This is an Anakin/Padmé dark AU, set around the time of ROTS. Rated for dark themes and allusions to death and injuries. Anakin, Padmé, Bail Organa.
Note: Okay, I first posted a pseudo-version of this, hated it, took it down. Reworked it, stuck it on LJ. Then decided that I should also post it here again, mostly due to the amazing powers of skywalker05. So, yeah. You likes?
Note (2): I have some other fics in the same "universe" as this. If anyone's interested, I'll start posting them. Hence the "incomplete" tag.
Note (3): Also rating may go up. It does get not-very-nice.
Lives That Never Were
"May I have the honour of escorting you into the hall, milady?" He asks.
"A pity." He replies equally blandly, one hand on the stairs, the other barely brushing the small of her back, fingers ghosting over the flimsy fabric.
She tries to pull away, but finds herself trapped. "Let go."
"I try." He leans against her slightly as they turn the corner. "I do try."
"I know." He pulls away until he is just beside her, still closer than is deemed appropriate.
"Such fine words for a Jedi."
"I agree." He mutters, leading her into the ballroom as the crowds swallow them up. "There should be no words at all."
She glares at him, the innuendo evident, and he looks calmly back, impassive, stoic. "You forget your place, Master Jedi."
"Then remind me of it." He whispers intently, lips only inches from her own. "Padmé."
She looks at him, notices the scars on his face, the hard set of his jaw and the darkness in his eyes, and wonders when he changed, and why she didn't notice. "I --"
"Ah, Senator Amidala!" Bail Organa approaches, holding two elaborately carved wine glasses, inlaid with gems, gold leaf encircling the stems. "And Knight Skywalker! This is indeed unexpected."
"Master Skywalker was able to join us at short notice." Amidala explains.
"The siege on Felucia went more smoothly than anticipated." Anakin replies easily, ignoring both the offer and the insult. "And given a chance to mingle with the finest of Coruscanti society, who could refuse?"
Bail laughs politely. "The war effort is going well, then?"
"Well enough." Anakin concurs, but his eyes are guarded, his smile fixed.
Amidala swallows, remembers the war and his screams and the ever-lengthening reports of defeats. "It is a remarkable turnout for this time of year." She says.
Anakin seizes on the topic like a starving man, desperate for a change of subject. "Is that so, Senator? I am afraid my knowledge of such … sophisticated events is far more limited than it should be."
"As befits a Jedi."
"Ah, but people will enjoy themselves, war or no war." Anakin continues, studying the bejewelled dresses of the ladies, the gold rings of the men. "Death or no death."
"But surely, taking a reprieve from such things is permitted -- or does your Jedi Code prohibit that as well?"
Anakin twists the rough material of his cloak between his fingers, stinging from the insult. "I wasn't aware that the Senate actively participated in the war."
Organa concedes the point, but his expression remains neutral. "We keep ourselves occupied."
"Occupied with other, more pressing matters, no doubt."
"The Senate is well aware of the amount of losses the Jedi have suffered as of late."
"And yet they fail to act."
"We do realise the full extent of the damage --"
"Is that so?" A note of steel creeps onto his voice, jarring, harsh. "Why, I was asked just now whether it was true that the war would be over by New Year."
"New Year?" Amidala exclaims, her drink forgotten. "That's two months away!"
"The front lines will hold?" Organa asks.
Anakin Skywalker studies Bail Organa for the first and last time, looks at his rich clothes and signet rings and well-groomed hair and hates him instantly. "I will make them hold, Chancellor. As ever."
"There is a chance of success?"
"I hope so." He says tonelessly, and Amidala watches him clench his fingers into a fist, the hard leather of his gloves cracking. "Sometimes."
"Of course," Organa says innocently, "what with Obi-Wan dead, you must be bereft."
The comment slips out almost before it can be withdrawn. There is a dead silence amongst the group, broken only by the far-away sound of glasses clinking and chamber music. Amidala looks as though she has been slapped in the face, and even Organa looks slightly nervous, lips pursing as though he could physically reclaim the words. A small muscle twitches in Anakin's jaw, his eyes darkening.
"I cope, Chancellor." He decides on at last, livid with anger. "As should we all. Milady." He nods curtly at Amidala and stalks off, a lone figure in the crowd.
There is an uneasy silence. Amidala turns to the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, still shaking.
"You shouldn't have."
