Disclaimer: It's George's sandbox; I'm simply destroying the sandcastles
Title: Tragedy on the Landing Pad
Genre: Angst & Romance
Timeframe: AotC AU
Summary: The assassination attempt on Padmé has succeeded and she died on the landing pad; Anakin, upon hearing the news, find comfort from an unexpected source. An Anakin & Barriss fic.
Author's Note: I've had many requests to post this here, so I will be doing so as I edit the chapters for the site. Shouldn't take very long...
Tragedy on the Landing Pad
"It is with a heavy heart and trembling lips that I bring to you the news of the tragic assassination of Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo. This morning, while arriving at great peril to herself, her transport was hit with an explosion that killed everyone on the landing pad. Senator Amidala was known for her strength of character and conviction and was willing to place her duty as a Senator representing her people above all other concerns; including her own life."
The Chancellor stopped, bowing his head as if overcome by grief. The Senate hall sat in silence at the Chancellor's words. Padmé had been well known, well loved and, while she had her enemies they respected her. Palpatine finally looked up, and those closest to him could see that it appeared a heavy burden had been added to his shoulders.
"No one will miss Senator Amidala more than I. But we cannot let tragedies like these continue. No Senator, no voice in this Republic should live in fear of going unheard. To honor her memory and in the light of all that has occurred, I urge the Senate to take the vote she gave her life to attend..."
Anakin Skywalker stared at the holo-news cast in stunned silence, his brain unable to process the information in any coherent fashion.
Beautiful, angelic Padmé; he still remembered her, still thought of her; could still see her in his mind's eye as the beautiful young woman who'd entered Watto's shop and spoke to him. Her voice had been musical, a balm to ears that heard little more than Huttese all day; ears that had been clipped when he'd been bad. She's been beauty in a world sadly lacking in it; rain in the desert.
And now she was dead.
He turned from the news-cast, unable to bear watching the Senate deal with the loss so expeditiously. He was shocked; appalled by their callous disregard for the life of one of their own. But there was business to be done, motions to pass into law.
Life went on.
He swept from the room, unaware of the gazes that followed him. Stalking through the halls of the Jedi temple - he'd only just returned from Ansion with Obi-Wan - he headed for the training salles. He was numb inside, his grief for the young woman he'd known and admired from afar a hollow ache in the pit of his stomach. One he couldn't yet express and didn't really know how to.
So he would train.
He shrugged out of his tunic when he arrived, hanging it on the supplied peg, and pulled his lightsaber from his belt. Without thought for how he must appear clad only in his leggings, he sprang into the middle of the room. The lightsaber twirled in his hands, up down, left right, the motions to fast for the human eye to follow.
Anakin's thoughts focused, coalesced into unity, his sadness for the loss of someone he'd considered a friend, driving him through a rigorous routine. Few could keep up with him; he knew that. Only his Master Obi-Wan Kenobi had ever managed to go through several rounds and win.
But Anakin wasn't facing a real opponent.
He was facing the death of silent dreams and hopes, the knowledge that his path would never again cross Padmé's. His lightsaber came down in a powerful attack move, a blur of color against white-washed walls.
Anakin was jolted out of his dark thoughts by the unexpected jarring that ran through his arms. His gaze came back into focus as the blue blade that had intercepted his twirled in a basic move and pushed his lightsaber aside. Two eyes came into focus; surrounded by a line of distinctive tattoos he'd have recognized anywhere.
"Barriss." Anakin lowered his lightsaber, small beads of perspiration only beginning to form on his chest. His voice was strained; unnatural.
Barriss kept her blade in the en-garde stance, but her gaze held compassion. "I understand you lost someone close to you today."
"Just someone I knew."
The healer in Barriss saw through the lie immediately. She could see that Anakin had held the Senator from Naboo in high regard; in fact, it appeared he'd idolized her. And now, tragically, she was gone. "Grief is a dangerous thing, Anakin."
His eyes narrowed. "What do you know of grief? What do any Jedi know of grief?" His words were soft, barely a hiss between his teeth, his hand clenching about his lightsaber, the blade wavering in his hand, twitching as if looking to do battle. At least, battle with a foe he understood.
