Beta: A huge thank you to cariel for beta reading this for me!
It had been months since Padmé Amidala and Rush Clovis had exchanged their first and last message since Anakin had left him to die on Cato Neimoidia. Unconscious and unaware of Anakin's actions at the time Padmé held herself personally responsible for Rush's near demise. Upon learning through her contacts that he had survived Lott Dod and Poggle the lesser's battle droids, Padmé sent his encrypted comm channel a brief message of apology. She did not expect him to respond, but her guilty conscious needed the closure.
It was a few weeks later when she received a highly encrypted message on her private comm line. Though the message was anonymous, it held little mystery for the former Naboo queen.
Rush's cynical response came as no surprise; she would not have expected anything less. Padmé was more surprised that he even bothered to message her back in the first place. She owed him more than just an apology and they both knew it, but at the time, it was all she had to offer.
His reply was polite, curt, and yet brutally honest. It was difficult to ignore the undertones of sorrow that hung between his words; anyone else would have mistaken it for resentment. Padmé knew the baron even better than he knew himself, but what was more disconcerting was the fact that he knew her equally as well. Padmé knew that her own attempts to mask her guilt had not fooled him. Why else would he have replied?
When Padmé embarked on the mission, she was intent on clearing his name of the allegations the Republic made against him. The truth revealed another story entirely and in doing so, a good man was betrayed and now on the run. This was all because he chose to save her life instead of his own.
Padmé never doubted the baron's skills as a fighter. Scipio's laws dictated that all natives had to train with the military for a couple of years before entering their careers. Nevertheless, even Rush had his limits. His vast knowledge of classified information pertaining to the Separatist's military and their movements ensured that he was now on the run from both allies and enemies alike.
Out gunned, out manned, and now out of contacts, even Padmé could not deny that her ex-lover was rapidly running out of time. Whether she liked it or not, Rush Clovis was in desperate need of help and she was the only one who had the power to give it.
Beside her manicured fingers rested a data pad that held the facts she did not want to face. This sort of complication she could have done without. She did not want to consider the senate's reaction if they were to learn of what she had planned to do, nor did she want to think about Anakin's own volatile response to the discovery. Her decision could cost her everything from her career to her marriage. Too many innocent lives had been sacrificed to ensure her own was spared over the years and she would damned if another was added because of her inaction.
With a resolute sigh, the senator cleared her thoughts and rose to her feet. Time was running out and she had much to do. Grabbing the data pad that contained the information she needed Amidala swiftly departed for the hanger bays. This was not about love or even justice; it was about redemption and saving the man who had lost it all for her sake.
Rush could not recall the last time he actually slept or when he did not need to take stims just to keep from collapsing in exhaustion. He was a fighter and a good one at that, but even he knew he was up against terrible odds. Without friends or contacts, the former baron knew his luck had finally run out.
His left eye was swollen shut, his broken jaw throbbed as blood trickled over cracked lips. It hurt to breathe and his right arm hung lifeless and useless, separated from its socket. Rush could not recall how long it had been since he was dragged into this place. Time had no meaning here, leaving him unaware of how many days, weeks, or even months had passed. A single hole near the ceiling allowed him to guess if it was day or night, if it was dry or raining. The scurrying of rodents at his feet provided him with morbid distraction; he imagined they were eager for the day when he could no longer weakly swat them away.
The torture he endured no longer held any meaning for him. The long days of mandatory military training in his youth had finally proved its worth. No matter what they asked or what they did, the words could not come to his lips. That part of him had hidden itself away in the furthest recesses of his mind.
All he could remember now was the message received from his ex-lover, the cryptic, yet sincere, apology. He had been too frustrated at the time, too hurt if he was honest with himself, to take it seriously. He had sacrificed it all for her: his freedom, his allies, his future, now his life and all she could say was sorry?Rush also knew that he would do it again, if only it meant that she would be safe and happy. He just wished it did not hurt so much.
Armed with only a laser pistol, a fake alias, and his credit chit, Clovis had ran for his life. The baron knew he had far too much knowledge for his own good. When he first began negotiations with the Separatists, Rush had enough data saved on the crystals he carried between the seams of his shirt to destroy the Republic. By the time of his reunion with Padmé, he had enough information to destroy the Separatists too.
