Title: "Beloved"
Written by: Shawn
Chapter 3 in the "Heart and Soul" series. (3/5)
This follows "Shadows of Winter"
Part 1 (1/3)

Summary: When faced with the most horrific news imaginable, Padme's
utter desperation forces her to turn to Obi-Wan and even Chancellor
Palpatine for help. Her greatest personal challenge awaits...

Rated: M

Category: Heavy Angst/Romance/ Drama/Grief
Pairing: Anakin and Padme Skywalker. Another slight, one-sided
attraction/admirati on/interest.
Not slash.

Story Warning: Graphic Violence, Angst

Timeline: Obviously, knowledge of Star Wars: Episode 1 and 2 is
needed. You must also read the other "Heart and Soul" chapters before
this one. "The Light and the Dark" and "Shadows of Winter." This
story takes place six months after SoW.

Disclaimer: George Lucas and Lucasfilm owns everything.

Email: Dayshawn1974@ gmail.com

Authors Notes 1: In this universe the Clone Wars will last three and
a half years. It's commonly known that Anakin and Padme were
separated for five months before Episode 3 when Obi-Wan and Anakin
were dealing with the Outer Rim Sieges. This story picks up two years
and four months after Star Wars: Episode 2.

Authors Notes 2: If some of you are concerned about the Pairing notes
above, I ask you to trust me and the story.

Authors Notes 3: Dorme, Padme's handmaiden/bodyguar d and best friend
in this story knows of her marriage to Anakin. Obi-Wan only suspects
more is going on than he knows but, elects not to pry.

Authors Notes 4: The official Star Wars database provided many of the
details for this story, though some things are my original creations.

Extra Special Thanks: Anne, my Jedi Master of good grammar and all
around help. She's the best, seriously.

~~~~~~

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it
goes on."
~~ Robert Frost

"Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible."
~~ Mary McLeod Bethune

"Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails."
~~ I Corinthians 13:4-8

~~~~~~

******

******

The Galactic Senate Hall
The Naboo Delegations Official Senate Pod
Row 6600 - Section M
Early evening
Galactic City, Coruscant

Having exhausted even her vaunted patience, Padme struggled to keep
her tired eyes open as the Senators from worlds of Toola and Sullust
continued their eight-hour debate over an interstellar trade dispute.
Sighing as the day without end seemed no closer to its conclusion,
she found herself envious of Jar Jar's gentle snoring beside her. In
addition, she was sure that Dorme had a little extra something in her
beverage that aided in her ability to seem alert. The thought of
which curled a subtle smile on Senator's face.

She was fairly certain that something special wasn't non-alcoholic.

And she almost asked for some herself.

Seated in the rear of the Naboo delegation's Senate pod, Padme often
found at the end of the day that the Great Senate Hall's artificial
atmosphere and illumination gave her a headache. Never more than
today as she was dying to flee this place back to her apartment.
Having given her all for the Republic on a daily basis, nights in
which Anakin was expected home were taken selfishly and not a moment
was to be wasted. Two bottles of Correllian wine and a little slinky
Alderranian silk lingerie awaited her arrival, as well as a night of
passion and ecstasy.

Fending off a blush, Padme placed her hand over her mouth to stifle a
yawn while wondering how close to Coruscant Anakin was now, or if
he'd arrived already at their apartment waiting on her. No doubt
looking to scare her when she arrived and then sooth her complaints
with the heat of his mouth covering hers.
She'd playfully bat at his
arms and shoulders complaining the whole time his warm hands shed the
clothes from her body. And then he would thrill her all night long
until she rested sated and happy beside his nude body.

By the Force, she missed so much him these last, lonely months. They
were given days at a time... sometimes only hours to be who they
really were. A husband and his wife, locked behind closed doors,
hidden from the prying eyes of the galaxy. Stealing whatever they
could. Such was life during a time of war. And though difficult and
painful, she wouldn't trade a moment... a single heartbeat with him
for anything.

Her gaze reached out over the vast, arena-like chamber, with its
thousands of Senators conversing quietly amongst themselves. The two
holding up matters seemed to be nearing a compromise of sorts. Or so
she hoped until their voices rose yet again. Behind the veil of a
side of her most thought didn't exist, if Anakin were here now she'd
allow him to gently "persuade" those two to agree so they could
leave.

Yes, even Padme understood when fair wasn't an option anymore.

"I wonder what this is about?" Dorme noted from behind Padme,
pointing toward the rising Grand Convocation Chamber from the center
of the chamber. The Chancellors Podium, with the man himself, quickly
commanded the entire attention of the Senate Hall. The opposing
Senator's pods drifted back to their respective holds. "Palpatine
never interrupts the proceedings without being announced first."