"Jedi may rejoice in another becoming one with the Force." Barriss' words held little comfort. "But that does not mean we do not feel grief. That we do not mourn. Fight me."
"I'll hurt you." He didn't want to risk that; he'd just lost one friend, he wasn't about to risk another at the end of his own blade.
She struck at him, and he automatically raised his lightsaber to block. "Fight me, Anakin. Let go; give yourself a chance to heal!"
He backed away, parrying her attacks easily. "It's not that simple."
"It is if you let it be. You don't think your Master grieved when Qui-Gon died?"
Anakin felt like she'd slapped him. "Obi-Wan wouldn't..."
Barriss stepped up the tempo of her strikes, coming in left and right, forcing him to move, to draw on the Force. In drawing on it, in opening himself to the flow, he also opened himself to her. Something she could tell he was trying to avoid. Anakin's Force presence resonated with grief. Not just grief for the woman who had been killed, but the kind that comes from broken dreams. The kind that comes from regrets of what could have been, and what should be.
She struck him with a flurry of blows. "Obi-Wan is human, despite that polished exterior. All Jedi will grieve when Master Yoda finally passes into the Force; only they'll do so in their own way."
"Their way!" Anakin stepped into one of her blows, throwing his weight into it and her, knocking her away and off step. "The Jedi don't know how to grieve! They don't understand the definition of pain!"
Barriss regained her footing with remarkable agility, rolling with the spin and coming back from the right, forcing him to quick step to avoid having his feet removed as she came in low. She was sweating, her hair plastered to the back of her neck, the sides of her face. But the compassionate look in her eyes never wavered; never changed.
Anakin let out an incoherent yell and came at her with speed and strength she had no hope of matching. She gave ground, deflecting the blows, using her superior agility to avoid those she couldn't, Anakin's lightsaber passing bare inches from her skin. His eyes smoldered with suppressed rage and pain, the powerful emotions feeding the ferocity of his attack.
Barriss felt the first stirrings of concern for her own safety; Anakin didn't appear to be in control of himself. She focused on the Force and jumped neatly away, flipping in mid air to block his furious strike, and landing half a room away.
"Look at yourself, Anakin!"
"What do you know?"
She gestured to him forcefully. "You're out of control. What - do you want to hurt me too?"
"You don't understand! You can't."
"I know you're hurting. I know you're in pain. Let me help you." Her gaze softened. "I want to help you; I want to understand."
Her soft, passionate words seemed to penetrate the darkness that was eating away inside him. His shoulders slumped and his lightsaber dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers. He fell to his knees, appearing to crumple, his hands covering his face as he slumped forward.
Barriss didn't think; she reacted.
At the first sign of his break, she darted forward. She slid to her knees, catching him in her arms as he slumped forward. Silent, heaving sobs racked his frame. His arms came around her, his hands gripping her waist in an almost bruising fashion as he clung to her, his face buried in her shoulder.
Barriss' eyes filled with empathetic tears as his feelings swept over her, released from their carefully controlled cage. Her shoulder grew damp as his tears soaked her shirt. She clutched him tighter, saying nothing as she let her hands talk for her. She stroked his hair and rubbed his back, pulling the image of comfort from the jumble of emotional images surrounding his thoughts. He reacted as she'd hoped, giving in more, letting the grief pour forth more naturally, his sobs coming in great heaving gasps.
She didn't know how long they sat their, Anakin clutching her as if she were the last thing he had to keep his sanity; and she didn't care.
His sobs slowly quieted, though the shuddering through his frame continued. Barriss continued to stroke his hair, the warmth of his skin making her palm tingle as her hands gently rubbed his back. Anakin pulled away reluctantly, her hand falling from his hair to the side of his face.
Anakin grasped it as she made to move away, keeping it pressed to his face. His eyes were red-rimmed and puffy from his grief, his face slightly swollen, and her heart went out to him. He turned his head, his gaze never leaving hers, and placed a single, gentle kiss in the palm of her hand.
Barriss watched him, her hand twitching as his lips touched it. Then his lips moved, still against her palm and she would have jumped if she'd had the ability. Instead she just felt like jelly.
