Anakin heard the Jedi's speaking. They all looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and perhaps even distrust. That didn't let him deter him because he wasn't interested in their approval. By nature he was a loner, he never had to answer to anyone save the Emperor and now, he mused, the Jedi seemed to have staked a claim on him, albeit quite reluctantly. Despite this, he understood what must be done. Obi Wan Kenobi cautioned him about his own feelings, especially towards those he was leaving behind. "The Emperor knows of your attachments and he will use that against you," he had said after their initial meeting with Yoda and the surviving Jedi. They were on their way now to find the Emperor and his remaining forces.
"You Jedi and your religion," Anakin retorted. "I know what the Emperor's tricks are. I'm aware that he would stop at nothing to hurt Padme and the children, but you are wrong, just as the Emperor is. You think my attachments are my weakness, but it's those very attachments that will be my strength when facing the Emperor. They are the very reason why I agreed to be here and haven't yet turned away."
Kenobi raised an eyebrow, surprised at how committed Skywalker seemed to be to those he caused the most harm to.
"I know that you still doubt me," Skywalker went on. "Even your little green friend…"
"Forgive me, but calling Master Yoda…"
"I know," interrupted Anakin. "You think it's disrespectful."
"And you don't care," Kenobi finished. "I'm fully aware of the fact that you and Yoda are distrustful of each other, but apart from your sudden redemption, forgive us if the years of torture and carnage you caused have more than stacked up against you."
"You and the Jedi want me dead," Anakin guessed. "Just like the Emperor, you want me to do the dirty work for you and drop upon my own sword as it were so that your own hands are clean of this mess."
Kenobi raised and eyebrow. He and Anakin had been flying through space for quite a time now and have been silent since leaving Naboo until Obi Wan chose to speak. Now he wasn't so sure that was a great idea, however he refused to relent to the younger man.
"As contradictory as it may seem given the present circumstances, the Jedi aren't usually in the business of plotting anyone's death and believe me, your death isn't part of our plan," Kenobi said.
"I wasn't looking for reassurance," Anakin replied.
"I wasn't giving you one," Kenobi added.
Bariss Offee led Dorme into the small living room Padme and the twins were using to spend their days. As soon as Padme saw Dorme, she rushed to hug her friend. Dorme started crying, relieved to see her friend alive.
"We thought you were dead!" she exclaimed as she held Padme close. "When the Jedi informed me that you were well and here I just had to come and see you!"
"I'm glad to see you again," Padme said, sitting besides Dorme. "I know I should have called you, but I fear for the safety of my children," Padme explained.
Dorme's eyes grew wide, a smile breaking across her face as she noticed the twins sleeping close by upon a small crib. "Oh, Padme!" she exclaimed standing up and going over to the children. "Look at how precious they are!"
Padme relaxed a little, having felt a bit apprehensive at her friend's reactions to her children. She was still unsure as to how people would perceive her now, considering who the father of her children was.
She didn't have long to wonder as Dorme breached the subject right away. "There is a rumor," she began, "that Master Kenobi and Skywalker, the stranger everyone talks about, are going to assassinate the Emperor."
"Did Master Yoda tell you this?" Padme asked, knowing full well that she couldn't give away the Jedi's plans, even if it was to her closest friends.
Dorme turned around and faced Padme. "They say that Skywalker and the Dark Lord's Apprentice are one and the same," Dorme added, all the while watching the expression on Padme's face.
"Dorme…" Padme began, but Dorme refused to press her further and held up her hand.
"Forget it," she said, "I have no right to ask, after everything you've gone through."
"No," Padme replied, "You have every right, just as the men and women I've let down under my command."
"Let down?" Dorme asked in shocked. "What are you talking about Padme? It's because of you that this war is almost over!"
"That isn't true," Padme countered. "I've been away from all of you for many months now…"
"Regardless of that," Dorme cut in. "You have always been our leader, even after everything that has happened, the people are behind you now more than ever. Many think that you are dead and have rallied behind your memory. Imagine what will happen once everyone knows that you're alive!"
