Chapter 35: Chancellor

Darth Vader

I am inhumanely still, aware of the camera pointed at me a mere foot away from me.

The world holds its breath as all wait for the declaration that will decide the future of the Republic.

I inhale.

I exhale.

"The New Supreme Chancellor of the Republic is …" the representative pauses as she stares at the small paper card in her hands. Finally, after several moments of nearly unbearable anticipation, she speaks.

"Padmé Amidala!"

I continue to breathe even as my heart freezes in my chest. My face stiffens for a fraction of a second before I smile graciously, a moment before the camera fixes on my face. I glance at the holoscreen again even as the camera moves to where Amidala is. Her eyes are wide in shock, her face slack, before her full lips light into a smile that would have blinded a lesser camera. In that moment I have never hated or loved her more.

Padmé Amidala is the new Supreme Chancellor of the Republic.

The decibel level outside is heard clearly through the sound-proof walls of the Senate. It seems that the Republic is pleased with their new leader.

It is so loud, it is almost impossible to hear the next announcement. "In keeping with the tradition of selecting the Vice Chair of the Republic in tandem with the Supreme Chancellor," the reporter says, her voice raising over the pandemonium outside, "I would like to announce that the new Vice Chair of the Republic is Anakin Skywalker!"

I smile graciously as the camera pans to me and the congratulations begin to pour in. I maintain a carefully mixed disposition; disappointed with losing the larger election, but satisfied with gaining a position as great as second-in-command of the Republic. The reporter assigned to me accepts the ruse and immediately launches into an interview. I indulge him, even as my mind races. I lost the election, I lost the fucking election.

I should be surprised, but somehow I am not. I knew: As soon as I woke up this morning, I knew that this would be the result. However, it doesn't make me any less pissed.

I nod benignly as countless flashes light up the room, capturing my likeness. The media will, no doubt, have a field day with this. An infamous senator, known for her chaotic retribution activities and her lack of male companionship, becomes Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, co-ruling with one of the newest Senators in the quadrant who just so happens to not only be a man-whore, but her boyfriend. I glance at a nearby reporter who looks as though he's only moments from salivating over me: A field day indeed.

My mind drifts even as my body continues on auto-pilot, answering questions and entertaining the mass of reporters.

I feel strange. I'm angry, yet calm. I'm remarkably calm. Surely it's the calm before the storm, because I've lost.

Amidala has won the seat of the Republic and I've lost.

Inwardly, I shake my head. It would have been better for Amidala if I had won. Now everything has changed. I've lost this election, so there's much work to do. For the first time, I do not anticipate the fight ahead. There can only be one victor and it must be me.

Amidala must be crushed.

#*#*#*#*#

It isn't difficult to slip away from the chaos that has erupted from Amidala's election to take care of a few loose ends. Few people care about the whereabouts of the Vice Chancellor.

Now, I walk across the bridge on Kamino as I survey my personal army. I pause to absorb the sight before me. The space below is massive. Machines work loudly and efficiently as they equip the constantly moving assembly line of cloned flesh before me. Truly, the ranks have come along nicely. Maul moves to my side as I stand with arms crossed, my cloak drawn around me like a dark cloud.

Next to us, a Kaminoian stands in silence, wisely choosing to speak only when asked a specific question. I glance at the large sentient briefly before looking away. Kaminoians are a strange species. It's a wonder that they are intelligent enough to breed clones, but not discerning enough to question the Sith's presence here. They know that the Sith and the Jedi are at odds, but choose to work with both of us. Their stance of neutrality goes so far that although the clone army for the Republic was originally ordered by Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, they willingly handed it over to a Sith. It was absurdly simple to take over his little pet project after getting rid of him; the transition was seamless, almost as if it was thoroughly planned and agreed upon. There was absolutely no resistance from the Kaminoians when we stepped in.

Perhaps they are unaware of the ferocity and depth of our conflict. It's no matter now; their lack of knowledge is to our benefit. The Kaminoians have been eager to work with the Sith, especially upon our deliverance of several advanced computer simulations and models that will significantly upgrade their systems. It made it quite easy to suggest new technology for the clones … such as the new and improved schematics for the bio-chips placed within every clone trooper in the Grand Army of the Republic. It is an inhibitor chip that not only makes the clones less aggressive, but ensures that they are not controlled by rogue forces. The irony is not lost on me. Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas insisted on the bio-chips to keep the clones out of the hands of the Sith, only for his very useful initiative to fall into our hands anyway, to the destruction of his precious Order. The Kaminoians have no idea what we've installed into their precious biochips.

But soon, they will. Everyone in the Republic will.

I turn to Maul and nod, only barely cognizant of the smirk of satisfaction on his face that is so minute it's barely discernible. Maul has done an adequate job preparing for my coup. Indeed, his part is done. Now, it is my turn to move our plans forward. The next step should have been easy. It was supposed to be done from the ultimate seat of executive power in the Republic, as the Supreme Chancellor. It would have been a lethal and bloody, but swift, transition to power, but no more. Now, everything is shot to hell.

The thought makes me grind my teeth in fury. Damn Padmé Amidala! Does she have any idea how much she's fucked up my plans? I've only captured glimpses of her in these past few days, but she seems so happy, she's euphoric. She handles the press and her new attendants with grace and aplomb, looking more and more like a Queen, like the Head of State, each time I see her.

It infuriates me. In her joy, has she thought about me? Has she considered me in the least? Of course she hasn't; how can she when her every waking moment is preoccupied with preparing to take what is rightfully mine? I cannot implement my plans as Vice Chair of the Republic. I have to be the executive head. And now, the only way my plan can move forward now is if Padmé Amidala is removed.

The thought only causes more turmoil.

I have to remove Padmé.

Abruptly, I turn, moving with purpose toward my ship.

The inauguration is tomorrow. The quickness of it is unseemly, but the Republic is leaderless; ripe for an attack in face of its lack of direction. The hastiness of the event is better to be had than a government without a commander. I will do it soon. Now is the time. Although the Republic seems pleased with Amidala's election, it can be easily handled in the face of the current political climate. The people are still on edge. They approve of Amidala because she is forceful, steadfast and wise. However, the people are little more than snakes. At the first hint of a problem that they think she can't handle, they will turn on her.

I don't want to go that route. When she becomes my Empress, she must be able to hold her head up high. That can't be done if she is run out of office due to false and fearful accusations of incompetence. No, this must be done in private. She has to abdicate the position to me and for that, I must force Amidala's hand.

She won't give up her power simply because I ask her; I'm going to have to take … unfortunate measures.

"Maul," I say quietly, amber eyes glowing in the night. "Contact Zam Weasell. Tell her that I require her services."

#*#*#*#*#

The inauguration will begin in ten minutes.

I glance around, but my eyes see nothing but uniformed bodies standing around me like a wall. Someone did notice my absence and much sooner than I expected. A feverish search was conducted for me and my return from Kamino found my ship surrounded by retainers, relieved that I was safe but also fearful of losing their jobs for losing me. Maul was forced to hide in the ship for hours after they finished 'debriefing' me on proper protocol for the Vice Chancellor. To say he was displeased is an understatement.

Now, the inauguration is finally here.

I haven't seen Amidala in nearly a week as it's been spent in feverish preparation of the ceremony. The crowd outside is massive, awaiting the entertainment, and what a show it will be. Even I will admit that the organizers of the event have done a tremendous job. It's true that they've been in preparation for the incoming Chancellor, but to put this spectacle together in a week is something even I can appreciate. Looks like competence does exist in this galaxy.

I, too, have been apart of the preparations, being inducted as the new Vice Chair of the Republic. Still, the nature of our roles in the ceremony are different and there was simply no time for a rehearsal, limited though it would have been. It doesn't matter, I hardly need a practice session. I merely need to be charming, which I am careful to be even as sentients rush to and fro around me. The flurry of activity is welcome, serving well to mirror the turmoil within. Getting through this ceremony is simple. What comes next is infinitely more complicated.

