It's been along time since I posted anything here, and in all likelihood this will be my last post, certainly in this fandom anyway. Anyway, this is not a complete story- rather a short collection of various scenes I had written a long time ago for the one story that never got finished. So here's what's been done, with some epigraphs attached. Shoudl anyone feel the compulsion to take this one up, go for your life. You've got my blanket approval to borrow anything here (though I guess accreditation could be nice).
Disclaimer: insert generic disclaimer. Also, I became aware that one of the scenes is very similar, if somewhat extended, to something I read many months ago over at the Jedi Council forums. As the scene in quetsion borrows very heavily from history rather than fiction, I hope the author of the other similar scene will believe me when I say I wrote this in complete ignorance of their own work.
Furthermore, acknowledgement is owed to Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Barret Browning and (my apologies) the author of I Count My Partner's Eyelashes, Young Writer's Showcase 2002 for the excerpts I borrowed from their works.
i count my partner's eyelashes one by one i do it while he sleeps
His lashes pulsed against his cheek as his eyes moved rapidly under their lids. She watched them dart unseeing as he slept.
Wondered how he would look at her when they opened.
Perhaps wide and startled- remembering dreamed spectres. Or a tempestuous slate blue- savage and bursting with tightly restrained aggression. Maybe determined and cold. That jarring icy glint clawing its way to the surface once again.
Her skin crawled- spidery fingers that crept up her spine- when she saw that in him.
Once she thought she could understand everything in him- wants, desires, fears- just as he knew her. But their love was unjust- a harsh keeper; taking no hostages; wrecked victims lined roadsides- and gradually becoming a one-way street. Too often he unnerved her with his ability to see right through her, while she struggled just to tread the treacherous waters of his moods. Mercurial and teetering on the edge of violence. The effort was wearing her strength thin- smearing charcoal shadows under her eyes and suppressing her appetite. Eventually something was going to give. She could not keep her head above water indefinitely. From the depths of her intuition surfaced the knowledge that there would be no satisfying release for the amassing tension between them. Instead she saw herself drowning quietly- no last climactic struggle for life- merely a gradual slide into nothingness.
Then again, she was mostly likely forecasting melodrama. The truth was the unpredictability of her situation terrified her. Everyday she dragged through the same daily routine like a prisoner on a ball and chain- that was the persona the rest of the world saw. A slightly world weary politician doggedly continuing the democratic fight because that was all there was to do. However, she no longer gauged her life by the regular Senate meetings and lobby campaigns, but by the sway of her husband's temperament, which was anything but regular.
Increasingly volatile, haphazard and extreme. Promising her the world with a soft smile one minute, and seething, ready to aim the nearest inanimate object at the wall, the next. Though he was always careful to ensure his anger was deflected away from her.
Caught up by her introspection as she was, the flying open of his eyes took her by surprise. The startling blue irises held none of the sentiments she had anticipated.
All she could see was his desperately lost expression- the fear, the vulnerability- and guilt flooded through her. She was wholeheartedly ashamed of her ability to forget that he needed her as his eyes slowly lined with glassy moisture.
The saltwater evaporated before it could fall.
through portico of my elegant house you stalk
with your wild furies, disturbing garlands of fruit
and the fabulous lutes and peacocks, rending the net
of all decorum which holds the whirlwind back.
now, rich order of walls is fallen; rooks croak
above the appalling ruin
The doors to her quarters slid open with a hiss to reveal four armoured clones.
Padmé looked up from her silent observation of the quiet galaxy at the window, surprised by the break in routine. Without exemption, she had spent all her daylight hours onboard the Executor undisturbed, with only her own unsettling thoughts to keep her company. The stormtroopers marched in file to the centre of the room, before their commanding officer stepped forward to address her.
'My Lady, Lord Vader has requested your presence on planet and will expect you within the hour. You will be escorted to a transport immediately,' the Major spoke in the monotone cadence ubiquitous in the clone ranks.
A frown crinkled her forehead as she processed the information, wondering what could possibly have occurred that Vader wanted her planetside. The variation of her usual routine left a sour taste in her mouth but she could see that she was left with no choice but to comply, or incur the wrath of her keeper. The four clones waited expectantly, obviously wanting to get on with their assignment to make the hour deadline, so she stood from the window seat and obliged them by making her way towards the exit. As she passed them, each clone fell into flanking positions, ensuring she had no room to move in any direction that contradicted their guidance.