"Thank you, Barriss." Anakin released her hand and wiped his face, the tear lines still visible despite the lack of moisture. "I'm sorry about..." he gestured to her shirt.
"It's alright, you needed it." She searched his face questioningly. "Are you going to be alright?"
He nodded, his throat tight, feeling more weary than he had in his life. "I think I just need some sleep. I'm sorry if I scared you."
Her answering smile was relieved. "Just remind me to never cross blades with you in actual combat." She pushed unsteadily to her feet and offered him her hand. "Here; I'll walk you to your quarters."
He took her hand, rising to his feet with a Force-assisted pull, and looked down at her. Gently, hesitantly as if he didn't know how she's react, his fingers lifted to brush a strand of hair from her face and tuck it back around her ear. "Will you stay with me?"
She had the distinct feeling her wasn't just asking for her company. She regarded his pained expression and her indecision melted. She extended her hand to him. "Yes, Anakin. I will stay with you."
He took her proffered hand and let himself be led back to his tunic and out of the training salle. Somehow, with Barriss' help, he knew he would get beyond his grief.
Anakin palmed open the door to the dual room she shared with Obi-Wan and stepped inside. Barriss entered behind him, pausing for the barest of seconds on the threshold. She felt nervous, almost as if in coming inside the small room she'd agreed to his unspoken request. Anakin's hand was still clasped in hers and his fingers tightened knowingly around hers.
Barriss felt his reassurance; he was trying to tell her not to be afraid, that things were going to be alright. She wanted to laugh, but was afraid it would sound at best hollow, at worst hysterical. He stopped, turning to face her. "You don't have to stay Barriss."
"You're in no shape to be alone right now." Her counter was delivered with a nod of her head. "What kind of friend would I be if I left you alone, huh?"
Anakin stared at her for a long minute and then stepped close to her. She didn't retreat as his arms came about her, puling her close. She went willingly. She ducked her head a little to tuck it under his chin, her arms sliding under his to encircle his chest. She felt his gratitude, and the lingering edges of pain. He opened himself to her, fractionally, letting her see, letting her understand from exactly where his grief came; from which dreams and memories.
Anakin's grip was tight, but not uncomfortably so, and Barriss closed her eyes, firmly pushing all thoughts of being a Jedi out of her mind. The Jedi had no place in the grief Anakin felt for his fallen friend. The part of him that grieved wasn't a Jedi; he was a nine year old boy with a crush on a powerful woman who showed him kindness. His grief was that of a dreamer and planner; the grief of a boy caught in the body of a young man who'd never again see the woman who'd been such a focal point of his existence. A woman who'd been more perfect in his thoughts than any human could truly be.
Barriss felt Anakin begin to shake again, and clutched him tighter. His head dropped to align with hers, and they stood, ear to ear, as Anakin tried to work through the pain. Hesitantly, a little worried he'd break, she voice the first question that had come to mind with his openness.
"She called you Ani?"
He half-sobbed, half-laughed at her choice of questions. Of all the memories, she'd picked up on that particular one. "Yeah." His voice was ragged. "Don't tell anyone, I'd never... never live it down."
Barriss pulled back to look at him, smoothing the tears from one cheek with the pad of her thumb. "I wouldn't dream of it."
"Thanks." He gulped, releasing her and turning away.
Barriss followed, close on his heels, as he stopped by the couch in the small living space. He dropped onto it, stretching out gangly legs he hadn't completely grown into yet. She looked at him, frowned, and then pushed him forward. Her leg came up, sliding along his back.. Anakin looked at her shocked. "Barriss, what are you-"
"Oh relax." She shifted, sliding herself into the gap he was to stunned to make bigger. "Oof, shift forward, would you?"
Anakin did so immediately and Barriss dropped into the open space. She reached for him, dragging him backwards until he was resting with his back against her chest, his head on her shoulder. Anakin shifted to make himself more comfortable as Barriss encircled his shoulder with her arms. "That's better. So... how come you haven't talked to her in so long?"
Anakin closed his eyes, swallowing hard. "Our paths never crossed again. I thought that, maybe someday... someday the Force would bring us back together."
