Title: The Long Road Back
Summary: AU. Padmé has survived and after four years as Vader, Anakin surfaces. He begins a journey back into himself. Padmé finds a way to help him. There will be happy endings for all. Eventually.
Chapter: Prologue: Setting The Stage
Rating: M, for the humor
Disclaimer: Star Wars is the property of George Lucas. No disrespect is intended.
Notes: I've had a few requests for another Padmé survives story, so here it is, on a lighter side than the last one. In fact, it could be said to be downright silly compared to the last 'Padmé survives' story I wrote.
"Are we in agreement then," Obi-Wan asked, glancing back and forth between Yoda and Bail Organa. They had given this matter much thought since the twins were born and come to one conclusion: all must be hidden for safety. Palpatine must never know that Padmé lived. Or the children.
"For her safety, agree we do," Yoda said, nodding slowly.
Bail tapped his fingers against the tabletop. "Who can we trust? We'd gladly hide her as one of my wife's handmaidens or Leia's nursemaids --"
"No," Obi-Wan interrupted. He'd tumbled this about his mind in unceasing circles, trying to reason out what would be best for his friend and he knew that would not be. Padmé would not be able to withstand scrutiny so soon after what had occurred. The stress of it would harm her. Obi-Wan was certain of it. "A complete break. Padmé will be in a delicate place when she wakes. I don't think being around her own daughter and having to hide that she is her mother would be beneficial to her. Temporary isolation may be best for her health."
"You have something in mind?" Bail slanted a quizzical stare his direction.
"I do. I've an idea of someone who would keep Padmé safe with her last breath. An old friend of hers whose loyalty was remarkable. I'll make the arrangements."
The meeting was concluded. Obi-Wan began immediate plans.
The reports had to be wrong.
Dormé was unable to tear herself away from each new report of Jedi uprisings. It had to be a mistake. She felt in her heart, in her very gut, that it was wrong. The Jedi were good, not evil. They wouldn't attempt any such uprising without reason to believe it was for the best. They weren't malicious. She knew that. She watched and watched until she was numb and continued watching hour after hour.
And then the report of Padmé's death. Padmé dead? And by the hands of Jedi? That couldn't be truth, could it?
She was crying when Obi-Wan Kenobi contacted her. What he had to say straightened her spine, steely resolve working through her. Dormé nodded in response to his lengthy explanation. "Of course. I'll do whatever is wished. My lady must be kept safe."
And so it was that Dormé went from packing up her father's cottage to readying it for company. Dormé had left Padmé's service not long after her lady had married Anakin Skywalker. It had been a sad day when she'd left service, but Dormé's father had become sicker than he'd been, falling into dementia, and she'd felt a duty to him. He'd died recently and she'd been at odds with what she was going to do with her life. Any official ventures back in to her previous career would take time. She'd need to be re-certified, take classes and go through more schooling to bring her skills up to date.
But now she had a purpose once more. Dormé had never really considered herself out of Padmé's service, just on a long leave of absence. She would return to duty and begin protecting her lady anew.
6 months later:
Padmé wouldn't speak, preferring to sit quietly by herself day after day, staring at the water. She wanted no company and Dormé understood. She respected the wall her friend had put up about herself. Grief was something Dormé understood well. Eventually, Padmé would want a friend and she'd be waiting.
As she waited, she occupied herself learning Huttese from a learn at home course. As she retrieved the grade from her last test, Dormé permitted herself a tiny, satisfied smile. Wouldn't Obi-Wan be surprised when she sent him the next letter in Huttese? No, not Obi-Wan, she reminded herself. Ben. Ben Kenobi. That's how he wants me to address letters.
Very pleased with herself, and her progress with the confusing language, she fired off a long letter to him, hoping he wouldn't notice how bad her grammar skills really were. She wasn't quite a master at the language and it would take time to learn it properly. Dormé had just enough knowledge off the top of her head to ask 'where is the refresher' and 'why don't we take this to the Hutts'. All in all, her instructor was pleased with her progress as well, assuring her in his remarks that she was learning it faster than many humans.
