They hang the rebels on the wall across from Padmé’s window.
If she wakes early enough, she will see the Death Troopers arrive in their Imperial speeders, pull the bodies from within. Cinch them with ropes, and raise them like a perverse legion of flags. Men and women. Children sometimes, though not often. From the distance of Padmé’s quarters, they are blurs, specks in the distance. She can make them out by their clothes, the hair that moves in the wind, the blood that sometimes stains the light brick work.
The Stormtroopers who patrol beneath rarely look up at the bodies above them. They are there as a warning, a promise. Resistance is futile. Everybody will end up on the wall one day. When the bodies begin to rot, the Death Troopers return, pull them down, and replace them with fresh kills. It has been that way for the last six years. Unlike the Republic she had served under, the Empire’s messages are quick and succinct. Defiance will not be tolerated.
To look onto the bodies makes Padmé’s stomach turn, but she cannot find it in herself to look away. She checks each morning, wondering if anybody she knows is hanging from the hooks, anybody she worked with, was friends with. The Jedis are all wiped out, but many senators had fled following the coronation of the Emperor. She spends a lot of her time thinking, asking herself questions that cannot be answered. How had they been found? Had they had families? Were the families spared, or would they too join the wall?
Were they loved?
She is pulled from her haze at her bedroom window when the doors to her quarters open, and the tell-tale sound of C5 enters. C5 is her personal protocol droid, her main source of socialisation, and her only friend in the galaxy. The thought is too sad to dwell on.
“Good morning, Mistress Padmé!” He says upon seeing her in her usual spot. “Would you like some breakfast?”
“That would be great,” She says, turning from the window. It’s the same two men, and woman from the day before. Padmé imagines them staring at her from their hooks, watching as she retreats out of their line of sight. She shudders, pushing the image out of her mind.
C5 sets out her tray, - Naboo food, and pulls out her seat.
“I’ll change your sheets whilst you eat,” C5 says, backing away and briskly heading towards her bedroom. When Padmé opens her tray, she lets out a small gasp.
A small holodisc is tucked beneath her plate. For a moment, her eyes struggle to place the object, her thoughts stalling to a halt. Her heart begins to pound frantically, and with a quick glance over her shoulder she shoves it down the front of her dress. Padmé can feel her mind racing, wondering if it’s a test or cruel trick from her husband, but hope begins to burn in her undaunted. The resistance hasn’t reached out to her in years, believing it too risky, too dangerous for her to have any vital information. They only contacted her if it was absolutely necessary. In truth, she believed that they had forgotten about her wasting away in Coruscant. In her years of imprisonment her mental capabilities of blocking and shielding have grown tremendously, first out of pure desperation to protect her children, and then with her increasing hatred and fear of her husband. Padmé feels a surge of exhilaration after being so starved of information. The rebellion is still out there, no matter how many bodies appear on the wall.
She eats mechanically, barely tasting the food, waiting for C5 to leave.
When C5 returns, clutching her laundry sheets beneath his arm, he inquires about her plans for the day. They have the same conversation each morning, but Padmé feels more on edge than she has for a while. Despite C5 being assigned as her personal droid, she knows that he reports directly to his master. He shows no sign of knowing about the holodisc however, chatting aimlessly as he piles away her tray and heads for the door. Not wanting to appear too eager, Padmé walks behind C5 slowly, crossing her arms and feeling the cool material of the disc against her skin.
“Ah, I almost forgot!” C5 says. “Master Vader has returned from off-world. He has informed me that he will be visiting you tonight.”
Padmé feels her blood freeze in that unpleasant way whenever she hears that name, but she holds her smile and simply nods. Vader has been away for weeks, judging by his lack of presence and the tell-tale squeak of C5’s joints, - meaning that he was in need of a service. Her husband is the only one who maintains both of their droids.
For a moment she wonders if more bodies will appear, bodies that lost their lives to that awful red lightsaber.
“Thank you for letting me know.” Padmé says, “I am grateful for his return.”
“As am I, Mistress.” C5 says, pressing the access code to leave her room. “Do call me if I am needed.”
Alone, Padmé draws her shutters closed and pulls the holodisc from her dress. It is unmarked, glinting in the light.
She wants, so desperately, to play the disc. The information stored on it could be vital, crucial, her way out. It could be about them. Luke and Leia.
In her mind, they are still rosy cheeked and tiny, swaddled and staring up at her with dual sets of blue eyes. It is rare she allows herself the privilege of thinking on them. Padmé has even schooled herself to no longer dream of their faces, their cries, anything about them. Her greatest secret, kept from the Empire. From their own father.
He can never know about them. Obi-Wan managed to get them away following his confrontation on Mustafar, and she’d told the tale of the still-born birth, which was believed. Padmé cannot bare to think what would happen to them, under the Imperial regime. Under the care of Darth Vader. The thought turns her stomach. It has been the biggest sacrifice, after spending so much of her life in public service, to give up her connection to both her children. Every part of her longs to touch them, hold them, watch them grow into beautiful, strong individuals, but it is not to be. The last she had seen them was in Bail Organa’s arms in a shuttle to Alderaan. It would be where they were safest.
They will be almost six. Their birthday is in a week, a fact Padmé couldn’t forget, even if she tries.
Despite her longing, Padmé knows that it is foolish to watch the holodisc so close to a visit from her husband. Her mental shields are strong, but if she becomes too emotional, she could give everything away. She will have to wait. As much as it pains her.
The holodisc ends up shoved in a jewellery box from her time as Queen, deep in her wardrobe. Padmé spends the rest of the morning reading from a datapad, - carefully encrypted and monitored by the Empire, - of course, and then C5 returns to allow her a small walk in the garden. By the time night falls Padmé decides to go to sleep early, hoping that her mind will clear and that Vader will not disturb her slumber.
