Padmé - Part 2
"Padmé? Mother? Oh, by the Force!"
Leia Organa covered her mouth with her hand. Her mother alive? Could it be possible? She watched as the other woman turned and fled, not hearing, not registering anything that was said in the hangar after Padmé had torn the necklace from Vader's chest. She couldn't; there was a ringing in her ears that drowned out all other sound. And then she took off after Padmé, her mother, unnoticed by almost everyone else who were either trying to steady the Dark Lord or were to shell-shocked to do anything.
Padmé fled towards her cabin, not heeding the looks and calls she received from the crewmen she pushed out of her way. Damn him! Damn Vader for his cruel games. Damn herself for losing control like that, playing into his hands. A small part of Padmé knew she would have to apologize to Mon Mothma later, but right now, she needed distance. In all her years as a diplomat, she had never broken down in public like this, not even when news of her husband's death reached her. But seeing Vader with the pendant that Anakin once fashioned for her... flaunting his victory over her Anakin even now, throwing it right into her face! She had to flee, or else she would have killed the bastard on the spot. Clawed his black armor right off him, and his black heart out of his chest with her bare hands. For the first time, Padmé truly understood how Anakin felt when he found his mother dying in the Tusken village. For the first time, she understood the blinding rage that had gripped her beloved then.
She reached her cabin, leaning her head against the bulkhead to catch her breath before opening the door, when she heard a hesitant female voice: "Padmé? Mother?"
Leia ran through the ship's corridors after the retreating form of her mother, catching a glimpse of formal robe here, pushing past an already reeling, swearing crewmember there. It seemed to her that Padmé wanted to run forever, not stopping before she had escaped the memory of whatever had set her off, until finally she found the other woman leaning against a bulkhead, thoroughly out of breath. Leia skidded to a halt a few steps behind her. She, too, was breathing hard, although she was not fettered by long skirts and stiff brocade. Swallowing hard, she tried to slow her breathing.
"Padmé? Mother?" she asked, hesitantly, afraid the other woman would run again if she spoke too loud. For a moment, there was no reaction, none at all, but then the woman whom Vader had called Padmé slowly straightened and turned around, a look of mingled shock and wonder on her face.
"Leia? Child?" Padmé could hardly believe the evidence of her own senses. But there she stood, her daughter whom she had given up for adoption those many years ago in order to keep her safe. Pushing herself away from the bulkhead, she took an unsteady step towards the girl - no, woman, for Leia was hardly a child anymore.
"Leia, I'm so sorry", she whispered. "I'm so sorry..."
And then they were in each others arms, for the first time in many years.
It seemed an eternity before Padmé disentangled herself from her daughter's arms. "Let us go into my cabin", she suggested with a crooked smile. "I've made enough of a spectacle of myself for one day."
Darth Vader settled into a chair in the conference room. He still looked pale and was feeling rather shaky.
"Forgive me, Madam President", he breathed. "I was led to believe that Padmé was murdered. I never thought..."
"Unfortunate this is", Yoda cut in. There was a momentary silence as nobody knew what to make of this comment. The silence was broken again by Anakin.
"Unfortunate?" The former Sith's voice dripped with sarcasm. "Unfortunate that my wife is alive?"
"Unfortunate that you had to learn like this, unprepared as you were", the diminutive Jedi Master clarified.
"Please, gentlebeings. As unexpected as all of this is, there is no need for... unpleasantness."
"Of course, Madam. Again, my apologies." Anakin brought his emotions under control with an effort, bowing slightly to Mon Mothma. Although there was nothing he would have rather done now than follow Padmé, see her, talk to her again, find out what in the name of the Force had really happened... certain things had to be done first. He wasn't a Jedi for nothing.
Mothma smiled slightly. She could tell Vader - or Anakin - was chafing, but the man seemed determined to follow procedure and prove his sincerity. She took a seat opposite Vader.
"Down to business, then. You must be anxious to talk to your wife, and the sooner we are finished here..." She spread her hands.
"Thank you, Madam." Anakin gratefully returned the President's smile.
"Now, Lord Vader - or do you prefer Master Skywalker?" Mothma looked at the Jedi questioningly.
"Whatever you wish to call me, Madam. Although, if you do call me Master Skywalker, there is the possibility of a mix-up with my son."
"True enough. Lord Vader it is, then. Admiral Piett already showed us the message you left for him, but I need to hear it from your own lips. What is your purpose here?"
"I want to join the Alliance, Madam, if you'll have me", Anakin answered solemnly. "I realize you have little reason to trust me, and I can only assure you of my sincerity... and ask that you grant me a chance to prove myself."
It was then that General Madine cut in: "The situation has certainly changed, now that we are aware of your identity, Lord Vader. How can we trust a man who already switched sides once?"
