Prologue – Looking down from above
(Seven months ago…)
In dignified silence, he stood before the view port on the bridge of his battle cruiser and observed the combat ensuing over Sullust. The war was going as planned and it seemed that eventually the Republic would fall.
For five years, the galaxy suffered under a fog of uncertainty as the war waged on. Every quadrant groaned with the things of conflict and hostility as the Separatist dispute spread inwards from the outer rim. The number of war-torn systems mounted just as the count of causalities continued to climb. Each life abruptly ended like a thread that suddenly snapped without rhyme or reason.
With smiling brown eyes, he watched the Republic cruisers diminish into a desperate few and retreat. Their attempt at retaking Sullust was now a failure and Separatist control was sustained.
He exhaled a contented sigh and absently rested his hand on his belt. His master would be pleased to know that his work is being done precisely as commanded.
The droids busied themselves behind him about the bridge checking the scanners and maintaining the ship's position. He ignored them as usual and allowed himself a moment to consider his future.
If he learned anything from Lord Sidious, he learned that timing was of utmost importance. He believed that the time would come when he would follow Sith tradition and promote himself to master via assassination. He understood his master's grand scheme to take control of the galaxy and he quietly planned his coup.
The creation of the empire would soon be upon them, and Lord Sidious's reign as a newly self-crowned emperor would be extremely short. Over his many years, he learned patience brought many opportunities. It was only a matter of time before he'd execute his coup, so he thought.
The ascending sound of whirring gears forewarned that a droid was drawing near. Again, he ignored it.
A smug countenance reflected the comparison of his status fifteen years ago as opposed to now. He was proud of the decision he made in leaving the Jedi Order. It disgusted him that they dishonored their legacy by continuing to serve a debased body such as the galactic senate. As a Jedi master, he suddenly saw them as a contemptible faction, unworthy of his devotion. On leaving the Order, he knew he'd embark on a greater destiny and rise above all those who would remain under the soiled boot of the Jedi high council. He looked forward to his future as a Sith master and a newly crowned emperor of the galactic empire. He would seize the opportunity to achieve his destiny by whatever means. Integrity had become a mere footnote for him. The end justifying the means made more sense than the value of life.
"Count Dooku," A droid's mechanical voice broke his thought. "Lord Sidious wishes to make contact."
Without a word, Count Dooku immediately turned on his heels and walked toward his quarters. Only a matter of time.
"Greetings, my Master." The Count bowed submissively before a whitish blue likeness of his lord.
"What news do you have of your mission?" The large semi transparent image of Darth Sidious seemed to glowed in the center of Dooku's quarters.
"The unit is finished. Completed down to the last detail you supplied. It is ready to serve your will, Master."
"Where is it now?"
"On board, as you've commanded."
"Good. It must go to the coordinates I am sending you now. I have much it must do before we begin the next phase."
"Of course." Count Dooku reverently bowed his head.
"What is the status of the Death Star?"
"Construction has begun as planned. It is in the Nai system, orbiting the planet Tanis. The shield generator is up and operational."
Darth Sidious paused for several seconds as he quickly pondered his calculations. "In six months time, we will begin the next stage in the plan. At that time, you will turn over supervision of construction to Governor Tarkin."
"I understand, Master."
There was another short pause. Unrelenting glowing yellow eyes peered at him from beneath a shroud. "You have done well, Lord Tyrannus. When the time comes, you shall be rewarded for your efforts." There was a hint of silent contempt in the pit of his voice.
Count Dooku, once again bowed. When the time comes.
(Six months later….)
It was unseasonably warm that night at Varykino. The flowers gracing the meadows swayed back and forth along a gentle breeze. A person with a keen eye standing on the balustrade of the estate could make out a depression in the midst of the meadow where two people lay wrapped in each other's arms. The distant crushing sound of the waterfall and the advancing-retreating waves of the waters on the shores nearby muffled the joys of love uttered by them as they lay on a bed of flowers and beneath the majesty of the heavens.
Padme shifted her head from Anakin's chest gazed up at the stars. "This is so beautiful."
Anakin shrugged and said indifferently, "I've seen better."
He looked down towards her and waited for her response.
She furled her brow and looked at him incredulously, prepared to question his judgment, but Anakin's knowing gaze and warm smile interpreted the true meaning behind his words. She blushed and returned the smile. Even now, he still possessed the ability to command her bashful—a former queen and sovereign ruler and now senator.
She looked back to the stars and sighed, "This was such a great idea, sleeping beneath the stars."
"Sleeping?" Anakin quirked an eyebrow and looked at the stars. He smirked naughtily. "We haven't done much of that."
Padme chuckled. It had been so long since she last did that. It only reminded her of how much she missed him.
The sound of her laugh was soothing to his ears and warmed his heart. It made him wish the night could pass a little slower and delay tomorrow's arrival. From the moment he was reunited with Padme, he couldn't shake the foreboding sensation that their future was uncertain. He felt like he had to savor every minute with her as if they were together on borrowed time.
Anakin sighed heavily, pushing the dread away. "I've never seen a more starry night."
She didn't respond right away. It was as if she was listening to his thoughts or sensing his feelings. Her smile slowly vanished. In a grim voice, she said. "You'll be up there tomorrow."
He looked down toward her again. "Yeah, but my heart will be down here…" He gently brushed a finger along her jaw line, "with you."
Padme avoided eye contact with him. She kept her gaze on the stars. "The next time I look up there, I might be looking at you." She tried to reclaim the smile that professed her utter joy but it was a forlorn attempt.
He could sense Padme attempting to restrain a mish mash of fear, anger, anxiety and despair. He wanted to keep the mood light. Anakin looked back up at the sky. "You never know, I might be looking back."