Soon, I am being escorted to the inauguration line. It is in a huge, open space, crawling with both private and public security. Workers run everywhere, completing last minute tasks and running checks on this and that. This year's theme is a parade. It's one that's been used in the past, but this one is different. Everything around me is white. The transportation vehicles; flowers; even the garb of the attendants. It's clear that Amidala's hand is in it. The symbolism is so thick that I could choke on it. I would dismiss it as an unimpressive and cliche ploy to signify new beginnings if it were in fact unimpressive. Too bad it isn't. I have seen more than one face filled with awe at the spectacle before them.

Even I can admit it's a sight to behold.

I enter the transport assigned to me, cognizant of the guards following in my wake. Now that I am the second-in-command of the galaxy, I am to have security with me at all times. The irony of the situation doesn't escape me. What's even more amusing is that several Jedi have been assigned to the command and from the barely concealed expressions of nausea on their faces, they are fully aware of who they're guarding.

I don't even try to hide my smirk. I wonder how the Jedi feel about this whole election. I've become virtually untouchable, since they have no evidence on me and since I am now the Vice Chair of the Republic. If only they knew that this is the beginning of their worries. More hell is forthcoming.

A commotion nearby draws my thoughts and my eyes narrow as the doors swing wide. Amidala is coming. The noise continues until finally, a group breaks away from the door. Guards flow around a pale form, and that's when I lay eyes on her.

My eyes widen against my will.

She is stunning.

Unlike her usual intricate attire, today, she is in a beautiful, but simple white dress. She wears the minimum amount of make-up and has nothing adorning her head. My face is impassive as I look upon her, even as I struggle to remain unimpressed. This is an intelligent move on her part. Most of her garb has been reminiscent of her time as Queen of Naboo. Even as a senator, she wore elaborate clothes that signified her detachment from the common evils of the senate while also acknowledging her Nubian roots.

Now, she has shed all of that. No one has ever seen her this open, this unburdened. She stands before the Republic bare, without an affiliation. She is no longer Queen Amidala or Senator Amidala; she is Padmé.

She is brilliant.

I can't help but feel pride and anger in equal measure. She is a credit to me, while simultaneously being the bane of my existence. It's an interesting and unwelcome dichotomy.

Then, our eyes meet and the world stops. There is so much in her eyes that I cannot follow, cannot distinguish between the emotions careening through the chocolate orbs. Our gaze breaks as she continues past my transport to her own, one speeder ahead. My gaze burns a hole into her head as she enters and settles down. But she doesn't turn around to look at me. Of course, she wouldn't. She is the Supreme Chancellor.

My eyes narrow before I paste a pleasant smile on my face and continue to watch the attendants fly around seeing to last minute details, but inside, I burn. She's so beautiful, so perfect, and I hate her.

I hate her.

Suddenly a horn sounds. The procession has begun.

I wait in silence as the parade begins to move. Amidala and I are toward the back, and quite a few groups precede us. There are several performances that are apart of the inauguration; representatives of the clone army, showing a remarkable display of military might; famous dancers, singers and the like. There are artists, displaying their talents in the most brilliant of ways; in light and hologram displays. There are several people of political importance present, including representatives from all the legal bodies of the Republic; the Office of the Supreme Chancellor, the Supreme Court, and the Galactic Senate. The Jedi have also provided a contingent for the procession.

It's nearly twenty minutes before we move, and I spend every second staring at the back of Amidala's head. I hope she can feel it, I want her to feel it. I smirk as she shifts minutely, a sure sign that she's annoyed with me. It's childish and small, but it will stop her from being nervous, which I can tell she is. After all, she is about to be thrown in front of the most critical people in the galaxy; the citizens of the Republic. I shouldn't care about her nervousness, but as stated before, I cannot have her being humiliated. She will be my Empress.

Then, we are moving into the bright light of the outside and my eyes narrow slightly before I smile and wave at the roaring crowd. There are more people out here than what I've ever seen in one place. It looks as though the whole of Coruscant showed up for the inauguration, a phenomenon that is being noted. There have been great turnouts before, but nothing like this.

Faces blur before my vision as I continue to smile and wave. The adrenaline is high, the music is loud and I can hardly hear myself think, but I love it. I love the attention, the adoration, the knowledge that I am great. Only winning the election would have made this moment better.

Then, we have arrived.

Smiling and waving, we ascend the stairs to the podium. It would be so easy to allow myself to be swept along by the feelings of hope being broadcasted from the millions of bodies packed into this square, but I don't because Padmé Amidala is the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic and I am the Vice Chair of the Republic. I have come in second, something I have not done in many, many years.

I nearly smile at two sentients I see as I crest the top of the steps and I wink at them as I near. It's Master Yoda and Master Windu and Windu's flickering eyes tell me that they saw it. I bite back a laugh as I move past them to take my place on Amidala's right. I'm not at all surprised that they're here. They hold enormous power since the Jedi are the unofficial religious body of the Galactic Republic. So as not to insult the incoming leader, the very top powers of the Jedi had to come here today, especially since the leader of the Jedi works closely with the Vice Chancellor. It's extremely satisfying that they're essentially here to honor me. No doubt quite a few of them are holding in their bile.

Amidala doesn't spare them a glance, no doubt concentrating on her steps to ensure that she doesn't make herself a galactic laughingstock; it's a good idea. Everyone quiets, inasmuch as millions of people can, when finally, gracefully, Amidala takes the final step onto the upmost level of the stage. She looks incredible in her formal wear, as she has since the ceremony began, but now she seems to be a higher being; an angel that has bestowed her grace upon humanity. The people are riveted and though I will die before admitting it …

So am I.

Her steps are slow as she moves across the stage to the podium. Her back is impossibly straight and her face is expressionless. She pauses when she gets there, her gaze slowly running over the crowd. It's amazing that it's so quiet with so many people present. It's just another indication of their sudden and intense adoration for her; it's another sign of her power. The people wait eagerly for her to speak and finally, she does. They're waiting for something epic, something uplifting, something that will make them believe that their senators voted for the right person.

But she doesn't give them any of that; she gives them Amidala.

"Valorum," she begins with upmost gravity, "was a shitty leader."

Everyone freezes, including myself. My eyes widen to nearly painful proportions as I process exactly what she said. Did she just …?

Then, comes the amusement. It's so hot and heavy that I struggle not to laugh aloud especially as the reactions of those around me begin to manifest. Fuck, but Amidala has bigger balls than most of the politicians here. And it's hilarious.

"The Republic's economy is fucked, our school systems are worsening, and there is increasing unrest amongst all peoples of the Republic," she continues, her voice never wavering. "Our relations with our allies are the opposite side of healthy and because of that, we are losing sovereignty over issues, policies, and procedures that should fall under the jurisdiction of the government. If that's not enough, we are on the brink of war with a conglomerate that is so powerful, it has its own representation in the Senate. The situation with them has only worsened in the light of their belief that I killed their leader."

The silence continues to reign even as some around us begin to sputter. I eye them for a moment returning y attention back to Amidala. Her speech is already breaking all types of conventional rules, not to mention those of propriety and polite mannerism. Not only is she cursing on the intergalactic holonet, but she's discussing, however generally, matters of state that are not only harmful to her, but whose investigation is still ongoing. That she's doing it, and so boldly, is throwing everyone for a loop.

Amidala smiles faintly before beginning again. "I know that this is not what you were expecting to hear today. You want me to tell you how good things are, how wonderful the Republic is, how I'm going to wave a magic wand and fix everything. I'm not going to do that. If you want a leader who's going to lie to you, or mislead you, then impeach me now, because I won't do that to you." She pauses and looks around, and my fists tighten at the absolute silence that reigns.

"This is what I will tell you; I want to fix this economy, but I need your help to do so. I want to improve yours schools, and your lives; but I need your help to do so. If you want environmental protections to stay in the hands of those who are looking out for your best interests instead of those who are trying their best to relax regulations so they can fuck up your air and water while absolutely ensuring that theirs is the cleanest on their respective planets, then I need you."

She pauses, her words fading even as the force of them, the passion in them continues to echo through the square. I can't see her eyes, but I know they are shinning in the way that they only do when Padmé appears. If those eyes are capable of captivating the audience as much as they captivate me, then they are fucked beyond belief.

