Chapter 2

Theed - The Naboo Capital

Queen Apailana sat nervously on her throne, watching her advisor, Sio Bibble, as he paced up and down. Why was Vader coming here? she thought as she clasped and unclasped her hands nervously in her lap.

"Your majesty, Lord Vader has arrived," one of her hand maidens announced as she entered the throne room. She was followed shortly thereafter by several storm troopers and the Dark Lord of the Sith himself.

"Queen Apailana," Vader said, approaching her.

"Lord Vader," she replied, doing her utmost to appear regal and confident. "What brings you to Theed?"

"A matter of serious import," Vader said. "I have good reason to believe that you are harboring Jedi here on Naboo."

Apailnana's eyes widened as his accusation. "Who dared make such a claim?" she said.

"Unimportant," Vader said. "I am here to determine whether it is true or not." He signalled to one of the nearby clones. "You will tell me exactly what I want to know."

"You will not touch the Queen!" Bibble cried, placing himself between Apailana and the storm trooper.

Vader considered this for a moment. The fact that Apailana was a queen meant nothing to him; as far as he was concerned, she was unworthy of the title. Being in the throne room was stirring up too many memories, memories he couldn't deal with. He needed answers, quickly, and so decided upon an alternate course of action. "Fine, take him instead," he told the storm trooper who stood waiting for orders. At once Bibble was seized, and taken by two storm troopers out of the room while a helpless Queen Apailana looked on. Vader watched him go, and then turned back to her. "I trust you know the consequences of harboring renegade Jedi on your planet, your majesty," he said.

Queen Apailana looked up at him, the fear she felt morphing into hatred. "I have told you that there are no Jedi here," she said coldly. "To assume a queen is lying is highly reprehensible."

"And it is equally reprehensible for a queen to lie," he countered. "We shall see soon enough." He left her to interrogate Bibble, sensing her fear and apprehension as he did so.

The storm troopers were well trained, and knew exactly how to prepare a subject for interrogation. By the time Vader reached the small room where Bibble had been taken, the old man was already feeling the effects of the drugs that had been injected into his body. He looked up at Vader with bleary eyes.

"Time for us to have a chat," Vader said, sitting down. "Tell me about the Jedi who are hiding on this planet."

Bibble's head drooped, and for a moment Vader thought he was about to die. One of the storm troopers pulled him upright, and Vader frowned when he saw that the old man had passed out. This did not deter Vader, though, and he proceeded to sift through Bibble's unconscious mind. What he found there both surprised and pleased him. General Kenobi...remote regions of the north country...

Vader stood up at once. "Return him to his queen," he said, and then left to return to his ship, a sense of anticipation filling him. Really, Kenobi? You hid here? Vader left the small room at once and then departed the palace, heading for his shuttle. The equipment on board his ship could easily locate anyone on the planet, and he was confident that, within a few hours, he would have his revenge at last.

Night had fallen, and the sound of crickets filled the air. Padmé loved sitting outside as the night sky glistened with stars. She missed the stars, missed traveling amidst them; but knew that to leave her secluded safely was far too dangerous. Palpatine must never find her precious children, that she had vowed. He had already taken so much from her, she would not allow him to do so again.

"Can I get you something, Miss Padmé?" See Threepio asked as he toddled out onto the porch.

"No, thank you Threepio," she said. "You can shut down for the night."

The droid left her, passing Obi-Wan on his way outside. Padmé could see at once by his expression that something was amiss.

"What is it?" she asked, standing up. "What's wrong?"
"Vader is nearby," Obi-Wan told her.

Padmé stood perfectly still, staring at him. "How...how do you know that?" she stammered.

"I sensed his presence," Obi-Wan. "It's unmistakable, Padmé," he said. "He is angry, very angry," he said with a frown.

Padmé's heart started to race. He's angry with me because I've been hiding from him...he's angry because I've hidden his children from him...

"Go inside, now," Obi-Wan said as he looked towards the forest. "He's here, Padmé, go now!"