Normally she would have a response but all she offered was silence.
Whether she wanted it or not, tomorrow was only a couple hours away, the countdown to his departure and her agony would begin.
"I think I'll miss you more than ever this time." Padme spoke softly.
Her words came as an eerie warning that echoed the dread slowly re-emerging in his heart. He turned to her and looked at her intensely. "I'll miss you too, Padme."
More silence. He could sense that the strength of her emotional barrier was waning. Anakin begged that she would say something—anything. He could feel the intensity of her emotions grow, igniting the guilt in his heart.
"See the group of stars over there?" Padme pointed to the cluster of stars. Despite her attempt to sound more upbeat, he could still hear a slight shakiness in her voice.
Grateful for the distraction, Anakin turned his head away from her and followed the point of her finger. "Mmm hmm"
He furled his eyebrows. "What's Hephisto?"
"Hephisto was a mythical fire breathing bird. It was said that he and his kind were the guardians of the ancient Nubian monarchy before it became a democracy."
She pointed to another constellation. "That one is called Filis. Some believed it to be the portal through which the gods watch over us. It is said that if your heart is pure, your wish will be granted."
"They all just look like a bunch of stars to me." Anakin said softly. He eyed a curious shape amongst a cluster of stars and asked, "What's that one? That one kind of looks like a flute."
"It is." Padme smiled. "It's the symbol of Dephion's love for Bria. They are part of an old myth about two people in love separated by their waring families. He played a love song for her before he…" The words died before she could utter them.
The tragic story of the mythical lovers had a beginning eerily similar to Padme and Anakin's life together. It seemed that she never realized it before that moment. Anakin looked back at her.
Padme was taking deep breath to calm herself, bu that did nothing for her.
Slowly she sat up and covered her mouth with a shaky hand. She closed her eyes against the hot tears that had already begun to fall along her cheeks.
"Padme?" Anakin shifted and supported himself on his elbows. With furled eyebrows, he watch the long wavy brown tendrils play against her naked back along the gentle breeze. Anakin sensed that the barrier within Padme, that held back her feelings had broken.
They had little more than six hours left together before he had to leave. He hated leaving her. He hated putting her through so much. The guilt in the pit of his heart only added to the dread in the pit of his stomach.
He would do anything to spare her this pain. Leaving the Order would be the only way he could secure their marriage and put an end to her agony, but he knew she would never allow it. Even though being a Jedi gave him purpose, Padme gave him direction.
"I'm sorry, Anakin." Her trembling voice was evidence that she had lost all reserve. "I was trying so hard to keep this inside. I didn't want to ruin our last few hours with my tears and sentiment. I didn't want to make it harder for you."
Of all the times that he had to say goodbye and leave her for months of combat, he never once saw a sign of her breaking down. If she ever did, she was careful not to let him know. Padme was not superhuman. He should have expected this.
Wiping the spent tears with a trembling hand, she went on. "The long absences are difficult, but waiting and wondering whether or not you're hurt or... is agony. Now you're back and I am able to breathe again, but what makes it bitter sweet is the fact that it's only for two days. I am grateful for the time I get with you, but it's like I am falling into an abyss, never knowing whether or not I'll ever hit the bottom. I know I do not fall alone."
She looked over her shoulder at him. Anakin met her gaze and instantly his heart grew unbearably heavy. He parted his lips to speak but his voice failed him. Padme's brown eyes were drowning in the pools of tears. He swallowed hard and dropped his gaze.
She sniffed and said, "I dread having to relive the agonizing weeks and months. Not knowing if…I am sorry to put this on you now, Anakin. It just had to come out. It's just so hard letting you go. You risk your life out there saving lives and fighting this war. I feel guilty and selfish for saying this. You don't need to hear it. You have enough to think about." Padme lowered her
Anakin sat up. He gently held her chin and raised her head to face him. He wiped her tears with a thumb. He looked deep into her eyes and said, "Don't apologize. I needed to hear this. My responsibilities do not only involve being a Jedi Knight but also being your husband. I want to make you happy, Padme. I know it's not fair that this war keeps us apart for long periods of time and only allows us a few days in between. Believe that I will return to you safe and sound. Once the war is over, we'll probably be inseparable and eventually, you'll get sick of seeing me. The only way you'd become my widow, is if I drive you crazy and you kill me."
The sorrow on her face broke and a smile appeared. Only Anakin could do that.
He pushed a lock of hair from her face and said, "My ability with the force is nothing compared to my love for you. I have made it through the most impossible circumstances and defied even death because of my will to be with you. That will never change. I promise you. I hate to see you this way. I would give it all up for you at a moment's notice."
Padme's eyes widened. She shook her head and said, "I would never want that, Anakin. Being a Jedi is something you've worked hard for and dedicated your life to."
"I have dedicated my life to you. You are the most important above all else."
"Anakin, you are an asset to the Order and to the republic…and right now they need you the most."
Anakin blinked. He was taken and stroked her cheek. "You are an amazing woman." He leaned in and closed his lip around hers. "I love you."
They laid back down on the blanket and pulled the sheet over themselves. As she rested her head against his chest, the scent of her hair wafted to his nose. She once told him that the beat of his heart was so comforting that it would lull her to sleep.
"I love you, Ani." Padme muttered in a small drowsy voice.
With one arm wrapped around his beloved and the other tucked behind his head, Anakin gazed at the constellations above and gently rubbed his hand against the small of her back.
It's a bit of mush, but every story needs a little sweetener to bring out the flavor.
ONE – As They Seem
Senators gather. Obi-Wan completes the mission. Anakin meets Padme's other love?