"That will be enough, General", Mothma interrupted him. "The council will not go back on their decision. And the way I see it, Lord Vader has not changed his allegiance before. Please remember that the Emperor once was the duly elected President of the Republic. It is us who have started a rebellion. Lord Vader is merely a little late in joining us."
She rose and offered the Sith-turned-Jedi her hand. "You shall have your chance. The council has already discussed your case, and although the vote was not unanimous, the majority of our representatives advocates your admission. Welcome to the Alliance, Lord Vader."
"Thank you." Anakin shook the proffered hand, inordinately relieved.
"Now, I believe you have a family matter to attend to. We can talk about the particulars of your station with the Alliance when you had a chance to talk to Padmé."
"Where's Leia?" Han Solo asked, only now noticing the princess' absence.
"Gone after her mother, she has", Yoda mumbled without stopping to chew on his gimer stick. The group had waited in the hangar while Vader had accompanied Mothma, Madine and Ackbar to the conference room.
"Uh-oh", was Han's comment. "She's going to be pissed."
"What's that, Han?" Luke asked.
"Kid, don't you get it? Leia is Padmé's daughter. Vader is your dad, Anakin Skywalker. Anakin Skywalker is also Padmé's husband. You and Leia are the same age, right?"Jixton threw in.
"Yeah, right... wait a moment..." Comprehension dawned on Luke's face. "Leia is my twin sister!"
"And she's also Darth Vader's daughter. Like I said, she'll be pissed." Han had the grace to not look smug... not too smug, at least.
"Uh-oh", Luke echoed. "Think we should help him?"
Han cocked his head at Luke.
"Would you risk it?"
"A Jedi should choose his fights wisely."
"Exactly my thought."
In her cabin, Padmé Naberrie Skywalker looked her daughter up and down.
"Leia, I cannot tell you how..." she began, but Leia interrupted her.
"Hush, Mother, there is no need for you to apologize. I understand. You wanted to keep me safe."
"I did. Still... I wanted to be there for you, to see you grow up."
The two women fell silent for a while.
"There is one thing, Mother", Leia began, a bit hesitant.
"Yes?" Padmé was almost too eager.
"My adopted parents... I believed you were dead. I grew up feeling they were closer to me then you." She let out a short laugh. "Does that make any sense?"
Padmé had to blink away tears. "It makes perfect sense, dear. It's the price I pay for giving you away."
"We seem to have a lot in common", she continued. "You went into politics, like me."
"Yes. And here I was thinking I was following in my father's footsteps."
"Oh no, no." Melancholy welled up inside Padmé. "Your father, Leia, had very little patience for politics. He was a Jedi."
"A Jedi?" Now that was news to Leia. Her father, her biological father, had been a Jedi?
Padmé strode over to a small table where a holocube sat. She picked up the cube and handed it to her daughter. The picture showed herself and a tall, handsome young man with sandy hair cut short except for a peculiar braid peeking out from behind his ear. Both were smiling. Leia stared at the pair in the holo. Her mother she easily recognized; the face was the same she saw in the mirror each morning. But the man... although Leia was certain she never met her father, this man looked strangely familiar. She had the eery feeling that she should recognize him, yet she could not.
"You see, ours was a forbidden love", Padmé said. "As Jedi, he was not supposed to have a relationship, let alone marry and have children. But Anakin..."
"Anakin?" Leia looked up sharply. Her father could not possibly have he same name as Darth Vader, could he?
"Yes, that was his name. Anakin Skywalker. I first met him on Tattooine when he was still a little boy. Years later, we met again, and I fell in love. I wish you could have met him. He was the sweetest, most caring person. Funny, too." Padmé smiled sadly. So many years had passed since then, but she could still feel Anakin's sweet, passionate embrace when she closed her eyes.
Leia stared openmouthed at her mother. Anakin Skywalker? Darth Vader? "That bastard!" she exploded.
"What?" Padmé frowned. "Who are you talking about?"
"Vader!" Leia spat out the name as if it were a curse.
"Yes." The familiar sadness settled on Padmé's mind. "He betrayed and murdered your father."
"No." Leia did not want to believe it. But there could not be two Anakin Skywalkers, could there? Vader must have assumed Anakin's identity to draw Luke in. But... she looked down at the holocube again. No, there was no denying it. That was why the man in the picture looked so familiar - she had seen his face before, older, more scarred. The man in the picture was Darth Vader, albeit a younger, happier version. Leia let out a breath of air she did not remember holding when the doorbell chimed.
Anakin nodded his thanks to the crewmember who had shown him to Padmé`s quarters. Black helmet tucked under one arm, he placed his other hand on the doorchime panel to announce his presence. The door opened after a few seconds filled with nervous anticipation.
"What do..." Padmé broke off as soon as he saw his face. "Anakin?"
