"To suffering there is a limit; to fearing, none." -Sir Francis Bacon, Essays (1625) "Of Seditions and Troubles"
A/N: ugah. So, it would appear that my goal to update at least once a month might actually succeed! Huzzah!
SWBloodwolf told me that she wanted to see a lot happen in this chapter, so I figured what the heck? Why not? It worked a lot better doing it this way than any other, and I thought it worked nicely when it came to leading toward the next bit. I got to tell you things I wouldn't have been able to tell you if they hadn't been included here! (And thank you so much for helping out with those two bits, mate! I really appreciate it!)
And Fishy, not too worry! Padmé won't be so weak or something of the like later on. She's just emotional/whatever you want to call it at the moment for the next few (2 or 3, maybe?) chapters.
Yeah, and Cody & Rex's story might sound like some b.s. now, but I'm still trying to plot this thing out as I go...
Chapter VII – Also Known As 'If You Die, I'm Going to Kill You'
"Move it, move it!"
"—that's an order!"
Padmé Amidala had put on a pretty face and smiled and made small talk and pretended, but inside all she wanted to do was scream and rush back home to burrow herself into her blankets and sleep.
Not to mention find her mother's recipe for the soup she'd always made her as child for an upset stomach.
That had been three hours ago.
Padmé rubbed at her side, narrowing her unease down to either the cramps that plague her and most other females or the indigestion from the unruly breakfast she'd forced herself to eat because she'd never hear the end of it from C-3PO otherwise.
Damn Anakin and his four day absence. Here she was sitting the Grand Convocation Chamber and all she could think about was her husband. In some ways she was ashamed of that fact—while he occasionally would slip through her thoughts from time-to-time, she was still perturbed over their most recent parting and the unsettling feeling that had thus taken up residence in her chest. It was slowly seeping into her abdomen and she suppressed a groan as a result.
She bit back her scathing retort and sat in her assigned Senatorial pod, casting a sidelong glance at Captain Typho and not having it in her to verbally back-hand today's opposition as they came to a rest in their starting position. Shifting around again and battling with her discomfort, Padmé found herself not for the first time counting down the minutes until the session ended.
Ten standard minutes later and judging from the way Senator Burtoni was prattling on, Padmé thought they'd never leave.
By the time the Chancellor finally adjourned them her face was flushed and she was hoping that her stomach wouldn't have an upheaval until she'd left to find privacy. Her vision swam as she stood too abruptly and braced herself against the wall, delicately refusing Typho's aid before slowly making her way into the hallway only to find two other Senators waiting for her. It wasn't that she had no desire to see them—she just had no desire to see them at that exact moment.
A fine looking man for his age, Bail Organa cast the Nabooan a small smile that she found some reassurance in as she joined his alongside Mon Mothma. Whatever remarks they made or inquiries they aimed at her were lost on Padmé as her restless mind could fluctuate between two thoughts: those of her husband, and those of going home.
She'd been half-listening to their conversation when she found herself staring into Bail's shocked eyes, clawing at his sleeves as the floor rose to meet her.
"Find any survivors—"
"The hell is this—!"
"Fall back! Fall back!"
Master Yoda wavered in his stance, his ever-present cane nosily falling to the floor and rolling away from where he stood.
He gave a painful grunt as he clutched his chest, weary eyes staring blankly out through the Plexiglas windows of the Temple.
Utter pain and desperation hummed through the Force, coursing through his entire being and ricocheting around him. He grimaced as one hand traveling to his head as it reached a climax, agony singing a horrid tune.
Just as quickly it had began it ended, leaving Yoda numb and for the first time in centuries truly afraid of whatever reality had caused this.
A Force signature weakened, and he found himself soon unable to detect it.
Padmé did her best not to stumble into her own home, her equilibrium still off-balance from her near-fainting spell only a short time ago. Typho had his hand placed gently but firmly on her elbow as he guided her to the sofa where she'd sat with Anakin last. The frown that had accompanied his expression the duration of the speeder ride was beginning to carve lines into his tanned face.