It is to no avail, however, as she is far too keyed up to fall asleep, and instead wakes from a fitful doze to hear the access code being entered on her door. Her ears prick at every sound, the swish of the doors opening, and the heavy boots stepping onto the floor. She had gone to sleep with her door open, quite foolishly. It looks almost like an invitation. Inwardly Padmé pulls her mental shields together as best she could, laying still with her eyes closed. The steps come closer, and Padmé hears the heavy breathing, distorted by his mask. He was still armoured, then.
When she opens her eyes again, he looms in her doorway, only the quiet puff of his mask signalling his arrival. They stare at each other for several seconds, Padmé feeling that familiar falling sensation in her stomach. Even after six years, his appearance still frightens her. The helmet, gleaming in the light from the hall, looks at her impassively. He is taller in his boots, and Padmé can’t find it in herself to speak, her throat drying up as she looks on at him. At the back of her mind, an alarm bell goes off: The Holodisc. She can’t act strange, as though something is off. Icy determination grips her, and she sits up in her bed.
“C5 said you seemed unwell.” Vader says, not moving from the door. She almost expects an accusation of treachery to come from behind the helmet, and feels a silent wash of relief at his obliviousness.
“I’m fine, C5 worries too much.” Padmé answers. She listens as he breathes once, slow and measured.
“How was your mission?” She asks when the silence stretches out too long.
“Uneventful.” Vader says, his hands coming up to rest on his belt. She eyes the glint of his lightsaber and swallows.
“You’re very uneasy.” Vader says casually, finally taking a step into her room. Unwillingly, Padmé sits back straighter, leaning against the headboard. Perhaps not as oblivious as she dare hope.
“You make me uneasy.” She whispers. She pulls the covers up over her chest. Vader makes a sound that could be classed as a snort, muffled by his helmet.
“Nothing I haven’t seen before,” He says, gesturing vaguely to her body. “We have been married a long time, Padmé.”
“You are not the man I married.” Padmé says before she can help herself. She hates it when he teases like this, and he knows it. When he talks like this, it makes her think of Anakin. And thinking of him is asking for pain.
Vader stops at the end of her bed, and she sees his head tilt slightly. Beneath the helmet, Padmé is certain that his eyes are searching over her face. She clenches her shields tighter, willing herself to simultaneously relax.
“What's wrong?” He asks, more of a demand than a question.
“You’re in my room.” She answers, as though it is obvious. “I wish to be alone.”
“You don’t mean that,” Vader says. “You’ve been alone for weeks. It must get lonely in here.”
“I’d rather be alone than with you.”
“Hm.” Vader looks around her room, hands still on his belt. When his helmet turns towards her wardrobe, Padmé’s mind scrambles and she feels her heart begin to pound. Don’t think of the holodisc, she thinks desperately, then panics and shoves the thought deep behind her shields. She watches for him to tense, but he makes no sign of hearing her.
“Where were you?” She blurts, the first question that comes to mind. Vader turns back to her, but doesn’t seem suspicious, as far as she can tell.
“Cerea.” He answers dismissively. “Why, did you miss me?”
“I already said no.” Padmé snaps, crossing her arms. “Is there any point to this visit, or did you just come here to torment me?”
“Such fierceness. The politician in you is still alive and well, I see.”
When he teases her, it angers her. But there is also a deep well of sadness opened each time, and in all honestly she would prefer he take a cold distance. Because even now, so different, he still reminds her of Anakin.
Oh, I’d be much too frightened to tease a Senator.
Her mind is well-hidden, but she knows the second that he catches the sliver of her passing thought.
“I grow weary of your childish attempts to cling to the past.” Vader says, the harshness in his voice palpable. Padmé is reminded once more that the man before her is not the Jedi she once married. She would think, after six years under his imprisonment, that she would have learnt that by now.
His good-spirt and teasing are gone, the air thick and tense in her rooms. He eyes her once more, his breathing slow and loud in the silence.
“I am Coruscant for the week.” He says after a long stretch of tension. “You are to see me in the morning.”
“Must I?” She asks before she can help herself. It’s in her best interests to clear him out of her room as quickly as she can, but Padmé cannot help but feel a lurch of nerves. She would have to watch the holodisc tonight, and by morning have the information stored away safely under the protection of her mind. If he is here for the week, then she cannot put it off any longer.
“Yes, you must.” Vader turns on his heel. “Good night.”
Padmé waits until she hears the swish of her door, and then lays in silence for several minutes. Usually seeing Vader produced either a complete numbing of her senses, or a deep melancholy that made her mourn for the little boy from Tatooine. The hollowness of her chambers usually acted as a catalyst to her sadness, but Padmé pushes away the oncoming emotion and determinedly gets out of bed, half and ear cocked for the door opening again, as unlikely as it is.
In the fresher, Padmé sits on the cold tile floor and tries to clear her mind as best as she can. It was a lesson taught by Obi-Wan, to build her mental strength, and bring peace and clarity. Vader has never caught her doing it, though if he did he would be furious. She takes her time, ignoring the intense itch to open the disc. Finally, when a veil of tranquility is over her mind, Padmé places the holodisc on the floor in front of her crossed legs, and the message is played.
Bail Organa stands before her, pre-recorded. He looks almost as young as the day she’d last seen him, and he gives her a smile before he begins to speak.
“Senator Amidala,” He begins, before making a face and speaking again. “Padmé… I don’t have much time in this message. I hope it finds you safe and well. There’s so much I have to say to you, but it can wait. We’ve received information that Vader will be leaving the capital for Kessel. It is imperative that you are aboard his ship. We have rebels on the ground there.”
The hologram of Organa paces, and Padmé watches, enraptured.
“Padmé… we can get you out. We’ve gone undetected on Alderaan. We have spies everywhere, even in the palace. That’s how this message got into your hands, Force be good. Luke and Leia are growing into amazing children-”
Silent tears run down Padmé’s face at the mention of her children’s names, her hand clutching the disc so hard it begins to hurt.
“And you will of course be permitted protection on Alderaan. Get to Kessel, Senator. I’ll be waiting for you. That’s all I can say to you right now. May the force be with you.”