What started as an attempt to gain the upper hand on his former allies ended up revealing an even more sinister truth. The Supreme Chancellor was not at all who he claimed to be and neither was the mysterious Lord Sidious. The reunion with Padmé was meant to be nothing short of a final confession. Her betrayal and near death left his discoveries long forgotten.
With nowhere left to turn and no one to trust, it was his intent to sell the information to the highest bidder, anything to get it off his hands to relieve himself of the weary burden. Once he believed knowledge was power; now he saw it for what it truly was: a double-edged sword.
The young baron had lasted longer on the run that he had anticipated. Clever planning and quick thinking kept him one-step ahead until his exhaustion proved to be his undoing. One careless slip and all of his careful planning went awry as he had walked into a trap.
He presumed that his captors were Separatists; the weapons they carried were too foreign for republic standard issued guns. There was no clone cannon fodder either amongst their numbers. Clovis did not understand why they had bothered to keep him alive for as long as they had. He could only hope that it was due in part to the fact they had yet to learn of his horrifying discovery.
The door to his cell slid open. The light that poured through the entrance temporarily blinded him. Gloved hands fiddled with the cuffs that bound his wrists and ankles. A moment later, they fell to the floor with a clatter.
His lack of sight and his companion's silence increased Rush's concern. Was this another mind game to break him? The mandatory training of his youth returned, leaving him wary and guarded. It hurt to move, much less breathe, leaving speech an impossibility.
As his eyes adjusted to the light, Rush could make out the silhouette of his companion. Though they wore a helmet, it was clear that his savoir or captor was a female. He thought of the Naboo senator and immediately crushed the thought. Now was not the time for such vulnerabilities.
With great care, the stranger helped him to his feet, causing Clovis to hiss a curse in pain. He refused to think of the damage he was causing to his already broken body; there would time enough for that later as well.
His eyes adjusted further to the light, allowing him to confirm that his companion was indeed female. His thoughts once more returned to his former lover. She was not behind this littleescapade, was she?
Coherent thought rapidly faded as stars danced behind his eyes to the pain that tore through his body. Leaning heavily against the armoured woman, Rush struggled to maintain consciousness as they slowly made their way into the sterile halls. There were bodies strewn about, each one wearing a clean laser shot between their eyes. Whoever this was, they were quite the sharpshooter. Somewhere through the haze of pain, he felt a tinge of hope. Perhaps it all was real.
The journey was longer than he would have liked. In spite of his endurance and determination, Rush swam in and out of inky blackness. He could not recall how they made it to the ship. Everything happened as if in a dream. There had been laser shots, foot droids, and other armoured fighters.
When he finally came to, he was heavily sedated and in the well-lit and sterile confines of a medical lab. The armoured woman was there, seated next to his bed. Her face was still hidden behind the pilot's helmet, but a gloved hand rested on his shoulder. At the sight of him conscious and somewhat aware, his petite savoir rose to her feet and prepared to depart.
Whatever her reasons were for being here, it was clearly time for her to go. As much as he wanted to learn who she was or even why she came to his aid, the words would not come. A part of him was uncertain he really wanted to know. Nevertheless, there was one thing he had to say.
"I don't know who you are---thank you for everything," he whispered. It still hurt to breathe, much less speak, but the pain was not nearly as horrendous. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Rush knew there was something more he needed to share, but the sedatives made it impossible for him to remember.
"You'll be safe now," she said quietly as she moved towards the doors. As they slid open, she paused in mid-step before looking over her shoulder back at him.
"Take care of yourself, Rush."
With the sedatives, coursing through his veins, it took Clovis a moment to realize who the petite stranger had been all along.
The name came to his lips too late; the armoured figure was long gone. A moment later, a med droid arrived, with more sedatives and shots of vitamins.
After the injections, Rush was unable to remember what it was he had already forgotten. For the moment, it no longer mattered. After weeks lacking sleep and peace, he finally found sanctuary in the realm of blissful dreams.