Title: "Salvation" Chapter (1/3)

Written by: Shawn

Summary: After facing his moment of truth, Anakin and Padmé must finally deal with the consequences. Obi-Wan reveals a startling discovery. Mace Windu and Yoda at long last must acknowledge their part in the rise of the Sith.

Category: Drama

Rating: PG

Ship: Anakin/Padmé

Timeline/Spoilers: Everything is canon up until Anakin's arrival at Palpatine's office during the Mace/Palpatine duel in Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. It's AU from a certain moment there on throughout the rest of this story.

Disclaimer: Lucasfilm owns the right to everything and everyone.

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Authors Notes 1: This story is not set in the "Hearts and Souls" universe.

Authors Notes 2: I have always assumed the Clone Wars lasted at least three and a half years; so keep that in mind when reading this story.

Authors Notes 3: This story picks up six hours after the Mace/Anakin/Palpatine confrontation in Revenge of the Sith.


True hope dwells on the possible, even when life seems to be a plot written by someone who wants to see how much adversity we can overcome True hope responds to the real world, to real life; it is an active effort --Walter Anderson The Confidence Course: Sevens Steps to Self-Fulfillment by Walter Anderson.
Padmé's apartment located in the Republic Plaza

Galactic City, Coruscant

Alone.

Padmé felt utterly alone in the universe.

Gazing out of her bedroom window at Coruscant's endless night skyline, she searched for Anakin in the only way he left to her. The dark bottomless chasm that had threatened to swallow him whole these past few days, that should have been filled with such joy, seemed to be growing by leaps and bounds. She felt powerless to stop it.

And powerless was a feeling Padmé Amidala-Skywalker hated with a passion.

Her heart longed for her husband as she scanned the glittering lights and never-ending streams of airborne traffic for any sign of his ship. Hours ago she felt him standing at the very edge of his sanity, and then suddenly he severed the Force-enabled bond they shared as if he slashed it with his light saber. When they both were on different planets, their connection became just general feelings and images more than anything else. But when they were on Coruscant or together on Naboo, Anakin never shut her out.

Not ever.

He had not only shown her but also trained her as well on how to shield her thoughts and feelings from those who were sensitive to the Force. Namely Jedi but on some deeper level she felt he had other suspicions of who might want a deeper insight into her than them. Perhaps someone in the political arena she called home. And, in learning how to do those things, Padmé discovered that when she concentrated she could sense Anakin in a deeply profound way. His thoughts and feelings were like an open book to her. She could dial into his mood, or if he were hungry, and even when he was thinking of her. The most boring Senate meeting could easily become bearable when she reached out to him and found he was wishing he were with her.

Now, she couldn't feel him at all.

Padmé knew he wasn't dead. She understood the distinct sensation between if he were blocking her out versus if he died. Since he had never blocked her out before, not even after a heated argument, this had to be what it felt like. If he had died she would know. Bone deep, beneath her skin, within the very cells of her blood, she would know.

So what had happened to make him want to sever their link? Where was he? One hand held the curtain aside, while the other rested over her rounded belly. Their miracle... She sought any sight of him, and longed to hear R2's beeping or C-3PO's voice telling her that he needed to communicate. Her repeated attempts to contact the Jedi Temple were met with a High Alert status. No information or communications were going in or out without a specified order from a member of the Jedi Council.

With Obi-Wan on Utapau, Padmé felt as out of the loop as she had been in quite some time.

What could have taken place that would prevent Anakin from coming home to her? To their child? His dreams had been a constant source of worry ever since the first night of his return, but surely he had to realize they were only dreams. He'd had others that led to nothing save one that meant more to him than all the others combined. She knew he feared losing her more than anything else. Far more than losing his own life but she had assured him to the best of her ability that she was receiving the best of care and was in perfect health.

A mute sadness fell over Padmé, as well as a dedicated resolve. Anakin was being torn in half by outside forces, and she hadn't acted quickly enough or had the foresight to see through his mask that hid how deeply troubled... how utterly lost he had become. Her eyes shut at the thought of failing him. Time after time after time he offered to walk away from all of this so that they could be together and not have to hide or lie anymore. Time and time again she refused him on the grounds of duty and that the galaxy needed him.