"I am one person and though I will work as hard as I can to improve our relations with our allies, our standing in this galaxy, I cannot do it alone. You have a voice, you have power and you must use it. And I need you to do this by electing people who give a shit."

She pauses again at the new outbreak of surprise at her words. They did not expect her to ask for their participation, when so many in the past have simply giving speeches thanking the people for electing them.

"We can improve the Republic," she says quietly. "We can. It's not a faraway dream or an ideal that is unattainable. This can happen. But it can't happen without you. This is your government, your lives, so take some fucking possession of it! Own it. Don't allow yourself to be powerless, because you're not. You've never been powerless!"

I can only watch as her words stir up the fire within the people. How does she know exactly what to say, that so many of them have indeed been struggling with the feelings of helplessness, of powerlessness? Does she know how much her words are inspiring them?

"I need you to trust that this can happen, I need you to trust yourselves! And finally, I need you to trust me. Every single one of you are precious. Every single one. Your lives matter and you deserve to live a life of peace and happiness. Allow me to be the one who leads you to an era of prosperity!"

I nod in an effort to show solidarity with her, even as the people begin to scream in excitement and joy.

"We are the Republic," she says fiercely, eyes piercing and brown, an almost inhumane glow, "we are capable, we will flourish, we will be strong! And I promise you this, for as much as I am able; if you elect people who care about you, people who will work with me, I will make things better for you. You will hold your heads high and once again feel pride that you are part of this Republic. I will lead you to an era of peace!"

Everything is frozen as though paralyzed by her final, passionate words. Then, the explosion.

The applause is so loud, that for a moment, I lose my senses. I can't hear and my vision wavers.

Amidala's arms open wide, as though embracing everyone, and the noise, if possible, only escalates. I am amazed by how she has manipulated and controlled the masses, I am impressed by how much love she has inspired in them, I feel the most unwelcome sense of pride in how she has turned their fear and distrust into hope, not just for the Republic but for her.

I say nothing, merely nod at her graciously.

Whatever my plans, I will not ruin this moment for her. Not here, not how.

The conflict will come later, but for now, this joy is hers.

A calm before the storm.

#*#*#*#*#*#

She's here. Amidala is here.

Padmé is once again standing in the hallway in front of my apartment, waiting for me to open the door. A small part of my mind observes that she is still in her inauguration formal wear. She came straight here after being inducted as the leader of the Galactic Republic. How the hell did she get here without the entourage that is surely mandated to protect her? Personal visit or not, she should have a guard, which means that she slipped them and all to see little 'ol me.

How humbling.

I stare at her through the viewing screen, a war waging within me. There is a vicious anger, growing steadily within me since the election was announced a week ago, demanding that I punish her for her impudence in challenging my authority, my reign. Then, there is another part, a quieter, unfamiliar part of me that whispers, "no." Perhaps that part of me knows the things that I have planned for her. Maybe it knows that in a few moments, I will tear down everything that we built. Maybe it knows that after this, there is no turning back.

It makes me hesitate. Will I do this? Do I want to do this?

Finally, I move to answer the door. Amidala walks into my quarters with a step that would seem confident to most, but is seen for what it really is by someone who knows her; nervousness, fear. She is afraid.

"So, I won the election," she states without preamble, eyes meeting mine steadily.

I nod but say nothing. Silence reigns for several long moments and I can see her growing agitation at the stillness before she snaps.

"I know you're not happy about this, Anakin," she says, voice firm, but eyes beseeching. "I know you're upset, but your career isn't over. You're now the Vice Chair of the Republic. This wasn't a loss for you. I know I'm a complete bitch for saying this, because I probably would've become a monster if I hadn't won —" she pauses and shakes her head. "But if we stick together, we can make changes for this galaxy that we both want. I'm sure we can work this out somehow, Anakin. We just need to stay together." Her breath comes out in a loud exhale as she finishes her frantic speech.

Her gaze is warm as she looks at me, but her words leave me cold. She wants to stick together, huh? She wants us to 'work together'? She wants me to be the slave to her master? She wants to lord over me as the Supreme Chancellor whilst I remain in the shadows as her lackey? The rage in me starts to spasm. How dare Amidala. How dare she speak such words to me!

But there is something within, something peculiar that is tempering my fury. There is another voice, and it refuses to be ignored. Suddenly, her words sound different: Amidala wants to be with you. She doesn't want to fight. She wants you close to her. She believes that she can accomplish much with you. And as I stare down at her, time slows down.

That's when I feel it.

The Force.

It's sudden, heavy, and sharp. The Force is so strong, that I can see it, smell it, feel it. That's when I know. Now is it. Now is the moment of my decision, the point where the two roads diverge. At this moment, I can congratulate Padmé, make love to her and take my place as her subordinate. Or I can move forward with my vengeance by destroying the Jedi and … her heart.

And then, like sun breaking through the clouds, illuminating a dark place, it becomes clear to me. This was never a war between the Jedi and the Sith, but between Ashla and Boga, between the Light and Dark Side of the Force. They both want me, both beckon me. For the long years of my life, I've known Boga, the Dark Side. We have walked together, moved together; been as one. It has been my constant companion, my family when I had no one. Even now, the familiar inky bitterness of the Dark Side calls to me, but Ashla … the Light promises something I've never before had: peace. And for once in my life, I hesitate.

Padmé is silent and still as I stare at her. I close my eyes, wondering if Padmé can sense my internal struggle. I can do it, I can do it now. I can fold her into my arms and spend the rest of the night divesting her of the robes adorning her body. But … But …

But I'm not. I know what I'm going to do. I've known it since the day I started this journey, since the day I accepted the Dark Side. I knew as a young boy, caged in the depths of Sidious's lair, that I would see my rage through to the end.

I cannot let go of my hate. I can't. I've had it for so long. It's all I've know for many, many years. And I just can't

Who is Anakin Skywalker without hate? Who am I if I let go of what has been holding onto me as long as I can remember? And suddenly, what Ashla offers is terrifying. It's a wide, vast, sea of the unknown. It's a leap that I'm incapable of taking. It shames me to the very depth of my being, but it's an act of faith that I am too scared to make.

So, I will cling to my hate. I won't let this … this … thing with Amidala stop my life's work. My journey will end as it has began; with the Dark Side of the Force.

Finally, I open my eyes.

"Yes, Padmé," I answer, slowly walking to her, "we will work this out."

I stop in front of her, the top of my shoes meeting hers. "You will meet my demands or your family will pay the price," I continue quietly, eyes beginning to amber as I allow the Dark Side of the Force to fill me. I do this purposely because if I don't, I will allow the look in her eyes to sway me and I cannot be swayed.

"What are you talking about, Anakin?" she asks, head cocking as she stares at me.

"I mean, that you're going to abdicate your position as Supreme Chancellor to me, or I'm going to eliminate your family," I reply, neither my gaze nor my voice wavering.

"You're joking," she says incredulously, stuck between disbelief and a growing concern. Amidala has good instincts, and they're telling her to take me seriously. She should.

I don't answer her, rather, I indicate the huge monitor over the fireplace. It only takes a second for the screen to come up. My gaze remains on her and I refuse to look away. I have chosen this course, and I will not take the coward's way out and avoid her gaze, avoid her. It feels as though a sickness is burgeoning in my belly, but I ignore it. All it does is show me that I've lost focus. It is time to regain it.

I know when it finally happens, when the screen shows Zam Weasel and her crew. They are hidden outside of the Lake House where her parents are seen sitting at a table in front of the window. Weasel and her crew have their blasters at the ready and the bone-chilling emotionlessness of Zam Weasell's face, the eagerness on the face of her men, are clearly seen.

I know it because she freezes. It's a total stillness. Everything has stopped inside of her; her thoughts, her breathing, even her heart. And her face … I clench my teeth at the array of emotions flitting across her face before abruptly shutting down. For a second, she looked … she looked … devastated. But it was more than that. There isn't a word to describe that look. It looked like an immediate drop into the worst kind of hell. It looked like betrayal, and a keen shattering … it looked like destruction.

I take a deep breath and the sickening feeling grows.

I don't have to explain the significance of Zam Weasell's presence there. I know for a fact, that Amidala has encountered Weasell's handiwork in her Karmacide activities.