With a cry, Padmé let go of the disc as it burns white hot in her hands. She watches as it turns into a ball of flame, disappearing into thin air. Small pieces of metal disintegrate and tear apart until she can no longer see them.
Her mind reels. Luke and Leia, safe and well. The force has bought her a miracle, just before their birthdays. She can hardly believe it. She sobs into her hands, a small burn tingling on her palm.
But then the rest of Organa’s words begin to sink in. Convincing Vader to take her out of Coruscant will be impossible. Even when they had been married, before the empire, he had been stubborn and head-strong to a fault. Not to mention, a sudden interest in his missions is sure to raise some suspicion.
Hopeless. Her cries echo off of the walls of her fresher, and she curls up on the cold hardness of the floor. Desperately Padmé tries to reel in her despair, in fear that Vader would sense it from his own quarters. He has done so before.
Think of Luke and Leia, she thinks. She’s lived in Coruscant for so long, surely some of the information she’s garnered would make her an asset to the rebellion. Fighting in the clone wars, she’d received far harder missions. Anything is possible, she used to say. If you don’t lose hope.
Her time in office would give her some sway over Naboo. They'd take her back in. She just had to get to Kessel. Living in a fancy cage for the rest of her life was what Vader would want. And Padmé would rather go out fighting, then die alone and childless. The rebels need her. Her children need her.
Get to Kessel. Get to the children.
Vader was to see her in the morning. She needs sleep, needs strength. Padmé picks herself up off of the floor, washes her tear streaked face in the mirror, and begins to form a plan.
When morning comes, Padmé is awake before C5 comes to greet her.
The rebels on the wall are still the same, and she leaves the window quickly after glancing out and checking.
On the few occasions Vader has eaten breakfast with her, it is always in her quarters. She is yet to see his. Perhaps, she had when she had first arrived in Coruscant, but her memories were so vague that she didn’t recall. C5 is beside himself that his master is home, and dining with Padmé. It takes significant strength not to roll her eyes as he merrily rolls in their trays. Padmé paces, too apprehensive to sit.
“I so enjoyed our walk yesterday, My Lady,” C5 says. “If you would like, we may do so again today.”
“That would be nice, C5.” Padmé replies absently. She hears the familiar swish of her doors opening and stops her pacing.
The previous night, Padmé had thought long and hard as to how to convince Vader into letting her go with him to Kessel. It was far too risky to attempt to stow away. She’s certain he would sense her, if a trigger-happy trooper didn’t shoot her first.
Being suddenly nice to him will definitely arouse suspicion. He’d see through Padmé instantly. Arguably that route would be more overt than commandeering a flag ship and taking off in broad day light. She needs to play him right.
Her tenure in politics had been spent mostly as a defender of truth, righteousness. Nevertheless, being around many shifty members of the Republic Senate had honed her skills of deception. She feels like she did as Queen, face emotionless and flat as she turns around to face Vader. Thankfully, C5 is there to ease them into conversation.
“Good morning, Master!” C5 says, pulling back his seat before wobbling around the table to do the same for Padmé. Neither of them speak as they are both seated, and Padmé feels her stomach rolling, despite her calmed mind.
He keeps his helmet on and does not eat. It is incredibly unnerving to attempt to have her breakfast as she feels his disembodied eyes staring at her face, but she manages to force herself into nonchalance.
“I am so glad that you came all the way home just to stare at me in silence.” Padmé remarks once she is finished.
“I did not return to Coruscant merely for you.” Vader replies cooly. With his mask on his words are harsh and monotone. Irked, she’d like nothing more than to storm off, but she remembers that she has to at least be civil in order for her request to be considered.
“Why did you return then?”
Vader stares at her for several impassive seconds before answering.
“I have obligations to the Empire here.”
Padmé fiddles with her tea cup, before realising what she’s doing, and instead folds her hands in her lap.
“And when will you leave?”
“Eager to see me go?”
Padmé snorts at that.
“Just curious. Is that a crime these days?”
He leans back in his seat slightly, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I leave when the week is out.”
“Why do you wish to know?”
Padmé shrugged, hoping her casual gesture was authentic.
“I just want to know.”
“Well,” Vader says, pushing his chair back and standing. “I thank you for the riveting conversation.”
“Wait!” Padmé says, her voice several pitches too high. She takes a deep breath as he pauses at her exclamation.
“Yes, Padmé?” He says when she does not speak, his voice thick with exasperation and annoyance. It’s not the right time to ask, but she only has a week. Padmé clears her throat, and says as casually as possible:
“Could I come? To Kessel, I mean.”
Vader freezes, and instantly Padmé is certain that he knows why she’s asking. He’ll be on a flagship to Alderaan to kill Bail, take her children… and what will he do with her? She’s consorted with rebels, hidden so much from him. Padmé watches the blank oblivion of his helmet, resisting the urge to fidget as she clears her mind, as best she can.
A metallic rasp of laughter makes her blood run cold.
“You still surprise me.” Vader says. “I will see you before bed.”
“Wait, Vader, I-”
“Padmé.” Vader says, any trace of humour vanishing in place of a firm tone. “I have other obligations.”
And with that, he turns on his heel and leaves her quarters.
For several minutes, Padmé sits there in contemplation. She isn’t surprised that he had rejected her proposal. After almost six years of blank refusal to take interest in his business, her sudden request sounded ridiculous even to her. Had she received Bail’s message earlier, she could have taken a more gradual, strategic approach. But patience is only going to impede her. Time is wasting, and Padmé needs to take a more direct cause of action. Thinking of failing is like jumping out of an airlock, into a vast pit of freezing space.