But Padmé did not move, and stood transfixed as Darth Vader emerged from the wooded area close to the house. The sight of him sent a rush of mixed emotions through her. Part of her wanted to run away from the menacing masked figure, but part of her wanted to run to him. This was her Ani, wasn't it?

As Vader approached the house, he stopped in his tracks. He had sensed Kenobi from the moment he'd landed his shuttle, but there was another presence who he'd sensed as well. And as the house entered his field of vision, he realized who that presence was, and he couldn't believe his eyes. How? How can it be? his mind screamed. Palpatine told me she was dead...he told me the Jedi had killed her...but it was a lie...she's alive...she's been alive all this time...

"Stop right there, Vader," Obi-Wan said, standing on the steps of the porch.

Vader looked at his onetime brother, his emotions confused. He had been sure that he would kill Kenobi the next time he saw him, for he had believed for two years that Obi-Wan was responsible for the death of Padmé. But that was a lie. It was a lie.

"I'm not here to fight with you," Vader said, surprising himself by his statement. "I'm here to see my wife."

Padmé heard him, and ran past Obi-Wan and towards Vader. He watched, fearful that he would wake up and find that he had been dreaming. She's alive...she's really alive! he opened his arms and gathered her up, lifting her from the ground.

"I thought you were dead!" he told her. "If I'd known you were alive I would have searched every corner of the universe to find you," he told her, setting her on her feet. He took her face in his hands. "I can't believe you're really here," he said. "I'm afraid I'll wake up and find out this is all a dream."

"Why did you think I was dead?" she asked. "Who told you such a thing?"

"The emperor," Vader said. "He told me that the Jedi killed you," he said, looking up as Obi-Wan walked over to them.

Obi-Wan frowned, Vader's words giving him a chill down his spine. "Can you see now how this man has used you? How he's been using you all your life?"

Vader said nothing, Obi-Wan's words disturbed him simply because they were forcing him to reconsider decisions he'd made that had altered the course of his life.

"Obi-Wan is right," Padmé said, looking up at Vader. "Surely you can see that."

Vader remained silent, for his own thoughts were too jumbled to consider what they were saying. "Where is our child, Padmé?" he asked her.

Padmé realized that until today Vader had believed that their child had died. She couldn't imagine how painful that must have been for him. "Come with me," she said, taking his hand. She lead him into the house and down to the nursery where the twins were sleeping.

Vader was astonished when he saw not one but two cribs. He looked at her. "There are two?" he asked.

Padmé nodded. "This is Leia," she said as she lead him to their daughter's crib. Vader looked down at his sleeping child, the emotions threatening to overwhelm him. "She's beautiful," he said. "So beautiful."

Padmé smiled, and then turned to the crib that stood across the room from Leia's. "This is Luke," she said. Vader turned to look at his son, unable to speak as his emotions got the better of him. "He looks like you," Padmé told him, looking up at him, sensing how emotional he was.

Vader was indeed emotional, overwhelmed with a jumble of emotions. On one hand he was elated that his family was alive after believing them dead for two years. And on the other hand, he was furious that he'd been lied to in such a contemptible way. He looked up at his wife. "He lied to me," he said. "He robbed me of two years with you, with our children. Why? Why did he lie?"

Padmé took his hands in an attempt to calm him down. "He has used you all your life," she said. "He had his sights set on you since the day he met you when you were nine years old," she said.

Vader knew she was right, and he hated himself to think of all that he had done to please the monster he had called Master for the past two years, all the lives he had taken...

"Padmé is right," Obi-Wan said from the doorway. "Can you see that now?"

It was the second time that Obi-Wan had asked him that, and Vader still did not know how to respond. He knew that it was true, but to admit it would be to admit that the last two years of his life had been based on horrible , monstrous lies.

"Mommy!" Leia cried, standing up in her crib. She held her arms up to Padmé who went to her at once.

"I'm here, sweetheart," Padmé said, picking Leia up and hugging her. "Did you have a scary dream?"

Leia nodded as she pressed close to her mother.