"Such an ego wouldn't allow it." Padme felt a dreaded sense of worry
come over her from the very sight of Chancellor Palpatine. Dorme was
right, this wasn't his usual entrance. This was abrupt. And the dire
expression he wore as he stepped to the podium appeared grim.
Genuinely grim. Something was seriously wrong.

Silence reigned over the entire chamber, awaiting the most powerful
man in the galaxy.

"It is with grave pain in my heart that I report to you all what was
just reported to me by the Jedi," Palpatine began with a weary sigh,
pausing as if to collect his thoughts. Mas Amedda shadowed him
closely, as if worried he might fall at any second. With his normally
booming voice gone, he spoke in a fragile tone, "Anakin Skywalker is
dead."

The heart-stopping moment echoed a collective gasp from the thousands
of Senator's present, almost all rising to their feet. Padme remained
motionless, saying nothing, her heart in her throat. A blank
expression covering her lovely face as her skin paled.

Palpatine raised his hands for quiet. The sound died down, but very
few Senators were seated. The incredible shock was only now settling
in. "The Jedi have confirmed to my office that Jedi Skywalker was
investigating a location Count Dooku was believed to be scouting for
a new base of operation. He was ambushed by a small fleet of fighters
and killed in the attack. Apparently, this all took place a day ago,
as the Jedi themselves have massed an extensive investigation into
the indecent. They did not inform me or my office of any of this
until just a few moments ago. But to repeat, the Jedi have concluded
that Anakin Skywalker is dead."

Disgusting horror swept over Padme as her stomach twisted sickly. Her
fists wrenched at the podium's banister until Dorme's pleading words
of comfort began to pulse in her head. The attempt to maintain her
composure lest she rouse suspicion began to crumble. She rose with
Jar Jar's help, hearing voices but understanding nothing save the
foul words that destroyed her world.

As if in slow motion, she remembered her feet moving as Dorme, Jar
Jar, and Captain Typho quickly ushered her off the Senator pod and
into the main hall where a massive contingent of HoloNet reporters
were swarming over any Senator who emerged first. Upon seeing her,
with full knowledge of her friendship with Anakin Skywalker, they
attacked with loud questions from all sides.

Padme's mind was in a fog, unable to grasp the news Palpatine
delivered. She heard Dorme ushering Captain Typho, Jar Jar, and
Padme's private security detail toward her shuttle while she gave the
official statement of "No comment at this time." Nonetheless, the
news hounds barked at her until she was led onto the starship. Racing
to her best friend's side, Dorme wrapped her arms around Padme as the
tears began. As the shouts and screams of "NO NO NO!!!" erupted from
the pit of her lungs in the back of the ship.
As she fell to her
knees, still in Dorme's arms, absolutely dying inside.

The starship lifted off its private landing dock, gusting off into
the sky.

Even while crying her eyes out, two things suddenly became crystal
clear to Padme. First was that through their connection in the Force
she'd felt Anakin when he was angry and sad and even violent from
across the galaxy. She even sensed when he was in good spirits no
matter how far away from her he was. And she couldn't get over the
feeling that if he died the force of his death would have blindsided
her like a blow to the face.

Instead, she had felt nothing of the sort. Nothing at all.

Secondly, despite Dorme wanting her to speak with the Chancellor to
learn of this official report, Padme only wanted to hear from one
man. And it was definitely not Palpatine. "Take me to the Jedi
Temple
. Hail Master Kenobi. Find him. Tell them it is an absolute
emergency."

******

******

The Jedi Temple
Spaceport Tower
Hanger M-1
30 Standard Minutes Later
Galactic City, Coruscant

As Coruscant's gusting evening winds swept over his Jedi robe, Obi-
Wan cast his gaze skyward, catching sight of a familiar shimmering
starship fast approaching. Standing alone on the spaceport landing
platform, the Jedi Master bore a grim expression, wishing anything
but to have to be the one to tell Padme the very last thing she would
ever want to hear. And yet it was his duty to their friendship, and
his brotherhood with Anakin, that she hear the truth from his lips.

And then he'd be forced to look into her beautiful brown eyes and
watch a part of her die inside. The part of both her and Anakin he'd
ignored for their sakes for the longest time now.

Sighing, Obi-Wan held a stoic pose as the landing gear of Senator
Amidala's private starship softly touched down on the landing
platform. For as often as he'd looked forward to seeing his good
friend, tonight was different. There would be no vibrant conversation
over politics or remembering those amazing first adventures together.
Today marked a crucial, life-altering turn in their lives. One from
which he wasn't sure he'd ever fully recover.

As for her... he couldn't even imagine.

Even as the starship's boarding ramp descended, Obi-Wan felt Padme's
slight ray of hope as well as her scorching grief. That endless hope,
which he'd admired since the day he met her, was withering beneath
the weight of her pain. He knew he'd be no help at all to lessen the
strain.