C5 takes her into the gardens in the late afternoon. The fences are high, and the ray shields glisten above. The flowers are hybrids, transplanted from conquered planets. Flowers from Naboo flourish, but the sight of them makes Padmé’s sorrow deepen. They shouldn't be here. It’s wrong for them to grow in such a place of terror. Still, as she listens to C5 prattle aimlessly, she collects her steely resolve, pretending to be interested to C5’s attempt to carry a conversation. The sound of the city around them is numbed by the shields, coming through as a low hum. She misses it, desperately.
“Ah, there is Master Vader.” C5 says, cutting Padmé out of her reverie. She looks up sharply, almost stumbling over a thatch of roses. In the buildings above she sees the whirl of Vader’s cloak as he walks through a glass hall, flanked by troopers. A shudder runs through her at the sight, but he is gone in an instant, hidden by the walls of the hallway he stalks.
“C5,” Padmé rounds on the droid, hand stroking over the petals growing up the wall beside her. “Do you have any opinions on Lord Vader?”
She’s not sure where the question comes from, but she knows it would be too bold to ask C5 about Kessel. In her early days, he had foiled many escape plans. Now, C5 has softened, and withheld tiny increments of information that could anger his master. Any major treachery, however, was sure to be reported straight to Vader.
“Master Vader is a my creator,” C5 says simply. “He is fair, keeps me oiled and operational. A surly temper, but I am more than capable of navigating his emotions. And I do believe that he has a lot of respect for yourself, dare I say, Mistress.”
Padmé mulls over his words for a moment.
“Do you think he’ll consider my request to go to Kessel with him?”
C5 turns his head, so similar to C3PO that her heart lurches at the action.
“He is not as unreasonable as you may think,” The droid concedes. “But I cannot see why you would want to go to such a ghastly place. And besides, a flagship is no place for a lady such as yourself.”
“Thank you, C5.” Padmé says quietly. “I’d like to return to my rooms, if that’s alright.”
She wakes up when she feels the mattress dip, but instead of startling she just blearily opens her eyes.
His helmet is gone, and Padmé hates that she remembers just how many nights he woke her this way, all those years ago. They were both so busy, so wrapped up in their own lives that their encounters were chance and desperate. When he returned from war, no matter how briefly, he would come to her and wake her, patched up and still in armour. The recollection is another stab in her heart, dimly noted, but not enough to break her down.
“I never remember you going to sleep so early before.” Vader murmurs from the end of her bed. His belt is still on but his lightsaber is unholstered, laid out on her bedside table. Padmé closes her eyes and lays back. Even in the semi-darkness, the glow of his eyes is piercing.
“Not much else to do around here.” Padmé says into her pillow. There is no rustling of covers, no whispering sheets. He sits perfectly still like a statue.
“Is that why you’re so desperate to suddenly get off planet?” Vader says, his voice far less harsh without the muffling of his helmet. In his suit he sounds almost ageless, voice impossibly deep and the perfect timber of a Sith Lord. His voice has changed, but whenever he teases her, or speaks softly, there’s still that boyish tone that she fell in love with.
“Perhaps.” Padmé mumbles. “You can’t keep me here forever, you know.”
“I can do exactly that.”
“I will die,” Padmé says, sitting up. “I can’t be kept in a cage for you to visit whenever it pleases you.”
“So dramatic.” Vader turns to face her, watching with an odd glint in his eyes. “What do you want? New quarters? More space? You never ask for anything. I would move worlds for you, if that was your wish.”
“I just want to leave Coruscant, to be on a different planet. For a day, an hour.” Padmé whispers, closing her eyes tight. She feels a gloved hand stroke her cheek and represses the urge to shiver. It is the first touch she has felt in years that wasn’t C5’s metal digits. From the heat of the glove she can feel that it isn’t his robotic hand.
“Padmé,” Vader says. “I do not keep you here to antagonise you. You must be kept safe. Everything I do is for you.”
A tear slips from her closed eye, a crack in her defences. She takes a shuddering breath before leaning into the warmth of his hand. She is so lonely. Her only company a protocol droid and the bodies on the wall.
“Anakin,” She says, feeling him freeze at the old name, but not pulling away. Padmé swallows, starting again. “Vader… please, I just need…”
The hand retreats, leaving a big print of heat on her cheek.
“Padmé.” Vader says again. “No. It’s too much of a risk.”
More tears fall, and he becomes a bleary double-vision at the end of her bed. Vader and Anakin.
“Keep me guarded. You can have a trooper watch my every move. I’ll do whatever you want. Please just let me go.”
“You have no idea what I want.” Vader says darkly, eyes burning into hers so intensely it takes effort not to shrink back. For a moment it looks as though he will lean in, and Padmé holds her breath, a pit opening in her stomach. She remembers how Anakin would come to her, sneaking from the temple to warm her bed, slipping away with the morning.
At her lack of response, Vader stands from the bed. His face is hard to read in the dark as he moves away.
“I’m busy with recruits in the morning,” He says. He takes his lightsaber from the dresser, as well as his hooded cloak she had not noticed before. “Perhaps I will not see you until the day after.”
“Will you see me before you go?” Padmé can’t help but ask, watching helplessly as her ticket out of here slowly walks over to her bedroom door.
He seems to misunderstand the desperation in her voice, turning back around to look at her. In a few strides he is back at her bedside.
“Yes,” He says, so earnestly that Padmé almost feels bad for deceiving him. Instead, she nods, her eyes cast down to her lap. The kiss on the top of her forehead is so soft that she barely registers it.
“Good night.” He murmurs, and takes his leave.
Sleep comes to her in troubled waves. He has refused her, but not outright. Tonight had been the first time Padmé had allowed him to touch her in years. If he thought that she would soften after taking her out of Coruscant, perhaps she could use that to her advantage.
Two days later, a hand claps over her mouth, knocking her out of sleep. Padmé gasps, but all she breathes in is leather. She claws at the arm connected the hand, feeling the metal prosthetics working as they quell her struggling. Her room is a dark blur around her, silent save for the sound of heavy breathing.
“Wake up,” The modulated voice says. “And put this on.”
“Anakin?” Padmé mumbles against the glove, attempting to sit up. “What’s going on?”
