“Are you ready.”
Padmé barely tilted her head towards the man. She didn’t feel the need to reply. After all, it wasn’t a question, only a statement, and one meant to imply she was stalling more than encouraging her to open up.
Anakin had never handled emotions easily, his or anyone else’s, and Lord Vader was no better.
“Do you ever regret what you’ve done?” Padmé asked. She didn’t expect an answer, but when Vader spoke she wasn’t surprised.
“I have done what has needed to be done.”
“Was this needed?” Padmé asked as she looked down to the crowded streets of Coruscant. The planet was always a bustling hive of movement, transports and people all jarring and jostling one another for space as they hurried from one place to another. Some people were in a constant state of rush, always something to do, something to strive for, something that needed their attention so badly. For so long Padme was one of those people, perhaps not in the streets running from one place to another, not always, but she had always been needed. As a Queen, as a Senator, as a confidant and sometimes, secretly, as a wife.
But, right then, right at that moment, even knowing what awaited her, she didn’t feel needed.
“Was what happened before something that needed to be done?” Padmé asked to the street below. She still didn’t know how she felt about what had happened. She barely remembered it, but she did recall the dark form of Vader coming into the room she was being contained in, one heavy robotic hand encasing hers something wet on her hand between the gloved forefinger and thumb, and the voice that had all emotion and care stripped from it as it passed through speakers, ‘I will protect you.’
Padmé looked up Vader came closer. She wasn’t afraid of him, but the expressionless mask made it impossible to know him. Or maybe he’d always been unreadable to her, and she just wasn’t able to lie to herself about it anymore.
“They’re waiting for you.”
His voice was no more firm or loud than it ever was. She suspected he couldn’t really raise his voice, or he simply felt there was no need to anymore. His words had weight and he no longer doubted himself when he spoke.
“I suppose I can’t leave them waiting, can I?” Padmé me asked. She was watching Vader, but he didn’t speak again. He raised his hand and offered it to her, and after a moment Padmé placed her own in his and allowed him to lead her.
The coronation of Empress Padmé Amidala had all the pomp and celebration that the dear, departed Emperor Palpatine had lacked. It was fitting, people murmured to each other while they took a few moments to remember him. After all, Sheev Palpatine had been so humble, and so modest. He had only taken the burden of rule because it was needed to keep the Galaxy whole. He was not like their new Empress, who had been raised and taught to rule with majesty. Palpatine had looked like a man anyone could know, a man who wouldn’t be out of place sharing a humble meal with dear friends. Not at all like Empress Amidala, who stood at the forefront of the Senate like a Goddess worthy of the admiration and reverence of all.
It was tragic how he had died. His ward, their own Empress now, had been injured so badly on Mustafar by the renegade Jedi who should have been sworn to protect her that everyone was sure any day would be her last. He had gone to see her, so late one night that no one else was awake, and it was so lucky that he had. He must have encountered a Jedi who had come to finish her off. Nothing but a lightsaber could have made the wound that pierced through his heart, although the weapon and the Jedi in question had never been found.
Palpatine’s own personal guard, Lord Vader, had taken it as his burden to protect Amidala, and with the man’s imposing presence day in and day out she had recovered as thought he was able to even scare death away from taking her. Lord Vader had even been the one to recommend Amidala as Palpatine’s replacement, a recommendation that had been so moving that with hardly any words at all and a wave of his hand the closed council had agreed.
It was truly a gloriously bittersweet day for the Empire. The loss of their Emperor had been a great blow, but the Empress would rise to the challenge, and perhaps even surpass him.
Palpatine would have been so pleased.
The years crept by without Padmé realizing just how long it had been. While she kept the title she tried to limit herself to how often she would overrule the Senate, but sometimes where was no choice in the matter. She had hated herself at first, when she first made the decision to take away the democratic process she valued so highly, but time and practice had made it easier. Sometimes people were just unable to be trusted, the needed to be protected even from themselves, and when that was necessary she did what needed to be done.
“Lord Vader,” Padmé answered. How long had it been since she had called him anything but that? It felt like a lifetime ago, so much had changed so quickly and she had found the best way to avoid all of her pain and loss was to throw herself completely into her role as ruler. She rose from her desk and went to meet him at the doorway. “I am glad to see you. Do you have any news for me?”
Vader raised his hand and offered her nothing more than a holodisc.
“It must be important if you were willing to be the messenger,” Padmé mused as she took it from him. She activated it, expecting a report, or a request, and the grinning face of a young girl startled her. Dark hair was pulled back from a face that she had never seen before, but at the same time she knew it almost as well as she knew her own. She stared until the laughing girl ran off, and the image looped back to the beginning again.
“I’ve found her,” Vader stated simply. Padmé made a soft sound in the back of her throat and raised her free hand up to her mouth.
It was more than she had hoped for. She had never been ignorant to the fate that should have befallen her, and she had assumed her poor child had already been subjected to it. But here she was, laughing, playing, perfect, but she had no idea how far away.
“Bring her to me,” Padmé finally whispered. Vader turned to leave and Padmé spoke a little louder.
“Bring our daughter home.”
Ha paused in the door, just for a moment, and he answered before he left with his cape billowing behind him.