From his own lips he told her that she was all he needed.

Ever since he returned from the Outer Rim Sieges, she saw first hand the immense stress he was under begin to harden him. He felt the Jedi Council disrespected, feared, and in some instances, were plotting against him. Late at night came cryptic thoughts over things Palpatine had told him. Inconsistencies on both sides confused him. His friendship with Obi-Wan felt strained in ways he couldn't seem to bring himself to speak of. Worst of all, he feared for her life. And to that end, he seemed obsessed with finding a way to insure his dream had no hope of ever coming true.

What Padmé had hoped would pass as the days led into the birth of their child only seemed to hasten Anakin's impatience, anger, and desperation. He was suffering in his own fiery hell and she hadn't seen it clearly until now.

He wouldn't suffer alone anymore. Whatever it took, and she had a good idea what that might be, she would see him through this crisis.

And then she saw it. Vapor trails from Anakin's Jedi fighter blazed past the open window on its way to the broad curving veranda that doubled as a landing deck. Her feet carried her as fast as she could move out of the bedroom and through her apartment.

What she found upon reaching the veranda was frightening.

Her slow, measured steps carried her to the open double doors. She watched the canopy of his Jedi fighter raise, and then she saw him. No, she saw what was left of him. Of the man she loved. For this man... this stranger, appeared weary and defeated. Small. Haggard. Lost. And when his reddened, pain-stricken eyes lifted to finally meet hers, her heart clenched tight in her chest. She could perceive a sense of unworthiness all around him.

"Ani?" she softly called out.

He slowly rose, and when he would normally jump from his ship and rush to her, he moved as mechanical as his right arm.

"I..." Anakin began in a voice that faded so low he wasn't sure if Padmé had heard him. When she advanced he raised his hands to halt her approach. She needed to stay away. No, she had too. "I came here to tell you that..." He could barely stand, so great was the weight he bore on his shoulders. "I have to leave you."

Padmé gave him his space... for now. What he said made no sense at all. But the way he said it disturbed her a great deal. "Where do you have to go?"

"Away from you and the baby," he winced so painfully tears stung his eyes at the mere thought of never seeing her again. Surely death was a better option. "I'm dangerous to you and our child Padmé. I tried to save you and..."

As badly as Padmé wanted to take him in her arms and never let go, she needed to use patience and reason. She could control her emotions. Anakin was a creature of pure emotion itself, and so she had to get him to tell her everything.

"You could never hurt us. You know that. I know that," she emphasized with the utmost confidence. He shook his head and turned away from her. His slumped broad shoulders held no pride at all. Who had crushed his spirit? His hand raked through his hair as he stalked toward the railing, his head hung low.

Padmé carefully approached him and had to will herself not to touch him just yet. "Something happened, Ani. I can see that."

"You don't want to know."

"I need to know." Absolute despair best described the expression on his face when he turned to her. He gave off an aura of danger, and yet she had never felt in danger in his presence before. Not until at this very moment. She defied the perception because she knew he was incapable of hurting her, but not himself. And certainly not others. His eyes revealed a trapped, wounded animal backed into a corner.

"I killed Supreme Chancellor Palpatine."

The moment he uttered those words, of which she had no doubt were the truth, she knew not only the fate of the Republic shifted, but their lives as well. Her arms protectively lifted over her belly. "Why?"

"WHY!" he yelled at her so loudly she took a tentative step backward. The instantaneous horror he felt at intimidating her only added to his reasons why she need never see him again after tonight. "Because he is the... because the Jedi Order wanted... I felt his..."

Anakin's fist slammed into the granite with such force he cracked the surface. Padmé could hear the electro-drivers in his right arm grinding. "Ani, start at the beginning. Take a deep breath. Tell me everything that happened. Don't leave anything out."

He walked away from her, though not very far. Being too close to her hurt too much. Distance. He needed to create distance. "Palpatine told me he was the Sith Lord. He was the one we were searching for all along." He could see that the shock of his revelation stunned his wife. Though she had been at odds with Palpatine throughout the war, for the longest time they worked closely together.

"How could that be possible?"

Something of a bitter chuckle escaped Anakin's lips.