In such fashion, she was sheparded through the austere corridors of the flagship to the main hanger where she found her self the subject of wide scrutiny. As the only woman on board a ship of several thousand men such glances were only to be expected, but on all previous occasions Vader's presence had strongly discouraged attentions of any kind. Now she felt the blatant stares of curious troopers, officers and engineers as she crossed the open floor of the hanger. Her neck prickled and her skin crawled under the lewd looks of men seeing a live attractive woman for the first time in months; the sneers of misogynists who didn't not believe women belonged on military ships; the unabashed stares of the curious. She focused her gaze blankly into the middle distance and held her head high, refusing to wish Vader were the one escorting her, no matter how effective a deterrent he may have been.
Later, once she was seated on board the transport shuttle, she asked the Major in command to which planet she being taken. The only response she received was the sound of the initiation of the take off cycle and the silent gazes of the two troopers on either side of her; she was left to her confused thoughts to make mere wild guesses. It wasn't until the planet in question came into view that she had even an inkling as to what corner of the galaxy she was in.
As the small blue orb grew in size, the distinctive land formations of her home planet became clearer and her heart leapt to her throat. A conflicting muddle of feelings came to the fore of her consciousness- hope and gladness that she could once again see the home world she had thought was lost to her; dismay at the Empire's presence there; apprehensive fear at the thought of what her husband had planned and abiding loss as she remembered the last time she and Anakin had been on Naboo together. Her mind schizophrenically rotated through the emotions as the shuttle touched down on a landing platform in Theed, the streets empty of citizens and patrolled only by clone troopers.
She was lead outside by her chaperones into the political centre of the once bustling city. The military enforced curfew unnerved her- the wide boulevards seemed unfamiliar without their usual occupants moving about their daily lives. Instead the white armoured soldiers of the Empire dotted the streets, blasters held at the ready across the chest plate, watching the odd group as they made their way to the palace.
Vader's menacing silhouette awaited her at the top of the palace steps with a platoon of task force troopers. The sight of the black insignia on the white uniforms dropped the bottom from her stomach as apprehension transformed to sheer terror. The insignia she saw was synonymous with death- political executions, genocide and exterminations- the task force units' reputations were mired in fear. Before her captivity she had heard whispers of the atrocities committed by the clones under those masks, so terrible in nature one could scarcely believe them.
And then she had learned that it was all at her husband's orders.
The prospect of what she was about to confront iced her blood and she did her best to conceal the fear she felt must have been written all over her face.
She received a curt nod of acknowledgement from the black towering figure of her husband before she was guided into step behind him, closely followed by the platoon of elite murderers. Briefly, she wondered if she was to die, as she traversed the corridors of her early adolescence. The thought did not survive long though, as practicality stepped in to remind her that Vader would not relinquish his most prized possession so easily.
Her thoughts had drawn her attention away from her surroundings and she found herself facing the high doors at the entrance of the throne room with no clear memory of how she had gotten there. At Vader's signal the troopers on guard duty thrust open the elaborately carved panels and she found herself once again guided by her escort, into the throne room she had ruled over in her youth. After her journey through the desolate streets of the capital and the vacant echoing corridors of the seat of government she half expected to find the throne room similarly empty. Instead she found it to be occupied by huddles of politicians as they shrank from the watchful eyes of the stormtroopers lining the walls.
Vader's entry into the room had a visible effect on the crowd- fearfully, they moved as one away from him. The party's passage to the dais at the other end of the throne room was unimpeded, as a path was made available to the malignant head of the group. Padmé cast a low gaze around her, taking in the varied faces- some she recognised from her time as Queen, and later, Senator, others were new to her- but they all held the same horrified, condemning looks of those feeling the betrayal of their ruler. Seeing a queen of Naboo walking free of bondage behind the infamous Sith Lord sent ripples of surprise through the mass and suddenly Padmé thought she had a good idea as to what Vader was orchestrating.
There was only one reason apparent in her mind that Vader would risk revealing her identity to the eyes of the world again- none would leave her presence alive.
From what little information she had gathered on the Empire's activities before Vader had come for her, she understood that uncooperative systems often found themselves under the control of new governors appointed by the Empire. The rebellious governments were never heard from again, presumably vanished away by elite death squads similar to the one at her rear. The government of Naboo would suffer that fate- all the people before her would die- because prisoners of conscience were more trouble than the Empire was prepared to deal with.
All while she, Queen Amidala, was forced to look on.
No. No. No. No.
She halted before Vader, at the steps of the dais, sending him a look of disbelieving utter horror; a gloved hand turned her to face the cowering bureaucrats and held her rigidly in position. She supposed, to an onlooker, the bruising grip on her shoulder appeared quite innocent and humiliation flared through her as she realised just how deep her betrayal must look to her former subjects. The accusing glares from the victims of her husband's crimes burned holes in her, stripping her to the bone, and she shut her eyes against the tears of shame and fear that threatened to spill. A none too gentle nudge against her mind commanded her to open them and bear witness to the events about to unfold. In the blurry edges of her peripheral vision she saw Vader's free hand lift and drop in an ominous signal to his troops. And the room fell into chaos.
