KEYnote: For the people who were really upset about Padme seeking physical and emotional comfort after her husband forgets her and completely loses his shit at the mere idea of being with her… well, the suicidal devotion beyond reason legends have historically been used to shame women for having needs and make people think they deserve extreme punishments for women fall short of absolute perfection of an idea of an obedient wife.

While the same stories will also be used to justify a man's acts of violence, rage, fatalism, and lack of control in the same breath for being wronged by a perfect woman being sinful.

I really don't like the way Padme and Anakin's relationship is portrayed in the three films. Anakin's unhealthy obsessiveness and associating Padme with creepy ideas of 'motherly perfection' while Padme is kind of manipulative and prone to condescending Anakin.

I know true love is a romantic concept, but I've seen too many dysfunctional relationships to think love solves all. For those who disagree with me, I hope you can see it's not me hating on the characters but my attempts to have both Padme and Anakin mature and base relationships on more than a tragedy of star crossed lover trope.

I love the actors who played them both, and my tribute to their characters is a man who loves a woman and wants her to be happy more than anything, and a woman who respects herself enough to, you know, not die from sadness.

The best kind of widow or divorce is not a dead one or mourning for all eternity. I am a sucker for romance; however, tragedies and romance are not the same genre for me.

Note on the Skywalkers: I say that Luke is nicer than Anakin, which he is, but that's not to say Anakin isn't a good person to those around him. But Anakin is like that boisterous cool kid, a charmer, and lovable for his hard edges.

Luke is a dork and doesn't have many hard edges. He is kind in that he's a small town kid who is polite to everyone and is happiest when everyone around him is happy and at peace.

Luke is way more chill and smiley than either Anakin or Padme. There is no way not to notice that shift.

Anakin wasn't mean, but he wasn't humble and smiling at everyone serenely.

Leia is much more like her father.

P.s. I am going to quote a huge excerpt from the Darth Plagueis book by James Luceno. I highly recommend it.

Chapter 34 - A Never Ending Nightmare

Padme could hardly focus on Naboo's politics, even as they were planning on seceding from the Republic.

But all she could really think about was Ani and her twin children, who were her age. How was that even possible?

Yet, despite the impossibility of it all, it felt real. Most so with Leia, who reminded Padme so dramatically of Anakin it was painful. Leia was who she imagined Anakin could have been had he not been raised surrounded by so many traumas.

Padme kept rewatching the holo of Luke and Leia being announced as Prince and Princess of Alderaan.

She was happy for them, her future children, for her friends Breha and Bail. Padme knew better than most how much Breha and Bail had wanted children, hesitating on adoptions because they feared putting the responsibility of the crown on a child.

As Leia had already been raised to being an Alderaanian Princess and heir to the throne, in addition to Leia seeming to be willing to do so.

Padme was glad of this, and proud, so terribly proud of the twins that in another life she might have raised herself as nobility on Naboo, but in this life were still blood of her blood, and Anakin's.

They were family.

It broke her heart that she damaged her relationship with Luke through grief and misunderstandings. Just as it broke her heart that there existed a future where Leia raised an Organa and Luke raised by Anakin's step-family, that neither twin was raised knowing who their parents had been.

"Padme," a soft voice called.

Padme looked up into Sabe's eyes, and wondered for the millionth time how anyone could mistake them.

Reasonably, she knew that the resemblance between them was strong, but as it always did for Padme, her emotions changed her vision. Sabe was beautiful and strong in ways that she would never be.

As Sabe sat down on the sofa and took Padme's hand in hers, Padme realized too late that she should be wary of this woman's great force of will.

Padme set the holo down to turn her full attention to her lover.

"How are you?" Sabe asked, her soft voice clear in the quiet night.

Padme sighed, "Not as clear-headed as I would like."

Sabe smiled slightly, squeezing her hand, "Padme, it is time I return home."

Padme blinked, "Oh, I can-"

Sabe squeezed her hand again, "No, Padme, I mean that it is time for me to leave."

Padme's heart rate sped and she all but clung to Sabe's hand with both of her, "Sabe, no, I love you."

"I know, and I love you, I always will. But you still love your husband."