Vader watched as Padmé comforted their daughter, noting how Leia looked over at him every once in a while. She's afraid of me, he reflected sadly. What child wouldn't be? Deciding that it would be easier for Padmé to settle Leia without him in the room, he left and stepped into the corridor. Obi-Wan was standing there waiting for him.

"Come sit in here," Obi-Wan said, leading Vader to a small sitting room down the corridor. Vader followed him, looking around, taking in the details of the house that had been his family's home for the past two years.

"Sit down," Obi-Wan said, unsure what to call Vader at this point. He watched as his onetime best friend made his way across the room and sat on a leather sofa, looking rather out of place in the rustic setting. Vader felt very uncomfortable as he sat with the man he'd tried to kill a mere two years earlier.

"How did you find us?" Obi-Wan asked.

"I received a report that there were Jedi hiding on Naboo," Vader told him. "I interrogated one of the Queen's councillors, and your name was in his mind. I came here expecting to find you and kill you. You can imagine my surprise to find that my wife and children were here too."

Obi-Wan nodded. "I can," he said. "So, now what?"

Vader looked at him, the question only adding to his discomfort. "I don't know," he said, looking away.

Obi-Wan sensed his onetime friend's discomfort, but pushed past it. "Don't you think you ought to know?" he said. "Things have changed tremendously in your life, wouldn't you say?"

Vader looked back at him. "Yes it has," he said. "I've found the family I thought was dead," he said, growing angry. "And if I hadn't interrogated that senile buffoon Bibble I would have lived the rest of my life thinking them dead."

"I sense your anger," Obi-Wan said.

Vader stood up. "You're damn right I'm angry," he said. Vader was very angry, but he wasn't sure who to direct his anger towards. "Why did Padmé feel the need to hide? I would never let anything happen to her, to our children! Was that your idea, Kenobi?"

Kenobi nodded at once. "Yes," he said. "Padmé hated the idea at first, but I made her see reason. If you knew she was alive, that Luke and Leia were alive, then it would be only a matter of time before Palpatine found them as well. And you know as well as I do what he would have done."

Vader knew exactly what would happen. "He would take the twins," he said. "Undoubtedly."

Obi-Wan nodded. "That is still a threat," he said. "If Palpatine learns that they are alive..."

"He won't find out," Vader said.

"How can you be certain?" Obi-Wan asked. "He's a devious, manipulative man. I'm sure he has spies everywhere, probably even watching you, his right hand. "

Vader felt certain that Obi-Wan was right, and it gave him tremendous anxiety to consider it. "He will die before he comes near my family," he said.

Obi-Wan was shocked to hear Vader say this, and began to hope that perhaps Padmé had been right all along, perhaps there was still good in him.

"Do you mean it, Anakin?" Padmé asked from the doorway.

Vader walked over to her, and took her hands in his. "I swear it," he said. "I will kill him before I let him near our children."

Padmé smiled, feeling as though her Anakin were truly speaking to her.

Obi-Wan stood up at this point, feeling decidedly like a third wheel. "I'm off to bed," he told them. He looked at Vader. "It's good to have you back," he said.

Vader was unsure how to respond and said nothing. Everything was happening so quickly he'd barely had a chance to assimilate it all.

"Come and sit with me," Padmé said, taking him by the hand and leading him over to a sofa. She sat down and looked up at him expectantly until he joined her. "I hope you understand why I was hiding," she told him.

Vader nodded. "I would have protected you," he told her. "Surely you know that, Padmé."

"I do," she said. "But Palpatine is too crafty, too ruthless," she said. "I simply couldn't take that chance. Believe me, it was the most difficult thing I've ever done. I can't tell you how often I wanted to go find you. I've missed you so much."

Vader put his arm around her. "When I thought you were dead, I was empty inside," he told her. "Palpatine told me that the Jedi had killed you, and the rage that filled me was all the kept me going."

Padmé frowned. "I hate him," she said quietly. "I hate what he did to you."

