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					                                    The Empire

                          Part Two: The Vader Dynasty

                                By Cariel and Jody
                             cariel@dramatic-personae.net
                              jody@dramatic-personae.net


The old man stared up at him with desperation riddled all over his features. Gone
was the cool arrogance and collected air of snobbery that hung about the Sith
Lord known as Count Dooku. All that remained was a cowering, broken warrior
who now found himself caught between two lightsabers that hung within inches of
his throat. Though the emperor was exhausted and worn, even he couldn’t ignore
the rush of dark pleasure felt upon sensing Dooku’s fear. It seemed like only
yesterday when the count was mocking Anakin and his skills before proceeding to
remove his hand and soundly beat him. The memory caused the young emperor’s
expression to turn stormy. However, despite his urge to unleash the darkness, to
savour and enjoy this moment of revenge, something caused Anakin to falter.

‘Kill him.’

Anakin’s eyes flickered at the sound of the supreme chancellor’s voice, first to the
elderly man and then to the unconscious form of his brother. Despite the fact
Anakin wanted so desperately to do this, he knew his brother would be so
disappointed in him. It was in this thought that the emperor found himself
hesitant to comply. As much as he would complain and challenge the Jedi Master,
ultimately Anakin looked up to Obi-Wan. Though his opinion would never carry
the same weight in Anakin’s mind as his wife’s, it was enough.

‘Kill him now,’ the supreme chancellor instructed firmly.

Anakin’s hands began to shake as he could feel the dark side gathering around
him. The emperor could hear its siren call and felt the silent invitation that
taunted his thoughts, leaving him longing to feel it coursing through his veins as
he enjoyed its poisoned kiss. But then his thoughts returned to Obi-Wan and
Anakin knew that he wouldn’t be able to face his brother if he went through with
it. ‘…I shouldn’t…’ he whispered feeling completely torn between loyalties. It
wasn’t the first time he felt this way and it would not be the last.

‘Do it,’ the Sith Lord ordered in dark tones.

‘I shouldn’t,’ Anakin said in almost desperate tones leaving Palpatine to frown
deeply in reply.

‘Now is not the time for hesitation, Anakin, now is the time to act. If you do not
act now, he will surely have his vengeance.’

Anakin’s eyes flickered back to Obi-Wan’s unconscious form which didn’t go
unnoticed by the elderly Sith Lord.

‘Do not worry about him. What your brother doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Now,
do what is necessary and be done with it.’
The young emperor bit his lip as he warred within himself. Though he knew he
was far from being a worthy Jedi, there was still a part of him that longed to cling
onto the ideals that he was rapidly turning away from. This too caused him to
further falter. ‘It’s not the Jedi way,’ he argued weakly, though uncertain why he
was even bothering and yet unable to resist either.

The captured Sith Master gave a harsh laugh in reply. ‘You are hardly a model
Jedi now, are you? Or do you really believe you can still stand amongst the
members of the Order as their equal after slaughtering an entire village of Tuskan
Raiders? Then of course, there is the matter of you killing the man whom raised
you as though you were his own son—’

‘That’s different,’ Anakin snapped feeling the familiar pang of guilt and shame
beginning to eat at his thoughts and wanting nothing more then to bury it.

‘The only thing that is different is that Obi-Wan is here now, when he wasn’t
before,’ Palpatine remarked in disgust. Using the Force, the supreme chancellor
released his restraints causing the count’s eyes to widen in shock. The young
emperor couldn’t resist a smirk as he could feel the fallen Jedi’s resounding
surprise as the darkness around them shifted revealing Palpatine’s true aura.
Rising to his feet, the supreme chancellor studied the kneeling Sith Lord and the
young emperor with disinterest. Though time was running out and the ship’s
auditory programs were announcing its demise, the elderly Sith Lord waited with
calmly for Anakin to make the correct decision. But then the struggling Jedi
continued to falter Palpatine decided it was time to move things onwards. ‘If it is
your wish to delay the inevitable, I will not stop you, Anakin. But know this: there
will come a day when you will no longer be able to hide from the decisions you
must choose. That day is coming and is coming soon.’

Anakin furrowed his brow as he swallowed hard at the supreme chancellor’s
words. As much he didn’t want to believe the elderly man, the young emperor
knew that Palpatine was correct in assessment. For almost six months, Anakin
had been playing the balancing act between his studies with the Jedi and his
secret studies with the Sith Master. That didn’t even count the fact he still had his
normal duties as emperor to contend with. Though Anakin wanted to continue
ignoring the signs, he knew, deep down, that his time to run was now ending.
Obi-Wan would soon regain consciousness and with the ship already on a crash
course collision with Coruscant’s surface. Anakin knew that he would have to act
now.

He tightened his grip on the lightsabers in his hands and drew upon the darkness
once more permitting it to fill him with the heady rush he had come to long for.
Then with a lip curled in disgust, he crossed the blades and fulfilled the count’s
destiny. Through the Force, he could hear the Sith Lord’s silent requiem and felt
the rush of darkness pouring through his body as it swelled consuming the man’s
spirit. Closing his eyes, he breathed in deeply, relishing the power that thrummed
around him and coursed through his veins. In moments like this, Anakin felt as
though he were a god and the entire universe but his playground.

Opening his eyes, the young emperor gazed upon the now beheaded form of his
nemesis and felt reality come crashing down all around him. How would he be
able to face his brother now? Anakin knew if he was asked, he wouldn’t be able to
lie. It wasn’t to say he wouldn’t attempt it but with Obi-Wan, the truth always had
a way of worming to the surface. And when it did, which was almost always,
Anakin would always end up feeling guiltier than he would have if he had just
been honest from the start.
‘You did the right thing, Anakin. If you would have let him lived, he would have
escaped, either now or later on.’

The statement Anakin believed was meant to assure him and erase any doubts
that lingered in his mind. But as he dropped the lightsaber by its former master,
the struggling Jedi couldn’t shake the memory of his mentor’s earlier warning and
the sinking feeling of dread that lingered about it. When the time for running
away and hiding behind the facts had drawn to a close, which side would he find
himself standing on? More importantly, at what price would his decision come at?
And who would ultimately suffer or gain from it? However, as much as these
questions weighed on his thoughts, the young emperor knew that there were
more immediate matters to deal with. He promptly buried them and allowed
himself to focus entirely on the present and to the most important task at hand:
completing the mission of the chancellor’s rescue and returning home together
with his brother safely.

The landing was less than perfect and as their broken ship crashed and skidded to
a halt the young emperor couldn’t resist a soft chuckle as this moment brought
back memories. He decided he would have to share this thought with Dormé as
he knew she would appreciate it. But for the moment, such thoughts were not
only unnecessary, but also distracting and soon he set to the business of tending
to getting the chancellor out of the ship safely. The last thing he needed was to
complete the mission only to lose his mentor to an exploding ship.

Fortunately, this was hardly the case and soon his arrival to the palace was
drawing all sorts of attention. Moving through the gathering crowds of senators
and officers Anakin took in the damage and immediately asked for Dormé. Upon
learning of her location, the young Padawan promptly excused himself and raced
towards the inner chambers of his home in search of his beloved.


With the abduction of the senate’s supreme chancellor and Anakin running off
under orders of the Jedi Council to retrieve him from the clutches of the
Separatists, Dormé was frantically trying to hold the senate together in his stead.
She knew her husband and the Jedi were doing everything they could to end this
war, but she felt it wasn’t enough. After having recently lost their first child,
Dormé was more adamant about ending this war than ever before.

When the Separatists attacked Coruscant, she led the ground troops quickly
wiping out those who landed. She didn’t know Anakin was just a short distance
away on General Grievous’s vessel. Once the Separatists were killed or mortally
wounded in the senatorial district and the senate and palace were once more
completely under Imperial control, Dormé returned to the palace with her elite
guards and attentive handmaidens. She checked with the head of the security
team before making a public announcement, filled with the message of
superiority of the Empire over all their insurgents.

Once the announcement concluded and the senators were on their way back to
their personal quarters or their ships, Dormé heard of the crash landing and that
the fighters attending the fire found the emperor was landing the craft. Worried
for her husband, though she was well aware of the emperor’s superior flying skills,
Dormé raced out onto the promenade that would take her to the crash site. Upon
seeing Anakin, she pushed past some of the senators, who were not exactly
pleased with being elbowed by the empress but were smart enough not to say
anything. ‘Anakin!’ she called, racing over to him to embrace him. ‘Are you all
right? How is the chancellor?’ she asked.
At the sight of his beloved Anakin immediately broke into a run as he swooped
her up in his arms and twirled her around in obvious joy. At her questions, he
nodded and laughed thinking of how much the events of the landing reminded
him of his first real date with his wife. ‘I’m fine and so is the chancellor, although
I have to say, he’s probably going to think twice before flying with me again,’ he
said chuckling. ‘Landing that broken piece of junk certainly brought back some
fond memories,’ he teased before growing serious as she informed him of the
situation at hand.

‘Oh dear,’ she gasped. ‘That poor man! I’m glad I wasn’t there,’ she teased.

Anakin laughed, shaking his head. ‘I can’t say he reacted quite as well as you did,
but he was hardly impressed either,’ the young emperor teased back with a wink.

‘Although I think sending him a package of his favourite tea is in order. Gods
know he must be stressed out after this whole ordeal!’ Dormé didn’t add that she
hoped his mentor wouldn’t take it out him during their training sessions, for the
old man did have a tendency to work the young emperor to the bone. She then
informed him of the happenings on-planet while he was away.

His expression soon grew proud as she admitted to taking charge and restoring
the order once more. ‘Where would I be without you,’ he said in loving tones as
he touched her cheek before giving a soft sigh. ‘I can’t wait until this war is finally
over and we can get on with our lives,’ he admitted ruefully knowing that she felt
much the same.

Dormé leant into his touch, sighing softly. She then kissed him to express how
much she agreed with him. ‘Soon the Separatists will be nothing more than a
brief mention in the imperial histories.’

‘Thank the Force and the gods for that,’ he murmured as she spoke of the
Separtatists demise. Though it was an unspoken thought Anakin was confident
that once things had settled they would once more be able to focus on their
greatest dream: starting a family. It was stress that caused his beloved to lose
her baby and he was positive that once that the unseeing threat was removed,
everything would be as it should. ‘We should head inside,’ he began. ‘I need to fill
you in on the details of all that you have missed, as I have some good and bad
news.’ he admitted.

Dormé took his hand and walked inside with him, not wanting to know about the
bad news. ‘I want to know the bad first,’ she said with an exhale as they headed
to their private chambers, ‘if I have the option.’

Anakin furrowed his brow and nodded in understanding at her statement. ‘Very
well,’ he said softly as he felt her hand slip into his own. There was support in her
touch as well silent comfort and he drew upon this as he spoke. ‘General Grievous
escaped when we were freeing the Supreme Chancellor,’ Anakin admitted
knowing that in this aspect the mission was a failure. It was his mentor’s hope
that they would not only be able to capture Dooku but Grievous as well. After all
that was the entire point of his abduction which had been carefully planned.

‘He escaped? How? Were you able to track him?’ Dormé couldn’t believe what she
was hearing. How would this war end if Grievous was still out there?! ‘Anakin—’
She squeezed his hand tightly for her own reassurances.
The young emperor gave a frustrated sigh as he shook his head in reply. ‘Dooku I
think was meant to be a distraction to buy him time. We’re still trying to locate
him but for now, it appears he has slipped through our grasp. The good news is
Count Dooku has been tended too and so half the battle as they say has been
won,’ Anakin concluded though it was obvious the count’s passing was still
troubling him.

She exhaled. ‘Good,’ she sighed. She released his hand to stroke his back when
she could tell there was more weighing on his mind than what he had shared so
far.

Anakin reached out to touch her cheek as he studied her for a moment. Though
he was grateful to learn what he could from Palpatine, he was still divided about
where he stood with the Jedi and the Sith Lord. What was worse was the
realization that Dormé was being forced into this because of him. He missed
spending time with her and missed their evenings together but at the same time
he knew this had to be done. Even so, it did little to alleviate his guilt and his
divided thoughts. ‘Dooku’s death will definitely leave its mark on the Separatists.
After all, he represented the tactical side of the Separatists, or so the Supreme
Chancellor believes. Grievous, on the other hand, is only good at battle. Without
someone to lead them, they’re going to fall into disorder. In the meantime, I’m
going to have our contacts look into the matter I don’t think he’s had a chance to
get far,’ Anakin concluded as he gave a hint of a smile.

‘I know,’ she said. In fact, just before his abduction, the chancellor and she had
been going over the most recent findings in regards to droid troop movements.
Dormé just wanted this war over as much as Anakin did and it frustrated her that
the count served as a distraction to allow Grievous to get away. Even so, it was
good to hear at least one half of their enemy’s controlling power have been
eliminated.

‘Obi-Wan doesn’t know how Dooku died. To be honest I don’t really want to tell
him either,’ he admitted finally. There was so much more he wanted to say but
he knew that Dormé already understood what weighed on his mind and Anakin
was loathed to troubled her further with it.

Dormé also knew from the way Anakin was dodging the specifics of the count’s
demise that he had gone against the Jedi codes in removing him. She knew how
much of a struggle it was for Anakin because he loved his brother and felt like he
was betraying him somehow by using the Force in a different way. She didn’t
understand the complexities of it, nor why one way or another was better or
worse, but hated that it was such a drain on Anakin. She was under a lot of stress
herself, but she would rather have it than to see him suffer.

The young emperor did his best to hide his exhaustion but he knew just from the
way Dormé was watching him that she was more than aware of how his training
was taking its toll. Though he was grateful that Dooku was out of the picture, the
Padawan couldn’t help but feel as though the mission could have been far more
successful if he hadn’t been so worn out. While he knew that in reality there was
really no way around Grievous escape Anakin still took it as a personal failure on
his part. As always, Dormé understood this as well it made the young emperor
love her all the more for it. He didn’t need to say a word, for she understood all
that he couldn’t say.

She hugged him tightly. ‘I’m glad you’re home.’
Breathing her in deeply, he forced his thoughts to clear as her words reminded
him that this was in fact a happy occasion. It had been far too long, or so it felt,
since he had last been in her arms and as he buried his face into the crook of her
neck, he gave her a squeeze and kissed her throat. ‘It’s so good to finally be
home. Force help me, I wish I never had to leave your side,’ he murmured.
Though there was so much else he wanted to say, Anakin knew that Dormé would
understand the true weight of his words and all he couldn’t find the right words to
say.

Continuing to stroke his back and run her fingers through his hair, Dormé relished
the closeness, feeling just as Anakin did though she could barely express it fully
in words. They just fit together and when separated, it was as though part of
them was missing.

Anakin closed his eyes briefly, as he found himself basking in her gentle
administrations. Returning the favour in kind, the emperor played with her hair
while holding her close. It was only in her embrace that he felt whole, and only in
her arms that Anakin ever considered himself to be truly home.

After a moment, she brushed her nose against his cheek, murmuring, ‘You smell
like burnt fuel.’ Chuckling, she pulled away only to take his hand and lead him
into the fresher with single-minded determination.

He chuckled, as he was a bit ticklish in that spot. At her words, he gave a
lopsided grin as his eyes grew mischievous. ‘Well we’ll just have to do something
about that now won’t we?’ he teased with a knowing smile before giving her hand
a squeeze as he followed her to the fresher.


Hours later, Anakin found himself waking up with a start. Covered in cold sweat
and breathless as his heart raced, the young emperor found himself at a loss as
to what had caused him to wake up in this state.

While the rest of the afternoon and evening were spent in the arms of her
beloved, Dormé fell asleep far more content than she had since he left. Dormé
thought it would help relieve their stress and for her part, it certainly had,
however, late into the night, Anakin stirring and moving from her embrace
caused her to stir as well, reaching for him and murmuring her displeasure, not
for being disturbed, but rather that he was moving away.

Anakin tried to calm his racing heart, to clear his panic thoughts that struggled to
recall a dream that was not his to know. Drawing in deep breaths the young
emperor felt his wife murmur her thoughts of displeasure as she drew him back
to her arms. Finding comfort in her embrace, he silently began to play with his
wife’s hair—as it always soothed his troubled thoughts—Anakin found he couldn’t
recall dreaming at all. Yet, given his reaction upon waking, he knew that he had
dreamt of something, but what that was, he couldn’t say. In the end, the only
thing he could remember was that he felt incredibly lost and even more alone.

Feeling him playing with her hair, she slowly blinked her eyes open, looking at
him with sleepy confusion.

Feeling her amber eyes studying him in confusion, Anakin felt his cheeks warm as
he honestly didn’t know what to tell her. The thought of admitting to having a
nightmare he couldn’t remember left him feeling foolish and weak but at the
same time he couldn’t just pretend nothing happened either. ‘It’s nothing. Just a
forgotten dream,’ he admitted in soft tones as he gave a weak smile. Though he
knew it was a dream, one that was hardly worthy of his attention Anakin couldn’t
deny how real the emotions he recalled from the dream were. Despite the fact it
was hardly a vision, it was real enough to frighten him and inwardly he hoped he
would never feel that way again.

Despite his words, Dormé could tell there was something more to it. But she
didn’t know and didn’t want to know. Dreams, after all, were just dreams to her.
Whatever it was, it wasn’t real. She pulled him closer and gave him a sleepy kiss
on his shoulder. ‘Go back to sleep,’ she murmured. ‘Think of pleasant things...’

The young emperor couldn’t help but envy Dormé’s detachment to all that was
spiritual. He wished he could ignore the nagging feeling that what he felt would
one day become a reality. But his wife was an anchor, and despite his fears,
Anakin soon was drifting back to sleep only find his dreams to be nonsensical and
bizarre. Stirring awake at the sound of the chronometer chiming, Anakin soon
realized that it was time to return to the temple and begin his long day of training
with the Jedi and later the Sith Lord. Though this was what he had chose to do
with his life, the young emperor couldn’t help but be filled with dread at the
thought of parting ways with his wife.


Their anniversary was a wonderful one and as always, it went by far too fast for
Anakin’s liking. But as the evening turned to night, the fallen Jedi found that
sleep, as always, seemed to evade him. Though he was utterly exhausted, his
mind continued to wander leaving him no rest or peace. While Dormé’s arms
continued to offer him sanctuary, he didn’t want to disrupt her rest with his
tossing and turning. He silently slipped from her arms and wandered off to the
balcony that overlooked the city. With a tired sigh, he leant against the edge of
one of the couches. There was something strangely appropriate about its
uncomfortable height, too high to sit down, too short to properly lean against. It
briefly reminded him of his situation although in his sleep depraved mind he
couldn’t say why that was. It did little to help clear his thoughts of the strange
turmoil that resided within.

Though the evening started out quite nicely for Dormé, celebrating their third
wedding anniversary, she awoke in the middle of the night feeling abnormally
cold. This wasn’t the first time in the past few months that she woke to find
Anakin out of bed. Even though she wasn’t Force sensitive, she was conscious
enough to notice the subtle changes in his features become more pronounced,
the dark circles under his eyes, and sallow-looking skin. But despite her growing
concern, Dormé didn’t ask what was on his mind. She knew he would open up
about it when he was ready to. There had been times over the years since she
first met him that he had had what he referred to as prophetic dreams, where
something he would see in his sleep cycle would haunt him until it came true.
Though Dormé was hardly a spiritual person, let alone someone who believed in
such nonsense, she did have the courtesy to respect that Anakin did. She told
him plainly on more than one occasion that she had no desire to know of the
future. Originally, it was a way of avoiding disappointment. Now it was a defence
mechanism of sorts, a way to defend herself from facing some fatalistic
inevitability. If one didn’t know one’s fate, then they wouldn’t intentionally seek
out ways of making it come true, or so she adamantly believed. It gave her more
freedom this way. However, now that these dreams or nightmares were keeping
Anakin up night after night, Dormé wished she had the power to make them stop
so that he could get the good night’s rest he so desperately needed. Her presence
used to help. She used to only have to hold him and now it seemed as though
she wasn’t enough.

Ever since he agreed to follow the tutelage of Darth Sidious, Anakin, or Darth
Vader as the older Sith Lord called him, found his time no longer his own. By day
he would serve the Jedi Order, posing as a Jedi Padawan, while at night he would
train with his new mentor in the ways of the Sith. It was exhausting and though
he did his best to hide it, Vader knew it would only be a matter of time before the
ruse would come to its untimely end. Though he continued to play the role of a
Jedi it was becoming an increasing struggle to use the light side of the Force,
whereas the dark side was becoming far easier to channel. There were times
when he found himself feeling almost physical ill after channelling the light side to
accomplish the simplest of tasks, and then there was time when he was. Such
moments frightened him more than he wanted to admit, not because of what it
meant, but of the attention it could possibly draw. Fortunately, no one spoke a
word of it and if they did, he always shrugged it off saying he was under the
weather. If they believed his flimsy lies, Anakin would never know. Anakin felt as
though he was being pulled into a million directions at once and while he knew
what he was getting himself into Vader had no idea just how exhausting it would
be both emotionally and physically. He felt aged beyond his years and worn
beyond repair and though Dormé was silent about it, Anakin knew she was
worried for him as well. Which in turn made him long for her comfort and
understanding all the more.

Dormé had thought she was cold before, but as the young empress rose from
their bed, she quickly reached for a robe to wrap around her lithe form. Even
without the ability to sense other people’s Force signatures, Dormé knew where
her husband was. Approaching the veranda, she spied him sitting rather
uncomfortably on the corner of one of the small couches, looking out over
Coruscant’s vast cityscape. For a long while, she just watched him, not wanting to
interrupt his thoughts by approaching, forgetting that he could sense her
presence. Finally giving in to temptation, she walked out onto the veranda and
curled up on the couch behind him, hoping she wouldn’t interrupt.

He wanted to tell her about the confusion he felt even now, how tired he was and
how all he really wanted to do was rest in her arms. That he felt as though he
were spiralling out of control when everything was going according to plan. Or
why he felt so excited to expand his skills only to feel so out of sorts and
uncomfortable in his skin when he tapped into the immense power that was the
Dark side. Or why it left him hungry for more so that he could never be truly
satisfied. But one of it really made sense to him and so how could he speak of
them to her? It was because of this that he refrained believing when the answers
came he would then share it with his beloved and hopefully, find peace in the
process once more. However for now answers couldn’t have been more further
away and as he stared outside in silence he could sense her presence, so
soothing and healing in its own right, approaching. He wanted to turn back to
face her, to hold her close, but felt frozen in place, as though fearing should he
turn around she would disappear or fade away. Of course, he knew this would
never be the case but he was so prone to paranoia from lack of sleep and
constant dark side use that it was hard to define what was foolish fears and what
was real concerns. So in the end, he contented himself to feel her eyes on him,
like a goddess protecting her mortal love, and attempted for the millionth time to
meditate.

Though she thought she probably wouldn’t be able to sleep anymore tonight, it
helped to have Anakin nearby and soon Dormé found her eyes closing.
When the meditations failed, due to his exhausted but troubled thoughts and the
fact his feet were almost numb from the night chill, Anakin finally mustered the
nerve to join his beloved. Though she was sleeping, he could still feel her concern
and this filled him with guilt. If only he knew how to explain to her what was
happening to him. If only he knew himself what was happening. Gently, he lifted
her up into his arms, being mindful of her bare feet which he used the Force to
adjust her robe so as to cover them, Anakin carried her back to their room. He
knew he would have to get up in a couple of hours to begin his day at the Temple
and wouldn’t be returning until the late hours of night from his training with
Palpatine. As such, he wanted to make the most of his time with Dormé and
because of it he took to watching her rest instead of resting himself. Though he
knew he’d pay for it in the morning, right now, it was worth every minute.

When Dormé awoke sometime later, she was much happier than when she awoke
in the middle of the night because this time, when she opened her eyes, Anakin
was there looking back at her. But as her sleepy eyes adjusted, she could tell he
hadn’t slept at all. If there were anything she could do for him, Dormé knew he
wouldn’t hesitate to ask.

Anakin couldn’t resist a smile as Dormé stirred from her rest. He could feel her
mood lightening and this helped lighten his mood as well. Touching her cheek,
lightly he gave a gentle sigh as his expression turned apologetic. ‘I’m sorry for
waking you up last night,’ he said softly feeling bad that his attempts not to
interrupt her rest fell through.

Knowing he had to leave for the Temple and that she also needed to begin her
day as empress, she touched his cheek, giving him a kiss before rising from the
bed. She thought when she had the chance, she would ask one of the servants to
fetch some sleep aids, thinking Anakin might want to try them. It wouldn’t do to
have him make a mistake in his extensive training sessions with Palpatine after
an already busy day as a Jedi.

Anakin put the taste of her lips to memory. The day was going to be long and he
was already looking forward to its end.

When Anakin finally stumbled home that evening, she had a concoction waiting
for him. Though one of her handmaidens got it for her, she ran it by an analysis
droid to make sure it was safe. She had another medical droid examine it and the
conclusion was that it would ease him into an eight-hour sleep cycle. She
mentioned the sleep aid to Anakin offhandedly, if he wanted to use it, and was
glad he agreed to at least give it a try. Anakin soon found sleep in her arms and
she followed a little while after him.

Though he wasn’t one who liked to take medicines of any sort, he was desperate
for a chance to rest or at the very least a moment’s peace from his churning
thoughts. Upon taking the aids, the fallen Jedi soon found them taking effect and
with an appreciative but sleepy smile, he soon snuggled with his beloved and
prepared, with much relief, for a night of rest. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

His dreams started in the usual fashion: a mixture of mystery and romance that
always involved Dormé in some way or another. But as he continued to rest, his
thoughts began to take a dark turn and soon frightening images that made no
sense to him began to haunt his mind. Soon he found himself wandering through
a dead forest that overlooked a poisoned but frozen lake that was filled with dead
flowers while a phantom of his beloved wept over them. His hands were covered
in blood and at his feet were the indiscernible bodies of millions of people, old and
young, half-buried in the snow.

Frightened by this sight he tried to escape but to no avail. He tried to reach the
weeping phantom of his beloved but something wouldn’t let him near her. Anakin
promptly realised it was the doppelganger of Dormé, the very one that he
imagined the priestess was the night she died. Desperate, he tried to break free
but the Dormé in the red gown only smiled mischievously intriguing him further
until he began to confuse this Dormé to be the real one who now wept by the
dead waters. The result was disastrous for as he kissed the doppelganger the real
Dormé that was more a shell of her former self began to die and with her passing
Anakin began to die as well. Torn between saving her and escaping from the
incarnation of her, Anakin desperately tried to touch the light and dark sides of
the Force. It was to no avail for despite his best efforts no matter what he did
nothing could save them both and soon both Dormé and himself were dying,
drowning, in the inky black tendrils that exuded from the doppelganger’s body.

In the real world, the young emperor thrashed and tore about the sheets as he
cried out incoherant mumblings about phantoms and poisoned water in Huttese.
Through the Force, the fallen Jedi was a complete mess of light and darkness
giving the impression he was a drowning man clinging to anything and everything
that might save him. Black tendrils intertwined and soon choked out the small
rays of light that exuded from his form while the lights in the room popped and
the windows exploded. Furniture in the room began to vibrate while the sheets
and blankets writhed and twisted like living serpentine beings.

The windows shattered across the room, causing Dormé to awake in shock.
Anakin had her tightly locked in his arms and he mumbled and then began crying
out in Huttese. She couldn’t understand what he was saying, nor what was going
on. ‘Anakin—’ she said, trying to break free as well as wake him up. ‘Anakin!
Wake up!’ she begged as the bed began vibrating and the sheets twisting and
turning like possessed water creatures. ‘Anakin—’ He wasn’t waking and she
didn’t know what to do.

His screams grew worse at the sound of Dormé’s voice for in his dreams she was
begging for his help but like her he was far too entrapped by the creature that
was the doppelganger of Dormé to do anything. Struggling further, he began to
cry out to the heavens begging to free his beloved, to save her, to stop the
creature that had trapped them both. But the creature only tightened her
embrace as their environment began to shift causing Anakin to find himself being
pulled into the poisoned lake where from the shore, still trapped, Dormé begged
him to wake up. Nothing seemed to work and the more he tried to use his powers
to save Dormé the more trapped he became until he was entirely consumed in
blackness with only the sound of his beloved’s weeping to further haunt him.

Finally she struggled against him, able to break free from his embrace. She ran to
the fresher to get water, which she splashed on him, but it was to no avail. She
grabbed his shoulders and shook him, but there was still no response. In her
panicked state, she began to cry, not knowing what else she could possibly do to
wake him. ‘Wake up, wake up...’

After the shouting and violence shaking the normally inanimate objects in the
room subsided, his body became very still as the drug slowly wore off leaving his
exhausted body to finally know a little rest.
Dormé didn’t know what was worse, when he was calling out in Huttese and
unrecognizable words or when he grew very still, almost catatonic. At first she
took it as a good sign, but then she checked for breathing and a pulse. But he
was resting finally and she breathed a sigh of relief as she remained vigilant
should another episode occur.

It wasn’t long after before his eyes snapped open as he drew in a sharp breath.
‘DORMÉ!’ he cried out with eyes wide and filled with fear and shock unaware that
the dream had drawn to a close. His brow was sweating, despite the fact the
sheets were long kicked away and she had doused him with water and soon his
chest was wet with her tears.

‘Anakin, it’s all right. Anakin...’ She touched his cheeks, straining to situate
herself in such a way that she could meet his eyes.

Dormé’s voice began to pull this thoughts back but his mind was still lost to the
nightmare leaving him jittery and frantic as he stared at her in concern. It was
only when he registered her Force signature did he allow himself to believe it
really was his wife not the creature that appeared as his beloved. Without
warning, he wrapped his arms around her and clung almost desperately as
though fearing this was the dream and that the nightmare was real. It was only
when he buried his face in her long hair and breathed her scent in deeply that he
was able to properly register his surroundings and that he had only been
dreaming.

It wasn’t until he registered her presence and pulled her tightly to him that she
knew he was all right. ‘It’s all right,’ she murmured, stroking his hair and his back
as he breathed her in deeply.

As his breathing began to steady, Anakin felt his cheeks beginning to burn. He
had yet to take in the disaster that was their sanctuary, although he did register
that he was freezing despite the fact he was covered in a cold sweat. Still holding
onto Dormé as though she were a life preserver in the midst of a storm Anakin
remained silent unable to bring himself to speak or to pull away. There was
solace to be found here and though he was still exhausted this was the most
peace he had in a very long time.

Dormé exhaled in relief, though after a moment, felt that not only was artificial
arm cold, his entire body was doused in cold sweat.

As she stroked his hair and back, Anakin felt his thoughts begin to clear and
regain a sense of coherency. Her words too eased a little of his fears and soon
Anakin was shyly drawing back a little as he couldn’t help but wonder why the
room was so cold suddenly. His eyes drifted briefly to the broken windows only to
widen at the sight of them.

Touching his cheek, she whispered, ‘You’re freezing. Let’s get these blankets over
you, all right?’ before shifting to sit up. Swiftly, she pulled the covers over both of
them before lying back down and kissed his forehead. It was then she began
feeling awful for having given him the sleep draught, realising it was no doubt the
cause of all of this.

He could only nod in confusion as he began to register the rest of the damage he
had caused during his nightmare. However while this embarrassed him it was the
sight of Dormé’s wounds that really left its mark on his mind and filled with him
with concern and shame. ‘By the Force, you’re bleeding,’ he whispered as she
kissed his forehead. Turning on his side he gingerly reached out to touch her
wounded arm only to notice more bruises on her.

Dormé hadn’t even noticed the bruises cause by his nightmares and it wasn’t
until he said something that she looked and then her arm and side began to ache.
‘It’s nothing,’ she assured him.

‘What have I done?’ he said in sorrow as he bit his lip obviously concerned for her.
‘We should get that looked at and tended to,’ he murmured feeling more than a
little ashamed of himself even though he knew he wouldn’t have been able to
stop himself as he was asleep when it happened.

‘Just rest now. I’ll have it looked at in the morning.’ Dormé wanted to add that
she hoped he would get looked at as well, just in case there were any other
adverse side-effects to the sleep-aid she had given him.

‘At least let me look at it before you rest,’ he said gently with an apologetic look
as he clamber out of bed to get something to clean the cuts on her arms. After a
bit, he returned with some bacta solution swabs and a thick blanket.

‘I’m sorry...’ she said softly. ‘I didn’t think about your Force sensitivity and how
that would interact with the sleep aid.’ She paused, letting out a heavy sigh. ‘I’ve
just been so worried about you,’ she admitted, though she knew she didn’t have
to say why, that he would understand it was about his inability to sleep through
the night.

He covered her with the additional blanket before joining her. Anakin just shook
his head as he gave her an understanding look. ‘It’s not your fault, after all, it’s
not exactly something people are generally aware of. I should have been more
careful,’ he admitted as he tried to clean and tend to her wounds as best he could.
‘I’m so sorry,’ Anakin apologised again as his heart sunk at the sight of the deep
cuts.

‘I thought you could try it and hopefully it would help, but even with this, I’ve
failed,’ she added, indirectly facing the truth of the matter: that she felt like she
was failing him for not providing the solace he needed to get the rest he needed.

Anakin paused in his administrations to study her intently. How he wished he
could speak his thoughts, how he wished he knew just what those thoughts were
exactly. ‘Dormé, you are the calm in the middle of this storm,’ he admitted
referring to everything from the war to his own personal struggles. ‘You have
helped, and are helping me, in more ways than I could ever truly explain,’ he said
gently as he gave her a hint of a smile while reaching out to touch her cheek.

His touch was reassuring, as was his small smile. Dormé needed to know she was
doing everything she possibly could do to help him and this let her know that she
had been and was. The bacta was cool and soothing and she thanked him for
applying it for her.

‘The only person failing to help in this situation is me,’ he concluded with a sigh
as he returned to tending to her wounds. This simple statement, like Dormé’s,
held more than one meaning as he knew she felt as though she was on the
outside right now. But no matter how much he wanted to open up to her, the
confusion within wouldn’t permit him to do so and so he was forced to refrain out
of his inability to make sense of it all.
When Anakin said he was the one failing, she said in a slightly teasing voice,
‘Start succeeding then.’ She most certainly was not married to a failure and if he
didn’t believe in himself, then it would be hard to convince him otherwise.

He felt his mood lighten and he couldn’t help but chuckle as he made a face. ‘All
right then. Where should I begin?’ he teased back as his expression grew
mischievous.

Dormé smiled when he chuckled, unable to pretend she was being completely
serious any longer. His proposition made her giggle, thinking that perhaps the
drought had accomplished some good after all. At least he seemed more rested
anyway.

‘Perhaps I should start with you,’ he purred as he kissed her throat. Anakin
grinned at her giggles and for the moment the nightmares was forgotten. He
purred at her teasing words and wink before slip his arm around her waist,
though mindful of her wounds, and lean in for another kiss.

‘Oh?’ she queried as he kissed her throat, already knowing very well where this
was leading.

‘…with my goals of success being to seduce you to our bed—although we’re
already there so that’s half the battle won,’ he concluded between kisses as he
gave her a wink.

‘And you think it would be that easy, do you?’ she teased after his wink.

‘Well I do love a good challenge,’ he said in mischievous tones, ‘it makes the
success all the more enjoyable,’ he said as he kissed the freckles on her nose and
cheeks.

Dormé was hardly about to deny that fact, laughing, but then blushing shyly
when he kissed her freckles. There had been a time when she was conscious of
them, for compared to the other handmaidens with their clear skin, she had spent
more time out of doors than the noble-born and consequently had more. In
addition to her calloused hands, it was an additional reminder of her lower class
background. But ever since Anakin became her friend, she began to see it in a
different light. Instead of a mar, it was an accent to her appearance, just as
Anakin’s scarring accentuated his features as well.

Anakin honestly had no idea why Dormé used to be so conscious of her freckles.
In his opinion, they were quite attractive and downright irresistible. ‘It was these
little things—’ he once remarked to her in the early days of their friendship, ‘that
adds to your mystery.’ Of course, at the time, he was also referring to her
calloused hands which was another trait she was conscious about. Though he
knew the reasons behind it, Anakin couldn’t help but regard it as a sign of
strength and he didn’t hesitate to tell her as much. He too had calloused hands
from hours of training to be a Jedi and it pleased him to know his friend bore
similar marks. Had he been able to comprehend it further, he’d realise it was also
an unspoken connection, one that brought them together despite the different
worlds they came from.

Smiling shyly at him, she touched his cheek and leant in to give him a proper kiss.
Her shy smile warmed his heart and brought a smile to his features as well as he
felt her hand against his cheek. Leaning in to close the space, he returned her
kiss eagerly while tightening his embrace around her. Moments like this made the
exhausting work of the day worth while. It also was the only thing that kept him
sane when his thoughts threatened to scatter and completely drive him mad.
Dormé truly was a sanctuary of peace and this moment only proved it.




After being away from Coruscant for a week on his latest mission with the Jedi,
Dormé hoped she would be able to see him, but as hard as she tried to wait up
for him, Dormé inevitably fell asleep before he got home. She briefly awoke when
he climbed into bed and sleepily welcomed him home, apologizing, saying she
had had an excruciatingly busy day in the senate or else she would have stayed
up longer. She nuzzled closer to him and soon drifted back to sleep. Though her
dreams were far more pleasant in the comforts of his arms, she awoke very early
the next morning, far earlier than she wanted to, only to find that the other side
of the bed was empty. Dormé sighed and stretched her hand over the spot
Anakin previously inhabited. She closed her eyes again, exhaling again before
rising from the bed.

Anakin turned his attentions to the small water fountain that gurgled and
splashed in front of him. Sighing deeply, he tried for what felt like the millionth
time to clear his thoughts with the intent of meditating. It was a battle that was
lost before it even began, and soon Anakin gave up trying. Still too awake to
return to bed, though physically exhausted, the fallen Jedi took to watching the
bustling city from their balcony. Though he knew it was a selfish thought he
couldn’t help but wish that Dormé was near to talk to, or at the very least, to hold.
But his beloved was resting and he was loathed to wake her for he knew she had
a busy day herself and decided that ultimately it could wait until morning.

He could still hear Obi-Wan’s words upon the completion of their last mission.
Much like the way he could still feel the gentle pride that exuded from the Jedi
Knight’s Force signature. Supposedly he was now ready to become a Jedi knight -
or so his brother believed and with the Council’s approval, Anakin learnt he would
be undergoing the ceremony of knighthood as of tomorrow. The young emperor
knew he should have been proud; this was after all something he had longed to
achieve ever since he was a youngling. But all he felt was a rush of fear,
confusion and doubt. The ruse had been kept for too long and now he had finally
reached the dreaded fork in the road, the one day he knew was coming but could
never really believe would ever really happen. But it had and with it the confusion
of his mind -the struggles he couldn’t entirely comprehend suddenly became
crystal clear rendering the young emperor speechless upon hearing the news. It
was only with much struggle that Anakin was even able to collect his thoughts
long enough to stammer out a polite ‘Thank you.’

Nevertheless, the day passed into night and the hour was late when Anakin was
finally able to return to his quarters. Today felt even longer than usual; though
training with the Jedi and later with the Sith Lord was always a gruelling
endeavour. But it was all over now and he couldn’t have been more grateful.
Leaning against the uncomfortable ledge of the couch Anakin once more began to
contemplate his situation and wondered if he’d ever know a moments rest again.

As he stared ahead to the towering skyscrapers and passing ships in the distance,
Anakin felt as though the weight of the universe was now resting on his shoulders.
He knew he had no right to bear the title of Jedi Knight, just as he knew he
wasn’t really worthy to fight along side his brother as a member of the Order. But
the thought of facing Obi-Wan, telling him that he no longer belonged amongst
the Jedi filled him such dread. While he hated disappointing his brother, what
Anakin truly dreaded was the inevitable battle and the outcome that it would
bring. It wasn’t that he cared about offending the Order or of even being caught
anymore for he was confident in his skills and training. He also had no qualms
about taking on his compatriots or even the members of the Council. It was the
idea of having to look his brother in the eyes and tell him that he was now a
sworn enemy that left Anakin struggling. There was also the fact that sooner or
later Anakin would eventually have to face him in battle.

Swallowing hard, he tried to ignore the lump forming in his throat, while closing
his eyes to prevent the frustrated tears from collecting in his eyes. Anakin knew
now that his brother was the only reason he was able to go along with the ruse
for as long as he did. But he also knew now that this wasn’t reason enough to
continue playing this game of pretend. Even so, he wasn’t certain he was ready to
turn his back on Obi-Wan -in truth Anakin couldn’t be certain he’d ever be ready.

Despite his decision thus far, he always looked up to his older brother and was
quite close to him. He admired the older Jedi for his eternal calm and generous
spirit and secretly wished he was more like that himself. But the fallen Jedi wasn’t,
and the harder he tried to be the perfect image of calm that was Obi-Wan the
more he failed. In the end Anakin had to face the fact it just wasn’t who he was,
much like he found himself facing the awkward truth that he was never meant to
be a Jedi. Yet despite the simplicity of the facts and the decision that resulted
from it, Anakin was hesitant to reach a decision. He knew what he had to do but
it was too painful to contemplate and so he did as he always did –he tried to think
of a way to run from it.

Donning a robe, Dormé padded her way to the veranda, knowing she would find
him there, hoping he had at least been able to sleep for a few hours. Seeing that
the sun was just now rising, in her opinion, it was too early to be alive. She
approached and touched his back, checking to see if he had his eyes closed in
meditation before speaking. Finding that he was merely gazing out over the
landscape, she said, ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t able to stay up last night to give you a
proper welcome home.’ Wrapping an arm around his shoulders, she leant her
head on his shoulder, exhaling.

Though he sensed her approaching, Anakin initially didn’t respond. His thoughts
were elsewhere and it wasn’t until he felt her touching his back was he able to
return to the present. At her words, he glanced back at her and gave a tired smile
while touch her cheek. ‘It’s OK. It’s been a long day for the both of us,’ he
admitted quietly before staring back at the fountain for a moment longer as he
slipped an arm around her petite form.

‘Been a long week,’ she added, having missed him very much. She watched the
water in the fountain as he slipped his arm around her waist. Over the years, she
had come to learn more about the Jedi, but though they seemed more flexible
with Anakin as a royal and as their Chosen One, lately he had been having such a
hard time with all they asked of him, as well as his training with Palpatine. She
knew all of his hard work was in order to gain the title the Order was about to
bestow on him.

The fallen Jedi gave a soft sigh as his fingers instinctively slipped to her long hair.
Twirling strands of it between his fingers, his thoughts growing more coherent
and his courage returning. Her sigh seemed to say it all without realising he
sighed softly as well. He nodded in agreement to her words as he gave a deep
sigh ‘too long if you ask me,’ he admitted in tired tones. With Dormé absence,
time always moved at a crawl leaving Anakin almost dreading missions that took
him away from her. This past week was no exception and in reality was even
worse than normal. But the reason for this he already knew and now found
himself in the process of sharing with Dormé.

‘My brother seems to think I’m ready to become a Jedi Knight and has already
spoken to the council about it,’ he began quietly while gauging Dormé’s emotions
before continuing. ‘Apparently, tomorrow I’m to return to the Temple to begin the
ceremony that will mark my entrance into the Order as a full fledged Knight.’ He
fell silent then as he couldn’t help but wonder what Dormé thought about it.
Though Anakin felt this wasn’t the path for him he was willing to follow it if that
was what his beloved felt would be best.