Weasell's resume of death and destruction is well documented. She'll do anything for the right price, murdering the rich, the poor, the guilty, the innocent or men, women and children. Credits are her god and she is a most diligent worshipper. She will kill Amidala's family in a second, without any hesitation, and all because of the obscene amount of credits that were transferred to her account a few days ago.

I watch as Amidala slowly shakes her head. She takes a deep breath and then another and I know that she is trying to center herself. She has not expected this, did not know that this visit would disintegrate so quickly. But by the time she turns back to me, her face is carefully expressionless and I can't help but feel the tiniest, unwelcome surge of pride. Amidala allows nothing to phase her for long, a worthy trait in a ruler.

Truly, she is a fitting partner. I know she is hurt now, but once she is made Empress of my Empire she will get over this. She will see that this was necessary to gain more, so much more. She will have more power as a sovereign Empress than as an elected Supreme Chancellor. She will still be able to shape this galaxy as she wants. As long as she says nothing about my destruction of the Jedi and as long as she adheres to me, she will have wealth and power beyond her imaginations. My Force visions in Naboo can still be true.

They can still be true.

"Anakin," she begins, voice steady. "If you tell me this is a very poor joke, I'll believe you. If you stop this right now, we can both forget that this ever happened."

I pause and stare at her, more than a little surprised. Amidala is not the 'forget and forgive' type person and for her to overlook something like this … it's nearly mind-boggling. It nearly makes me want to concede.

Nearly.

"I think you know that this is not a joke," I say, tilting my head at her. "Zam Weasell was eager to take this request. Actually, she expressed some surprise that a job targeting your family hadn't come along before now. Your Karmacide activities would definitely have made them targets eventually." I shake my head as she blinks. Surely, she knows this to be true.

Her eyes grow blank and the burgeoning in my stomach only increases, feelings of nausea attempting to gain a foothold.

"You're really doing this," she murmurs, her eyes fixed on a point on the floor. Her voice is so low, I'm unsure if the words are meant for me. I answer anyway.

"I am," I reply, eyes never leaving her.

She takes another breath, smaller this time, and I can't help but wonder what she's thinking. I know she's trying to figure out how to get out of this, but it's an impossible feat. I've won. Now, it's time for her to concede gracefully.

There is a long moment of excruciating silence before she speaks again.

"Perhaps you should rethink attacking everyone in that house," Amidala says finally, neutrally, nodding toward the screen.

I cock my head slightly. "And why is that?" I ask silkily. She's stalling and there's absolutely no reason to. There is no possible way for Amidala to get her and her family out of this situation.

She walks to me and gently takes the com from my hands and enters a frequency. The monitor splits as her mother immediately answers. Jobal Naberrie's face is full of nearly unbearable excitement and glee.

"Padmé! My precious girl!" she nearly shouts in happiness. "My daughter is the Supreme Chancellor. Oh, Padmé!" Mrs. Naberrie pauses, her eyes brimming with tears as she stares at her daughter in awe. "And Anakin! Of course you would be with her, celebrating. Goodness, I am so happy." She clasps her hands together and closes her eyes, her joy radiating through every part of her body.

My face is stoic, even as an unwelcome sting of regret at the horrid irony runs through my body. I don't look at Amidala. I don't want to see the look on her face, to see her endure the cruelty of reality.

I'm ruining this for Amidala. My actions are hurting her. They are hurting her so badly. And each moment that this progresses, I know that this will not end as nicely as I want, that the battle to regain her after this will be the most difficult task I have ever attempted. But I can't stop. I can't stop. Perhaps it was foolish of me to think that I could control the Dark Side. Perhaps I did what I always said I would not: I immersed myself so deeply that now I cannot turn back, even though a steadily growing voice is telling me to stop. I'm going to to fulfill my hate, but I'm going to lose Padmé.

"Mother," Amidala says, her voice as flat as the colors of Tatooine's deserts.

Jobal frowns and a great deal of her joy instantly fades at her daughter's tone. "Padmé," she asks in concern, eyebrows furrowing, "are you okay?"

Amidala doesn't even try to smile and I know that this is killing her. Never before has her mask fallen so completely. Never before has she been unable to produce a smile to allay fears, however false. The twinge in my gut grows stronger. Fuck this whole fucking situation.

"It's fine, Mother," Amidala replies robotically. "Would you please bring our guest here? It's time."

Jobal's frown only deepens as her joy fades completely. Her gaze darts between Amidala and me before nodding slowly. "I'll go and fetch her," she murmurs softly.

Amidala nods imperceptibly.

I stare at her as Jobal Naberrie disappears and Amidala returns my gaze. I am disturbed by the emptiness I see there but I do not allow it to sway me. This is war and I must not waver.

Soon, Jobal reappears and I tilt my head to see who it is that Amidala has introduced, who it is that she think will possibly change my mind about eliminating her family.

But when the figure behind Jobal materializes, when my eyes see her face clearly and my mind recognizes it, it feels as though my heart drops to my feet.

My mother. It's my mother.

I stare at her in abject horror as she sits at the screen. Either she doesn't notice my expression or she doesn't fucking care, because her face is filled with so much happiness that it pierces through my gut like knives.

"Anakin, my son," Shmi Skywalker says, tears of joy streaming down her face. "My son. Finally."

I can only stare at her with eyes nearly blown out of my fucking head. Why is my mother on Naboo? Why isn't she on Tatooine, safe and sound where I fucking left her! Why …! Who! What the …?

My mind is frantic as it tries to process the fact that my mother is in Padmé Amidala's house, which is currently surrounded by a crew whose monstrosity is only eclipsed by me. My mom is in front of me and she is in terrible danger. And what the fuck is happening right now?

For the rest of my life, I will look back on this moment and be entirely incapable of recalling what happened after that. All I know is that words were exchanged and then, I was looking at the sole screen of Zam Weasell and her goons surrounding the Naberrie residence, our parents no longer in front of us.

The silence in the room is deafening. I am still stunned, staring at the screen. I have no idea how long I stand there before Amidala speaks.

"Zam Wesell and her crew are beasts, aren't they? I've heard more about them then I ever wanted to in my Karmacide activitie," she asks quietly, face expressionless. "They won't just kill my family, they'll kill your mom too. And messily, from what I understand."

I stand there nearly paralyzed, the haggard, but happy face of my mother emblazoned upon my memory. How? How did Amidala outmaneuver me? Did she do this on purpose? Did she know I would use her family as leverage? How did she find my mother? How, how, how?

I open my mouth and then close it a second before every last ounce of my control snaps like a sandstorm swallowing its victims whole. I turn to look at her, my rage destroying all sense of reason.

Raising my hand, I direct the Force to strangle her treacherous neck. Her eyes widen in shock, even as she claws fruitlessly at her smooth collar. I snarl in satisfaction as she fights an invisible foe and I revel at the terror in her eyes. This fucking woman has ruined nearly a decade of planning, has destroyed my life's work. She found my mom and deliberately placed her with her family, to ensure that I didn't hurt them. She's betrayed me. She's played me. She deserves this fear, she deserves this pain.

Suddenly, I frown and look down. There is a red spot burgeoning near my side. She drops to the floor even as I release her with a cry. So focused was I on my fury, that I didn't notice her grabbing a blaster. How could I have forgotten it? She always has one tucked into her tunic. But I'm almost glad for her interference. I don't want to kill her. I want to make her suffer but I will never kill her. She won't escape me so easily.

She coughs violently as she takes huge breathes. All is silent for a moment as the pain begins to rip through the drugging effect of my anger. I grit my teeth as I use the Force to access my injury. Fuck, but this hurts. It's just one more thing to keep my anger alive. I turn to look at her, fury pouring through me, but the look on her face makes my breath catch in my throat.

Tears stream down her face, but her eyes are dead.

"You never cared for me," she says hollowly, clutching her neck. Through her small hands, I can see a red, angry looking bruise, marking the place where she was violated.

"I thought ..." her words trailed off even as she looked through me. "I wanted it to be a surprise, finding your mother," she continues softly, matter-of-factly. "When you talked about her, it was clear that you loved her. I thought finding her for you would make you happy. I thought you would smile. I thought that … I thought that you would love me."