"They'll hate me!" Padme cried, looking away, trying not to feel the shame burning inside her.
"We could never do that," Dorme said.
Padme gathered what courage she could and faced Dorme. "All that time that I was away," she began. "I just didn't have the strength to tell you, to admit to all of you that I…" Padme stopped, tears threatening to pour down her pale cheeks.
"What is it?" Dorme asked. "Padme, tell me what's torturing you."
Padme took a deep breath before proceeding. "Anakin Skywalker is the father of my children," she confessed. "The same man who this very minute is risking his life to kill the Emperor… his former Master."
Dorme stood, shock showing visibly in her face.
"That day I disappeared and you found me in that place," Padme continued. "He held me there and I… Dorme, I just let him! I couldn't stop him, I just couldn't, I didn't…"
"Padme," her friend held up her hand. "You don't have to explain to me…"
"Yes, I do," Padme insisted. "He came to kill me on the Emperor's orders but he couldn't do it. He couldn't and instead he seduced me and I let him. I didn't even fight."
"Are you in love with him?" Dorme asked.
"Yes," Padme admitted. "I'm crazy, I know, but I've fallen in love with my own enemy and I… Dorme, I don't know how to deal with this. I just know that it broke my heart to see him go and I didn't even have the courage to really face my feelings until he was gone."
"Oh, Padme," Dorme said, clearly at a loss of words at Padme's confession. "Padme, are you sure? Think of everything we've gone through because of the Emperor, because of him!"
Padme knew that confessing to Dorme would be difficult and expected her reaction, albeit it still hurt to see the disappointment in her friends face.
"I know that you may see this as a betrayal of everything we've stood for," Padme said, "I can't justify the turn my life has taken, but if you could of seen… if you only knew what he's done to have the war turn to our favor…"
"It can't erase all those years he helped torment countless worlds and their people!" Dorme reminded her. "Padme, I don't want to judge you…"
"Then don't!" Padme exclaimed. "I'm not going to justify what I did, I can't apologize for it Dorme. I see my children and all I can think about is the way he looked at them when he saw them for the first time. Maybe he can't make up for all the pain he caused, but I won't hate him. Not for the man he is now."
Dorme turned away, consternation clearly showing in her face. She trusted Padme, had trusted her with her own life and hoped that if what she said was true regarding the Dark Lords Apprentice, then perhaps she would give them both the benefit of the doubt.
"Padme, I can't presume to know how you feel," Dorme began, trying to choose her words carefully. "You do realize that if Darth Vader, or Anakin manages to get rid of the Emperor, even then it will take a considerable effort on his part to change people's opinion of him. What are you going to do?" Dorme turned to face her friend, a part of her still not sure about the present situation.
"For now I need to take care of my children," Padme said. "However, there is a battle the Jedi tell me still continues in our airspace. One of the last few the Emperor has launched against us."
"If Master Kenobi," Dorme added "and… Anakin can stop the Emperor, then this will be the last battle our people will face. Victory is nearly ours."
Padme noticed Dorme's struggle with pronouncing Anakin's name. She knew that for a lot of people, they wouldn't be able to separate Anakin from the person he had been. She couldn't however, bring herself to hate him, not when she saw him through her own children. "Have you contacted Captain Typho?" Padme suddenly asked. "Orfee said he had information that could still favor the Emperor."
"Such as what?" Dorme asked feeling encouraged at Padme's sudden change into the woman she had known.
"He had information regarding the Emperor's latest ship," Padme said. "I think she mentioned a weapon he had, only the Jedi believed it to be a rumor. He was supposed to come back with information to verify the rumor."
"Padme," Dorme interrupted. "We haven't heard anything from Captain Typho for days now. I think he's dead."
"Not dead," the voice of Offee said behind them. "Sorry for the interruption, but Master Yoda has called me to take you to him. Both of you. There's something you have to know."
"What is it?" Padme asked, suddenly alarmed. Her heart gave a lurch. Was it Anakin and Master Kenobi? She wondered.
" It's the Emperor," Offee replied. "The war may be far from over."