Dormé’s world was Anakin. If everything was taken from her, so long as she had
him, she would have her life. Titles didn’t matter to her, but it was something she
thought was important to Anakin, which made it important to her too. However,
his tone seemed to indicate he wasn’t excited about this news. For some reason,
Dormé wasn’t shocked by this. After everything he had been through for this past
year, she didn’t blame him for being hesitant about it. She didn’t doubt that he
would make a brilliant Jedi. She thought he would be amazing at anything he set
his mind to, from his mechanical and flight skills to his ability with a lightsaber,
she even teased him about being able to cook. Dormé didn’t know his brother
very well, but he was always cordial to her. If he believed Anakin was ready for
the knew responsibilities, then no doubt he was. Her thumb made semi-circles on
his shoulder as she listened, encouraging him to tell her everything that was on
his mind. Sometimes talking things out was a good way to figure out what your
heart already knew the answer was. ‘And you want me to talk you out of it,’ she
said quietly.

Her silent understanding was encouraging just as her gentle touch helped him
further relax. But it was her words in that moment that held the most effect on
him and closing his eyes he gave a slight nod in reply. ‘...I can’t keep doing this,
Dormé. It’s not just about balancing my time, though it certainly isn’t helping
either,’ he began. ‘The Order believes that I’m the good Padawan who has finally
earned the right to stand amongst them as a Knight—’ Anakin furrowed his brow
as he corrected himself. ‘Obi-Wan believes that I am anyway. But he doesn’t
know the truth and I—’ he fell briefly silent as he studied the fountain ahead. If
he knew this was the right course of action, then why did he feel so guilty about
it? ‘I just can’t keep up the balancing act between the light and dark side
anymore—’ he hesitated.

Dormé continued listening intently, though she was just as concerned as he was
about this balancing act he had been struggling with. Whatever the Jedi believed
about what he was supposed to do or be, it was taking a toll on Anakin and she
did not support that once bit. There were a lot of concessions made on Anakin’s
behalf, things that Jedi, proper Jedi, were not allowed to do or have, such as
attachments, possessions, significant others, and, gods willing, children
someday... How could he have possibly followed that path when his upbringing
hardly encouraged such a life? What about his rule as emperor? How would he be
able to fully commit to a holy order when he had his own subjects to think of?

‘I just don’t think I was ever meant to be a Jedi. I lack the control demanded of
me, and the interest. The light side is meant for people like my brother, not me,’
he sighed as he furrowed his brow. ‘I just don’t want him to be disappointed in
me, to think that I failed him or that he failed me. He is the only reason I’ve been
able to play this balancing act for as long as I have,’ he admitted sadly before
adding, ‘And I know if I chose to become a Sith Lord I will become his sworn
enemy. Because that is always how its been...I just don’t know if I’m ready to
turn my back on him. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready,’ he concluded in troubled
tones.

It was his brother that had practically been a surrogate father to him and this
guilt of even of considering leaving the order made him feel so torn. ‘But he is
your brother. Wouldn’t he respect your decision and love you anyway whatever
you chose to do?’

He was so thankful to have Dormé by his side and was even more grateful for her
support. Though this was clearly not her arena or interest, Anakin appreciated
that she respected the fact that it was an important part of his life. It was also
because of this that he was able to speak so freely on the matter despite the
awkwardness of the situation. While one would believe that her lack of
understanding of the Force would place a rift between them, the effect in was in
fact the opposite. Dormé kept Anakin grounded and balanced providing him with
a more tangible outlook on life as opposed to the heavily spiritual that was
provided to him by both the Sith and the Jedi cultures. As such, when she spoke
of Obi-Wan and his relationship, her words reminded him of what he knew to be
true. Remaining silent, he drew in a deep breath as he warred within himself and
the lingering doubts. ‘I hope you’re right,’ Anakin said quietly. Though his
expression was still troubled his body began to relax a little as the weight and
meaning of her words left its mark.

Dormé shifted to stand in front of him, while keeping her arms around him. ‘I
wish I understood more about the Force and Jedi and all of that, but I do know
that I want you to be happy,’ she said with a timid, early morning smile.

The fallen Jedi couldn’t resist a gentle smile. Having her near helped in more
ways than Anakin could ever say and at her words he gently reached out to touch
her cheek. With amber eyes still sleepy and lips turned up in a shy smile, hair
slightly dishevelled from the night’s rest and freckles, Dormé was the epitome of
beauty. For a moment, Anakin remained speechless as he studied her in silence
taking it all in. His smile turned shy as he realized he was staring and bowing his
head sheepishly for a moment he soon returned her gaze as he gave a soft sigh
of contentment. ‘With you by my side, Dormé, anything is possible,’ he paused as
his expression turned more serious. ‘Thank you for this, for everything.’ he said
softly hoping she would understand all he could not say.

Anakin looked so tired as she studied him, his hand caressing her cheek. It
seemed as though he hadn’t slept a wink while he was away and she hoped that
reaching a decision about this matter would finally allow him much needed rest.
‘You’re welcome,’ she replied softly, glad to see that familiar hint of a smile.

Falling silent then his thoughts began to move forward as he realised that it
wouldn’t be long before he would have to depart for the temple. Suddenly the
thought of returning there alone was a frightening one and he couldn’t help but
wonder if he’d truly have the courage to go through with it. ‘I know this is short
notice—’ he began as his cheeks warmed, ‘but, would you mind joining me when
I speak to Obi-Wan?’ Anakin asked in timid tones. Though he felt embarrassed by
his request, he knew that with Dormé by his side he wouldn’t falter. However, he
also knew that if she chose to refuse -as this wasn’t her faith after all- he would
respect her decision and speak to his brother alone.
His glowing cheeks and humble request warmed her heart. Drawing closer to him,
her smile broadened. ‘I wouldn’t mind,’ she replied, brushing her nose against his.

Feeling her pull him near the fallen Jedi’s smile too widened at the sight of hers
just as her gentle reply gave him immense relief. Grinning as she brushed her
nose against his the young emperor steal a kiss before drawing back as he grew
painfully serious once more. ‘There is one last thing I must do,’ he said quietly as
he moved away from her arms. Drawing his lightsaber he furrowed his brow
knowing fully well he was on the precipice of a great turning point. Then holding
out his Padawan braid, he activated the lightsaber and staring Dormé in the eyes
proceeded to slice off the braid.

It was as though time was moving in slow motion at the turning of the tide. This
symbolic action was like a silent oath of loyalty, a physical representation of how
everything in the universe could change and yet the two of them would remain.

Though the action itself lasted but a second Anakin felt as though he had just
completed a great and long battle. With the tips of the braid still glowing from the
burn that severed it from his head Anakin de-activated the lightsaber and hooked
it back on his belt. ‘We should get ready and leave soon,’ Anakin said knowing if
he postponed this any longer it was almost certain that he would lose his nerve
whether Dormé be by his side or not.

Snapping back to the presence at his words, Dormé nodded and promptly
returned indoors to get ready for what the rest of the day would bring. She
forewent putting all of her hair up, settling for half down and wore a rich green
gown.

As the young royals entered the Jedi Temple, all eyes were on them. The Temple,
once warm and welcoming, seemed foreboding for the fallen Jedi who now
entered with only slight hesitancy. Instinctively, he reached for Dormé’s left hand,
wanting, needing, to feel her calloused fingers against the smooth metal of his
right hand. Just knowing she was near, gave him much courage and though no
one said a word he could feel all eyes were on them. While the young emperor
was normally used to this, on this day, it left him feeling as though he were under
a microscope. But as his eyes fell onto Dormé, his fears began to fade as he gave
her a nervous smile. No matter what was to come, they were in this together and
reminding himself of that, he tuned his thoughts to his brother’s Force signature.
It was where he imagined it would be and soon he was leading Dormé to his
former mentor’s location feeling more nervous than ever of what he knew had to
be done.

It was something Dormé had gotten used to since she first began dating Anakin,
and now, bothered her little. When Anakin reached for her hand, she gave his
metallic hand a squeeze. Though he normally wore a glove to hide his prosthetics,
in this moment, it was fitting he didn’t. He no longer had to hide anything. Dormé
was proud of him for being true to himself.

Obi-Wan had just returned from his own meetings in preparation for Anakin’s
knighting ceremony. Though he had expected Anakin would be surprised, he had
also expected he would more excited about being knighted. After all, the boy had
complained about being ready for the trials for years now, despite the other
duties he had as a prince and now an emperor. Sensing Anakin’s approach, as
well as another person’s Force signature he vaguely recognised, he walked to the
door to let the emperor and empress inside. Before even opening the door, a
sense of foreboding overcame him. It was a shock to see that Anakin no longer
had his Padawan braid and this confused Obi-Wan. Something was not right.

Her silent reassurance was just what he needed and soon Anakin found himself
approaching the room where his former master and brother was now. As the door
parted, Anakin’s right hand tightened slightly against Dormé’s left. His thoughts
immediately scattered but shortly after cleared as he picked up on Obi-Wan’s
confusion. It was now or never. Without a word of greeting or a polite bow of
respect, Anakin drew in a deep breath and unclipped the small pouch that hung
from his utility belt. Then in much the same fashion as he did when he first
removed the braid, the fallen Jedi looked into his brother’s eyes and gave him the
pouch. He did not need to say what it held for he knew Obi-Wan would already
know.

The pained expression on Anakin’s face ought to have said it all, but it wasn’t
until he gave Obi-Wan the small pouch that he knew what was happening.
Though he didn’t know that Anakin had chosen to follow the dark side, Obi-Wan
knew that Anakin no longer wished to be a Jedi. Obi-Wan opened his mouth to
speak, to say something in order to object and have him reconsider this decision,
but before he was able to say anything the young couple was departing.

Obi-Wan stood for a moment, speechless, before palming the door closed and
turning to dump the contents of the pouch on a nearby table. As was expected, it
was Anakin’s Padawan braid. Upon seeing it, Obi-Wan turned away as his eyes
welled with tears he did not shed. ‘I’m sorry I’ve failed you,’ he whispered to his
former master. Whether their father could hear him or not, Obi-Wan felt this was
somehow his fault.

Anakin knew the minute he gave his brother the pouch he had to leave. To stay
would mean certain failure to commit to his decision and so he left without
uttering a word. Though he was immensely relieved to have finally done what he
knew had to be done Anakin couldn’t help but feel a bit sad about it all. He
couldn’t help but wonder if he’d ever see his brother again or what words would
be exchanged between them if they did. He could only hope that Force willing if
their paths did cross again it would be on peaceful terms. He had a sinking feeling
that it wouldn’t.

Later, Dormé wrapped her arms around Anakin’s torso as they boarded the
transport that would take them back to the palace. ‘I’m very proud of you,’ she
said.

Anakin’s thoughts were so consumed by the brief interaction that Anakin barely
even registered his surroundings or that he was boarding the transport home
until Dormé spoke up. Finally registering his surroundings, Anakin studied Dormé
intently for a moment before giving her a shy smile. ‘I couldn’t have done it
without you,’ he admitted softly as he wrapped his own arm around her waist and
gave her a squeeze.

Chapter Two

Anakin frowned deeply at his master’s less than subtle suggestion. Staring at the
elder Sith Lord in agitation, he furrowed his brow as he folded his arms. ‘Why do I
have to take them all out?’

The elderly man just raised a brow as a hint of amusement crossed his features.
‘I should think the answer is quite obvious, Anakin. They are a threat to your
empire and to the security and safety of your people, nevermind you and your
wife.’

Anakin scowled. ‘I’m well aware of that, but I also know that not all of them will
interfere with our work or my empire. With that in mind, I don’t see the purpose
of killing all of them.’

Palpatine just shook his head as he walked around Anakin with a thoughtful look
that could almost be mistaken to be fatherly. ‘Listen to me, son. I know Kenobi
means a lot to you and the thought of killing him is troubling, but you need to
understand that you are no longer on the same side. The Jedi always have and
always will be the enemy of the Sith. Just because he isn’t a threat now doesn’t
mean he will remain that way forever. When the time is right, there can be no
faltering or second guesses. Whether you like it or not, Anakin, all of the Jedi,
especially the council must be destroyed.’

‘I won’t do it. I know Obi-Wan far better than you ever will and I know he will not
pose a threat. It’s not in his nature; he is a man of peace and a stickler of the
rules. You leave him alone and he will leave you alone. It’s as simple as that,’
Anakin snapped in reply as he glared to the Sith Lord who just chuckled in reply.

‘You really think that Kenobi will stand by and let you kill off all of his compatriots?
Did you stand by and let the Tuskan Raiders kill your mother-’

‘We both know I’m nothing like Obi-Wan,’ the young emperor cut in to which
Palpatine gave a soft sigh that didn’t entirely belie his thoughts.

‘That you are not,’ he simply stated. ‘But it doesn’t change the fact that your
brother’s loyalties lie with the Order and he will not hesitate to do whatever he
can to protect them.’

Vader fell silent for a moment as he forced himself to ignore the snide undertone
of his Master’s statement and the jealousy it encouraged. He knew that if
Palpatine had his choice he would not be the one who learning to wield the
darkness, it would be his brother. However, Anakin knew Obi-Wan was far too
pure-hearted for such teachings and thus such petty jealousies never lingered.
The secret and silent longing to be the Jedi his older sibling was however another
story entirely. But this was a thought Anakin no longer permitted himself to dwell
upon as in his mind the dark side was by far the stronger side of the Force and so
it was Obi-Wan’s loss that he didn’t wish to partake of its vast powers.

Yet despite his longing to unleash vengeance on the Order, to end the war and
fulfil his destiny as a Sith Lord Anakin did not intend to harm his brother. Obi-
Wan couldn’t help but be a Jedi, much as Anakin couldn’t help but be a Sith and
with this in mind he refused. There was still a part of him that secretly hoped,
one day, things would return to as they were before, that somehow their different
views pertaining to the Force would no longer matter. Of course, it was nothing
more than a flight of fancy, but it was one the young emperor could never fully
let go of. Doing so meant facing the fact he would most likely never see his
brother again and such thoughts were just too painful to consider. ‘If he wishes to
fight then so be it. Though I doubt highly it will ever come to that. It’s not in his
nature. But don’t ask me to do this because I’m telling you right now I won’t,’
Anakin repeated in fervency. The Sith Lord gave a soft sniff of disgust as he
returned to the table that decorated the Spartan war room.
‘So it is all right to slaughter a bunch of harmless Tuskan younglings, but taking
an equal–such as your brother to battle is not? What is this really about Lord
Vader? Is this your attempt to ease your conscience and prove to yourself that
you have morals, or is this more about hiding the fact you are a coward?’

Without thinking, Anakin immediately lost himself to his temper and swiftly drew
his lightsaber –now crimson and rebuilt to commemorate his transition from Jedi
to Sith- and rushed to attack. It was a fruitless attempt one that Anakin was
aware of almost from the moment he drew his weapon. But his master had
touched upon a rather delicate topic one that the young Sith Lord had been
struggling since that fateful day.

While Obi-Wan was a tolerant Master, Palpatine was not. Almost immediately,
Anakin felt his feet being lifted up from the floor as electricity coursed through his
body causing him to scream in agony. The elder Sith Lord frowned in disgust to
his apprentices wails of pain but didn’t release him for a few moments longer.
Once satisfied with the young sith lord’s sufferings the attack drew to an end and
Anakin landed on the floor with an unceremonious crash. Cursing profusely in
both Huttese and Uriashian, Vader struggled to his feet only to freeze in place as
he found himself staring at the end of Sidious’s lightsaber.

‘You try my patience, Lord Vader. All this time we’ve been planning the demise of
the Order and during that time you’ve done nothing but whine and complain,
demanding that we execute Order 66 as soon as possible, despite the fact that
we had much work to do and were far from ready. Yet now the time has come
upon us and you’re backing down. This is no game, Lord Vader. There are no
rules, no loopholes, no fence to sit on. Either you are in this or you’re not. You
may be a failure as a Sith Lord, but you were even more so as a Jedi. Now you
both pull yourself together and embrace what you know to be your true destiny
or I will find myself another to call my apprentice,’ Palpatine snapped in obvious
disgust.

Shaking both from the pain of the burns inflicted on him from the Force lightning
attack and rage over his humiliation Anakin clenched his jaw and glared up at
Sidious, his eyes filled with hatred. ‘Might I remind you, Supreme Chancellor, that
while you are my Master in the ways of the Force, in all other arrangements, I am
yours. Or have you so soon forgotten that I am your emperor?’ Vader growled
through clenched teeth.

Darth Sidious just raised a brow in amusement as he de-activated his lightsaber
marking the fact he no longer saw Anakin as a threat. Which in turn only added
to the young emperor’s foul mood, as he knew that ultimately the battle was
quite over. ‘Maybe so, but in the end we both know whom it is who truly rules.
You could of course attempt to remove me Lord Vader though I would be most
curious to know just how you plan to do that. After all, I am more trained than
you, despite the fact that you have a higher midichlorian count than me. You
could try, of course, although I wouldn’t advice it if I were you,’ Palpatine
continued in smooth tones as Anakin scrambled to his feet and attempted to stare
down the older man with little success.

‘It’s not wise to underestimate your opponents,’ Vader quipped back with a hint
of dark smile.

Sidious smiled in reply. ‘It is pleasing to know that you have been paying heed to
my tutelage. But we both know you are far from fully trained in the dark arts,’ he
smoothly replied to which Anakin just cursed in reply.
‘I respect the fact you are my Master when it comes to my training, but as I said
before, I am the emperor, not you and when I give an order, I expect it to be
followed. I am not trying to challenge your tactics for Order 66, I’m only saying
that I will not kill Obi-Wan,’ Anakin tried again. Though his voice was calm, it was
obvious he was struggling to contain his rage and humiliation brought on by the
sting of his master’s words and the truth behind them.

‘Very well, your grace. If you will not do it, then I will. Try to stop me, if you like,
or better yet, attempt to convince the Jedi Order to stop me. I’m sure they’d love
to side with the very man who betrayed them to the Sith. Either way, I assure
you, no matter what you decide it will only result in failure.’

Anakin struggled to wrap his mind around the statement just made. Staring at
the elderly Sith Lord in disbelief he tried to speak but found the words wouldn’t
come. It was as though the Supreme Chancellor hadn’t heard a single word he
said or more exactly didn’t care enough to bother. ‘You wouldn’t dare!’ Vader
hissed in reply but it was too late as Lord Sidious felt their conversation was quite
over and was now preparing to depart the war room. Glancing over his shoulder
to the infuriated but broken Sith Lord Palpatine just shook his head and gave the
young man an almost compassionate look.

‘Tend to your wounds and get some rest, Lord Vader. The hour is late and you
are hardly in any state to continue this discussion. Tomorrow is going to be a
very busy day and the last thing I need is my second-in-command to be too out
of sorts to perform his duties.’ Without another word, Palpatine turned his back to
the furious Anakin and silently departed from the room.

Enraged but too wounded now to truly vent his frustration Vader proceeded to
kick over the large table that decorated the war room causing all the data pads,
holo-maps and other related pieces of equipment to go flying everywhere before
making his way out of the war room as fast as his wounded and weakened body
would permit him.

By the time the young Sith Lord returned to his personal quarters, it was well into
the night. Though his body was now in far better condition than before –after
spending some time recovering in a bacta tank- Anakin was still quite sore and
more than a little exhausted. This did little to stop his mind from replaying his
conversation with the Supreme Chancellor or more exactly the results of it. While
he deeply respected the elderly man, Vader couldn’t deny the fact Sidious had
become more of a threat than anything else.

He had yet to figure out a way to properly go through with killing the elderly Sith
master. His bond with Sidious meant that the Supreme Chancellor would be able
to read his thoughts and sense his motives even more so than usual. Given the
way things had ended between them today, Anakin also knew that Palpatine
would be expecting him to try to kill him. It was after all not only was it a
common way for a Sith apprentice to truly become a master but it was almost
tradition. Vader’s reasons for removing his current mentor were far more
personal as while he longed for the day he would truly become a master there
was a part of him that feared it as well. When it came to matters of his brother,
Anakin knew that he would have to bury some fears to ensure that greater fears
would be faced without hesitation. He silently entered his private chambers and
went to find his wife, hoping that she would still be awake despite the late hour.
If anyone was capable of seeing this situation in a practical light it was Dormé, he
also knew that if anyone could keep him grounded throughout the coming days it
would be her as well.
It was much later than usual when Dormé heard Anakin finally stumbling into
their chambers. She too had had a long day as well, but when hers was ending,
her husband’s was only beginning. It was for this reason that she had taken it
upon herself to put in a few hours of training the dojo as well, but she had long
since showered and gone to bed when Anakin returned. Falling asleep without
Anakin there was becoming somewhat of a regular occurrence once more and it
was something she disliked. However, this wouldn’t be the case tonight and,
rising from the bed, Dormé went to greet him. It was then she took in how he
walked and could tell something wasn’t right.

Anakin tried to give Dormé a smile at the sight of her but his thoughts were
weighed heavy with the discussion he had from before leaving Anakin to be more
pensive than anything else. Silently he drew her into an embrace as he allowed
himself to forget everything for a moment.

When she embraced him, he smelt of bacta. ‘What’s happened? Are you all right?
The servants didn’t tell me anything about you visiting the med labs—’

Shaking his head the Sith Lord gave a soft sigh as he offered a weak smile. ‘I’m
fine, just finished my meeting with my Master,’ he said dry tones while
attempting to lighten the mood and ease Dormé’s concerns. He furrowed his brow
to the memory of Palpatine’s statement. ‘In all seriousness, I am in need of your
advice,’ Anakin began before proceeding to explain to her the events of the
meeting. He expressed the fact he felt the elder Sith Lord had become in his
opinion a valid threat. ‘He has no respect for our rule or my wish to leave my
brother out of everything. I think it will only be a matter of time before he tries to
take our positions right from under our noses,’ Anakin concluded in concern tones.

Dormé knew it was his Master that did this to him. Though she knew little of the
Force, she hardly thought it was right or fair for her husband to go through these
trials. It was not the first time, nor would it most likely be the last. Though it
pained her to see him suffering for this Force religion, she knew it wasn’t her
place to object to it, at least not until now. ‘How DARE he?!’ Dormé raged, pacing
in front of him. She was far more awake now than she had been a few minutes
ago. Shaking her fist, she hissed, ‘I’d like to give him a piece of my mind—We are
the rulers here, not Palpatine! This is OUR Empire! We will deal with the
insurrection in whatever means WE feel is necessary. And we most certainly
aren’t going to kill your brother! There are more insidious people we need to deal
with anyway!’

While Anakin was pleased to have Dormé’s support—and was most grateful to
know she agreed with him when it came to Obi-Wan—he was worried for her as
well. His Master had no qualms about taking out Obi-Wan, which left Anakin
wondering how much longer it would be before Palpatine would be setting his
sights on the empress herself. The thought made his blood run cold and though
he nodded in agreement with Dormé, it was obvious he was still guarded about
the entire situation. ‘I am in total agreement with you. At the same time, I don’t
want to do anything without careful and proper planning. Darth Sidious will be
expecting me to react, to do something to stop him and will have most likely
prepared for it. ‘What’s worse is the fact he is capable of touching both of our
minds. So the element of surprise is completely lost,’ Anakin admitted grudgingly.

‘He’s treating you like a youngling!’ Dormé maintained, hardly hearing Anakin’s
words of caution.
Anakin couldn’t deny Dormé’s words as there was more truth to it then he’d care
to admit. At the same time, her rage was too much to ignore and knowing first
hand of the Sith Lord’s capabilities left him fearful for her safety. As if on cue,
Dormé collected her blade causing Anakin’s heart to jump to his throat. He
couldn’t blame her for her rage as he was infuriated by the situation too but at
the same time he had no intention of rushing into this without thinking it through
either. ‘Dormé what are you doing?’ he asked unable to hide the concern from his
voice.

‘You’re the haramu emperor—I don’t care—’ Venting, she stormed over to where
she kept her blade. Cursing up a storm, she hissed, ‘—Touch my mind all he
wants...all he’ll see is me killing him—haramu saabarra—’

‘This is serious you’re about to go head on with an extremely dangerous man!
One who’s had more years of training than the both of us combined!’ Vader
chided as he grabbed her wrist to catch her attention anything to make her think
this through.

Dormé was hardly in the mood to be stopped or cautioned, but despite her best
efforts, Anakin’s words and grasp on her wrist finally snapped her out of her rage.
She wrenched her hand away and hurled her sword across the room. It landed
smack in the centre of a mural on the far side of the room. ‘FINE!’

‘If he wasn’t a Force sensitive I’d know you’d be able to defeat him without even
trying, but he is and he is a very powerful one at that. Listen to me Dormé if
we’re going to do this we’ll have to do it together and do it properly!’

Having now vented her anger, Dormé folded her arms, facing him with a huff.
They needed to think of what to do and they needed to figure it out quickly. ‘How
long do we have?’

Anakin frowned at Dormé’s snap reaction though he couldn’t blame her for being
furious. The destroyed table in the war room was testament to his own fury and
thus he couldn’t chastise her for it when he was no different. Nevertheless as the
blade slammed into the far side of the room Vader couldn’t resist a hint of a smile.
Upon having her undivided attention, the Sith Lord folded his arms as well and
readily met her frustrated gaze. ‘Not long. The preparations for Order 66 are
about complete. If we’re going to do this we’ll have a couple of days at best. I’d
try to stall him but Palpatine will see right through it especially considering how
eager I was to begin attack in the first place,’ Anakin admitted with a tired sigh.

Great, Dormé thought, knowing there wasn’t much time. ‘No,’ she agreed,
‘stalling will just make it worse...’ Calming down, but only slightly, she drew
nearer to Anakin. ‘What if I approach him as empress to chancellor? He wouldn’t
refuse me. He knows better than that. I could divert him and you could attack—’

Anakin took a deep breath as once more he began to go through their situation
and all the possible scenarios they could try. At her words, Anakin’s eyes widened
in horror at her idea and quickly he shook his head. ‘Force no! You can’t just
approach him like that Dormé he’ll only hurt you or worse!’ Anakin exclaimed in
terror. ‘Besides he’ll sense my attack even before you go to talk to him,’ the Sith
Lord admitted in concern as in his mind he could already imagine the outcome of
Dormé’s idea.

Frankly, Dormé didn’t think the chancellor would hurt her, but Anakin did have a
point. ‘I keep forgetting about his ability to read minds through the Force,’ she
replied, frowning. Uttering a mixture of Uriashian and debaucherized Huttese,
Dormé tried to think of another option. ‘What about finding evidence against him
he publicly cannot deny? Putting him on trial for something? I don’t know...’

Anakin grew pensive as Dormé tossed out ideas. He rather liked the idea of
finding evidence against him but soon realized that his Master had allies from all
ranks and walks of life serving him. While Anakin was aware of many of them, he
was also certain that his Master ensured there would be many more that he
wasn’t. Needless to say it left the young emperor a bit guarded about the idea. ‘I
don’t know. In theory, it sounds perfect, but I don’t trust Palpatine not to have
something up his sleeve. He has allies in the courts and though who oppose him
he could just as easily use a mindtrick to convince them otherwise. ‘Killing him
outright just seems to be the best and only logical course of action,’ Vader
admitted with a hint of concern. ‘As foolish as I know this sounds, I almost wish I
could call upon the Order to aid me in this. Of course I won’t but...he is far more
trained than I am it, I’d just feel more comfortable knowing I had a decent back-
up plan for all of this.’

Dormé knew Anakin wouldn’t sleep well tonight even if they came up with the
perfect plan for Palpatine’s demise. However, she also knew they wouldn’t do
much better trying to come up with ideas tonight. Anakin had been through so
much with his master and she was concerned for him. ‘Why don’t we try to get
some sleep and think more on this in the morning?’ she suggested, rubbing his
arm.

Despite his wish to figure out things or at least come up with some semblance of
a plan Anakin was quite exhausted. At Dormé’s suggestion, he gave a weak smile
knowing that ultimately, she had a point, neither were in much condition to think
clearly nevermind work out a decent plan against someone who had the upper
hand. Nodding weakly in reply and slipping his hand over Dormé’s, the Sith Lord
kissed her cheek. ‘I guess your right, there’s no point in trying to figure things
out when neither of us can keep our eyes open nevermind think,’ he said with a
wry smile.

‘Exactly,’ Dormé agreed, giving his hand squeeze. ‘Go wash up and I’ll try not to
fall asleep before you join me,’ she said, tossing him a wink and a smile. Dormé
already had an idea forming in her head, but was not about to let Anakin in on
her plan. Whomever was strongest in the Force or more trained didn’t register
with her. Wit was something the Force couldn’t teach someone and Dormé had
plenty of that.

Anakin reached out to touch Dormé’s cheek as his expression remained troubled.
Despite knowing what awaited them in the morning the Sith Lord knew that rest
was necessary and the thought of being able to fall asleep in his wife’s arms once
more was too much to resist. Soon he was washing up and preparing to join her,
unaware that Dormé had already formed a plan of her own, one that he would
definitely not agree with.

Once he washed up, a rather sleepy but still troubled Anakin promptly clambered
into bed next to his beloved and proceeded to get cosy. Despite all the troubles
that weighed on his mind, with Dormé in his arms nothing ever seemed quite that
bad.

Dormé slipped back into bed, exhausted from the day and wanting nothing more
than to fall asleep with her husband, but once he was in her arms, her thoughts
brewed with plans for the next day. She barely slept that night, though she
stroked Anakin’s hair and watched him as he slept.


Early the next morning, Dormé rose, careful not to wake Anakin, and dressed as
though she were going to a senate meeting. There were plenty of issues
regarding the war that would be plausible for conversing with the chancellor. With
this in mind, she poured a toxic poison into his favourite tea and brought it to his
office.

‘Good morning, Your Majesty,’ Palpatine greeted her with a feigned respectful,
already expecting her.

‘Good morning, Chancellor,’ she replied, though with a hint of feigned sadness in
her voice. ‘I’m sorry to disturb you so early,’ she said, stepping forward with the
tea and setting it on the desk in front of him. ‘It’s just that I’m worried about
Anakin. He told me everything about the Order 66, but he won’t go ahead with it
despite all the planning that’s been done. I don’t know what further means of
persuasion would get him to go ahead with it.’

Knowing the boy would find out straightaway that he had probed his wife’s again
and the consequences of such an action, Palpatine forewent such a thing,
underestimating the little handmaiden. ‘Surely he will seek your wisdom, Empress.
After all, this is not the first time he has struggled with something. You were the
one he went to about the Jedi in the first place, were you not?’

‘I suppose so...’ Dormé said reluctantly. She watched eagerly as the chancellor
downed the tea without being sick. Seeing that this measure did not work, her
hand slipped to a small, concealed knife.


Lost in fitful dreams and the solace of his wife’s arms that reminded him they
weren’t real, Anakin didn’t awaken until long after Dormé had slipped from his
arms. Confused and disorientated, he glanced around the room before noting the
time and her absence. He didn’t recall her having any meetings at this hour,
which only added to his confusion. Stumbling out of bed, the Sith Lord went to
wash up and get changed figuring that perhaps duty demanded her presence
early. However, no sooner than he emerged from the fresher when Anakin felt a
shift in the Force and promptly realized that Dormé was with Palpatine. A rush of
panic flooded his thoughts at the discovery and swiftly he clambered into his
clothes, grabbed his lightsaber, and rushed out of their quarters.

Racing down the halls, he hoped against hope that Dormé was all right that
Palpatine refrained from doing anything to her. Though he knew all too well that
if he didn’t it was certain Dormé soon would. Bursting through the entrance that
would lead to the Supreme Chancellor’s office he swiftly slaughtered the guards
who attempted to warn him that Palpatine was in a meeting. Then using the
Force he caused the doors to part and swiftly made his entrance without pausing
to register the situation or the fact he had interceded just in time.

Without warning, Dormé hurled the blade at the chancellor’s throat.

Palpatine swiftly blocked the attack, sending the blade and the empress flying in
opposite directions across the room.
Dormé toppled over a small table, crying out in protest. She missed her
husband’s grand entrance but heard the blazing of a lightsaber and thought the
chancellor was going to kill her.

Anakin’s eyes widened as they fell to Dormé’s form. Instincts warred with him as
he just wanted to rush to her side to help her but with Palpatine as an obvious
threat, such luxuries weren’t permitted. As such Anakin soon tapped into
darkness permitting it to course through his veins as he attack his now former
mentor. ‘You’d dare to attack my wife! The empress of the Coruscanti Empire!’
Vader growled as he moved swiftly with the intent of beheading the Supreme
Chancellor.

Distracted by the empress, Palpatine hardly had a chance to ignite his lightsaber
to defend himself.

Dormé lifted her head to see Anakin with his ligthsaber blazing, meeting the
chancellor’s own.

The battle ensued with a viciousness Anakin didn’t and couldn’t have ever
imagined possible. In the past, all of his battles had been with foes who had little
if any idea of his skills. This was personal, leaving the young emperor to be
forced onto the defence far swifter than he would have liked. While his former
Master was more trained, in the end, Anakin’s need and determination to protect
Dormé made him the mightier foe. It also helped that Dormé’s poison, though not
deadly to the Sith Lord, had dulled his senses and sensitivity to the Force, leaving
the young emperor to gain the upper hand.

Palpatine would have preferred to taunt and talk the boy down, but there was no
time for that. It wasn’t until the end when he started to panic, for his apprentice
had no interest in hearing what he had to say.

Mesmerized by Anakin’s attack, she could only watch from her position on the
floor as the battle swiftly ended. ‘Anakin—’ gasped Dormé, finally getting to her
feet in order to go over to him.

After what felt like an eternity, but was in reality mere minutes, Anakin’s
lightsaber found its prey. Slamming it fiercely into Palpatine’s throat, Vader gave
a vicious grin and promptly drew it upwards causing it to divide his face into two.
Only when Sidious fell to the floor lifeless did he permit himself to do what he
wanted to do right from the beginning. Rushing to Dormé’s side, as best as his
wounded body would allow, Anakin promptly went to see if she was all right. ‘Are
you all right?’ he asked in fear as he examined Dormé intently before pulling her
into a tight embrace once he realized she was fine.

Dormé held him tightly, so relieved that he was all right, and barely registering
the yellowish tinge of his eyes. Anakin then took the words right out of her mouth.
Palpatine wouldn’t force him to do things he didn’t want to and no one would
stand in their way...

‘It’s over, Dormé. It’s really over!’ he whispered desperately before pulling her
into a passionate kiss.

Dormé kissed him back with all of her being, needing to feel him, to possess him,
as much as any living being could possess another...just as much as she wanted
to succumb to him in turn. Clothing was quickly, forcefully shed, in order to
remove the physical between them.

Their kisses soon consumed Anakin who eagerly lost himself in his wife’s embrace.
Time melted away as both the darkness and Dormé’s passion engulfed his
conscious thoughts, leaving his entire universe to consist only of them.

Despite Vader’s never-ending hunger and need to bask in Dormé’s presence, his
wounds eventually caught up with him, leaving Anakin to fall prey to exhaustion.
As his kisses and touch grew lazier, he also became vaguely aware of his
surroundings.

Unlike Anakin, Dormé was not aware of this otherworldly urge that came over
them, nor the motivation behind it. She had no idea how the darkness that flowed
through him was affecting her as well. This was the second time something like
this happened and as Anakin’s exhaustion overtook him, Dormé, unaware of her
surroundings, let alone the unseen Force affecting them, found herself frustrated.
‘Anakin—’ she almost demanded when he was hardly responsive to her.

As much as Anakin wanted to remain here and bask in the presence of his wife,
his body was quite wounded from the elder Sith Lord’s attacks. Much of his
healing wounds from the night before were torn as well, though to the naked eye
this wasn’t entirely visible. As such, the young Sith Lord found himself needing a
break far sooner than he would have liked. Anakin sleepily suggested they return
to their quarters. ‘Order 66 can wait ‘til the morning,’ he murmured softly before
stealing another kiss.

The response was hardly one she had in mind. The darkness still lingered in her
and she was less conscious of the current situation, still high on the raw urges
driven by the dark side. She returned his kiss, but he seemed to have moving out
of this room on his mind, which she inevitably agreed to, only with the promise of
many stops along the way back.

He had yet to register that much of his exhaustion too was due in part to the
incredible amounts of the dark side that had been channelling through his body.
Nevertheless, they eventually made their way back to their quarters. It was a
struggle to remain conscious nevermind to partake of primal pleasures. Much to
his shame, between his wounds and the trying events of the past few hours, the
Sith Lord was practically falling asleep on his feet.

Dormé practically dragged his naked form to the couch, for that was as far as she
could reach. She was also still saturated with the dark side’s influence on her,
causing her to be extraordinarily selfish. Still concerned with her own, yet not
completely satisfied needs, she attempted one last time before giving up and
collapsing on their bed.


It was some time later when Anakin stirred from rest only to find himself
sprawled about quite naked on the couch. Confused and of the belief that
Palpatine’s death was just part of a dream the Sith Lord sit up only to wince in
pain. It was only then that he slowly began to register the events from earlier.
‘...Dormé?...’ he croaked wondering where she was or how he got here.

When she awoke the next morning, Dormé felt woozy and confused. She
wondered why Anakin wasn’t in bed with her and why she couldn’t remember
what happened. This was the second time she had felt like she had lost a space of
time. Concerned, she rose from the bed, drawing on a robe and going to look for
her husband.

At the sight of her, the Sith Lord rose to his feet but staggered to the pain as he
uttered a soft curse.

Upon seeing Anakin and his wounded body, Dormé immediately raced over to
help him. ‘Great gods, what happened?’ she gasped, but noticed some of the
wounds were of her own making and she blushed crimson for it, though she was
now only vaguely able to remember the events of the night before.

‘Palpatine’s dead,’ Anakin whispered in confused disbelief as he struggled to
remind himself that this was no dream.

‘Palpatine? Oh!’ Dormé said as she put an arm around his torso to help steady
him.

‘I killed him...But I don’t know how I could have, he was so much more skilled
than I?’ he continued as he ran a hand through his hair before exhaling. ‘And just
how did I end up here on the couch of all places?’ he muttered in confusion as it
seemed odd he’d be here instead of either in bed or more exactly in a medlab
given the marks that covered his body.

‘It’s all so blurry...’ she replied, shaking her head. ‘Let’s clean up and dress and
then we’ll have you looked at in the med lab, all right?’ she suggested as she
helped him to the fresher.

Anakin blushed crimson as well when Dormé went to help him. His body
protested loudly from the wounds and he muttered a few curses as he struggled
to walk. But soon Dormé was steadying him despite his assurances that it wasn’t
that bad. At her admittance to the events being blurry, Vader nodded slightly in
reply. ‘If it wasn’t for the fact I feel like my body is going to fall apart on me I’d
almost say I imagined the entire thing up,’ he said with a weak chuckle before
uttering another curse as even this hurt.

As they dressed, she began to remember more details from the day before,
though still a good chunk of time was missing to her. ‘I remember going to speak
with the chancellor and then you rushed in—’

Glancing to Dormé in shock, he furrowed his brow at her words. ‘You went to? Oh
Force that’s right...’ he gave a frustrated sigh at that memory. ‘Dormé, I still
can’t believe you did that. And my brother says I have a knack of finding trouble,’
Anakin concluded as he shook his head.

‘…you defeated him...you were brilliant, Anakin...’

He couldn’t resist a hint of a cocky smile. ‘I still can’t believe I did it...I
mean...He’s really gone. I’m finally free! No more Masters, no more orders, no
more rules, stupid prophecies, fate, destiny and all that nonsense. Just you, me
and the empire!’ he said in eager tones.

Dormé grew shy at his frustrated sigh and bit her lip as she brushed out her hair.
At least it had all worked out properly, she figured, though she was still worried
about his injuries. She finished putting up her hair and turned to him at his
declaration, grinning.
Watching her brush her hair was soothing for the Sith Lord whose thoughts for a
moment drifted to more pleasant things. But almost as soon as they did, they
grew dark again as he recalled Order 66. ‘The Separatists. We’ll have to get rid of
them. How soon do you want to execute Order 66?’ he asked after a moments
pause. Furrowing his brow, he asked Dormé when she wanted to begin the
mission that would end the war, knowing he would do whatever she asked as her
opinion mattered most to him.

Drawing near, she gently rested a hand on his arm. ‘Should we wait until you’ve
been looked at? It wouldn’t do to have you collapse in front of our enemies,’ she
insisted.

Her hesitancy was not missed and, falling silent, he studied her intently. Her
concern, though in his opinion unnecessary—as surely his wounds would be
tended to by the end of the day—warmed his heart. Soon Anakin slipped his
hands around her petite form as he pulled her near. ‘I hardly think my wounds
are that bad. They just feel that way because I just woke up,’ he said in light
tones before growing a more serious. ‘But I’ll be sure to have them tended too
first before we begin, as you said we can’t have me falling all over the place in
the middle of battle.

She tilted her head to the side as if judging or waiting to call his bluff. ‘So long as
you’re looked at and the doctor thinks that you’re all right, then yes, I think we
should go ahead with it as soon as possible.’

‘After all, we can’t leave you to have all the fun without me to enjoy a bit of it
too,’ he said in impish tones marking he was only teasing.

She chuckled at his remark, poking him the chest. ‘Well we also have the Jedi to
contend with and that’s your job,’ she said.

Grinning, his expression grew cocky to her words as he smirked. ‘But of course.
How could I forget,’ he remarked mischievously as he pulled her close to steal a
kiss.

Dormé returned Anakin’s kiss cheerfully. It would only be a matter of time,
sooner than they could imagine, and their empire would no longer suffer in war.
Soon they would be able to have the family they had always wanted.

While he was eager to begin, there was still a part of him that had some nagging
doubts about the matter of his brother. The plan was to ensure the more powerful
members of the Council were off world during the Order 66 and then to have
them return afterwards for the final confrontation. Even so, the young Sith Lord
was concerned that ultimately he wouldn’t be able to choose his battles. Or more
exactly, that one of the Council members would order Obi-Wan to take him down.
Anakin feared that if it were to come to that his brother, ever a stickler for the
rules, would follow the chain of command. It wasn’t that he feared battle, but the
thought of having to actually kill Obi-Wan was one he had intention of ever
fulfilling. ‘I’ll have the med droids look at me right away and then we can begin,’
he said in eager tones already relishing the thought of finally bringing about
peace to their empire.

She smiled at his words, gently touching his cheek. ‘I’ll await your return,’ she
murmured. As much as Dormé wanted to go with him to the Jedi Temple and
take out the traitors, she knew he would adamantly object to it.
It was such sweet relief to be finally rid of Sidious and to be able to tend to
matters as he should have from the start. Now there would be no more hiding, no
more sneaking around pretending to be a Jedi Knight when in reality he had long
since rose above the weakness that was the Order. He was truly a Sith Lord now
and soon he would restore true balance to the galaxy. Parting ways with Dormé
was a hard, but at the same time, this was a personal matter, one he didn’t want
to risk her safety over. For while Dormé was a formidable warrior, she lacked
Force sensitivity and he feared they would take advantage of that.

Despite being weaker than him, the Jedi as a collective were powerful in their
own right. But in the end even this did not matter, for their time had long since
ran out and Anakin was now here to play the role of reaper. Moving through the
halls, he gathered the dark side to him as he laid waste to his opponents with the
greatest of ease. Though some proved more difficult than others, in the end,
Knights, Padawans, and Jedi Masters fell to his lightsaber.

So caught up in the heady rush of the dark side that now coursed through his
veins, the emperor soon forgot Dormé’s request. As such, when one of the
younglings, too foolish to register the darkness that resonated from his Force
signature, Anakin didn’t hesitate to remove the child’s head.

Then all hell broke loose.