Padme tried to protest it, "Anakin…" Her voice caught as she realized there was nothing she could say that wouldn't be a lie.

In Sabe's brown eyes, Padme saw that her decision had already been made, "He was your first true love. You will always wonder what your life would have been if you could have continued your journey with him. Even if, by way of the Jedi's religion, we know that it might not have ended well. As things are now, we have no way of knowing what the galaxy holds for our futures."

Padme shook her head, "I chose you."

"But I am not content to be your second choice. I would not be happy knowing that you stay with me out of duty rather than desire."

"I do desire you," Padme protested, and that, at least, was not a lie.

Sabe's gaze held hers as she said, "Not more than him, not even more than the dream of him. I pursued you when I knew you needed someone, when you needed me. But I need someone who will love me above all others. I have served as your maiden, your friend, and to my greatest honour, your lover. But I would rather depart as your friend than commit us both to settling for a lesser happiness."

Padme blinked back tears, "Sabe…"

She leaned forward and caught her lips in a kiss. Padme leaned into that soft touch of lips, but when Sabe pulled away, Padme did not attempt to hold her.

"Good bye, Padme, I wish you all the happiness that exists between the stars."

"And I you," Padme answered, her heart breaking.

Sabe offered one last smile before leaving, never once glancing back.

Padme did not call out to her as she wrapped her arms around herself, alone in her empty apartment.

Anakin never thought that he could enjoy flying more than he already did. He was completely mistaken, because flying with his son was the most freeing experience of his life.

Luke, as his name reflected, was light, light embodied. Far more peaceful than either Anakin or Padme, he was full of hope and prone to laughter.

And kriff, could the boy fly.

Over the coms, they were trading stories of insane flying runs they had done. Thanks to the Clone Wars and his apprenticeship with Obi-Wan, he had more than his fair share of stories.

Which Luke completely out did with his Death Star story, which proved to Anakin once and for all that Obi-Wan didn't like setting his Padawans with 'easy' tasks.

Somehow, they ended up with talking about Tatooine, not a topic Anakin thought he would ever be able to speak of fondly. But racing in the Boonta Eve Classic was a rewarding story to tell to his son, who both wanted to know to better understand and, as someone else who was born and raised on Tatooine, he understood the accomplishment of the race.

Luke's own story about racing through the desert shooting womp rats, which at the speeds Luke was describing was far more incredible than it sounded. To the point where Anakin might have to admit Luke was the better flier. But at least there was the fact that Anakin remained the superior mechanic, knowing far more than his son on that front.

Which meant that he had things to teach Luke outside of being a Jedi or understanding the Force.

Luke was like a part of himself that he had long ago lost when he left his mother. Not just his family, but his culture.

As a slave, Anakin had never imagined he would miss any of Tatooine's culture.

When Luke began a family story about his grandmother and grandfather saving the town outpost by his grandmother wrangling a bantha female from running away and dragging his Aunt Beru behind her through the dunes, it took Anakin a few minutes before he realized what Luke was saying.

Anakin did not know much about his mother's life after he left, nor much about his step family the Lars. He only dimly remembered his sister-in-law, Beru. A fair-faced woman who had stood by his step-brother's side, Owen's girlfriend.

But Luke's grandmother, this wild yet easy-going woman being described, beloved by all the Lars family, was Anakin's mother.

"Dad, you all right?" Luke asked.

Anakin swallowed hard, "Yeah, I'm all right."

Luke directed his fighter to be even with his so they could see each other in their cockpits. "You sure?"

Anakin nodded and, changing the topic, he teased, his voice still not as steady as he would have liked, "So, you and Ahsoka?"

Even through panels of tempered glass, Anakin saw him blush.

Luke glared, "What about Ahsoka?"

Anakin couldn't help but laugh.

Luke's glare was adorable, yet somehow also rather intimidating, and that was all Luke, because Anakin, Leia, and even Padme had tempers.

So far, Anakin hadn't seen any sign that Luke had it in him to hold grudges.

Cody rose from his seat to unlock his door. He had been packing and preparing for bed, which had used to be a simple task indeed when, before arriving on Alderaan, he had only his armour and two pairs of blacks.

