. At least, the tension between them had. But Anakin decided the tension could be used to their advantage. The conflict. He sensed her attraction to him had not changed. She desired him, even when she was disgusted with him.
Suddenly one of Padmeís arms slipped free and she moved to gather her shorn dress. But he bent her arm down to her side again, and ripped the gown the rest of the way.
"YOU!" she growled. It was her favorite dress. His favorite dress.
Padme had been reduced to "aggressive" negotiations. He smiled. Her fancy words were useless with him. And seemingly lost to her now. As was her fancy Naboo education.
"Itís useless to resist, Padme. Get used to the changes," he reiterated, his hand slid down her face, softly. "Furthermore, there will be none of this... useless tussling. When I am home, and wish to make love to you. I will."
"You will ask first! And if I wish to comply, then I will. But as for now, youíll never touch me. Not until you change."
"Iíll ask. Youíll comply. That is the new arrangement."
There was a firmness to his voice that couldnít be ignored. Padme bit back a stinging retort. "Then if youíll kindly... move aside..."
He shook his head. "Starting tonight." And the smile he gave her was snide.
Padme relaxed and he settled over her, motioning for her to remove the tightly buttoned bustier she had worn beneath her dress. She held his gaze and slowly popped the buttons... one by one...
Anakin waited, like a wild tiger over injured prey. Waiting for a flash of her soft nubile flesh. Soon, she was bare from the waist up. He reached below to pull her panties away... letting them slide down her legs slowly. When the silken undergarment had been cast to the floor, Anakin let his hand travel up her legs again. The hair on her neck seemed to stand on end and chills of a different kind crept up her spine. Anakin pulled his shirt and tunic over his head and let his mouth graze her inner thigh traveling up... up... up til he heard a gasp of unrestrained ecstasy as his tongue flickered and licked the small fold of flesh, taking in the clammy taste until she felt as though she were going to explode.
Still, she wanted him. And when she had been properly subdued, wanting and waiting, he removed his pants and climbed over her, aggressively pressing his length into her. This time, her arms were around him, welcoming... even if the fact that she was angry emanated from her too.