Author's Note: So, since there isn't anyone out there still reading this, I know this isn't highly anticipated, but I haven't given up on this story. I know that it's been a while, but I hope that anyone out there who might still be reading it is still enjoying it. I'm sorry that the chapter is short, it was a good place to end it. Alright, I've been at work all day and I am exhausted, but I had to finish writing this, so forgive me for the mistakes! Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Warning: Language, OOCness, Unbeta'd.
Word COunt: 4,618
This was a much bigger mess now than it was the first time around.
The war hasn't been officialized yet by the Republic, but they are still gathering their assets to go to war. Such as anyone with any sort of military experience to take over as Admirals on Warships. The Republic hasn't been in a war for so long that even someone with questionable military experience is put in charge of entire armies. It isn't exactly an ideal choice, but it's unfortunately what they have. Which sucks. But Anakin once told her that "you only get experience after you need it" and that's going to be the galaxy.
Well, the Republic is going to learn as it goes. Hardly anyone within the Separatist army is organic. It's comprised almost entirely of droids. Tactical droids that run scenarios and plans accordingly. They don't have a lot of adaptabilities, but they are able to run scenarios with hyper lethality and they don't have to worry about morality getting into the way of their missions. They aren't like people in that manner. They don't have feelings, and they don't have to worry about anything other than their prerogative.
That's part of the reason that they are so dangerous. They don't care about casualties. It doesn't matter who gets hurt.
The people of the Republic are going to learn that very soon. And it's going to be on the bodies of a lot of innocent lives.
The thought of it breaks Padme's heart. But there isn't anything that she can do. Not yet at least as everyone prepares for the war that no one in the higher echelons of the government will acknowledge is happening until it's too late for the people. She's spent many days awake, thinking about what to do next.
On the trek back to Naboo, Anakin and Padme traveled in relative silence. It was once they jumped into hyperspace that Anakin reached over and took her hand. Padme smiled at him but neither really spoke. It wasn't until they were about halfway to Naboo when a thought had occurred to her. She asked Anakin if he could pull the ship from hyperspace. That as much as she would love to go to Naboo, and they still could, there was somewhere she wanted to go first.
So they went to Tatooine.
Anakin was happy to go and Padme felt great as they parked outside the Lars farm and Shmi came running out to see them, looking so much better than when they left and was feeling so much stronger. It was after they had settled in for the night that Anakin took Shmi aside and told her about Padme and him. She acted surprised, although Padme's sure that Anakin could tell that she had figured it out, and she hugged and kissed on him, then shared the love with Padme, welcoming her to the family.
"So, you guys were on the way to Naboo to get married?" Beru asks, pulling Padme from her thoughts as they all sat around the dinner table. Beru lays down some bread before taking her seat next to Owen.
"We were," Anakin admits. "Padme stopped us halfway. In our excitement, we didn't think we were going to invite anyone."
Feeling like they needed a bit more clarification, Padme adds, "It's not illegal for us to marry, but it isn't exactly something that would be looked upon fondly. Anakin is a Jedi and has sworn himself to the Order, and I am a Galactic Senator. Our love is... different and some would consider it wrong for us to be together. This marriage was going to be private and under the radar." Anakin takes her hand and gives it a squeeze.
"It was," Anakin agrees, turning steel blue eyes to his mother's identical ones. "and it still sort of will be, but I want you there, mom."
Shmi smiles, clutching at her chest while her eyes brim with happy tears. "I would love to be there."
"It's going to be a bit of a rush, but we can do it here," Padme says.
Anakin frowns at that. "I would rather not."
Padme rolls her eyes. "We can legalize it in the Republic at any time. I know Tatooine isn't your favorite place, but your mother is here and we don't want to drag everyone away from the farm to Naboo just to drag them all the way back."
"They might not mind," Anakin says, childishly. He shrugs his shoulders. "I secretly think that everyone wishes they could leave Tatooine at the drop of a coin."
Padme laughs, shaking her head. "Believe me, Ani, it's not a secret that you think that." That gets some murmurs of laughter around the table to accompany the clinking of silverware against plates.