Senator Bail had had two outfits made up for every troop they had, which was a handsome gift. One outfit was formal Alderaan wear, Cody did appreciate the cape, and a pair of evening wear that looked fancy, but Cody had literally never worn something so soft and comfortable.

He was wearing those now, the white and grey clothing bordered with blue. As Kenobi's Commander, even a bit of silver thread accented tastefully.

When the door swished open, the last thing he expected was General Leia Organa.

"Sir," he greeted, stepping aside to let her in.

She smiled, which sent Cody's heart pounding.

"Commander Cody," she said in turn, looking up at him through long lashes.

Her eyes were brown jewels, and he found himself speaking without knowing what he was saying until he heard his own voice, "It's late."

"It is," she agreed, walking further into his room.

Was she swaying her hips like that on purpose to get her dress skirts to move like that?

Cody pulled his gaze back up, but not before Leia turned, the look in her gaze telling him that she knew where his eyes had been wandering.

He didn't know what to do or say at this point.

He wasn't virginal, though there was no shame among his brothers who hadn't either been given the opportunity or found someone they wanted to share that with. The officers of the 7th Sky Corps were lucky in that way, as Obi-Wan went out of his way to ensure they had personal lives, in what capacity was possible.

Even so, Cody had never been in a situation with a female like Leia Organa, nor one of her status. If she wasn't a princess, he would know exactly what to do when on the receiving end of such a look.

But she was a Senator and the Queen's daughter, the biological daughter of one of his Jedi Generals and another Senator. Additionally, she was a General.

Leia raised her brows at him, "Do you want me to leave, Commander?"

"No!" Cody exclaimed, flushing slightly. "No, I meant, is there something I can help you with, General?"

She walked toward him and stepped into his personal space. She was so petite that she had to crane her neck back to see his face, but he wasn't fooled into believing her frail image. No, indeed, he was painfully aware of her.

"That depends, Cody, how comfortable are you with calling me Leia."

Cody interpreted this as her making the first move, an invitation. Still, he was cautious as he brought his hand up to trace the softness of her cheek with his fingertips. Bending toward her, he asked, voice dropping, "What is it you want, Leia?"

She went up onto her toes and whispered, "You."

And her lips met his.

There was nothing hesitant about Leia, but she wasn't sloppy and neither was he. She reached up, lacing her fingers at his nape. In turn, he wrapped his arms around her, and straightened, holding her against him.

She weighed practically nothing.

Cody felt electrified and could hardly believe this was happening. But he didn't question this miracle.

What followed was the best night of his life.

If only the morning hadn't been met with screaming.

Princess Leia found herself on a luxury cruiser. It had honestly been a while since she had been on a ship that wasn't armed to the nth degree, such was the way of war times.

And the Empire had always been at war from its dawn until its dusk.

This particular ship, upon further evaluation, appeared to be a vintage Nubian.

Nubian, because only a Naboo noble would wear such poofy sleeves. The guards were civilian hire and dressed to be unobtrusive, but the red-haired male arguing with the guard was a Naboo noble.

"Hello," Leia called to them, neither the guards nor the noble even flicked a glance in her direction.

"Hello," Leia said again, waving a hand in their direction. She was in view of them, but still they ignored her.

So she followed them as they began to walk away from her.

"Why wasn't I informed of this beforehand?" the redhead noble demanded from a man in the cockpit, a man whose every line, from the crown of his balding head to booted toe, even under the ridiculous clothing, was the epitome of arrogance.

No one paid her any attention.

He nodded for the guard to seal the hatch before answering the younger man, "Your mother and siblings are aft. I'll join you there once we've completed the jump." Maneuvering around his son, he slipped into the cockpit. The young man turned to the airlock hatch, as if he was considering simply leaving while he had the chance.

Nothing was said as the older man prepared for the jump into hyperspace.

Leia tried to lay a hand on the young man's shoulder, but her hand went through as if he were a ghost.

Or perhaps she was the ghost here.