Her words strike me to the core, so much worse than the blaster bolt. I don't want to believe her. I want to believe that she's a manipulative bitch who placed my mom there to waylay me, but I can't. She's so raw, so wounded, that it's impossible not to believe her. Against my will, my anger begins to seep away and I finally see what I had not seen before in my rage.

It is to my misfortune that the Force decides to step in.

There have been moments in history where the Force actively intervened in a person's life. It's an impossibly rare phenomenon, and there are only scant examples of it. When this happens, it means that something of galactic significance has occurred or that the Force is strong with a person. In this moment, I don't know what it is, only that the Force steps in, only that It forces me to feel.

And I …

I …

I feel her love.

In that exact moment, I feel how very much she adores me.

And all I can do is stare at her with confused eyes.

All I can do is clutch my heart.

All I can do is mourn.

She loves me. She loves me so much. She loves me like the flower loves the sun, like a dry throat loves water, like the ocean loves the moon. Through the Force, I see that even if she had not won the election, she would have raged, and she would have grieved, but she would have taken solace in the fact that she had me.

I am her victory, her happiness.

She loves me.

Padmé Amidala loves me so much.

And then, it's gone. The hate, the anger, the fear that steadily lived inside of me, it vanishes. The Dark Side flees. Boga no longer overshadows me.

I feel …

I feel …

Free.

But then, for the first time in my life, the Force turns against me.

What is the opposite of love? It is it hate, fear, sorrow? No, it's not. It's heartbreak and it washes over me now, carrying me away.

She is shattered on the inside. Her joy over winning, of reaching her goal; her contentment over Gunray's death, her peace with her family; all of it is destroyed in the space of one conversation.

'Hurt' does not begin to describe how she feels. She is devastated, absolutely destroyed by my actions. She feels betrayed, used; absolutely broken. And although her face is stoic before me. She's crying on the inside. She's crying so very much.

I've never heard of the Force allowing a person to feel another's emotions, and I wish that this still remained. Because this, this is hell. It feels like she's dying.

It feels like I'm dying. It needs to stop. I have to make it stop.

"Padmé," I gasp out, even as I continue to clutch my chest. I need to stop feeling this way. I have to stop it now.

"You're a Sith," she whispers, her words hollow, "you don't know what love is."

The words strike me to the very depth of my being and I know that I've lost her. I thought I understood how Amidala felt. I thought I knew what love was, what pain was, but I didn't before this very moment. Amidala, she doesn't hate me. No, I can still feel the love. But she wants nothing to do with me. She doesn't want to love me anymore. She doesn't want anything anymore.

I raise my hand again, this time to touch her, to say something, anything to erase the lifelessness from her eyes. I thought that it was bad in the Force vision. But that was nothing compared to what I see before me. I close my eyes as her despairs beats at me through the Force. I shudder as I feel it, the impossible depths of the love that she had for me, the exchange of love with heartbreak.

I shake my head, trying to stave off the pain but it envelops me, overtaking me.

"Amidala," I gasp again, reaching a bloody hand toward her.

She doesn't say anything, merely flees. I watch helplessly as she stumbles toward the door. It's the death of our relationship, it's the cessation of our connection. It's the end of us.

But it's not. I won't let it be! She cannot leave me! I won't ever allow her to leave me! She will never withhold that drugging love from me. I must have it. I have to have it. And suddenly, I know it to be true. Now that I've felt it, I cannot live without it. I won't. It doesn't matter where she runs. Amidala could go to the ends of the galaxy, but I will always find her.

Closing my eyes, I concentrate my Force energies on healing myself. Padmé won't get away. I'll never allow her to run from me. As soon as I am able to gain my feet, I will find her. She is mine. And she will never escape.

I didn't know. I didn't realize. She tricked me, deceived me. She slithered into my life, into my icy heart without consent. It was so masterful, so seamless that I didn't even understand that she had taken residence there, not until she ripped away what was given away. But she can't. I won't allow her to. She will never be allowed to stop loving me.

Another vision of the future flashed through my eyes, broken Padmé, happy Padmé, broken children, whole children. My hands shake as I continue to heal myself.

Time passes. Night turns to morning and yet I still heal myself. It's almost over, almost to the point where I can move and hunt Amidala down.

I will find her, I will. There is no where in this galaxy that she can go to run from me. As soon as I can move, I will find her.

Amidala.

Amidala.

Padmé.

Then, I can move. Slowly, I rise, ignoring the remaining sting in my side. My eyes burn amber as I center myself. I don't give a fuck about the election, about the Jedi, or anything. Nothing will progress until Amidala is by my side again. Nothing.

I leave and soon arrive in the hangar. I waste no time in preparing to leave. It takes an unacceptable amount to finish but before long I am in the cockpit. That's when I feel a familiar presence, one that should not be anywhere near me.

Stiffening, I look through the window as a large ship bearing Obi-Wan Kenobi lands next to me. Moments later, he is making his way to me. I don't care where the fuck he came from, only that he has the fucking nerve to face me. I don't have time for this shit. I have to find Amidala. I'll deal with Obi-Wan later.

But of course, things can never be that simple. Shit always has to get worse.

"I just thought you'd like to know," Obi-Wans says loudly and evenly, without preamble, even as he stops several feet in besides my ship. "The Chancellor been kidnapped."

Everything within me stills.

My eyes slowly narrow even as they bore into his. Opening the cockpit, I stand up.

"Kidnapped?" I repeat, softly, incredulously.

He doesn't answer, only looks at me, a very un-Obi-Wan like gleam in his eyes.

"Can you tell me how the fuck that happened, Obi-Wan?" I ask softly, dangerously, as my mind begins to race. How did this happen, and when? After she left me? A swift confirmation from the Force follows and I clench my teeth in fury. So, she could have been gone for hours.

"All we know is that she insisted on an hour of privacy before submitting to her guard detail. She was outfitted with a tracker, instead, for the time being. We found it dismantled on the dresser in her bedroom," Obi-Wan squeezed the pressure points on his nose between two fingers. "When she didn't come back when she agreed to, the Jedi were alerted. It was then that we received word; she's being held by Rute Gunnay."

My gaze sharpens. The Trade Federation moved without my consent and not only without permission, but to kidnap Amidala? My face is neutral even as my blood begins to boil. I swear to the Force, that blood will flow over this, it will. Everyone that Gunnay knows will feel my wrath! "That piece of shit? Why the fuck would he dare to kidnap the new Supreme Chancellor?"

"It is being assumed that he did it to get revenge for Nute Gunray," Obi-Wan responds evenly.

I close my eyes, counting to ten before taking a deep breath and releasing it. Rute Gunnay kidnapped Amidala because he wanted revenge on her for the death of Nute Gunray.

Rute Gunnay, a vile and thoroughly unrepentant sentient, has Padmé.

I don't feel rage. No, what boils in my gut is deeper, and darker than anger. It's a rage so severe that it's quiet. It simmers below my skin like a festering wound. Padmé is back in the hands of the Trade Federation; she is once again the prisoner of those who scarred her so egregiously. Few people are aware of how much that ordeal traumatized her, of how much it changed her into the woman she is now. They don't know that it almost broke her.

I will not allow that to happen again. For daring to touch what belongs to me, for having the gall to touch what is so much higher than him, he will die.

Without a word, I jump out of my ship and begin walking toward Obi-Wan's.

"Where are you going, Anakin?" Obi-Wan asks guardedly, eyes never leaving me.

"Don't ask stupid questions, Obi-Wan," I growl as I turn to stalk toward the Jedi's vessel. "I'm going to get Amidala."

#*#*#*#*#

The security on the Trade Federation's vessel is shit.

It is incredibly easy to get onboard, and even easier to bypass the security measures put into place. The most danger that we've faced thus far is from one another. The tension that emanates from Obi-Wan's body is thick enough to cut. It could be because of the danger in our mission and the possible legal and political repercussion of our actions. Or, it could be because Darth Maul refuses to stop staring at him.

It was on a whim that I directed Obi-Wan to the place where Maul waited. Seeing Obi-Wan draw up when the Sith entered the ship was well worth the extra time to get him.