"Obi-Wan died last week, Bail!" She cries. "The funeral was today!"
"I know. He was a good man." He swirls the last of the wine pensively around his glass. "A very good man."
"Yes." She says quietly.
"Skywalker attended the funeral?"
She nods. "He wasn't fit to be discharged -- should have stayed in the medbay, but he walked out. And now, he's here." She doesn't know if it's a consequence of her worry or not, but he looks too shaky, too pale under the soft Senate lights. "Again."
"You should end it, Padmé."
"There's nothing to end!" She snaps reflexively.
"There isn't." She swallows a gulp of wine, the taste bitter. "After Palpatine --"
"He is gone, Padmé." He reminds her. "And there will be democracy now."
"After we find this Darth Sidious."
"Darth Sidious is one man." Organa consoles her. "And one man can be defeated." A pause. "How is the war effort of late?" He asks her quietly, muffling his words behind the jewel-encrusted rim of his glass.
"It's horrible." She whispers. "I went to Ansion last season -- not to see ... him." She swallows, face flushing. "But to see what was going on. If it was as bad as O-- as Master Kenobi said it was."
The wine in her glass catches the light, scarlet shadows dancing like teardrops. "It was terrible, Bail." She says quietly. "When I arrived at the command facility, there was nobody there. I asked for the leader of the front, and was met by a girl -- a child. She said it was her." She covers her eyes with a shaking palm. "It turned out that-- that he was her Master … and he was injured. Badly. Nobody else remained." A pause. "She couldn't have been older than twelve. I never learned her name."
Organa is silent.
"And then I went to see ... he was dying, Bail." She says. "There was no bacta, no painkillers, no bandages. They were so ill-equipped that they couldn't even sedate him. I was there, holding his hand and trying to convince him that it wasn't going to hurt while they operated on him while he was still awake and he didn't even know who I was!" She snaps the words off hurriedly, like a spool of thread, sips the drink again to calm herself. "And then when the order came in to advance ..." She breaks off. "That girl died. That girl died, and I was left alone in the medbay with two droids and ..." A pause. "If it hadn't been for the reinforcements on Sullust, we wouldn't have survived."
"We won the system." He says, as though to reaffirm the fact. "We won the system."
Anger begins to build up in the pit of her stomach, corporeal, vivid. "You're sending Jedi children to their deaths, and all you care about is a system?" She hisses. "Is this our new Republic, then? Our constitution? Our democracy?"
"Padmé, the war --"
She breaks, just like Anakin did. "I have heard enough of your damned war!" She snaps, and stalks across the room, intent on getting away from it all, away from the jewelled glasses and Nubian wine and the new Chancellor, a solid fixture in his heavily-embroidered robes.
Leaning against the wall in anger, she blows out her breath in a cloud of irritation, tossing back the last of her wine in an inelegant gesture. The Republic is in tatters, she remembers Bail Organa saying. Amendment after amendment ... the Senate no longer exists. No, she frowns, gazing at the wall. That wasn't right. Mon Mothma had said that, the fiery-haired Chandrilan who had been Bail's co-conspirator, his biggest ally. A small part of her mind wonders if Mon is still alive, but she hurriedly quashes it. This isn't Palpatine's reign; mysterious disappearances and strange phonecalls and knocks on the door in the middle of the night mean nothing. This is the reign of Organa, and this is democracy.
She still worries, though. If Mon had --
"Ingratiating yourself with the new Chancellor, Senator?"
She whirls around, berating herself for not having noticed him, tall and imposing in his dark robes. "That was uncalled for, Anakin." She hisses, heels doing little to reduce the height difference between them.
As seasoned as an expert courtier, Anakin steps closer to her, face as blank as the statues lining the hall. "To think he calls himself Chancellor." He snaps. "Does he call himself Emperor yet, Senator?"
She shakes her head. "He's not as corrupt as you believe him to be."
"Fine talk for a politician." He spits. "That's what you are, isn't it? Lying and corrupt, the pair of you."
"No, and I never shall be." She swallows, realises his close proximity to her, realises what he's insinuating. "There's nothing between us, and you know it."
He is silent for a moment, gazing at the podium where Bail Organa will soon give his inaugural speech as Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. "Why?" He asks suddenly.
"Why what?" She says, the abrupt question startling her.
"Why didn't you marry me?" He grasps her arm, bringing her to face him "You didn't love me?"