Padme appeared and quickly made her way down the boarding ramp, her
arms holding herself against the winds as she made her way to Obi-
Wan. She offered no greeting, her expression as shielded as the
emotions she tried her best to hide from him. Respectfully, he
extended his hand to lead her as they walked towards the spaceport
entrance, allowing her to enter first. They passed a group of Padawan
learners, who all bowed in her honor.

"This way, Senator," he said as they made their way through the
starship hanger and into a small elevation platform. Moments later
Obi-Wan led Padme inside a private room prepared in advance for their
talk.

Exhaling a deep breath, Padme was grateful they reached the private
room before she collapsed. The click of the door closing behind her
signaled they were alone. She turned around to face Obi-Wan, and
whatever hope she held close to her heart died the moment she saw the
pain etched in his face. Utterly dreadful, hopeless pain.

"Please sit, Padme. Would like something to drink?" Obi-Wan asked,
arms
behind his back.

"What happened?"

Her cool facade fell that very instant. Her lovely face crumbled
before him... even before he began. Motioning toward a Map Reader in
the center of the room, he used the Force to dim the lights, and then
used a small clear globe to operate the machine. "What I am about to
share with you is highly classified information and cannot leave the
room." Padme nodded. "Clone intelligence acquired a series of
interstellar transmissions five days ago. Our sources believed these
transmissions were encoded messages meant for Count Dooku and sent by
his scout team. He is a very paranoid individual and is constantly on
the move. One reason the war has dragged on for so long is due to our
inability to capture him."

Obi-Wan continued. "The information seemed to detail a cluster of
asteroids near the planet Troiken in the Outer Rim that could be a
possible base of operations for the Separatists. Anakin and I were
dispatched quickly to investigate the transmissions. We were able to
use unmanned, cloaked probe droids to scout the area, and found that
in two standard days time a hyperspace gate had been built just
outside the asteroid belt. I wanted us to wait and monitor the
situation further before making a move, but Anakin felt that the
Separatists no longer built bases. He explained that since they were
always on the move they only used starships unless they already
possessed control of a particular world. We debated the best way to
approach things until a new transmission appeared, one that we could
not fully conclude its meaning because of a new scrambling system the
Separatists now employ."

If she tried hard enough, Padme could easily hear Anakin's thinking
on the matter. He was so stubborn and rash at times, but his only
wish was to end this war and be with her. To that end he'd do
anything. Her grief cradled a new pain. Guilt, as he'd begged her to
run away with him so many times... and now it seemed to be too late.
She trembled thinking of her life without him. "Go on."

Brushing his hand over his beard, Obi-Wan's voice cracked when he
spoke. "My interpretation was that the message meant supplies were
being sent to begin construction of a new base of operations. Anakin
felt that there was a clear chance Count Dooku himself was about to
arrive. You must understand, we were trying to interpret garbled
communications at best. Neither of us were sure of our beliefs, but
Anakin felt this was a once in a lifetime chance to end the war. He
went on and on about where in the message he felt it was clear that
Count Dooku himself was going to arrive at a specific date. Since I
was the senior officer, even though I have the utmost faith in
Anakin, I preached patience."

"He has struggled with patience since the moment I met him," Padme
admitted while wiping fresh tears away, not caring anymore if he
noticed or not. She didn't have the strength to hide her
feelings. "Please continue."

"Hours later I went to look for Anakin to talk, but he was already
gone. That was when I learned of his..." Obi-Wan simply could not say
the foul words, shaking his head, angry at himself. "We learned of a
confrontation at the asteroid belt. Anakin had flown his star fighter
through it and was lying in wait for Dooku's ship. From here things
are a bit unpolished as we don't know all the details. Artoo sent
word of being attacked out of nowhere by a small armada of
Separatists starships. They were being overwhelmed, and then the
transmission cut off altogether. By the time our ship arrived at the
scene the Separatists stargate was nothing more than space dust."

"Did you find..." Padme swallowed hard, her hand covering her mouth
as she began shivering violently. When Obi-Wan reached for her, her
hand lifted. She took a moment to settle herself. "Did you find his
Jedi fighter or a body?"

"No," Obi-Wan replied solemnly. "We found thirteen separate pieces of
Anakin's starship, as well as R-2's dome plate. He fought off the
fighters valiantly, but we have every reason to believe he died in
the skirmish. The stargate was destroyed as well."

Padme's mind raced over the possibilities, desperate to find even a
shred of hope. "Do you have any way of knowing if the stargate was
finished or if it had been used?"

No matter her grief, her mind was alert. Just one of the many
qualities Obi-Wan admired in her. "We have concluded that the
stargate was completed and had been used. We weren't sure if it had
been used during the battle, but we've been quietly investigating
every possible route a ship could have taken once passing through the
gate. There are no signs of anything, anywhere. I personally flew
eighteen standard hours straight over the last day searching for any
clues... any hope that Anakin might be alive. I found none."