Vader steps back and allows Padmé to right herself, pulling back her covers and looking at the heavy cloak he dumped into her lap.
“Now.” Vader says. He’s in his mask and armour, hand resting on his lightsaber. Padmé feels her heart begin to pound frantically as she numbly stands, throwing the cape around her neck, her hands going numb as she fumbles with the latch.
He’s found out her plans. Her questions to C5 have given her away, or he’s seen into her mind. Perhaps it was to do with the Emperor. Had the holodisc been a test of her loyalty? Would she die because she has hidden it’s message, and asked to come to Kessel?
“What are you going to do?” She asks shakily. The whir of his lightsaber fils her ears, even though he has yet to ignite it. She has yet to see him in combat as a Sith, but her memories of his skills as a Jedi Knight are in tact.
“Leave you here, if you don’t get a move on.” Vader says. “If you were a cadet, I’d have you punished for your insubordinate questioning of my orders.”
“We’re going somewhere?” Padmé asks, finally waking properly, still clutching the latch around her neck.
“Yes.” He held out his hand to her. “Pull up your cloak. And it’s Lord Vader outside these walls.”
She pulls the hood over her hair, the material thick and weighty. It comes down well over her forehead and eyes, similar to the one he favours. He wraps his hand around her wrist, and begins to walk her out of her quarters.
Padmé looks at his gloved fingers, clutching her forearm. Any moment now, he’ll ignite his lightsaber and run me through. Or force me to retell Bail’s message. If he’s in a particularly cruel mood, he might drag out this facade for a little longer before punishing her for her plans of treason. She wonders hysterically what she has done to give herself away, or if in fact, he does not know, and is simply punishing her for her request to leave Coruscant.
“Have I angered you?” Padmé says as he punches in the exit code, keeping her eyes dutifully on her feet, fixating on the slippers she has on, next to his enclosed boots, shining in the moonlight. She’d rather he came out with it now, instead of playing with her like this a second longer.
“You said you wanted to get out of your quarters, didn’t you?” Vader asks. The doors swish open. “Now be quiet and observe.”
As they move through the corridors of the building, Padmé’s fear begins to fade, if only slightly. This is the furthest that she has been out since her arrival to the planet. Hungrily she takes in every detail, feeling a pang of nostalgia from her days serving as Naboo’s senator. Such freedom she had taken for granted. There are questions piling up in her mouth as Vader walks ahead, having dropped her arm, but she remembers his order to keep quiet and complies. It is only when they travel down several floors and she sees a ship dock that she speaks.
“What are we doing?” Padmé asks, hurrying forwards to keep up with his robotic strides.
“Hush,” Says Vader, who walks over quickly to a trooper. The trooper salutes him immediately, and despite the man’s helmet she feels the fear radiate off of him.
“The speeder is prepared for your journey, my Lord.” He says. Vader does not reply, barely inclining his head as he passes the man, Padmé following in his path.
“We’re taking a speeder?” She asks once more, and she’s close enough to hear the small groan of irritation in Vader’s throat.
“You’re already making me regret this.” He says lowly, stepping up into the vehicle. It’s smooth and sleek, black exterior with leather seats. Wordlessly, he turns and helps Padmé up, her cloak blocking her vision for several moments before she sits gracelessly into the passenger seat. There is a heavy glass covering that rises, protecting them from the cool wind as they take off and up, merging fluidly into the Coruscant traffic.
She feels slightly overstimulated and still on edge, but Padmé revels in the temporary freedom, hardly daring to close her eyes as she watches every speeder pass by, the lights of other buildings, the sound of the night. Almost instantly Padmé notes the changes to a city she once loved; the propaganda to enlist in the Imperial army, praises of the Emperor. So many buildings have changed, and there are Storm Troopers everywhere, regulating the traffic, stopping random speeders, checking identifications. Of course Vader’s vehicle flits by every checkpoint, ruthlessly cutting through intersections as though in a pod race. Padmé is quite thoroughly reminded of her husband’s erratic driving skills, and how many days she and Obi-Wan had cast alarmed glances at one another every time Anakin was driving.
“Can I ask where we’re going?” Padmé says. Vader glances over at her for a second, steering effortlessly up into a higher lane.
“The Dark Lord runs errands?” She asks before she thinks her words through. Vader only breathes a little heavier, but does not give her the response she fears.
“Thank you for taking me with you.” Padmé says, and she means it. Even as she grips the seat in fear as they swerve once more, she is thankful for the change of scene.
They pull up into a well-lit, but deserted complex. Vader turns off the speeder and unlocks the doors, looking at her for several seconds. He seems to contemplate something before speaking.
“You are to stay here until I return.” He says. “I won’t be long.”
“Okay.” Padmé replies, running her hand on the leather of her seat. He gets out silently, closing the door behind him and entering the unmarked building.
She realises firstly, that he has left the speeder unlocked, and in gear.
Was he simply forgetful? No. As Anakin he had been reckless, but when it came to her he had been obsessive in keeping her safe, keeping her contained. As Vader, he’s even more diligent. Perhaps over-confidence that she would not escape in the speeder. To do so would incur a wrath from him, worse from whatever trooper found her joyriding in an Imperial vehicle. She’d be shot on sight.
But surely he thought her reckless, desperate for escape. She had told him how much she needed to leave. Had she not wanted to be in his good graces, Padmé would have already jumped to the driver’s seat and flown out into the night.
Thinking of why she wants to be on Vader’s good side reminds her of Bail and his transmission. To defy Vader's command and irritate him, - because he would most definitely catch her, is too foolish to consider. So instead, Padmé fiddles with the compartments, plays with the windows, and waits like an idiot for Vader to return. Part of her cannot believe that she is sat in an in-gear vehicle that could take her away from her life of solitude and restraint, but it feels too obvious, too much like a trap. He had woken her in the middle of the night for a seemingly innocuous errand and conveniently left her unsupervised in the middle of a city she could potentially disappear into. The urge to run is hard to stifle, but stifle it Padmé does. Her obedience will be noted. He will reward it. She needs to be on Vader’s good side, as much as it pains her to stay and wait.