"Are you saying that we are all invited?" Owen asks, half-joking. He wasn't looking at them and Padme figured he was just trying to understand where the boundaries lied in this situation. Anakin and he didn't get to really talk, either time, on where they stood. Owen thought of Shmi as a mother while Anakin was Shmi's true son. Owen's life with Shmi should have been Anakin's life with her and in some ways, Padme's sure that there is a bit of bitterness in it for Anakin. His freedom from his life in servitude to the slavers of Tatooine meant sacrificing precious years with his mother.
Shmi and Anakin are no doubt thinking the same things.
Had their lives been slightly different, there is a chance that Anakin and Owen would have grown up like brothers. But they won't know now, but that doesn't mean that they can't come to love each other as such.
Padme opened her mouth, about to affirm it when Anakin says, "Sure. We are family after all."
Anakin raises his eyes to Owen's, which stare back wide with shock, not having expected that. The two boys stare at one another for a moment. Maybe they will never be best friends - maybe they will? - but that doesn't mean that they can't be cordial and respectful of the position that they are in. It was neither of their faults that things ended up this way. And the person that connects them is also very important to them. They need to, at the very least, try to get along if only for her sake. And should they become friends and even view each other as family, then it is probably for the best.
And for Shmi, and all she's been through, pretending to be family while working to make it true seems like the least that could be done in this situation.
So they agreed in two days later, Padme, Anakin, Shmi, Cliegg, Owen, and Beru set for Naboo where Anakin and Padme were married by the lake at Padme's family's summer home. It was nice to be able to spend that time with Anakin's side of the family, to get to know each other. And it was nice to see their expressions, seeing as none of them had ever left Tatooine, except for Shmi, but she was a young girl when she was sold into slavery to Gardula the Hut and can hardly remember what life away from Tatooine was like.
It's like a well-deserved vacation for all of them. It was there that everyone was able to convince Shmi to see the personal doctor to the Nabari household and he ensured that she was healing fine and gave her some more medicine for her pain and for infections. But he seemed sure that she was strong and that she was going to be fine. Which was like music to everyone's ears.
But alas, all good times must come to an end, and Padme and Anakin were on their way back to Coruscant while Owen, Shmi, Cliegg, and Beru were on their way back to Tatooine. Anakin and Padme promised to do something more to help them when the time came. For now, unfortunately, their home on Tatooine was the safest place for them. They knew it, had established their lives there, and it was left relatively unaffected through the duration of the war. Until this war was over, all they could do was try to avoid placing any sort of unwanted attention onto Tatooine.
They will have to accept the distance for now and spend the rest of their lives trying to figure out a way to make everything better.
Padme knew it wasn't easy for Anakin to say goodbye to his mother - again. But she also knew that he knew that he was needed elsewhere. They would be reunited again, it wouldn't be too far off. Hopefully. But so long as Palpatine is on the prowl, trying to use anyone and everyone as a tool to turn Anakin to the Dark Side and turn the Republic against the Jedi, they were going to have to do all that they could to keep those they love from harm's way. It's all they could do for now, and pray that it's enough.
"Anakin, Padme, perfect timing," Obi-Wan says, offering both of them an assured nod before stepping aside and gesturing to the person standing next to him. "I would like to introduce the two of you to Asajj Ventress."
There is a moment of silence as Padme's guards and Handmaidens carry her luggage out of the transport and toward the speeder that will take them to her residence once she's finished here.
"What in the Sith's seven hells?" Anakin asks. Padme quickly jabs him in the ribs with her elbows, achieving a hearty "oof!" and a wheeze of pain from her husband next to her.
Ventress looks nothing like when Padme last recalls seeing her. She remembers Ventress bald with narrowed eyes and an angry sneer on her face. She remembers shoulders rolled back and head tilted in such a way that she was staring through long, dark lashes at the camera like it had offended her personally and she was about to tear it to shreds.
This person's face and height were similar. But her head is covered in pretty white hair almost to her shoulders with a long Padawan braid behind her right ear. Her blue eyes are sad and turned downward but not outwardly malicious. Her shoulders are pulled inward and she looks like she wants to vanish into the ground and never come out again. She looks sad and there is wrapping around her arms and throat like she's been in a fight recently. Padme can only imagine what must have happened.