While on one level she appreciated Obi-Wan's straightforward speech,
on another she wanted to collapse on the floor and never open her
eyes again. She knew Obi-Wan loved Anakin. Knew he would do anything
for his brother, and would never lie. His character was above
reproach in that regard. "What about the Force?" she
questioned. "Surely you would have felt his death? Perhaps Master
Yoda?"


Obi-Wan paused, and then shook his head. "Neither of us have. We
can't sense him at all. It is a mystery to us, but the evidence
clearly shows that Anakin's star fighter suffered severe damage, as
well as his R-2 unit. We have pieces of the other fighters as well,
but no way to know how the battle went. What we do know is that after
a comprehensive search with more than fifty Jedi fighters scouring
the area and beyond, we cannot find a trace of Anakin. If he'd been
taken alive he would have used any number of ways a Jedi are able to
reveal their whereabouts. A homing beacon, a final transmission, or
even projecting the Force would have alerted someone... or me.
Instead, we have nothing to hold onto in the belief that he is alive.
Trust me when I say I have exhausted every possible scenario."

Padme's eyes fell shut, her face wining painfully as waves of swept
fell over her. "Tell me about the debris you've confirmed is from
Anakin's starship?"

"The entire shielded-covering of his life-support systems, as well as
his fuel calibrator, the entire right wing, and part of the lower,
outer hull. As I said, his star fighter was severely damaged. I don't
think he survived, Padme." Obi-Wan softly concluded, "I think he's
gone."

Facing the corner wall, Padme's stomach sank. Her silence was
deafening, her heart utterly broken. She could not fathom a more
cruel fate. By the Force, hadn't she sacrificed enough? Hadn't she
given of herself throughout her entire life enough so that this one
man could be hers and hers alone someday? Why would the Force visit
such torture upon her when all that she has tried to do with her life
was help others. Grief rang in her voice when she said, "Thank you,
Ben."

Folding his arms over his chest, he felt the need to comfort her, and
yet knew he had nothing to offer that would. She was devastated,
plain and simple. Her inner pride was all that kept her together as
he worried for her state of mind. For all his vaunted abilities he
simply didn't know what to do. His own pain and sense of loss were
raw as any open wound. "I tried my very best. I did all that I could
think to do."

With a heavy heart, Padme walked to Obi-Wan, embraced him briefly,
and then stepped away. "I know that you did," she told him softly.

They walked in silence back to the hanger bay, each lost in their own
thoughts. As time passed Obi-Wan found himself staring at Padme's
departing starship. It lifted off into the distant night sky,
disappearing in the billowing clouds. The stark reality that his
brother was gone hadn't sunk in yet. He instead grieved for Padme's
loss, swearing to avenge it someday on Count Dooku.

A Jedi could not know anger. It was forbidden.

And yet as he lived and breathed, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi felt
nothing more deeply at this time than the most bitterest anger he had
ever felt before.

******

******

Senator Padme Amidala's apartment
Located on the top floors of the Senate Apartment Complex of 500
Republica
Senate District
Evening
Galactic City, Coruscant

With the deafening sound of thunder crackling in the distance and
white lightening streaking across Galactic City's busy skyline, Dorme
felt it was appropriate that the rains would fall tonight. Coruscant
was drowning as the heavens wept for the loss of a good man and the
part of his soul he left behind.

While stirring a steaming pot of hearty Pelcian soup, Dorme turned
her gaze to where her grieving friend was sitting quietly in the
living room. Her arms wrapped around herself, Padme's stony, pale
expression gripped Dorme's heart. She hadn't moved since they'd
arrived back at the apartment a standard hour ago. Hadn't spoken a
single word.


When the Senator returned to her ship after her meeting with Master
Kenobi at the Jedi Temple, the message was clear from the vacant look
in her eyes. All hope was lost. Her husband was dead.

Nonetheless, Dorme swore Padme would not be alone tonight or any
night until she was... better. And someday she would be, no matter
how far off that was. Then again, Dorme had never in all her years, a
time that exceeded her friend's age, known love as Padme had. Deep,
breathing, life-sustaining love as she shared with Anakin. It was so
unfair... such a travesty of injustice that two who had given so much
of themselves would be separated like this.

Anakin's death was an absolute tragedy.

Exhaling deeply on a silent prayer, Dorme set the soup aside, as well
as the Pilar tea she prepared. She'd given Padme her space thus far,
time
to collect her tumultuous thoughts, but now she had to eat
something. She would need to keep her strength up for the long, hard
days ahead. So she cautiously approached her best friend, circling
the sofa before resting a gentle hand on Padme's shoulder.