Leia watched them, father and son, and she couldn't help thinking she knew the younger man. Once they were in the hyper lane the pilot set a steady pace. The redhead unstrapped himself, standing, and then he began to pace back and forth in the cabin. He was still in motion when his father entered a few minutes later.

"Our course is set for Chommell Minor."

The boy stopped to stare at him, his face a mask of incredulity.

"For the foreseeable future, you're going to be residing with the Greejatus family. Clothes and other items we thought you'd like to have with you are already aboard." When his son said nothing, he continued. "You and Janus got along well the last time we visited. A change of scenery will do you good."

Leia didn't know who Janus was.

"You decided this without conferring with me?" the son managed to ask at last. "What about my university courses? What about my obligations to the youth program?"

"That has all been arranged. You can partner with Janus in Chommell Minor's program."

As the two spoke, Leia paid ever closer attention to the younger. She knew him.

She knew that she did, even if she couldn't place him.

"The Greejatus's hatred of nonhumans meets your approval, then."

"Their chauvinism notwithstanding, I approve of them a lot more than I do your current friends."

The son began shaking his head. "No. No."

His father's tone turned harsh, "This is for your own good."

The boy's nostrils flared. "Father of lies," he muttered. "How would you know what's good for me? Have you ever even cared? This is about my friendship with Hego Damask, isn't it?"

Leia stilled. Hego Damask, the dead Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis, the one who had trained Emperor Palpatine.

The elder man snorted in derision. "Is that what you think it is? Damask is merely using you as a means of securing information about our strategies for the election."

"Of course he is."

Taken aback momentarily, the father said, "And yet you continue to... befriend him."

"What you consider the pillaging of Naboo, I consider to be an essential step forward, and Hego Damask a blessing. He's powerful, influential, and brilliant, more so than any of my professors. Head and shoulders above you or any of your royal confederates."

The man's lip curled. "It begins to sound to me that this confrontation goes beyond mere political differences."

Leia shivered. Something more was happening here, something was wrong. Who were these men?

"You know it does. You're using the situation as an excuse to put me under your thumb again."

"Which wouldn't be necessary if you showed even the slightest ability to conduct yourself appropriately."

The boy sniffed, "My social infractions and trespasses. I refuse to go over old ground."

"You're easy on yourself, considering the shame you've nearly brought on us."

"I've brought no more shame on the Palpatine name than you have."

Leia gaped. These were the Palpatines? The young man who was hardly more than a boy in his finary and his vibrant red hair slicked back was a Palpatine.

No, Leia realized in horror, he was Emperor Palpatine.

Which meant she was seeing a vision.

A vision of the past.

"We're not discussing me," Cosinga Palpatine said.

Palpatine threw up his hands. "All right. Leave me on Chommell Minor -but I won't remain there."

"I can see to it that you do."

"By assigning some of your musclemen to keep me in line? I'm a lot smarter than them, Father."

Leia wanted to tell the older man to shut up, to run, to not antagonize the young monster; however mundane he appeared, he was capable of such evils.

Not that it mattered, both these men were dead, there was no help or hope for them now.

Cosinga made his lips a thin line. "After what you already did to counter our plans for Tapalo, there can be no hint of scandal. Have you no idea what's at stake for Naboo?"

"And for you," Palpatine said, with a sly disgusting smile. "The brother of your mistress becomes king, and you attain the lofty position you've always desired but don't deserve."

Cosinga flung his words with cruel abandon. "It will be so good to have you gone."

"Finally you admit as much."

Cosinga looked suddenly crestfallen. "You're as much a mystery to me now as you were when you were young."

Palpatine's smile bloomed. "Only because you lack the ability to understand me fully."

"Grandiose, as ever."

Leia almost felt like applauding for Cosinga.

"Grandiose, in fact, Father. You have no idea what I'm capable of. No one does."

Cosinga exhaled deeply. "I know that you are of my blood, because I had you tested, just to be certain. But in truth, I don't know where you came from—who or what you're actually descended from." He glared at Palpatine. "Yes, there it is: that glower I have been on the receiving end of for seventeen long years. As if you want to murder me. Murder has always been in your thoughts, hasn't it? You've merely been waiting for someone to grant you permission to act."