And why not, she asked herself. It gave her something in common with Obi-Wan. Ben. Giving a little laugh, she sent off her letter.
Obi-Wan was surprised to receive another letter from Dormé so soon and even more surprised when he tried to read it. He turned it this way and that, wondering what bizarre language the woman had taken to using. He shook his head and sighed, vowing to translate it later. She was driving him crazy and she was on Naboo, for crying out loud!
She sent him weird gifts, such as some raw fish thing she'd said was a delicacy on Naboo. He wasn't a fan of raw food if he could help it and the sight and smell of the...what had she called them?...oh yes, the oysters, had about made him ill. She'd sent several types -- large and small --, all in sauces. He'd tried them, just so he could honestly tell her he had when she asked. Her gifts were all like that. Strange. Bizarre. He wondered how much she'd gotten out in the past few years, finally deciding that it hadn't been enough.
Her letters were novel length and if she described the lake one more time, he was going to drown her in it.
Not really, but it was nice to dream on occasion, especially after he imagined years of this.
Maybe Padmé would step in some time soon. Oh, how he hoped that day would come!
6 more months later:
He didn't seem happy to see her. Padmé yes. Her no. In fact, Obi-Wan's greeting was downright surly. Dormé ignored the tone and brought in their cases, sweeping past the boxes she'd sent on ahead. She'd given him a good weeks notice and was surprised to find he hadn't touched any of the boxes. She'd thought he'd have things all put away by now. No matter. She'd take care of it later. "Where shall I put these," she asked.
He crossed his arms. "You and Padmé will be sharing a room. My house is not huge."
"I never expected it was."
Obi-Wan directed a pointed stare towards the boxes piled about the living area.
Dormé set the cases down and cast a quick glance outside. Padmé was sitting on the front steps and was watching the sunset. "Most of the things are Padmé's. Only three boxes are mine and two of those are clothing. We'll put everything away and you won't notice the extra."
His expression indicated that he doubted that very much.
"Really," she insisted. "I promise."
So he wasn't supposed to notice the knick-knacks and the datapads and the perfume spritzers and the jewelry and all those other things that were taking over his home? Fat chance. Obi-Wan sighed, listening to Dormé and Padmé as they made dinner.
No, it was far more accurate to say that he listened to Dormé. Padmé made little noise. He could count the number of words she'd spoken since arriving on one hand and missing three fingers. Dormé though. The woman talked and talked... Didn't she ever shut up? He'd never noticed before how much she talked. He found himself wondering just when she paused to take a breath, because it seemed like she never paused at all. Was it his destiny to hear her voice chattering on for the rest of his days? Fervently, he hoped Padmé would begin talking again.
He sniffed cautiously, letting himself notice the smells coming from the kitchen. Whatever they were making didn't smell too bad. This meal was their treat. Dormé had brought some other thing she called a delicacy with them and insisted on preparing it.
There had been a faint, but definitely there, smile lurking on Padmé's lips at that, as though she knew Obi-Wan wasn't going to like the meal. He was very afraid he wasn't going to like many meals from here on out unless he prepared them. He was a simple man, really he was. He didn't need fancy foods. He actually liked bland meals that were the same every day. Soups, sandwiches, some fruit...
"Someone save me," he whispered.
No one answered and he thought he heard the faint ghost of laughter from behind him.
Probably Qui-Gon. His old Master had found each interaction with Dormé extremely humorous so far...
Dormé couldn't believe that a man so neat and orderly as Obi-Wan Kenobi didn't have organized shelves. She shook her head, trying to locate a spice he'd claimed was there somewhere. How would he know, she wondered. They aren't even alphabetized.
The task of organizing the kitchen took her the rest of the day.
She was moving his things.
Obi-Wan crossed his arms, watching Dormé with annoyance prickling at him. Who did she think she was, just changing things around like that? "Dormé," he said, then repeated her name until she looked at him, pausing on the stepstool with her arms full of containers.
