"'Til Death Do Us Part"

STANDARD DISCLAIMER/CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: The characters belong to George Lucas. The song that inspired it belongs to Madonna, though I am not sure who wrote it. If you want the truth, I am not convinced that she knows how to write. The lyrics to the song follow the fic, if you're interested.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have tried to write this fic so that it could fit into either the GL Universe or my own AU in which Anakin never turns.

"Come, Padmé," Sabé coaxed. "Anakin will be home soon. Don't you want to be beautiful for him?" Padmé gave her a bitter smile.
"What is the point?" the Queen asked her handmaiden. "You have seen how it has been between us lately. Ever since Tatooine, when his mother was killed… ah, it is like he is a different person." Sabé shrugged.
"It is grief," she said, though her voice lacked conviction. Padmé shook her head.
"No, it is more than grief. He has closed himself off from me, from Obi-Wan, from everyone… he has become so distant and cold. I sometimes fear he is turning to someone else for solace."
"You believe he is having an affair?" Sabé asked, surprised.
"No, I do not. But I almost wish he were, Sabé. I think the truth is something far more… sinister. It is as though all that is good in him is slowly dying."
Padmé thought back to her last conversation with Anakin. He had promised to return to Theed for the annual commemoration of the Battle for Naboo, but she had sensed impatience in him, as though the celebration were nothing more to him but an onerous duty undertaken out of a sense of obligation rather than true desire. And he knew, he knew that this was the most difficult time of year for her, for it was also the anniversary of the loss of her entire family. For the first time ever, he seemed indifferent to her grief; in fact, she was almost convinced that he was annoyed by it.
Sabé shook her head sadly. Even as she convinced Padmé to eat something and to give a bit of thought to the arrangement of her hair and the jewels she would wear, the handmaiden knew that all was not well in her dearest friend's marriage. There had been too many fights, too much muffled sobbing from the Queen's apartments for Sabé to fool herself. And she had witnessed firsthand many examples of Anakin's erratic, often frightening behavior. At times, she feared for her friend's safety.

Their reunion had begun on an indifferent note and deteriorated steadily from there. Anakin had strode off the transport from Coruscant alone, virtually ignoring Obi-Wan and Palpatine. His kiss had been perfunctory, his hug less than enthusiastic. All in all, he had the air of a man who had other places he would rather be. Later, in the privacy of the royal apartments, she made the mistake of questioning him on his newfound indifference and his strange behavior.
"Do not question me about this again, my wife!" Anakin thundered in a dangerous tone.
"B-b-but Anakin…" she stammered. He whirled, stalking through their bedchamber to stand inches away from her.
"I will not hear another word on this!" he raged, bending so that their faces were close together. His face was black with a rage that seemed to Padmé to be totally out of proportion to the situation at hand. She had, after all, only asked him what troubled him so.
"I love you, Anakin," she told him quietly. "Can't you see that? That is why I worry for you."
"You must not trouble yourself on my account," he said bitterly. "As a Queen, you must have more important things to occupy your thoughts."
"Anakin, how could you even think such a thing?" she asked, truly shocked.
"I can think it because it is true," he retorted. "I am nothing to you, to anyone of importance. I am an insignificant slave from an insignificant planet. No one would have given me a second thought had not Master Jinn believed me to be the Chosen One. I was rescued from a life of slavery and certain death by his ambitions, not for my own worth. Not because I deserved to live free like any other human being." She flinched from the self-hatred in his voice.
"Oh Anakin," she said, tears flooding her eyes. "Even if what you say is true, it does not diminish your worth, not in my eyes or in the eyes of anyone else who matters." She tried to take his hands, but he pulled them out of her reach.
"Don't," he said, turning away. She clutched at his sleeve.
"But Anakin - " she began. When he moved, it was with the lightening speed of a Jedi, much too fast for her eye to follow. She only realized that he had struck her when she felt her head snap back. "Anakin," she whispered, shocked. Convinced there was something very wrong with him, she moved towards him to offer comfort. He hit her again, this time hard enough to make her see stars. Gasping, she brought her hand to her mouth. It came away red with blood. Her eyes widened. For a long moment they stood staring at one another, breathing heavily, eyes locked. Finally, Anakin allowed his eyes to drop. He turned away almost guiltily, but made no move to apologize or explain. Still holding a hand to her bleeding mouth, Padmé walked out of the bedchamber.

Obi-Wan found her in the Palace gardens, wandering alone up the cobblestone path.
"I sense a disturbance," he said gravely, coming up behind her. She did not turn at the sound of his voice.
"In the Force?" she asked bitterly.
"No, in the happiness of this home, of your marriage." Finally, she turned to face him. That was when he saw her split, puffy lip and the dark purple bruise on her cheek.
"What is happening to him, Obi-Wan?" she asked in a pleading tone. "What is happening to my husband?" The Jedi reached out. She flinched when his fingers gently touched her bruised cheek.
"I do not know, Padmé." Tears filled his blue-green eyes. "I wish I did."
"Oh Obi-Wan," she moaned, collapsing into his arms. He held her for a long moment, gently stroking her hair. "He is a different person."
"I know," he whispered. "It is like he is being taken over…" Her head snapped up.
"Yes!" she exclaimed excitedly. "Yes, that's it exactly! Are we the only ones who sense it?" Obi-Wan sighed.
"I think Master Windu knows something is amiss. But the rest of the Council? I don't know, Padmé. It always seems that they have more important matters to think on." She laughed bitterly.
"Yes, it does seem that way, doesn't it? They had more important matters to consider than the situation on Tatooine, that much is certain. And look what happened." She glanced at her chrono. "My goodness, is that the time? The banquet will begin soon. I must go see to my make-up." Obi-Wan gave her a sad smile.
"So, life continues on as always," he said. She sighed.
"What else can we do, Obi-Wan, if he will not allow us to help him?" He shrugged as she continued. "I have my duties to think of, you know. Whether or not I like it, I must keep up appearances. The façade of the perfect Royal marriage must not be allowed to crumble." He nodded. Members of the Jedi Order knew all about keeping up appearances.
"I will see you at the banquet, then," he said softly, raising her hand to his lips and kissing it.
"Thank you, Obi-Wan. Thank you for listening and understanding. Together, perhaps we can bring Anakin back to himself."