The convulsions of those first hit registered in her brain before the uneven roar of numerous blasters discharging simultaneously hit her ears. It took longer for the clones to accomplish their task than she had thought it would. The bodies were not simply mowed down like in the holofilms, instead the ones on the edges of the group folded gradually, crumpling into scorched piles and revealing new targets to the laser bolts. After the initial shock of the noise and rapidly moving laser bolts, those closer to the centre of the huddle snapped into basic fear responses. Padmé watched as the intelligent, cultured Nubians were transformed into mere animals before her. The smaller and weaker ones were pushed into the line of fire by those stronger than themselves in a desperate attempt to delay death. As she watched the human shields fall, the deafening sound of the blasters faded to a dull roar at the back of her senses and the drop of the bodies seemed to slow. Even the pain from the unyielding grasp on her shoulder faded from her awareness. Her body was no longer her own and black crept on the edges of her sight. The nausea of a coming blackout washed over her in hot and cold waves, but just as she thought she might finally fall away from the hell she was living she was hit by a burst of energy delivered by the monster behind her. A mental slap across the face. An invisible bucket of cold water.
She surfaced from her comforting haze to see the clones step into the bloody mess of bodies, boots kicking at prone figures, testing for life before shooting to make sure there was none. The blood ran in rivulets in the cracks between the marble pavers and left spattered patterns on the white columns at the perimeter of the room. Her hand came up to press against her mouth while her tears finally fell and her frame shook. The hand at her shoulder released its clenched grasp and she became very aware of the pain it had inflicted as blood rushed back into the tenderised flesh. The black shape of her husband brushed passed her with a sharp turn of his cape and her escort once again took up formation. She wanted to collapse on the steps of the throne she had once ruled from and cry until there was nothing left in her; she didn't want to move for the rest of eternity. She couldn't wait to leave; the smell of so much bloodshed got into everything, clinging in her hair and settling against her skin. The decision was made for her as the butt of a blaster nudged her in the back and she was forced to follow the retreating back ahead of her. As she was guided around the edge of the carnage the hem of her skirts dragged against the floor, the dark material becoming shiny and damp as it absorbed the steaks of blood on the floor. It brushed her ankles and she thought she might be sick.
In an effort to block out the horrific film clip that kept trying to replay itself on a loop in her mind's eye, she intellectualised the situation, questioning Vader's motives, analysing what she considered to be her own role in the massacre. She had stood by silently…
Had those people died because of her? Though she knew on one level that political executions were not uncommon under this New Order, she wondered if those deaths were merely a means to an end- an end that involved deliberately causing her pain. Had so many innocents been put to death because she had made the terrible mistake of marrying a Sith?
Anakin. You married Anakin. Not Vader.
Once again, she had to remind herself that things had not always been as they were. She had not always been bound to a Sith Lord. That once she had been married to a man she loved and who loved her in return. Not the cruel thing walking in her husband's body, feeding off the fear he struck into the hearts of those around him. There could be no confusion between the two. She needed to believe in the two separate entities like she needed oxygen.
Perhaps she had been called to observe the display as a final proof to her that Anakin was dead and buried. An exhibition of Vader's power, of the Empire's might, of the strength of the darkside.
All the wasted lives…
She tried to estimate how many people had stood before the firing squad. Eighty? Ninety? Perhaps more than a hundred? Too many to count properly.
Righteous anger and complete revulsion flared up in her, and for a moment she allowed herself the luxury of once again wearing Senator Amidala's mask. The great humanitarian, a beacon of philanthropy enisled by a Senate rife with corruption; one who championed the rights of the underdog in a cynical, jaded arena. But there were no more forums to denounce violations of rights and no audience willing to listen; instead billions were held under Palpatine's iron control, too afraid to speak out against the looming monolith of a dictatorship they mutely suffered. Senator Amidala had been young, idealistic and thought she was in control. Her ability to persuade herself of indefinite truths meant her reality was just a little bit more comfortable than that of the woman inside. Compared to the rapidly spiralling world of Padmé, woman in love, afraid and hoping, Senator Amidala's life was almost stable, despite the volatile political circumstances she moved in.
Her thoughts were taking a distinctly depressing turn and she forcefully pulled herself from her reverie, determined to stay atop of the vortex of emotion that lay just below the cold surface.
Cream pillars, carved and ornamented in the high Nubian style filed passed her, and for a moment she was disoriented and relative motion became confused in her mind. What moved- the pillars or herself?
The cool air against her clammy and damp face alerted her to the fact that she stood once again at the pinnacle of the palace steps. Her senses slowly returned to lucidity and she took in the setting sun hovering above the far horizon, casting its tangerine glow over the cityscape. It felt symbolic, as though the sun set over the capital in more than just the literal manner. Her home planet's democracy had died- the same governance she had been taught to respect, cultivated during her two terms and proudly represented on the galactic stage.