The younglings panicked and though many remained too frightened to scream he
could hear their cries through the Force and felt their fear pouring off them in
waves. It only served to encourage his drunken state of mind for he was quite
inebriated with the dark side and thus unable to resist his lust for blood. Most
rushed to the door but soon found themselves trapped with the Sith Lord who
used the Force to lock it, thus preventing their escape. But despite a few noble
attempts to fight back, most were far too frightened to do much but attempt to
open the door or hide. Fortunately, for most, the small voice of doubt finally
surfaced in his thoughts and after having removed a few more of the younglings,
Anakin recalled Dormé’s words. Coming to his senses, he finally de-activated his
lightsaber while studying the pale and ashen faces of the younglings who cowered
and tried to hide from him.

Shame began to flood his thoughts as he could only imagine Dormé’s reaction
while another part of him knew, without question, he had crossed a line.
Furrowing his brow, he opened his mouth to speak but no words came and so
without another word he stormed out of the room. Upon seeing one of the elite
stormtroopers, he ordered them to collect the remaining younglings and return
them to the palace. Then without further thought, he departed for home as well,
for there were none left, save the children and his troops in the Temple. Only a
few Jedi Masters remained alive after the slaughter and they, for the moment, too
spread out across the galaxy for the young Sith Lord to even bother hunting
down. He would tend to them later.

As he returned to the palace, his thoughts were entirely on Dormé and on their
mutual desire to end the war once and for all. Upon his return, he eagerly moved
through the halls and rooms that would take him to his beloved. He couldn’t wait
to embark on their last mission and was already looking forward to the peace
they were on the verge of restoring together.
Dormé hated waiting around. As much as she knew this was a matter that Anakin
needed to attend to alone, she wished she could be there to show her
support...and watch him take them out, all of the traitors.

‘Anakin, the Separatists have gathered in the Mustafar system—’ she informed
him before he left.

‘Wait for me and when I return, we will go there together and end this war.’

And so, Dormé waited. She waited and saw the smoke rising from the Temple
where Anakin laid siege with the army of clone troopers. But pacing was getting
her nowhere and she decided to sharpen her wakizashi’s blade.

She only had one request for Anakin in his attack on the Jedi Temple, it was that
she didn’t want him to kill any of the younglings. Part of her still ached for losing
their child and it was a personal request of hers for him not to kill children.

Thinking about this made her angry. Anakin was right, once these Separatists
were dead, they would have peace and she would no longer be under so much
stress. And they would be able to have a child.

Though she knew Anakin was the most powerful Force user in the galaxy,
especially after removing the Sith Master, Darth Sidious, Dormé was still
concerned for her husband. She didn’t worry about him getting killed, just injured,
and they had important things to attend to like ending this war. She didn’t want
them to be slowed down by any injuries.

Finished sharpening her blade, she examined it in the light, pleased with the
results. A dark smile crossed her face before she slipped it into the folds of her
cloak. Hastening down the hallways to where The Tempest would land, Dormé’s
heels clicked on the marble floors.

She paid no mind to the servants whose eyes lingered on her form or the
troopers standing guard, her thoughts solely on her beloved, hoping his return
would be soon.

However, she was stopped by a commander trooper. ‘What is it?’ she demanded.

‘The youngling Jedi just arrived,’ the commander said.

She instructed the commander where to take the children and to have a servant
bring them something to eat. She also dictated that they would be fitted with
civilian garb, so that nothing of the Temple remained with them. ‘They are to
remain under close guard.’

‘Yes, Your Highness.’

Anakin soon found himself rounding the corner only to catch sight of his beloved
speaking to one of the Commander clone troops. For a moment, he paused as he
studied her beauty with a look of loving adoration. But never a patient man, it
wasn’t long before he was striding over to her with eager pride as he wanted to
embrace and share with her the good news.

Just as the commander bowed to her wishes, Dormé was gleefully caught up in
the arms of her beloved.
‘It’s over. Save for a few Jedi who remain still out on missions throughout the
galaxy the threat has been entirely removed,’ he said proudly as he slip his arms
around her petite form. ‘Now all that remains are the Separatists and soon, they
too will be nothing but a memory,’ he purred already looking forward to spilling
the blood of the Separatist traitors.

His words brought such joy to her ears. Soon the galaxy would be at peace and
their Empire secure. Dormé wrapped her arms about his neck, drawing him in for
a kiss. ‘I cannot wait,’ she murmured.

Anakin beamed feeling her joy through the Force. As her arms slipped around his
neck, he gave a lopsided grin and was soon drawn in for a kiss that he returned
eagerly. ‘I had the one of the Commanders collect the remaining younglings from
the temple as you requested, I trust they’ve arrived safely,’ he continued as their
kiss drew to a close.

‘Mhmm,’ she replied. ‘That’s what we were just discussing. I wanted to be sure
they were fed and that anything having to do with the traitorous Jedi Order were
removed.’

The young emperor raised a brow at her remarks and was about to give her a
proud grin but it soon faded as he recalled his actions and the fact he almost
forgot her request. Growing conscious of himself he glanced away briefly as he
found himself struggling with his guilt. ‘...That’s good, I’m glad they arrived
safely...’ he began hesitantly as he struggled now to meet her gaze. He really did
not wish to discuss this matter with her at this time but Anakin also knew if he
didn’t she was certain to find out by other means. Most likely from the younglings
themselves who were certain to be mourning the loss of their colleagues.

Dormé was smiling up at him until he seemed to slightly distance himself as he
avoided her gaze. Something had gone wrong, she could tell. However, stroking
his hair at the back of his neck, she didn’t ask.

‘I...I think there is something you should know...’ he began quietly as the shame
now became evident in his features.

Even when he mentioned that she ought to know something, she just studied him.

‘...Not all of them made it...’

Not all of them made it Not all of the younglings? Dormé was unsure what he
meant. ‘Why not?’ she asked softly.

Her touch was so soothing that it was almost too easy to forget about the news
he dreaded to share with her. But as much as he was loathed to speak of the
younglings who fell to his lightsaber Anakin couldn’t keep it from her. For there
was nothing he ever kept from Dormé. Her reaction was expected as was her
confusion. Her faith in him was unwavering and the thought stung and hurt more
than he wanted to admit. ‘...I failed you...’ he murmured softly as he lowered his
gaze. ‘...I...It was my fault...I forgot myself...’ he murmured in barely audible
tones knowing how much it was going ot hurt her to hear the truth.

Tears came to her eyes as he admitted he accidentally killed some of the
younglings. ‘How many?’ she asked as he recalled their deaths. Though she didn’t
want to know the details she was entitled to, part of her needed to know, or the
question would plague her forever. She knew control wasn’t his forte and that, as
with anything, it would come with practice. After all, how often in these past few
years had he been able to experiment with his growing powers without people
being suspicious or jealous of him?

Anakin’s eyes briefly flickered up to gaze into Dormé’s amber orbs but upon
seeing her tears, he couldn’t hold their gaze as he bowed his head. This was the
last thing he wanted to discuss on the eve of their victory but he couldn’t refuse
her. Swallowing hard, he furrowed his brow as he struggled with his conscience
and his fear of her reaction. Much to his shame he couldn’t entirely recall how
many fell to his lightsaber and the thought troubled him more than he wanted to
admit. ‘...three, possibly four...’ he concluded quietly as he struggled to clear his
thoughts of the haze that was the darkness still coursing through his veins.

She could tell he was having a difficult time recalling it and her hands fell back to
his shoulders. Possibly four, he said. He didn’t remember. ‘Tell me they provoked
you,’ she said, grasping to the hope that there was good reason for the deaths of
little ones.

Anakin closed his eyes as he struggled to clear his thoughts to recall the events in
more detail, to possibly confirm her words, to erase her fears. None came. ‘I
don’t know...I mean...It was all a bit of a blur...’ he admitted struggling with
thoughts, his concerns and his fear over the fact he could barely recall what had
happened.

Dormé’s heart fell to hear that he hadn’t been provoked, that innocent lives were
claimed, little ones who hadn’t done anything but what they thought they were
supposed to do... ‘Oh...I see,’ she replied sadly.

What was worst of all was Dormé’s reaction to his poor behaviour and handling of
her simple request. ‘...I don’t think so...I’m sorry...’ he finally confessed knowing
that despite his wish to ease her fear that ultimately he could never lie to her.

‘Well, they would have become our enemies,’ she said, trying to convince herself
that the action was justified anyway, though she wouldn’t ever fully convince
herself that it was the case. And speaking on enemies made her think on the
Separatists they needed to remove, which, unbeknownst to her, was the true
reason she was able to almost shrug off the deaths of three or four innocents.

He could feel Dormé’s sadness and it caused his heart to sink further leaving him
struggling with his thoughts and the guilt it encouraged. Her reply didn’t help any
despite her attempts to ease his shame and her own concerns. ‘...I suppose so...’
Anakin murmured his eyes still not meeting hers as part of him longed to tighten
his embrace around Dormé, to hold her close as though somehow hoping in her
arms he would find absolution from the guilt. However, just as he began, he
hesitated, fearing her refusal and drawing back slightly he tried to focus his
thoughts on the present situation. ‘We should depart soon to tend to the
Separatists,’ he said quietly desperate to change the topic and move onto more
pressing matters.

Dormé moved from him just as he did so, which was fortunate as her thoughts
were distracted as well. She nodded in agreement, her hand already her sword.
‘My thoughts exactly. What’s done is done.’ She exhaled almost as if out of relief,
though it was truly the darkness breathing lies to her unwitting non-Force
sensitive soul.
Anakin nodded at her words putting them to mind and using it to bury his doubts
that would never quite fade away. ‘I agree...There is no point in visiting the past,’
he murmured as though reminding himself of the fact more than speaking to her.

‘And soon we shall have peace.’ Her eyes glinted with expectation of the kills that
would soon adorn her newly sharpened sword.

As the topic changed, his thoughts shifted and soon the darkness was poisoning
his mind once more. Offering her a dark smile Anakin reached out to touch her
cheek briefly. Then motioning him to join her Anakin began to head back to the
Tempest with the hopes of embarking on what he believed would become their
last battle for peace.

As they boarded The Tempest, Dormé’s conscious continued to war with her,
telling her what happened with the younglings was wrong, was a warning of some
sort, but as Anakin plotted the course to Mustafar and she leant her head on his
shoulder, making herself more comfortable, it slowly began to fade away to the
back of her mind.

Anakin’s thoughts were no longer divided as he continued to focus on the
destruction of the Separatists. This was only encouraged by Dormé’s presence
and unspoken comfort. Feeling her head resting on his shoulder, the young Sith
Lord didn’t hesitate to slip his arm around her shoulder as he began to play with a
loose strand of her hair. With her near anything was possible and despite his
previous doubts Anakin never felt more confident in their success as he did in
those moments.

She spoke aloud of the politicians they would be encountering and recalled how
many of them supported slavery and abused the resources of their planets. How
the droids left many workers out of jobs and how much she wanted to see them
suffer for the damage they caused so many lives.

Hearing her speak of the politicians and how they abused their powers and
became corrupt because of it left him even more assured that their actions were
justified. That together they would restore justice and make the empire a place
where peace wasn’t just an ideal but a reality.

It was not long before they landed on Mustafar and Dormé had to tease her Sith
lord husband about how hot it was, comparing it to Tatooine. ‘Minus the sand of
course,’ she joked as the pair made their way to the location of the Separatist
leaders.

Anakin chuckled at Dormé’s teasing, feeling as though everything was about to
become right with the universe and was in light spirits as a result. As they
entered the headquarters of the Separatists, the Sith Lord was surprised at the
fact that they were expected. In the end, it matter little and soon he was
gathering the darkness around him, letting it course through his veins and cloud
his thoughts. A dark look crept into his features as he used the Force to blocked
all possible exits.

It was clear they were expecting his arrival, though Dormé wasn’t sure why or
how that could be. But she didn’t dwell on it as her hand tightly gripped her
wakizashi, just waiting for Anakin’s word. She was almost giddy with expectation.
Her eyes gleamed as she watched him, in preparation to unleash their hell upon
them. A thrill shot through her as Anakin used the Force to block their exit,
knowing what would come next.
It was the feeling of his beloved’s eyes on him that filled him with the most joy.
This was about to become their moment of glory and without so much as a word
he glanced back to her with eyes filled with a sickly yellow and rimmed with
crimson and gave her a dark smile. Then drawing out his lightsaber, he activated
it and prepared for the slaughter that was to come.

It was his gaze and dark smile that was incredibly difficult to resist. She had to
remind herself that they had a job to do. This was the first time the two of them
were able to unleash hell upon their enemies, and though they sought galactic
peace, it would not be the last time they would seek battle together. Upon
hearing and seeing Anakin’s lightsaber activate, Dormé didn’t hesitate before
taking out droids and Neimodians with single-slice accuracy. Though it was no
lightsaber, her blade was just as deadly when wielded correctly. Their enemies
stood no chance against their vengeance.

Feeling the dark side pulsating through his veins, Anakin soon became lost in the
slaughter as he moved through their prey with much ease. Sensing Dormé’s own
bloodlust mingling with his own was a heady feeling indeed just as the sight of
her attacking her prey as though she were but completing an elegant dance filled
him with lusty thoughts.

She barely heard their cries for mercy as she sliced off limbs and heads, pierced
guts and hearts, blood spilling forth from each cut. Her victims were by far the
bloodier of the two since her sword did not cauterize wounds. Most of the time,
she would look over to see her beloved in action and it filled her with unnatural
pride.

It was as struggle to continue the battle to say the least, though it was hardly a
battle worth mentioning as they were far too skilled for the politicians that
commande the separtatist organization. But despite his wish to bask in his
presence of his empress Vader couldn’t deny the rush he got from feeling and
hearing the requiem of the many souls they sent to the Force and this too left
him feeling quite drunk in the Darkness he also basked in.

Once her last victim’s soul departed, she dropped her sword, not out of regret,
but out of having no more use for it, as she stormed over to Anakin with lust-
filled eyes.

As the last lifeless body fell to the floor and mingled in the pools of blood that
once belonged to its compatriots, the Sith Lord immediately lost interest in his
dark side mistress. His thoughts were now entirely on his empress and he didn’t
hesitate to join her with an expression that mirrored her own. Pulling her into a
tight embrace, he proceeded to kiss her with all the fire and passion that a man
could give, having never felt so alive and wanted nothing more than to enjoy his
queen and beloved.

There was no need for words, as much as Dormé wanted to know what it was like
for him during the battle as an incredibly Force sensitive individual. She was far
too caught up in him to pose questions, let alone notice the dead bodies or the
fact a good portion of her cloak and gown were spattered with blood. She pressed
herself against Anakin, returning his kiss with equally ferocity. Disregarding the
fact they were locked in the room with the remains of their enemies, they made
use of the room to give in to their what seemed almost to be unquenchable
desires. Never in her life had she known such passion and as such, resolved that
she would be joining him on his each and every mission.
Through the Force, he could feel her desire and it was hard to know where hers
began and his ended. This left Anakin more than eager to lose himself in the arms
of his beloved. Her bloodied state did nothing to stop him, neither did the bodies
of the dead that lingered all around him. With the darkness still coursing through
his veins and lingering around Dormé, Anakin felt as though he were a god and
she, a goddess. That they had restored justice and as such were entitled to
celebrate...And celebrate they did letting the darkness encompass their thoughts
and intermingle with their feelings of passion and love for each other. Anakin
opened his thoughts to her allowing his empress to feel his emotions and to sense
the darkness the lingered and wrapped itself around them. The feeling was too
enjoyable after all not to share and Vader wanted Dormé to understand and
appreciate what he had always known all his life.

The sensations caused by the dark side of the Force as Anakin opened it up to her
was beyond amazing. Though it would haunt her later, at the moment, she
relished the experience, never having felt so high in her life. It was as though she
drank too much apsinthos, but saw and felt everything in a heightened level of
clarity. It wasn’t until the putrid stench of the dead invaded her senses that
Dormé knew it was clearly time to leave. But the rush she felt still had not left
and she wondered if the feeling would ever pass, hoping that it wouldn’t.

He suggested that they should continue where they left off upon returning home.

She grinned mischievously at Anakin’s suggestion and between heated kisses,
they made it back to The Tempest. Though Anakin’s suggestion referred to their
apartments in the Imperial palace, Dormé was a little too impatient for that and
once he set it on autopilot, she was assaulting him once more. The restored
peace to the galaxy and never before had she felt so in sync with her beloved
husband.

Later, when they were finally back in their own quarters, Dormé smiled at Anakin
as they lay in bed together, running a hand through his hair. ‘With the Separatist
destroyed, there will be far less things to worry about,’ she mused.

He couldn’t resist tightening his embrace as he too played with her long hair. ‘You
were magnificent to watch,’ he purred before adding with a mischievous smile.
‘You have no idea how hard it was to stay focused throughout the battle. I don’t
think I’ve ever been so eager to end a fight as I was then,’ he admitted as he
gave her a kiss. ‘Rest assured, my love, with peace now finally restored we will
never have to worry about such things again,’

‘Although, I have to say I almost wish there were more traitors to remove
because—gods—that was amazing...nevermind seeing you in action...’

The Sith Lord couldn’t resist a chuckle. ‘I know exactly what you mean,’ he said
as his eyes danced in mischief. ‘Although frankly, I much prefer the action that
occurred after we removed the traitors myself.’

Dormé giggled before giving him a kiss that assured him she agreed
wholeheartedly with his remark. She also hoped that that sort of action would
lead to becoming pregnant, unaware that she already was. ‘And hopefully soon,
there will be little ones to share in this newly instated peace...and tell them one
day about how Daddy and Ama brought peace to the galaxy,’ she mused happily.
But even if this wasn’t the case, deep down, she knew that having Anakin in her
life was the best thing that ever happened to her.
Anakin gave a mischievous grin at her giggle before purring as he eagerly
returned her kiss. Unaware of the fact even now a small spark was growing within
Dormé, the young emperor gave a contented sigh to her words as he gave her a
squeeze. ‘I’m already looking forward to it,’ he murmured softly as he continued
to play with her hair as his eyes softened and a dreamy smile crept into his
features. ‘I can’t wait ‘til the sound of our children’s laughter fills the halls of the
palace and the pattering of their feet are heard from the rooms,’ he mused in
contentment before studying her intently as he gave her a loving smile.

As much as Dormé enjoyed the intense moments of passion following their
slaughter of the Separatist leaders, Dormé loved moments like this when
everything seemed right in the galaxy. And for once, Dormé was convinced that
everything was perfect. She gazed in loving admiration into Anakin’s blue orbs,
matching his smile. ‘And playing in the gardens, learning to swim, to fly...’ she
sighed. It was a beautiful dream, one that would hopefully come true very soon.
She so very much wanted to be a mother, one that would be there for her
children, protecting and loving them in ways her mother never had.

Anakin grinned at her words already imagining how wonderful it will be to have a
family to call their own. He could almost picture their children running about,
playing and wanting to hear their Ama and daddy tell them about stories before
they went to bed. It was a wonderful thought to say the least and in silence he let
his thoughts wander taking in her Force signature or more importantly any subtle
changes within it. It was a habit he had grown accustom to doing since their first
child was returned to the Force. But it wasn’t the sadness he dwelled on now,
rather on the hope that this time they would be ready for the new life and be able
to protect it from whatever unseeing threats. ‘I just know you’re going to be a
wonderful mother,’ he said gently.

Trailing her fingers over his chest, she wondered, ‘How many children do you
want to have?’

As his thoughts wandered, Anakin found himself sensing something was indeed
different this time. Furrowing his brow, he tried not to get his hopes up as he
continued to study her Force aura with a trained eye. Vaguely catching Dormé’s
question—much like he vaguely registered her gentle touch—Anakin’s attentions
briefly returned to her. Giving her a lopsided grin, the young Sith Lord chuckled in
reply. ‘As many as we can get away with,’ he semi-teased before letting once
more returning his attentions to her Force signature as his expression grew
almost blissful.

Resting her head contently on his chest, she missed him furrowing his brow in
concentration as he scanned her Force signature. She was unaware that he had
taken up the habit since the loss of their first child. Dormé laughed at his
comment about how many children he would like to have. Very much of the same
mind as him, not registering that childbirth was like a planned torture session,
she also wanted to have many children.

The sound of her laughter and sight of her smile warmed his heart and filled him
with much joy for it seemed like an eternity since he last see Dormé truly happy
without the hint of sadness in her eyes. The loss of their first child had been hard
on Anakin but was nothing in comparison to how it had affected his beloved.
‘Although I think, Dormé...we just might get our wish sooner than we think...’ he
murmured in disbelieving joy. Though he couldn’t be certain, essentially, he could
sense that there now was a very weak, but definitely a separate Force signature
that lingered about Dormé’s own.
At his words, Dormé picked up her head to look at Anakin curiously. His tone and
joyful expression conveyed the truth. ‘Really?’ she asked hopefully, her smile
growing as well, not realising that the only children she would be spending time
with anytime soon were the captive Jedi younglings.

Now with this, discovery he was more than eager to share the news with Dormé
and at his less than subtle hint he was rewarded with another growing smile to
which he soon returned. ‘I think so,’ he replied in his own hopeful tones to her
question. ‘I can sense another Force signature within your own, Dormé. It is weak,
but it’s there,’ he continued as he was no longer able to hide the joy from his
voice and features. ‘It’s beautiful,’ he murmured softly. ‘May I show you?’ he
asked softly wanting to warn and receive her permission before touching her
thoughts.

He called it beautiful and Dormé wanted nothing more than to believe it. How she
had longed for this, especially after the loss of their first little one. Now that she
knew of this one’s existence, she vowed to do everything in her power to keep it.
She would see a doctor every day of its development if she had to, so long as it
was healthy and safe. ‘Oh yes, please!’ Dormé said quite excitedly. She could
hardly believe it was possible, but now knowing that Anakin confirmed she was
pregnant, the thought filled her with such joy. Soon their dreams would come
true and they would have a little one to share their Empire with.

Anakin gave a shy grin at her eager reply as he already knew that she would
want this but unlike their moments under the influence of the Dark side felt the
need out of respect to her to ask first. Without another word, he leaned in to
gently kiss her lips and through the Force he lightly touched her mind opening his
thoughts to hers.

‘It is going to be a little disorientating at first but if you look closely at your aura -
the colours that surround your body- you will be able to see a second aura,’ he
said softly into her thoughts as he continued to play with her hair. Through the
Force, he tried to reach out to the spark as a means of making contact. It was
meant to be a simple gesture, a means of making himself known to the little
spark, to reveal the love they felt for the little life that was growing in their midst.

Responding to his kiss, she was pleased to hear his voice in her head, something
so personal that she always relished. She kept his words in mind, as her eyes
opened to the Force. ‘Oh!’ she gasped once her eyes adjusted and looked past
her own signature to see the little spark. ‘Oh! Oh Anakin!’ she exclaimed,
beaming. ‘It is beautiful,’ she said, repeating his assessment of a minute ago.
‘Our baby...’ She couldn’t help shedding a few tears of joy. It was so amazing and
incredibly real. ‘Will we be able to do this again as it grows?’ she asked hopefully.

Anakin beamed at her reaction feeling her joy intermingling with his own.
Watching her in silence, he took in her reactions feeling as though he was reliving
his own experiences when he was first learning how to use his Force abilities.
Gently touching her cheek Anakin wiped away her tears as he nodded to her
question. ‘We can do it as much as you’d like,’ he said softly

‘I’ll have to go to the medical centre to have a check-up soon. Oh, it’s really
happening, isn’t it?!’

‘I truly hope so,’ he purred as he gave her another smile.
It was truly a wonderful experience, one she would cherish, even in the worst of
times. Being so close to another person and having the chance to feel their
emotions as well, for a non-sensitive person, was truly amazing. That Anakin was
willing to do this for her as well was something she would always appreciate. But
to add to it all, the fact they were going to have a baby, that they were one step
closer to attaining the dream they so often dreamt, it just made it blissful to say
the least.

Anakin cherished this moment to the fullest and couldn’t help but relish feeling
Dormé’s emotions and thoughts to freely touching his own. Feeling their child’s
life signature only added to this feeling. Holding her close the young Sith Lord felt
as though they truly were in harmony as Dormé’s people so often believed. ‘This
really is a dream come true,’ he murmured softly as he kissed her once more
while continuing to keep this thoughts and emotions open to her.

As happy as the moment was, it would be awhile before such happiness was felt
again.

Chapter Three

Less than a week after the slaughtering of the leaders of the Separatists, Dormé
started not feeling well. She was barely able to eat much at all and though the
doctors said it was only morning sickness, that the baby she had been carrying
for only three months was just fine, she had a sinking feeling that everything
wasn’t fine.

Anakin felt a shift in Dormé’s Force signature and grew concerned. It wasn’t long
after before his beloved fell ill, which in turn, was vaguely felt by him as well.
Worried for the safety of Dormé and their baby, the Sith Lord promptly went
about finding a specialist to monitor both the mother and child. But as with their
personal physician, nothing out of the ordinary was found, despite Dormé and
Anakin’s concerns.

Today, the young emperor sensed something was terribly wrong and upon
realising he could no longer sense their baby’s Force signature, he frantically
order the specialist’s presence on emergency.

Shortly after, the bleeding and cramps began.

Despite the fact the physician now resided within the palace wall—so as to ever
near in case of such emergencies—it was too late. Within minutes of notifying
Dormé that the specialist was on the way, the small life returned to the Force.

Anakin didn’t leave Dormé’s side through the entire ordeal, despite their demands
he depart. But in the end, he satisfied himself with watching her from the far side
of the room lest he interfere with the hopeless chance that they might save their
baby. It proved to be a lost cause.

‘No...’ she murmured, tears flowing heedlessly down her cheeks. Not again! Why?
Why did this happen?? she thought desperately, waiting for the medical
technicians to give her a solid reason.

As Dormé demanded answers, he promptly joined her side, trying to offer what
silent comfort her could. Given his own state of despair and sorrow, sending
peaceful thoughts to her through the Force was impossible.
When they could offer none, she screamed at them, venting her anger and
frustration, though it did little good. She ached all over and welcomed the drug
they gave to sedate her. She didn’t want to feel anything or be able to think
about the baby she lost.

As they injected her with a drug that would ease her pain, Anakin softly told her
that he was going to get to the bottom of this matter once and for all. Yet when
the Sith Lord demanded to know what exactly had happened and how it would
affect Dormé’s health, no one was able to answer his questions and were as
baffled by it all, for neither the mother, nor the child showed any signs that would
suggest a cause for the miscarriage.

‘This has never happened before in all of my years of service, I don’t know what
to tell your grace because this technically should never have happened,’ the
specialist stated in concern to a frustrated and despairing Anakin.

Vader immediately killed her for her ignorance and then proceeded to destroy the
droids who were also in the room at the time. While the elderly woman’s death
sated his rage for the moment, as did the passing of the droids, it did little to
ease his sorrow and fear for his beloved’s health. Something was obviously wrong.
Someone was obviously trying to hide information from them. Why else would
they claim Dormé was healthy, as was their baby, only to have her lose it? The
thought both infuriated and filled him with paralyzing fear.

What if she was dying and they didn’t know? What if she was ill with an incurable
disease? The darkness continued to whisper its lies into the Sith Lord’s mind
filling him with despair and paranoia. Frantic he ordered some of his finest
intelligence to locate and find all the most skilled healers in the empire. If modern
technology couldn’t help them or wouldn’t help them, then he would find those
who were more in tune with the natural side of medicine. He prayed this would
provide the answers he so dearly sought. In the meantime the all the doctors and
medical technicians behind this failure would pay for their mistake with their lives.

Having ordered their demise, the young emperor quietly returned to where his
wife now lay resting. Shyly, he joined her side, noting the effects of the drugs
through her aura and hoping that it was helping with her pain. If only he knew of
a way to numb the pain of the loss, but that was nothing more than wishful
thinking. Gently he took her left hand into his metallic right while his left hand ran
his fingers through her long hair, matted with cold perspiration. Though he tried
to resist it, soon the tears began to trickle down his cheeks as he watched her
intently. While he believed he had done everything in his power to help her save
their child, the young Sith Lord couldn’t help but feel he had failed her somehow.
‘I’m sorry...’ he whispered softly to her as he bowed his head. ‘I am so sorry...’

A few hours later, the sedative eventually expired and Dormé began to slowly
regain consciousness. It wasn’t until she saw the look on Anakin’s face that she
registered the miscarriage had happened, that it hadn’t been a nightmare
brought on by fear.

Anakin felt her beginning to awaken and continued to run his fingers gently
through her hair in a manner he knew she normally found comforting. Her
exhaustion was expected but even so, Anakin was concerned. With the specialist
withholding information from them and possibly lying about Dormé’s condition,
the Sith Lord was fearful for her safety.

‘Anakin,’ she whispered, her voice thick from exhaustion.
‘It’s alright my love, you rest,’ he said softly as his hand slipped to her cheek.

She bit her lip momentarily, before she found the nerve to speak once more. ‘I’m
sorry,’ she gasped out, feeling this was her entire fault, that it was because she
had done something to lose this baby though she didn’t know what it could
possibly be.

Her apology tore at his heart and brought new tears to his eyes as he shook his
head in silence. Her sorrow was so powerful that it was almost overwhelming
leaving him to wonder where hers began and his ended. ‘It’s not your fault,
Dormé. Please don’t think any of this is your fault. It’s them. They have to be
withholding information from us. I know there has to be something they’re not
telling us. I’ve already sent out intelligence to find another specialist. This time
one who will not try to deceive us,’ Anakin concluded in soft but determined tones.

His accusations of the staff for their incompetence and withholding of information
ought to have made her feel better, placing the blame elsewhere, but Dormé was
far too consumed with grieving now to be comforted in that way. Dormé wanted
nothing more than to be alone with Anakin in their chambers so she could mourn
properly without witnesses, not realising that he had already exacted revenge on
the specialist and the stupid droids. With tired arms, she reached for him, unable
to wait until they were in their quarters to sob unyieldingly. ‘Why? Why?’ she
repeated.

He didn’t speak another word as she reached out to him with tired arms to which
he promptly leant in to embrace her. Closing his eyes, he fought back his own
tears of sorrow as he rubbed her back and continued to run his hand through her
hair. In silence, he couldn’t help but ask the same question of the Force but as
always only silence answered their pleas. The Sith Lord couldn’t understand what
was wrong, what had happened, or why it had happened again. He knew without
question that Dormé was innocent and that if anyone deserved a child, it was her.
So why the unnecessary punishment? ‘This is my fault Dormé, not yours. If
anyone is to blame, it is me. I foolishly didn’t find more specialists for another
opinion. I should have had more healers watch and monitor your condition and
the condition of—’ he didn’t dare finish the sentence lest he fall prey to his
despair and pain.

Though she initiated reaching out to hold him, she was more enveloped in his
arms due to her body still feeling weak from the ordeal. Her tears leant to her
exhaustion, wondering why the Force or the gods had let this happen again. She
hated to think on how this affected Anakin and when his last sentence stopped
short, she pulled back slightly to look into his eyes, seeing the sorrow there. His
pain mirrored her own and though naturally, it would seem to magnify their grief,
it contrastingly made it easier to deal with than had either of them been alone.

Though Anakin tried his best to comfort her with words he soon realised, that like
himself words were far too weak for their pain. Almost as soon as he discovered
this Dormé was reaching for him and immediately he was wrapping his arms
around her as though trying to protect her from her pain. Her body felt so frail in
his arms like glass and this thought caused a chill of fear to run down his spine.
Reminding himself that soon they would find another specialist this one far more
trustworthy Anakin tried to calm his frantic thoughts. It was bad enough they lost
two children, but the thought of losing Dormé was too much to even contemplate.
For he knew if he were to ever lose his beloved he too would surely meet his own
demise.
Leaning forward slightly with her arms still loosely around him, she rested her
forehead against his as the last of her tears slowly fell. All she could think of was
their little ones, both of them, that they hadn’t been able to meet, to see, to
watch them grow up and find out what sort of personality they would have, what
would interest them, make them laugh...

Despite his attempts to comfort both her and himself the guilt still lingered and
plagued his thoughts and soon he was apologising for his own failures which
caused her to draw back to stare into his eyes. Silently he touched her cheek and
swallowed hard before closing his eyes as he felt her forehead rest against his
own. Shaking now, he tightened his embrace further as he bit his lip so hard he
could taste blood in his need to keep from weeping. He had to be strong for her
sake, for both of their sakes but it was so hard for all he could feel was despair.

Once her last tears subsided, Dormé felt him shaking in her arms, though his
arms were strong around her. Running her fingers through his hair, she wanted
Anakin to know that it was OK for him to express his grief, that it was all right if
he needed to cry, that in this moment, he didn’t have to be strong.

At her silent assurances, he continued to struggle to keep from giving in, but her
touch was soothing and her silent support was too much to deny and despite his
best efforts, the Sith Lord soon succumbed to his sorrow. Silently he sobbed with
his face buried in Dormé’s dark hair, as his sorrow finally broke free. Like Dormé,
it would be some time before the tears would finally run dry.

As time passed, Anakin found himself growing more conscious of his wife’s
exhaustion and gently drew back as he furrowed a brow in concern. ‘You should
rest. You’ve been through a lot already,’ he said softly wanting to carry her back
to their quarters but concerned she wasn’t healed enough for that yet. Had he not
destroyed and killed the medical staff he would have been able to verify that she
was well enough but it was too late for such thinking and so he refrained. Anakin
promptly decided he would stay here the night unless the replacement medical
staff could confirm she was well enough to depart with him.

She silently nodded, hoping that she could return with him to their quarters, not
wanting to be in this place of death any longer than was necessary. Dormé hoped
as well that he would not leave her here alone with her thoughts. So long as his
hand remained in hers, she was content enough to fall into a light doze until the
replacement medical droids arrived to perform a check-up and deem her well
enough to return to their private chamber.

Though he sensed she longed to return to her quarters he was fearful of her
fragile condition and quietly explained that they should wait for the medical
droids to ensure she was in good enough health to leave. With his hand in hers,
Anakin watched as she drifted to sleep. He, however, never got a moments rest
himself for he feared if he closed his eyes when they opened again she too would
be lost.

When the medical droids finally arrived Anakin had many questions but kept most
to himself save for when they explained to her once more that she was perfectly
healthy and capable of having children in the future. Frowning he cursed at them
demanding to know the truth saying that if she was so well than why was this
happening?

Dormé awoke to their scanning and prodding, aching and asking if there were
some medication she could take to ease the pain, as well as asking if, in their
opinion, she was still healthy... Dormé couldn’t understand why all of this was
happening, but she was now too exhausted to want to hear their warbling. The
verdict was the same as before as though none of this had happened. It didn’t
make any sense.

‘The baby and mother was healthy or so I’m told, but if that truly is the case,
then why all of this? Hmm? I think you better find some answers and quickly or
you’ll be joining the junk heap like your compatriots and that damned specialist in
the next room!’ he growled in pained frustration.

She winced as they finished their prodding, but exhaled a shaky breath as Anakin
growled at their assessment. Shaking her tired head, Dormé murmured that she
wanted to go home, back to their quarters.

Anakin wanted to destroy them as well but refrained this time, as he knew they
were only trying to tend to Dormé’s health. Even so, it didn’t stop him from
scowling and arguing at the absurdity of their verdict and demand they look into
the matter further. At Dormé’s soft words, the Sith Lord’s temper faded away
leaving behind only the worried husband who wanted nothing more than to
comfort and care for his beloved. Nodding at her words, he gently kissed her
forehead and gingerly lifted her up in his arms. ‘I trust she is well enough to
return to her quarters?’ he half asked, half demanded of the med droids who
agreed with him, but warned that she shouldn’t over exert herself for the next
few days. Without another word the young emperor carry his beloved back to
their quarters while using the Force to mimic his hand in her hair in the hopes
this might help her drift back to sleep again.

Anakin’s arms were by far more comfortable than the examination table and
though Dormé was not well enough to wonder how he could be holding her and
have a hand in her hair, it was familiar and soothing. She did not protest when
Anakin aided her in washing up and changing before going to bed. Her legs felt
like jelly and standing a long while made her dizzy, so she was glad to finally be
able to rest in a proper bed. Even in this weakened state, clinging to Anakin made
it much easier to sleep than in the medical facility.

Anakin didn’t speak a word as he helped her prepare for bed he just knew it
wasn’t necessary and was grateful that she permitted him to help her. It broke
his heart to see her like this so fragile and shattered and yet at the same time he
couldn’t say he felt much better. The loss was so overwhelming and his fears that
he would soon lose her too didn’t help any either. Holding her close, Anakin was
able to find some solace in the fact that he was at least able to be there for her.


As the days wore on after the miscarriage, Dormé was regaining her strength and
vigour, though it was more to do with her new resolve. After spending time with
their newest residents, the younglings that used to belong to the Jedi, Dormé was
coping with the loss of their little one by appreciating and doting on the
younglings. They took to Dormé as though she were their mother, all twelve of
them, their ages ranging from four to seven years. Every time she entered their
play room, their eyes would light up and oftentimes she would be nearly barrelled
over in hugs.With the Jedi younglings in mind, Dormé threw herself into politics,
ordering stormtrooper legions to various planets, including Naboo, to end all the
oppression and child-labour that had been made illegal decades ago, though it
hadn’t been properly enforced. Dormé made sure the laws against slavery and
child labour were enforced. Personally.
The pubic view of the empress drastically improved and there was a great
increase in the amount of systems supporting the Empire. Some even
volunteered to join the Empire without anyone suggesting it. Dormé was very
pleased with this turn of events, proud of the peace Anakin and she had brought
to the galaxy and proud of the changes they were making for the betterment of
all species. In her free time, Dormé continued spending as much time as she
could with the younglings in their care, oftentimes baking them desserts or
reading them stories. She knew it would only be a matter of time before she
would have a baby of her own and this was mere practice. She did like playing
with the younglings though and felt awful for them having been ripped away from
their parents just after birth to be raised by the doomed Jedi Order.

However, Dormé found it odd that though the younglings were very warm with
her, they didn’t seem to feel comfortable around her Sith Lord husband. One time,
a young girl actually tried to ‘hide’ in Dormé’s skirt when Anakin stopped by. She
assumed they were shy, even though it happened on more than one occasion.
Dormé didn’t even consider that their Force sensitivity led them to being able to
sense the scary darkness within Darth Vader.


As Dormé began to recover Anakin couldn’t help but be so relieved to see the
colour return to her cheeks and her fragile form growing stronger. Even so, he
couldn’t help but feel concerned for her well-being and had taken to scouring the
Empire to locate the finest healers and specialists. It was his hope that with
multiple opinions and prognosis, an answer would be found and the matter
properly handled. However, of all the healers and physicians who examined his
wife it would seem there was only one group of people who were capable of
healing her properly; they were the younglings who had survived the Jedi
massacre. They took to her as though Dormé was their biological mother and it
warmed Anakin’s heart to see and hear how much joy they brought his beloved.
He always knew that she would make a wonderful mother and this only confirmed
it.

But like Dormé, the young Sith Lord too enjoyed being in the presence of
younglings and upon occasion would stop by the playroom in the hopes of joining
his beloved as she played or read to them. However while they welcomed Dormé
with open arms, their reaction to him was quite the opposite. At first Anakin -
much like his Dormé- presumed they were just shy for he was after all less
acquainted with them than Dormé. But the more he tried to connect with them
the more obvious it became that his presence was not welcome there. When he
tried to interact with them, most would fall silent and back away -or more exactly
find refuge in Dormé’s skirts and arms. The few that did speak to him only did so
because he was talking directly to them and even then it was one word answers
or simple replies as though fearing if they didn’t danger awaited them. Their fear
both confused and hurt him despite Dormé’s gentle re-assurances that they were
just shy and that in time they would warm up to him. Deep down Vader knew
otherwise, although the true reasons for this still evaded him. In the end, the
only answer he could come up with was that they had been witness to his actions
when he had killed some of the younglings. In reality, there was no survivors to
speak of his actions against the children.

Nevertheless, the Sith Lord finally got the message and reluctantly refrained from
visiting the playroom all together. Though it pained him not being able to join
Dormé when she spent time with the children, Anakin was both happy that
Dormé was able to find such joy in their presence. He knew it would only be a
matter of time before they would have a youngling of their own to play games
and share stories with. While her actions towards the younglings that lived in
their palace was most generous, it didn’t just end there. For soon she was
ensuring the security and well-being of all children in the Empire. By enforcing
laws against slavery and child labour—which she ensured personally was being
followed— Dormé had earned the love and respect of the people. To the public
she was as beautiful as she was kind-hearted. Not only had peace been restored,
but also living conditions improved substantially for all, especially for the Empire’s
youngest members.

Though Vader had always been in awe of his wife’s skills he couldn’t help but be
amazed at her ability to enforce the law without causing so much as a ripple of
resistance. Even more amazing was the offers that came from other planets
wanting to become a part of the Empire without the initiation or negotiations on
their part. It seemed everyone wanted to be a part of this Utopia that Dormé had
created. But while the public was able to bask in the Empress’s presence at the
end of the day it was the Emperor who called Dormé his own and for that he
couldn’t have been more happy or grateful.


Ever since the slaughter of the Separatists and conglomeration of the empire two
years ago, Dormé found dissent in the senate that was getting to be quite
disconcerting. However, the worst was yet to come. As she paced the large office
that had once belonged to the Supreme Chancellor and she had lately
redecorated, Dormé tried to think of the best way to figure out who in the senate
was the major opposing force against their imperial regime. It was hard to say,
other than Senator Mon Mothma, very few people were as vocal about their
opinions. There was Senator Organa from Alderaan, but as of late, he seemed to
rethink his position on the empire…

Suddenly, the door slid open and her former mistress, Queen Amidala entered
leading an entourage of five other senators.

The conversation swiftly turned to the senate’s decision to replace local
governments with imperial generals in every sector. It was to ensure loyalty to
the empire on every planet to lessen the chance of terrorists.

Dormé was appalled at her former mistress’s vocal protests. ‘I am doing what is
right for the empire, to ensure this is the end of the conflict, that peace will
remain intact, Amidala.’

‘On behalf of the ‘delegation of two-thousand,’ I thank you, Your Majesty,’ Padmé
replied with a curt bow.

Dormé glared at them as they exited, hardly wanting to look at this petition. They
didn’t even realise that the generals were already on their way. There would be
no one stopping them. She would make sure the imperial forces in the empire
were the only bodies with weapons.

She also knew that a public statement or this new authority would be the only
thing to keep the rest of the senate in line. These two-thousand individuals had
signed their death warrant! But no, no, that would be too destructive to kill them
all… Only one death would be necessary…just one…one who held great weight,
who was beloved by many and hated by even more…

Queen Amidala must die.
It had been almost a week since he resumed the hunt once more for the remnant
Jedi, although if one were to ask him as such Anakin wouldn’t be quite able to
recall when he first departed. For days, he survived solely on the dark side that
coursed through his veins, not bothering with food or drink or even rest. He was
on the hunt and was far too consumed by his feral need for the slaughter to even
register the animal he had become. Despite the fact he had removed three more
of his former comrades, the Sith Lord wasn’t satisfied enough to return home.
Feeling their life energy spilling from their body gave him a rush like nothing else,
as did the sound of their requiem cries as they became one with the Force. There
was still more out there and he wasn’t about to stop until they were all nothing
more than memories of a time long past.

His body was in desperate need of nutrition and water. While in the midst of
tracking another Jedi—one whose name still evaded him—through the jungle like
forests of an outer rim planet, the young emperor’s body began to shut down.
The ground began to spin beneath his feet and though his thoughts were entirely
on the kill, he couldn’t ignore the violent sense of vertigo. Even so, he tried to
move forward lest his prey escape his grasp but the more he trudged on the
harder it was to remain focussed. His vision soon began to blur while the
lightsaber in his right hand began to shake before deactivating as it slipped out of
his fingers. Even before he had a chance to register what was happening, his
eyes rolled into the back of his head as his body went limp leaving him
unconscious on the forest bed.