Leia had to hand it to nobleman Cosinga for seeing the monster within the boy, unclouded by love or familiar bond.

A darkness came over Palpatine's face, his true self peeking past the childish exterior. "I don't need anyone's permission."

"Precisely. You're an animal at heart."

"King of the beasts, Father," Palpatine said.

"I knew this day would come. I've known it since the first moment I tried to swaddle you, and you fought me with a strength that was too powerful for your size or age."

Leia's approval of the man lessened. Perhaps they were both monsters here.

Palpatine looked out from beneath his quirked brows. "I was born mature, Father, fully grown, and you hated me for it, because you grasped that I was everything you can never be."

"Hated you more than you know," Cosinga said, allowing his ire to rise once more. "Enough to want to kill you from the start."

Yeah, Leia supposed Palpatine hadn't actually fallen as far from the tree as Cosinga Palpatine clearly wished to believe.

Palpatine stood his ground. "Then you had better do it now."

Cosinga took a step in Palpatine's direction, only to be hurled back against the bulkhead separating the communications room from the main cabin. A female voice from behind the closed hatch asked in distress, "What was that?"

Despite being a ghost, Leia could feel the Force roil, and she pressed herself against the wall of the ship. Unlike when she had tried to lay a hand on Palpatine's shoulder, she didn't fall through. The metal was real and warm at her back.

Nursing an injured shoulder, Cosinga looked suddenly like a trapped animal, his eyes wide with surprise and fear. He made a move to strike the handplate that opened the hatch, but Palpatine thwarted his effort without raising a finger. Twisting violently around, Cosinga fell over one of the acceleration chairs, bloodying his face as it struck the armrest.

A pounding began on the hatch.

"Guards!" Cosinga shouted, but the word had barely left his lips when the bulkhead against which he was slouched buckled inward, heaving him face-first to the floor and driving the breath from him.

Palpatine stood rooted in place, his hands trembling in front of him and his face stricken. Something stirred behind his incandescent eyes.

They heard the pounding on the hatch and whirled.

"Don't come in! Stay away from me!"

Leia didn't dare call for help, she knew this was but an echo, but it felt real. She knew what the Emperor did to people, knew why no one challenged him, knew that he was powerful enough to stand against fully fledged Jedi Masters.

But what Leia also knew was that while Vader had been feared for his Sith powers, Palpatine had not been known for his mystical arcane magic.

The Emperor had been known solely for his cruelty.

"What have you done?" It was a woman's voice, panicked. "What have you done?"

Cosinga pushed himself to his knees and began a terrified retreat, leaving smears of blood on the deck. But Palpatine was advancing on him now.

"If the Force birthed you, then I curse it!" Cosinga rasped. "I curse it!"

"As I do," Palpatine growled.

The hatch began to slide open, and they heard the voice of the guard who had escorted them here, "Stop!"

"Cosinga!" The woman screamed.

Palpatine pressed the palms of his hands to his head, then in eerie calm streaked to the hatch, pulled the surprised guard through the threshold, and tossed him clear across the cabin.

Raising his face to the ceiling, he shouted, "We're all in this now!"

A king of beasts, indeed, Leia thought as she observed the carnage unfold before her, the Force singing with pain and darkness as it was pulled against its tide to press upon such mayhem in the physical world.

When it was done, Leia doubted she would ever be able to erase it from her mind.

She had the morbid thought of finally having the answer to the mystery of the Family Palpatine Tragedy.

Emperor Palpatine, a mere seventeen-year-old, had been that tragedy.

The man, now soaked in blood for having torn his family members and family employees apart, nearly collapsed into his seat. His hands shook as he pulled the ship out of hyperspace to make a call.

He was shaking so badly she almost believed it was regret. She looked down at the mutilated corpses of the boy's father, mother, and sister, all of whom had been ripped limb from limb, and simply did not believe Palpatine capable of remorse.

Perhaps the body tremors he experienced were a mere adrenaline crash.

A hologram of a Munn appeared and spoke without greeting, "Where are you?"

It was Hego Damask, the banker, the Sith.