I nudge Maul and he smirks at me, well aware of the discomfort he's causing Obi-Wan. I grin at the Darthomirian Zabrak, but shake my head. As amusing as Maul's actions are, we need Obi-Wan to focus on the enemy and not us. His inattention could be fatal for us all.

He nods, and immediately quits the Force pressure. I move forward, cognizant that Obi-Wan's shoulders relax, even if it is miniscule. At least he won't be expecting us to attack at any moment. Not right now, at least.

What bothers me more is the horrible security on this ship. It's very possible it's this bad because Rute Gunnay didn't expect the Republic to respond this quickly to his perfidy. Or, it could be that Gunnay is doing this without the Trade Federation's knowledge or approval and doesn't care whether he's caught or not, so long as he can punish Amidala for her perceived crime.

Force, but I'm going to enjoy killing that shit.

It doesn't escape me that this is the second time Amidala has been blamed for my deeds. If I were a better person, I would acknowledge the chaos I've brought to her life and then do the honorable thing and dismiss myself from her life. Good thing honors means fuckall to me. All this tells me is that I've done a shitty job in protecting my possessions. This won't happen again. Ever.

My thoughts must have shown on my face, because Obi-Wan sends me an annoyingly reassuring smile.

"I'm sure she's fine, Anakin," Obi-Wan says, his voice full of confidence.

"Oh, you're sure of that?" I say sarcastically.

"Yes," he continues, ignoring my sarcasm. "I do. This is the Chancellor we're talking about."

I frown, but say nothing. Obi-Wan has faith in Amidala, and he should. But Amidala is still a person. There must be times when she want to be rescued, comforted, loved. Her competence is an enormous credit to her, but I know that it also makes people treat her as though she's inhuman. She's not. And after what she's been through, this is the last thing I want her to have to endure.

"Don't worry, Anakin. If something unexpected happens, Master Qui-Gon is standing by," Obi-Wan murmurs. "If nothing else, we will have some form of backup."

I grimace, but say nothing. While I despise the presence of any extra Jedi, Qui-Gon's presence makes Amidala safer. And she needs to be safe, right now. Everything within me is furious that she is in such danger. Just the thought of her being in Gunnay's treacherous grasp …

My eyes narrow as I pick up the pace. Obi-Wan and Maul increase their gaits without a word.

We have been in the ship for longer than I expect when we run into the first sign of opposition. They come in a large group bearing extremely dangerous blasters. So, they are aware of our presence. Any other time, I would enjoy the challenge. But now, these peons are standing between Amidala and me.

"Think you can handle this, old man?" I ask, the group moments from converging on us.

Obi-Wan rolls his eyes. "I think I'll be okay," he answers drily.

Then, our lightsabers are drawn, green and red flashing bright, and they're upon us.

I love the fight, I love using my lightsaber skills to fell my prey. It's intoxicating; the adrenaline, the look of fear in their eyes when my opponent realize how outmatched they are. It's an addictive feeling, one that I will never get tired of. What I don't like is the feeling of restless, of urgency. There is no joy in this fight because Amidala is in danger. What I also don't like is how aware I am of my acquaintances.

I refuse to admit how it feels to fight with these two; Maul, my loyal friend who has been by my side these many years and Obi-Wan, a man that I hate, but with whom I have a connection that refuses to die. Our movements flow around one another as though we've been fighting together for years. It's incredible, it's amazing … it's disconcerting. I've been fighting with Maul with for a long time; fighting well with him is to be expected. But for me to click this well with Obi-Wan is something I very much dislike.

Then, it's over. There are bodies everywhere. Only one enemy remains.

I throw Obi-Wan a querying glance. Of course he'd be the one to leave one of them alive. It's a female humanoid with green hair and light purple skin.

Obi-Wan ignores my look as he moves to kneel beside her. "We know that you have Chancellor Amidala on this ship," he sells her firmly. "Where is she?"

Smart move, but not one that I need: I can sense Amidala's presence through the Force. But knowing the quickest route to her location will make our way easier. If this sentient is a mercenary, then she'll have no loyalty to Gunnay and will simply tell us what we want to know.

As expected, the woman offers no resistance at all. "She's at the center of the ship. It's not far from here if you take the hallway to the left. Please, I just needed the money. Don't kill me." The woman trembles in fear, her pleas dissolving into sobs. Maul and I exchange disbelieving looks. Preventing myself from rolling my eyes is one of the hardest things I've done in a while, especially when I see that Obi-Wan is taken by the act. By the Force, but Jedi are so terribly gullible.

Her fear is practiced, the gleam in her eyes giving away her cleverness. She's going to attack as soon as our backs are turned. I nearly smirk. I wonder how many people she's killed with this innocent act.

"Thank you for your cooperation," I say, giving her a friendly smile. My body turns as though to walk away. Then, with a simple turn of the ankle, I twist around, lightsaber flashing as quick as lightning. Her eyes widen in surprise, a mere second before her head rolls off her shoulders.

I nod in satisfaction as I survey her body.

Done and done.

Obi-Wan is horrified. "Anakin!" Obi-Wan exclaims, wide eyes staring at the headless body. "There was no need to kill her! I incapacitated her!"

"For how long, Obi-Wan?" I ask, turning to him. I nod toward her. "Long enough for her to shoot one of us in the back?"

Obi-Wan shakes his head slowly, expression stony. "She did not have to die, Anakin."

I stare at him for a moment before letting out a quiet breath of laughter. "I'm not a Jedi, Obi-Wan," I remind him softly, almost gently. "I am a Sith. Mercy is not our way."

For the first time since we began this unorthodox rescue mission, Obi-Wan is extremely uncomfortable in my presence. It's as though the reminder of what I am has raised mental shields within him that were foolishly dropped at our familiarity. Now, that they're back up, it goes against every Jedi cell in his body to work with me. His mind is probably screaming at him to break ties with me and find Amidala on his own all the while ignoring the fact that our chances of survival and finding Amidala are much better if we stick together. The only thing that is holding our ill-advised alliance together is our history and the fact that, for some reason, Obi-Wan cannot let go of the image of the child he meet so many years ago on Tatooine.

His next words prove me right. "We don't have the time to deal with this," he says finally, not an ounce of tension leaving his body. "But you tend to your opponents and I will tend to mine."

Maul and I eye Obi-Wan for a minute before I shrug and continue down the hall. I don't have the time or inclination to fight with Obi-Wan. That'll come after Padmé is secured.

Upon unspoken agreement, we begin to run to our destination. I disregard the woman's advice earlier about the hall; she was lying. What she wasn't lying about is the fact that Padmé is at the center of the ship. We run into several more groups of opposition before we move into an area to the right of the main hallway. I pause. Amidala has been here.

My heart begins to pounds as I follow that unique sense that allows me to know where she is. Obi-Wan and Maul pound closely behind me. I don't slow down as I run, even as I brace myself for what lies ahead. If Gunnay has harmed even a hair on her head …

I stop when I reach the room, eyes widening in surprise at what I see. The room is trashed. It looks like someone took a blaster and went bat shit crazy. Glancing to the side, I see a blaster bolt laden body lying there; it's Rute Gunnay. A closer look at the room tells me exactly what happened and I can't help but smile. Whatever Rute Gunnay's ambition toward Amidala, they ended here because she escaped and then summarily killed him.

Fucking Padmé Amidala.

Of course Amidala wouldn't wait for someone to come rescue her and of course she would take matters into her own hands and escape. Of course she would never allow herself to be a damsel-in-distress.

Fuck but I love this woman.

I still as the words hit me, as everything literally stops.

I love Amidala.

I love her.

It's the very first time I've ever allowed myself to think the words, even in the depths of my heart. I know that she loves me, she's made it so clear. There was never a bold, dramatic declaration from her. No, it was a sudden and subtle happening; those words of love from her were so natural that it was like she had always said them. I accepted those words, delighted in it, in the control it gave me over her. But I never allowed myself to examine my own feelings about her. Acknowledging it would give her control over me and I could not allow that. I never returned the words or the sentiment that I knew that she wanted. It was only when I threatened her family, when I broke her heart that I was shown the depth of her love for me.