But her being here must mean something. Maybe she doesn't have to be their enemy. Padme can only hope so.
Padme holds her hand out for the white-haired young woman. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Asajj. My name is Padme Amidala. I am the Senator of Naboo."
Asajj takes her hand hesitantly, giving it a little shake. "It's a pleasure..." She stops, blinks a few times before yanking her hand away and bowing her head to Padme respectfully. "Senator! Forgive my disrespect! I didn't realize that I was meeting a galactic senator!" She shoots a look Obi-Wan's way, blaming him for not properly preparing for this moment.
He rubs at his chin, curiously, offering a half-hearted shrug as an apology and nothing more.
"You don't have to be so formal, Asajj. Obi-Wan and I are friends. This is a friendly exchange," Padme says, waving her hands to try and get the girl to stand up again.
Anakin shakes his head, not able to believe this. His face is twisted in disbelief and confusion. "What...?" Padme and Obi-Wan give him sharp looks which thankfully forces him to straighten out, thankfully. He clears his throat and offers a curt little nod when Asajj stands upright again. "Um, right. I'm Anakin Skywalker."
"Anakin is my former padawan," Obi-Wan offers.
"It's... nice to meet you," Asajj says slowly, nodding a little bit. She glances over at Padme, as if not sure she wants to be as informal as Padme was offering to her, but also doesn't appear to have the energy to be able to fight her on it. "Master Obi-Wan saved my life. Forgive me if I'm a little bit out of it... I just..." she looks down at her feet, blinking quickly as a flash of pain flickers across her face. She swallows it down before looking back between the two in front of her. "I just... lost someone precious to me. I'm.. not myself. I apologize."
Instantly sympathetic, Anakin says quietly, "Feel it."
"What?" Asajj asks, creases forming between her eyes.
"Feel it," Anakin advises, staring down into those sky blue orbs. "Feel the pain and the sorrow and the agony and then let it go. Let it all go. But once you're ready. Don't bottle it up or let it fester. We are living, breathing beings that need to feel something. We have to or we'll destroy ourselves, and others." Anakin steps closer, staring down at Asajj. Her eyes are wide as she stares back, enraptured by him. "I don't care what anyone else says. We aren't like the droids we're going to fight. We are alive and it's about time we start to realize that."
Asajj blinks a few times, the pain is fresh on her face once more. She was only a year or two younger than him, but she looks like a lost child. So vulnerable and sad that it breaks Padme's heart. She didn't have a good relationship with Asajj, in fact, she rarely saw her, which was probably a really good thing, but she felt strongly for her now. It seems that a lot has gone on that she didn't know about the former assassin.
If they can help her, maybe things don't have to be so bad. Maybe there is a chance for all of them to be happy.
"We can talk later," Obi-Wan says, placing a hand on Asajj's shoulder. He shares an understanding look with Anakin, using their connection to one another to communicate with their eyes before he continues, "You and I are going to head to the Temple." He looks at Asajj, offering a thin smile. "Are you ready?"
Asajj stares at Anakin for a moment longer, before nodding to Obi-Wan. "Yes. I'm ready." The two turn and start heading off, before Asajj pauses, bowing to Padme and Anakin, before rushing to catch up with Obi-Wan.
"I wonder what happened," Padme says softly, stepping closer to Anakin. "I didn't know her well, at all. But she seemed very different than when she was with Dooku."
Anakin nods. "Yeah..." He narrows his eyes a bit. "You know, I can sense the Dark Side in her, and the pain, but it's being swallowed up by sadness. She's in pain. A lot of pain, and she feels lost. I'm not sure what exactly happened, but it seems like Obi-Wan must have gotten to her before Dooku did. I just... hope he doesn't get his hopes up."
Padme looks over at him, curiously. "What do you mean?"
"I hope he doesn't get invested in her just so that she can betray us."
Padme hadn't thought of that, but now she was worried about it too. Obi-Wan was such a good man, she would hate for him to try to save Asajj only to get close to her and have her leave him. "I hope so too."
"How do you feel?"