"Padmé... I... can I come in?" Anakin gestured towards the cabin. Numbly, the former Queen of Naboo nodded.
Anakin stepped into the room - his wife's quarters were generous, although nothing like his on the Executor.
"You!" Leia shouted. "You have some nerve, Lord Vader!" In two swift strides, Leia Organa was standing in front of the dreaded former Dark Lord of the Sith and slapped him across the face. Hard. Stunned, Anakin raised his hand to feel his cheek.
"I guess I deserved that."
"You knew! You knew and did not care to tell me!" Leia's voice rose steadily in volume.
"Leia, wait, I didn't..."
"I don't want to hear it." Leia was angrier than she remembered ever being in her life.
"Leia, please... I do want to hear." Padmé's voice was quiet. She looked up at Anakin. "I'm waiting, Anakin."
"He told me you were murdered." Anakin's answer was so quiet Padmé had trouble understanding him. "He gave me your necklace as proof. Hinted it was Obi-Wan who killed you. I should have known better, but I... I was angry. I believed him."
No-one had to ask who "he" was.
"Sabé. She took the necklace on her last mission, without my knowledge."
Anakin placed a comforting hand on his wife's shoulder, but she shook it off. "Don't."
"I was still recovering from injuries I sustained in a fight with Obi-Wan. The medics told me I would never be able to live a normal life again." He swallowed. "With you dead, when Palpatine offered me the apprenticeship, I had nowhere else to go anymore. I became Darth Vader."
"Palpatine manipulated us all. Even Obi-Wan played into his hands." Padmé shook her head. "It was he who told me that Darth Vader murdered my husband."
Anakin felt the familiar anger rise within him. "Obi-Wan", he hissed between clenched teeth. "You'll have a lot to answer to."
"He is dead, in case you've forgotten. You killed him on the first Death Star", Leia threw in.
Anakin gave out a short, humorless laugh. "Not as dead as he'll wish he was when I'm through with him."
"There is just one thing I want to know, Lord Vader. When did you intend to share your little tidbit of information with me?"
Anakin ducked his head. "Not before you stopped hating me, Leia", he said quietly. "I only realized it on Tattooine, that morning when we talked. I always assumed that you were Bail's daughter. Please, Leia, forgive me - I never intended to hurt you."
"It is a little late for that, don't you think?" Leia was still angry with him, and rightfully so. "You tortured me. You stood by and did nothing when Tarkin gave the order to destroy Alderaan."
"Please, Leia, leave us alone for a moment", Padmé asked. Her daughter threw her a look that clearly said she did not think that wise, but did as she was asked.
As soon as the door had closed behind the princess, Anakin stepped closer to Padmé. "I missed you so much", he whispered.
"I'm sorry, Anakin." She put her hand on her husband's forearm. Anakin looked up, hope in his blue eyes.
"You better leave now."
The hope died as quickly as it was born.
"Go, Anakin. For too long, I thought my husband was dead. And now I learn the man I hated for murdering him is, in fact, him. Do you unterstand? I need time. There is too much standing between us for now." Padmé turned away from him.
"I see. I'm sorry, Padmé. Perhaps... after a while..."
Anakin turned and made to leave his wife's quarters. "Padmé?" He paused in the doorway. "I love you."
The large, many-tiered war room of the Home One was starting to fill with rebel crew and officers for the final briefing. Chatter in every language known in the Alliance filled the room as Han Solo and Luke Skywalker took their places. Leia joined them, her face still wearing an expression that warned everyone who knew the slight woman better not to cross her right now.
"So he told you?" Han asked. He better hadn't.
Leia huffed. "Tell me, did everyone but me know?" she hissed.
"Easy, your Highnessness! I only just figured it out, alright? It's not like Anakin knew himself, or didn't you guess that?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Your little chat over tea is what I'm talking about, oh mighty Princess and Senator." Han shrugged and nonchalantly leaned back in his seat. "I wondered since when Vader had become so clumsy a to break cups, but that explains it, don't you think, sweetheart?"
Somewhat mollified, Leia smiled tightly. "Yes, that would explain a lot. Still, he has it coming..."
"Never doubted that." Han grinned, satisfied with himself and the world.
It was a very quiet Anakin that finally joined them; the general buzz of conversation in the room stopped for a moment when he entered, only to resume at a higher volume.
"Looks like it didn't go too bad", Han muttered towards him.
"What are you on about, Solo?"
"Well, knowing Leia, her mother must be quite a handful. And you're still alive, your Lordship."
Anakin snorted. "Well, if you view it like that, yes, it could have gone worse."
A hush fell over the war room as Mon Mothma stepped up to the map table and holo emitter at the center; here was a person with a presence so commanding she did not need to ask for attention.
"The Emperor has made a critical mistake, and the time for our attack has come", she said.
To be continued...
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