Now, it seems I can no longer deny the truth.

I love Padmé. I love her and I have never been more proud of anyone in my life.

I have to hold back a bark of laughter at the incredulity on Darth Maul's and Obi-Wan's face. My suspicion of Obi-Wan's infatuation is just that, a suspicion, but I think that Obi-Wan knows, as I do, that he could never handle someone like Amidala. It becomes clear as I watch Obi-Wan survey the destruction of the room with wide eyes. Darth Maul looks at it with grudging respect. Several bodies, besides Gunnay's, litter the room. It doesn't look like even one surface of the room wasn't ruined in some way. It's like Amidala went out of her way to royally fuck up what was once a nice room. It's carnage worthy of the Sith.

"Padmé Amidala," Obi-Wan murmurs in wonder, releasing a soft huff of disbelief. "If you ever think that you're going to ride to her rescue on a white stallion, she'll quickly disabuse you of the notion."

I smirk, not bothering to hide my amusement. For once, Obi-Wan and I can agree.

"There no need for us to linger," Maul speaks, his gaze continuing to scan the room in something like amazement. "She has escaped. She may no longer be on this ship."

I nod and we leave without delay. I try to banish the smirk from my mouth, but Maul's suspicious look tells me that I'm failing. By the Force, I'm pleased with Amidala, I am so pleased with her. As we move quickly through the ship, Maul and Obi-Wan following my lead, I can sense Amidala move further away. We must have passed one another. While we were rushing to save her, she was rushing past us to freedom.

Now that it looks as though Amidala is, at the very least, moving toward liberation, my mind moves to the one place I don't want it to go. The fiasco from earlier. While I am glad that Amidala escaped, it has poses a problem; I cannot save her and thus use that as a starting point to resolve the situation between us. Obi-Wan never spoke truer words when he said that thinking of Amidala as a damsel in distress is foolish. It's an asshole thing to think, but bursting through the doors of the room where she was captive and slaying Gunnay would have garnered me at least the basis to mend our broken relationship. Now, there is no way.

I don't know how to fix this.

It's frustrating and suddenly, I really want to kill someone. Since the moment Amidala stepped into my life, she's fucked up all of my plans. I have no fucking clue what it is about her, but she's just so … incredible. She's so amazing that it's simply been one failed plan after another. Now, even my plan to make up with her has been ruined.

Fucking Amidala.

She is my love and the fucking bane of my existence.

I smile grimly as I sense another group of dissidents heading our way. Apparently, they didn't get the memo that Gunnay is dead. It's all the better for me.

I don't say anything to my comrades as the enemy bursts around the corner. Smiling savagely, I enable my lightsaber and immediately dive into the rush.

It's … it's wonderful! Exhilarating! Exactly what I need!

I am barely cognizant of the smile of satisfaction that graces Maul's face and the contrasting frown of concern on Obi-Wan's face as I unleash.

I don't care. I am consumed by the Dark Side and I laugh as blood begins to flow, as I unleash all of my anger, my hatred and my doubt into my lightsaber. Amidala's heartbreak, her pain, fuels me and my own confusion is my motivation as I destroy those who dared to touch a hair on her head. I take a deep breath as the number of enemies begins to dwindle. Glancing around, I spot Maul and can't help but feel a tiny shred of amusement. Much like me, he is taking great joy in cutting down the enemy. He's truly a Sith after my own heart.

If only Obi-Wan could experience the joys of such freedom.

I smile as the last sentient in front of me, a male, lunges at me with terror in his eyes. I deftly avoid him, whirling around him with an almost bored air as he fights for his life. His eyes, once full of fear, turn furious at being toyed with and I can sense him battling with his need to escape with his anger at being belittled. Finally, I tire of playing with him and slash down quickly, divesting him of his left arm, then his right. He falls to the group in a heap.

I pause before finishing him off. He is writhing in agony, pitiful moans erupting from his mouth. I stare at his mutilated body for a moment before shrugging and turning to walk off.

A steely hand grabs my shoulder.

"You're just going to leave him like that, Anakin?" Obi-Wan asks, face pale. He glances at the pathetic sentient's form before turning his brown gaze back to me.

I glare at the older man, before deliberately, slowly lifting his hand off my shoulder.

"I thought you wanted me to show mercy, Obi-Wan," I sing-song with a dangerous smile.

"Anakin, why did you do this?" the Jedi asks, staring at me, face hard.

"Don't you smell him?" I ask Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan cocks his head at me quizzically.

"He smells like Amidala," I hiss, glaring at the mutilated man. "Either he was one of the men who snatched her, or he was with her while she was being carted here. It's probably the former as he's slathered in her perfume. It's her favorite one." My eyes begin to glow amber as my voice lowers.

"Since he doesn't know what to do with his fucking hands," I tell Obi-Wan sweetly, "I divested him of them. He never should have put his fucking hands on her!" I take a deep breath, aware that I'm too close to losing control. Amidala is one of my triggers and it's so ridiculously obvious, even to myself, that it's pathetic. But it's not something I can change. From now until forever, Amidala will be someone that I defend and fight for, simply because she's mine.

Obi-Wan stares at me. The disappointment and disgust is gone from his face. Now, there is only … revelation there, as though something important has occurred to him.

"You care about her," Obi-Wan says slowly, staring at me. "You actually care about her."

I frown, staring at him in surprise. "What," I say shortly, eyes narrowing.

"You're in love with her," Obi-Wan says, voice gaining volume. "You're in love with Padmé Amidala."

I continue to stare at him, mouth opening and closing as I try to form my mind around his words. I am still struggling to process the fact that I love her. I definitely don't want Obi-Wan to know about those feelings and I sure as fuck don't want to discuss them with him or Maul, especially when Maul is looking at me like I just broke the first rule in the Sith 101 handbook. Fuck, but I want to smack the shit out of both of them.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Obi-Wan," I return icily.

But he only continues stare at me, boring a hole into me as though searching for something. Then he smiles. Obi-Wan fucking smiles. And it's warm, and bright and joyful. He's smiling at me as though I just renounced the Dark Side and declared before all that I was going to the Jedi temple to devote myself to Ashla.

That's when I remember: Sith are supposed to be incapable of love. And Obi-Wan thinks I'm in love. I think I'm in love.

And it's too fucking much.

"I don't have time to deal with this shit," I say with a glare, turning away, more intent than ever in getting off this ship and getting away from Obi-Wan's smile and Maul's accusing stare. Honestly, this was a huge fucking waste of time. I should have kept my ass at home and waited for Amidala to clean house and then return to 500 Republica. Let's see if I go rescue her ass the next time she gets kidnapped.

I am storming away when a voice yells in panic, "Anakin, watch out!"

I turn and it happens in a second.

The enemy, the one that I played with, detonates a bomb on his body; the body that's right next to me. I can see the look of triumph on the sentients face just before it's blown off. Instead of being on his back, he was on his stomach. He flipped himself over, probably on the bomb switch, just to take me out.

I would be impressed if I wasn't so pissed off.

Time slows, and surprise engulfs me as the world alights. Even in the strangely slowed moment, I can feel Maul's horror at his inability to reach me, his fear of being without me. It's a strange feeling. Is Maul yet another person whose feelings I paid too little attention to?

I want to move, but the explosion is just too close.

In that moment I know: Despite everything, I don't want to die. I won't be able to see Amidala, never make love to her again. I'll never have children, never make them pancakes in the morning and watch my eldest devour them as though they're the best thing in the world. I'm going to die.

Right here.

Right now.

Then, everything goes dark.

#*#*#*#*#

When I come to, I can tell that I haven't been out long. I don't move as I use the Force to access my injuries. Miraculously enough, there seems to be nothing majorly wrong. In a moment, I realize why. Sitting up, I immediately see Maul. He crouches next me, but his gaze is elsewhere. I follow it and still as my body grows icy cold.

Lying where I was only moment ago is Obi-Wan. And he … he …

He's missing the lower half of his body.

I stand with wide eyes, unable to believe the sight before my eyes.

Obi-Wan … he saved me. How he got to me so quickly, I'll never know. But if he hadn't, that would be me.

