Author's Note: If you haven't read my story Darker than Darkness, you can skip this note. If you have, consider this the explanation as to how Mon Mothma knew who Vader was (see Chapter Four: Attack). I've decided to close the poll on Saturday -- this is your last chance to vote! (The poll looks really good -- check back after Saturday for the results!) And maybe I'll even have the new story started by March first instead! Please review!
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle." -- Plato
Senator Padmé Amidala shivered as she shrugged her dress off her shoulders. It wasn't particularly cold in her suite, but the weight of her world crushing down on her shoulders had her trembling like a leaf.
She pulled the cream-coloured pants of the flight suit over her hips and settled the waistband around her swollen belly, pausing for a moment to caress her stomach, imagining that it was really her unborn baby's soft, smooth skin.
As much as the arrival of the child would upset their lives, she was looking forward to becoming a mother and having a family of her own. Ever since Sola had married, and even more since she'd had her daughters, Padmé had longed for a life more like her sister's, with a loving husband and a baby of her own to hold in her empty, aching arms, close to her heart for ever and ever. She loved her career, to be sure, but now she finally felt complete.
If only it could last.
She pulled on the matching tunic, altered to allow for her rapidly expanding form, and fastened it around her ribcage. Then she shook out her hair before beginning to gather it into a tight braid.
Anakin had changed, drastically, since he'd had that dream about her, and Padmé was worried. No, more than worried; she was terrified. Things were moving too fast, her head was spinning, she couldn't absorb all the information coming at her, couldn't make rational, well-thought-out decisions --
She tied the braid off and squared her shoulders. She had to focus. That was the key. She had to focus on one thing at a time. And right now, the thing most requiring her attention was Anakin.
Obi-Wan wanted to kill him. A few days ago, before Obi-Wan had left on his mission, they had been best friends. It didn't make sense to her! Yes, Anakin had changed, probably for the worst, but shouldn't Obi-Wan try to help him, as she was going to?
She didn't know. She just knew she had to find Anakin before Obi-Wan did, so she could convince him to let the army take care of the rest of the war. They could finally be the family she had always dreamed of. The war had become too dangerous even for the Hero With No fear, now. It was time to get out.
She strode for her landing pad, then stopped abruptly. If Anakin was right . . . she needed to make preparations for every possibility.
Face pale, her own mortality heavy on her mind, Padmé slowly made her way to her comm centre.
She stood there for several moments, wondering who to call. Bail came to mind immediately, but she had already scared him enough. Instead, she punched in another number. No one answered; she'd expected that. Quickly, she recorded her message, then called for Threepio and raced out the door.
Mon Mothma closed the door of her suite behind her, pulling off her headpiece as she sagged against the heavy wood, though she knew very well that it wasn't the source of her migraine.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, she pushed off from the door toward the kitchen, thinking of the herbal tea she had in her cupboard, a special blend from her homeworld. She grimaced. Watching the Republic spiral downward into chaos had severely depleted her stash.
As she waited for the tea to steep, her eyes wandered around the apartment. The lights were off to avoid aggravating her migraine, and in the semi-darkness the blinking green light of her comm centre easily caught her attention.
Great. Just what I need. Mon sighed, resisting the urge to add a generous amount of brandy to her tea. Because that would really help my headache.
Feeling much older than she should, Mon made her way over to the comm centre to check the number. Prepared to ignore it, she did a double take. Padmé?
An unexplainable sense of of dread overcame her and settled in her gut. She hit the PLAY MESSAGE button.
The image that materialized showed only the other Senator's head and shoulders, and the close range empathized the look of chronic stress on her face and the tense set of her neck and shoulders. Poor girl, Mon thought sympathetically. Not even thirty, and she's had to deal with more trouble than most people even hear about in an entire lifetime.
"Mon," Padmé began with a strained smile, "I don't have a lot of time, so please listen closely. Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker has sided with the Chancellor against the Republic. Obi-wan Kenobi says he's turned to the Dark Side, become a Sith, that he --" She broke off. "He's changed, Mon, I --" she bit her lip, eyes darting to the side in distress. After a moment, she looked up again and continued, voice and eyes bleak.
"I'm sure you're wondering what stake I have in this, besides a professional one. The truth is, he – he's my husband, Man. And the father of my child."
She looked down, and in the brief pause, Mon absorbed what she'd just heard. Padmé's pregnancy was an open secret among the Senate, but the fact that a a famous Jedi was the father was shocking . . . though, as she thought about it, Mon realized it shouldn't be. Padmé was always talking about him, and the way his eyes followed her when they were in the same room should have been strong clues . . .
"If I don't make it through the rest of this war, I need you to look after Anakin and the baby for me. Anakin especially. He'll be devastated, Mon; you have to get him past it. Remind him that the baby needs him. If – if the baby dies, too --" she looked ill at the very thought "-- well . . . just take care of him. Keep him away from Palpatine; he's poisoning him. I'll bring him back to us, Mon, but I need you to promise me this, for after – just in case. Please Mon, do this for me. Bail will help you, I'm sure, but please, Mon, don't let Anakin go through it alone."
She paused. "Of course, this is just a precaution. A speculation. But I wanted to cover all my bases. I have to go now; take care of yourself, Mon."
And with that, she was gone.
Mon sank into a chair, her headache stronger than ever. "Oh, Padmé," she whispered. "What had you gotten yourself tangled up in?"
Nineteen Years Later
The young voice rang across the Yavin base. Mon turned to greet her visitor.
The beautiful teenager coming toward her reminded Mon, as always, of Padmé Amidala.. Her friend had died the same night she had left her last message with Mon, and it hurt Mon deeply to know that she hadn't been able to fulfill the request Padmé had asked of her. Anakin Skywalker, now Darth Vader, had spent the last nineteen years alone, in Palpatine's shadow, believing his family to be dead.
When she had first caught sight of Vader all those years ago, she hadn't thought it was possible. How could this monstrous machine be the handsome, carefree young man she had mingled with at several political rallies during the Clone Wars? But then the rumour that it had been Vader who had taken the life of Skywalker began to circle, and Mon had known for certain: Padmé's beloved Anakin had become a soulless murderer.
She forced her attention back to her colleague – such a strange word for a child I read bedtime stories to – as small but strong arms wrapped her in hug and her vision filled with rich brown hair.
"Leia!" Mon exclaimed. "Thank the Force you're alright!"
She'd known Leia was Padmé's daughter ever since her infant features had refined enough to allow her mother's face to shine through. She'd confronted Bail over it, and he'd confirmed it. He'd also grimly assured her that Vader was indeed Skywalker, which did not comfort Mon in the least.
A shadow passed over Leia's proud, petite face. "Well, that depends on how you define alright. Between Vader and Tarkin . . ." She pressed her lips together, her normally warm brown eyes hard and narrow.
Mon's heart constricted. Oh, Anakin, Vader, your daughter hates you. Even I can pity you for losing her love so thoroughly before you ever had the chance to gain it.
Out loud, she said, "Leia, if you ever want to talk . . ."
A muscle jumped in the younger woman's jaw. "I'll be fine." She turned and waved, and a young man trotted up to them like a faithful puppy. She linked her arm through his and turned back to her mentor. "Mon, this is Luke Skywalker. He helped rescue me."
Skywalker . . . ?
Mon had to force her knees not to give out as Anakin Skywalker's bright blue eyes peered at her from a face she had not seen in nearly two decades.
Oh Force . . . twins!?
Oh, Padmé . . . and now they've found each other . . .
This is it. It has begun.