When he awoke, he had no idea what time it was, or more exactly, where he now
found himself. But after taking in his surroundings, Vader soon registered that he
had somehow found his way back to his ship or more exactly the primitive med
lab of his ship. Scowling, he immediately sat up only to find the room spinning
violent which caused him to lay down again.

‘Just what the uragal is going on!?’ he demanded of the med droid who informed
him that he was suffering from malnutrition. He soon learnt that he had been
brought back to his ship after one of his clone commanders who were scanning
the regions for possible resistance had found him. Giving a tired sigh, he fell
silent to the news before feeling a chill run down his spine as he realised he
couldn’t remember much of what had occurred in the past few days. It had all
seemed like a blur to him and he could only wonder what would have happened if
he hadn’t been found.

After he had received proper injections of vitamins and supplements, the Sith
Lord was soon on his feet and chartering the quickest way home. He discovered it
had been almost six days since he had last seen Dormé and the thought
immediately made him long for. As Coruscant came into view, he finally received
a message in reply to the one he sent out. Lady Dormé was currently in a
meeting he was informed but should be done shortly. The thought brought an
eager smile to his face as he was already imagining holding her in his arms once
more.


Upon her revelation, Dormé was informed that her husband had returned from
his Jedi hunt. It was only then she realised just how long he had been gone and
she was eager to see him. Her revelation was promptly the back of her thoughts
as she rushed through the hallways that would take her to the lifts leading to the
nearest landing platform. Even in her hurry, a clone trooper informed her of his
condition and whatever thoughts about political matters vanished as her concern
for him overrode everything else. She hastened her pace to the platform where
he had yet to arrive. Placing a hand over her eyes, she looked up into the evening
sky, clouds covering most of her vision as she strained to make out a hint of his
ship.

Unaware of the fact his wife had been informed of his state of exhaustion -which
he hardly felt was that bad- Anakin was swift to return to Coruscant. As his ship
finally reached the landing pad he could both seen and sense Dormé’s presence
as soon as the ship landed he was barrelling out of the ship. ‘Dormé!!’ he shouted
as he ran towards her before swooping her up in his arms and twirling her around
feeling as though a million years had past since he had seen her last.

Upon seeing his figure rushing out the ship, she raced over to him, meeting him
halfway before being caught up in his embrace. She hugged him tightly. ‘Anakin,’
she gasped in a sigh of relief. Knowing that he was here made everything better.
He was all right.

Pulling back after he set her back on her feet, she could see how worn out he was,
place, and thinner too. She didn’t ask about it, knowing that it was hard work
hunting down the enemies of their empire. Instead, she kissed him and told him
how much she had missed him.

Dormé’s relief wasn’t missed and Anakin wondered if something was wrong but
refrained from asking knowing she would tell him when the moment was right. He
was losing himself in her kiss and with it all coherent thought faded away leaving
only joy at being in her arms once more.

Once they were indoors and in a more secure location, she updated him on the
political matters, though she imagined he hardly wanted to hear about it after his
long journey and being away from Coruscant for so long. She inevitably cut
herself short and set about fixing something for him to eat in their private rooms.

While it was not his forte or interest he was always fascinated at how Dormé was
able to handle the complicated situations that he himself would fail miserably at.
As she cut herself short, Anakin promptly began to ask further questions wanting
to learn more of how she tended to matters. However as she slipped into the
kitchen to fix some food, he attempted to help her in what way he could, though
he knew in reality his presence was hardly needed.

Dormé chided herself for not having something already prepared for Anakin
because she wanted him to have something proper to eat, especially with how
thin he looked. Even though he looked exhausted, she didn’t object to his help in
the kitchen and soon enough they were able to have a nice meal together.

Though he knew he was far from skilled when it came to anything culinary related
he knew how much Dormé enjoyed it and wanted to be a part of this simple
pleasure as well.

She answered all of his questions and concluded with her dark thoughts on the
Queen of Naboo. ‘I have a copy of their betrayal, all two-thousand names clear as
day...’ Dormé shook her head. ‘I never thought Amidala, my former mistress,
would do such a thing...’

Upon hearing of Padmé’s blatant betrayal, he felt his blood beginning to boil.
Though he’d hardly call the Naboo queen his friend he had known her for many
years and couldn’t help but take this course of action as not only as an insult but
as a betrayal to both Dormé and himself. Rising to his feet the young emperor
began to pace his expression stormy as he folded his arms. ‘The nerve of
them…all of them. How dare they make such demands! After all you have done
for them, for their subjects and children they would actually have the gall to do
this!’ he snapped. Pausing in mid-step, he then faced Dormé feeling a rush of
sorrow for her as he could only imagine how hard it had to have been for her to
face her former mistress and hear such words. ‘I can’t believe she would do that
to you. I expected her to react this way to me but to you Dormé, it’s just like a
slap to your face!’ he said feeling another rush of rage pour over him as he began
to pace once more. ‘I want them dead. All of them. No, nevermind. That would
cause too many complications. The last thing we need is to encourage more
resistance,’ he said correcting himself before facing Dormé once more. This time
his expression was both dark and resolute. Though Dormé didn’t say as much
Anakin could tell she knew what had to be done.

‘I explained to them that the generals’ presence would not interfere with their
daily business, that it was a protective measure to assure there is no more
dissidence from Separatist factions, to quell the violence in their communities, to
make sure our policies are being followed, that no more children are victims or
abuse—’ Dormé added, also rising to her feet as the anger flowed through her as
readily as it had just hours ago. Watching him pace sent waves of excitement
through her as though it were mere energy vibrating over every inch of her skin.
His protestation only confirmed what she believed to be true. They were all
traitors to the empire, to the peace they were trying to enforce. ‘Do they not
want peace? Do they not thank us for ending the war?!’

Anakin continued to pace at Dormé’s words finding more truth in them than ever
before. It made his blood boil to think how ungrateful their subjects were for all
that had been done for them. Was it not for their own safety that such security
was being put in place? ‘How can they ask us to protect them one minute and
then complain about our protection the next?’ he growled as Dormé rose to her
feet.

At Dormé’s words he nodded in agreement. ‘Exactly. After all we’ve done for
them and yet they remain so ungrateful to us,’ he snapped. ‘Seeing as Padmé
wants so badly to be the first to stand against us, it’s only fitting that she be the
first to pay for it as well.’

His dark expression as he faced her mirrored her own and she drew nearer to him,
resting her hands on his shoulders. She nodded resolutely to his words. ‘Her
death will be a public warning to all those who dare to oppose us.’

Anakin watched her drawing near and as she rested her hands on his shoulders
he studied her with burning intensity. Her final statement said all he needed to
hear giving her a dark smile he slipped his arms around her and pulled her near.
‘Her death would ensure her allies think twice before daring to oppose us.
Without their leader the resistance is certain to fall.’

‘And never again will there be such defiance of our rule,’ Dormé added smiling
evilly. Her hands slipped around his neck as she rose up to kiss him. This kiss was
as aggressive as her dark thoughts and she felt cheated by the Jedi scum who
opposed their rule and caused him to be away from home for so long. But soon
none of that would matter, for all of their opposition would be destroyed.
Anakin said nothing further at her reply though his wicked smile said all that
needed to be said. Feeling her arms slip around his neck, the young Sith Lord
purred in reply as he leaned in to eagerly kiss her back. Her kiss was passionate
and fiery much like his own and Anakin was eager to take this to the next level as
it had been too long since he was in her arms. The matter of Padmé could wait
for right now he had far more pressing matters to tend with and it was with this
in mind that he eagerly began to undo the clasps of her gown, not caring that
their bed chambers was a short distance away.

In the back of her mind, Dormé knew she ought to ask Anakin about his collapse,
to have him checked to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. But at this moment,
she could hardly think straight as this darkness and converse fire warred within
her. She was just as eagerly removing his utility belt and almost professionally
undoing his tunic before they even made it to the bedroom, her lips never leaving
his own.

Lost to the fire that was found in Dormé’s kiss and embrace Anakin was quick to
lose himself in the moment and could barely even register the passionate journey
to their bedroom. It was only in the morning did he finally remember the events
and discussion from the night before.

It was just after midnight when the troops invaded the Naboo palace. Queen
Amidala was ripped from her bed, along with her handmaidens, every one of
them arrested and taken to Coruscant as prisoners. The handmaidens were
separated and interrogated, seeing where their loyalties stood in regards to the
empire. Dormé would eventually decide which of them would remain on
Coruscant in her service and which would be sent off to be reconditioned in their
imperial university.

The hour was late when Anakin received word of Padmé’s arrest. Pleased with the
results, he also learnt her handmaidens were also arrested and placed in cells.
The thought was amusing to say the least as he could only imagine some of their
reactions.

Though Anakin and Dormé planned on seeing to Amidala’s execution personally,
Dormé thought the young queen could sweat it out in their prison cells for a few
days. It would also allow the other systems time to hear about her arrest and
strike fear in the hearts of the delegates on the list of traitors.

At Dormé’s suggestion to have Padmé sweat it out for a bit in the prison cell
Anakin wholeheartedly agreed.


Padmé remained calm and stoic about the entire ordeal, despite the
interrogations. The older handmaidens too seemed to be eerily calm about the
entire situation although if anyone showed promise of loyalty to the Empire it was
ironically none other than Dormé’s former mentor. Little did Anakin realise
however that the older handmaiden was under orders to play along. Sabé too
under orders neither confirmed nor denied her loyalties and for the most part
remained silent throughout the entirety of the sessions, as did Rabé.

After she had heard enough, Dormé decided to pull Anakin aside to converse
privately. She had her doubts about many of the handmaidens. She knew it
wouldn’t be safe to keep them together, nevermind have them in their service.
But Dormé wanted to keep them alive. ‘But I don’t know,’ she continued. ‘I don’t
trust Sabé. Saché and Typho I do, but Sabé...What did you think when you tested
them?’

Anakin listened intently to Dormé’s thoughts on the matter as he valued opinion
and trusted her decisions implicitly. So when she admitted that she didn’t trust
them but at the same time wasn’t too fond of killing them either the young Sith
Lord suggested that perhaps they placed in exile. ‘It will keep them from having
regular contact with each other and with other possible resistance members,’ he
suggested before falling silent as Dormé admitted that while she trusted her
former mentor and the security captain she was uncertain about Sabé. Having
recalled touching their thoughts Anakin for the most found little if anything that
would openly mark them as traitors. He wasn’t exactly skilled in such feats and so
despite his incredible strength within the Force he was unable to properly deep
probe the woman’s thoughts, which was fortunate as most had connections with
one form of resistance or another.

Upon recalling Sabé’s interrogation Anakin did remember that the woman had
something that none of the others hand, mind blocks. They were crude and
simple but there were there nonetheless which told him two things; she was
Force sensitive and she was hiding something. Although he found nothing
substantial it was enough evidence to prove her guilt. ‘I found nothing of
substance that would label them as traitors, except for the one you call Sabé. She
had crude mind blocks in place marking that not only is she Force sensitive, but
she’s hiding something. I wasn’t able to learn what that was as she had fainted
after I broke through them,’ Anakin admitted a little sheepishly as it was a
testament to the fact he wasn’t trained enough in the dark side to break them
properly without wounding his prey. ‘Personally I think she is too close to Padmé
to live. She was after all her principle handmaiden for years which means she
probably is in this as much as Padmé is’ Anakin concluded.

Dormé agreed with Anakin’s assessment. Having the rest of the handmaidens and
security, outside of Captain Typho and her former mentor Saché, exhiled seemed
like a rational move. However, when it came to Sabé, to hear that she resisted
the interrogation through use of mindblocks, this added to her concern. ‘That is
probably for the best,’ she agreed when he suggested they kill her too. Having
decided this, the pair returned to Sabé’s cell with the intention of killing her.
Dormé was not sorry about it at all. She only regretted that the older woman was
a traitor as much as the queen was.

With Dormé’s agreement the matter was settled and Anakin followed Dormé back
to the prison cell where the principle handmaiden remained bound and chained to
the floor. As they entered the cell, the now dishevelled and bruised handmaiden
spoke not a word and silently rose to her feet. With a steady gaze that didn’t hide
her exhaustion or the pain she was still feeling from Anakin’s attack on her mind
block Sabé politely bowed. Even in her weakened state, the older handmaiden
seemed mindful of her manners which amused Anakin who scowled in disgust.

‘There is no need to continue this little facade of innocence, Lady Nabish, as we
are already well aware of your betrayal,’ the Sith Lord stated in cold tones as he
removed his lightsaber from his hilt.

If Sabé was frightened by the fact she was about to die it too didn’t show. The
older handmaiden remained defiant through her silence and watchful eyes.
Looking to Dormé, she said not a word but her expression spoke volumes, not of
hatred or of rage rather of silent disappointment.
Dormé glared at the traitor who dared to ally herself with the traitorous Nabooan
Queen, hardly appreciating her mock attempt at respect to them. How dare she
remain silent! ‘Speak! This is your last chance to confess your crimes,’ she hissed
icily as Vader ignited his lightsaber.

Anakin paused finding Dormé’s order to be both amusing and intriguing. The
thought of this one defiant handmaiden begging for her life only to lose it all the
same was far too entertaining to pass up.

Standing by his side in all confidence, she watched as he used the Force to make
the handmaiden fall to her knees in front of them. The look in Sabé’s eyes shook
Dormé, making her feel suddenly off balance as though the principal handmaiden
had her own Force powers to cause one to feel such things. Dormé was far too
into her own warped view of reality to understand this feeling of guilt that
suddenly came over her. Why should she feel guilty anyway, when Sabé and the
Queen were in the wrong?

The former decoy and queen’s confident was not one who feared death and this
soon became apparent to the Sith Lord who soon grew impatient at her silence.
But it was the shift in Dormé’s emotions that caused the young emperor’s
patience to fully reach its end. How dare this pathetic woman try to play mind
tricks on my wife! he inwardly fumed as he could sense Dormé’s confusion and
sudden struggle. He knew they were innocent. It was this pathetic woman who
was the traitor…her and the Naboo queen, as well as their allies. Having justified
his actions and their innocence, Vader promptly drew back his lightsaber and
swung the blade towards Sabé’s throat with the intent of ending her life once and
for all.

‘If only Obi-Wan could see you now.’

The words seemed to come out of nowhere or so it felt to the young emperor.
Immediately his body stiffened, while the lightsaber in his hand froze in mid
action. It was now so close to the older handmaiden’s throat that burn marks
were beginning to form from the heat of the blade. Time suddenly ceased to
move for the young Sith Lord whose sickly yellow gaze was held by Sabé’s amber
eyes. But it wasn’t Sabé he saw, it was the sight of his brother on the day Anakin
had left the Jedi Order. Though no words were exchanged during their final
meeting the silence between them spoke volumes and Anakin would never forget
the look that Obi-Wan wore in their final moment together.

Obi-Wan. The name seemed to ring in the air and Dormé staggered backward,
her eyes locked on Anakin. She vividly recalled the look in his former Master and
brother’s eyes when he told him he was no longer going to be his Padawan.

The dark side began to lose its grip on Vader’s thoughts, leaving the young
emperor feeling both vulnerable and divided. Suddenly he found himself recalling
happier, simpler times when it wasn’t just Dormé and himself against the
universe. Though his expression remained stoic and cold, the lightsaber in his
hand began shake slightly as the colour of his eyes began to return to their
natural shade of blue marking the struggle within. Swallowing hard the young
Emperor suddenly lowered his eyes and without further warning, de-activated his
lightsaber while at the same time the chains that bound Sabe to the floor
snapped open.
She watched him, his hand shaking, his faltering... She didn’t know what was
going on until Sabé’s handcuffs fell to the floor, inactive, just as his lightsaber
was deactivated.

‘You’re free to go,’ he said in barely audible whisper, before adding in equally
quiet tones without looking to Dormé, ‘Let her go...’ Without another word spoken
the Sith Lord then abruptly departed from the cell without looking back.

His whispered command struck her with despair and her heart went out to him.
But he was already departing and she was instructed to free the principal
handmaiden. Swallowing hard, Dormé stepped backwards toward the exit, her
eyes on Sabé until she could no longer hold her gaze. Dormé then turned on her
heels and fled the cellblock after her husband. This wouldn’t change anything! she
thought fiercely. Amidala still had to pay. She was in the wrong. She was the one
against the empire, against peace... Why were tears coming to Dormé’s eyes?
She swallowed again, biting back her tears as she commanded an officer to escort
Sabé out.

Sabé didn’t expect this reaction but found a powerful sense of hope in it. Obi-Wan
was right after all, there still was a chance and it was in this that Sabé felt her
hope for Dormé also return. As her restraints fell to the floor, her attentions
remained on the couple and in silence she watched as Anakin ordered her release
and departed. Just as she watched as Dormé swallowed hard and stepped back to
the exit. Sabé continued to hold the younger woman’s gaze until Dormé fled the
room. Only then did she bow her head in silence as she forced her thoughts clear.
She knew this as something Obi-Wan would appreciate knowing and immediately
decided she would speak of this the minute she saw him again. Then waiting a
moment longer to steady her heart Sabé then rose to her feet and departed the
prison cell as well.


Anakin couldn’t remain still if he tried and in silence he paced the halls of their
grand palace struggling against memories he wanted to forget and yet lose
himself in at the same time. As loathed as he was to admit it, the Sith Lord
missed his brother dearly and had gone to great lengths since his inaugeration as
a Sith Lord to bury his memory in the back of his thoughts. He tried to tell himself
that he was an enemy that as a Sith Lord the only way their paths could cross
would be in the heat of battle. But deep down he knew otherwise and there were
times when he found himself wondering how Obi-Wan was doing or where he was
living now or what became of him. The moments when Vader found himself
learning a new skill or advancing in the way of the Force, thought of how he
would love to show this to his brother. Then harsh reality would return, reminding
Anakin that Obi-Wan would be more disappointed than impressed by his
advancements in the dark side. Though he’d tell himself that he didn’t care such
thoughts always hurt more than he wanted to admit and the young emperor was
grateful that these moments had grown far and few between. In fact, in recent
months, he had almost completely forgotten about his brother…until today.

Now the memories were returning with a vengeance leaving Vader feeling as out
of sorts and lost as he did on the eve of his inauguration. Drawing in a shaky sigh
he tried once more to bury his thoughts and focus on the present. Reminding
himself of the plans that had to be set in motion for Padmé’s death Anakin tried
to figure out what was left to be completed. But almost as soon as he attempted
to figure out what was left to be done Sabé’s words returned to haunt him leaving
him unsettled once more. In the end, his travels found him back at their private
balcony resting once more against the awkward ledge that had now become his
haunt whenever his thoughts were troubled. Only when he was semi-seated
against the ledge was he able to fully divulge in the past and silently mourn the
only regret he ever had about meeting his destiny as a Sith Lord.

After the unsettling confrontation with Sabé, Dormé needed room to breathe. She
blamed the confusing emotions on the fact she was pregnant again. Though it
was hardly noticeable to others, there was a small bump in her lower abdomen,
one that she would die protecting if it should come to that. This was why the
insurrection had to end. It was why they had fought so long and hard for peace in
this war torn galaxy. But as she found her husband on their balcony, pensively
looking out at Coruscant’s cityscape, she wasn’t sure she should interrupt his
ruminations. Instead, she took a seat on the couch nearby and watched him.

Anakin could sense Dormé’s presence as well as the small spark of life that was
growing within her. The thought of their unborn child brought a hint of a smile to
his features. This was the farthest along that any of Dormé’s pregnancies had
gotten and this brought a feeling of hope to his tired thoughts. But it soon faded
away as once more he thought of his brother and how he wished there could be
some way he could share this wonderful news with him.

Not that he would want to talk to you now, the darkness whispered into his
thoughts causing Anakin’s smile to fade as he furrowed his brow. Now was not
the time for such thoughts for this was meant to be a happy time them both.
After all, soon their little girl would be born and all the threats that could be
posed to her would become nothing more than a blot on the page of history. He
wanted their empire to be perfect for their little princess and focussing on this
Anakin found it was a bit easier to swallow the pain of his brother’s absence.
Though it didn’t entirely get rid of it, the Sith Lord joined Dormé’s side and
without a word spoken, slipped his arms around her petite form. While he still
believed they had no choice in the matter, that this had to be done, that they
were doing the right thing, Anakin found himself needing Dormé’s silent
reassurance. Anything to remind him that everything was as it should be, that
this was where they wanted to be, and that this was what they were meant to do
all along.

As though sensing her need for reassurance, Anakin soon moved next to her,
slipping his arms around her. She held him close, breathing in the confidence she
needed. Their little girl would be proud of her parents accomplishment. She would
grow up safely and inherit an empire with a legacy of peace. Though Sabé’s
disappointed eyes and resonating words had shaken them, it was because the
traitor was grasping at straws. She was trying to make them falter, to waver from
their goals, nothing more. The truth unconsciously filtered to the back of her
thoughts, as the lies were more powerful.

Her silent presence was like a healing balm to Anakin’s divided and confused
thoughts. As he held her close Vader felt her emotions beginning to calm as well,
reminding him that she needed his assurances as much as he needed hers.
Gently rubbing her back, Anakin studied Dormé in silence before giving her a hint
of a smile. ‘She was just trying to confuse us; that’s all,’ Anakin murmured softly.

Dormé’s thumb stroked the back of his shoulder in semicircles as he spoke. ‘It’s
like Sabé to protect her mistress at whatever cost. She would make up all sorts of
lies in the process,’ Dormé muttered. ‘Why else did she want us to spare her if
not to continue her mistress’s work behind our backs?’ Her words were stronger
than what her will believed.
Anakin felt the nagging doubt return. Furrowing his brow, the emperor shook his
head slightly in reply. ‘She won’t continue Padmé’s work. Not after her death and
even if she did, I can’t kill her. Not now,’ Anakin admitted as he sighed. Anakin
nodded silently to Dormé’s words, letting himself believe them to be fact as he
allowed the truth to be buried beneath the lies. It was just easier this way and far
less pain as well. ‘If we don’t do this, what sort of world will our little girl grow up
in?’ he continued softly confirming the fact their decision was the right one or so
he believed. ‘It is for her that we do this, for all future generations,’ he said
though it wasn’t certain who he was truly trying to convince Dormé or himself.

The mention of their baby reminded her this had to be done. ‘I want her to be
proud of us and all we’ve accomplished, not to see it in ruins.’

He gave a shy smile to Dormé’s words. ‘They’re sure to love her as much as we
do,’ Anakin said thoughtfully referring to the people of their empire, as his free
hand slipped to her womb.

Wrapping her arms around him as his rested a hand on her womb, she exhaled,
leaning into him. His words brought a smile to her face. ‘I know they will love her.
Not as much as we do, but close enough.’ She gave him a squeeze, thinking
about the first time they would announce her birth and then the first time they
would show her to the public... And soon she was caught up in lovely daydreams
about their little girl.

Her words solidified his own thoughts and eased the last of his doubts leaving him
feeling far more at peace than he did a short while ago. The Sith lord kissed her
cheek before slipping his hand from her womb around her once more as he began
to play with a loose strand of her long hair. As though sensing her thoughts,
Anakin began to speak of his hopes for the future and of all the things he couldn’t
wait to show and do with their daughter. The thought of being a family filled him
with such joy that it almost made him giddy with excitement. ‘I know she’ll be
joining us soon but it still seems like a long ways away,’ he admitted wistfully. ‘I
can’t wait to see what she looks like, to be able to hold her in our arms.’

Gazing at Anakin with loving eyes, she mused, ‘Our little Aené... I wonder if she’ll
enjoy flying as much as you or tinkering with mechanics.’

Anakin expression softened at her words as his eyes took on a dreamy look as he
too found himself envisioning their daughter learning how to fly or creating things.
‘I bet she’s going to have your talents for cooking,’ he further mused before
adding with a wink, ‘and will always be making new and delicious creations like
her ama.’

‘I have a feeling we’ll have to keep a close eye on her if she has your knack for
sneaking off into handmaidens’ living quarters.’ She couldn’t wait to be chasing
after their little one, once she learnt to walk and run.

Anakin tightened his embrace around his beloved as she kissed his cheek. He
rested his head over hers. Soon he was musing aloud of how like Dormé he
couldn’t wait until Aené was running about the palace getting into all sorts of
mischief. The thought warmed his heart and made him so eager for the arrival of
their daughter. At her teasing remarks Anakin just laughed as he shook his head,
‘Force help us if Aené has her ama’s sense of escaping trouble we’re both going
to be quite busy trying to keep up with her!’
Dormé chuckled before getting very excited. ‘Oh I just thought of what we could
do while we wait for her to be born! She’ll eventually need to have her own room.
Why don’t we design one for her? After this whole business with Amidala is sorted
it out, of course. You did such a wonderful job with my quarters. I certainly
wouldn’t be able to do that alone.’

The young Sith lord’s eyes lit up. Anakin beamed at the thought already looking
forward to hearing her thoughts and ideas of how to design their daughter’s room.
‘I say we should start as soon as possible!’ he said eagerly. ‘Time is running out—
despite our thoughts of otherwise—and we definitely want everything to be ready
for her arrival,’ Anakin continued as he gave her a squeeze. ‘I haven’t even met
you little Aené, yet already I love you as much as I love your ama,’ Anakin
thought in loving contentment as his fingers once more slipped to the tiny hint of
a bulge on Dormé’s torso.

Dormé’s hand slipped into his which rested over her womb. If anything illustrated
just how much they loved each other, it was this, their little girl. ‘How long did it
take for you to create that room for me anyway?’ she wondered as he said that
time was running out with the imminent birth of their little Aené. There were
three months left at least, by the doctor’s calculations.

Anakin’s expression grew nostalgic. ‘It took a couple of months, mostly because I
was waiting for some of the supplies to be designed like the pool and the
waterfall,’ he admitted as he gave her a grin. ‘That and I had to find out in a
round about way just what exactly a certain handmaiden liked in the way of flora
and fauna without telling her my surprise.’

At the mention of the room Anakin created for her for their second year dating,
she thought it was incredibly endearing that he had tried to figure out what sorts
of fauna she fancied without ruining the surprise. Giving him a playful poke, ‘As if
I would have been able to guess such a magnificent surprise!’

At her playful poke and teasing words Anakin chuckled before giving her a kiss
and a wink. ‘Well I couldn’t risk that chance now could I?’ he teased back.

Just as they began discussing the more realistic designs for Aené’s room, a
security officer was buzzing the chime on their private quarters, interrupting this
wistful moment.

Anakin frowned slightly in reply. ‘This better be good, otherwise I’m going to
make them wish they were never born,’ he grumbled as he reluctantly slipped out
of Dormé’s arms to tend to the door.

The security officer informed the emperor that Lady Nabish was being escorted to
her exile when the transport was invaded by a one Master Kenobi. They tried to
stop him, but were unable to, though only one member of the crew was injured
and the rest were alive but disarmed and locked in Nabish’s cell.

Dormé couldn’t hear what was going on from the balcony and knew whatever it
was, Anakin would take care of it. She contently looked out over their cityscape,
stroking her slightly swollen torso, thinking of their plans for the future.

Anakin could only stare in disbelief. ‘You mean to tell me my—’ the Sith Lord fell
silent as his suspicions pertaining to Lady Nabish and his brother were now
confirmed. Raising a brow, he gave a frustrated sigh feeling uncertain about what
to make of this news. His thoughts immediately scattered as memories of past
rescue missions with his brother returned reminding him of happier times with
Obi-Wan. While at the same time the realisation as to why his brother felt it
necessary to do this left Vader feeling awkward and oddly guilty. Surely, Obi-Wan
knew that he wouldn’t kill Sabé, certainly not now knowing what she meant to
him? But after coming so close to killing the former principle handmaiden, the
Sith Lord couldn’t really blame the Jedi Master for acting as he did.

‘I’ve already begun a search of the Jedi and the prisoner’s position and already
have the basic coordinates of their loc—’ the security officer began.

‘No, that won’t be necessary. This is a personal matter, one that I will tend to
myself,’ Vader stated coldly as his thoughts jumped to the present. The officer
looked like he was about to protest but fell silent at Anakin’s sharp glare. ‘You are
dismissed,’ he said coldly before silently joining Dormé’s side as she overlooked
the city. With a deep sigh, he slipped his hands around her petite torso and
nuzzled himself against her neck.

Dormé hummed contently when she felt Anakin returning to her side once more,
fitting perfectly next to her. She didn’t question him, knowing the interruption
was no longer an issue as he had taken care of it.

Anakin smiled slightly to the sound of her humming. Her voice was always
enchanting to him and for a moment, he just fell silent and enjoyed her musical
voice. ‘It would seem my brother objected to the destination we had chosen for
Lady Nabish,’ he replied in quiet but dry tones marking his lack of amusement on
the matter.

His remark caught her off guard and she didn’t know what to make of it. ‘Your
brother?’ she asked. ‘What do you mean?’

‘He collected Sabé from the ship that was escorting her to the outer rim. No one
was killed, although I’ve been informed one was injured. All were disarmed and
stowed away in the brig for us to find,’ Anakin concluded feeling strangely tired
and worn at the thought. ‘I shouldn’t have expected anything less from him.
But—’ he shook his head and gave another sigh before burying his face in her hair
as Anakin wanted nothing more than to forget the entire incident.

At the news, Dormé thought it was quite odd. She didn’t put two and two
together: that Anakin’s brother might have any sort of feelings for the former
principal handmaiden. But it was clear that Anakin didn’t want to talk about it.
Reaching up to stroke his hair as he buried his face in hers, she decided it didn’t
matter anyway. ‘Soon we will remove Amidala and all of this mess will be behind
us.’

Feeling her fingers in his hair Anakin felt the worse of his thoughts beginning to
ease just as her words brought a hint of a smile to his lips. She was right after all
with the return of justice and their opposition gone things would return to normal
and they could focus on more important things like preparing the palace for their
daughter’s arrival. Tightening his embrace around her Anakin kissed her neck.
‘You always know how to make things better,’ he murmured in gentle gratitude
before drawing back slightly as he gave her a loving smile. ‘I’m so glad I have
you by my side.’

Dormé smiled at him, a smile which told him how much she loved him as she
continued stroking his hair. She loved the feel of it through her fingers, despite
the fact his Padawan braid had long since been severed. Her thoughts once more
drifted to the future and she had never looked forward to it so much as she did in
this moment.


Chapter Four

Ever since the arrest of Queen Amidala, Bail Antilles had stopped at nothing to try
to have the newly formed delegation help release her. Mon Mothma and he did
everything they could politically, despite Padmé’s own words advising against it.
She didn’t want them drawing too much attention on themselves and their secret
movement and today, the senate convened for the trial of the Nabooan Queen.

When the emperor and empress arrived in their grandeur, the entire hall roared
with cheers and applause in every native tongue. None of Padmé’s handmaidens
and bodyguards were present, Bail noted, having a feeling it was because the
Vaders didn’t want sympathizers present to sway public opinion. Bail swallowed
hard as the noble queen gracefully took her place in the middle of the stadium.
She was handcuffed and three clone troopers guarded her. From his viewscreen,
he could see her stoic expression and during the questioning, her flat, sturdy
voice and fixed gaze hardly conveying any emotion. Padmé knew it was a mock
trial, of that, Bail was certain. But it was a slight hesitation and look in her eyes
as the trial drew to a close that made him almost feel her disappointment.

The Empress stood, her scarlet gown folding garishly over her slightly swollen
torso, to convict Queen Padmé Amidala, a verdict that was already decided before
this trial began.

Anakin found the entire trial to be most boring and, in reality, only tolerated it
because he enjoyed watching his wife in action. This was more Dormé’s arena
and she excelled at it without even trying. The young emperor watched with pride
as his childhood crush stood against his beloved. He knew without question that
Padmé was guilty but there was something so satisfying to hear the verdict
stated against her for all to know.

Just before the imperial pair killed the queen, Padmé said quite clearly, ‘It will
take more than that.’ The words hung in the air.

Bail fought to keep tears from coming to his eyes, watching Padmé’s body fall
lifelessly to the floor. ‘Mind your manners and keep your heads down. And keep
doing all those things we can’t talk about. All those things I can’t know. Promise
me, Bail.’ Queen Amidala, Padmé, was dead…she was dead…

While it angered Anakin that even in her final moments, Padmé showed no
sorrow or remorse—that she would so openly mock justice by challenging them
even now—it was a fleeting thought as immediately his wife drew her blade and
the Naboo queen was dead even before her body hit the ground. Unable to resist
a proud smile, Vader watched as the Empress openly challenged any who would
dare to oppose them.

The empress looked around at the senators, her sword still dripping with the
queen’s blood. ‘Are there any other objections?’

For a moment the silence was so thick one could have heard a pin drop and this
too filled Anakin with such pride.
‘What about you, Queen Eekway?’ asked the empress.

The representatives of Wroona floated near the imperial royals.

Bail watched with guarded interest as Queen Eekway spat at the empress.

The spittle was deflected by the empress’s bloodstained sword before she sliced
the queen’s lips. The cries of those on the Wroona platform seemed to annoy the
empress who promptly slaughtered them all.

The foolish queen of Wroona had the nerve to spit at his beloved! Anakin almost
lost control of himself as a result. However, Dormé was swift and thorough in
dealing punishment leaving the Sith Lord to watch on as his beloved removed the
entire Wroona platform.

‘You would do well to think of your people, the population of your planets! Think
long and hard about the peace we have brought to the galaxy, where bureaucrats,
corrupt barons and slave traders demoralize and persecute your people. The
Empire seeks to end the corruption that has plagued the galaxy for centuries.’

The auditorium once again erupted in cheers in support of the Empire.

For Vader, it was thrilling to watch her attack and destroy their opposition, her
body like a living weapon and her blade just an extension of her person. Watching
her perform this strange blade dance left him feeling as though he were in the
presence of a goddess. In his mind, Dormé also reminded him of a warrior queen,
one who represented the face of justice, who would not stand or tolerate those
who dared to oppose her. She was magnificent to say the very least. As the last
body fell to the ground lifeless—their blood intermingling and trailing about the
ground like streams of red—it took all of Anakin’s willpower not to have his way
with her right then and there. But not wanting to interrupt her moment of
triumph, Vader refrained and permitted her to once more address the audience,
while watching her with eyes filled with pride, admiration and love.

‘Henceforth let this message be sent to all those who ignorantly oppose us: you
will not be granted the peace our empire benevolently grants those in our
domain.’ Dormé enjoyed ensuring the peace they had strived so hard for would
be protected so that their children would grow up in an ordered galaxy and have
a grand imperial legacy to inherit. The thrill of it all was enhanced by the feel of
her beloved’s eyes on her as she personally took care of the insurrection. She
couldn’t have done this without him. Once the trial concluded and Dormé ordered
the clone generals to dispose of the bodies so that no memorial could be held for
the traitors.

Now more than ever, Bail would strive to end this empire, the manipulations and
falsehoods it fed the public. Or he would die trying. He vowed Padmé would not
have died in vain.

After what seemed like an eternity, the trial reached its completion and now with
the witnesses departing, Anakin didn’t hesitate to pull his wife into his arms. ‘You
were absolutely magnificent,’ he purred between passionate kisses. ‘But I think
the public has basked in your presence long enough, now its my turn,’ he said in
throaty tones wanting to enjoy her right there and then not caring who might see
them or what they might think.
Promptly pulled into Vader’s arms, Dormé melted into his embrace. She never
could get over just how well they knew each other’s minds. She didn’t have to tell
him just how much she wanted him at that moment. Hardly aware anyone could
see them, Dormé pushed him back into one of the chairs as she continued kissing
him passionately. As there was little room for manoeuvrability, she didn’t realise
she had in the process of doing so, accidentally pressed the controls that made
the podium lower into the office that once belonged to the Supreme Chancellor
which Dormé made into her own.

Anakin soon lost himself in the embrace of his empress and could only purr in
pleasure as she pushed him back into the chairs. How he had longed to do this
ever since the trial had begun, but now it was all over and finally he enjoy his
beloved. Holding her close and returning her kisses with hungry ones of his own
Anakin barely even registered that they were being lowered into Dormé’s office.
But even if he did he would have hardly cared as when Anakin was in Dormé’s
arms nothing else really mattered.

It wasn’t until their passions were at least temporarily sated that Dormé
registered their surroundings and wondered how they got there. However, she
only giggled in response, giving Anakin another slow kiss.

As they paused from their passionate embrace -albeit briefly- Anakin caught
Dormé’s giggle and furrowed his brow in reply before realising they were no
longer in the main hall. Raising a brow he was about to ask just how they got
here but at Dormé’s kiss he no longer cared. Eagerly returning her slow kiss he
pulled her close as his fingers slipped to her hair, undoing the pins before the
door parted and another entered. Sensing they were no longer alone Anakin
scowled catching sight of the man attempting to quickly depart.

The security guards entered her office, not realising the emperor and empress
were there, with intentions of leaving her a report of the popular opinion vote.
Clearly taken off guard and embarrassed, the officer was about to turn on his
heels and leave when he inadvertently alerted them of his presence.

Growling, he shifted in their seat and demanded to know the reason for his rude
interruption and just why he didn’t have the sense to use the chime. If it wasn’t
for the fact that Dormé was in his arms it was safe to say the man would have
been dead before his body hit the ground.

If anything was indecent, in Dormé’s mind, it was the fact the young guard had
not obeyed protocol by entering her office without permission. It was a mistake
he would not make again.

‘I-I-er—’ the officer stuttered. ‘Ther—the—umm, results the empress requested—’

‘Oh yes!’ Dormé cheered, bounding off the platform quickly rushing over to take
the datapad from the officer before shooing him away.

The officer promptly bowed to the empress, even though it went unnoticed and
left the royals alone.

Dormé practically skipped over to Anakin, beaming.

Raising a brow in curiosity, he watched as his beloved returned looking most
eager and pleased.
‘Look! Oh this is brilliant!’ She glowed, knowing they had won over the popular
vote. It seemed almost too easy. It didn’t even matter what the senate thought.
Their public loved them.

Grinning as her joy was addictive Anakin took a glance at the polls and was most
pleased to see the results. ‘And here the senate is of the belief that we’re nothing
more than devils that everyone despises. Fools.’ he said shaking his head in
obvious amusement before pulling her back onto his lap as he leaned in to steal
another kiss. ‘With peace restored and our opposition nothing more than a
memory, I definitely say we have reason to celebrate, don’t you?’ he purred
between kisses.

Dormé chuckled happily at his assessment. ‘Mmmm,’ she replied before kissing
him back. Devils. As if those mindless bureaucrats who enslaved their people and
cared only about commerce were any more than devils! ‘So much to celebrate,’
she said huskily before kissing him again. ‘Suggestions of where to begin?’ she
whispered into his ear, grinning wildly.

Anakin grinned at her reply before eagerly kissing her back before her whispered
suggestion was answered with another passionate kiss. ‘Let’s start with heading
to the bedroom and we’ll go from there,’ he purred in reply as while he enjoyed
being here Anakin knew it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable spot for such
celebrations.

Dormé whole-heartily agreed with Anakin’s assessment and soon the pair were
headed, albeit taking twice the amount of time it normally did, to the palace and
their bedroom where they could more comfortably resume their well-deserved
celebrations. This was only the beginning of what would soon mark another
turning point in the history of the galaxy.


Anakin had departed once again to tend to rumours of a Jedi conclave on Talasea
and Dormé was caught up with the designs for Aené’s room which were almost
completed. She spent most of her free time, however, with the youngest
members of their household, the Jedi younglings. They were growing so quickly
and Dormé loved playing with them. Lately they were asking her about the little
one they sensed growing inside her and she eagerly told them about Aené. She
told them they would be able to play with her once she was old enough. She
answered all of their questions and allowed the untrained younglings to reach out
to Aené’s Force signature to introduce themselves. Aené seemed to like this very
much because Dormé felt her moving around and it made Dormé feel warm and
quite happy. It still hurt her that the younglings were still so cold to Anakin, but
hoped that once Aené joined them, they would open up to Anakin more.

It was always very difficult falling asleep when Anakin was away from home and
this past week was no different. She began feeling quite ill and though she visited
the medical ward daily, she thought in the back of her head that it was more than
morning sickness. Missing Anakin certainly didn’t help matters, but as the elite
imperial doctors said there was nothing abnormal about her symptoms, she didn’t
contact him. Though she was offered various herbal supplements to ease her
nausea, she refused, not wanting anything to interfere with Aené’s development.

This morning, the sharp pains and bleeding began. Panic and despair
overwhelmed Dormé as she sped to medical ward, fighting through tears and
piercing aches, in her nightgown, praying to Nisaba to save her baby. ‘Our third
little one, our little Aené, please don’t take her from me…please…’
‘…heartbeat irregular…’

Lying on the examination table, she felt the pangs of premature labour, but lost
herself clinging to fading hopes and preparations for Aené’s future. Though she
had been reluctant to become attached to Aené at first because of the first two
failed pregnancies, Aené had made it past the first critical months and was now
well into the sixth month. Why was this happening now?

‘…can’t explain what’s happening…’

They had nearly completed the designs for her room! What happened? Had Aené
given up on her? Had she deemed Dormé an unfit mother? Everything had been
normal until now. Why was she no longer able to stay?

‘There’s nothing more to be done…’

Dormé could barely registered what the warbling medical droid was saying. The
doctor looked as perplexed as the attendant, but the contractions were blindingly
painful and then it was over. The attendant cleaned her up and wrapped a warm
blanket around her. ‘Aené?’ she asked.

Frowning, the doctor admitted, ‘We’ve lost her. I’m sorry.’

Whimpering, Dormé covered her mouth as tears flooded her eyes anew. Hardly
caring about her own health, she tossed off the blanket and stood. Though her
legs felt like jelly and she was shaking, she staggered over to where they had
Aené. Dormé reached out to touch her tiny form, wanting to hold her, to kiss her,
to ask why she couldn’t stay, to say goodbye, but upon seeing Aené, she
collapsed.

In her dreams, Dormé was in a vast forest. A little girl with a ribbon in her hand
was dancing and giggling a few feet away. Dormé called to her, trying to warn
her about something, but the little girl kept dancing further and further away.

When they reached a clearing, she saw the little girl was wearing a long white
gown and a tiara on her head. The ribbon was long since tossed haphazardly
along the forest floor. She approached slowly and got onto her knees in front of
the girl.

‘Aené, sweetheart,’ Dormé began, trying to reason with the precocious girl.

Aené reached up and took off the tiara, placing it on Dormé’s head, smiling an all-
too-familiar mischievous smile. She then hugged Dormé.

Dormé hugged her back tightly as though if she were to release her, she would
disappear.

Aené kissed Dormé’s cheek and wiggled out of her arms, tearing off again into
the darkening woods.

‘Aené!’ Dormé called, chasing after her, but she was nowhere to be found. The
trees seemed to melt away, leaving Dormé in darkness alone. ‘AENÉ!’

And somewhere in the blackened forest, a melody played. It took a moment for
Dormé to recognise it as a Uriashian lullaby.
It was a moment Vader would never forget for as long as he lived, it would haunt
him for the rest of his life. Though he wouldn’t remember who it he had been
hunting at the time, nor what planet he was on, Anakin would never forget the
experience. It was in the middle of a hunt, on a planet not worthy of his
recollection when Vader heard the sound of music playing. A strange haunting
tune that reminded him of something he had heard Dormé hum upon occasion
when she was working on their daughter’s room.