"I'm fine, Captain. Honestly." She said as he helped ease her down onto the cushions, finding the entire situation a little more than just 'silly.'
He nodded slowly and reluctantly seemed to accept her plausible excuse that she'd not eaten much in the past few days and that her body was simply tired. She really hadn't had anything except for the meals (that weren't terribly good) practically forced upon her by Sabé, who was just then making her way into the room upon hearing Padmé's exasperated sigh.
There was a gentle murmur between them—Padmé assumed he was filling the handmaiden in on the current circumstances—before Typho finally turned to leave.
He shot another glance at Sabé who barely suppressed the urge to make some sort of shooing motion before the door finally slid shut behind him.
She allowed Padmé a moment of peace before she turned to her.
"Have you heard anything, Sabé?"
The words repeated themselves in Obi-Wan's head and all he could do was stand and wait numbly. One of the soldiers darted past him, visibly jostling the man as the butt of a gun slammed into his arm. There was a muffled, half-hearted apology before they all realized they were fighting blind.
Shots were fired into dirt and dust and scans were quickly looking any other mines similar to the one that had just blown a clone sky-high, but all Obi-Wan could focus on was the fact that Anakin wasn't there. Gone for two minutes, and all hell had broken loose.
He knew he should have been doing something—barking orders, igniting his lightsaber and leading—, anything other than just standing as dread sunk in with its icy little fingers, but doing so would acknowledge the fact that Anakin wouldn't be making it back on his own.
Where was Ahsoka? Worrying about her right then was the least Obi-Wan could do.
He had taken a step forward with his hand to the hilt of his lightsaber and the grim determination to focus on anything other than his brother when there was a sudden click beneath his worn boot.
A number of thoughts went through his mind, but no one of them ever pertained to himself.
I'll be right back!
Sabé swallowed and stared at her mistress, warring with herself over whether it was better to lie or to perhaps gloss over a few of the finer details, such as the Council having proven no good when it came to disclosing information, or that the private channel that linked them to Anakin had been severed.
The silence was all Padmé needed, and she turned toward the veranda as a frown marred her features.
Obi-Wan gasped as his back slammed against the ground, groaning at the extra pressure on his chest, the clone's armor adding weight that even then he struggled to remove.
There was a flash of green and a hum off to his side, and he found himself unable to smile even as Ahsoka dropped to her knees beside him, making it a point not to look him in the eye.
The clone gave a low moan in the back of his throat as she gently rolled him off of the dazed General, one of their too few medics cropping up in order to assess them both.
Obi-Wan lied and claimed he was fine.
The two Jedi made the mistake of making eye contact. The Togruta opened her mouth to speak, only to be interrupted but Commander Cody's sudden presence and a reluctant Captain Rex trailing behind, walking backwards with twin blasters still raised and a frown beneath his helmet.
"Sirs, we need to leave."
Padmé folded her arms together, shivering as she stood in the empty air above the city, watching aimlessly as traffic came to a never-ending flow.
Sabé, unsure what to do right then, remained where she stood with her eyes on the younger woman and waited.
"I honestly don't know why it bothers me so much," She murmured, capturing the handmaiden's attention and bringing her a few steps closer to the Senator. "It never has before."
The fellow Nabooan let out an audible breath as her footfalls brought her only an arm's length away from the clearly distraught woman.
"I know you don't like Anakin, Sabé." She said, bothered by the fact that this absence was getting to her more so than any of his others. He could be gone for weeks on end, but these past for days have proven to be a hell she hadn't even prepared for. "But please, spare me your pity."
With the lack of response, Padmé assumed that the other woman had left, and continued believing so until a hand reassuringly graced the side of her arm.
"It isn't that I dislike him, milady. I simply dislike what he's done to you."
Sabé only meant the inner turmoil he constantly brought to Padmé whenever they were together, and Padmé knew it. She couldn't help but think that Sabé believed he caused her other forms of pain, emotional or not.
Instead the hand gently rubbed Padmé's rather cold arm through the cloth of her sleeve, and she found relief in the older woman's presence, resisting the urge to lean back and hug her.