When he returns, a half hour later, he makes no comment as he starts up the speeder and smoothly exits the docking bay. They ride in silence for several minutes, the journey seemingly twice as fast on the way back. As she sees the large building she calls home in the skyline, Padmé feels a lurching quake. The only chance she has ever had to escape, handed to her on a platter, is left behind as they speed through the night.
When they disembark, Vader helps her out into the hangar. Nobody is around, but Padmé does not take down her cloak as they walk across the hard floor.
“Why did you take me there tonight?” She asks quietly.
“As I said,” Vader replies, “You stated your desire to leave your quarters.”
“I said I wanted to leave the planet.” She retorts, and then falters. “Not that I’m not grateful, Lord Vader.”
He is silent again as they go through the maze of hallways, too complex for Padmé to even attempt to memorise.
“It was a test, wasn’t it?” Padmé says. “To see if I would run.”
“I expected you to want to escape.” Vader replies, not sounding surprised that she had seen through his plan. “I wanted to know if you could be trusted.”
Padmé’s heart skips a beat in her chest, but she keeps her voice composed as she speaks.
“Have I earned that trust?”
Vader breathes through his helmet. “A ride through Coruscant is very different to being on a flagship. There are more dangers in space.”
“I know that.” Padmé says. She tries not to sound pleading, instead putting firm understanding into her voice. “But you can trust me, I promise. No tricks. I just want to have some freedom again.”
“Do not mistake this for freedom.” He says sharply. “You would be under more security measures out there than you are down here.”
“I’m sorry,” Padmé says quickly. “I misspoke.” She pauses as his words sink in. “Does that mean you’re considering it?”
“This excursion served several purposes,” Vader says instead of answering her question. “I did want to test you. And I wanted to show you how futile an escape attempt would be. But I also wanted you to get a chance to leave your chambers. As much as you detest me, I still want you to be happy, Padmé. Everything I do, I do to keep you safe. Do you understand that?”
“Yes.” Padmé breathes, finding it suddenly too difficult to look over at the man beside her. She forgets so often when she hears his detached voice, his helmet covered head, that he is still carries his love for her, as twisted as it has become. Six years is a long time, and Padmé is more lonely than she could ever admit. Distantly, she is aware that his love is more possession now than anything, but she finds that she will take it. It is better than nothing.
“The last we spoke,” Vader begins as they round the corner to her rooms. “You said you would give me what I wanted to let you go to Kessel. Did you mean it?”
“I did.” Padmé says without hesitation. “Anything.”
When they reach her doors, Vader pushes back her hood, his hands lingering around her neck.
“Behave yourself this week and I will allow your presence upon my flag ship,” He says, and Padmé feels her eyes widen at his words. “You will be ready for dawn.”
“Thank you, thank you!” Padmé gasps, unable to stop herself as she falls into his embrace. It is perhaps the most that she has ever touched him in her time in Coruscant. He stiffens for a moment, before holding her to him. She looks up, looking into her own wide eyes in the black chrome of his helmet.
“I will take what I want when I require it.” He says severely.
“Alright.” Padmé whispers, pulling back slightly. It is necessary. She will do anything for her loved ones. Anything for the rebellion.
True to her word, Padmé behaves perfectly all week. She talks to C5 more than usual, takes her walks around the garden, and waits for the day they leave for Kessel to arrive. Vader has been busy, sending missives through C5, regretting his tight schedule. He sends her several dresses made of heavy silk and brocade, and bouquets of Malreaux roses and purple blossoms. Each gift creates a feeling of excitement, followed by a burst of repulsion at herself for being so easily fooled by such materialistic favours. Without his presence it is too easy to pretend that it is Anakin sending her such gifts, away commanding a legion of clones, fighting for the Republic. She keeps each present, however, not wanting to anger him. Perhaps this was what he wanted; her compliance, her love. She could pretend, she tells herself. She is pretending. Her husband is dead.
So why does it feel so easy, so real?
Padmé has always been a sensible woman. Able to separate her career from her personal life. So she focuses on maintaining her mental shields, playing the holodisc message that she has memorised over and over in her head. Her mask is firmly in place when she wakes well before dawn, full of nervous apprehension as she briskly uses the fresher and readies herself for the day.
When she pulls open the curtains, the rebels have been taken down from the wall. The brick work seems gaping, a massive hole just outside her window. Her last day of looking at such a ghastly puppet show. The way is clear, it seems to say. The sky outside is still dark, but seems calmer than usual. A good omen. A promise.
She does not pack, leaving it to C5, and instead takes a seat by her window. She’s far too keyed up to do much else, stomach churning too much to eat. Padmé stares at every crevice of her room, her bed, her dresser. Leaving this place is all she has dreamed of since she arrived here, and yet there is an undeniable sorrow in being unable to take her belongings with her. Logically, if she bought only sentimental things, she would arouse Vader’s suspicion. And this had to be perfect, her best performance yet.
Crimson shoots through her room as dawn begins, and Padmé resists the urge to pace. He had said be ready for dawn. It is dawn. He’s never late. Had it all been a joke, another odd test? It feels like a lifetime of waiting when finally she hears the access code being pressed into her door, and the clank of boots that she has grown so familiar of.
He is helmetless today. The sight of him is a shock, especially considering that they would be travelling with his fleet, who had never seen his face. Padmé stands uncertainly from her seat, hands wringing in front of her.
“Did you change your mind?” Padmé asks slowly, heart beginning to pound. Vader looks completely nonchalant as he sprawls out on her bed, breathing in deeply.
“Of course not. I told you we would go.” He says, as though he hasn’t a care in the world. Something feels wrong, but Padmé pushes the feeling away.
“Well,” She clears her throat. “Should we be going?”