Asajj looks over at Obi-Wan through the long strands of white hair that separates them. Obi-Wan watches between the strands as blue eyes flicker back and forth in thought before she responds, quietly, "I don't know."
She thinks of her master, then. In her mind, Obi-Wan sees the image of Ky Narec. She sees him smiling brightly, crinkles forming around his green eyes. She sees him powerful and sure. A pillar of strength unmatched. And then she sees him dead, felled by Weequay raiders. Well, one raider in specific. In her mind, she sees him dying in her arms from a blaster wound through the back.
The pain in her heart is so strong, it sings in the Force, hurting the empathic Obi-Wan.
And the rage there too, is undeniable.
Obi-Wan forces himself to build up his mental barriers to drown out her pain. He tries to silence his natural ability and manages to distract himself by speaking and focusing on his own words, rather than the loud thoughts of the ex-assassin next to him. "And it's okay not to know. You have been through a lot in your very short life, Asajj. It's okay to be angry and confused, but you cannot allow those feelings to control you."
"I killed them because I hated them. I killed them all, that isn't the Jedi way," Asajj says, shaking her head. "The Masters would never accept me." Despair and worry blooms in her chest. "I never should have left Rattatak."
"Don't think like that," Obi-Wan says, shaking his head. "And even if the Masters don't accept you, you have a place here. With us."
She looks at him incredulously, her hand reaches up and pulls on her padawan braid as if not sure whether she should unravel it or not. Despite it being almost two years since Ky Narec died, she still hasn't quite let him and his teachings go. Even though she has taken the first steps down the path to the Dark Side, Obi-Wan can now see into her heart. She's in pain and Dooku made her feel like she had no one to blame but the Jedi. That anger was the only way for her to somehow live with the pain in her heart.
Obi-Wan hopes that by being by her side, he can show her that isn't the case. Obi-Wan isn't willing to believe that she isn't beyond saving. There were moments in their time together that he felt that there could be a connection, he might be able to reach her. And if they are trying to make things right, it would be negligent for them to ignore her.
"Why are you going so far for me, Master Kenobi?" Asajj asks in that raspy voice of hers, that lacks the malice and anger that he's used to. It's nice.
"Honestly?" Obi-Wan asks, looking over at her again, ensuring that he doesn't walk into any of the other citizens on the street before continuing, "I believe that you deserve better than what you're getting."
She stops walking and looks at him, studying his face. "What do you mean?"
Obi-Wan considers how to broach this topic, stopping in front of her. "I've seen you in a vision. I've seen your fall to the Dark Side. And I want a better life for you."
She frowns at his words, the crease between her eyes growing. "You saw me? But... does that mean I'm fated to fall to the Dark Side? There is nothing I can do to stop it?"
"I believe this is our chance. You don't have to be a Jedi to be a good person, Asajj." Obi-Want steps closer, looking down into her eyes, hoping that she would be able to sense his sincerity despite the torrent of emotions swirling around inside her. "Even if being a Jedi isn't for you, I want to help you gain the tools to succeed, because in these turbulent times, the Dark Side grows with power, and our enemy will be seeking out apprentices strong in the Force."
Asajj looks troubled by that. "I don't want to fall to the Dark Side." She grabs at the loose fabric of her dark tunic, blinking a few times rapidly. "In this vision you saw... Did I fall? And that's real? I mean, my master has told me about all sorts of abilities and had briefly mentioned visions but..."
"Force Perception," Obi-Wan supplies helpfully. "It's one of those abilities that all Force Sensitive have to differing degrees. Anakin, my former Padawan, is particularly gifted in the ability."
Blue eyes flicker over to Obi-Wan, relieved to not have to keep talking about herself and her fallen Master. "Oh? So does he have visions a lot?"
Obi-Wan shrugs. "It's not an everyday thing, but he does have it more than anyone else I've ever seen and with focus, he can even narrow down his vision to something in specific, but he still has a ways to go before he can master the ability. But..." he hesitates before admitting, quietly, "But he is the strongest person I know. If anyone can learn how to control such a powerful and unpredictable ability, it's him. I believe in him." This soft look crosses Obi-Wan's face at the mention of his ex-Padawan.