Padmé frowned and steeled her resolve. She was a former Queen and now a Senator, for Force's sake. Sitting around and moping would do no good.
She was not weak, she was not overly emotional—she was Padmé Naberrie Amidala (Skywalker).
And there were things to be taken care of.
With that thought, Padmé took in a breath, letting it and all of the negative emotions swirling inside of her out as she stood to her full height. In regards to thinking that things needed to be taken care of and looked after, she initially meant the question as a joke, but something to be dealt with all the same.
"Sabé, could you do me a favor?"
"No; I asked you a question! Answer me!"
Getting involved in a shouting match with the Jedi Padawan was not something that Fives had planned on, and it was getting increasingly irritating that she was taking so much attention away from the wounded soldiers that needed to be tended to. As much as he may of respected her, he was not about to let men die just because she was angry and firing questions at him like an over-eager droideka.
"Commander," He ground out, growing a bit more than exasperated with her irritable demeanor. "You'll be better of asking either Rex or one of the medical technicians. I don't know anything."
Five flinched at something that flashed through eyes when her angry mask cracked upon hearing his words.
He stepped away and shifted his suddenly heavy helmet under his arm.
"I really am sorry."
Padmé and Sabé sat together and waited for a few moments, one anxiously waiting and the other putting on a steel mask to the blanket of anxiety threatening to suffocate them both.
Sabé had no idea what to say, and didn't think that doing so would help matters any.
Instead, they exchanged a look, and the reassuring smile Sabé meant to give died on her lips.
It took Ahsoka almost twenty minutes to find Obi-Wan, and another twenty to get them to let her see him.
She'd tried not to elbow her way through to where he was seated on a medical bed, one of the medics still checking the way his pupils dilated and other various motor functions. Kenobi nodded in Ahsoka's general direction, acknowledging her presence but all the same firmly telling her to keep her tongue in place until it was appropriate.
The clone finally left his side and she made to approach him, only for Rex to come barging in, Cody hot on his heels.
Ahsoka barely bit back her annoyed groan and flopped lifelessly into one of the seats nearby, watching the three with steaming, half-lidded eyes.
Obi-Wan shot her a look as his fingertips gingerly brushed against the wound bandaged on his forehead. He slowly nodded to each of the men in turn. "Captain, Commander."
They exchanged a stoic look with one another, and it was then that Padawan Tano sat up fully, balancing precariously on the edge of her seat and her body humming with the strain of biting back any verbal lashes and apprehension. She reluctantly kept her mouth shut as Rex slowly drew the curtain around them to a close, Cody shooting her a look as he recalled their last interaction—mostly her running and charging through smoke and dust, barking orders and questions he didn't have answers for.
Kenobi waited until the Captain had secured privacy for their conversation to pry.
"We looked into the situation as soon as we departed," The Commander replied. "We discovered that a great deal of what we were just recently fighting may in fact have only been a series of landmines or other traps that were set up years ago only to be forgotten about. In all honesty, we may have very well not have been fighting anything at all."
Ahsoka fought against the bile in her throat.
"What we did also discover, however, was that many of those explosions we encountered were in fact set up by the Separatists, and we—"
"I thought you just said they were set up years ago." Ahsoka suddenly cut in, having stood and balled her hands into shaking fists. "How could the Separatists possibly have set them up if they were formed only recently?"
Cody, clearly taken back by this outburst, paused for a moment and tried to collect his thoughts.
"I'm not saying that this is any sort of joke, Commander. I'm simply saying that we may have very well just been ambushed by an enemy we weren't previously aware of—"
"How are we supposed to fight an enemy we don't know?"
She knew the answer, but she simply didn't want to admit it.
Ahsoka spun on her heel and shoved the curtain to the side, storming away and hiding her cracked expression from the three men staring after her.
Obi-Wan had sat in relatively numb silence the duration of what could hardly be considered a briefing when another absence struck him.
"I can't be here, Sabé." Padmé murmured, her hands wringing together as her body demanded some sort of action from her other than simply standing around and pacing. Something needed to be done. "I can't."