"Please eat something, milady. I've prepared some soup and your
favorite tea." Nothing. No response at all. Her head bowed as the
grieving widow she thought she'd never be. "Milady, I cannot fathom
the suffering you are going through tonight, but I am here to help
you in any way that I can. I don't want you to hold anything in. You
need to grieve. You never have to pretend with me. I know how deeply
you loved Anakin."

As tears descended her face, Padme tried to calm her breathing, but
felt so utterly broken inside. "Ani... My Ani," she cried in Dorme's
welcoming embrace, desperately needing to be held while her life was
falling apart. "He wanted to run away from all of this so many times.
He begged me to go, but I always refused." Shaking her head, the
tears fell hot down her cheeks, her eyes squeezed shut. "I kept
repeating the same things to him over and over about duty and
commitment to ending the war. But maybe he knew... maybe he saw that
he wouldn't live through this. Maybe he never told me, and now I know
I'm the reason he's dead."

"No, Padme. That is absolutely not true," Dorme cupped her face,
drawing her full attention. "Anakin performed his duties as a Jedi
and lost his life to the war effort. He died a hero trying to end the
war."

"I DON''T CARE ABOUT THE WAR!" roared out of Padme in a shout.
Shaking, she was barely able to catch her breath, her voice hitching
painfully. "HE DIED BECAUSE I DIDN'T PUT HIM FIRST." Collapsing in
Dorme's arms, she attempted to gather herself against the agony of
her loss. "I always told him after the war would be our time. And
then we would belong to only each other... I was such a fool, Dorme.
Life isn't promised to any of us no matter the good deeds we do. Life
isn't fair. And now... and now I have to live without him," her voice
faded tearfully. "I don't know how... I can't... What am I supposed
to do? He was my world."

Dorme's eyes welled with tears as she held Padme through the worse
fit of sobbing she'd ever seen a person endure. Heaving, gasping
cries escaped her best friend, and all that she could do was hold on
for dear life. She knew Padme didn't deserve this. Not someone who
was as selfless and kind as her. "I love you, Padme. And I know that
holds little comfort for you now, but I do. And I swear you will not
go through this alone."

Padme wiped her tears away with the back of her hand, her mind still
in a fog as the crippling grief threatened to overwhelm her again.

"Milady, I have tried to reach your family on Naboo, but a series of
storms have hampered long-range communications. I will continue
trying throughout the night."

"Thank you," Padme offered softly.

"In addition, I have already filed the data work for your temporary
leave of absence from the Senate. Two standard weeks time, effective
immediately. I didn't think you would care about anyone questioning
your timing."

"If I ever return to the Senate..." Padme sadly shook her head,
burying her face in her hands. "I need to lie down. I..."

"Yes, that is a good idea, milady. And after a nap I will reheat the
soup for you." Taking Padme's forearm, Dorme helped her to her feet,
having never seen her so fragile before. They slowly walked to
Padme's bedroom, and upon reaching it Dorme worried that the memories
within would only make things worse. Nonetheless, she held her
peace. "If you need me..."

"I know." Padme entered, and then turned the wall switch,
illuminating the room. She was haunted the moment her eyes caught
site of the partially open closet, a dark Jedi robe peeking out. The
sinful nightgown she intended to wear tonight when the Senator took
her leave and Mrs. Skywalker came out to play damned her vision. He'd
been gone so long the bed sheets no longer held his scent. In the
corner, several flight manuals she swore she wasn't going to pick up
because that was his job were spread on the floor.

Just after they'd been reunited due to the attempt on her life, she
recalled being here when the heat of his gaze warmed her to the point
of making her feel uncomfortable. .. and like a woman for nearly the
first time. She remembered dismissing him soon after so that she
could finish packing, her heart racing due to his obvious interest.
And then she packed her most daring dress, wishing to incite him even
while denying to herself that was her intent.

Ashes... her memories were but ashes now.

Beneath her bed was a small chest of items that defined moments in
their relationship. They were her most precious possessions. His
Padawan braid and the Japor snippet he made for her years ago. The
sliver of paper written on by the holy man who married them, and the
light saber that was his anniversary gift to her.


To even look upon them once now would kill her.

Padme crumpled on the floor at the foot of the bed, her hands in her
lap, dying inside as silence reigned. Her dreams were shattered.
Crushed beyond all hope. The future she'd dreamed of would never come
to pass. And she hadn't even a body to bury. Nor a single picture of
them holding each other, never taken for fear of their relationship
being discovered.


Fear.

Padme felt as if her fears had ruined her. Fear of Anakin being
expelled from the Jedi Order. Fear that if her marriage was ever made
public she would lose her position as Senator of Naboo. Fear of what
people might say, shameful as that was for her to admit. And the fear
that if the war didn't end Palpatine would never be relieved of his
emergency powers.