Casting about, her eyes settled on Vader, standing at the base of the steps far below her, gesturing with sharp movements, obviously giving commands to the stormtroopers stacked in file around him. From the distance between them she couldn't make out his individual words, but instead caught the monotone rumble of his vocoder, which stood out harshly in the unnatural silence of the city. The clones were dismissed and his attention turned briefly to her. She felt his expressionless scrutiny with the fine hairs that prickled on the backs of her arms and pride pulled her chin subtly higher. However, she knew that even without the swollen eyes and wet cheeks to give her away, he could easily read the unsteady disturbances of her force signature. Resentment of his ability to see through her teary, but otherwise collected, façade traced between her bones and she dreaded his coming any nearer and the impending confrontation. She wasn't ready to face him yet. No profound words to express the complicated outrage she felt could be summoned- for once in her life political finesse had deserted her. Her mind was so fraught with thoughts racing down diverging tangents that she doubted she could formulate a single coherent sentence.
One heavily booted foot lifted, as if beginning the ascension up the steps, and Padmé's body tensed in anticipation.
Abruptly the motion was cut off.
Her lungs released a breath that she wasn't even aware had caught in her chest.
Without a second of hesitation he executed a sharp about-face and she was once again left to stare after his retreating back.
His disregard unintentionally achieved what her mind had struggled to do since the unreal events of the day had begun. Her thoughts crystallised into anger, complete with clarity and sharp edges. How dare he simply walk away from her after demanding she endure such an ordeal? The one person who represented any kind of receptacle for her revulsion, fury and sense of injustice had deliberately ignored her. She could no more vent her rage at the unresponsive, impersonal stormtrooper escort than she could at a brick wall. At least Vader, though unswayable in his ideologies, carried anger enough to match her own and had no qualms in using it to his considerable advantage. His unrestrained temper guaranteed a response.
It was highly improbable the response would be to her liking, but at least it would be an acknowledgement of some kind.
As the indignation and fury stewed in her veins, a firearm prodded into her back, directing her away from the path her husband had taken and towards the landing strip where the transport awaited her.
i lift my heavy heart up solemnly,
as once Electra her sepulchral urn,
and, looking in thine eyes, overturn
the ashes at thy feet
She dreamed of dying.
Violent, sickening self inflicted deaths designed for maximum impact. She envisioned his pain and revelled in her final victory, even if only in dreams. All of her anguish and agony would finally be his. Everything she felt he owed her was paid back ten-fold in the night, but when the automated day cycle kicked in every twenty four hours the sadistic fantasies evaporated with every ounce of reclaimed satisfaction they had offered. Once again the spartan walls of her cage loomed and she was as impotent and powerless to do anything to better her own situation as she had ever been.
In the empty hours between his leaving and returning she pulled the semi-submerged dreams from the back blocks of her mind to turn them over, dissect them and wonder if she was still sane.
How would she know she was losing her mind? Could one tell?
In the waking world her mind held a tight rein over her thoughts and the raw, unadulterated desires of her subconscious. Suicide seemed less appealing when seen through the filtered vision of propriety and cynicism.
And yet, she ached to make him understand what he did to her. He soaked in other's fear, hatred and anger, thrived off it, lived for it, but she wondered when the last time was that he had been shaken to his core by terror, or shattered by a grief that threatened to liquefy his heart. Perhaps his heart was beyond liquefaction- petrified like ancient amber-
There! She had found an analogy she liked! His heart petrified like ancient amber and she a long dead life form trapped inside the granite-hard liquid. How very apt.
-A naïve part of her that refused to be silenced fruitlessly schemed all manners of crushing blows she might deliver him. Not in the name of revenge, but for the purposes of building empathy between them once again, an acknowledgement of the circumstances she lived through without end, for his benefit. She wanted merely to hurt him so terribly that perhaps, if just for a moment, the miasma of the darkside might lift enough that he could see he had caused her misery, changed her irrevocably- even damaged her. The now very small part of her that still craved his love- the love she remembered, not the cruel and unusual obsession that hung between them- needed him to understand.
The natural consequence of understanding was compassion, but her husband's behaviour rarely followed seemingly natural paths. She dared not to think that he might be so far removed from her by now that he would not care. The despair and hopelessness that single thought carried was not worth entertaining.
A gaping abyss yawned between them, thrust open by the barriers she struggled to erect before the husband she could no longer allow herself to love, and everything he stood for. She could no more try to bridge the gap than he, and so instead, even in what moments of intimacy he was capable of, they stood, flung at opposite ends of the universe. Millions of miles apart.