Sabé sat at her dressing table, brushing out her long brown hair. She could not keep her thoughts away from Anakin's behavior at the banquet earlier. He had been rude and surly. He had consumed far too much wine, later embarrassing all present with a bizarre, alcohol-fueled angry outburst directed at Padmé. The door chime sounded, and Sabé knew who it had to be.
"Come in," she called. A moment later, Palpatine walked into her bedroom. "I am so glad to see you," she said, rising to embrace him. "I am so worried for Padmé." She felt him nod.
"As am I," he agreed, his arms around her tightening their hold.
"But what can we do?" she asked, looking up at him. He smiled sadly.
"Be there for her when she needs us," he answered. She nodded. They were silent for a moment. Finally, Sabé spoke.
"I fear that Anakin is going mad," she said flatly. Palpatine sighed.
"I must admit, that thought has crossed my mind more than once," he admitted. "Grief can do strange things to a person."
"That bruise on her cheek - " Sabé began.
"Yes, I saw it," he replied.
"She has no family, no one to stand for her," Sabé said sadly.
"She has us," Palpatine said firmly. "And Obi-Wan."
"Obi-Wan is not Naboo," she reminded him.
"Is that so very important, darling?" he asked softly. She was taken aback by the question.
"Well, it's - " she began.
"You STUPID BITCH!" Anakin roared. From the Queen's apartments next door they heard Padmé's scream followed by several crashing sounds. Palpatine and Sabé exchanged a glance, then broke their embrace and ran for the door.

Padmé's would-be rescuers were relieved to see her in the hallway, shaken up but evidently unharmed.
"May I come in?" she asked, sounding subdued. With tears in her eyes, Sabé all but dragged the Queen into her apartments, where she smothered her in a crushing embrace. She felt Padmé's small body shake with sobs. "I do not know… what have I done, why is he so angry?" Her questions were incoherent and did not demand answers, but then, Sabé had none to give. The door chime sounded, and Sabé glanced at Palpatine, who went to answer it. He was not very surprised to find Anakin standing there.
"Oh it's you," Palpatine said, not bothering to mask the contempt in his voice. "Look, Sabé, look who's here. It's the brave Jedi Knight who proves his courage by hitting his defenseless wife. You must outweigh her by how much, Anakin? A hundred pounds at least." Padmé tore herself away from Sabé and positioned herself between the two men.
"Please, Chancellor, don't provoke him," she begged, fearing what her unpredictable husband might do.
"It's all right, Padmé," Anakin said, sounding chastened. "I came to say I'm sorry… I just…" He looked at her, his eyes filled with confusion. Palpatine was unimpressed.
"I think you should leave, Anakin," he said coldly, moving so that he stood between Anakin and his Queen. Sabé walked over to stand next to him.
"Leave this apartment, or leave the Palace?" Anakin asked.
"I would prefer the latter, but I will settle for the former."
"Look, Palpatine - " Anakin began, making no move to leave.
"Do you need a compliment of guards to help you find your way back to Her Majesty's apartments?" the Chancellor asked sarcastically. "It can be arranged, you know."
"OK, I'm leaving. But not until I tell Padmé how sorry I am for losing it the way I did."
"I am told that men who hit their wives are always sorry afterwards. That is, until they do it again," Sabé said icily. Anakin made one more attempt.
"Padmé," he said, trying to peer past Palpatine and Sabé to see his wife. "Do you really want to stay here? Come to bed with me and I'll make everything up to you, you'll see." Everyone was silent for a moment while Padmé thought about it.
"No, Anakin," she finally said. "I think I had better stay here for now."
"You heard her," Palpatine said, moving forward to push Anakin out of the apartment. "Go away."
"All right, but I really am sorry," Anakin insisted as he left.
"Yes, yes," Palpatine agreed sarcastically, shutting and locking the door behind Anakin.
"I am proud of you, Padmé," Sabé said, embracing her friend again. "I think he is mentally unstable."
"Perhaps," Padmé agreed. "I do not know. But I do know that he needs my help."
"And who will protect you from him in the meantime?" Palpatine asked, spreading his hands expansively. "I am no Jedi."
"If he… if things get worse, I will file for divorce," Padmé said, but her voice lacked conviction.
"I wish I could believe that you meant that," Sabé said.
"I will leave now, Your Majesty," Palpatine said, bowing to her. "It would not be proper for me to remain with you here."
"I care not what is proper, Chancellor," Padmé said, taking his hand. "Though you are no Jedi, I would feel better if you stayed." He nodded his head in an abbreviated bow.
"As you wish, Your Majesty."
"Come," Sabé said, taking Padmé's hand. "I will make up the bed in the guestroom for you. You need to get some rest."
"Yes, Sabé," Padmé said obediently. As she allowed the handmaiden to lead her towards the guestroom, she could not help but glance over towards her own apartments and wonder if Anakin would be all right.

FINIS.