Asajj feels a small pang of jealousy, wishing that that could have been her. That her Master was alive and able to think of her fondly. She missed him dearly and while the revenge taken for his death satisfied the carnal part of her that thirsted for relief from the pain, it didn't completely cure the loneliness in her heart over the death of her master. She didn't want to just believe that people were willing to open their hearts to her and hope for the same, but at the same time, despite how strong she has tried to be all her life, she was lonely.
She didn't want to be alone anymore.
Obi-Wan feels the loneliness and yearning wash over her and he feels pity for her. They haven't been together for more than a few days, but he's seen an entirely different side to her than what he saw before. He's aware that his empathic abilities makes him super sensitive to the feelings of others and seeing as she's not completely fallen to the Dark Side and blinded by her rage, allows him to be able to peak into her mind a bit more and see her for who she really is underneath all of that.
And it's hard to ignore her pain. And he feels so bad for her. Her pain reminds him so much of the pain in Anakin when he was forced to leave his mother - and when he lost her. He knows this feeling well. He's able to also compare it to his own pain from when he lost his Master, Qui-Gon Jyn, who was like a father to him. He wouldn't wish this pain on anyone else.
Although he knows how this story goes, he knows that a lot of people are going to die in this war. A lot of people are going to feel the worst type of pain when losing someone that they love. He hates that this has to get worse before it can get better. So much worse.
"Even if I can't become a Jedi," Asajj says slowly, the vulnerability creeping into her voice as the people push past and around them not giving them a second look, "you guys still want me around?"
Obi-Wan offers her a thin smile, despite knowing who she was in the Clone Wars when left in the hands of Dooku, the person that he's known so far, he actually likes and does hope for the best for her. His feelings, they just rule him. It's hard for him to ignore his feelings. With everyone else's thoughts always invading the inside of his head, it's hard not to be controlled by them. He knows that he has to somehow figure out how to control them better, but his abilities are only getting sharper the older he gets.
Even now, with three more years of life on him, his powers of empathy are stronger than they were in the parallel of this time.
"I want you to be happy, Asajj," Obi-Wan says honestly. "And safe. If you can be both of those things, then I'll be alright." He steps closer and puts a hand on her shoulder. "Try not to worry yourself too much for now. Let us go and speak with the Masters and hear what they have to say. After that, we can decide what to do next."
Asajj nods. "Alright, Master Kenobi." A moment of hesitation before, "And thank you."
"Don't thank me," Obi-Wan says, turning to head down the pathway that will lead them to the Temple, "I haven't done anything. And you are the one who is going to have to do all of the hard work in keeping yourself safe."
For the first time in a long time, Asajj feels hope blossom in her heart, even if she refuses to acknowledge it aloud for fear of it so easily be taken away from her but she allows herself to feel it for just a moment, to remember what the feeling is, before forcing it down and following after Obi-Wan. She catches up to him and follows in step with him. Apprehension grips at her chest but she tries not to focus on it. The hope was somehow easier to ignore than the anxiety. Strangely enough.
They walk in silence the rest of the way toward the Temple. Obi-Wan's hands are stuffed into the sleeves of his cloak, as he admires the life around him while making his way to the Temple. He doesn't seem bothered by the natural din of Coruscant or the overly populated streets or the abundance of strange smells. Perhaps he was used to it and Asajj was not, but she couldn't stop herself from looking around at anything and everything. There was so much to see, so much going on that she could take it all in with her eyes alone.
Coruscant was so loud, both in person and in the Force. The planet was teeming with life and it felt like a loud, shivering organism with an immeasurable amount of other, smaller organisms crawling across its surface.
Once they make it to the Temple, Asajj stops again, the apprehension clenching tightly at her chest, making it hard to breathe. She clenches and unclenches her hands at her side, reaching up to her hip to touch the end of her Master's lightsaber, trying to pull strength from it. Wishing that her master was there, and somehow imagining that he was looking after her made her feel a little bit better. Gave her a touch of strength she didn't have before.
"It's alright," Obi-Wan says, casting an understanding look to the younger girl. "I'm here. Don't worry. One foot in front of the other. That's all we can do for now."