"He fooled everyone. He was powerful enough to shield his Force-presence from the entire Jedi Council. Even from me," Anakin added at the end.

He needed to know what she was thinking, and he expected her to ask him if he knew Palpatine was the Sith Lord. He needed to know if she thought he had known all along and just kept Palpatine's secret. He wanted to reconnect their link, but even the brief joy of being privy to her thoughts again would reveal his own, and then she would see him for the disgusting being he knew he was.

Thoughts of the Senate, the clone army, the war, and even the attempted occupation of Naboo by the Trade Federation years ago brought forth theories and conspiracies Padmé would need time to sit down and truly think about. But for now her sole focus was on the man she loved. A man who felt his best interest was of no concern to anyone in the universe. "He betrayed you. I'm sorry, Ani. I know you felt he was a good friend and a trusted mentor."

There was a vacant quality to his tone of voice. "You had your doubts. So did Obi-Wan."

"Doubts are not proof. I shared with you my thoughts as you shared yours with me."

"I was a fool," he spat out as if the words themselves were vile.

"You were manipulated. All of us were."

"Don't you want proof of any of this?"

"No. Your word is all I need."

Padmé was his one and only champion. She never lost faith in him. She never wanted anything from him except the best for him. She deserved paradise, and he died a little death over having sealed her fate. "Palpatine knew about what I did to the sand people that killed my mother. He knew about us. I confided so much in him," he sighed. "I told him about my dreams that you die in childbirth. He seemed to care. He told me he could help me achieve a power great enough to save your life."

As if a cold blade slowly ran up her spine, Padmé could barely breathe. "What did you do?"

Anakin paused as the memories flooded back to him. "After he revealed himself I left Palpatine in his office rather than doing what I should have done and arrested him on the spot. I returned to the temple and told Master Windu everything. He quickly assembled a team of Jedi Masters and left to arrest the Chancellor. I was told to stay behind and wait in the Jedi Council Chambers."

That must have been when he was so troubled earlier today, Padmé surmised. She had felt his inner turmoil and conflict. It wasn't long after that he severed their connection. "Keep going."

Anakin quickly spun around, his face filled with a rage aimed at himself. "I 'had' to save you," he cried out on the verge of a breakdown. "I knew I could save you. I just needed help, and the Jedi turned me away time after time. None of them gave a damn about me. They manipulated and used me. They... they were doing things themselves against the Jedi Code and the Republic." The arc of his voice echoed around them as he began pacing back and forth. He wanted a fight. He needed something to bash his fist into. To rage against so that he could release this fury burning inside him. "I left the Council Chambers to go to the Chancellor's office."

It all made sense to Padmé now. He didn't want her to know what he was going to do. He didn't want her to know what he was feeling at that time. She tried her best to absorb all of this while silently pleading with him in her mind to please have done the right thing, whatever that was.

"When I arrived, I had to maneuver around the dead bodies of Jedi Masters. I didn't even look to see who they were," Anakin explained as if he found it hard to believe himself. "When I reached the Chancellor's main office he was cowering on the floor, unarmed. Master Windu had apparently defeated him in a duel and was standing over him with his saber drawn. He was about to assassinate the Chancellor."

"If those other Jedi Masters were dead, then Palpatine had to have killed them."

"He could have simply been defending himself."

"Or he could have murdered them when they came to arrest him."

Neither possibility truly mattered to Anakin as he continued. "Palpatine was begging Master Windu to not kill him and at the same time reminding me that he had told me the Jedi would make a play to overthrow him and the Senate. He looked so feeble and weak, as if he couldn't continue."

"Palpatine is rarely what he seems. He presents what he feels you want to see or what paints him in the best light. He is as devious a person as I have ever encountered."

His angel knew all of that with no Jedi training at all. Anakin felt he had been blind for far to long. Worse than a fool. He was practically an accomplice. "Palpatine was attempting to force Master Windu away using the Dark Side of the Force, but his powers were deflected back at him. He turned old and grotesque before my very eyes. I listened to Palpatine and Mace go back and forth, both blaming the other for what was happening and telling me to choose. The scene before me was exactly the one Palpatine predicted would happen." His eyes shut as his failure dominated his thoughts. He had never before felt so less than human. More machine than man in so many ways. "As I watched Palpatine beg for his life, I sensed the untapped raw power of the Dark Side of the Force stirring in him. In his teachings he had shown me how to attract and harness it. I felt it in him, roaring like a dragon about to strike."