Initially he was too lost in the battle to notice it but the music grew gradually
louder, demanding his attention. A strange sensation of pain began to course
through his torso forcing the emperor to falter from the battle. His prey took
advantage of this and soon sent him on the defensive. But the Sith Lord was
stronger and soon was taking charge of the fight once more. That was until
another sharp pain in his torso distracted him once more.

This time the Jedi decided escape was the wisest course of action. It was only
because of the dark side that Anakin was even able to ignore the pain and
continue the chase. Soon the pain was nothing more than a memory and his prey
was once more cornered and within range of his lightsaber that thrummed with
life and longed for death.

Snow blew all around them despite the fact that the rocky mountainside blocked
the worse of the snow storm. The Jedi showed no fear, nor desperation only the
strange sense of calm that always left Anakin feeling agitated and deep down
envious. However just as he was about to swing his blade, to end the hunt, a
little girl stepped out of the blizzard and in front of his prey.

Time seemed to move of its own accord in those moments and Vader could only
watch in horror as though viewing his actions in slow motion. The youngling girl
studied him intently with beautiful eyes of amber that didn’t entirely hide the hint
of mischief encouraged by the freckles that decorated her nose. But before
Anakin could register or comprehend who this child was or what she was doing
here, his blade met her flesh and her spirit joined the Force, leaving behind only
the body of the girl with the tussled blonde hair falling lifeless into the snow.

Staggering back in horror, Anakin finally realised who this strange youngling was
and immediately deactivated his lightsaber in reply as a whimper escaped his lips.
‘Aené?...Oh no...Oh Force no...’ he whimpered as he choked out a sob as he
leaned against the rocky mountain side. His legs felt as though they were made
of liquid. He knew what had happened even before feeling Dormé’s crushing pain
and sorrow that flooded his thoughts. Their little girl was gone, taken away from
them by the Force that had only a short time ago blessed her to them.

Consumed with sorrow over the loss and fear for his wife, Anakin promptly raced
back to his ship, not noticing nor caring of the tears that were already freezing on
his cheeks. Leaving behind the lifeless Jedi he had so mercilessly killed to receive
an icy burial.


Saché was in the middle of being trained in her new duties when word reached
her about the empress’s condition. Even though Dormé killed Padmé in their
mock trial as well as the innocents who stood up to them, Saché couldn’t quite
bring herself to hate Dormé. In her mind, the younger woman was in over her
head but had yet to discover it. It would prove to be a truth that Saché wouldn’t
fully appreciate for many years. Fearing for the baby’s safety and health as well
as the mother’s, Saché did her best to keep up to date on Dormé’s situation.
Though she wasn’t permitted access to the med labs where she was healing,
Saché was well aware of the loss and felt terrible for her former protégé.

She was normally grateful that Dormé’s beast of a husband was out of the palace
given the situation, but there was a very small part of her that wished he were
here, not for anything than to act as support for Dormé. Though Saché wasn’t
one who was renowned for her empathy, the former handmaiden’s heart went out
to Dormé nonetheless. She passed through the children’s wing where the Jedi
younglings lived and played. Though it wasn’t her intention to remain long—as
she was on her way to cross check security on this particular floor—Saché
couldn’t resist the temptation of watching the little one’s play in the playroom for
a bit. While she wasn’t familiar with any of the Jedi younglings, she did enjoy
watching them play when the opportunity availed itself, which wasn’t very often
to say the least.


After her first miscarriage, Dormé had comforted herself with the fact that Anakin
and she would be able to have other children and tried everything to ensure her
second would make it. After her second miscarriage, Dormé threw herself into
politics, changing the galaxy to make it perfect for their children and for all
younglings. But this time when little Aené returned to the stars, Dormé felt she
could no longer go on. Though the doctors and medical attendants insisted Dormé
needed to be under careful observation for another few hours, she didn’t care.
Once she awoke from the disturbing dreams, she couldn’t be in the facility any
longer. Even though it hurt to walk, she felt she deserved the pain. She deserved
to suffer for whatever caused Aené to leave her.

Dormé made her way, albeit slowly, to the area of the palace they had begun to
work on as Aené’s room. There was a blanket she had begun making for her by
her own hands, a technique she learnt during her time in the factories, but this
was a labour of love. Aené wouldn’t be needing it anymore. Why did the gods or
the Force or whomever was responsible take Aené away? Why should she place
her faith in gods if they were just going to destroy her? She was so angry and yet
despairing, thinking of those younglings from the Jedi temple. There was no way
she could bare to see them now. If Aené, her little princess, had deemed her
unworthy, how could she possibly look after other younglings?

Lying the unfinished blanket back on the chair, she decided that she would have
them sent away to Naboo. She would make sure someone placed them in good
homes, without telling anyone they were saved from the Jedi Temple. She
summoned an officer to relay a message to her former mentor to have the older
woman meet her here, for she was too sore to move and yet not wanting to leave
as if to do so would admit the truth, that Aené was dead.


Saché was in the middle of working on less than legal business pertaining to the
rebel activity when an officer demanded her attention, almost giving her a
heartattack in the process. Quickly sending the message, Saché glanced up and
played the role of the annoyed security personnel, interrupted from her duties. At
the order given, Saché immediately grew serious and concerned. ‘Of course I’ll be
right there,’ she said quickly as she rose from her seat and promptly departed
with the officer.

‘Lady Maberrie, as you requested, Your Highness,’ the officer said, bowing after
introducing her and quietly leaving.
Dormé did not move from where she stood, facing away from the door, staring at
the half-finished blanket she laid on the chair. She heard Saché enter and it was
only then that she slowly turned around to face her.

Saché remained silent watching Dormé already knowing what had happened and
feeling terrible for it. She could only imagine how hard this had to have been for
Dormé especially considering how young the empress was—just twenty-three—
and the fact this wasn’t the first one she had lost.

It was almost a comforting sight, seeing Saché. She didn’t bother hiding her tear-
stained cheeks from her. It was as though she was seeing her sister. Despite her
attempt to be resolute and emotionless, it was hard. Her voice strained to remain
even as she said, ‘I would like you to take the Jedi younglings to Naboo...find g-
good homes for them...’

As the younger woman turned to face her, Saché’s expression softened further.
She nodded in understanding, knowing how hard this had to be for Dormé and
already vowing to do everything in her power to ensure the children had good
homes. ‘Consider it done, Your Highness,’ she said softly before stepping closer
and shyly pulling the young woman in for a hug. She tried to ignore her fragile
state how frail and thin she looked. It troubled Saché deeply, leaving her wishing
she could do something, anything to help her little sister with her pain.

‘Thank you,’ Dormé replied, a knot catching in her throat before she could say
anything else. She didn’t feel like having to explain her reasoning behind it and
knew she would if Saché asked. The hug caught her off guard and she stiffened
slightly before hugging her back. She let out a shaky sigh, but forced herself not
to cry, wanting to be strong.

Saché didn’t need any explanations for what little she knew was enough for her
and silently she comfort her former protégé. Dormé’s shaky sigh caused the older
handmaiden to lightly rubbed her back as though she were an older sister
comforting her younger one. ‘If there is anything else I can do, anything at all
just let me know, OK?’ she said softly wishing there was something more she
could do to help.

Dormé pulled back though remaining in her arms as she nodded, fighting tears. ‘I
just want them to have good homes. Don’t tell anyone they are from the Jedi
Temple.’ This silent protection of Force sensitives, many of whom husband
slaughtered without second thought, would speak for Dormé in the future. She
couldn’t talk about what happened today and was thankful that Saché didn’t
question her actions.

Saché fell silent as Dormé drew back. She nodded in firmly in
understanding ,finding hope in Dormé’s request. This sort of protection was
generally unheard of in the empire, as Lord Vader had made it a personal
vendetta to remove all whom were associated with the Jedi. ‘Their secret will be
safe with me,’ she admitted softly before furrowing her brow as she took in
Dormé’s appearances once more. ‘You should probably rest. You’ve been through
a lot,’ Saché continued in gentle concern. ‘Do not dwell on this matter any more
it’s in good hands I assure you,’ she said softly wanting to reassure Dormé that
her decision was the right one. That she would stop at nothing until every one of
the younglings were in safe and happy homes.

Though she drew away, she found her legs were still unsteady and inevitably
grasped Saché’s arm. She knew she could trust Saché and it was this hope that
would help her in the future. Instead of ordered, Dormé merely requested, ‘Would
you mind helping me—to my quarters?’ She was supposed to have remained in
the medical ward, but couldn’t bear to stay there where Aené died.

‘Of course. You need not ask,’ she said kindly before helping Dormé to her
quarters. Upon arriving Saché was quick to get her some ice water and asked if
perhaps she could get her something to help her rest. She didn’t depart until she
was certain Dormé was as all right as she could be.

As Dormé lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, she tried to clear her head, but finding
it still reeling from everything that happened. She had started the day full of life
and now it felt like she was dead inside, a shell of her former self. Her mind kept
going over the silliest and stupid things that might have caused this to happen.
None of it made any sense. Later she would remember how kind Saché had been,
how she had offered to help in any way she could... But right now she was too
consumed with Aené’s death to think of anything else. She wished Anakin was
with her.


After what felt like an eternity, the frantic Sith Lord finally returned to the palace
only to learn of the news from a messenger who was killed on the spot. Another
who tried much the same a short time later received the same treatment. It was
only when he had encountered a medical droid who was returning to the med lab
did Anakin find the will to refrain.

Showering the robot with questions about Dormé’s condition and the details
about what had happened, Anakin desperately hoped to find answers. As always,
the response was the same, leaving Vader even more despairing than before.
Finding this to be yet another lost cause, the Sith Lord quietly departed without
another word exchanged between himself and the machine. He didn’t bother
asking where his beloved was for Anakin was fairly certain that he would know
where to find the empress.


Dormé was unable to sleep more than an hour since Aené’s death. In the early
hours of the morning, she padded slowly through the hallways of the palace to
the wing formerly occupied by the Jedi younglings. Now that they were gone, she
was relieved while at the same time remorseful. They didn’t belong here, not
when she couldn’t even take care of her own child. She stopped in the playroom
she had so often visited. Their toys were still scattered about and though she
would normally have picked up and put things away for them, Dormé paused and
got down on her knees to pick up one of the toys. She played with it as though
entertaining one of the little girls who had long since departed for Naboo to find a
better mother. Dormé wished she had said goodbye to them. They probably
hated her now, wondering why she had given them away without second
thoughts. Clutching one of the stuffed animals, she closed her eyes, bowing her
head, as tears came to her eyes. Aené...

Anakin’s return home had been a painful one and though he hadn’t slept a wink
during the entire trip he hardly felt tired as his thoughts were solely on Dormé
and their daughter. As he roamed the hallways he soon picked up her Force
signature and knew that she was in the playroom where the Jedi younglings often
played. Unaware that Dormé had sent them away Anakin for a moment was
hesitant to join her there knowing of their reaction to him and feeling too out of
sorts to handle such rejection. But almost immediately he realised there was no
powerful Force signatures to be found nearby and though he didn’t know the
reasons for this Anakin wasn’t about to miss this opportunity to see his wife and
promptly entered the playroom in silence.

Almost as soon as he stepped in, the Sith Lord found himself struggling to contain
his sorrow. He didn’t need to see Dormé’s face to feel her pain, nor to see the
effect this entire ordeal was having on her. Though her back was facing him
Anakin could see the signs that marked her suffering. Her skin normally glowing
was pale while her body already petite seemed even more fragile than ever
before. However as hard as it was Anakin did his best not to dwell on it as it was
too painful to consider where this was all headed. In silence, he approached her,
unable to ignore the tears that were already beginning to spill down his cheeks.
While he was able to keep his emotions somewhat contained during the journey
home, the sight of her looking so broken tore at his heart and made it impossible
to control any longer. Moving in front of her, the Sith lord wrapped his arms
around her petite form and drew her close to him. There were no words to
describe his sorrow, no words that could possibly comfort his pain…

Dormé was so lost in her grief that she didn’t know what time of day it was or
how long she had been in the playroom in the exact same position. She hadn’t
slept or ate, nor had she been able to if the chance was offered. She didn’t
register Anakin’s presence until he was wrapping his arms around her. The
physical pain from the ordeal had been until that point the only thing that made
her aware that she was still alive, that Aené had passed, not her. Finally, now
that Anakin was here, she was able to openly mourn for their daughter. She
sobbed into his chest, feeling as though she were breaking in two. Never in her
life had she known such pain as she did now. She had never looked forward to
anything in her life, never made plans, never counted on such things and now...
Now everything she had planned was in ruins. What were they fighting for? What
was the point of this stupid empire and everyone in it? She didn’t care anymore.
She felt so completely and utterly useless and ultimately missing Aené whom she
loved so desperately.

Holding her close, Anakin soon fell prey to his emotions and silently wept in
sorrow with her. He couldn’t help but feel as though they were both drowning in
an ocean of sorrow, with no one to turn to and no hope in sight. How much more
punishment must they endure? Had they not done the will of the Force? Had they
not restored peace and security to the people? Why did the Force feel it so
necessary to continually bless them with such joy only to steal it away again? His
thoughts ran wild as his fears grew and blossomed into despair and confusion.
Would they never know the joy of being parents, the loving responsibility that
came with raising their own children? Or would this living hell just continue until
they went mad from the pain of their losses.

As he clung onto Dormé, the Sith Lord silently begged the Force to answers his
pleas, to end this madness once and for all, to punish him for his sins against the
younglings at the Temple, not Dormé, who had done nothing to deserve this pain,
this curse. As always, only silence answered his desperate pleas. After what felt
like an eternity, his tears too eventually subsided leaving him gulping down shaky
breaths of air as he continued to rub Dormé’s back and run his hands through her
hair. Though his gestures were meant to comfort her, it also helped sooth him a
little knowing that she was near and understood his pain as well.

Despite everything, Dormé was thankful that they had each other. She didn’t
know what she would have done if he hadn’t returned home. ‘I saw her,’ she
whispered, her voice barely audible against his chest. ‘She—Anakin...’ She caught
her breath, unable to continue.
Anakin caught her whispers and furrowed his brow feeling new tears returning to
his eyes as the lump in his throat returned with a vengeance. ‘...I know...I saw
her too...’ he whispered in sorrow filled tones as her voice faltered. His embrace
tightened around her and Anakin drew in a shaky breath as she spoke his name.
Closing his eyes, he swallowed hard as the tears once more began to spill as the
memory of his own vision returned with a vengeance.

‘Anakin...’ She knew she didn’t have to say anymore. She didn’t know what they
were going to do.

Why? Why must you punish her like this? She is innocent! She has done nothing
to deserve this! I am the one who murdered the younglings at the Temple not her.
I am the one who deserves this pain, not her. Anakin inwardly pleaded with the
Force as he clung onto his beloved feeling as though the entire universe was
conspiring against them.


As time passed, Dormé’s body healed but her spirit continued to waver. She
began over-training in an effort to feel the pain she thought she deserved,
punishing herself because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Once word reached the public about the death of Princess Aené, thousands of
flowers were laid outside the palace doors. Some held candlelit vigils in her
memory. There were many who hated the Empire and all it stood for who
sympathized with the royal couple’s grief.

All of this was lost on Dormé who wanted her little girl back as well as the other
two who returned too soon to the stars. They had a memorial created for her, in
which Dormé placed the finished blanket she had created for Aené. Her only
consolation was that at least Aené had company wherever she was. But there
was solace to be found in this world, with her grieving husband. In time, Dormé’s
body deemed her spirit ready to move on, as painful as that final step would be.

It was the first time they made love since the loss and it was a moment Anakin
would never forget for as long as he lived. Hours later, he could still taste her
tears on his lips, recalling how he kissed them away as they spilled down Dormé’s
cheeks, not caring that his own mingled with hers.

Dormé cried for many reason. This meant they were moving on with their lives
and she didn’t want Aené to think they would forget her. Dormé also cried
because she loved Anakin so much and had missed this. It was a big step, but a
move in a positive direction. Perhaps now, she would be able to forgive herself, to
let go and stop punishing herself for things that were out of her control. Perhaps
now, she would be able to sleep.

Her body, silky soft like the petals of the idaceae that decorated their
bedchambers, was still intertwined with his flesh. Her arms were wrapped tightly
around him, just as his own held her with equal fervency. It was hard to ignore
the desperation of their embrace, the unspoken understanding that Anakin didn’t
dare dwell upon but couldn’t deny. Much like the way Anakin couldn’t ignore the
feel of her bones beneath his lips where soft flesh once was when he kissed her
body, how fragile she felt in his arms.

Wrapped in Dormé’s arms—like a second skin protecting him from his broken
heart—Anakin for the first time in what felt like an eternity was able to find a
moments rest. Yet as the sun began to peer through the shades of their
bedchamber, the young Sith Lord knew that this moment of silent security would
soon draw to a close. Deep down he knew that the events of last night was more
than just a gesture of love, it was the mark of two broken souls beginning to heal.

Though the storm was far from over, and hope just a distant dream, Anakin could
already feel the results of Dormé’s healing touch taking effect. The tears he shed
were like a healing balm for his wounded heart, just as the taste of hers was like
medicine for his shattered spirit. Dormé’s touch, so gentle and so fragile, did
more for him than anything in the universe ever could and never in his life was
Anakin more grateful to be able to have her to hold as he was in that moment.

Chapter Five

Dormé hated them, all of the mothers with their children so happy...gloating
about their successful pregnancies where Dormé had failed. It wasn’t fair. It was
as though they were mocking her with their words of gratitude and smiling faces.
While she hadn’t left Coruscant much while she was carrying Aené, she now
travelled frequently and saw all of them who adored her for her charitable work
and dedication to children’s rights. In her travels, she was often accompanied by
legions of stormtroopers to bring peace to other planets not yet part of their
empire. She continued to do so for three long years as she coped with the loss of
Aené. Anakin and she contemplated ways in which to bring more resources into
their empire and provide for their daily increasing imperial army as well as the
training schools on Coruscant for recruits.

At one point, she came across the former Supreme Chancellor’s plans for a
planetary vanquishing machine, but she had them destroyed. Taking away the
weapons from all the other planets and giving them to her stormtroopers was far
more effective in her opinion. This way their weaponry and defensive power
wasn’t localised.

Not long after Anakin and Dormé were finally able to begin healing from Aené’s
death, Dormé became pregnant again. Though she recognised all of the
symptoms, she dismissed them as stress as she was still trying to get her life
back on track. With the time spent running the Empire and the long hours of
training she did to keep up her own agility and strength, it was no wonder that
her cycles weren’t normal.

As much as she still wanted to have children with Anakin, she hardly wanted to
be attached to this one or to make any plans. She knew it would be futile and she
would only end up getting hurt again.

Dormé denied the obvious for many months until there was no way around it.
She knew Anakin was aware, for he was, after all, Force sensitive, but he didn’t
say anything. Even when it was evident from the changes in her body, nothing
was said.

The denial was hard to get over, but one morning in the fresher as the water
poured over her now four-month slightly swollen torso, she couldn’t ignore it. She
cried.

The truth was that Dormé was scared.

Pulling herself together, she dressed slowly and solemnly went to visit Aené’s
memorial. It was partially lit from the early sun shining through a window on the
far side. She lit a candle and knelt in front of the memorial with her head bowed.
Though she wasn’t a spiritual person, she had to believe that Aené could hear her.
She spoke of her regrets and fears, and that she hoped Aené could forgive her,
that Aené wouldn’t hate her.

When she raised her head to look up once more, the way the light bounced off
the walls was almost surreal. It seemed like she could almost see her. Though it
was brief, the vision of a little blonde girl with eyes of dark amber, and freckles
decorating her nose and cheeks smiled. Dormé blinked and Aené was gone.
Surprisingly, she felt incredibly at peace. Even if it was just a dream, Aené
seemed happy and this was such a relief to Dormé.

Now she knew what she had to do. She would tell the medics not to spare her if
this little one didn’t make it. She knew she wouldn’t be able to go on if she were
to lose another child.


Anakin threw himself into his work with a new vigour he never had before, not
out of his need to solidify their empire—which was already more than
established—but rather to keep his mind off the discovery he had made. Though
not a word was spoken between them, Anakin was aware of Dormé’s pregnancy
as much as she was. Upon learning that Dormé was with child again, the emperor
felt more sorrowful than excited. He felt even guiltier at the fact that he hadn’t
been more mindful of Dormé’s fragile state and ensured that it wouldn’t happen
again. While it was too late to turn back time, it didn’t stop Anakin from
unwittingly punishing himself. Long hours of work and little sleep began to take
its toll but it didn’t stop the Sith Lord from continuing his rigorous schedule. It
wasn’t long before he would even forget to eat as his thoughts were ever on the
duties of ensuring peace for their empire and ridding them of all threats.

On this particular morning, when exhaustion ensured he returned home, Anakin
knew that it was time to speak to Dormé about what they had been avoiding all
along. It broke his heart to think of how his wife would react to having the
discovery out in the open. He also knew that if she didn’t visit a medic soon
complications were certain to arise. If anything was to go wrong, he didn’t want
her to blame herself for it and knew that unless something could prevent it, it
was certain she would. With the passing of Aené, the Sith Lord was aware that if
something happened, he would lose more than just another child. He tried not to
allow himself to think of the fact he knew what would happen should they lose
this little spark of life. It was just too painful and during those moments of
weakness when he did, Anakin was careful to hide the tears that came or if these
too couldn’t be helped, he would take to the shower to wash them away.

As he entered the palace, he soon sensed that Dormé was at the memorial of
their little princess and immediately departed for it to meet her. Though he knew
what had to be done for now he wanted nothing more than to hold her even for
but a moment. To just feel her arms around him and be reminded that he wasn’t
alone in this, that they were in this together.

If any peace was found, it slowly faded once more as she set off to return indoors.
With each step, it dissipated into sorrow, though Dormé didn’t feel it as
powerfully as she had felt her own earlier. If she knew better, she would have
recognised it as her husband’s sorrow. As if on cue, she saw an exhausted-
looking Anakin heading towards her. She quickened her pace to greet him. It felt
like an eternity since she last held him.
Upon seeing Dormé, the young emperor couldn’t help but smile a little. She
looked lovely as always though he could sense she was in a bit better spirits than
usual and drew hope from it. Pulling her into a tight hug Anakin gave a deep sigh
feeling his own mood lightening a little at her healing touch. ‘I’ve missed you so
much,’ he murmured softly into her ear as his hand slipped to hair.

When she finally drew back slightly to touch his cheek and study him closely, she
could see the wear of all the weeks, the sleepless nights, the lack of taking proper
care of himself. She vowed silently to see to it she did everything in her power to
remedy it and prayed it wasn’t because of her or something she had done to
cause this, though deep down she had a feeling it was.

As she drew back, he felt her hand against his cheek and instinctively leaned into
it. Her gaze was sharp and studious and he could feel her concern which caused
his cheeks to slightly warm. No matter how hard he tried to keep up appearances,
he knew there was no hiding from his wife and immediately he felt bad for
causing her to feel concern for him. She had so much on her mind already that
the last thing he wanted was to add his own shame and fear to it.

She pulled him in for another tight hug, as though it would make up for all the
times she couldn’t. Though she was worried for him, she was able to exhale what
seemed like the weight of the universe, or at least of their empire, and for a
moment find peace once more.

This moment held all the solace he had been longing for during their time apart.
Holding Dormé tightly and rubbing her back, he closed his eyes and breathed her
in deeply, feeling his racing heart beginning to calm and his despairing, fearful
thoughts starting to clear. He knew what had to be done and as he held her close,
Anakin finally found the courage to speak of the matter he knew deep down that
should have been discussed some time ago. ‘Dormé, we should talk…not here,
but somewhere just as private,’ he began softly, knowing that she would be
aware of what it was he wanted to discuss and already feeling his heart ache for
her because of it.

Nodding slowly in agreement, she wrapped an arm around his waist and started
back indoors. She would rather avoid the subject and fix him something to eat or
suggest he have a rest first, but Dormé knew that as convincing as she could be,
he was just as stubborn. In reality, this conversation ought to have taken place
months ago. Once they returned to the privacy of their own quarters, she took his
cloak from off his shoulders before moving with him to the nearest couch. She
knew there was no use in avoiding it, not even to get something to eat or drink
for Anakin.

Anakin didn’t stop her from helping remove his cloak and silently helped her out
of hers. Though not a word was exchanged it was obvious neither wanted to
discuss the matter at hand but were aware that time had run out for running
away. As they sat on the couch, Anakin gently slipped an arm around her and
silently held her for a moment wanting to express his unspoken support and
understanding. After a moments silence he quietly spoke what weighed on his
mind and heart. ‘I think it’s time you should see a physician,’ he began gently as
he studied her with concern and love. ‘I know it’s not something you want to do
Dormé, but I’m worried about you, about...’ he faltered as though fearing if he
openly admitted to their baby’s existence, he would spell its demise. ‘I’m just
concerned and I think its time we face what we already both know to be fact. We
can only deny it for so long and well, I think it’s only fair that you at least get
examined to ensure everything—’ he fell silent then.
He already knew how fruitless this would be, as every time their child was lost no
one ever seemed to know what was wrong. Dormé was always in perfect health
as was their baby yet something was obviously very wrong. ‘I want to find you a
healer Dormé, someone who is familiar with the natural side of medicine who isn’t
so easily lost in the game of politics,’ he continued in determined tones. He
struggled to hide his emotions only to fail miserably as he gave a shuddering sigh.
He knew this was his fault and inwardly cursed himself once more for not being
more careful, for being more mindful of her fragile situation.

Dormé swallowed hard, trying to fight back tears as he mentioned what they both
knew they needed to speak of. She exhaled slowly. ‘Oh what’s the point anyway?’
Dormé said exasperatedly at the situation, not at his concern. ‘What’s the use if
nothing, no one has been able to...’ she began though she was unable to finish
the statement.

Dormé’s exasperated reply tore at Anakin’s heart and left him feeling worse than
before. Furrowing his brow, he struggled with his own tears as she spoke of
things neither could openly speak about. Though this was meant to be a happy
moment for them both, it was hard to feel positive about something that always
ended in such despair and loss. His embrace tightened as Dormé struggled to
speak. Like her Anakin too was struggling with his own despair and tears as he
bowed his head feeling ashamed of his lack of sensitivity.

‘What more can be done that hasn’t been done already? What could another
healer possibly offer that—I just...’ She shook her head. ‘I can’t—’ Her jaw
clenched tightly as she continued fighting tears.

‘I know...Believe me, I know...’ he murmured in reply at her words. ‘This is all my
fault, I should have been more careful. I should have been more mindful,’ he
continued in shamed tones as he bowed his head. ‘Now it’s too late and...I should
have known better. You’ve been through so much already and I know—’ he didn’t
dare continue his thought, as this too was another unspoken understanding. It
was also one he knew if were to ever to be discussed openly would surely break
him.

Dormé shook her head to his expression of guilt. ‘If anyone’s to blame, it’s the
both of us. Gods know there are times when I’m with you that I wouldn’t be able
to tell the time of day if asked, let alone think about preventative measures.’ She
offered a small, knowing smile.

Anakin studied Dormé in silence feeling his cheeks warm slightly at her
admittance which in reality mirrored his thoughts on the matter. ‘I can’t say I’m
any different. But I just can’t help but feel responsible for not being more aware.
It’s just so easy to lose myself in the moment when you’re near,’ he admitted
softly.

‘I’m so scared to lose you,’ he finally breathed not daring to speak of the little one
he was so certain would be lost as well. ‘Please let me do this, please just let me
find someone for you. That’s all I ask.’

Knowing what she knew: that she wouldn’t want to face losing another child, that
she would rather sacrifice her own life to save the child, she wasn’t about to lie to
Anakin saying he wouldn’t lose her, she wouldn’t make promises she had no
power to keep. ‘I just need you, Anakin,’ she murmured. He hadn’t been there
when Aené left them and it was utter hell for her. ‘I need you more than any
healers or medics or any of them, but if you want to find a healer, I’m not going
to discourage it.’

Anakin felt his heart clench as he bit his lip struggling against his emotions once
more. Though it meant a lot to hear those words Anakin couldn’t help but feel
that his presence just wasn’t enough. That in the end he would be the one forced
to stand helplessly by Dormé’s side while she endured the nightmare of losing
another child again. ‘I want to everything I can for you and for our baby. But I
would feel so much better if I knew that someone who is more familiar with these
things is looking out for your and the baby,’ he said gently as Dormé leaned her
head against his shoulder. Instinctively his fingers began to twirl through her hair
as her words made his heart ache. He too was so scared for the child but was
also equally scared for Dormé.

She pulled him closer as well and leant her head on his shoulder. ‘And I promise I
will do whatever I can to—I do want this baby... I’m just so scared for it...’

‘We will do everything we can to ensure nothing happens to our child and I will do
everything I can to ensure nothing happens to you,’ he whispered in a voice thick
with emotion.

It pained Dormé that Anakin felt he was inadequate in any way. He didn’t have to
tell her, for it was all too clear in his expression. She meant it when she said she
only needed him. Even just knowing he was near would be enough to lift her
spirits and assure her that everything would be all right, that they would make it
through this. But she wasn’t about to prevent him from being proactive, even if it
meant when the time came that he wouldn’t be there. She knew it would hurt
him too much to be there and be helpless. She wouldn’t force him to bear witness
to it. ‘I understand,’ she replied softly, gazing up at him from where her head
rested on his shoulder. If only she knew just how much Anakin needed her in
return.

Her simple statement said all that needed to be said and Anakin was so relieved
to know that Dormé understood his need to do all he could to ensure the safety of
his beloved and their child. It meant everything to know that despite his failings,
his flaws and the fact he wasn’t everything that the Jedi or the Sith had hoped he
would become, he was enough for her.

She reached up to touch his cheek again, stroking it with her thumb. She had
missed him so much and hoped he wouldn’t soon be parting once more at least
not until he had rested up and had a few proper meals in. But she also knew just
how futile it would be to try to keep him here with her for long. Part of her just
wanted to go with him to find more healers, but knew this was another unspoken
impossibility.

Without a word, he pulled her in closer, wanting her to know all he couldn’t bring
himself to say in that moment as his emotions were running too high. Anakin felt
her concern and wanted nothing more than to ease it. ‘I will do everything in my
power to ensure that my search doesn’t take me away from you or our baby for
long,’ he said in soft and sincere tones as he drew back a strand of her hair
behind her ear.

‘Good,’ she replied. Studying him closely, she could tell there was something else,
though she wasn’t exactly sure what it was. It wasn’t only that she felt he
wouldn’t be around, it’s that she felt he didn’t want to be around, in case there
was another miscarriage. Dormé felt as though he would rather not be home
when it happened again, so that it would be easier for him, that this search was
just an excuse. Deep down, she knew it wasn’t true, but she had a hard time
convincing herself that it wasn’t. She wasn’t aware just how keenly he felt things
she went through, that because of their Force bond, he had experienced the
miscarriages as if they were his own. Because of this, she had no idea just how
prominently it affected him, even when he wasn’t home.

Holding her close Anakin tried to keep his thoughts from slipping into despair,
from falling prey to the hopelessness that seemed ever looming at the back of his
mind. This time he would not fail, this time their baby would make it, it just had
too. Even as he tried to convince himself that this time they would finally have a
child, Anakin couldn’t deny the feeling that everything was now hanging on a
thread. That one wrong mistake, one wrong move could cost him everything he
had ever loved and ever wanted. Without Dormé, he was nothing, and never did
he feel the weight of that fact as he did in that moment. It was these thoughts
that confirmed his need to find a healer, to locate someone that would
understand why this was happening and ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

‘When are you leaving?’ she asked.

‘I want to begin the search right away but I’m going to try and do as much as I
can at home before departing,’ he admitted uncertain how long he’d be able to
stay at home or how long he’d be gone for.

After the time spent in Aené’s memorial, Dormé had felt something she hadn’t
since she discovered she was pregnant again: hope. With Anakin’s return, for
some reason, that hope seemed to dissipate with each passing moment. Dormé
didn’t understand why this was, for Anakin had always been her strength and
security. As much as Dormé understood Anakin’s desire to find help, even his
desire not to be there should another miscarriage occur, she couldn’t fathom why
part of her thought it was for the best. If she lost another baby, would it sever
them so severely that—no, she wouldn’t consider that. She had an empire to run
while he was away. Their people needed her to be strong in the face of tragedy.

While eager to find someone to assist Dormé as their child grew and developed,
there was a part of Anakin, which longed to remain by her side. He feared that
something would happen in his absence that once more, their baby wouldn’t
make it and that neither would his beloved. However, such thoughts weren’t
encouraging and in the face of this opportunity—as hopeless as it might appear—
Anakin didn’t want to dwell on anything but the positive. He knew he had to if not
for her sake than for the sake of their child for the strange and unknown struggle
that awaited it. He would not fail her this time, not again.

Just as Dormé’s thoughts turned to their empire, the buzzer on their private
quarters sounded loudly. How dare someone interrupt! How dare they tread their
private wing!

Anakin uttered a soft curse of frustration.

Dormé slid from Anakin’s embrace, saying, ‘I’ll take care of this,’ in a deadly tone.
She grabbed her wakizashi on her way to the main chamber to answer the door.

At her deadly statement, the emperor couldn’t resist a smirk as he watched her
grab her blade and depart to the door with all the pomp and stance of a dark
goddess.
She didn’t wait to hear the message, but slaughtered the messenger. The officer
accompanying him, didn’t dare to speak as Dormé said, ‘You will tell everyone in
our empire that today is an official day of remembrance for Princess Aené. It is a
day of rest and reflection. There will be no more interruptions today. My husband
is home. Is that understood?’

The officer nervously nodded in response.

‘Good. Now, have a droid tend to this mess and leave us.’

The officer nodded, bowed, and scurried off to do her bidding.

He didn’t need to ask what she had in mind as it was clear enough and as he felt
the man’s spirit return to the Force, his smirk turned to a dark smile that
reflected the brief peace felt. It was satisfying to feel another’s pain, to hear their
cries through the Force and to know that even for a moment his own sorrow had
been silenced because of it. While he didn’t hear the entire conversation between
his wife and the officer—for his thoughts were elsewhere—Anakin caught the tail
end and felt another rush of satisfaction though it was bittersweet. The memory
of Aené was even now, three years later, a painful one for him and just thinking
about their little princess made his heart ache once more.

Dormé returned her sword to its resting place without bothering to wipe it clean
of the messenger’s blood and embraced Anakin, sighing. ‘I—I think I saw Aené
today at her memorial...at least I think I did, but it could have been a daydream,
but I just...I think she’s all right. I think she’s happy and isn’t angry with me,
with us.’

The Sith Lord’s thoughts shifted back to the memory of their daughter and,
pulling her closer, he listened to Dormé intently. His eyes shone with unshed
tears as for the first time since the princess’s passing he felt a hint of peace. ‘I
have no doubt in my mind that it was her. I’ve heard many legends, stories from
my younger days about loved one’s returning from the Force to comfort those
who remained here,’ Anakin said softly as his hand slipped to her cheek. The
thought that their daughter had returned to comfort Dormé was a wondrous one
indeed and while he wished he could have been witness Anakin was so thankful
that Dormé was able to see Aené. That their daughter was able to return to let
her ama know she was okay, that she loved them and that she was happy where
she was now.

‘I wish you could have been there to see her,’ Dormé said as he touched her
cheek.

Anakin fell silent at Dormé’s words as inwardly he recalled the sight of their
daughter but under very different circumstances. He didn’t want to speak of them
however as this was a sacred moment, one he would much rather Dormé look
back on fondly over the recollection of his own experiences.

‘She was—she’s so beautiful...’ Dormé went on to describe how she looked,
though it was only a split-second it would forever remain etched in her memory.
She was unaware that Anakin had already seen her, only under other
circumstances far grimmer.

Hearing Dormé speak of their daughter only confirmed his belief that this was
more than just a vision or a trick of her mind. The little girl she spoke of looked
exactly as he remembered and upon hearing of the brief interaction that occurred
between ama and daughter the Sith Lord couldn’t help but feel touched by it.
Despite the fact he wasn’t there to witness it first hand he knew how much it
meant to Dormé and that was enough for him. ‘I’m so glad you were able to see
her. To know our little girl is okay and happy,’ he whispered feeling his emotions
getting the better of him as a sad smile crept into his features. ‘She returned
because she loves you, Dormé, and didn’t want to see you in pain,’ he concluded
gently.

Dormé was relieved to hear that it was real, that it had not been a dream, that
Anakin believed Aené had really visited her. His concluding words hardly
prevented tears from coming to her eyes.

‘I love you, Anakin,’ she said before kissing him, hoping to ease his pain, assure
him that Aené and she were both all right and that she had come to terms with
what happened. It would not reflect whatever would happen with this pregnancy.
Aené had returned hope to her and she wished it for Anakin as well, despite his
need to leave her side, which deep down she knew was not going to be forever.

Holding her close the emperor closed his eyes as her words moved him deeply for
Dormé wasn’t one who easily expressed her feelings. Touching her cheek, he
opened his eyes once more to gaze into hers ‘I love you so much, Dormé’ he
whispered in reply before returning her kiss. Finding assurance in both her kiss
and all that could not be said. Though their daughter could not physically be with
them, the fact she had returned to his wife, to express her love was a sign that
Anakin could not ignore. Finding hope for the first time in what felt like an
eternity Anakin tightened his embrace as he gave a contented sigh. Maybe, just
maybe this time their deepest wish and prayer would finally be answered.


In silence, Anakin studied the old woman waiting with much impatience to hear
her decision. If she seemed bothered by his obvious annoyance, it didn’t show as
the petite form continued to place slender sticks into the small fire place in front
of her. Had it not been for the fact his head advisor Kei Breemu had suggested he
visit the healer Anakin would have long since departed. But Kei was adamant
about the matter saying that the former high priestess had practically raised his
wife from when she was a baby.

‘You’ll never find another more trustworthy or skilled in her arts Anakin. Believe
me; Edeja is as cautious as you are when it comes to this sort of matter.’

Anakin frowned at the memory of Kei’s words. He couldn’t help but find it odd
that Edeja herself couldn’t be bothered to tell him this information in person.
Although when he challenged Kei about this fact the tactician just gave an
apologetic look and admitted Dormé’s treatment of the messenger she had sent
to reach the empress had unnerved her. Anakin had no real memory of what Kei
was referring to he soon learnt that it had occurred about four months ago.
Hardly finding this to be an excuse Anakin demanded that in the future if she had
something to tell him or Dormé she was to do it in person. Kei promised he would
relay the message. It had yet to occur to Anakin that the last time he had seen
Kei’s wife was just before Edeja learnt she was pregnant with their son. This was
almost a year ago.

But after spending four months of constantly seeking out healers of every faith,
culture and world, Anakin was beginning to run out of hope. Though he knew Kei
meant well and had no reason to lie to him, Anakin couldn’t help but feel sceptical.
Never in his life had he encountered so many charlatans—all claiming to be
masters in their field. Naturally, he slaughtered them all so as to ensure they
wouldn’t further mock the people of their empire with lies.

‘Why have you come here?’ the woman stated in soft tones, breaking the silence
as she studied him with piercing emerald eyes.

The Sith Lord forced his thoughts clear as he kept his attentions on the fire in
front of him. This woman he knew was Force sensitive and a fairly powerful one
at that. However, she was obviously untrained, though it was no small wonder
how she managed to evade training with the Order.

‘I should think the reason is obvious,’ Anakin replied after a moment’s pause. He
was hardly in the mood to play such games but with his options rapidly running
out Vader felt he really had no choice but to play along. At least this one
appeared to be a real healer.

‘No, I am not referring to your request,’ she began before pausing for breath. ‘I’m
asking you to tell me why you have personally come here,’ the healer clarified as
she poked at the small fire in front of her and Anakin.

The emperor gave a frustrated sigh as he glared at her. ‘What does it matter? So
what if I’m here in person or not, I need you to return to Coruscant with me to
act as the empress’s midwife,’ he growled.

While normally most would have cowered under such a reaction, the old woman
just shook her head slightly in reply and remained silent. The fire continued to
crackle and snap, while the flames cast shadows all over the small but cosy work
shed.

Though he knew little of such things, Anakin could tell just by looking around this
small building that the old woman enjoyed crafting jewellery. Vader could also tell
that there was a blacksmith who resided here—most likely the old man he saw
shovelling snow upon his arrival.

‘You seek answers to questions you are too afraid to ask,’ she said before pausing
to catch her breath.

Had the emperor been less self-absorbed, he might have been curious as to why
the old woman struggled to breathe, or why she walked with a limp. But Anakin
wasn’t renowned for his observance and so it was promptly missed. However, the
meaning behind her words was not and his expression grew almost desperate
upon hearing them. ‘What do you know? Tell me now,’ Anakin stated a little too
quickly to deny his concern and fear over the entire matter.

The old woman just bowed her head in reply leaving the Sith Lord feeling both
frustrated and impatient.

‘You will tell me now or I will kill you for your insolence!’ he shouted now as he
drew his lightsaber.

The woman’s head suddenly snapped up catching his attention immediately as
her eyes held his gaze demanding his full attention. ‘Only your absence will
assure that your heart’s desire is granted.’
Anakin’s eyes flickered with confusion at this statement as he furrowed his brow.
‘What? What is that supposed to mean?’ he demanded feeling a rush of fear that
only his subconscious could understand.

Her eyes were now glazed and distant marking that she was in a trance of sorts.
‘The dark mistress never gives; she only takes…always takes. Your hands, so
covered in blood, tainted by the darkness you wield, chokes out all the life that
you touch. Only death awaits you should you return now. Only death awaits
mother and child,’ the old woman stated with frightening clarity as Anakin stared
at her in horrified disbelief.

The terrifying revelation left his mind reeling as all coherent thought was lost in
that moment. Though Vader was not one who easily grasped metaphors or
riddles, this message was just too painfully clear to ignore. Panic gripped his
heart as did despair and confusion. If what she had said was indeed true, it would
mean Aené and the others were dead because—

Immediately, the Sith Lord drew upon the dark side forcing with such speed that
it left him feeling light-headed from the powerful rush it brought on. With
Anakin’s fears and pain now numbed by the darkness and his doubts buried
beneath the lies, he told himself Anakin promptly succumbed to his rage.

‘SHUT UP!’ he screamed, grabbing the woman by her long, red hair, causing her
to cry out in pain.

Speaking swiftly in her language she began to cry out to the goddess she served
to protect her.

Anakin was swifter and with unnatural speed slammed her face full-force against
the stone fireplace. ‘SHUT UP!’

The woman’s screams still echoed in his ears along with the sound of bone being
crushed but it didn’t stop him.

‘SHUT UP!’

The woman fell silent and soon went limp. Her face was a bloodied mess, but still,
he continued to vent his rage. ‘SHUT UP!’

Her features were no longer recognisable now as blood and matter decorated the
once elegant and beautifully crafted fireplace. The fire continued to flicker and
dance with life adding to the surrealism of the moment.

Anakin was too lost in his rage and in the dark side to even register that the
woman was long dead now. He was so tired of the lies, so tired of the games and
of the incompetence of those he so desperately sought help from. Even this was
bearable by comparison to the horrible suggestion that this witch had made. How
dare she speak such blasphemy! Did she not know that he had only a short time
ago lost his little princess Aené? Did he not tell her that his beloved had already
lost three children? That should this baby die, his beloved would die too? Did she
not know what that would mean for him? That without Dormé he too was as good
as dead?