"I'm not sure," Palpatine said distractedly, his gaze shifting to where Leia had pressed herself against the cabin's wall, her white dress splattered with drying blood.

She hadn't dared to move, and as Palpatine looked at the corpses, his eyes rose and her heart lurched, her ears ringing with fear as the monster held her gaze.

"You're in a starship," Darth Plagueis stated.

Palpatine nodded, looking away from her and swallowing audibly before saying, "The family ship."

Leia allowed herself to breathe. The young Emperor hadn't seen her after all.

"Read aloud the navicomputer coordinates," Plagueis instructed.

He absorbed that and then said to someone on his end, "Contact the Sun Guard. Have them ready a ship and prepare yourself to accompany them."

Plagueis swung back to the monitor screen. "Are you capable of maintaining your present course?"

Palpatine leaned to one side. "The autopilot can be re-engaged."

"Tell me what happened."

Palpatine took a deep breath. "My father arrived unexpectedly on Chandrila. He had me taken from the youth program vessel and brought to our ship. My mother and siblings were already aboard. After the launch, I learned that I was being taken to Chommell Minor. Just as you warned. We fell into an argument... then, I'm not sure what happened..."

"Tell me what happened," Plagueis demanded.

"I killed them," Palpatine snarled back. "I killed them all, even the guards."

Leia imagined she could feel Plagueis's pleasure.

"Did anyone on Chandrila observe you board the family ship?" he asked quickly.

"Only the guard, and he's dead. Everyone's dead."

Except me, Leia thought.

Palpatine's shoulders tensed, and again he glanced back as if he might be able to see her.

But that would be impossible: this was nothing more than a memory, after all.

"We need to return you quietly and covertly to Chandrila. I'm sending help, my droid among them. Offer no explanations of what occurred—even if asked—but follow every command without question."

"You're not coming with them?" Palpatine asked, sounding like a lost boy.

Leia hated him.

"I will see you soon enough, Palpatine."

"But the ship. The... evidence."

Your murdered family, Leia thought snidely even though she knew this particular cover-up would work.

"I'll make arrangements for the ship's disposal. No one will ever learn of this event, do you understand?"

Palpatine nodded, "I trust you."

Leia half-smiled at that. Idiot.

The Muun returned the nod, "And Palpatine: congratulations on becoming an emancipated being."

The holoprojection disconnected and Palpatine turned in his seat to stare at Leia. She stared back, caught in a moment out of time.

Out of reality.

The watcher becoming the watched.

The scene blurred and the young red-haired unmelted face was no longer looking at her.

"You said soon," Palpatine barked the moment the hatch had pocketed itself in the bulkhead. "A standard week is not soon."

That, at least, amused Leia as she noted her dress was once more clean and snow white. The young Emperor sounded so petulant, so out of control.

Plagueis entered, removed his robe, and folded it over the back of a chair. "I had business to attend to." He glanced over his shoulder at Palpatine. "Was I simply supposed to drop everything in service to the predicament you've gotten yourself into?"

Speechless for a moment, Palpatine said, "Forgive me for having allowed myself to believe that we were in this together."

"Together? How so?"

"Am I not your agent on Naboo?"

Leia wondered how Padme Amidala had gotten involved with this bastard.

Plagueis rocked his head from side to side, "You did provide us with some useful information."

Palpatine studied him uncertainly. "I did more than that, Magister, and you're well aware of it. You share as much responsibility for what happened as I do."

Plagueis seated himself and crossed one leg over the other knee. "Has it really been only a week? For you seem greatly changed. Were the Chandrilan and Naboo authorities so rough on you?"

Palpatine continued to stare at him.

"As you promised, where there is no evidence, there is no crime. They went so far as to enlist the aid of salvagers and pirates in the search, but came up empty-handed." His look hardened. "But it's you who has changed. Despite the fact that you saw this event in the making."

Plagueis motioned to himself. "Did I suspect that you and your father might reach an impasse? Of course. It would have been obvious to anyone. But you seem to be implying that I somehow divined that the confrontation would end in violence."

Palpatine considered it, then snorted in derision. "You're lying. You may as well have forced my hand."