It was in this very moment that Padmé realized he had never needed her more than he did right now. Patience be damned, she reached for him, and took him in her arms before he could resist. A moment's hesitation and then she heard him begin to sob as he spoke.

"Master Windu may have defeated him in a saber duel, but Palpatine was far from weak. He was waiting for me to make a move. He wanted me to kill Master Windu. And then it dawned on me. The Sith Lord we've been searching for had placed the order for the Clone Army ten years before you and I met again. He had placed that order just before or just after the Trade Federation attacked Naboo. When I began my Jedi training was when he befriended me. Even from that moment he began manipulating me. Using me like a pawn until he had so deeply gained my trust that he knew all of my secrets. He used you to gain my loyalty. He offered me what he knew the Jedi wouldn't, and I took it."

Padmé lifted her head from his chest to gaze up at him. "You began training to use the Dark Side of the Force, didn't you?"

His shame was unending and brutal. How far had he fallen in her eyes? "Yes."

"To save me?"

"I went to Master Yoda for help. I tried to search the Jedi Archives for answers, but only a Master has access to the restricted holocrons that contain deepest secrets of the greatest Masters of the Force."

"That was why Palpatine placed you on the Jedi Council. It was another way for him to give you what they refused. And he knew they wouldn't grant you mastery, but at least in your eyes it would appear that he tried to help you."

His jaw tightened painfully. "I was pathetic."

"You were thinking of your family. You were placed in a horrible position by both sides."

"I made choices, Padmé."

"They were the wrong ones," she told him the truth because he needed to hear that. "But they were for the right reasons."

Anakin wasn't so sure. "I stared down at Palpatine and thought of the countless lives that had been lost because of him. I thought of all the misery and suffering I'd seen throughout the war. I thought about all the lies he told me and his manipulations and suddenly, I couldn't take it anymore. I struck him down with a burning hate in my heart for all he stood for and all I was too foolish to see."

The pain shone clearly on his face broke her heart. "He manipulated all of us, Ani."

"I was closer to him than most. I should have seen him for who he truly was."

"Stop," Padmé placed two fingers over his lips. She needed him to focus and listen to her. "Blaming yourself won't do any good, especially when there is plenty of blame to go around. Everything isn't your fault."

"He said he could show me how to save you and the baby."

"Palpatine was a liar and deceiver. He was a murderer. The worst kind of person imaginable. Believing anything he said wouldn't be wise." When he tried to walk away she took his flesh hand in her own, refusing to let him leave. "I have not and won't ever advocate violence as a way to solve a problem, but Palpatine clearly had to be removed from office. He gained more power than any one person ever had in the history of the Republic. And now we know he was the Sith Lord behind the war itself. He was responsible for the loss of countless lives. He had to be taken down. In times of great strife tough decisions need to be made. You made the only one you felt you could make."

"I may have sent you to your grave."

"Or you may have saved my life. Have you ever considered that?"

He hadn't until just now. "Padmé, I..."

"What?" she asked, standing in front of him. "Tell me?"

"I was prepared to do... I'm capable of..." He broke down once more, and she was there. He clutched her to him and buried his face in the scented coils of her hair. He sobbed over his failure and his greed for more. "I felt a darkness within me that was capable of horrible things, Padmé. Things you couldn't possibly imagine."

Tenderly, Padmé framed his tear-streaked face with her hands. She softly brushed away the tears of his sorrow, and caressed him with a gentleness he felt he did not deserve. "What we are capable of is not what we might ever do. What we think or consider doing is not what we might ever do. To some extent there is darkness in all of us. The difference is compassion and a conscience. It is the undeniable enemy of darkness."

Anakin bent down and kissed her forehead. He sighed, "You should be a Jedi Master."

"That's your job, not mine."

"There could never be darkness in you."

"If someone threatened you or my child, do not think there is anything I am not capable of to protect those I love."