“Where’s the fire?” He laughs, patting the bed. “Kessel's not going anywhere. They’re just preparing the ship. We have time. Sit.”
Padmé would rather stand, but she sits anyway.
“I’ve come to take what I want.” Vader says without preamble, his eyes truly gold in the light of dawn. Padmé swallows, saying nothing as Vader sits up, inches from her face.
“What do you want?” Padmé asks in a whisper. Vader smiles at her hitched breath, eyes moving left and right minutely as he looks deeply into her own eyes, searching for emotion.
“I think you know.” He murmurs. “You can say no, if you’d like. I won’t hold it against you.”
Padmé does not know if she can say no. She can’t foil her plans this late. She knows what he wants, and, deep down, she wants it too. So long she has gone untouched, starved of attention. A widow. Dazzled by his lavish gifts, it feels almost too easy to nod, closing her eyes. A farewell, a final goodbye, she thinks to herself.
He takes her hands in his, turning them over before bringing them up to his mouth. Before he touches them to his lips, however, Vader pauses.
“You burnt your hand.” Vader says, stroking the white line on her palm. Padmé shrugs it off, recalling how the holodisc had exploded in her hands.
“It’s nothing,” She murmurs, and he stares at her for several moments, unreadable.
The moment passes however, and Padmé lets out a small breath as he gets closer.
When he leans in and kisses her, her hands fly up to grab onto the collar of his dark tunic, eyes clenching further shut. It’s like going back to Naboo, or trying on her old favourite dress. His touch is so familiar that she loses all sense of time and her surroundings, helpless as he deepens the kiss. His gloved hands wrap around her waist as she feels his tongue enter her mouth, and she moans quietly. They stay like that for several minutes, the kiss slowing to be more passionate, and at the back of her mind Padmé worries about the ship taking off without them.
“They wouldn’t dare,” Vader murmurs against her mouth, pulling back to kiss down her jaw and to her neck. He sucks several marks down each inch, something for which she used to chastise him for during her time in the senate, when they were still a secret. She sighs and runs her hands through his hair, kept long still, and loses herself in the sensation.
It isn’t long before his mouth wonders lower, down to her collar bone, before meeting the tip of her dress. He takes it off quickly, ridding her of all of her clothing. He remains dressed.
“I’m not the man I once was,” He breathes, as though talking to a small child or frightened animal. “But I will try my best to be gentle.”
“I am used to not-gentle.” Padmé says softly, laying back obediently as he looms over her. He strips her quickly, efficiently, and he is silent for a few moments as he studies her naked chest.
“Beautiful, as I remembered.” He says, bending to suck on her nipple.
“Anakin,” She sighs, before tensing up in fear of enraging him with his old name. He has no reaction, only swaps to the other nipple as his hand comes up to play with her breasts.
“I have longed for you every day,” Vader says, and Padmé just nods, arching up slightly under his ministrations.
“Did you like my gifts?” He asks into her bellybutton.
“Yes.” Padmé answers breathlessly. She has forgotten how vocal he got when they were in bed together. It used to be endearing, but now she feels like she’s talking to a ghost. He goes to say something else, and Padmé shoves his head down between her legs.
“Stop talking,” She hisses, and Vader for once obeys, wrapping his tongue around her clit with unprecedented enthusiasm.
Her nerves feel overexposed and raw as he licks and sucks at her, and Padmé can do nothing but stare up at the ceiling, feeling the cool leather around her thighs as he holds her in place. Looking down between her legs makes her forget where she is, just exactly it is who’s trying so reverently to pleasure her.
Vader takes off a glove with his teeth, throwing it carelessly off of the bed. Padmé feels the sensation of a finger breaching her, and whines, hearing his answering groan of contentment. He kisses her inner thigh, letting her get used to the sensation of intrusion. After a few minutes she feels him add another finger, which he curls and hits the bundle of nerves that makes her fly up against his robotic hand which holds her steady. He doesn’t let up as she comes undone, ruthless in his intent, and finally she lays back down, coming hard on his fingers, stars bursting behind her eyes.
“Good?” Vader asks, wiping his mouth on his shoulder in an oddly boyish gesture. At her nod, he smiles, coming back up to kiss her on the lips.
“I still know all your favourite spots.” He murmurs. “And you still pull my hair before you come.”
Padmé tries to form words but she’s so overstimulated she simply moans, turning her head to the side as she feels Vader adjust himself, and then the head of his cock is pushing against her entrance.
“Force,” He swears. “I’ve missed this.”
He isn’t gentle, but does give her a few moments to acclimate to his presence in her body. When she is ready, Vader takes her hard and fast, hitching up her legs to hit a deeper angle. He leans down and kisses her messily, almost bruising her lips. Padmé has a fleeting thought of how she would look getting aboard, what his men would think of her, but the image vanishes as he goes impossibly deeper.
“Anakin, Anakin…” Padmé finds herself saying without realising. Her eyes start to roll, and it’s all so perverted because she’s really enjoying herself, letting this monster touch her in a way no other man ever will. He smiles against her lips and groans, stuttering slightly before speeding up, and she knows that he’s close. Another fire has lit itself inside her stomach and she throws her head back, lost in the sensation.
“Come here,” He says, and then she’s lifted from the bed, still connected. As he stands he pushes up against her deepest wall, and Padmé cries out as she wraps her arms and legs around him, as he pounds into her with a new intensity. They end up against the window, Padmé’s eyes tightly closed, her skin steaming up the glass and hitting against it with every thrust. Dawn has come and gone, the early morning blooming out across the city. Padmé goes to warn him that’ll they’ll be late, they’ll miss the ship to Kessel, but her words get stuck in her throat.
“That’s it,” Vader says, wrapping a hand around her throat. He tilts back her head until it’s more pain than pleasure. “Come for me.”
“Anakin!” Padmé gasps, and she feels the tidal waves begin to wash over her. She’s just beginning to lose herself when she feels him lean down and bite on her earlobe.