Leia found herself agreeing with Palpatine, though the responsibility of the murders was still, unequivocally, on Palpatine's head.

"What an odd way to put it," Plagueis said. "But since you've grasped the truth of it, I offer a confession. Yes, I deliberately goaded you."

"Oh, a Sith being truthful," Leia said, "It must be a momentous day."

Palpatine glanced in her direction yet continued uninterrupted, "You came to Chandrila to make certain that my father's spies would see us together."

"Once more, correct. You make me proud of you," Plagueis said, weaving his manipulations.

Palpatine ignored the flattery, "You used me."

"There was no other way."

There never is, is there, she thought, always power for you and you alone, no matter the costs.

These were the creatures that would begin the Clone Wars.

Palpatine shook his head in angry disbelief, "Was any of the story about your siblings true?"

Given Palpatine's history, Leia didn't truly want to know Plagueis's.

"Some of it. But that scarcely matters now. You asked for my help and I provided it. Your father attempted to thwart you, and you acted of your own free will."

"And by killing him I've rid you of an opponent." Palpatine paused. "My father was right about you. You are a gangster."

"And you are free and wealthy," Plagueis said. "So what now, young human? I continue to have great hopes for you, but before I could tell you everything I needed you to be free."

"Free from what?"

"From fear of expressing your true nature."

Leia rolled her eyes.

Palpatine's expression darkened, "You know nothing of my true nature." He paced away from Plagueis, then stopped and turned to him. "You never asked about the killings."

"I've never been one for grim details," Plagueis said, somehow Leia doubted that. "But if you need to unburden yourself, do so."

Palpatine raised his clawed hands. "I executed them with these! And with the power of my mind. I became a storm, Master, a weapon strong enough to warp bulkheads and hurl bodies across cabinspaces. I was death itself!"

Plagueis sat tall in the chair, as if in genuine astonishment.

Beneath Palpatine's anger lurked a subtle enemy: apprehension. Newly reborn, he was at great risk. But only because he didn't realize just how powerful he was or how extraordinarily powerful he could become.

Leia knew. She knew that even if Plagueis was the more powerful, Palpatine was the more insidious of the two.

It might appear as if Palpatine was on a road to self-destruction, but it wouldn't be him who had to pay the costs of the mayhem.

"I'm not sure I know what to think of this, Palpatine," Plagueis said at last. "Have you always had such powers?"

The colour had drained from Palpatine's face, and his legs were shaking. "I've always known I was capable of summoning them."

Plagueis rose from the chair and approached him warily. "Here is where the path bifurcates, young human. Here and now, you need to decide whether to disavow your power or to venture courageously and scrupulously into the depths of truth, no matter the consequences."

Leia sincerely wished she could kill them both now, before such 'consequences' tried to rub out the light in the galaxy. She was realizing this was how Palpatine fell to the Dark Side.

Or at least how he became a Sith.

She wondered what her birth-father had gone through. To be in Palpatine's hands, a newly freed slave in the orbit of a monster like Palpatine.

Had Anakin Skywalker ever known freedom? Or was he just another causality in an endless cycle of misery?

Plagueis looked as if he might reach out to grasp Palpatine by the shoulder, but instead paced away from him.

"You could devote the rest of your life to trying to make sense of this power, this gift," he said, without looking back. "Or you could consider a different option." He swung to face Palpatine. "It's a dark path into a trackless wilderness from which few return. Not without a guide, at any rate. But it is also the shortest, quickest route between today and tomorrow."

Leia suddenly realized that Plagueis was taking a great gamble, because even a monster like Palpatine was capable of doing good things, even if for the wrong reasons. He could expose Plagueis to the Jedi, and no matter how powerful Plagueis was, he wouldn't be able to fight off an entire Order that was wise enough to know the only good Sith was a dead one.

"In your studies," Plagueis said carefully, "have you ever learned of the Sith?"

Palpatine blinked, and Leia realized he had been staring at her again, which sent a cold tremor down her spine. As if preoccupied with seeing her, or trying to see her, he said, "A Jedi sect, weren't they? The result of a kind of family feud."