It was these thoughts that poured through his enraged mind as he continued to
beat the lifeless corpse against the fireplace while demanding silence. But despite
his continued violence Anakin could still hear the sound of weeping and it made
him even more furious. Screaming louder for the old woman to shut up, Anakin
became so consumed by the dark side he could no longer register his actions or
the tears of rage that spilled down his bloodied cheeks.

‘Stop it, Daddy!’

It was only at the sound of a little girl’s panicked and terrified voice begging
Anakin to stop was he able to regain some semblance of control. Whirling around
the Sith Lord immediately dropped what was left of the old woman’s corpse. It
was only then that he realised the weeping he had heard before was that of a
child, not the old woman.

‘Please stop it!’

‘Aené?’ he whispered in horror and shame as his sickly yellow eyes—now fading
back to blue—fell to the phantom image of their daughter.

Staring up at him in silence, the young princess said not a word. It wasn’t
necessary as her terrified and sorrowful expression spoke volumes.

Speechless, Anakin opened his mouth to try and apologise, to beg forgiveness,
but it was too late. The blonde-haired, freckled princess was swift to step back
just as he was about to step forward before disappearing out of sight.

Shaken by his experience, Anakin leant heavily against the wall as he struggled
to keep from openly weeping. Sensing the old man still nearby, the Sith Lord
decided it was time to leave. Not bothering to hide the evidence of his actions, he
promptly departed for his ship, not caring about the old man’s reaction, but not
wanting to be around for it either. While it would have been only too easy to kill
him, Vader was far too shaken by the visit of their daughter to contemplate such
thoughts. Right now, he wanted nothing more than to return to the only place he
truly ever longed to be: Dormé’s arms.

Upon returning to his ship, the Sith Lord was finally able to regain some
semblance of control over his emotions. Though he loathed returning home
empty-handed, Vader decided it was time to call his hunt off, at least for now. It
was proving to be a fruitless cause and after the incident involving the hermit
healer, he was more than ready to take a much needed break. As hard as it was,
Anakin finally managed to bury the memory of Aené’s image into the back of his
mind, just as he forced himself to ignore the echoing recollection of her weeping
and desperate pleas for him to stop. To dwell on it would only lead to despair and
he wasn’t about to return home to his beloved in such a state of mind.

After cleaning up, the emperor was about to make contact with his empress when
he discovered a few messages waiting for him that were marked Urgent. Given
the channel they came from, Anakin knew it meant only one thing and though he
was guarded, the possibility of finding a real healer who could help them was too
much to resist. It was because of this that he accepted the messages and made
the final arrangements to ensure the healers in question would arrive to the
palace upon his return. Once this was completed and everything was set in
motion, Anakin cleared his thoughts of the haunting experiences of earlier before
preparing to contact the empress herself. Though he was excited to return home,
he was even more impatient about making contact with Dormé, as he desperately
missed her and wanted to let her know of his return.
For four whole months, Anakin had been home for maybe a few days total, less
than a standard week. Dormé tried her best not to let this bother her and kept
busy with running the empire and staving off (or satisfying) her odd food cravings.
Lately, Dormé was kept up at night with their son kicking her in her abdomen.
Sometimes the kicks were rather painful right up against her ribs, but she was
hardly bothered by it. This only increased her hope that this time, this baby
would make it. After all, he had already made it through to the eighth month.

Today, she received a transmission on one the secured line which only Anakin
and she used. He was coming home. ‘It’s about time!’ she said, only partially
joking, partially pretending to be fierce, for she had missed him and she thought
their son did too.

The sight of her brought an immediate smile to his features and Anakin felt
almost at peace for the first time in what felt like an eternity. Her teasing caused
his smile to widen though it didn’t hide the silent sorrow in his eyes that marked
his agreement. ‘It has been far too long,’ he admitted truthfully as his fingers
danced along the shimmering outline of her cheek. ‘The search is over, Dormé,’
he continued, ‘I have a few healers who will be arriving shortly after my arrival
that I hope will suit our needs.’

‘We have to think of names, you know, for our son. I’m most certainly not doing
that alone.’

Anakin’s expression softened as he felt his heart swell. However, it wasn’t without
its cost as he immediately recalled the old healer’s final words to him. Promptly,
he glanced away, swallowing hard as he buried the memory before returning his
attentions to Dormé once more. ‘I’m already looking forward to it,’ Vader said in
sincere tones as he studied her intently. ‘I will see you and our son soon,’ he
concluded gently.

‘I eagerly await your return, my love,’ Dormé concluded, ending the transmission
before tears surfaced. It was such a relief to hear that he would be home for good
and that he had succeeded in the mission which had taken him away from her for
far too long. She hoped the separation hadn’t also created a space between them.

Anakin gave a loving smile at her words as his fingers continued to outline her
cheek through the transmission. ‘I will be as quick as possible,’ he promised with
fierce sincerity.

It was with the joyous news in mind that Dormé hurriedly began preparing a
huge celebration feast for him. She invited all of their closest allies and friends,
like the Breemus and Saché and Captain Typho. There was so much to celebrate
and her heart was full with expectation and hope. Rubbing her still growing
middle, she murmured happily, ‘Daddy’s coming home,’ smiling softly.

Once the transmission was over, the Sith Lord found his thoughts falling back
onto the healer’s words and the image of Aené. Struggling with his emotions
Anakin drew in a shaky breath as he prepared for departure. Now is not the time
to dwell this, he reminded himself fiercely as he quickly blinked away tears before
taking to the skies.


Soon enough, the healers Anakin spoke of had arrived and Dormé had a
lieutenant greet them with a simple entourage of troopers. Instead of the medical
bay, she had them attend and examine her in one of their private chambers. It
was a simple bedroom, but she thought it would be more fitting. Each one took
their turn and came to the same conclusion: she had not gained enough weight
yet, but she and the baby were both healthy. Dormé was very pleased by this
and was excited about seeing Anakin again to tell him in person.

After her examinations, she went to change and took her time finding the perfect
gown for the celebration. She ended up choosing a simple yet elegant scarlet
gown that folded gently over her curves. Once she fastened her golden wedding
band around her arm, she was ready to welcome the guests.

Not long after the majority of the guests arrived, Anakin was landing and she
rushed to the platform to greet him. It wouldn’t hurt if they were both a bit late,
fashionably so, to the celebration... She hardly paid the security team mind as
she was on a mission of her own to greet her wayward husband. ‘Anakin!’ she
cheered, racing over to him.

The journey home was a swift one although not nearly as swift as Vader would
have liked. Upon his arrival, he was promptly greeted by his security who
informed him that the healers were already looking at his wife. However, Anakin
hardly paid this any mind as his thoughts are elsewhere as he was far more
concerned about seeing his wife once more. Anakin could sense Dormé’s presence
even before he laid eyes on her just as he could sense their son. His heart
swelled at the sensation and for the moment the words of warning were entirely
forgotten as was the haunting image of Aené. It wasn’t long before he saw his
beautiful queen and promptly rushed forward to swoop Dormé—albeit carefully—
into his arms before pulling her in for a passionate kiss. How he had missed
holding her close, the feel of her lips against his own, the sweet scent of water
flowers that lingered about her. He was truly home now and the Sith Lord
couldn’t have been happier.

‘Oh Dormé, how I’ve missed you!’ he whispered feeling as though it was only now
in her arms that he was truly able to breathe again.

Dormé kissed him back in such a way as to reveal to him how much she had
desperately missed him. ‘Anakin,’ she said after they parted, stroking his cheek.

Anakin studied her intently as their kiss concluded before leaning in to meet
Dormé’s lips once more. He was elated to see how healthy she looked and to feel
the small life growing within her. Everything was as it should be and it almost
made him light-headed with joy.

It wasn’t until their son began kicking her that she gasped and had to cease
kissing him. ‘Looks like someone else missed you too,’ she said, grinning wildly.

Anakin was about to reach out to touch their son’s Force signature -by means of
greeting- when Dormé gasped and end their kiss abruptly. Distracted by her
words, the Sith Lord beamed in reply as he gave her a gentle squeeze. ‘I’m so
glad to see your both are health and safe,’ he breathed as his hand slipped to her
small but swollen belly. ‘I’ve missed you so much my little one,’ he said in gentle
tones to the growing baby.

‘She then informed him what the healers told her about their conditions.
The news was good to say the least and this added to Anakin’s good spirits.
‘That’s so wonderful!’ he said with a grin as he touched her cheek before she took
his hand and led him inside.

‘But that’s not all we have to celebrate,’ Dormé said, taking his hand and leading
him inside. ‘I had a little surprise planned for your return...’

‘Oh? Dare I ask?’ he teased with a wink.

‘That part of the surprise will be later,’ Dormé said giving him a wink of her own.
‘Actually, I’ve got a celebration feast—a large gathering of allies awaiting you in
the great hall.’

Anakin’s expression grew mischievous as she gave him a wink and promptly he
pulled her in for a quick kiss. As she further explained that she had planned a
celebration feast for them and their allies, Anakin grinned rather liking the idea.
Although in truth he was far fonder of the after surprise, which he hoped would
involve Dormé’s gown being long forgotten on the floor.

She blushed slightly. ‘I hope you’re not too tired from your journey...’ she said,
still pulling him along eagerly towards the hall.

For now, Anakin was just as content to enjoy Dormé in all of her splendour and
he did little to hide this as he followed her towards the hall. At her words he just
shook his head as he gave her an admiring smile. ‘Not anymore,’ he remarked
with an impish look.

Dormé beamed at him as they entered the hall. Resounding cheers and applause
echoed in the grand hall upon the imperial couples’ appearance.

From the minute she entered the vast hall, everyone’s eyes were on empress, the
least of them being the emperor himself. Magnificent didn’t even begin to
describe the beauty of his Empress. Radiant and ethereal came to mind, but
didn’t come close to embodying his thoughts pertaining to her. Though Empress
Dormé Vader was just about eight months along, she barely showed. Unless one
was aware of her pregnancy and knew just what to look for, the folds of her gown
virtually hid all evidence. But Emperor Anakin knew and was more than bursting
with pride at the very subtle hint of a bulge which the folds revealed as she
moved.

Dormé raised a hand in acceptance and appreciation of their applause. She
scanned their adoring friends and wondered where the Breemus were. She
thought she had seen Kei, but thought perhaps she might have been mistaken.

The gathering was grand and the celebrations worthy of the beauty who now
stood by his side. Dormé outshone even the most extravagant of the partygoers
and it took all of Anakin’s willpower and control not to have his way with his wife
right there and then, but politics demanded a certain level of restraint and so, out
of duty, he refrained. This didn’t, however, stop him from caressing her form with
his eyes. What he would give to send everyone home or depart early with his
queen!

Soon they were seated at the high table, enjoying the feast and more importantly
each other’s company. Dormé was all smiles, eager to end this celebration to
begin the private one.
Elsewhere, Edeja stared out of one of the many vast windows that decorated their
small but elegant home. With arms wrapped around her small frame remained
frozen in silence as though she were but a finely crafted statue. Though she didn’t
weep, her sorrow was clearly evident in her features. How could such a simple
gesture of friendship gone so incredibly wrong? She closed her eyes and gave a
shaky exhale as she felt her husband’s silent arms slip around her waist. He
didn’t need to say a word for his actions spoke volumes and right now, this was
all she really needed and desired.

Why? What had she done to deserve this? What reason did he have to do this to
her? her thoughts cried out to the goddess only to receive silence in answer. The
news of the former high priestess’s death had only reached a short time ago and
Edeja was still in shock over it. The old hermit had always led a peaceful life even
when she served in the temples she was always loved by the people. Everyone
referred to her as though she was their grandma or mother and Edeja knew her
death would not be taken well by the remnants of their people.

Though she mourned the death of her mentor, she also mourned the loss of life
that was certain to follow once word of the old priestess’s murder reached the
public. It would only be a matter of time before the truth was revealed and she
knew that it would be this truth that would cause the streets to run red with the
blood of the innocent. If only she could make Kei understand, if only she could
make him listen. But this was not the moment for such discussion and so she
remained silent and instead chose to find what solace she could in his arms.

Tomorrow was another day and it would be tomorrow that she would confront
him and plead once more for him to end their alliance with the Empire. She could
only pray to the goddess that this time he would listen but she had a sinking
feeling it would take more than that.


As glorious as the reception was and as delicious as the feast was, nothing
compared to just how happy Dormé was to have Anakin home for good. However,
there was the small matter of her Force sensitive baby who didn’t welcome
Daddy’s return so well.

Despite the fact Anakin was more eager to begin the private celebrations with his
wife, he couldn’t deny the fact the evening was a wonderful success. As the night
wore on, Anakin could sense something was wrong with Dormé and though she
spoke not a word of it, the Sith Lord’s old fears began to return with a vengeance.
Recalling the fact she had seen a few of the healers earlier in the day, Vader
began to grow paranoid. He wished he could have been there so as to monitor
their actions, to at least sense through the Force if they were being honest.
Nevertheless, he kept his thoughts to himself as the memory of the old healer’s
words returned to haunt him as well.

Dormé ignored the kicks, feeling it was nothing unusual and hardly anything to
worry about. And when the kicks became softer and then stopped, she thought it
was only that their son was sleeping. But then the sour feeling in her stomach
increased to the point that even water no longer tasted good. As their guests
filtered out of the hall and she was bidding farewell alongside her husband,
Dormé’s head began to spin and she could no longer keep her balance. She
gripped onto Anakin’s arm, steadying herself momentarily before sliding to the
floor.
Instincts immediately took over and time suddenly seemed to move to a crawl.
Anakin swiftly placed his hand around her waist as he turned to catch her eyes
rolling to the back of her head while the rest of her body went limp. Sheer panic
flooded his thoughts as he caught her petite form before it completely slid to the
floor. ‘...No...Not again. This isn’t happening...’ he whimpered in barely audible
tones as he swiftly scooped her up into his arms. Everyone around began to
swarm closer to learn what had happened, but promptly drew back as Anakin
glared at them using the Force to silently order them away.

Struggling to maintain control of his emotions, the Sith Lord ordered members of
security to contact the medics. The med droid who had been stationed at the
banquet as a precautionary measure promptly approached and began to monitor
Dormé’s condition. The results were inconclusive in regards to the cause but it
was apparent that both the baby and the mother were both fading and quickly.

‘Your hands, so covered in blood, tainted by the darkness you wield, chokes out
all the life that you touch. Only death awaits you should you return now. Only
death awaits mother and child.’

The old woman’s words returned with a vengeance and from it came another rush
of panicked rage. It was the healer’s doing. The horrid witch and her allies did
this to them! Anakin closed his eyes as he struggled to steady his breathing to
control his raging thoughts while the med droid continued to monitor Dormé and
their baby.

‘Blood pressure dropping 15...heart-rate up 12...’ the med droid droned on
informing the rest of the medical staff that arrived to tend to the unconscious
form that still remained in Anakin’s arms.

‘Your grace, if I may—’ a polite voice stated causing Anakin’s eyes to snap open.

Registering that it was a physician, he said nothing, but silently assisted in
placing the now ashen form of Dormé onto a repulsorlift bed. Frozen in position,
Anakin could only watch as his worst nightmare began to unfold before his very
eyes. For a moment, he couldn’t move and in silence watched frozen in position
as the medical staff disappeared out of the great hall. It was only when he was
alone that Vader was able to register his surroundings once more.

Consumed by rage, despair, and sorrow he did the only thing he knew how to do
best. Anakin called upon the darkness using it to numb his sorrow once more
while focussing on his rage. It was the healers’ fault, of that he was certain.
Though nagging doubts lingered in his thoughts it was just easy to point fingers
at everyone else, far less painful too. It was with this in mind that the emperor
drew his lightsaber and promptly departed for the guest wings where he knew the
healers would be residing. He would make them pay and would ensure they
suffered slow and painful deaths. It was their fault after all that his wife and
child’s life once more was in peril. Their fault that they had come so close to
fulfilling their dream of having a child only to have it all fall apart once more.

Yet despite his wish to make their death’s long and painful, Anakin was swift in
his slaughter. Even though the dark side coursed through his veins, leaving him
drunk with bloodlust, Anakin couldn’t ignore the fear that he might encounter
their little princess again. The thought of Aené watching him, with her amber
eyes so filled with sorrow and terror, was too much to bear. As such, his plans of
torture were long forgotten as he chose to behead them one-by-one instead.
As the last body fell the ground, with her head only a short distance away, the
Sith Lord felt his thoughts returning to him once more. This time there, was no
phantom image of Aené, no childlike weeping or voices begging him to stop, and
Anakin couldn’t have been more relieved. But this moment was short-lived as
soon his thoughts returned to Dormé and their son and with it came another rush
of fear and sorrow.

Racing down the hallways, the emperor moved as swiftly as he could towards the
medlabs. Though it wasn’t far from the royal wing, it felt like it was light-years
away for the frantic Vader, whose thoughts were racing with panic. Though he
could still sense Dormé’s Force signature as well as their son’s, it was weak, far
weaker than he had ever witnessed before.

As he entered the medical lab, an old man, whom Vader recognised as a
specialist, approached him. Not one to mince words, Anakin demanded to know
Dormé’s condition as well as their son’s. He soon learnt the prognosis wasn’t
good, but before he could succumb to his panic or even have a chance to react,
he was being escorted out of the surgery room. Though Dormé’s situation was
critical, it appeared they were on the verge of stabilizing her and the baby until
his arrival.

It was only when he was led to the old doctor’s small office down the hall that
Anakin came to his senses.

The doctor grimly presented the emperor with a datapad that held even more bad
news.

‘What is this?’ Anakin demanded as he stared at the data pad that had been given
to him.

The old doctor furrowed his brow as he gave a soft sigh. ‘It is legalities pertaining
to the complications surrounding your wife and son. I can explain it to you if you
like, but I imagine you probably prefer to read it yourself,’ the doctor said quietly.

The young emperor stared in frustration at the data pad in his hand cursing the
fact the document was written in Basic. Not exactly a skilled reader even in his
native tongue of Huttese, Anakin found much of the document to be
indecipherable to him. ‘I don’t have time for this; just tell me what I need to
know so I can get back to my wife and our son,’ Vader snapped, retuning the
datapad.

‘What you need to know, your grace, is that your wife and son are in critical
condition. While we have been doing all we can to stabilize both mother and child,
we have been running into repeated complications. The worst of these
complications is what you were witness to moments ago.’

Anakin fell silent at the doctor’s words. He glanced away, turning his attentions to
the window as his mind struggled to understand what was happening. Had he not
killed the healer’s responsible? Did he not remove the threat? So why was this
still happening?

‘What exactly are these complications? And what is causing them? And don’t
bother trying to tell me you don’t know because I know damn well that you do!’
he growled. Though his words were directed at the doctor, Anakin’s eyes
remained focused on the window that overlooked the surgery room where Dormé
was held below.

‘Don’t you think if I knew what was wrong I would have tended to it by now?
Listen to me, young man, I’ve been in this line of work for over thirty years and
I’ve never seen anything like this. ‘Whether we like it or not, we are dealing with
a most unusual situation, one that hasn’t been logged or recorded in medical
history—’

Anakin gripped his hand around the doctor’s throat as he slammed him against
the back wall. ‘That is what they say and I killed every single one of them for it.
Now, you either tell me what in the abyss is going on with my wife and our son,
or I will snap your neck as though it were a twig,’ Anakin hissed through gritted
teeth.

Though the man was obviously terrified, his expression remained stoic as he
returned Vader’s poisoned gaze. Clawing at his throat, he struggled to breathe,
let alone speak.

The familiar and haunting sound of a baby’s cry echoed through the Force.

Staggering back from the now confused and concerned doctor, Anakin swallowed
hard as he struggled to clear his thoughts. Closing his eyes, he prayed that when
he opened them, he wouldn’t see the sorrowful eyes of their unborn daughter.

‘Emperor Vader, I do not wish to sound callous, but this is an urgent matter, one
that cannot wait any longer,’ the old man stated in a voice that was far steadier
than most would be in his position.

After a moment’s pause, Anakin opened his eyes and returned his attentions to
the specialist once more. ‘What is it that I am signing exactly?’ he stated in quiet
tones.

‘In the event that only one can be saved, it is often decided amongst the parents
whom it will be. This is the document stating your decision to save either the
mother or the child.’

Long gone was the fierce and frightening Sith Lord of moments ago, leaving in its
wake the broken man who now stared at the specialist with a look that only a
man who has lost everything could truly understand.

‘Mother or child?’ Anakin croaked in pained horror, already knowing the answer
Dormé had given without even looking at the datapad.

The old doctor nodded his expression as grim as Anakin felt in that moment. ‘I’m
sorry, son, but with a pregnancy as complicated as this one, such a possibility is
very real,’ the old man said in understanding tones.

Anakin drew in a shaky breath as he continued to stare out the window struggling
to wrap his mind around the severity of the situation. ‘She chose to save the child,
didn’t she?’ the Sith Lord whispered as he continued to look straight ahead.
Though Anakin should have been grateful that the baby’s weeping of earlier had
been silenced, he couldn’t help but feel that it was another bad sign.

‘Yes, she did.’
How such a simple statement could wound so deeply, Anakin couldn’t say, but for
a moment, he was rendered speechless because of it. He shook his head in reply
as he struggled to find his voice. ‘No. I won’t do it. I won’t let her do it,’ he
whispered through clenched teeth.

‘Why not?’ the old physician challenged.

‘I can’t,’ Anakin said hoarsely in reply as he fought back tears of despair. ‘I can’t
lose her, I won’t lose her.’

‘Lady Dormé has already lost three babies, one of which was stillborn. She is now
on the verge of losing her fourth should you not grant her this last wish.’

‘Do you think I’m not aware of this already?!’ Vader shouted in reply as he
slammed his cybernetic fist against the metal ledge causing it to bend out of
shape.

The old doctor didn’t react to the emperor’s outburst and continued as though
Anakin hadn’t shouted in the first place. ‘How much more do you think she can
take? The empress’s life was hanging by a thread long before all of this came to
pass. I knew that the minute I saw her that she would not survive another
miscarriage.’

‘If you knew she was dying, why didn’t you tell me?!’ Anakin growled, whirling
around to face the old doctor once more.

‘Because she wasn’t dying in the literal sense of the word. She was dying in here,’
the old man snapped back as he poked Anakin in the chest. ‘Surely you could see
it when you looked at her that she is a woman who has seen and been through so
much more than a woman her age—or any age for that matter—should ever
experience in their lifetime. Do you really think by physically saving her, you’ll be
able to save what has died inside of her? Or are you just so lost in your selfish
need to keep her alive for your own sake that it doesn’t matter anymore? If she
loses this baby and survives to speak of it, I can assure you that she will become
nothing more than a shadow of what you once knew and loved.’

Anakin staggered back until he felt the glass pane against him. Closing his eyes,
he tried once more to clear his thoughts to deny the old man’s words, to tell
himself that he had every right to save Dormé, that it was his duty to protect her
from harm. But the more he tried to deny Dormé’s last wish, the clearer it
became that he really had no choice left, but to grant it.

As though sensing Anakin’s thoughts, the old doctor continued to speak quietly.
‘Listen to me, son, I know you are in a difficult position where there are no easy
answers. Believe me, I know how hard this is, but in all honesty, I think you
should you should respect your wife’s decision. If not for anything than for the
fact that she would want you to be supportive of her and of the choice she has
made.’

As much as he didn’t want to hear this, Vader couldn’t deny the truth. With a
shaky breath, Anakin forced himself to clear his thoughts before opening his eyes
and quietly asking for the datapad once more.

Once it was in his hand, the Sith Lord let his eyes scroll down the bottom of the
pad where his fingerprint and signature was required. With a shaky hand, and
eye blurred from unshed tears, the emperor proceeded to place his signature and
fingerprint onto the document, marking his silent support of Dormé’s decision.

Upon completion, Vader promptly shoved the datapad and electronic pen into the
old doctor’s hands before swiftly storming out of the small office and then out of
the medlab.

Though he knew that time was swiftly running out, Anakin wouldn’t allow himself
to believe that there was no more hope to be found. As he stormed down the
hallways, another thought occurred to him, forcing him to stop in mid-step. The
Sith Lord knew he had no choice. It was either face his former mentor and
brother once more or be forced to standby and watch as Dormé died in the battle
to save their baby.

Chapter Six

The years following the Vaders’ rise to power and the cleansing of the Jedi
Temple had been extremely taxing on Obi-Wan to say the least. Having lost his
brother and former Padawan to the dark side, it was hard for Obi-Wan not to fall
prey to depression. The silent gesture of giving him the Padawan braid without
explanation was incredibly hard on him to say the least. It was something he
would not forget. He blamed himself for having failed Anakin in some way. It was
as though he hadn’t been the mentor he should have been...as though he hadn’t
lived up to their father’s expectations of him. He hadn’t guided him as well as
their father could have...to be the example Anakin needed. He had failed their
father as well, for it had been his wish for Obi-Wan to train him, but yet, Obi-Wan
also knew there were so many expectations placed on the boy since his birth,
some of them quite outrageous. Chosen One by their father, the next Coruscanti
Emperor by his mother stepfather...was it any wonder the boy rebelled?

Anakin chose to marry against his parents wishes and chose to the dark side.
Despite this, it was still hard for Obi-Wan not to blame himself for Anakin’s
choices.

Even when asked by Master Yoda, Obi-Wan refused to fight and kill his brother.
Many others had tried in his place and failed. He knew Anakin wouldn’t challenge
him, so Obi-Wan resigned to living in the protection of the Organas on Alderaan,
helping the fledgling Alliance when they needed him.

The Alliance was now based on Dantooine, providing hope to the remnant Jedi,
but none was so reassuring to Obi-Wan as his long-time friendship with Sabé
Nabish. He risked rescuing her from being taken to her exile after her mistress’s
highly publicized execution. Despite the burns on her neck from his brother’s
lightsaber, her words brought hope to him, just as her presence and kind-hearted
understanding brought him a peace he had not felt in many years. It was through
her that he found out of Lady Vader’s protection of the Jedi younglings. The older
children who had not been placed in Nabooan homes were taken by him
personally to Dagobagh to train with Master Yoda.

Obi-Wan didn’t trust himself to take on a Padawan yet after his failings with
Anakin. He still needed time to cope with it and helping the Alliance was one of
his ways of coping, in order to undo some of the damage he had done. For the
most part, Obi-Wan worked alongside Sabé, whom he now had the honour of
calling his wife.
Though not many Jedi survived the cleansing, Master Windu relayed that instead
of arriving at the Jedi enclave, which Vader ended up destroying, he had found
Jedi Arxia on a wayward planet. She had lost her Padawan in the attack on the
Temple. As the Jedi Order disbanded, the Grand Master gave them final parting
orders to continue their lives as Jedi, train and protect the Force sensitives the
Force blessed them to cross paths with, and continue underground knowledge of
the Force and the ways of the Jedi. It was through this that Obi-Wan came to
broach the subject of marriage with his dearest friend and former principle
handmaiden. It was not long afterwards that Master Wundu revealed the comfort
and support found in Jedi Arxia, whom he had refused to train many years ago
because of his feelings for her. Now, with the loss of so many Jedi and the
collapse of the order, the children of the Jedi would become an essential part in
preserving their culture and spreading reverence of the Force.

The landing gears hissed as Obi-Wan de-boarded the Alliance craft borrowed for
this trip to Naboo. He had been making frequent trips to the imperial planet in
order to check up, from a distance, the Jedi younglings placed in homes by Saché
Maberrie.

Though Obi-Wan was always questioned by the ever-increasing security, he never
had any trouble sneaking in unnoticed, ever thankful for the ability to perform
Jedi Mind Tricks and the weak-mindedness of the clones.

When he heard the news about Anakin’s wife and child, as hard as it would be,
Obi-Wan would not let him down. Yet, he wanted Sabé to go with him to
Coruscant, dangerous though it would be. He requested this not for support, but
rather for her patience and ability to deal with Anakin, whom he expected to be a
handful.

He then departed swiftly from Naboo to Dantooine to pick up Sabé before heading
to Coruscant. This was hardly the type of reunion Obi-Wan had in mind, let alone
preferred, but Sabé reminded him that Anakin reaching out to him like this was a
good sign.

Greeted by a slew of imperial officers, Obi-Wan was ushered into the palace and
directed to the medical facility in which Lady Vader was being tended to.


Anakin waited with much impatience and even more dread for the arrival of his
brother. In silence, he watched and listened in on Dormé and their son’s
prognosis. His heart sank further as he learnt it was progressively deteriorating.
When the matter of the legalities was once more brought up, the young emperor
threw a fit of rage and came close to murdering the old doctor right on the spot,
but once more, fate intervened for the old man as Anakin suddenly picked up on
his brother’s approaching Force signature and lost his lust for bloodshed.

Shaken, he departed without warning and ordered his officers to greet the Jedi
Master and escort him to the medical wing. Unfortunately for Saché, the emperor
soon discovered that Obi-Wan wasn’t alone and upon discovering this, he
proceeded to have another royal fit on his head of security. ‘Just when were you
planning to share this piece of information with me?!’ Vader growled at an equally
surprised Saché who had no idea her friend was joining Master Kenobi.

‘I’m sorry, but this is as much news to me as it is to you,’ Saché stammered out
in reply. Inwardly she couldn’t help but fear for Sabé’s safety, despite knowing
she was more than well protected and trained.
‘Why didn’t you have your people stop her from entering? She is not welcome
here or was the fact she was exiled not clear enough for you?!’ Anakin growled in
utter rage to a less-than-amused Saché, who folded her arms and returned his
glare.

‘I was not informed that all others were to be refused. The only instructions were
to escort Master Kenobi to the medlabs upon his arrival. Her ID codes came up
clear as did her travel history. She is also his wife, which means by law, she is to
be treated in the same fashion as he. Unless of course His Majesty would care to
question Master Kenobi about the nature of his relationship to Lady Sabé—’

Vader promptly unleashed the dark side on his head of security via a Force choke.
Studying her closely, Anankin curled a lip in disgust. ‘I’ve about had enough of
your attitude, Maberrie,’ he growled, knowing she hadn’t been lying about not
knowing of Sabé’s presence, but infuriated that she hadn’t sent her away either.

Even before landing the ship, it was difficult to ignore the darkness surrounding
almost everything on Coruscant. The dark feelings of desperation, despair, rage
were almost overwhelming. It would take a well-trained Jedi to be able to look
past them in order to feel anything outside of it, let alone be of any use to the
suffering young mother. Obi-Wan was more disappointed than surprised at the
sight he came upon.

‘Let her go, Anakin,’ Obi-Wan commanded upon his arrival to the area of the
medical facility that his former Padawan and brother-turned-Sith Lord now stood,
choking the security officer. Despite the name Anakin fashioned for himself upon
becoming a Sith, to Obi-Wan he would always be his little brother who was
currently venting his anger instead of being of any use.

Lost in his rage at the lack of control he had over the situation and the despair
that he was going to lose his family anyway, Anakin proceeded to vent it all out
on Saché. The petite woman valiantly struggled but was helpless to the Force
attack unleashed. Had he not been so consumed by his own emotions, Anakin
would have realised Obi-Wan was nearing, but it wasn’t until the Master Jedi
spoke his name that Anakin registered his presence. Immediately, he released his
Force attack on Saché who dropped to her knees and began coughing as he
turned his attentions to his brother.

Speechless, Anakin opened his mouth to speak only to close it again. This was
not at all the sort of reunion he had in mind. For the moment, his rage with
Sabé’s arrival was forgotten as was her presence, which was now by Saché’s side,
trying to ensure she was all right.

Obi-Wan exchanged looks with his wife to be certain that the former handmaiden
was all right before returning his attentions to the Sith Lord he called brother.

Sabé caught Obi-Wan’s glance and gave a small nod, marking her friend was fine
and that she was ready.

Shame flooded Anakin’s thoughts, though he couldn’t say why as it was Saché’s
fault for withholding information and Obi-Wan for having the gall of bringing Sabé
with him. But the thought was a fleeting one as he knew time was running out for
Dormé and their son. ‘...She’s in here,’ he said in barely audible tones before
turning to lead Obi-Wan to where Dormé now rested unaware his presence was
not only unnecessary but detrimental.
He followed Anakin to where Lady Vader lay unconscious. ‘I’m going to ask you to
remain outside of this room, Anakin,’ he said softly though his voice was strong
as he approached the pregnant woman. He rested a hand on her forehead. ‘I
must impress upon you the importance of this request. You know I am only here
to help, but I cannot do that with too much distraction. That is why I asked Sabé
to come with me.’ He looked back at Anakin with an expression to illustrate his
seriousness in this matter before returning his attentions to Lady Vader. He
placed his other hand over her womb and began to clear his thoughts in order to
begin a healing meditation.

Anakin frowned at Obi-Wan’s instructions and was about to argue that it was his
right to remain by his wife and son’s side but the Jedi Master’s expression caused
him to falter. However despite Obi-Wan’s obvious wisdom, Anakin was afraid that
something would happen in his absence and was hesitant to depart. ‘Obi-Wan, I
promise I won’t interfere,’ Anakin pleaded in quiet but desperate tones. ‘I just
want to be near her,’ he admitted quietly.

‘I understand that, Anakin, but it would be best for all involved if you weren’t,’
Obi-Wan insisted, though not harshly. He was having difficulty reaching the
lifesigns he needed in order to figure out what was wrong.

Anakin glared at Obi-Wan in silent challenge when the Jedi Master informed him
that his presence would be better elsewhere. He had yet to understand that his
darkness was in reality causing more damage than good and thus took it personal.

‘The dark side is clouding my vision,’ Obi-Wan said, his eyes closed, trying to
concentrate. ‘I must ask you to leave us.’

Anakin’s expression fell and in place of anger came the strange familiar sense of
guilt and shame. ‘...right...I’ll leave you then,’ he murmured quietly feeling more
wounded now than irritated. Had this been under other circumstances, he would
have smirked at what he believed to be proof that the dark side was stronger.
Now it just left him feeling more afraid for his family than before.

As he turned to depart Anakin promptly found himself in Sabé’s presence as she
had quietly entered the room in order to assist in the Emperor’s departure.
However it wasn’t necessary as Anakin brushed past her quickly without a word
or even a glare.

Obi-Wan was thankful for Sabé’s presence, knowing what a difficult position this
put her in. After seeing Anakin in person committing such atrocious acts on Lady
Maberrie who had done nothing but help the boy, and that he himself had
banished Sabé from the empire, he knew it would not be safe for her to return.
He was glad that she decided to join him though, if only to be able to bring hope
to Anakin who was so lost in the darkness. Perhaps some of Sabé’s wisdom would
be able to reach him, where Obi-Wan had failed. For now, Obi-wan’s sole concern
was Lady Vader and the innocent child she carried.

Sabé didn’t need to be Force sensitive to pick up on his emotions and knew that it
was going to be quite a task to mind him. However, her concerns were more on
Obi-Wan and the empress as well as her child. She prayed to the gods to guide
her husband’s hand and that Empress and baby would be saved. But before her
prayer drew to a close, she also asked for patience as she had a feeling she was
going to need it.
Once Anakin left, it became clear to him that both mother and child held
remnants of the dark side of the Force. It had been draining them both.


Anakin was hardly impressed at having the former handmaiden around watching
him. Sabé was ever silent and distant yet watchful and obviously ready for
anything reminding Anakin of a cross between a phantom and a vornskr. Which in
reality was a good thing as his mood was foul to say the very least. Torn between
despair and frustration at having to standby and depend on his brother of all
people Anakin was a bundle of emotions -all of them negative.

In his mind, he replayed his short but potent conversation with his brother just as
the image of Obi-Wan’s disappointed expression upon catching him strangling
Saché haunted his thoughts. Caught between these memories and the ever
present fear that he was about to lose Dormé and their son Anakin found it
difficult to keep it together nevermind play the role of a proper host.

Saché, having recovered from her ordeal with Anakin, thought ahead and
graciously had the servants prepare a room for the Kenobi’s to rest. She also had
one of the maids bring tea and Apsintho’s to both the Emperor and his unwanted
guest.

Anakin, albeit grudgingly, couldn’t deny the fact he was grateful to have
something to drink to settle his nerves. Downing the first glass swiftly, in
practically a single swallow, the Sith Lord promptly had it refilled and soon
drained the second glass with equal speed. If Sabé’s appalled look of concern
bothered him it certainly didn’t show. Feeling less out of sorts now, Anakin
poured a third glass, not to ease his nerves, but to properly enjoy its potent taste.
It didn’t taste nearly as good as when he was enjoying it with Dormé but it was
definitely better than what Sabé was having. However, the former handmaiden
obviously felt otherwise and softly voiced her concerns, irritating his already
delicate mood all the more.

‘Maybe you should go easy on that,’ she suggested politely.

Anakin shot her a withering look before hissing in reply, ‘Maybe you should mind
your iquicha business!’

Sabé readily returned his glare before giving a soft sigh as she just shook her
head and sipped on her tea in silence.

The rest of the day, evening, and most of the night was spent in silence with the
only the occasional few words exchanged mostly with Sabé attempting to be
polite. While it irritated Anakin to no end, there was some small part of him that
was grateful, as it kept his mind off his fears, even for a short time. In the end,
all he really wanted was to be left alone so he could deal with his thoughts and
emotions on his own.

Despite his exhaustion, he didn’t bother going to bed as he knew that he wouldn’t
sleep anyway. He tried to suggest that Sabé return to the guest room that Saché
had set up for her and his brother in the hope she would leave. Sabé, however,
just politely shook her head and explained that she was fine to wait for Obi-Wan
to be finished.
As the hour grew late, Anakin felt another powerful shift in the Force and knew it
involved their son. Eager to learn what had happened, he rushed off towards the
medlabs, only to be stopped by Sabé who attempted to talk him down. Anakin
growled and verbally fought her with all the venom he had. He demanded that it
was his right to see that Dormé was well, that their son was OK, that he could kill
her without a moment’s warning should she not comply to his demand.

Sabé did not move, leaving a furious Anakin to slam his cybernetic fist into the
nearest wall that was, thankfully, a short distance away from where Obi-Wan and
Dormé were. Cursing profusely in his native tongue, he once more attempted to
threaten Sabé who held her ground and drew her blade in warning.

‘I’m sorry, Anakin, but I can’t let you pass. This is obviously a delicate procedure.
If you interrupt Obi-Wan now, who knows the damage that could be caused? Do
you really want to take that chance?’ she pleaded desperately with him.

Anakin’s thoughts returned to the terrifying experience with the hermit healer and
the phantom image of Aené and immediately scattered leaving him to abruptly
turn around and depart down the hall. Sabé silently followed to ensure he
wouldn’t try to find another way into the room.


It was a very long and difficult process. Many hours were spent, concentrating on
healing the child, trying to keep him safe within his mother for he still had
growing to do, but eventually there was nothing else he could do. Eventually, the
medical droids had to initiate delivery. The baby was born healthy and soon Obi-
Wan returned his attentions to the mother. He remained intent on healing her
until he felt himself growing dizzy and knew he needed to stop, at least for a few
hours. He went to find Sabé and wondered if they had a chance to rest
somewhere.

Anakin knew that Sabé was nearby, as she wouldn’t dare leave him alone,
despite the fact he was a grown man capable of behaving himself when necessary.
Even so, he didn’t acknowledge her as he stared ahead to the bright city lights
that blinked and flashed into the night sky. With his back turned to her, the Sith
Lord hoped she wouldn’t bother him. The last thing he needed was for her to see
the tears collecting in his eyes as his thoughts continued to linger on Dormé’s
weak Force signature. Though he hadn’t see their son he knew from the powerful
aura that was his Force sign that the baby was alright. This was a relief in and of
itself but didn’t erase his fears that Dormé still might not make it.

However despite this it wasn’t long before he sensed his brother’s now quite
weakened aura nearing and knew that the Jedi Master had ended his healing
prematurely. The thought infuriated him as Dormé was obviously far from healed
for her aura was far too weak even now for his liking. Promptly he blinked back
his tears as he frowned, facing Sabé, who had now rushed with much concern on
her features to greet her exhausted husband.

‘What is the meaning of this! Why have you stopped? Dormé is still in need of
healing! She is on the verge of dying and you’re stopping now!?’ he snapped. Had
Anakin the decency to properly read Obi-Wan’s Force signature, he would have
realised the Jedi Master was hardly in any shape to do anything but rest. But the
emperor was selfish by nature—a trait that was more than exploited due to his
titles and constant use of the dark side. As such, he cared little for his brother’s
weakened condition or the fact he had just saved his family, only the fact that
Dormé was still recuperating and hardly fully healed.
Obi-Wan was in no condition to argue with Anakin or defend himself, let alone
process the location Lady Maberrie set aside for him to rest in. He was accurate in
his assessment that a few hours rest was all he needed before he could resume
healing the empress.

At Anakin’s rather ignorant protests, Sabé was quick to defend Obi-Wan and
promptly explained that his brother would not leave unless he was certain Dormé
was well enough to permit his absence. She withheld mentioning that had Anakin
trained enough in the light side, he could have healed Dormé himself.

Though Anakin was doubtful of this fact he never had the chance to continue his
argument as Sabé was promptly guiding Obi-Wan to their temporary quarters
nearby so he could rest.

Sabé was concerned about Obi-Wan and stayed with him as long as she could
massaging his back and arms until he fell asleep. Then she departed from their
chambers, for despite her exhaustion, she didn’t trust Anakin. Fortunately for her,
or more exactly for Dormé and their son, the emperor refrained from visiting the
medical wing.

Having not slept since Dormé collapsed, Anakin was hardly in any state to do
much himself. But Anakin had discovered that while the baby was healthy, he
was intensive care because of his premature birth and was eager to learn what he
could. He also wanted to learn of Dormé’s condition and was more than eager to
pay her a visit. But due to his own exhaustion, Vader unintentionally nodded off
while waiting for the med droids to bring him up to date on his family’s condition.

Sleeping half-lying down, half sitting up on the plush couch of the living space
that overlooked the cityscape was how Sabé found him a short time later. The
handmaiden didn’t bother to wake him up and promptly returned to Obi-Wan.

A short time later, Anakin awoke to find himself wiser than he did before he
slipped off to rest. Furious at the fact the medical droids never informed him of
the news pertaining to his wife and son, the Sith Lord destroyed the first two
droids he encountered. Still fuming, he then stormed off to the medlab to
demand an explanation and more importantly access to his still healing wife and
their son.


The Vader’s son was in intensive care due to his premature birth, but he was
quite healthy. When Obi-Wan returned later, he felt the boy’s distress lessen, no
doubt recognising Obi-Wan’s Force signature. He thought perhaps it would be
helpful for him to be near his mother, so Obi-Wan carried the newborn over to
where the empress rested. Though the baby was still unable to feed, Obi-Wan
sensed the comfort the boy felt being near to and touching his mother. Once he
slept, he returned the newborn to the intensive care unit in order to be monitored
closely and receive vaccinations. Obi-Wan then resumed a healing meditation to
aid in the young mother’s recovery.

Once Dormé regained consciousness, she was extremely weak and disoriented.
When she realised that she was in the medical facility, she turned her head to the
side to see Master Kenobi. ‘My baby?’ she queried, her voice dry.

‘He’s healthy, Your Highness,’ Obi-Wan replied softly, smiling to see her
awakening. ‘You have a healthy baby boy.’
Dormé smiled. ‘I want to see him.’

Obi-Wan complied and fetched the little one. Though the empress was far too
weak to sit up properly, he assisted her in holding the newborn.

Dormé was elated to see him, to touch him, kiss him, hold him, albeit with the
aid of Master Kenobi. Tears of joy spilled down her cheeks as she marvelled at his
tiny form, his little hands and fingernails, the little noises he made. His eyes
weren’t open yet, but soon after his little hand wrapped around her finger, they
did and Dormé gasped, despite how quickly he shut them again. He yawned and
she murmured to him just how much she loved him.