Barriss stroked his hair. "Maybe they still will."
He looked up at her questioningly.
Barriss shrugged. "I know she wasn't a Jedi but it's said all beings get released into the Force when they die. Maybe she'll be waiting for you."
He dropped his head in understanding. "That's a long time away."
"I hope so." Barriss poked his shoulder. "I don't expect to lose a friend of my own, Anakin."
"You won't." His promise was soft. His hands came up to encircle her forearms, hugging them close to his chest. "Thanks for being here to listen, Barriss."
"You'd do the same for me." She fell silent for a minute. "Anakin?"
Barriss hesitated. "Do you... do you think that fantasizing about someone the way you fantasized about her is against the code?"
Anakin blushed. "I sure hope not, or I'll never make Knight."
"Me either." She paused thoughtfully. "I think all Jedi need those fantasies. It helps keep us linked to the other beings in the universe and to each other. They let us know that, while we may be the guardians of the Republic and choose a solitary existence, we're still fundamentally like those we choose to protect. Does that make sense?"
"You lost me."
Barriss chuckled softly. "Forget it. I think my point is that I don't think fantasies are bad. Without them, I think we'd lose a very fundamental piece of ourselves."
"I don't know. My mother..." Anakin sighed, continuing. "My mother used to tell me to dream big, that I could be anything I wanted to be."
"What was it like, knowing your mother?"
Anakin's face softened, longing clear in his tone. "Unlike any relationship I've ever been in since. I could do anything and she wouldn't get mad at me."
Barriss raised her eyebrows. "Anything?"
Anakin nodded. "There was this one time a friend of mine and I were playing with these old vibro knives Watto had tossed away as junk. We were learning to throw them and he almost hit my mother while she was coming out with Watto's wash. I thought she was going to be so mad!" He smiled sadly at the memory. "She didn't even raise her voice. She just asked why. I told her the truth; we wanted to be able to protect everyone if Tuskan Raiders ever came near the house. She hugged me, and told me she was certain we'd succeed - and then we were told to throw the knives away from the doorways."
Barriss chuckled softly. "She seems like a remarkable woman."
Anakin's face fell. "I wish she was here right now."
"Did she know Padmé?"
"She met her." Anakin's voice was soft. "I remember when mom told her that we were slaves and how appalled Padmé was. I used to have these dreams of going back and rescuing all the slaves."
"A noble goal."
"But not one I can accomplish while -" he cut himself off, taking a deep breath. "It was a kid's dream; a fantasy. Nothing more."
"What did Padmé think of your dream?"
Anakin's tone turned painful. "She called it a noble goal, but one I'd have to work hard for."
"And you have." Barriss smoothed her hand through his cropped hair. "I don't think that's a dream you should let go of, Anakin."
"Everyone needs something to work towards. Rescuing your mother and the rest of the slaves from their poverty is a dream worth fighting for."
Anakin's eyes slowly closed, and he turned his head against her shoulder. "I don't want to dream anymore, Barriss. I just want to sleep."
He didn't open his eyes, but he didn't have to for her to feel his pain. "Because they hurt too much when they shatter and die."
Barriss cradled him against her, tucking her head close to his, and simply held him. She had no answers. Her Master might have, or maybe his, but Anakin's pain went too deep for answers. It needed empathy and understanding - not censure.
Anakin's breath feathered across her cheek. "Barriss?"
"Would you stay and keep the nightmares away?"
She could feel the weariness that accompanied the request and nodded, even though his eyes remained closed. "Sleep, Anakin. I'll be here when you wake."
The barest of smiles crossed his lips as he sank into slumber.
"No... Mom... no..."
Barriss woke with a start, the whimper that brought her to wakefulness sending her senses into over drive. She relaxed after a moment when she sensed nothing amiss. Nothing but Anakin's apprehension; his fear. The emotion was choking, throbbing, a noxious mass that swirled from his mind like a cloud, engulfing her in utter despair.
"No... Mom!" Anakin's voice was climbing, his fear increasing.