Vader looked down, unable to face her. "He told me it was the only way to save you," he told her. "And like a fool I believed him."

Padmé said nothing and simply sat with him. Clearly he had suffered tremendously over the past two years, both physically and emotionally. "What are we going to do, Ani?" she asked. "How are we going to keep Luke and Leia safe?"

Vader looked down at her. "He will die before he comes near them," he told her.

"How are you going to kill him?" she asked. "He's surrounded by guards, Anakin. Getting close to him enough to kill him will be impossible."

"It won't be easy," Vader said. "But it's not impossible. I have an advantage, Padmé. I know him well, I know the way his twisted mind words. He won't expect it, not from me. I've been a dutiful, faithful servant to him for two years. He thinks he has me under control. He won't see it coming."

"I hope you're right," she said. "I can't go on living like this, Ani. It's been so hard being apart from you! I've missed you so much!"

Vader pulled her closer, wishing fervently that he could truly hold her. It had been more than two years since he'd made love to her, and it filled him tremendous frustration and sadness. Will I ever be able to touch my wife again? Will I ever be able to kiss her?

"I've been empty without you," he told her. "When I thought you were dead, I was dead inside."

Padme closed her eyes, overwhelmed with emotions. As happy as she was to be reunited with her husband, there were still many obstacles that they needed to overcome. "I miss being with you," she said softly. "I miss your touch." She looked up at him. "Have you ever looked for a way to fix your injuries?"

"I have," Vader said. "In my current condition, any surgery would kill me."

"Oh Ani," she said as the tears rolled down her face. "There must be something that can be done!"

Vader was silent as he considered her words. He had tried over the past two years to heal himself using the force and with bacta treatment, but neither had healed him. The bacta provided a brief respite from the pain and discomfort he'd been living in since Mustafar, but it did nothing to fix his grievous injuries.

"It's late," Vader said, deciding to change the subject. "You need to sleep."

"You need to sleep too," Padmé said. "How do you sleep?" she asked him.

"I can't in the way I once did," he said. "I can only sleep in a specialized environment on board my ship. But I don't want to leave you just yet," he told her. "I'm used to not sleeping, don't worry about me."

Padmé was saddened to hear it, hating that the man she loved had to resort to such lengths to do something as simple as sleep. She hated to think of difficult his life had been over the past two years, and it broke her heart to think that there was nothing he could do to change that.

"Go to your ship, Anakin," she told him. "Get some sleep and we'll see each other in the morning," she said.

Vader didn't like the thought of leaving her, but could not deny that he was exhausted. He'd barely slept since receiving the report that there were Jedi on Naboo, a report that ended up changing his life in ways he could not have imagined.

"Very well," Vader said. "I'll go for a few hours. But not just yet. I don't want to leave you yet."

Padmé smiled and snuggled against him as much as she could. She was reminded of the past, the happy times that they'd spent simply being together. Her eyes grew heavy, and eventually she fell asleep.

Vader looked down at her, sensing that she was asleep. He stood up, being careful not to wake her, and then picked her up in his arms. He looked down at her, his heart swelling with love for her. For a moment he simply stared at her as she slept, wishing with all of his being that he could kiss her. But that would never happen again, he realized. He carried her out of the room and to a nearby bedroom, where he gently placed her on the bed. The longing he felt for her filled him as he watched her sleep and pulled the quilt up to cover her. Padmé's eyes fluttered open and she looked up at him.

"I'm going to my ship to get a few hours of sleep," he said.

"Good," Padmé said, and held her hand up to take his.

"Until the morning, angel," he said, holding her hand in his.

Padmé smiled. "Sleep well, Anakin."

Vader left her, and sought out Obi-Wan before leaving the house. He found him in a small bedroom near the back of the large house. Obi-Wan looked up at him, not at all surprised when Vader stepped into the small room.

"You have protected my family for two years," Vader said. "I need you to continue to do so while I am on board my ship. I will return in a few hours."

"You have my word," Obi-Wan said.

Vader nodded, and then turned and left without another word.