"I heard you the first time, Obi...Ben. What?"
"You're moving things."
"Yes. Your point?"
"You didn't ask."
"The kitchen is a common area. It's not like your bedroom or anything, though that room needs organizing too." Ascending the stepstool the rest of the way, she glanced at him over her shoulder as she put the containers away. "Is there a problem?"
"I liked it the other way and don't you dare move a thing in my bedroom."
"The other way was inefficient and I'll be sure to stay out of your bedroom." She returned to the floor, reaching for his tea tin. "If I'm going to be cooking in here, and I have been, I have to be able to find things."
Quickly, he snatched the tin up. "No. Not this. Qui-Gon gave this to me and it will stay on the countertop."
She put her hands on her trim hips. "It'd be better up on the shelf by where you make the tea each morning."
"I like it where it was."
Dormé smiled softly, took the tin, and set it on the counter where it had been. "All right. If you'd prefer to take a few extra steps more than necessary each morning, then who am I to argue?"
"Exactly." He quirked a brow at her, a gesture she returned before leaving the room. Obi-Wan watched her go, considering her reasoning. He really could adjust to not walking all the way across the kitchen and back first thing. It did make sense to put it on the shelf. It wouldn't hurt to try it out for a day or two. He could always move it back to the counter.
Obi-Wan put the tin on the shelf.
Dormé returned, triumph in her gaze when she noticed the tin.
He cleared his throat. "Your reasoning had merit, but don't expect to organize my house to your tastes."
"I wouldn't dream of it."
"Really." Her smile, warm and filled with humor, sent a little bit of confusing attraction shooting through him. He nodded and quickly decided he'd better find something else to do.
A few more months later:
Padmé had declined to join them in town, claiming she was content to spend a quiet day reading and drawing. Obi-Wan noticed that most of her drawings didn't actually look like anything, but then, who was he to criticize? He had no ability in that direction at all. If she thought she was sketching something that looked like something, then who was he to argue with her?
He listened with half an ear to Dormé, just enough attention that he could answer any questions she might send his way. He had an ulterior motive with this trip and didn't want her to know it. She needed to loosen up and he thought a couple drinks would help. So they were headed for the nearest bar. Obi-Wan had it planned out. They'd have a drink or two and... did she just stop talking?
Yes, he wasn't mistaken. The magical talking wonder had fallen silent. In fact, she seemed a bit uncertain as he parked the speeder and led her towards The Growling Bantha. Obi-Wan felt a sliver of mischief working through him and decided to give in just this once. He'd been good all these months. It was time to let himself have a little fun.
Dormé wasn't sure about this trip into town. She wished Padmé had consented to go with them, but her lady had been firm.
You need to have some time without me, she'd said. Get to know Ben and not that arguing you've been doing. He's a nice man, Dormé. You two need to iron out these differences.
But arguing was all she knew how to do it seemed. She never meant to start an argument with him. It just sort of happened. And now she was talking and talking to fill the silence. She didn't like silence. It made her wonder what he was thinking and then she got nervous. Dormé let her last sentence trail off. He'd not said one word the entire trip.
I'm a chatterbox, she thought miserably. He's said it enough since we got here.
It had been a very long time since she'd been out and about with a man who wasn't family. Her last outing had been with Typho right before she'd left Coruscant, which was longer than she liked to think about. They'd had a lovely dinner and seen a show, but they'd both known their relationship couldn't go on any more. He was on Coruscant most of the time and caring for her father didn't leave Dormé a lot of time to socialize. Their break had been amicable.
Blast it, she just didn't know how to act anymore!
Dormé followed Obi...Ben into the bar, staring for a moment at the Bantha heads on the walls. Nice place. While he ordered drinks, she found a table for them, wiping it clean with a cloth she'd had tucked in her pocket. It didn't look like anyone had touched the table in a few years, but at least wiping it off dislodged the worst of the crumbs and such.