Barriss put her hands on his forehead, hesitating for a moment when he shook his head to knock them away. She concentrated, doing it without thinking and focused on the source of that fear…
A handsome older woman with brown hair. Brown hair matted with blood. A cut on her cheek. Her hands drawn, pulled tight across a combined pair of bones. Bones so large they held her weight as effectively as they held her captive.
Brown robes swathed strange looking humanoids as they raised a weapon of some kind above their heads. Bodies scattered the ground around them as they moved, killing with impunity. They screamed a challenge, one turning to the trapped female, his weapon coming back and-
Barriss' presence was catapulted back into her own mind as Anakin woke, bolting upright on the sofa. She reeled from the images, not understanding their significance except for one thing.
The brown haired woman was Anakin's mother.
Anakin was breathing hard, sweat running down his face as he fought against the fear the nightmare had caused. He clutched his chest, the weight of what he'd seen pressing down on him, suffocating his ability to think, his ability to rationalize. He had to get to her and he had to get to her now!
Cool hands slid over his face, gentle finger tips turning his head. The nightmare began to fade, but not the horrible implications. His mother needed him; she was in danger. He finally focused on the person in front of him and the nightmare became real all over again.
Anakin closed his eyes, hunching forward, and Barriss pulled him close once more. He shuddered in her grasp, a tangled mix of emotions she couldn't begin to sort out. Barriss held him, but said nothing. He didn't need her words; just her touch. And so she touched him. She rubbed his back in reassurance, letting the strong, firm circles speak of her commitment to his well being. She smoothed his hair, the action one of understanding and empathy. She gently brushed silent tears from his cheeks to show her caring for his emotional state.
Anakin's recovery from the nightmare was slow.
He didn't want to relinquish the comfort he found in Barriss' arms. He didn't want to face the world or a galaxy that would take one friend from him only to allow his mother to be taken the very next day. No, she wasn't gone yet; he knew that with certainty.
"I saw, Anakin."
His head came up jerkily at Barriss' soft words. "You saw what?"
She flushed, her tattoos standing out on her cheeks. "I... You were having a nightmare and I wanted to help. So I linked my mind to yours. I saw your mother."
The door to the room sprang open suddenly, cutting off whatever accusation Anakin had been about to make, and Obi-Wan appeared in the doorway. "Anakin?"
"Master." Anakin managed to keep his indignation from his voice.
Obi-Wan stepped inside, his expression relieved. "I was worried about you, Padawan, I - Barriss?"
"Yes, Master Kenobi?"
Obi-Wan looked from one Padawan to the other. "Luminara's been looking for you. It's late."
Barriss tilted her head at a defiant angle despite her pleasant tone. Her face was clear of all but normal color for Barriss didn't feel the need to be embarrassed. She'd done nothing wrong in trying to help. "I understand that, Master, but Anakin needed me."
"Needed you." The Negotiator crossed his arms over his chest. "I see."
Anakin leaned forward, away from Barriss, and cradled his head in his hands. "It's the truth, Master. Padmé..." his voice broke. "Senator Amidala was killed today."
Obi-Wan's expression softened.
He made a motion for Barriss to leave. Barriss hesitated, torn between the ingrained obedience of following a Master's orders and the need to keep her promise to Anakin. Anakin must had felt her turmoil for his turned his head, one blue eye peeking out from between his wrist and shoulder. "I'll be alright, Barriss."
She avoided Obi-Wan's gaze. It wasn't that she questioned the Master's ability in dealing with his Padawan; it was just that Masters tended to be more reserved when things like this happened.
Anakin nodded. "I'll catch you later."
Barriss rose reluctantly, feeling the blood rushing back into legs that hadn't been used in several hours - and had been confined by Anakin's weight. She used the Force to help herself as she left the room, headed for her own bunk. But her thoughts stayed with Anakin and the disturbing dream that he'd seen; the one she'd shared.
Palming open her own quarters, Barriss stopped. "Master?"
Luminara was sitting on the only couch in the room, her gaze fastened on the doorway. "Padawan."
Barriss bit her lip. "I'm sorry, I'm late, but I-"
"It is customary to call if you're otherwise occupied, Padawan. A common courtesy, in fact."
Barriss flushed. She hadn't given her Master a second thought once she'd felt the depth of Anakin's pain. "I'm sorry. I have no excuses."