"What is it then?" He grips her more tightly, and she tries not to wince. "Why --"
"The law --"
"I don't give a damn about the law, Padmé!" He hisses, all semblance of calm gone from his tone. "If you truly cared about me, you would have abandoned this whole charade -- we could have married each other, we --"
"And what about you?" She snaps. "Would you have made any sacrifices?"
"I would have given it up for you!" He snarls. "I would have given up the whole galaxy for you!"
"The galaxy needs you, Anakin --"
"And what about what I need? When has anyone ever given a damn about that? I'll tell you when: nobody has." He releases her, unconsciously rubs a spot on his arm, high above his elbow. "Nobody."
"Don't talk about him!" He snaps. "Don't mention his name!"
For a second, both are shocked into silence, the buzz of the hall seeming subdued, far away.
"Anakin ..." She gently places a small hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry."
He looks away. "Save your sorrow for him." He says bitterly. "He's the one who needs it."
"I'm sorry I couldn't come to the funeral."
"Nobody did." He swallows. "They were all dead. All of them."
He doesn't quite meet her eyes. "Nobody's immortal, Padmé."
"You wouldn't have said that once."
He drops his gaze. "I know."
They both look at each other in slow-motion, finally realising just how close they are to one another, her hand on his shoulder, his grasping her sleeve. Then, with uncharacteristic hesitation, he bends his head downwards, and she stands on her toes, and their lips are so close, almost touching, almost --
"Pray silence for his Excellency, the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic!"
The Senate Speaker's cry startles them into reality, and they hurriedly break apart, cheeks flushed, forgotten as the hall assumes some semblance of order. "Anakin, what --"
He silences her with a gesture. The message is clear: not now.
The room explodes as Bail Organa ascends the podium in all his finery, gold signet ring twinkling in the flashing lights. "Honourable Senators of the Republic," he begins, voice magnified a thousand times over, his face beaming on the viewscreens around the crowded room, "it is with great pleasure that I convene you here today to announce the beginning of a new Chancellorship -- and with it, a new era!" The applause grows deafening, and the Speaker gives a redundant shout for order. "And so I begin by addressing our constitution, which can and will be amended forthwith …"
Throughout the speech, Amidala watches Anakin, noticing the way he seems to recede into himself as the words continue, despairing, hopeless. Then, finally, he speaks, tone as bland as that of a Jedi Master, not an almost-lover. "It is settled, then."
"Anakin, what --"
"He calls his Vice-Chancellor, now." He says. "And unless I am much mistaken, that post is not yet filled."
She frowns. "It'll be Antillies, everyone knows that. After all, Retrac got the Senator of Alderaan."
"I wouldn't be so sure, Senator."
She is about to question him further, when Organa speaks again. "And now, I elect my Vice-Chancellor, someone who has served me well throughout the years. Someone whose passion for democracy, excellent oratory and fine leadership skills make them a perfect candidate for the post. A visionary. Someone who shares my approach in all of my policies that benefit the Republic." The last statement is stated more loudly, more firmly than any other and Amidala notices Anakin flinch, as though the words have physically stabbed him. "And so, without any further ado -- Senators, I present to you the Vice-Chancellor of the Galactic Republic: Padmé Amidala!"
She freezes, horror running through every vein of her body as the applause grows again and they begin chanting her name.
"Get up, your Excellency." Anakin whispers quietly, and she looks incredulously at his shadowed face, eyes filled with an emotion that she can't quite identify.
"You knew." She whispers in shock.
"They're waiting for you. Go."
"Anakin, I --"
"What did you --"
"Go!" He snarls, and she unwillingly complies.
The walk to the podium is endless, claustrophobic, full of cheering Senators and flashing holocams and shining lights, and it is all she can do not to faint. She ascends the dais on shaking legs, taking a moment to steel herself for what she is about to say -- for what she is about to do -- before stepping up to the amplifier. The crowd instantly quiets.
"Honourable delegates of the Senate, it is with great pleasure that I accept the post of Vice-Chancellor of the Galactic Republic …"
The cheering grows wild and animal-like, whipping the press into a jubilant frenzy. Amidst it all, Padmé Amidala stands silently amidst the chaos, her own face glaring at her from twenty-nine holofeeds, and watches a hooded figure stalk angrily from the hall, wondering if she just made the biggest mistake of her life.