Obi-Wan Kenobi saved my life. And now, he's … he's …

I shake my head, unwilling to voice it, even in my head. After all these years of hating him, of wanting him and his precious Order dead; after all this time, this is how it ends? This is how our saga concludes? There is no honor in this. My hatred can't be sated by this. This … this is not how this is supposed to end.

"This is not how you're supposed to die, Obi-Wan," I growl at him, unable take my take my eyes off of him. I slowly move to his side, cognizant that the bomb has destabilized this area and probably the whole ship. But I can't think about the explosions beginning all around us. All I can think about is the fact that Obi-Wan is dying. Amidala … she's going to be devastated. More heartbreak for her, more misery caused by my hand.

Force, but her life has been nothing but fucked since I met her.

But Obi-Wan smiles, he smiles, even as blood spills from his mouth and gushes from the stumps that are what's left of his legs. "Everyone dies, Anakin. I'm just glad that I'm able to do it for someone who means so much to me."

I shake my head slowly. "Obi-Wan …" I began, unable to cover the thickness in my voice.

"I'm sorry, Anakin," he gasps out, as his body begins to tremble uncontrollably. "I'm so sorry for what I did to you. It doesn't matter that it wasn't my intention. All that matters is that I made a promise to you and I broke it. For that, you suffered unimaginably, and I am so sorry."

I began to shake at his words. I don't want to hear this, I don't want to see this. I don't want to hear this apology that seems as though it's being ripped from this man's soul. I don't want to see his life's blood puddle under his body. I don't want this. I wanted to cut him down in anger, to feel the satisfaction of his end, to replay everything he's done to me and leave with the surety that I had been avenged. This, this is not what I wanted.

His bloody hand grasps my cloak. "Allow my death to give you peace, Anakin," he rasps out, even as the tremors of his body begin to cease. "Allow my death to give this galaxy peace. Just as my time ends in this life, put your hatred to an end. You can still live, Anakin. You can still be happy. Please, for me. Be happy."

His hand begins to release me. An involuntary action; he's losing strength. He is dying. I shudder as wet drops fall on his hand. I look up, wondering what the hell it could be. But there are no broken pipes, nothing that could drip water. A thought occurs to me and I reach a shaking hand to my face. My face is wet. I'm crying. I'm crying. Why the hell am I crying? This is what I wanted. I wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi to pay. So, why, why am I in so much pain?

"Please, Anakin," Obi-Wan whispers softly, his fading voice nearly indiscernible, "forgive me for the way I've wronged you. I've never, not once, forgotten you and I've never forgiven myself for failing you. So, please, forgive me. Anakin Skywalker, forgive me."

I open my mouth to answer, but no words come out. I don't know what to do. His eyes are so beseeching, just like Padmé's. I wasn't able to give her what she wanted. I wasn't able to love her like she loved me. Can I forgive Obi-Wan? Can I release my hate? Am I ready to let go of this beast that has held me captive for so long? Is it possible that I've finally tired of this malevolence? I stare into his brown eyes, so full of suffering and pain. It's agony that he's enduring for my sake, a death that he has embraced so that I may live. And there, surrounded by burning shrapnel and exploding circuity, I make my decision.

I open my mouth to speak, but my resolution comes too late.

The hand grabbing me loosens and falls. Obi-Wan breaths a last quiet breath before he stills. I feel it when his spirit leaves its non-functioning shell.

Obi-Wan Kenobi … is dead.

Obi-Wan …

He's …

He is …

Dead.

I swallow as I stare at the body, my mind blanking.

Obi-Wan is dead. I remain still for a long moment, battling nearly overwhelming emotions that rise within me like a howling wind. I feel anger, sadness, regret, fury, so many things and I can't handle it. I need to feel less. I have to feel less. So I gather the Force to me, and exhale as it flows around me like a swirling vortex. I need it to move, to get out of this failing ship. I need it to be able to think, to move forward. I need the Force to survive the way I feel right now.

I should be moving, but I sit there, holding the body that once housed Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan is gone. He's gone. I shake my head, trying to wrap my head around the notion. But I can't. Why can't I accept this? Why can't I let this body go?

Then suddenly, it's no longer in my hands, literally. Obi-Wan's body disappears right before my eyes. I'm holding nothing but clothes. Eyes narrowing in stunned disbelief, I press the clothes with a shaking hand. Have my eyes deceived me? What just happened? Where is Obi-Wan's body? How could it have just disappeared?

I turn to look at Maul with mouth slightly open. But Maul only returns my floored expression. Obi-Wan's body really is gone. Nothing remains but the Jedi's garb.

It's too much.

It's too much.

I need to leave, now.

I stand, turning to Maul. Suddenly, I feel so tired. Without a word, I begin to move, Maul following closely behind. Padmé Amidala is gone and Obi-Wan Kenobi is dead. This is where my vengeance has led me. So, what do I do now?

We are silent as we battle our way through the doomed ship. It doesn't take long before we have escaped. I don't spare the doomed cruiser another glance before I set the coordinates to return to Coruscant. I must return there quickly; I can sense Padmé's presence there.

After a while, Maul speaks. "My lord," Maul says softly, grimly, interrupting my thoughts.

"What is it?" I ask shortly.

"I have received intel that the Jedi are mobilizing their Forces in preparation to march upon us. What is your command?"

The news doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is the onslaught of weariness that washes over me. Of course the Jedi would know about Obi-Wan's death and of course they would consider me the culprit. The irony of this situation doesn't escape me. I am being accused of doing the one thing that I wanted to do, but didn't actually do. I can only imagine Qui-Gon's grief and I wonder how much of the old Qui-Gon still resides in him, if he's still the type of man who would disobey the Jedi in order to avenge his beloved student.

The inkling of an idea strikes me. Perhaps it's time to stop. Perhaps it is okay to let my vengeance against the Jedi go. After all, Obi-Wan is dead.

My hands clench at the thought, even as I begin to shake my head. The paths we choose are not so easily strayed from. The Jedi are on the move and I must respond. The Jedi will not stop just because I have a moment of weakness. They are coming to take my life.

I take a deep breath as I allow the Dark Side to fill me.

I am grateful to the Jedi. I am being weak. One Jedi's death changes nothing.

It changes nothing.

"We'll go to the Senate," I reply softly. "We would be remiss if we didn't inform the Republic that the Trade Federation is in league with the Jedi and that it is the Jedi that have kidnapped the Supreme Chancellor."

Maul nods.

I expect to feel something, now that the final showdown with the Jedi is nigh. But I feel nothing. No impending joy, no glee, no feeling of accomplishment: There is nothing.

There is nothing.

End of Chapter 35: Please review.

Chapter 36: Emperor: Shift.

A/N: It's nearly been a whole year. I honestly cannot believe it. Truly, time flies when one reaches adulthood. It's has been quite the long wait and while it was unavoidable, I still want to apologize.

Fun fact: In case you didn't know, I get an email every time someone reviews. While this is great most of the time, it has become less so with the review 'war' that is happening. That is decidedly uncool. I appreciate those who defended me. Thank you to those who understand that I have a life. Thank you to those who understand my disappointment with the patrons. Thank you to those who waited with patience and support. For everyone else, this is the way it is. Also, heads up: It makes no sense to mock others for not 'living in the real world' while criticizing the author for not updating FANFICTION enough because she is living in the real world. It's the height of arrogance to get mad at someone for not volunteering their time for something like this. Someone could have experienced a death in the family, the loss of a job, or any number of unfortunate occurrences that happen in the 'real world'. So, please, everyone, let's be civil to one another.

Secondly; Patrons, Patrons! Please PM me. That is all.

Thirdly, this chapter has been a long time coming, but finally, it's here. There's only one more chapter after this. Closure is good, yes? I hope you guys enjoy this. Please remember to review after you read. It'll assure me that my writing hasn't suffered this hiatus and that you enjoyed the development. Did you guys know that Padme would be picked as Supreme Chancellor? Yes, or no?

Finally, I'll be posting the first chapters of a couple new stories including another Star Wars fic and a Harry Potter fic that is my baby, lol. I'm not sure if I'm going to post it on this site, AO3, or my site. Stay tuned, I'll let you know via Twitter. Be well, guys! Don't forget to review.