Anakin had always admired the strength and utter conviction his wife exuded effortlessly. No Jedi Master or Sith Lord compared to her. She could teach them all a thing or two about the Force. "I don't feel I am worthy to be around you," he admitted at last, having hated himself ever since he left Palpatine's office. "I confided our personal life to a monster. I placed you in harms way for years. And if I hadn't become so enamored with the power he held and his interest in me I might have seen him for who he really was and saved millions of lives." His confession cost him everything, and he had so little left to give to begin with. "You're better off without me."

"Never," Padmé replied so quickly, and with such force she startled him. "You have never been a coward. Don't become one now."

"You don't under..."

"Of course I understand. No one knows you better than I do. You feel guilty for being played a fool and for those who died because of the war. I understand that. And I know that you are still afraid I will die in childbirth, and you don't want to be around for that." She pierced his heart and wasn't sure what his response would be, but she knew it had to be done.

"Don't you see how this is killing me?"

"Yes. It's killing me too. So what we have to do is face this together. Palpatine sought to separate you from everyone by making it seem as though he was the only one who could help you. He lied and betrayed you. I hate him," Padmé voiced with pure venom. "He's gone now. What's done is done. You and I are alive, and we are expecting our child." She took his hand and placed it over her belly. "This is the essence of us. Neither of us created this child separately. And we can't go through life apart. We have to face whatever is thrown at us together."

"What if you die?"

"What if I don't?" As if annoyed by the arguing, the baby kicked right against Anakin's hand. And for the very first time since he arrived, he began to smile. Padmé knew that he would welcome and love any child they had with all his heart, but that deep down he did have a slight preference. "Your daughter will not hear of you leaving us."

His daughter... Padmé knew him all to well. Better than he knew himself. "I thought you said it was a boy."

"With a kick that hard, it has to be a girl," she teased him just a little bit. They shared a smile and embraced once more. Their family had survived yet again. "Things are going to change, Ani. I admit that I've feared that change, but now I'm looking forward to it."

"I'll probably be expelled from the Order."

"Then it will be their loss. And if they don't and you decide to leave, I just want you to know that there will just be that many more diapers for you to change. Jedi or not, you're helping me with our child." It was so simple in how her heart spoke to his, removing his title and ego while shoving him toward what mattered most to him. His family. "You're exhausted."

He brought her hand to his lips and pressed a kiss there. "So are you."

Padmé led him back toward their bedroom. "Let's rest together. Hold me, and don't ever let me go. Remind yourself of what truly matters to you."

"You," he confessed from his very soul. "You and our child. That's it. Nothing else is a priority."

"And whatever happens, we'll face it together. Promise me."

"I promise." They settled down onto the bed, with Anakin fitting himself behind her, with one arm wrapped around her waist, and his flesh hand over her belly. He exhaled for what felt like the first time in hours. Yes, he realized that he had made many mistakes. But he could have made one that might have taken this... his family... away from him forever. "I'm going to be a better man for you, Padmé."

"You are already the best and only man for me, Ani. I love you with all my heart, and our child will too. Keep that truth with you at all times, and know that I am so proud of you."

"I love you with all that I am."

"Then sleep with me and dream of better times ahead." His strong arms held her closely as the gentle emotions of his love for her washed over her again. He reunited their Force-bond. She could felt his guilt and underlying fear. She knew that one conversation would not fix everything. He knew they wouldn't be alone much longer, and the Jedi would seek him out here. The truth was about to be revealed and nothing could stand in it's way. But the renewed hope she sensed within him reawakened her own. Tough times were ahead. The Senate and the Jedi Council would demand answers to questions they hadn't ever wanted to answer.

None of that mattered now.

Settled peacefully in his arms, Padmé had her Ani back. And what might seem like an ending to most felt more like a beginning to her. It seemed even the baby was pleased. Another solid little kick, slightly different than the last prodded her side. Had the baby shifted position, she pondered with a smile?

The end of Chapter 1

Chapter 2 preview: Master Windu and Master Yoda arrive at Padme's apartment seeking answers. Obi-Wan brings shocking news for them all. Anakin, Padme and Obi-Wan speak privately as all is revealed. An old friend brings harsh truths of the Force to Mace and Yoda.