“Open your eyes and see your gift, Padmé.” He says against her sensitive skin, but Padmé hardly hears it.
When she comes down, Padmé is too fucked out and hazy to even feel Vader stiffen up and finish inside her. For several moments his hand remains around her neck, and she finally processes his words.
At first she doesn’t understand as she scans the horizon.
But across the courtyard, the Death Troopers have come and gone. She looks out numbly at the bodies hanging, watching her from their spot on the wall, where thousands of their brothers and sisters have stayed before. Still panting, Padmé squints at the man in the middle, crucified between two women, just like before. Foretold by an ominous prophecy.
Vader pulls out and closes his fly before he leans up against her back.
“Short sighted?” He says playfully. He takes a heavy breath. “Kriff, that was amazing. I’ve missed being inside you.”
Padmé begins to shake. The dark robes of Alderaan are unmistakable, shifting in the wind.
“Bail.” She says numbly.
Vader tuts, his gloved hand idly stroking the raised marks forming around her neck.
“We’ve had him as a prisoner for a while.” Vader says, as though discussing the weather. “His information has been vital. But he ran out of uses.”
“This is a trick.” Padmé says. She doesn’t recognise her own voice. Everything sounds as though she is hearing it from underwater. “You are toying with me.”
“I was, as in past tense. So stubborn. Luke is the same, you know.”
“Who?” She says dumbly. It feels as though the ground is about to swallow her up. She pulls away from the window, but Vader holds her steady.
“I always thought he was more like me, but as he grows, it’s becoming quite apparent that he would make a great politician.” Vader laughs. “They’re right here on Coruscant; Luke and Leia. They came here about three weeks after you did.”
“What are you talking about?” Padmé says, her voice rising into a strange pitch. She slumps, naked and bare against Vader, who catches her without flinching.
“Do you think me completely stupid? The Emperor too?” Vader asks, his voice still light and playful. “Silly girl. I saw them in your mind the second you came here. They’re both training in the way of the Sith, as it should be. It’s almost their birthdays. I know you didn’t forget.”
“I don’t understand.” Padmé says. Her tongue feels heavy in her mouth, like she's been drugged. “What about Kessel?”
“Padmé,” Vader says, pulling her from her window and letting her slump, naked and wide-eyed into her chair. His voice is slow and chastising, as though explaining a difficult concept to a particularly stupid child. “You’re not going to Kessel. I created the holodisc. I must have really fooled you. That self-destruct feature burnt your hand, didn’t it?” He goes to reach for her palm, then thinks better of it. “I’ll get you a bacta patch.”
“Bail Organa isn’t waiting for you on Alderaan. He’s been right under your nose for months. A good thing you’re not force-sensitive, isn’t it?”
Padmé is dimly aware that she’s curling up on herself, her head hitting the arm of the chair without feeling it. Her eyes swim with tears and watch blearily as Vader takes a seat on her bed opposite her.
“Why would you do this to me?” Padmé whispers. “Why did you do it?”
“I’ve let your delusions of a rebellion rescue go on for far too long.” Vader sighs. “Nobody’s coming to get you, I doubt many know you’re even here. And there’s no children to get to; they’re right here with us on Coruscant. If you keep being good, I might even let you see them. From a distance, that is. Your affections might...corrupt their training.”
“You’re lying.” Her hands go over her eyes and Padmé sobs now, burning hot in rage and fear. “This is a trick.”
“No, no. The only trick was the holodisc, and what it implied. My gifts were genuine.” Vader stands, and Padmé shrinks back into the chair.
“Everything I have ever done is to keep you safe.” He murmurs. “I needed you to know if you’d fly off the handle the second I gave you a way out. You didn’t. That’s good.” His hand comes up to rub across her leg and she squirms, but his grip tightens and she stills.
“Did you notice how well things go when we work together? Let me spoil you with gifts, take you places in the city. Eventually, maybe off-planet. But you must give up your childish dreams of getting away from me. I love you, Padmé. I love our children. This is how it should be.”
“Get out,” Padmé cries, but there’s no anger in it. She feels as though somebody has pulled the rug out from beneath her, winded and in disbelief. So much sorrow courses through her body she thinks she might implode.
“And there is Leia’s temper,” Vader chuckles, standing from the bed. He leans over her and grabs her jaw, pulling her into a kiss which Padmé resists for a moment, before going limp in his grip. He sighs as he pulls away from her and moves over to the other end of the room.
“I’ll have C5 bring you breakfast and that bacta patch,” He calls over his shoulder. “And I’ll com you from Kessel. You’ve made me late, you minx.”
Padmé says nothing, nodding once into the suede of the seat.
“Until I return.” Vader says, but Padmé does not look up to say goodbye or watch him leave.
“I hate you,” She whispers, but the room is empty again.
Once the illusion is shattered, Padmé realises how foolish she was to ever believe that she had the chance to escape.
It starts when she tells C5 quite bluntly that she would like to kill herself, and she gets a comm from Vader telling her to behave. When she stops eating for several days, C5 holds open her mouth and force feeds her until she is sick. It has all been a game, a lie. There was never any control on her side. Vader explains that he programmed C5 with an enforcement module, for events such as these. Padmé stays in bed when she’s not looking at the wall. They take down Bail after three days, replacing him with a faceless rebel in a camouflage poncho, still holding his blaster.
She never calls him Anakin again, but he doesn’t comment. He sends her gifts, bordering on ridiculous in their extravagance, - jewellery and perfumes, silk slips, dresses, flowers, ancient books for her to read. When he’s in Coruscant Vader comes to her rooms and sits and eats with her, before taking her to bed. Padmé let’s it happen, always quiet and stiff, until she helplessly succumbs to the pleasure. After a while, she starts asking him to stay.
They never talk of Kessel again.
Six years is a long time to be alone. Freedom is no longer an option, Padmé realises. So she stops looking out to the wall. She stops defying C5.
She tries to enjoy her cage, as best as she can.