"I understand, milady." The older woman responded, inclining her head in a respectful nod. Padmé's emotions had been taking a toll on bother of them, but neither wanted to admit it. She'd meant to say something more when Typho suddenly came into the apartment, swiftly calling out for the Senator.
With one last fleeting glance at Sabé, she hurried out of the room and into the main entryway to greet the Captain, her heart thudding a bit harder in her chest than she thought was necessary. Without introduction or prelude, Typho opened the door again and gestured for the woman to follow him.
"They'll be entering the atmosphere shortly."
Padmé had never been more thankful for his ability to cut right to the chase when she needed it most.
Quietly, Sabé entered the room just as Padmé left it, watching the entrance close slowly behind them both as she slowly sank into a nearby chair.
She kept her gaze level with one of the vases before her, brown eyes flickering between that and the doorway, as if expecting a sudden reappearance.
Although it truly wasn't her business, Sabé found herself looking down at her folded hands and a small, sad smile graced her features at the thought.
Ahsoka's footsteps brought her down the medical wing of The Resolute with shallow, angry breaths as she struggled to rein in her emotions and clear her mind.
Much, much easier said than done.
Her legs began moving slower as reality fizzled in through the furious haze surrounding her, making her breath catch in her throat. Bracing herself against the wall with one outstretched hand she placed the other to the side of her face, closing her eyes and telling herself to avoid hysterics.
She placed her back against the cool metal and slid down it, tucking in her legs to keep from tripping any of the men darting by to offer whatever aid they could, wedging herself into one of the crannies of the wall and simply stared for a few moments.
Ahsoka buried her face in her hands and desperately tried not to think.
Obi-Wan had been gazing at the ceiling ever since Rex and Cody had left him after Ahsoka's outburst, his back still bruised from where one of the clones had tackled him to the ground in the event of an explosion.
He hadn't even noticed that he'd placed one of his hands over his heart until he felt it beat beneath his fingertips.
Reveling in the sensation, the Jedi Master found that it took his mind off of everything else, enrapturing him in the constant, reassuring steady rhythm coursing through him and reminding him that he was alive.
Reminding him that someone else might not be.
Forcing himself up, Obi-Wan made the move to stand, bracing his hands on either side of his legs and pushed off of the bed, and into a standing position.
He fell to his knees and made no move to stand.
Ahsoka had been planning on returning to the far end of the room where Obi-Wan had been left to apologize when she suddenly halted.
Her heart beat in her chest with a dull ache and she had to remind herself not to get her hopes up too much.
That reminder was quickly squashed at the sight of a tuft of brown hair poking out from under a blanket.
She hardly resisted the urge to smile and cry.
Padmé was clutching her hands so tightly that her fingernails were leaving small white crescents on her palms. Only a short trip really, and the landing bay had never seemed so far away.
Typho had barely stationed their speeder where it was authorized when she was launching herself out of it.
She had her skirts clutched tightly in her hands to avoid tripping as she practically sprinted toward the group steadily exiting the transports carrying them to and fro. Her heart leapt into her throat at the sight of Ahsoka's familiar montrals, and a smile split across her face.
Unshed tears formed at the sight of their return, reassurance briefly warring with dread for residence in her stomach as she nearly launched herself at them.
Padmé was still smiling and withholding her tears of joy when she let go of a momentarily bewildered Obi-Wan who had returned her embrace after a moment of shock. He'd tried to smile as well, but whether or not she caught the crack in it he didn't know, seeing as she'd already turned to greet the Padawan in the same fashion by the time it had formed.
Ahsoka held onto her just a bit tighter than she normally would have, Padmé quickly noted.
Undeterred by the Togruta's blatant search for comfort, the Senator kept her hands on the girl's elbows, giving them a light squeeze from which she received a small smile in response.
She was practically beaming at the two and completely disregarding the public displays of affection that probably shouldn't have happened when it hit her. There was an unsteady beat, and neither of the dismal expressions on the others' faces helped matters any.
Just as soon as it had leapt into her throat, her heart plummeted to her stomach, taking her smile with it.
Somewhere across the galaxy, a tired blue eye slowly cracked open.