"Well, here you go. Bottoms up."
The blue colored concoction he set before her wasn't what she preferred, but since he was paying, Dormé decided not to be picky. Raising it, she took a sip. It was...interesting. After a few sips, her entire mouth went numb and she couldn't really taste it anymore. Nor could she feel her teeth or tongue.
"Not bad," she managed.
"It's my favorite cocktail."
"I usually drink Theed blasters or shuura daiquiris."
"Well, it's good to try something new on occasion." He smiled, a twinkle in his eyes. Dormé liked the bit of humor there. It made him look younger. Very attractive.
"I suppose," she replied with a smile, taking another sip. No, it didn't taste too bad at all. A plan began to form in her mind. Maybe she remembered how to do this after all.
How was he to have known that two drinks would get her drunk?
He watched Dormé with wide eyes. Where had she learned to dance like that? All wiggling and twisting about. It was...erotic. He shifted in his seat.
She leaned across the table, undoing another button on her shirt as she picked up his drink and took a big gulp. "I am having so much fun," she told him, before returning to her dancing.
My, it was warm in here today.
He really shouldn't have done this, should he? She was very drunk. Plastered was the proper word, he thought.
"Obi-Ben, dance with me," she called. He wasn't annoyed by her inability to use the proper name this time. In fact, he'd sort of become used to it. He glanced about the bar, noticing that there were several patrons who looked more than willing to take her up on the dance offer if he didn't. He downed the last of his drink and stood, moving to her and taking her in his arms.
She stopped wiggling and rested her cheek against his shoulder, arms around him. He wondered why that disappointed him. He'd wanted her to stop dancing a moment ago and when she had... Raising a hand, he touched the backs of his fingers to her cheek, smoothed them across her skin. So soft.
Dormé opened her eyes, raised her head a notch. "Ben," she whispered.
One good look in her eyes told him what he needed to know. She wasn't drunk after all, was she? Tipsy perhaps, and taking advantage of his assumption to get him to dance with her. He was right, wasn't he? "You're not drunk," he said.
"Are you sure of that," she returned, slipping her arms from around his waist and up to his neck. Her fingers slid into his hair. "I could be."
Dormé smiled and laughed a little. "Found out. I'm not entirely sober, but neither am I soused."
"Soused? Interesting choice."
"I've always liked it."
He slid his hands along her waist. There was an impulsive urge growing inside him. Obi-Wan held her even closer, pressed her to him. She went willingly. "You drive me crazy, Dormé."
Her smile widened. "I like you too."
Lowering his head, he touched his lips to hers for a few seconds. A short kiss, sweet. Obi-Wan enjoyed it very much. He wanted more kisses from her and, if he allowed himself to think about it, he wanted more than kisses. By the look on her face, she felt the same way. "What will we tell Padmé," he asked quietly.
Dormé tilted her head. "I don't think she'll be surprised."
He wondered why, but the thought slipped away when she kissed him, long and slow.
Padmé was awake at dawn, like she always was, watching the sunrise and hoping Dormé and Obi-Wan had settled their differences in the manner she'd thought they would. She would have to be blind not to see the attraction growing between the two and if they needed a little push, then so be it. She'd push, because if they were wrapped up with each other, they wouldn't be watching over her so much. She could concentrate on preparing herself for when the time was right to leave.
She wasn't going to stay here forever. One day, perhaps soon, she'd know it was time to break from them and go. But when? Padmé waited. The certainty grew inside her that she would know.
The time to leave would present itself and she would not be able to mistake it for anything else. Somehow, she would know.
Padmé didn't question it.
Anakin Skywalker clawed his way up to full consciousness, using all of his strength to shove Vader back behind him. He looked around his quarters and decided there had to be a change. He couldn't keep living this way. Darkness, death, destruction and far too much pain for a single person to bear.
Vader, he decided, had to disappear. If it took him the rest of his life, he would regain control of his body.
He promised himself that. It was one promise he was determined to never break.