Once the baby fell asleep, Dormé had to ask, ‘Where’s Anakin?’

At the question, Obi-Wan was not about to tell the young mother that he would
not be in to see her because of the dark side’s effects, for she was far from fully
healed and didn’t want to burden her. Instead, he touched her forehead with his
free hand telling her, ‘Right now you need to rest. You will see him soon.’ he then
used the Force to usher her back to sleep while the medicine did the rest.

Obi-Wan then returned the baby to the intensive care unit before resuming his
healing meditation for the empress. When he was satisfied that, with the
assistance of the medical team, she would make a full recovery, Obi-Wan left the
medical facility to confront his younger brother with the truth.


Anakin didn’t get too far as he found himself in the presence of his brother who
had departed from the medical facility in search of him. Vader’s once stormy
mindset promptly faded away leaving in its place a mixture of concern and the
desperate need for hope.

‘Dormé—how is she? What about our son? I heard he was intensive care. What is
going on with them? When can I see them?’ he quickly asked his anger long since
forgotten as he studied his brother impatiently waiting for answers.

Obi-Wan found himself swiftly in his younger brother’s presence and expected the
questions he received. This time, he was in a far more stable shape himself to
answer the heavy questions. ‘The empress will make a full recovery and your son
is healthy, but this is a very dangerous time for the both of them and they will
have to be monitored carefully over the next few days for any changes in this
assessment.’

Anakin nodded slightly in reply to his brother’s words and was about to demand
that he see them immediately as he wanted to witness their recovery first hand.

Placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, Obi-Wan added, ‘There is much we
need to discuss. I think it would best be said in private.’ The truth was that he
knew the dark side’s effects were not limited to a small circumference and that it
would be best if Anakin used the dark side if they were farther away from his wife
and child.

Uncertain what to make of this, Anakin complied with Obi-Wan’s request to speak
of such things in private. Though Vader was curious and anxious to learn what
Obi-Wan had to say he also didn’t press the matter as he knew better than to
bother trying. Obi-Wan was a patient man who had no qualms about refusing
Anakin’s constant nagging if he wasn’t ready to share what was on his mind.

The walk was in silence as Obi-Wan was not about to reveal anything until he was
certain they were far enough away from the medical facility that if he needed to,
he could prevent Anakin from going there, by force if necessary. Obi-Wan was
extremely guarded, even once they were alone. He knew Anakin would hardly
believe him at first, but in the end he would come to realise the truth. ‘This is not
going to be easy for you to hear but you must.’

‘What was the cause? I swear if it was the healers tampering with her I will have
them all skinned alive,’ Anakin growled, momentarily forgetting that he already
had them killed.

Obi-Wan was unaware that the empress had already lost three children, as he
was only aware of Princess Aené’s death. Had he known, he would not have been
surprised there had been other miscarriages. In fact, it was a miracle at all that
the empress was able to become pregnant with the amount of the dark side
surrounding her so intimately.

It took Vader a bit to realise that Obi-Wan was leading him well away from the
medical labs and this caused him to grow increasingly suspicious of his brother’s
motives. However the Sith Lord withheld his thoughts on this matter too as his
curiosity and concern was too great to ignore. Once they were quite alone and
some distance from the medlab Obi-Wan finally spoke up. His words were simple
but direct and deep within Anakin had a sinking feeling he knew what this was
about. But he had long since grown used to lying to himself and to believing the
dark whispers of the dark side, leaving him easy prey to blatant denial despite
the truth that resonated deep within his heart and soul.

‘I know this is the first time Empress Dormé has come close to dying; I felt it in
her Force signature. There is only one way to prevent this from happening again
and if you want your wife and son to live, you must stop using the dark side. This
is the only way. It was sapping both the child’s Life Force and hers as well. Even
the residue from having used it before being in her presence has negative effects.

The answer was hard and unexpected, hitting Anakin’s straight through the heart
as though he had been shot. In stunned silence, the emperor could only stare at
his brother in utter disbelief and shock. In the back of his mind, he could almost
hear the hermit healer’s words reminding him of what Obi-Wan was now stating
as fact. Shaking his head, Anakin’s expression turned from shocked disbelief to
pained denial. Silently he fought the truth with the lies he had so desperately
come to depend on over the years.

‘I believe this is what caused the death of your daughter as well. I’m sorry,
Anakin.’

The Sith Lord felt the last of his control deteriorate. He drew the darkness around
him with unnatural speed—an instinctive reaction, one he wasn’t entirely aware
he was doing. ‘How dare you suggest I would do such a thing!? You honestly
believe I would kill my own children!? That I would use the dark side to harm my
own wife?’ Vader hissed in pained rage as his hand slipped to his lightsaber.

Obi-Wan allowed Anakin to vent his emotions and retaliate verbally to what he
knew to be the truth. The dark side was slowly sapping them of their life energy,
the residue was blatantly evident in their cells. ‘I know you wouldn’t do it on
purpose, Anakin. I’m not blaming you, just trying to help you understand what’s
happening to them—’

Anakin did not make any effort to activate his lightsaber, neither did he remove it
from its hilt. As furious as Obi-Wan made him, there was still a part of Anakin
that couldn’t hurt his brother. ‘You think that by blaming me for the loss of Aené,
for the loss of our other children that I’d just turn my back on the dark side? That
I’d readily toss aside my destiny as a Sith Lord? I was never meant to follow the
light side brother and you know it! No amount of your self-righteous lies is going
to ever change that fact!’ he snapped in rage feeling utterly insulted and
wounded by Obi-Wan’s facts. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve had about enough of
your pathetic attempts to guilt me into changing my mind,’ Vader retorted
sharply as he brushed passed the Jedi Master. Though the doubts flooded his
mind and the truth continued to plague him, Anakin still hung onto the lies and
was now more determined than ever to see his beloved and their son. If not for
anything than to prove to both Obi-Wan and himself that he was, without
question, not responsible for their condition.

Oh by the Force, there were more! Shocked at this, Obi-Wan felt Anakin’s grief
hit him tenfold. ‘This is no ploy to get you to return to the light side, Anakin!’ he
replied, though he was not yelling at him. But Anakin was stalking towards the
doorway. ‘You will be risking their lives going in there with the darkness
surrounding you. Your wife cannot sense it. She cannot defend herself from it—’

Anakin just shook his head to Obi-Wan’s words as he glared at him in disgust and
rage. ‘Oh spare me your lies. What sort of fool do you take me for Obi-Wan? Or is
this your way of making yourself feel better over the fact I chose to follow the
Sith instead of remaining a Jedi!’ Anakin snapped before storming off towards the
medical labs.

Despite his initial plan to stop Anakin via his lightsaber, Obi-Wan knew that using
weapons would only increase Anakin’s use of the dark side and perpetuate the
downward spiral. ‘For the sake of your children, Anakin,’ Obi-Wan called after him,
‘don’t do it.’

Though Anakin was quite lost in the darkness the emperor wasn’t so lost as not to
hear his brother’s warning. He didn’t bother looking back but uttered a string of
Huttese curses in reply. Anakin had about enough of his brother’s self-righteous
attitude and wanted nothing more than to see for himself that his family was
doing well. But as he neared the medical labs, the emperor was stopped by Sabé
who tried much like her husband to talk him down. Vader however was in no
state of mind to argue with Sabé and promptly used the Force to send her flying
back across the hallway.

Saché, who had been with her at the time with intents on visiting the empress
herself, received similar treatment.

Furious now and ever determined to see Dormé and their son, Anakin proceeded
to enter the small room that would take him to the empress. With great
impatience, he waited for the miserable med droids to give him clearance to see
her while watching Dormé intently through the glass that separated them.
However, just as his eyes settled onto her healing form, Anakin’s eyes were soon
focusing on something else entirely.

Returning his gaze through the glass was Aené. With her hands firmly pressed
against the glass, she stared at her father with amber eyes filled with sorrow.
Frozen in position, Vader found himself unable to move as his heart jumped to his
throat. The last time he saw Aené was when he was killing the hermit healer. The
three-year-old wore the exact expression then and in his mind, he could still hear
her voice begging him to stop while sobbing softly.

Obi-Wan followed him, but at a slower pace. He didn’t put his words to heart,
knowing the boy was hurt and overreacting. If he had to learn the hard way, that
would be the only way that it would reach him. He hardly reached them in time to
ease Sabé and Lady Saché’s fall, though he cushioned them as best he could.
When he was assured they were all right, he saw Anakin walking back from the
direction he came. He couldn’t stop himself from breathing a sigh of relief, though
he felt it wasn’t just his words that reached the young man.

Speechless, and more than a little spooked by this turn of events, the Sith Lord
swallowed hard and promptly departed from the med lab’s entrance. The droids
attempted to ask him if there was a problem but Anakin’s thoughts were
elsewhere leaving him unable to register anything save for his need to leave this
place. Rushing out into the hallway, he barely even registered Sabé and Saché’s
presence as Vader proceeded to depart for the nearest exit with a single intent in
mind: to return to Aené’s resting place where he hoped he could confront this
ghost of the past and, Force willing, perhaps even be able to make peace with
their daughter.

Dormé was just rousing when she saw the form of Anakin stalking away from the
medical facility. She wanted to see him. ‘Anakin,’ she said, weakly, but he had
since departed and did not hear her.

Chapter Seven

In silence, Anakin departed for the back of the gardens where the memorial to
princess Aené rested. As Anakin approached the elegant mausoleum, the Sith
Lord felt his emotions return forcefully. Pausing in mid-step, he drew in a shaky
breath as he tried to silence the memories of his recent discussion with his
brother. This was supposed to be the happiest moment of his life, yet joy was
hardly the word he’d use to describe his emotions.

Entering the mausoleum, the Sith lord silently studied the elegant room with a
furrowed brow. Even though it had almost been a year since Aené’s passing, it
still felt like yesterday for the emperor who struggled with his emotions.
Approaching the small shrine built in memory of their dear princess, Anakin
swallowed hard as he remained frozen in position. Though he couldn’t see her,
Vader knew she was near and with this in mind he began to speak in hushed
tones.

‘You know I would never hurt you Aené,’ Anakin began in shy tones. ‘I would
never do anything to hurt your ama or your brother or any of my children. I know
I was never given the chance to get to you know you, but I do love you my little
princess and I’m so sorry—’ he faltered not wanting to discuss the past events in
which he had seen her.

‘He was lying. You know that, don’t you?’ Anakin continued referring to Obi-Wan’s
words and warnings. ‘He was just saying that because he’s unhappy with me,
that I chose a different path than him,’ Anakin explained to the empty room
imagining in his mind that he was speaking to the youngling he had witnessed
moments ago.
‘You know I would never hurt you,’ he repeated softly as he tried to ignore the
memory of Aené’s face and her tears upon witnessing him killing the hermit. ‘It’s
not my fault, Aené. It isn’t. I just...’ More memories began to flood his mind,
images of fallen younglings whom he had killed during his moment of bloodlust at
the temple. Though it was an impossibility, Anakin couldn’t help but feel that their
daughter knew of his crimes on that fateful day, that while she didn’t exist during
that time, Aené knew through the Force what he had done.

He could still hear their screams in his mind, the silent requiem of their souls
joining the Force, just as he could almost hear Aené’s weeping and her silent
pleas for him to stop.

‘Your hands, so covered in blood, tainted by the darkness you wield, chokes out
all that you touch. No life can from you now, only death...’

‘...I believe this is what caused the death of your daughter as well.’

He closed his eyes as he struggled to silence the doubts in his mind. Clenching his
hands into fists, Anakin closed his eyes and struggled to steady his breathing.
This wasn’t his fault, the healer was just trying to scare him and Obi-Wan was
lying. But just when he was about to convince himself of the lies he still clung
onto, Aené’s face, so riddled with fear and horror, returned to the forefront of his
mind.

‘I’m so sorry you saw that,’ he murmured in shame, thinking the hermit and of
the Jedi he had killed on the day of Aené’s passing.

‘I couldn’t help myself. I was just so angry with her. I— The things she was
saying—’ he stammered as in his mind he could hear her voice and Obi-Wan’s
reminding him of their words of the message they bore. Tears began to spill down
his cheeks, for the truth of the matter began to pierce through the lies.

Anakin knees buckled as he dropped to the ground. Desperately he began to
plead to the deceased princess as shame flooded his thoughts and sorrow began
to devour the last of his denial.

‘It’s not my fault! I didn’t mean to— I didn’t know! How could I have known? My
dearest Aené...I am so sorry. I didn’t know...Oh Force help me, how could I have
known...’ Anakin whispered as his body wracked with sobs. With head bowed and
arms tightly wrapped around him, the Sith Lord wept as though his soul were
shattering in two while begging forgiveness from their children. It was never the
doctors, healers or specialists’ fault that they could never have children. It had
been him all along and never in his life was Anakin more ashamed or so broken.
He had become the master of his sorrow and the demise of all he had loved and
Anakin had no one left to blame but himself.


To Dormé’s disappointment, it wasn’t Anakin who next entered the room. Instead,
Saché had come in to see how she was faring and despite how happy she was to
inform her former mentor of their son, she wanted to see her husband and was
wondering why everyone was so guarded about him. ‘What is it? What are you
not telling me?!’ Dormé demanded.
Despite her incredibly weak state, she twisted herself to toss her legs over the
side of the bed and forced herself on her feet. She didn’t listen to the voices of
concern. ‘I’m fine, just tell me where Anakin is.’

Obi-Wan admitted the general location, which Dormé immediately recognised as
Aené’s memorial. This, as well as slight dizziness, caused Dormé to pause and
grasp the edge of the bed to steady herself. Once she got her balance, she
walked over to where their son was being kept. She hardly noticed a robe being
wrapped around her shoulders as she queried of when he would be released. It
would not be for some time, she was told, and she touched his head and kissed
him, murmuring so that only he could hear just how much she loved him.

Though Sabé, Saché and Master Kenobi insisted she return to bed to prevent
further complications and finish healing, Dormé’s thoughts swiftly returned to her
beloved. ‘If you will not bring him to me, then I will go there myself,’ she said
matter-of-factly.

Not one to be argued with, the empress was granted her request when they
allowed her to leave for the memorial of their little princess.

Barefooted and somewhat cold, Dormé’s sole concern was Anakin and coming
upon his hunched over and sobbing form broke her heart. ‘Anakin, it’s all right.
We’re both all right,’ she murmured, putting her arms around him and holding
him, in spite of her own physical weakness and pain.

Anakin didn’t know how long he had been there for and in reality was too lost in
his shame and guilt to even pay it much heed. The realisation his ignorance had
cost him three of their children and almost their fourth nevermind his beloved
had left the Sith Lord shattered in sorrow and shame. Though he was letting go of
the darkness he was in a very fragile state of mind making him easy prey to his
despair. As such in his state of mourning Vader was not aware of Dormé’s
presence until he felt her arms around him and heard her soft voice speaking to
him. It was only then that he also sensed her pain and was once more reminded
of Obi-Wan’s words and the warning given to him by the hermit. His eyes
snapped open and looking to Dormé with eyes swollen and red with tears he
shook his head in concern.

‘Dormé, you shouldn’t be here. You are not fully healed—’

‘It’s all right,’ Dormé tried to reassure him, but he was having none of it.

‘And I—you need to stay away from me! I’m going to hurt you. I’ve already hurt
you,’ Anakin rambled as his thoughts raced, leaving him imagining the worst. He
didn’t want to tell her what he had done and yet he knew he had no choice. It
had to be said, no matter how hard it was for him to admit it.

‘Stay away from you? Anakin, what are you talking about?’ She was confused at
first, thinking she had done something wrong, but the truth soon revealed itself.
She knew Anakin had never intentionally harmed her so all of this was quite
alarming to her to say the least. ‘You haven’t—you’re not going to hurt me—I
need you—’ she said, but he was pulling away from her.

‘I never meant to, it was my use of the dark side...Oh Force, Dormé I’ve done
something so terrible, but I swear to you that I never meant to, I never even
knew what I was doing...Our children, our Aené are now dead because of me.
Because of the dark side I wielded...I almost lost you and our son because of it
and now you must get away from me before I hurt you again!’ he pleaded
between tears while trying to gently draw away from her arms to put distance
between himself and Dormé.

‘I don’t understand, Anakin...What do you mean?’ He was telling her to get away
from him as though he were plague-ridden. Tears, that were in actuality from his
pain, sorrow, and despair, flooded her eyes.

‘Don’t you see Dormé? I’m the reason we lost our children! I am the reason Aené
died, the reason you and our son almost died! The dark side I touched, I tapped
into has been draining the life from our children and from you! Even though I
never used the dark side on you or our children I still was -am causing your
damage! It radiates from me, from my Force aura so that even if I’m not using it
I’m still causing harm. I’m still draining life energy from everything around me...’
he stammered in shame and sorrow as he continued to back away from her.

The way Anakin was acting was starting to scare her. ‘What’s all this? Who is
feeding you these lies?!’ she countered, not wanting to believe that what he was
saying was true. She didn’t understand all that he was saying about Force auras
and draining life energies. It made little sense to her.

‘Please, Dormé, you have to leave me I will only cause you more harm if you
remain. I need to tend to this before I can see you again, before I can see our
son,’ he continued in despair.

‘Anakin, stop it! Stop talking this way right now!’ she cried, wrapping her arms
around herself. She hadn’t felt this cold when she first walked here.

Anakin gave a shaky sigh at Dorme’s questions and demands, knowing it wasn’t
her fault that she didn’t understand the intricacies of the Force. He just wished he
knew how to explain it better to her so she could understand, to at least
comprehend the threat he now posed to them. ‘These aren’t lies Dormé. I truly
wish they were, but they’re not,’ Anakin said in pained tones. ‘Remember how
you told me about Aené visiting you? I saw her as well,’ Anakin continued in soft
tones.

‘The first time was when I was hunting a Jedi in the outer rim, I went to kill them
and just as I was delivering the killing blow I saw her. In the vision I was—’ he
faltered fighting back new tears. ‘I killed her in the vision. But it wasn’t the only
time I saw her. I saw her again when I visited a hermit healer; Edeja’s mentor.

‘The old woman told me that I was killing our children. That if I was to return
home to you and our son I would end up killing you both. I was furious and so I
killed her in a fit of rage. Aené returned to me again and begged me to stop...I’ll
never forget the look on her face,’ Anakin explained before falling silent as Dormé
begged him to stop. In silence he could only shake his head.

‘I need for you to understand what it is I’m trying to say, Dormé. Aené was trying
to warn me of what the dark side was doing to my family, just like the hermit
healer did and my brother. This is real, Dormé. I’m the one who has been causing
your miscarriages. I’m the reason Aené isn’t with us now or our other children.
That is why you can’t be near me until I tend to this, that is why our son can’t be
near me either,’ he admitted in sorrowful tones.
Dormé shook her head, unbelieving. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be
happening, not to them... Struggling back to her feet, she turned away from him,
trying to get this all straight. ‘You..?’ she asked, turning toward him once again.
‘How could you?!’ It would not be until much time later that she understood he
hadn’t meant to and had no idea he was responsible for it.

Anakin felt his blood run cold and as though recalling this warning as well
Dormé’s mood shifted as her statements posing as questions hit him hard.
Staring up at her as she whirled around to face him the Sith lord found it was a
struggle to breathe, nevermind find his voice. The Sith lord opened his mouth in
an effort to speak, to explain that he wasn’t aware of the effect the Dark side had
on their children. That until the many warnings were presented, he had no idea
what he had been inadvertently doing. As Dormé continued Anakin visibly winced
before closing his eyes as he struggled to clear his mind. Neither was in any
condition to continue this conversation but it was too late to back down now.

‘All of them? Like those in the Temple you accidentally killed? Your own
children?!!’ she demanded, reeling on him like the tempest dammed within her.

‘I told you that I didn’t know,’ he replied quietly as he opened his eyes to stare up
at her once more before asking in hoarse tones.

It was now, as the cold washed over her, that she felt the pains coming back to
her, but this time it was not only the pains from the premature labour, but the
pains of all the miscarriages, the hollowness she had felt and how long she had
thought it was her fault. ‘I thought there was something wrong with me,’ she said,
her tears feeling like icicles down her thin cheeks. ‘I thought—I thought I had
failed you—that I wasn’t worthy to be a mother—and all this time...all this
time...it was you doing this.’

‘Do you really think I would purposely murder our own children?’

Even without the darkness seeping in her veins and poisoning her, Dormé had
never felt so angry and rightfully so. ‘How could you not know?’ she retorted.

Anakin couldn’t find the words to properly express how he was feeling in that
moment. Though he knew that Dormé had felt this way for some time hearing
her admittance tore at his heart and brought new tears to his eyes. Bowing his
head the Sith Lord didn’t dare refute her words for the truth was just too powerful
to deny.

‘Just because I’m sensitive to the Force doesn’t mean I know and understand
everything about it,’ he said weakly knowing fully well her anger was justified.
But she was hardly in any state to hear his words and no matter how he tried to
argue that he truly did not know Anakin knew it was a lost cause. Ultimately
Dormé was right, he should have known and despite the fact he didn’t was hardly
a comfort.

‘I cannot touch that Force you wield. I cannot sense it. But you—you have no
excuse, Anakin! You couldn’t tell that it was killing them?! That YOU were killing
them?!’ She wound up and slapped him across the cheek. The force of the blow
was lacking due to her weakened state, but the effect was much the same.
‘If you ever use your powers to hurt me, Anakin, I will leave you.’ She had
nothing left to say to him and despite how much it ached to walk, she could no
longer stand in the same vicinity as him.

The slap across the face was hardly painful due to Dormé’s weakened state but it
didn’t matter it still felt like a knife to his heart. Vader didn’t react to her slap and
only closed his eyes in reply as he struggled to keep some semblance of control.

Once she was back inside, it was easy to put up a façade that nothing was wrong,
but she had no desire to pretend. She went straight to Laic’s cot and picked up
the sleeping baby, holding him close to her body as though with his very
presence he would be able to warm her broken spirit and return the peace that
had been lost in the mausoleum.

It was over of that he was certain. It was only after Dormé had departed that
Anakin succumbed to the tears of despair once more. All was lost of that he was
certain and he knew there was none more deserving of this fate than himself.


Saché was anxious for Dormé and almost immediately after the empress’s
departure, she trailed after her with the hopes of acting as silent support. She
knew the sort of man Anakin was and was fearful of Dormé’s safety especially
given his moody behaviour. But Sabé was the wiser one of the two and managed
to talk down the fiery woman reminding her that this was a private matter one
that she had no right to interfere in. 'Your presence may even worsen matters,'
the former decoy explained as Saché muttered a curse under her breath before
complying.

Upon seeing Dormé return a short time later, Saché’s heart immediately went out
to her. The young empress looked so worn and so weak that it was frightening to
behold. However, she was also determined and before Saché had a chance to
move to her side to help her Dormé had slipped into the medical lab where she
went to hold the baby.

Watching her in silence the older handmaiden furrowed her brow in concern, as
she wanted support the empress, knowing something bad had happened between
Vader and her. She knew it wasn’t her place and so, for the moment, she
watched in silence before taking Sabé’s advice and finally returning to her
quarters for a nap.

Obi-Wan could sense the empress’s incredibly weakened Force signature
returning and though he knew he would have to resume healing her once more,
he also knew she needed time alone with her son. But when her signature
drastically began to fade, he motioned to Sabé and entered the facility.

Dormé sobbed as she held her baby, thinking of Aené and the other little ones
who hadn’t made it. She had asked for nothing save to have healthy children.
Their son, so tiny and fragile, was helpless and needed her to protect him, to feed
him, to love him... It was a good thing Anakin had been gone so long or else she
would not have had a chance to hold this little one.

When Obi-Wan entered, he placed a hand on the empress’s shoulder in a effort to
escort her to the main part of the medical facility to continue her healing process.
He didn’t expect her to turn towards him as she sobbed into his chest. Though
this made him a little uncomfortable, he motioned to Sabé once more to take the
baby from the empress before helping her to the examination bed.
Half a day later, once Obi-Wan had another chance to rest and recover his own
strength from the healing meditations and have something to eat, he returned to
visit the empress to check up on her. He came upon her feeding her son and
averted his eyes automatically to politely give her privacy.

To be able to hold and feed her baby filled Dormé with such joy. So happy to
have this chance, she hardly minded the Jedi Master’s presence. She wouldn’t
have cared if the whole empire witnessed it. Once the baby finished, she shifted
him to her shoulder, rubbing his tiny back. She took note of the Jedi Master’s
averted gaze and told him he was free to have a seat nearby.

It was not much longer after he sat down that Dormé said, ‘Four babies...I would
have had four...’

‘I’m sorry,’ Obi-Wan replied softly.

Dormé sighed, feeling the baby heavy in her arms, knowing he had gone to sleep.
‘Anakin really didn’t know that he was—’ She couldn’t finish the sentence.

Obi-Wan shook his head. ‘No, I don’t think so. The dark side is very deceiving and
easily blinds someone from seeing the truth, especially if they don’t want to know
it.’

Dormé nodded in understanding, but turned her attentions back to her son.

Obi-Wan eventually left the two with much on his mind. No matter how much he
wanted to help guide Anakin back to the good side, he also knew it would be up
to Anakin to make that transition.


Anakin didn’t last long in the mausoleum, for the argument and revelation wore
heavily on his thoughts, leaving him feeling unworthy to remain there any longer.
He quietly wandered the gardens in an attempt to clear his thoughts, to mourn
quietly, and to replay the discussion too many times to count. Only when
exhaustion had finally taken its toll did Anakin return indoors to palace and found
himself taking refuge on the couch that overlooked the balcony. Sleep didn’t
come for the Sith Lord neither did peace. With a heavy heart and thoughts filled
with the memories of the dark revelation, Anakin was hardly received any rest by
morning. If anything, he felt even worse than the night before. However, duty
demanded his presence. As much as Anakin wanted to do nothing more than hide
from the world, he began his day in discontented state of mind, despite the joy of
his son’s birth.

His advisor and compatriot Kei immediately caught his friend’s dark mood and
attempted to learn why Anakin was in less than joyous spirits. After all, his son
was healthy despite the premature birth as was the empress.

Anakin was hardly in the mood to speak of the Force and the complications it now
caused him to someone who didn’t understand. It was late in the day when the
emperor was permitted a break from his duties, leaving Anakin with little else to
do but return to his quarters. Though he wanted to train, to keep his mind off
matters, he was weak from lack of sleep and his mind was too preoccupied to
even bother attempting to meditate. In truth, outside of seeing Dormé and their
son, which was an impossibility at this point, Anakin wanted nothing more than to
speak to his brother.
Though things between them had become strained, Anakin still longed to feel the
comfort of his brother’s silent presence, to know that ultimately things would
work out and that there was hope yet. He felt too ashamed to cross that line
though. It reminded him of what a fool he had been and how, in his arrogance,
he had almost lost everything because of it. After many failed attempts to further
distract himself, Anakin decided to chance speaking to his brother after all.
Quietly he made his way through the halls as he focused on the Force signature
of his brother. Though each step left him filled with dread and hesitancy, Anakin
knew he had no other choice. He had to tend to this matter or he would lose all
he cared about.

Obi-Wan was currently meditating in the temporary quarters he shared with his
wife when he sensed Anakin’s approach. He hoped this meeting would be on
more emotionally level terms than the last one, however, he wasn’t counting on it.
As if to prove that point, upon opening his door to the haggard-looking young
emperor, he had a feeling it wouldn’t be. He politely gestured for him to enter.

Anakin just shook his head as his brother motioned him to enter. As much as he
knew it had to be done, Anakin at least had enough sense to know he was in no
condition to linger. In truth, he felt ugly in his brother’s presence and felt
awkward being around him now that he had accepted the truth. There was no
point of pretending that Obi-Wan didn’t know why he was here and so the young
emperor began. ‘You know why I am here and what it is I am about to ask,’ he
quietly began before giving a deep sigh. ‘But before I can continue I need to
apologize first. I need to apologize for so much but I—’ Anakin glanced away as
he shook his head for his thoughts to clear. ‘I will never be the Jedi our father
hoped I would be, or that the Order expected me to become. In truth, I don’t
know if I’m even capable of it, but if it means repairing a little of the damage I’ve
done, then I would like to try again,’ Anakin admitted quietly.

Obi-Wan didn’t let it bother him that Anakin hadn’t even thanked him for what he
had done to help his wife and child. Exhausted or not, Anakin was a very selfish
person much like the Sith way he currently followed. ‘Following one path or
another takes more than simply trying, Anakin,’ Obi-Wan said seriously. ‘You
have to seriously commit yourself or else you have already failed.’

Anakin wanted to apologise for his actions, for the damage he had already caused
and for ruining what relationship he had with Obi-Wan but he was also more than
aware of his weakened state. Anakin knew if he were to try and speak his
thoughts on the matter he would only embarrass himself. He was too tired to
think clearly nevermind keep his emotions in check. Anakin gave a long sigh at
his brother’s words as he glanced away. He was tired and already frustrated with
his situation leaving him less than eager to hear Obi-Wan’s warnings. Though he
was willing to give it a try, ultimately, Anakin wasn’t ready to truly return to the
light. If a chance availed itself to permit him to remain within the dark side
without causing damage to his family, Anakin wouldn’t hesitate to take it. He had
yet to learn his lesson, leaving this moment to haunt him for the rest of his life.

‘I committed myself to the ways of the Jedi and look at what a success that
proved to be,’ he grumbled. ‘Let’s face it, I’m about as suited to being a Jedi as
you are a Sith. I’m doing this because I love my family and I don’t want to lose
them,’ he admitted in frustration.

Placing a hand on his shoulder and not wanting him to be turned away from
trying, Obi-Wan offered, ‘What has happened in the past cannot be undone, but
our future actions are what we can change.’
The simple gesture of support helped ease a little of his frustration and Anakin
nodded weakly in reply, wanting to find some comfort in his brother’s words. ‘I
know...It’s just...It’s going to be hard to start from the beginning again,’ he
murmured.

Noble though the reasons might be, Obi-Wan saw straight through it. Obi-Wan
hoped it was the case, that he would succeed this time and thanked the Force for
being given this opportunity. ‘Once tampered with, the dark side will forever
consume you,’ he recalled their father teaching him. ‘This will not be easy; it
won’t be a quick fix or an overnight cure. This is something you will combat, for
the rest of your life, I’m afraid. That is why you must be fully committed to
getting rid of the darkness within you. It will be difficult at first, but over time, it
will become easier.’

Obi-Wan’s warning fell on deaf ears as Anakin in truth just wanted to rest and
work on the problem in the morning. ‘Why doesn’t that surprise me?’ the Sith lord
murmured. liking the sounds of this even less.

With that, Obi-Wan began helping Anakin find the inner peace, the calm from the
very essence of the Force itself, aiding in meditation. He hoped it would bring him
enough peace of mind to rest properly.

Some time later, a rather exhausted and light-headed Anakin surfaced from his
meditations feeling far better than he had in some time. Though he was far from
well the emperor took this as a good sign. As he prepared to depart for his
quarters in the hopes of finding some sleep it suddenly occurred to him that he
hadn’t expressed his gratitude to his brother. Though he wasn’t exactly renowned
for thinking about others outside of himself or even caring to the realisation did
cause his cheeks to flush slightly in shame. Turning to Obi-Wan once more Anakin
gave an apologetic look. ‘I...I never did thank you did I?’ he asked quietly despite
the fact he already knew the answer.

For awhile, Obi-Wan couldn’t help reminiscing after Anakin left. It had been in
many ways like times past, with him teaching his little brother of the ways of the
Force. But it was also very bittersweet in many ways and the dark side still so
prominent in Anakin’s signature did little to counter the feelings of regret.
Ultimately, what gave Obi-Wan the most hope was Anakin’s expression of
gratitude, guarded and somewhat reluctant though it was. It made him feel like
he was reaching him, that what he had done for him actually had a purpose,
outside of saving innocent lives.

‘I owe you for so much,’ the emperor continued. ‘You saved my family and the
only thanks I gave you was to accuse you of lies. My behaviour was hardly
appropriate and I am truly sorry for putting you through that,’ Anakin admitted
quietly before falling silent. In truth, there was so much more he should have
apologised for and even more to thank his brother but Anakin was a selfish man
whose moments of enlightenment were far and few between. For him to be aware
of even this was a feat in and of itself and in time this too would become one
regret of many.

‘Thank you, for everything,’ he quietly concluded before turning to depart. Almost
as soon as his head hit the pillows on his couch, the Sith Lord slept. Though it
was hardly a long rest, it was better than anything he had experienced and for
that, he was most grateful. It was a small step, but in the right direction.

Chapter Eight
The month seemed to fly by for Anakin who spent much of his time divided
between training with brother, completing his duties as emperor and spending as
much time as possible with his family. Laic, though only a month old seemed to
be growing right before Anakin’s eyes. Despite his attempts to spend as much
time with Laic, it wasn’t always possible and even when he was apart from Dormé
and their son his heart was with them. However, as time passed and his return to
the light was growing more certain the young emperor began to grow cocky and
sure of himself. Therefore, Anakin spoke to his brother about the matter and
despite Obi-Wan’s concerns believed he no longer needed the Jedi Master’s
support any longer. In truth, Anakin wanted to spend more time with his family
and felt that he would be able to control his struggles much better now. Just
being around Laic added to his determination to tend to his darkness and it was
with this in mind that Anakin decided he would further his training while at home.

Having completed the last of his duties -much pertaining to the aftermath of well
wishers who had partook of the celebration of their little prince. Returning home
in good spirits Anakin entered their private quarters to hear the familiar melodic
tones of his beloved singing to their son. For a moment, he paused at the
entrance of the veranda, watching and listening in silence as Laic’s Ama sang. It
was moments like this that Anakin cherished and held onto.

It was hard to believe that Prince Laic was already a whole month old. Dormé
relished every moment of the day, every feeding, every time he needed to be
changed. She loved soothing him when he cried and singing to him to sleep,
which was her current occupation. That morning, Master Kenobi left and Anakin
and she presented their little prince to the public for the first time. Laic was
hardly in the mood and didn’t like all of the people, but was now snoozing
peacefully in his ama’s arms. Laic was now a healthy size, which was reassuring
to Dormé and she made no qualms about the Jedi Master leaving once he
checked Laic again. Every night the little prince slept with his parents in their bed,
as it was easier for Dormé to feed him and comfort him when he awoke. Anakin
didn’t seem to mind this and she couldn’t be happier.

Concluding her song, she headed back indoors when she spotted Anakin. She
smiled at him, though it was evident in her features that it had already been a
long day for her. Though she had gotten used to having a nap or sleeping
whenever Laic did, she wanted to spend time with Anakin outside of duty. He had
been so busy as of late with training and imperial duties, especially since she had
been little help while recovering from childbirth and taking care of Laic. She
quietly slipped indoors to rest Laic in his cot before returning to Anakin.

Dormé’s smile immediately made him forget all about the busy day as once more
his entire universe consisted solely of her and their son, which was, in his opinion,
as it should be. Despite his joy at returning home, the emperor took note of his
wife’s exhaustion and offered to aid her in putting Laic to bed. The little one was
already ready to rest and soon Dormé had him placed in his cot.

‘Sound asleep,’ she said, ‘for now at least. Have you finished with your duties?’

Anakin smiled as he nodded in reply before reaching out to touch her cheek. ‘I’m
all yours,’ he murmured gently before allowing his hands slip to her shoulders as
he gently massaged them.

‘Mmm good,’ Dormé replied, leaning into his touch.
‘It’s been a long day for all of us,’ he continued as his expression softened and
grew gentle. ‘You rest and I’ll rub your shoulders,’ he offered as he could feel
knots in her shoulders and wanted to work them out for her.

At his offer, she said, ‘Let me take my hair down first.’ She hadn’t even changed
from Laic and her first public appearance since Laic’s birth. Donning a rich, wine-
coloured gown of velvet with an equally majestic diadem, the young empress had
shown off her once again lean form while not taking the spotlight away from the
little prince.

The emperor nodded simply in reply at her words, though the hint of a smile that
crept into his features marked that he wasn’t about to refrain from interrupting
either. Following her to their bedchamber, he let his eyes roam over her slender
form feeling a bit envious of the gown that hugged her body. As Dormé let down
her long hair, the emperor’s thoughts grew less impish and more peaceful.
Watching her for a moment longer Anakin couldn’t help but feel so at peace. As
always, Dormé looked radiant and with long locks tumbling about her shoulders
and trailing down her back, the petite woman reminded Anakin of the legends he
had heard as a child about goddess’s taking human form. The need to touch her
hair and feel her skin beneath his fingers soon grew too irresistible and despite
the fact Dormé was obviously watching him the emperor was soon sidling up
behind her.

‘May I?’ Anakin offered as he let his fingers wrap over Dormé’s own that held the
brush.

Dormé enjoyed the way Anakin’s eyes followed her. It made her feel loved and
appreciated in ways she had never felt before meeting Anakin. The revelation
about the dark side was long forgotten over this past month and she was thankful
she would be able to spend more time with the love of her life. She smiled as he
approached and allowed him to take over brushing out her hair. She relished the
feel of his calloused fingers gliding lightly over the skin of her neck and shoulders
as he gently brushed her hair. He did so with such ease and grace; it seemed as
though he wanted to take the time as though this was an honour. When he was
nearly finished, she turned around to run her fingers through his hair before
giving in to her desires and kissing him.

Anakin could feel her enjoying his watchful gaze and it only added to his own
enjoyment. One of the many things he loved about Dormé was that she relished
his rather possessive nature and hardly minded his need and desire to enjoy her.
He loved the feel of her hair against his fingers as he gently brushed it out. There
was a time when he used to dream of having such an opportunity and he could
still remember the first time she let him brush her hair. A smile crept into his
features at the memory of how heavenly he felt at being able to have such a
chance. Soon his thoughts were returning to her once more and after some time
Dormé was soon running her fingers through his own far shorter hair. His
expression easily reflected his thoughts as did hers and soon Anakin was eagerly
returning her kiss with fervent passion.

Dormé couldn’t recall the last time they really had a moment to themselves after
all that happened since Laic’s birth. Everything had been about recovering, for
both Anakin and Dormé. Tonight, it was about them and in Dormé’s opinion, it
was perfect timing. Unaware of the damage Anakin’s impatience would inevitably
cause, Dormé communicated to Anakin, in her own way, that she was fully ready
to enjoy his presence this evening. ‘I suppose I don’t have to ask if you’re game,’
Dormé chuckled between kisses, already initiating the removal of hindering attire.
Anakin was more than eager to make the most of this evening and did little to
hide it as he eagerly returned her kisses. At her words, he just gave an impish
grin as he chuckled. ‘The question you need to ask is, when haven’t I been
game,’ he purred into her ear as he promptly began to undo the clasps of her
gown.

Dormé smiled at his words, while unhooking his belt. ‘Never?’ Dormé replied with
a mischievous grin, helping him out of his tunic. ‘You have to take heed to be
gentle with me,’ she said, pulling back to meet his eyes to emphasize the point.

Anakin didn’t need to reply as his expression said it all as his fingers continued to
unclasp her gown until she pulled back. Immediately he gave her a questioning
look until her eyes met his own and the warning was given. Furrowing his brow
Anakin nodded in reply understanding the weight of his words and putting them
to heart. Despite his best intentions, it was certain that reminders would be
needed throughout the night.

As nice as it was to have this time together, so far without interruption, Dormé
was hardly impressed with Anakin’s attempt at being gentle with her. Dormé had
to physically make her point while gasping, ‘Anakin—gentle! Unless you want to
be the one to give birth next time—’

Anakin in his opinion was trying to be gentle. But it was hard not to lose one’s
self in the heat of the moment and it was only upon feeling Dormé’s nails running
across his skin did it finally hit home. Giving a yelp of pain, he cursed in Huttese
and debaucherized Uriashian before catching Dormé’s remarks as he turned
crimson. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...’ he sheepishly apologized before
attempting once more to be mindful of Dormé’s delicate situation.

Despite his best efforts, Anakin continually forgot himself, making hardly the
most pleasant time for Dormé who had to compromise. However, she only winced
slightly as she continued her methods of reigning him back. In the end, they were
probably in the same amount of pain, though it would decrease in time.

Anakin continued to try to be mindful of Dormé but every time he tried to get into
things the emperor would forget himself and soon need a reminding. Though it
hardly went as expected there was amusement to be found and as he eyed the
marks on his waist, he could help but chuckle.

Seeing the impressions on his waist and back, Dormé felt a little bad, but couldn’t
help chuckling. Kissing his bellybutton, she giggled, ‘We’re implacable, aren’t we?’

‘This does bring back memories doesn’t it?’ he teased as he motioned to his far
older i battlescars /I .

‘Vividly,’ she replied, grinning.

He purred at Dormé’s kiss and soon was playing with her hair and leaning in to
kiss her neck as he grinned. ‘You say it like it’s a bad thing,’ he replied with a
wink as he pulled her near.

They continually tried to be together, despite the pain, because they couldn’t help
themselves and Dormé couldn’t help having a laugh about it. She giggled as he
kissed her neck, enjoying the way the vibrations from his chest felt against her
skin as he spoke. ‘Mhmm, a terrible thing,’ Dormé said before kissing him on the
lips.

Her final words brought another mischievous grin to his lips, one that didn’t fade
as he eagerly returned her kiss while running his fingers through her hair. Though
it was a delicate situation to say the least, Anakin was grateful they tried
nonetheless as it had been awhile. When it involved basking in Dormé’s presence
there was little if any, when it came to resisting such opportunity. Fortunately,
despite the pain, there was some pleasure found and Anakin couldn’t help but
find some amusement in the situation. He grinned at Dormé’s reply as his
expression turned wistful. ‘I still remember showing them off to Kei.’

She spaced kisses along the battlewounds as he explained how he showed them
off like some war hero. ‘You didn’t!’ she gasped, as though finding it hard to
believe, but knowing it to be true. ‘You’re terrible.’

‘The look on his face was hilarious!’ he recalled with snicker. ‘I showed others too.
I can’t remember them all. Anyone who was willing to listen pretty much,’ Anakin
admitted with a wry smile as he could still remember their reactions. ‘Kei, I swear
was going to faint. Mikal just told me I probably deserved it, which now that I
think about it, I guess I probably did,’ he continued with a mischievous grin that
didn’t hide his warm cheeks. Soon talk was forgotten as Dormé was kissing him
leaving Anakin to forget about said topic in the first place.

Dormé was not that shocked at the revelation and couldn’t say she didn’t find it
heartwarming. Anyone and everyone knew Anakin was hers, just as she was his.
This time as Dormé kissed him, she took the initiative to take things into her own
hands. With more control this time, there was less need for punishment and
consequently less pain. Curling up next to him, now quite sleepy, Dormé
murmured in a mixture of Uriashian and Basic how much she loved him.

Dormé was, by far, the finer artist when it came to such things and Anakin
despite his inability to truly focus was eager to learn. This time things went about
more smoothly and as sleep became more the focus of his thoughts Anakin was
soon wrapping his arms around Dormé as she whispered her love to him. Through
the Force he uttered the words of his heart while playing with her hair and kissing
her cheek.


The meeting with the loyalist Humbarine faction, led by Queen Breemu, Kei’s
mother, and other parties involved in efforts to reunite the Humbarine people
through political persuasion instead of war, went far better than Dormé could
have hoped. However, the young empress had difficulty managing Laic and had
to have one of her handmaidens watch him for a few hours. She decided it would
be best if Laic didn’t attend meetings with her, despite her hesitancy to leave him
with anyone else.