She possessed the adoration and love of an entire world, the esteemed
position of Senator representing that world, a great deal of
political power and influence, the history of having been a Queen,
and a vast
wealth. So much that she would never live to spend it all. But none
of those things compared to having Anakin's love. To sharing her life
with him.
Being his wife, even in secret, was her greatest joy.

Pulling herself up onto the bed and then lying on her side, her small
body huddled in the center of the mattress as she cried, Padme wanted
nothing more than to feel Anakin's strong arms around her again. How
could he leave her behind... how could he?

And then she heard a faint, familiar voice. She could make out the
tone, but not the words. With her eyes shut tightly, the sound grew
marginally louder but wasn't in the room with her. Though grieving,
she had the presence of mind to focus on it. Her mind chased the
spark. And when it spoke softly a third time she recognized that
voice and her soul soared.

"Angel..."

"Anakin," she whispered, and then a bright light behind her eyes
blinded her vision with a multitude of shadowy images... a half
destroyed Jedi Fighter... a red moon... a cluster of Pirate Battle
cruisers... Anakin's face... bloodied, bruised, but alive... barely.

"... Er'Kit."

Anakin's voice faded, as did the images. Padme woke suddenly,
blinking. Through their connection in the Force he reached out to
her. She just knew that if he had truly died she would have felt it.
Not Obi-Wan. Not Master Yoda. Only her alone. "He's alive."

Flying from the bed, Padme broke into a sprint, entering the front
room. "Dorme!" She found her in the kitchen area. "Dorme, Anakin is
alive!"

"Milady, no. Please don't do this to your..."

"Listen," Padme quickly explained. "Anakin and I share something
through the Force. Even as children we always have. Neither of us
understands it fully, but we trust it. I just had a vision, and I
heard him. I swear to you I am not hallucinating. I saw his starship
on a red moon. I saw Pirate Battle cruisers, and he said the word
Er'Kit."

Grasping for hope, Dorme considered it. "Er'Kit is a world on the
Outer Rim. I saw a HoloNet special about it when its Senator, Danry
Ledwellow, was implicated in a Thalassian slave ring. Its world has
one red moon."

That confirmation was all that Padme needed to hear. "He's there,
Dorme. I don't know how, but I know he is alive, and he is there.
He's hurt badly, but he's alive."

Fire and passion had returned to Padme, as did her unshakable will.
Dorme wasn't sure of her revelation but would follow her best friend
anywhere she needed to go. "What do we do?"

"Have Captain Typho prepare my ship for a long range journey. Amplify
the force fields, and get me a cloaking device. I don't care how you
do it, but do it. The Pirate guilds in that area would love to
capture a Senator, so I intend to evade them if I can."

Dorme nodded. "What about the Republic blockade forbidding access to
the world?"

Swallowing hard, Padme knew what she had to do. "I'll deal with that.
No matter what it costs me."

******

******

Republic Executive Building
Chancellor's Suite
Senate District
Late night
Galactic City, Coruscant

Attendant droids, load-lifters, pilot automatons, and Republic
officials greeted Senator Amidala on the expansive, multi-level
landing dock when she arrived. Captain Typho and her security detail
waited aboard her starship as she passed the multiple security
checkpoints before being led to the Supreme Chancellor's suite. Dorme
was still back at the apartment making the necessary arrangements for
the mission to come.

For now though, Padme's sole focus was on the task at hand, and to
accomplish that she needed the help of a snake. Wagering the risk of
getting bitten, she'd gamble with a Sith Lord himself to save her
husband. In her estimation dealing with Palpatine was just as lethal.

Upon stepping off the turbo-lift onto the Chancellor's floor, the Red
Guards distinctive crimson robes and attire greeted Padme just
outside the door, along with the Republic Vice Chair and Speaker of
the Senate, Mas Amedda. She graciously acknowledged him. "Vice Chair,
I apologize for this very late and unannounced interruption. But I
must speak to the Chancellor immediately. Dire consequences are at
hand."

"Senator Amidala." Gracing her with a bow, the Chagrian ceremoniously
stepped aside and then opened the door for her. "The Supreme
Chancellor's cabinet just convened a late meeting. When word of your
starship approaching came, his Excellency prepared for your arrival.
He awaits you, milady."

"Thank you," Padme bowed respectfully, and then entered the suite.
Red dominated the decor, as well as many priceless artifacts and
heirlooms. A particular statue drew her attention, though she wasn't
here to admire the artwork. Ahead, Palpatine sat on a silver, throne-
like chair. He rose slowly and then rounded his massive desk, hands
behind his back, approaching her. She never considered if this were a
good idea or not. It wasn't. But she had no other choice. For Anakin,
she would do anything. "Chancellor, I apologize for the urgency of
this meeting, but I assure you I would not be here if it weren't of
the utmost importance."