"Yes, yes," Plagueis said eagerly, "in some ways just that. But more: the Sith are the prodigal offspring, destined to return and overthrow the Jedi."

Palpatine looked away from Leia to Plagueis. "The Sith are considered to be evil."

"Evil?" Plagueis repeated and Leia shivered again, he sounded as if he were trying to seduce the younger man, and perhaps he was. "What is that? Moments ago you defined yourself as a storm. You said you were death itself. Are you evil, then, or are you simply stronger and more awake than others? Who gives more shape to sentient history: the good, who adhere to the tried and true, or those who seek to rouse beings from their stupor and lead them to glory? A storm you are, but a much needed one, to wash away the old and complacent and prune the galaxy of deadweight."

Palpatine's lip curled in anger and menace. "Is this the wisdom you offer? The tenets of some arcane cult?"

"The test of its value is whether you can live by it, Palpatine."

"If I had wanted that I would have forced my parents years ago to surrender me to the Jedi Order instead of transferring me from school to private school."

Plagueis planted his hands on his hips and laughed without mirth. "And of what possible use do you think a person of your nature would be to the Jedi Order? You're heartless, ambitious, arrogant, insidious, and without shame or empathy. More, you're a murderer." He held Palpatine's hooded gaze and watched the youth's hands clench in fists of rage. "Careful, boy," he said after a moment. "You are not the only being in this plush stateroom with the power to kill."

Leia thought she would actually enjoy watching them kill each other.

Palpatine's eyes opened wide and he took a step back, "I can sense it..."

Leia snorted. She could sense them both, their powers equal to her own.

Palpatine could sense her, why was he acting so surprised to sense him?

Plagueis grew deliberately haughty. "What you sense is a fraction of what I can bring to bear."

Palpatine appeared suitably chastened. "Might I be of some use to the Sith?"

"Possibly," Plagueis said. "Perhaps even likely. But we would have to wait and see."

"Where are the Sith?"

Plagueis allowed a smile. "Just now there is only one. Unless, of course, it is your will to join me."

Palpatine nodded, "I do wish to join you."

"Then kneel before me and pledge that it is your will to join your destiny forever with the Order of the Sith Lords."

Palpatine stared at the floor, then genuflected, uttering, "It is my will to join my destiny forever with the Order of the Sith Lords."

Leia smirked at the man's humiliation.

The Emperor.

On his knees.

Plagueis extended his left hand to touch him on the crown of the head. "Then it is done. From this day forward, the truth of you, now and forever more, will be Sidious."

When Palpatine stood, Plagueis took him by the shoulders.

Leia wondered if the Muun knew just how much Palpatine hated non-humans.

"In time you will come to understand that you are one with the Dark Side of the Force, and that your power is beyond contradiction. But just now, and until I tell you differently, abiding submission is your only road to salvation."

"Funny," Leia said rhetorically. "Isn't it amazing how the road to ultimate power requires submission?"

The room faded around the edges, and Palpatine was suddenly standing in front of her.

"In order to be free, you must first learn how to break your shackles," he said with a smile, his red hair lightning to white, his growing smile gaining definition with age.

She jerked back from him.

"Did you enjoy the memory?"

She sneered at him, "I enjoyed you on your knees."

Palpatine shook his head, and reached out to stroke her cheek. "It is you who shall be submitting."

Leia jerked back from the sensation of his touch. "You're dead."

"Am I?" he asked pleasantly.

"They found your body."

"Did they?"

"This isn't real."

Palpatine bent down to her, and she didn't back down despite her revulsion, she did not back down.

He whispered, "I assure you, my dear, this is very real." He laid a gentle kiss on the crown of her head.

Leia jerked back from him as the Force, the Darkness swirled between them.

She nearly fell out of bed, a gasp on her lips.

"Leia?" Cody asked, out of bed and by her side at once.

But she was up on her feet in one moment, and headed to the refresher in the next.

She turned on the tap, splashing the water on her face.

When she looked up into her reflection, she didn't see herself.

She saw Palpatine smiling back at her, his power rising within her.

She screamed.

AN: Thank you, Sectumus! We have two or three monster chapters before this fic concludes, if you are enjoying please review?