Luminara examined her Padawan carefully. "Something is bothering you."
Barriss sighed, stepping in and allowing the door to close behind her. "Yes, Master."
It took a moment for Barriss to organize her thoughts. "Master, how is the bond between a Padawan and their Master different from a child and a parent?"
Luminara cocked her head at the young woman before her in surprise. She recovered quickly, thinking carefully about the question as she patted the couch beside her. Barriss slid into the indicated seat, watching her Master expectantly. Luminara finally spoke once more. "I suppose the difference would be in the blood relation, Barriss. Having never known my own parents, it is difficult to say. When Jedi children are brought to the temple, they learn to see all Jedi, both Knights and Masters, as parental figures. The bond between a Master and their Padawan is similar, but more like an older sibling teaching a younger one how to avoid their mistakes. Why do you ask?"
"I have been asking myself what I will feel when you die."
Luminara's eyebrows rose. Twice in one night and her Padawan had surprised her. "Relief, I should think, to finally be rid of me."
"Never!" Barriss stared at her Master appalled. "I would miss you terribly."
"Just as I would miss you. There is a deeper meaning here, I can feel it."
Barriss flushed. "Anakin lost someone dear to him today."
"The Senator from Naboo."
"Yes." Barriss paused, wondering if it was her place to share Anakin's vision, but knew she needed a different point of view. One that was objective; one that was more experienced than her own. "He also had a dream this evening."
"A dream? Jedi don't dream."
"He did." Barriss felt her mouth go dry, the emotional turmoil of Anakin's vision coming back to roil in her gut. "He dreamt of his mother."
"This was not a pleasant dream?"
"He saw her being hurt and tortured by these awful creatures."
Luminara was silent for a long moment. "Jedi don't dream."
"Could it be a Force vision?"
"It is possible, yes. But the future is always in motion; there's no telling if this particular vision will come to pass." Luminara pinned her Padawan with a look. "Did he speak to you of this?"
"Not exactly." Barriss rubbed a hand over her stomach, telling it firmly to settle down. "I was with him when he dreamt it; I shared his dream."
"And your thoughts on it?"
"It was disjointed, erratic, as if seen through the eyes of an individual caught in a maelstrom." Barriss' words were soft and contemplative. "I've never felt such fear; never thought you could be so afraid. But not fear for himself; it's fear for another. He was terrified of the possibility of losing her when he's just lost someone else close to him." She lifted her head with sudden understanding. "Anakin's afraid that if he loses his mother, he loses something vital to who he is."
Luminara nodded approvingly. "And the recourse?"
"I don't know, Master. Anakin's situation is... special."
"Indeed. Perhaps the better question is - what is the desired course of action?"
"He wants to rescue her."
"And what would happen if he finds her safe and well?"
Barriss frowned. "Relief, I should think."
"Not doubt in his abilities?"
"I don't think anything could dent Anakin's belief in his abilities."
Luminara chuckled, patting her shoulder. "Well said, Barriss. It is late and time to retire. We've much to do in the morning."
Barriss watched her Master move leave. "To do, Master? We're on leave, aren't we?"
Luminara paused on the threshold of her room and turned to look back at her Padawan solemnly. "The Chancellor has asked that an honor guard escort Senator Amidala's body home to Naboo. The Council felt that Obi-Wan and Anakin would be best suited."
Barriss sucked in a sharp breath, half-pushing out of her chair. "He's not-"
Luminara's look silenced her. "Anakin is stronger than you give him credit for, Barriss. But you are correct. The council has sensed the pain Anakin is in and feels the necessity to offer him closure. You and I will be going along as part of the honor guard."
Barriss sank back down in relief, waiting until her Master had disappeared into her own room before closing her eyes and placing her face in her hands. She rubbed it firmly, trying to ease the tension in her forehead. Honor guard. It was a poorly cloaked babysitting assignment that was better suited to Anakin's Master. Yet, despite the sudden withdrawal of her much earned leave, Barriss found she didn't mind.
Anakin would need a friend, someone who could understand and empathize without the burden of higher rank. If nothing else, she was resolved to be that friend.