Sighing deeply, Palpatine nodded before her, appearing humble and
withered. "Tonight, we are grieving the loss of a great friend. Once
we were friends too. And despite our current differences I wouldn't
have the heart to say no to you. Your visit isn't an intrusion, it's
a gift."

Taking a deep breath, Padme settled herself, unwavered by his
transparent guise. "Thank you, sir."

"Could I interest you in a drink, Milady? Surely on a night like
tonight you might need one?"

He was right, though she felt as if he were reading her rather than
offering out of kindness. Palpatine wasn't ever what he appeared to
be, and she was mindful of that. Never more than now. "No thank you,"
she replied.

"Dear, what brings you here this late? Surely your time would be
better spent grieving with loved ones."

"There may be nothing to grieve over," Padme asserted. Her words
captured him, and for a brief moment he seemed genuinely...
surprised. "What we need to speak of can never leave this room."

The most subtle of smiles lifted his face. "Believe it or not, I'm
pretty good at keeping secrets."

Of that she was certain. Now was the tricky part. She'd never been in
favor of or fully trusted Anakin's friendship with Palpatine. Tonight
she had too. "Sir, I have reason to believe Anakin is alive." His
arms crossed his chest before her, his brow etched in a contemplative
expression. Then he deeply exhaled and slowly shook his head.

"Milady, he is gone," Palpatine said before swallowing hard, as if
the pain of Anakin's loss deeply affected him. "I may not be the
Jedi's biggest supporter these days, but I assure you they have done
all that can be done to save one of their own. Master Kenobi himself
conducted the search. If he could find no trace of him then..."

"Sir," and this was it. Padme had no choice. Reaching for his hand,
she took it between hers, surprising him with her affection. "I am
aware of your friendship with Anakin. He's spoken highly of you on
many occasions. I... I hope he's on some level spoken of the deep and
abiding friendship he shares with me."

"You are the very light in his universe, milady." Palpatine stood
tall, enjoying her mild discomfort. "He would want me to help you in
any legal way that I can."

As if the law mattered to him, Padme thought. Nonetheless, she wasn't
here to fight him tonight. "We were once friends and allies. Tonight,
more so than I have ever needed anyone before I need you to trust me.
I believe that Anakin may be alive near a world called Er'Kit. I
cannot explain to you my evidence. I am asking for blind faith,
unfair as that sounds. But I have no where else to turn. I am begging
you for your help."

Despite her powerful Force-shields, a skill Anakin no doubt taught
her, Palpatine sensed she may truly have reason to believe her
claims. He himself could not find Anakin through the Force, and if
Master Kenobi had failed then perhaps the Chosen One was lost. Or
perhaps not.
While he regarded love as a means to an end, he
nonetheless regarded it powerfully. Padme never lied and would never
have come to him if she weren't on to something. She was formidable,
if naive in his eyes. "There's a Republic blockade barring any access
to Er'Kit due to the recent Pirate skirmishes and threats of
Separatists sneak attacks. Going there is forbidden."

"I will go there," Padme boldly proclaimed without a hint of fear. "I
will find Anakin with or without your help."

"You have brought me no evidence, milady. Nothing tangible save your
word. And forgive me, but I well know of your opinion of me. Why
should I help you?"

"Because once we were friends. Once you were a champion of Naboo,
same as I. We both lo... value Anakin in our lives. And if there is a
chance, no matter how remote, that he is alive then we have to honor
him by trying." Padme exhaled deeply. "What I ask of you, I know how
it must sound. And I am sorry, I cannot provide evidence to support
my claims. But trust me now as you once did. I would not be here if I
didn't believe with my whole heart that he could be saved."

She was deadly serious, of that he was certain. And if Anakin were
alive...
Palpatine nodded, backing away from her before walking
behind his desk again. He typed in something on his personal keyboard
and then produced a data pad that he laid at the head of his
desk. "Milady, Er'Kit is a world known for slaving and is a haven for
dangerous Pirate Clans. Your life would be in danger the moment you
entered the system. In addition, the Republic blockade wouldn't allow
you to get anywhere near that world, provided you didn't have a
proper code clearance." Moving toward her again, he graced her with a
mild smile. "So officially.. . I must decline your request for help. I
feel that the Jedi were thorough and my faith in them, at least as it
pertains to one of their own, is unwavering. I suggest you let this
go and grieve so that you can move on."

Padme watched him spare a glance at his desk, and then walk past her
to the door.

"Goodnight, Senator Amidala. Wherever life takes you next, I wish you
the very best."

Palpatine exited the suite, leaving her alone. Padme ran to the desk,
found the data pad he left for her, and saw the Republic Blockade
code clearance. The snake didn't bite her. At least not today. And on
some worlds snake venom could be turned into a cure. Ironic in every
way.


Padme hastily departed Palpatine's suite, needing to get back to her
apartment. Hopefully by the time she arrived Obi-Wan would already be
there.

******

******

Senator Padme Amidala's apartment
Located on the top floors of the Senate Apartment Complex of 500
Republica
Senate District
Late Night
Galactic City, Coruscant

"I see Master Kenobi's Jedi Fighter," Captain Typho pointed out as he
docked Padme's starship near the apartment's veranda. Dorme and Obi-
Wan awaited the Senator's arrival on the deck. Swiveling in his
pilot's chair, he recognized the fear and determination in the
Senator's eyes. He was well aware of what today cost her. "Milady, I
understand your need for discretion in what you are about to attempt,
but I have experience in dealing with the Pirate Clans. I feel I
would be an asset to you."

Resting her hand on his shoulder, Padme's had trusted her safety and
security to this good man for the longest time now. Appreciation
lived in her eyes. "Captain, I trust you with my life. Please never
doubt that. But this mission in particular is one where Senator
Amidala needs to remain on Coruscant. With Dorme going with me, if my
chief of security went missing the HoloNet would talk. I need you to
remain, be one of my voices in my absence, and convey that I am
alright and simply taking a break after losing my good friend.
Senator Amidala must remain on Coruscant."

While he wanted to protest further, this wasn't about him. This was
about Padme saving her husband's life. And if she was wrong, and he
was truly dead, then doing this might give her the closure she
needed. "I understand, milady. You can rest assured I will perform my
duties."

"I know that you will, Captain. And thank you for arranging the
starship that you did."

"A friend of a friend owed me a favor, Milady. While this is a fine
vessel, you may encounter trouble that this ship's weapons systems
cannot handle. The Curcean-class starship is swift and formidable, in
addition to having some of the best long-range scanners in the galaxy
and a capable cloaking system. It will serve you well." Captain Typho
nodded. "The starship awaits you in the warehouse district. Zone- H.
Dorme has the exact coordinates. " As Padme prepared to exit the ship,
he commented. "Milady. All my best to you."

"
Thank you for everything, Captain." Upon exiting the ship as she
descended the landing ramp, Dorme and Obi-Wan's concern was obvious
to her. She was well aware that as much as they loved and respected
her, they had to on some level worry if her grief was grasping for
even a shred of hope. She prayed that they were wrong. "Ben, thank
you for coming so quickly."


Looking to Dorme for a brief moment, Obi-Wan walked to
Padme. "Milady, I must caution you. Dorme has explained what you are
about to attempt. And while I would wish for nothing more than for
Anakin to be alive, I have worked tirelessly in the last day with
over fifty Jedi Knights to find him. With all due respect to you, how
could you possibly be able to do what we could not?"

Padme captured his caring eyes, and for the first time in his
presence since her marriage, faded her Force-shields against his Jedi
perception. His eyes widened suddenly as her thoughts and feelings
were laid bare before him. He needed to sense the connection through
the Force she shared with Anakin. "Anakin reached out to me, Obi-Wan.
I had a vision of his starship missing the wing you said you
recovered. I saw a distinctive red moon and pirate battle cruisers
bearing symbols I had never seen before. He spoke the name of a world
that possessed one red moon. A world that I knew nothing about. Dorme
can confirm that she was the one who told me that Er'Kit possessed a
red moon. I didn't know anything about that before my vision. And I
saw Anakin's face... he looked badly injured, but he was alive. I
believe he is on that moon, and I will do anything to save him. But I
need your help, Ben."

Obi-Wan had never felt in his lifetime the immense depth of feelings
for one person from another as he felt from Padme. Her love for
Anakin was absolute. Her determination, unshakable. Setting his ego
aside, something he'd prided himself on mastering, perhaps she was
connected to Anakin on a level he couldn't comprehend. Perhaps one
that no Jedi could.
Sighing as his head bowed, he reminded himself of
the Force and its limitless power and mystery. Master Yoda had
studied it for hundreds of years and still says, "Unexplainable, the
Force is. Binds us, it does."

Padme managed a small smile, sensing her victory. "If I am wrong and
we find nothing, I will let him go... and move on. I swear it. But
until that moment I will do anything... go anywhere to save his life."

Craning his neck about, Obi-Wan nodded. She was Anakin's champion,
undeniably so. "I've been given a leave of absence by the Jedi Order.
We can leave immediately. "

"I'm going to bring him home, Ben."

While listening to Padme and Dorme converse over her research of
Er'Kit and what they can expect upon reaching the world, Obi-Wan was
certain that if anyone could do the impossible, it was Padme Amidala.

******

The End of Chapter 1

Chapter 2: Just how far will Padme go to save Anakin's life?