This whole week had been one arduous meeting after another, trying to find a
solution to the conflict. It had been taxing on Dormé, who still was up early in the
mornings to care for Laic, and as much as she wanted to retain control over the
split Humbarine factions, whose home planet had been destroyed by General
Grievous, Dormé cared more about spending time with her family. She was
incredibly stressed out and exhausted, finding little energy to enjoy her time with
Laic. Even with Anakin’s help and support, it was difficult to balance work and
home life and Dormé would much rather quit being an empress and stay home
with Laic. However, as this was an impossibility, Dormé tried to make the best of
things.

Dormé knew absolute control would not be an option in this case with the
Humbarines and inevitably, they decided to let the traitors go, but they would not
be able to return or travel in imperial space. Anyone caught doing so would be
executed without question. It seemed the majority was satisfied with this decision
and as Dormé left the meeting to go to the handmaidens’ quarters where Laic
was being cared for, one of the senators approached her, offering her their
congratulations.

‘Thank you.’ Raising an eyebrow, Dormé queried, ‘What exactly are you
congratulating me for?’

The Bothan replied, ‘For your pregnancy. Your aroma shows clear signs of it.’

Confused by this, Dormé just smiled and politely thanked the senator again
before heading in the opposite direction: this time, to the medical wing. Surely,
the Bothan was only smelling the hormones still present in her system from Laic.
After all, she was still breastfeeding him… Anakin had been away this past week
and they had barely spent much time together… Dormé shook her head, finding
the nagging possibility highly unlikely.

The medical droids disagreed with her.

Finding their assessment incredibly surprising, but hardly negative, Dormé was all
smiles as she bounced to the handmaidens’ quarters to retrieve Laic. ‘I’m
pregnant!’ she told the five young girls who acted as her handmaidens. ‘Laic, you
hear that? You’re going to be a big brother soon! We have to tell Daddy the good
news!’

‘Milady—’ one of the handmaidens began, but the empress was already out the
door, heading to her private chambers. ‘So much for telling her that headdress is
about to fall off,’ she muttered to the other girls.

Carrying Laic, who was smiling happily, Dormé found whatever exhaustion she
had leave her as she was filled with excitement over the news. She used their
private codes to transmit a message to Anakin. ‘Anakin, whatever you’re doing,
you have to come home right now because I have something very important that
I have to tell you and I want to do it in person!’

Laic still hadn’t learnt to talk yet, but he tried to reach out to the holovid
projector.


Despite Anakin’s wish to remain home with is family duty demanded his presence
elsewhere. As reluctant as he was, the young emperor couldn’t ignore the matter
any longer and thus parted ways with his family for the worlds that made up their
empire. Though it was easy to remain in the light side when his family was near,
Anakin couldn’t say the same about being on the front. Though battles were more
often fought in meeting halls over space and fields, the struggle to remain
focused on the light side grew more difficult for Anakin. It wasn’t long before he
began to touch the darkness once more. This time, he was mindful of his use and
kept it at a minimum using it only when encountering the rebels or threats.
As time passed, it wasn’t long before the excuses began to present themselves on
an even more regular basis. Though Anakin did his best to resist, it was met with
mixed results. On this particular day, the struggle proved to be worse than usual
as he found himself caught up in a rather violent and ruthless attack made
against him on the world he was visiting. Though he tried to tell himself that
using the dark side was necessary to remove his enemies, that they were traitors
even Anakin couldn’t deny the fact that there were innocents who suffered for it
too.

Though most heralded him as a hero for saving the people, the struggling
emperor felt awkward and out of sorts by his actions. He couldn’t stop thinking
about Laic and of Aené and the other children they were to have but never could.
Yet at the same time, he couldn’t ignore the fact his assailants were traitors and
deserved justice. Struggling with these thoughts, he returned to his temporary
quarters to discover his commlink was chiming, demanding his attentions.

Hurriedly, he activated it upon recognizing the transmission and codes used. At
the sight of Dormé and Laic his struggles were forgotten as his eyes lit up and a
smile graced his features. How he missed them both so much and the thought of
returning home to them soon was almost too good to be real. At her words, he
furrowed his brow curiously though he could tell it was something exciting as
Dormé’s joy was radiating off of her and was equally contagious.

Anakin rushed out the door to the hanger bay where his ship was held. Though
some of the senator’s were caught off guard, most were used to this sort of
behaviour and didn’t bother attempting to question his actions. Anakin, on the
other hand, had only one thought in mind to get back to Coruscant as swiftly as
possible. Whatever it was that Dormé wanted to tell him, it was exciting indeed
and, never a patient man, the young emperor was more than eager to learn what
it was.


Dormé took Laic back home to change him before going to the platform near their
chambers to meet him. With Coruscant’s controlled temperatures, it wasn’t too
cool, but she didn’t want to chance it. Instead, she placed Laic in his cot and
waited until she saw her husband’s ship. Dormé had been smiling broadly since
the news was confirmed and was bubbling over with joy. ‘Anakin, we’re having
another baby!’ she practically yelled, bounded over to him.

Anakin had gotten no further then got clambering out of his ship when Dormé
was rushing towards him. As if seeing her once more wasn’t joy enough, her
blurted statement took little time to sink in as his eyes further lit up leaving him
to pick her up and whirl her around in joy. ‘We’re having another baby?’ he asked
hopeful before reading her joy and realizing this was no joke as he whooped in
joy and twirled her around again. ‘WE’RE HAVING ANOTHER BABY!!!’

The thought was just too wondrous to keep to himself and the young emperor
was soon shouting the news to the world as he laughed and kissed his wife
feeling as though he was the luckiest man in the universe.

Dormé squeezed him tight, so thrilled that he was as happy and excited about
this news as she was. Dormé kissed him with all the love she bore him.

Anakin returned Dormé’s kiss with equal fervency and felt as though he had
reached a new level of joy. The thought of having another child was beyond
wondrous and Anakin couldn’t help but thank the Force for blessing it once more.
‘I just found out a few hours ago and I—I had to tell you in person!’ she
exclaimed. Their dreams were coming true and Dormé was so incredibly happy,
tears came to her eyes and the overwhelming emotions rendered her speechless
for a moment. With Anakin knowing the cause of the previous difficulties, and it
having been solved, there were no doubts that this pregnancy would be
successful.

Holding her close, her Anakin caught her words and beamed finding even more
joy in the fact that she had discovered this only a short time ago. ‘I can’t believe
it, Dormé. We’re having another baby!’ he whispered in excitement before
eagerly returning her kiss.

‘So how far along are you? Do you want to start preparations for their nursery or
wait until we find out if it’s a boy or a girl? What about names? I guess it’s too
early but we can still toss ideas,’ Anakin rambled in excitement before catching
himself as his cheeks warmed.

‘Three weeks,’ Dormé replied, grinning like mad.

‘Sorry to flood you with questions. I just can’t help myself I guess,’ he admitted
with a lopsided grin.

‘I was thinking it might make more sense to have another room for Laic when
he’s older and use the nursery for our next little addition. Oh names—yes! We
should!’

Anakin grinned at her exclamation and grew even more excited at her idea.
‘Agreed, that will definitely be better! Either way we need to think up how the
new room will look,’ he said eagerly as ideas for Laic’s new room were already
filling his thoughts.

‘When do you want to think of names? Its not too early to do it now is it?’ he
suggested eagerly.

Dormé’s joy was contagious and despite himself Anakin found his eyes too were
filling with tears as held her close buried his face within her hair.

Dormé gasped, breathing Anakin in as he pulled her close. Her fingers danced in
his hair. She remained so, just holding him and breathing him in, relishing the
moment she would cherish in days to come. Once they pulled back slightly, she
kissed him again, slowly.

Lost in the moment, Anakin ran his fingers through her hair as well just nuzzling
his face against her neck and lightly kissing her throat and holding her near. Bliss
was found in this place and he was reluctant to ever let it end. Her kiss was
equally inviting and enticing leaving him torn to relish the moment of their
discovery or bask in her presence once more. ‘This is such wonderful news,’ he
breathed. ‘Just think Laic is going to be an older brother now,’ he said as another
rush of joy flooded his thoughts making him feel light headed and giddy.

Dormé took his hand, leading him indoors, for she didn’t want to be far from Laic
for long. ‘I told Laic he’s going to be a big brother soon. I know he’ll be a good
brother...and teach them things...I can’t wait...’
‘Just think, it won’t be long before they’ll be playing together and run around the
palace making all sorts of mischief,’ he said wistfully.

‘And playing tricks on the palace guards.’

As they entered the nursery Anakin caught sight of Laic reaching for him leaving
the young father unable to resist picking the baby up. ‘I’ve missed you so much,
Laic,’ Anakin said as he kissed the baby’s forehead before giving Dormé a smile
as she spoke to their son.

He had just learnt to lift his head up and she thought he would be crawling soon.
‘Would you like starship holos in your room, Laic?’ Dormé asked.

‘Starship holo’s now that is a definite must,’ Anakin agreed.

Dormé watched serenely as Anakin cradled their son. He had been so afraid to
hold him a few months ago, but now it was like second nature to him.

Laic was very happy because his parents were so happy and he tried to express
this. His verbal skills were still far from anything resembling Basic, or Uriashian
but resembled Huttese.

Anakin loved being able to hold their son like this to feel the baby’s joy radiating
from him. At their words, Laic spoke up and appeared to be in agreement which
caused Anakin to chuckle as he lightly ran his hand over the baby’s hair.

Dormé kissed Laic’s cheek. His hair was starting to come in quite rapidly in dusty
blonde. ‘You like that idea, don’t you?’ she asked Laic.

Smiling to Dormé’s words, Anakin gave a contented sigh.

Laic felt like Daddy could understand him and would soon come to find that
Daddy understood him better than Ama. Smiling, he continued trying to speak,
since they knew what he meant.

‘I want to name our next baby Ani,’ Dormé said quite seriously.

Anakin’s eyes widened in shock as he looked at her in concern. Had he not been
distracted by Laic the young emperor might have understood this was but a joke
but right now he was too caught up in the moment to see anything beyond her
statement. ‘Ani? Are you sure that’s such a good idea? I mean—’ he tried to hide
his obvious disdain over the idea as he believed his wife was serious.

Dormé gasped, pretending to be shocked by her husband’s reactions to her
suggestion of names. ‘But Ani is such an endearing name...’

‘...It might be all right when they’re a youngling, but when they grow up—’ he
faltered trying to figure a polite way of talking her out of this idea. ‘You certain
you don’t have another other names you like?’ he offered finally.

Anakin was continuing to object, which she was ready to counter. ‘Oh, but Anakin,
I wanted to name our baby after you.’ Dormé put on a face akin to one he was so
found of putting on when he was a teenager.
Though the last thing he wanted was to hurt Dormé, Anakin was hesitant about
this matter. He had always hated the name Ani and dreaded the thought their
child would be cursed with the same name. Anakin felt his cheeks warm as he
tried to bury his panic. ‘But...Ani? I mean when he’s a youngling he’s not going to
mind, but what about when he’s an adult...No one is going to take him seriously
with a nickname like that. I mean...If that’s really what you want to call him...I
suppose...’ he said trying to placate her but at the same time dreading the
possibility of having a child bearing such an awful name.

Dormé listened as she nearly won the argument over names and couldn’t help
giving herself away. Her grin became undeniable, despite her attempts to remain
placid. ‘I can’t believe you fell for that twice!’ she laughed, kissing his cheek.

Laic thought Ama was being silly and burst out laughing, though he couldn’t
understand the complexities of adult conversation.

Anakin finally began to piece it together that she was teasing him once more.
‘Hey it’s not my fault! You’re a far better actress then you realize!’ he remarked in
defence before chuckling as she kissed his cheek. ‘I swear you are going to be the
death of me!’ he teased before catching Laic’s laughter as he shook his head at
their son.

‘Death by brattiness? Highly unlikely, Ani,’ she teased, wrapping her arms around
him.

‘You knew Ama was teasing Daddy all along, didn’t you?’ he teased as he lightly
tickled under Laic’s chin. ‘He gets his brattiness from you, you know,’ Anakin
teased as he gave Dormé a wink.

Laic laughed as Daddy tickled him, kicking his legs around.

Dormé laughed at his assessment and wasn’t going to argue the point.

Anakin laughed as he poked out his tongue. ‘Sure it is, you keep calling me that
awful name I just might go so crazy that my head explodes,’ he teased back
before tickling Laic as he grinned. ‘Isn’t that right, Laic?’

Feeling Dormé’s arms around him and the laughter of his family filling his ears,
Anakin felt as though he was whole once more and in silence he kissed Dormé’s
cheek as he slip his free hand around her petite waist. This was harmony and this
was peace but little did he realize soon fleeting both would become because of his
own foolishness.

Coming down from her excitement at the news, Dormé felt her exhaustion hit her
with full intensity. Leaning in to Anakin, she watched Laic smiling and giggling in
his Daddy’s arms. She felt as though everything was perfect in the galaxy, that
there were no wars or slavery, or violence (because it was no longer necessary).
Here, with her family, she felt as close to Harmony as a mortal could be.

Leaning his head against hers Anakin gave a sigh of contentment as he could feel
her exhaustion which in reality was beginning to mirror his own. But the moment
was perfect and he didn’t want it to end and so for a brief time he continued to
hold them both feeling as though he held the most important things in the
universe in his arms.
Dormé hummed softly, which seemed to reflect in Laic who was also getting tired
from the excitement of only a few moments ago as they pondered names for their
newest addition. Though she knew her body wanted rest, she didn’t want to miss
a moment of this with her boys.

Anakin gave a soft purr to Dormé’s humming as the sound of her voice was
always soothing to him. Laic seemed to agree with this assessment and was
promptly growing sleepy.

‘Maybe if it’s a girl, we can call her Ani then,’ she added, only joking of course, as
was evident in her smile. ‘All right, all right,’ she giggled. ‘Shani? Rune or Runa...’
she mused, listing a few more off the top of her head for boys or girls.

At Dormé’s suggestion he raised a brow and made a face though it was obvious
he was equally teasing before her giggle brought another smile to his features.
But her actual suggestions for names did catch his attentions and Anakin
furrowed his brow listening intently to the suggestions. All sounded appropriate
though one or two stuck out in his mind. ‘If it’s a girl, I think I’d like the name
Runa. What do you think?’ he offered.

She kissed him before saying, ‘Princess Runa...I like that.’

The young emperor smiled as his expression softened. He rather liked the sound
of it as well and was more than eager to meet the newest addition to the Vader
family. But before he could dwell on this any further Anakin found himself
reminded of Dormé’s exhaustion through Laic’s sleepy form and decided it was
best to call it a night. ‘I can only imagine you must be about ready to drop, I
know I certainly am. Perhaps we should continue this name business somewhere
more comfortable,’ Anakin murmured as he kissed Dormé’s cheek.

‘I think that’s a good idea,’ Dormé replied, smiling softly at him before helping
him with Laic, who was now drifting to sleep. She then took his hand and led him
to their bedchamber, curling up next to him and falling asleep soon afterwards.

Chapter Nine
The past two months had been extremely draining for Dormé, who was now in
her ninth month with her fifth child. This was the longest she had been able to
carry a child and was well past worrying about their little girl making it. In fact,
Dormé was eager for Runa to hurry up and be born because she was taking a lot
out of her ama. Laic's new room was complete and Dormé had even finished
sewing a stuffy for Runa. It was just a matter of waiting for her to come into the
world.

This morning, Dormé completed a series of meetings and just wanted the day to
be over with. It was hard being empress and the extra duties made her long for
time alone with her family. Worn out, Dormé returned to her chambers and
passed out on the bed for an hour. Later the comms chimed, alerting her that she
was to be at a senate meeting. She told her handmaidens to tell the senate that
the meeting was cancelled because she didn't feel like going. She didn't think
about or care what other people would think of this. She was too exhausted to
care about it.

In the past eight or so months, Dormé had gone through three different
caregivers for Laic, all of whom she ended up having killed because she was
paranoid and didn't trust them long with her son. All of the girls had been no
older than fifteen or sixteen and none with dark black hair. All of them were
chosen after intense background and loyalty checks, as well as their homely
appearances.

The current caregiver was an elderly woman, whom Dormé trusted more than the
previous girls were because she was near the end of her life and cared nothing of
politics. Also her memory wasn't very good.

Today marked the fourth anniversary of Aené's death. The past four years, people
from all over the empire brought gifts and flowers to lay outside her memorial,
though none of the public was allowed past the gates, let alone up close to the
memorial or inside, which was reserved for their imperial majesties. This year,
Dormé noticed that not as many people stood outside the gates with candles. She
assumed it was more due to the Humbarine civil war than that the people were
starting to lose faith in the empire.

After visiting with Aené, Dormé began her march back indoors.

<hr />

It felt like an eternity had passed since he was able to do this, to be able to lose
himself completely in the slaughter, to openly enjoy the heady rush of the dark
side pulsating through his body without the shame or doubt. Though there was
still a part of him that questioned his actions, the young emperor was confident
that his brother's prognosis was premature and in reality, it was nothing more
than a sad excuse for him to return to the ways of the Jedi. After all, neither
Dormé nor their daughter showed any signs of complications thus confirming his
thoughts on the matter.

While it infuriated him to think that his brother would go to such lengths to make
him turn his back from the dark side, at the same time, Anakin knew from
personal experience how convincing the Jedi's tutelage could be. Knowing that his
brother had been raised with this mindset all his life, it was hardly any wonder he
was so determined. Even so, it still hurt to think his brother truly believed that it
was his dark side usage that caused the loss of their first three children. Despite
his doubts, Anakin refrained from using the dark side in Dormé's presence, just to
be safe. As for their son, it was just a given that he didn't use it in front of the
toddler. The memory of Aené's presence after he killed the shaman healer
ensured that there would never be any question of that.

But as his lightsaber thrummed with life-its crimson blade seemingly glowing
brighter with the souls it consumed-Anakin's only thoughts were of righteous
vengeance. These people had been nothing but ungrateful and caused nothing
but sorrow for the innocents who followed the empire's rule. They deserved this
judgment and Vader was more than happy to give it to them.

As the requiem of their souls echoed in his mind, filling him with a sense of
omnipotence, Anakin couldn't resist a dark grin as he continued his merciless
slaughter. Naturally, they tried to stop him with their pathetic weapons and poor
attempts at guerrilla warfare. But being a Force sensitive-and a well-trained one
at that-meant that all their plans were for naught. They fell like the treacherous
insects Anakin knew they were.

Despite his need for justice, the Sith Lord soon found it wasn't just enough to
remove the members who had started the civil war. He knew if he left any of
their relatives or families alive, they in turn would form another resistance and
the uprising would begin again. What started out to be a short visit with Kei to
assist in finding a solution for the resistance, soon turned into a mission that
lasted for longer than a couple of weeks.

So lost was Anakin in his lust for the slaughter and the dark side that he
eventually forewent both sleep and food. After a several days of hunting and
slaughtering, the Sith Lord collapsed from exhaustion, leaving the remaining
family of yet another Humberine rebel to escape to freedom. Discovered by one
of his security officers who had been aiding Anakin in his hunt, the emperor was
promptly brought to the nearest medical centre where he was treated for
malnutrition and exhaustion.

Having last seen Anakin just before his departure to look into the matter of the
civil war, Prince Breemu remained unaware of both the emperor's condition and
of his actions. Though rumours ran rampant and the names of the missing rapidly
grew, Kei remained oblivious as he was still caught up in the attempt to find a
more diplomatic solution to the problem. This ensured that Kei was far from the
Humbarine colonies as he tried to gain assistance from neighbouring worlds who
might sympathize with the plight of his people. He would not be returning home
until shortly after Anakin's departure from the medical centres.
<hr />
Meanwhile, the empress did not to remain in the dark over the matter for long
and almost as soon as Anakin arrived to the med centre, the security officer who
found him made haste to contact Lady Vader. Not only did he inform her of
Anakin's condition, but also that her husband single-handedly brought the civil
war on Humbarine to an end.

Once Dormé returned indoors, a serving girl bombarded her with the news.

'Was he hurt?!' Dormé demanded.

'No, milady-at least, I don't think so-' the girl protested anxiously.

'What do you mean you don't know, you foolish girl!' hissed Dormé, grabbing her
by the arm.

'The officer who has been trying to get ahold of you only informed me that he
collapsed and was in a medical facility. He single-handedly defeated those who
stood against the empire, milady. He ended the Humbarine war...' She prayed
the empress wouldn't take out her vengeance on her.

Dormé released the girl as her attentions moved at lightspeed. She returned to
their chambers and activated the comms to find out the exact location of the
emperor and hopefully find out more about his condition. She spoke with the
officer who found him and was hardly relieved upon hearing the news.

As the war was over, Dormé decided to go after him. She clambered into one of
the smaller imperial vessels with a handful of clones, two handmaidens, and Laic.
Despite their voiced protests against the very pregnant empress leaving
Coruscant, they were not about to disobey her orders.

A few hours into their journey as they flew through Humbarine territory, past all
the debris and other leftovers of the emperor's path of destruction, Dormé began
having pains. She thought it was a muscle cramp and attempted to walk it off,
which seemed to help initially.

<hr />
Upon healing from his exhaustion, Anakin was prompt to try to reach Dormé. He
both wanted to learn of her condition and to fill her up to date on his own
situation, not to mention he was eager to let her know that he was coming home.
But after a few failed attempts, the Emperor was no more in touch with his wife
than when he first woke up. Growing concerned and fearing that she might have
gone into labour, Anakin tried to contact one of his officers on Coruscant to learn
of the situation. The answer caused his heart to race and his temper to flare.
Furious, he promptly summoned the officer who had informed Dormé of his
unexpected visit to the medlabs. Upon the man's arrival, Anakin didn't bother
waiting to hear his pathetic excuses and promptly unleashed the dark side upon
him. The officer's death was both bloody and painful, leaving little to the
imagination as to the cause of his demise.

Hardly caring of the mess he had made or of the corpse in question, the young
emperor was swift to depart from his quarters and ultimately the medical labs.
'I'm leaving and don't bother trying to stop me,' Vader snapped as the elderly
doctor attempted to remind him that he was far from healed. 'Thanks to that fool,
my wife, who is about to have our daughter, believes my life is in danger and is
now on her way!' he growled in rage. The physician wasn't given a chance to
reply as Vader shoved him out of the way.

Moving swiftly to where The Tempest was located, the young emperor soon heard
a familiar voice calling his name. Agitated at being interrupted, Anakin whirled
around about to draw his lightsaber with the intent of striking down the one who
would dare to stop him from seeing his wife. However, the one attempting to
interfere was not just one of his many officers but his childhood friend Kei
Breemu.

'Anakin, I just heard-' the younger man blurted in relief as he neared.

'I'm sorry I can't stay for long, Kei. One of my former officers stupidly told Dormé
that I was in the medical centres. Now she's on her way to the colonies as she
fears for my health,' Anakin said as his expression briefly grew dark reveal his
concern for her and their unborn daughter.

Kei furrowed his brow and expressed his apologies though it was obviously not
his fault.

The emperor's mood soon shifted then as his smile promptly returned. Not only
was he about to become a father again, but peace had been once more restored
to the empire. This was without question a wondrous moment indeed. 'I'm glad
you caught me in time. I wanted to tell you in person that the civil war is over. I
saw to it personally,' Anakin said with a proud grin.

Kei aware of the rumours just studied his friend in curiosity as his expression
grew increasingly baffled. 'How did you do it? I mean we've all been working to
end this for months. Yet somehow you managed-'Kei's expression grew
concerned and if Anakin didn't know any better he'd almost swear that the prince
was growing fearful as well.

The Sith Lord however was too eager to depart and too pleased to pay it much
mind and so Kei's emotions were swiftly dismissed. 'I told you I'd take care of it,
Kei, and I did. They've all been tended to and to ensure that no future resistance
would occur again, I made sure that their families were removed as well.'

'What about the younglings? Have your officers already tended to the matter of
their relocation? If not, do you at least know where they are? Seeing as they are
now orphans, we will need to find them families,' Kei continued calmly though his
stoic expression didn't reflect in his eyes.

Anakin's thoughts began to falter and fill with shame. '...I... they...' Vader tried to
form the words to express a decent excuse but none came. Swallowing hard he
glanced away, feeling his cheeks burn as he registered the fact that the truth
could no longer be hidden from the younger prince. What was worse was the fact
that ultimately, it would only be a matter of time before Dormé would know of
this. If there was one thing Anakin knew about himself and his relationship with
his wife, it was that he never kept anything from her.

Kei was looking at him with obvious shock and horror, forcing the frantic Sith
Lord to say something, anything, to ease the man's concerns. 'It was a
complicated situation.... You know how it is... I mean... It's a long story...' Anakin
stammered weakly as he couldn't quite bring himself to say the words necessary,
to admit that once more he was too lost in the dark side to register the innocence
from the guilty. Before the moment grew too awkward, Vader felt a powerful pain
rip through his sides. Clutching his stomach, Anakin uttered a string of curses as
Kei instinctively went to help him.

'Anakin? You all right? Should I get a doctor?'

The emperor bit his lip so hard he tasted blood as he shook his head. 'I'm fine.
It's just a passing pain, nothing more,' he said through gritted teeth before
forcing himself to stand straight despite how much it hurt. Deciding it was
definitely time to depart, the Sith Lord used his pain as a means of parting ways
from his friend without having to finish the suddenly awkward conversation.
Without saying another word, he promptly turned his back on the confused Kei
before slowly -painfully- made his way to The Tempest. Trying to move as swiftly
as his pained body would permit him, Anakin started up the ship and took to the
sky. With his thoughts and fears entirely focused on Dormé and their unborn
daughter, the young emperor was ironically too distracted to register that his pain
was in reality a reaction to Dormé's own.

<hr />

Dormé demanded to know when they would arrive at the colonies so many times
it became increasingly hard for the crew to respond politely, though they knew
the empress was an impatient person. 'How long?!'

'Another half hour at least, Your Highness.'

Dormé's body ached fiercely, the pain only growing steadily more frequent. 'Not
now, Runa!' she almost pleaded, gripping the nearest support. She was now fully
aware of the stupidity of her decision to go chasing after her husband, despite her
concerns. She didn't want to have Runa on a ship!

Once the empress's pain overtook her, the pilot made an executive decision to
turn the ship around and head back to Coruscant without the empress's
permission or knowledge.

'Lie down, milady,' one of the handmaidens suggested. 'It will slow the birthing
process.

Before she had a chance to take the advice, her water broke. Dormé uttered a
series of Uriashian and botched Huttese curses. Trying to delay the birth now
would only put the baby at risk.
The handmaiden escorted her to the nearest room to lie down, for the medical
facility was too far away. Even if they got there, it only had basic medical supplies
and med droids, which another handmaiden went to fetch.

Laic was miserable and crying in another room, concerned about his ama.

It was not long before Dormé was cursing and crying out for Anakin. Laic's birth,
in her mind, had been so much easier for she had been unconscious for most of it.

Once she heard Runa's cry, Dormé was so relieved and happy. Runa was much
bigger than Laic had been, since he was born early. Dormé admired her, noticing
her bright blue eyes and dark hair. Laic was confused by his sister, though he had
long since gotten to know his sister's Force signature, to see her for the first time
was odd. He didn't like her crying. Runa was happier after eating and receiving
Ama's kisses.

Upon finding out that they were landing on Coruscant, Dormé decided she would
unleash hell upon whoever made that decision...after she rested.

<hr />

The journey to Dormé's location proved to become increasingly difficult for Anakin
to fulfil. Through the Force, he was able to pinpoint the Empress's location but
remaining focussed on it was proving to be another task entirely. Despite his
attempts to mask and ignore the sharp pains felt from before, his departure the
feeling only grew increasingly worse. No longer was it just restricted to his
stomach and chest but it seemed to move lower, far lower, until Anakin now
screaming in pain swore that something in the Force was trying to tear his groin
apart.

Desperate and frightened by the unknown cause to his suffering, the young
emperor attempted to activate the autopilot on the Tempest. Consumed with the
pulsating pain of his lower body, Anakin had little control over his actions. His
fingers felt thick and useless with little motor skills as every movement of his
body seemed only to worsen the pain.

Trapped in the cockpit of his ship the Sith Lord struggled not to succumb to his
ever growing panic at the fact he was too distracted to even touch the Force to
activate the controls. Somewhere in the back of his delusional thoughts, Anakin
could almost hear the cackle of his former master's voice, mocking and laughing
at his sufferings. It was only then he began to wonder if he was indeed dead and
that he was being slowly torn apart by the chaos that was the dark side of the
Force or so the legends and rumours went. Until now, Anakin never held much
credence in such tales, as they were more phantom stories shared amongst older
younglings as a means of scaring the younger recruits. Now, as the inky
blackness of unconsciousness began to dance behind his lids, Anakin found
himself desperately praying-between screams and curses of Huttese and
Uriashian-to all higher powers to spare him of whatever nightmare awaited him
beyond the veil.

Fortunately, for the young emperor, the physician who had tended to his
exhaustion had trailed him and while it wasn't their intent to aid, Anakin there
was little way around it. Almost as soon as the emperor lost consciousness to his
pain, the ship began to lose control and at its current speed was promptly headed
towards the debris that had once been a destroyer. Thinking fast the pilots of the
medical ship promptly locked onto the signature of the Tempest and attempted to
override its controls. The task was tricky leaving the unconscious Vader with little
idea of how close he came to facing his demise.

Though it was a risky course of action, it proved successful and soon the ship's
engines lost its speed permitting the medical ship to approach and manually force
the star ship into its hanger bay. But if they believed the worse was over they
couldn't have been more wrong. The emperor soon stirred awake only to scream
out in pain once more as he struggled to clamber out of the ship without little
comprehension of his location. Once he stumbled out of the starship, he promptly
dropped to the ground doubled over as he attempted to protect himself from the
unseeing enemy that he was certain was ripping his privates from his body.

Both confused by this display and reaction, the elderly physician ordered a couple
of nurses to prepare a cot for Anakin while ordering the med droids to scan his
vitals to learn the cause of his pain. To the officers who were piloting the ship,
the physician swiftly gave orders to have them return to Coruscant. While
technology was up to date on the ship, it was limited, and if this was something
serious, he would need all the help he could get. Nevertheless, the answer he
sought didn't come as swiftly as he would have liked and came at the price of
lives, both sentient and otherwise. Anakin lost in his nightmare of pain and
suffering promptly tapped into the Dark side of the Force and in doing so soon
caused both of the medical droid's heads to explode while their chest plates
sparked and smoked.

Groaning to the loud noises around him, the emperor struggled to form the words
to order someone to stop the screams but only pained moans escaped his lips.
The nurses having gone frantic at the explosive sight were hesitant to near him
but in the end they did as they were ordered for duty overrode fear. The doctor
knowing his presence was needed soon joined their side to help with the situation.
Unfortunately, while determination overrode fear it didn't override the danger
that faced them. If anything, it left them as easy prey to the frantic and
disorientated Anakin who screamed upon feeling them attempting to lift properly
onto the cot. Grabbing one of the woman's hands, he pried her fingers off his arm
thus breaking her fingers in the process. The other, less fortunate, tried to
scream in pain but to no avail as blood poured from her nose and mouth. Her
eyes soon rolled into the back of her head as her skin grew ashen and then white
before she fell lifeless to the ground.

Despite the semi-retired doctor lack of experience with Force sensitive beings he
thought fast and soon had a hypo-gun placed to Vader's throat which promptly
rendered him unconscious once more. Knowing he had to keep it together at least
till the entire ordeal was over he continued to remain in charge of his senses.
Turning his attentions to an officer who had been witness to the entire ordeal the
physician ordered teh man to collect the nurse -who was now crumpled on the
ground weeping- and help her back to the medical bay. He informed the man that
her wounds would be tended to by one of the droids and that he would rejoin
them once his patient was examined.

Despite the aesthetics, the young emperor continued to drift in and out of
consciousness as the pain ensured there would be little if any rest for him.
However fortunately for all around him Anakin no longer was able to touch the
Force so readily as the drugs in his systems numbed his thoughts leaving him in a
semi-conscious state. It would be some time before Vader would finally awaken
to discover -much to his relief that the pain had finally subsided. Once he was
certain that he wasn't dead, nor trapped in a living hell where his groin would be
repeatedly removed in the most painful fashion by the Force the young emperor
was swiftly scrambling out of his cot with the intent of finding Dormé.
<hr />
Dormé had no idea how long she slept before the ship landed on Coruscant She
briefly awoke as the medical team arrived to transport Runa and her to the
medical facility. Runa was warm and content in her ama's arms and did not make
a fuss. Laic had also calmed down and seemed relieved to be back home.

After being examined thoroughly and spending a few hours in the medical centre,
Dormé was deemed fit to return to her private chambers as was Runa. The news
was very good indeed and she was eager to know of Anakin's situation. All she
knew was that he had left the colonies and ought to be heading home. She wasn't
sure if they were just humouring her, telling her what she wanted to hear,
because everyone was so anxious around her. It was as though they knew her
thoughts, that she would kill them all if something worse happened.

'You need to rest, Your Highness,' the doctor insisted. 'We will let you know the
moment we hear anything about the emperor.'

Dormé finally gave in, realising her threats were getting her nowhere and they
knew she wouldn't be able to do anything until she regained her strength. What
she didn't know was that the doctor administered a sedative in order to be sure
she would get the rest she needed instead of trying to go after the emperor once
again.

<hr />

Rushing through the hallways of the medical labs Anakin swiftly sought out the
medical doctor who was treating him to learn of Dormé's situation and if she had
arrived home safely. The physician having not treated or aided Dormé before
wasn't aware of much of the details but had received word that the empress had
given birth to a healthy baby girl and that both ama and daughter were back at
the palace safe and sound. When Anakin had run into the elderly doctor, he was
speaking to one of the officers who had aided in Dormé's safe return via
commlink. Informing them that the emperor had arrived safely on Coruscant and
would be permitted to return home upon a final examination. Though the details
of Anakin's condition was left out it was obvious the Doctor had still yet to figure
out what caused the emperor's violent reaction as the young man was fairly
healthy all things considering.

Once the message had drawn to a close, he turned around to find himself
suddenly faced with an anxious and demanding Sith Lord who ordered the
physician to fill him in on all that he knew, which was little but painful enough to
hear. Though elated, Vader was heartbroken and sorrowful at the fact he missed
the birth of his daughter as well as his son. It was as though the Force was
conspiring against him to ensure he would never be there when Dormé needed
him most.

'Both Dormé and Runa are safely home now?' he asked yet again as the elderly
man nodded. 'I'd tell you that you should be examined once more to ensure that
you are well enough to depart, but somehow I doubt you'll listen,' he dryly replied
as Anakin was already wards the hanger bay where he presumed his ship would
be waiting for him.

Upon arriving at the palace, the Sith Lord was swarmed with questions pertaining
to his collapse and the end of the Humberine civil war. Ignoring them all, he
swiftly headed towards his private chambers where his heart raced in joy at the
thought of seeing his family again and finally being able to meet his daughter in
person.

Entering their private chambers, he was greeted by the doctor who filled him in
on all he needed to know before warning him that Dormé was currently resting
under the influence of a sedative. While he wasn't happy to learn that Dormé was
drugged into rest, he couldn't deny the truth of the physicians words. Given
Dormé's nature, she wouldn't hesitate to try to reach him despite her weakened
condition. Under healthier circumstances, Anakin would have been touched by
such a thought but in this moment he was just relieved to know that someone
interceded and thus kept her from hurting herself.

After ordering the doctor to grant him privacy, Anakin silently approached the bed
where Dormé was resting and taking a seat at it edge, he gently reached out to
draw back a strand of her hair. 'I'm home my love, he whispered into her
thoughts as his fingers continued to play with her hair gently.

Anakin continued to watch over Dormé for as long as he could. But despite his
wish to remain by her side until she woke, Anakin missed seeing his son and
couldn't resist paying Laic a visit. Unfortunately, Laic seemed to be in bad spirits
upon his daddy's arrival and to Anakin's sorrow, seemed more content to play in
the next room with one of the handmaidens than see his daddy. However, this
wasn't the first time Anakin had encountered this reaction from Laic. Lately, it
seemed as though the toddler had grown shy around Anakin. Vader believed it
was because he was away from home so much on missions pertaining to the civil
war amongst other duties. While it tore at his heart to know his son was no
longer comfortable around him, Anakin had faith that this would soon change.
After all, he had once more restored order to the empire, which would permit him
to remain home more often now.

It was with this in mind that the Sith Lord found himself thinking about his
newborn daughter. He wanted so desperately to see her again, but wanted to
wait until Dormé awoke before paying Runa a visit as well. Ultimately, the
temptation grew too great and it wasn't long before Anakin was slipping off to
where Runa rested. Though the baby was born healthy, the physician remained
and kept watch over her to make sure everything remained as it should. Upon
initially seeing him, Anakin grew concerned, but was assured that his presence
was only for preliminary purposes as he'd rather be safe than sorry.

The sight of their daughter took Anakin's breath away, and for a moment, he
could only study the sleeping baby in awed silence. Gingerly he reached out to
touch the baby princess's cheek only to recoil back in shame as the memories of
bodies of the younglings he had slaughtered on the Humbarine colonies return to
haunt him. Biting his lip, Anakin immediately wrapped his arms around himself as
he swallowed hard and quietly departed, feeling unworthy to call himself a father
to Laic and Runa.

It was with troubled spirits that he returned to Dormé's bedside where he silently
played with her hair while trying to bury his thoughts and focus on the joyous
birth of his daughter. Even this encouraged bittersweet thoughts as he once more
had been unable to be there for Runa's birth. Dormé was soon stirring, bringing a
gentle smile to his lips as he felt her fingers slip over his own. Giving them a
gentle squeeze, he kissed her cheek.

Had she known she had been sedated, she would have been quite put off and
ready to punish those responsible, but now that Anakin was here, nothing else
mattered. Smiling at him, Dormé asked, 'How are you?'
His smile widened as his hand slipped to her cheek. 'I'm doing much better now
that I know you and Runa are home safe and sound,' he murmured.

Have you had a chance to see our little princess?'

His cheeks warmed to Dormé's final words. 'I wanted to wait until you woke up,
but I couldn't resist,' Anakin admitted sheepishly while swiftly burying the
memory of his swift departure or rather the reasons for it. 'She's so beautiful,
Dormé,' he concluded as his expression softened.

 'I don't blame you. I wanted to see her too...I-' Cutting herself short before
admitting how she wanted Anakin to be there this time, Dormé sighed. She only
heard second hand about the situation surrounding the events of Laic's birth, but
she had truly hoped and fantasized about Anakin being there this time for Runa.
Despite this disappointment, what truly mattered was that Anakin's injuries didn't
appear to be bad and that Runa was healthy.

The young emperor was both shamed and yet relieved to know that Dormé
wasn't disappointed by the fact he had slipped off to see their little princess.
However, he could sense her sadness and knew that it pertained to his absence.
In truth, it mirrored his own as he had desperately hoped to have been there for
Runa's birth as well. Thanks to the Humberine resistance, this wasn't possible and
even though he was pleased to be rid of them, Anakin was still furious to think
they interfered and took away from what would have been an even more happy
moment with his family. In the end, what mattered most was his family's safety.
Both Runa and Dormé were not only safe and alive, but they were both in perfect
health. He couldn't have been more relieved if he tried.

Unable to resist herself, Dormé slowly sat up and drew him into her arms. She
breathed him in deeply.

Slipping his arms around her petite form, the Sith Lord was mindful of her current
state and didn't smother her. He buried his face in her hair, kissing her throat.
'I've missed you so much,' he murmured softly into her ear. With Dormé in his
arms, nothing ever seemed insurmountable or too much to bear.

Feeling his strong, yet cautious, arms around her solidified her assumption that
this was where they belonged and that they were stronger together. She couldn't
help closing her eyes, feeling as though everything was set right once more in the
universe.

Runa's cries broke through their happy moment and Dormé furrowed her brow.
'She must be hungry,' she said, pulling back slightly to look him in the eyes.
'Would you mind getting her for me?'

Smiling shyly, the memory of learning how to hold Laic returned to Anakin's
thoughts. He had long since had much practice holding a baby and was feeling
more confident about it. 'I'd love to,' he said as his eyes lit up at the prospect of
being able to spend some time with their daughter once more.

Anakin did his best to try to calm their tearful daughter but Runa didn't seem to
respond to any of his gestures to sooth her. Presuming it was because their
daughter was hungry, Vader didn't take it to heart and was just content to be
able to have this opportunity to be with their little princess. It wasn't long before
he returned with the bundled form of their little princess, Runa, in his arms.
Gingerly, he offered Runa to her ama, but not before kissing the little one's
forehead.

Dormé smiled at Anakin as he carried their youngest so gently in his arms. She
couldn't have asked for a more loving family and at this thought, tears came to
her eyes. She took Runa and helped her begin to suckle. 'Her eyes are so blue,'
she remarked softly. 'Just like someone else's I know,' she added, grinning at
Anakin.

He touched Dormé's cheek, feeling so at peace and content to be home with his
family again. Studying Runa for a moment, he soon reached out to touch her
small hand once more, marvelling at how small and perfect it was. 'She is so
beautiful, Dormé,' he whispered in reply. 'I still can't believe how lucky I am to
have all of this, that it is all real,' he continued in gentle awe.

Runa's face was no longer contorted in displeasure as she contented herself with
her ama's warm presence. She liked the feel of a calloused finger against her
hand, but was too focused on her ama to pay heed to the darkness surrounding
Daddy. She slowly became sleeping and her eyes droopy. She paused before
resuming eating once more.

Anakin could feel Runa's contentment and grew shy as he sensed that she rather
liked the feel of his finger against her hand. Gazing down at their little princess,
the Sith Lord felt his heart swell in joy as all memories of guilt faded away leaving
only peaceful contentment. Soon his attentions drifted to his beloved and with it
came a new sense of joy as he reached out to touch her cheek.

Dormé smiled, torn between looking at their princess and at her husband, whom
she had missed. She knew exactly how he felt and once Runa fell asleep, she
drew Anakin in for a kiss, so glad he was home and that the Humbarine issue had
been resolved. 'Thank you,' she said, for it was just as much their happy moment
to share.

Her simple statement held so much meaning for Anakin, who studied in silent
admiration and love. There was so much he wanted to share with her, but in this
moment, words just didn't seem to suffice and so in silence he leaned in to steal
another gentle kiss. 'I love you so much,' he murmured softly in her ear before
his eyes drifted to the sleeping form of their daughter. Reaching out to gently
touch Runa's cheek, he whispered similar words of love to their daughter, feeling
as though he truly was the luckiest man in the universe to have a family as
wonderful as his own.

Dormé felt as lucky as Anakin did to be able to share this family she had always
desired to be a part of. With Anakin and their children, she felt entirely complete
and loved in ways she never thought possible. If anything was close to a dream,
this was hers.

It was not long before evening was upon them and Anakin joined her in bed.
Dormé decided as with Laic, to share their bed with Runa to make it easier for
midnight and early morning feedings. She had spent the last few weeks of her
pregnancy getting Laic used to his new room, but now that Runa was here and
Daddy was home, Laic felt extremely lonely sensing the three of them in one
room and him all alone.

Laic made his objection quite clear and after a little persuasion, Anakin was
carrying their eldest in to rest with them in their large bed. Laic was much
happier after that.
Dormé smiled sleepily at Anakin before gazing at their two sleeping babies and
looking back at him. Sleep then returned to Dormé and with it, the most peaceful
rest she had experienced in awhile.

Sleep wasn't nearly as peaceful for Anakin who initially drifted to rest in the
comfort of his family's presence. It wasn't the first time the Sith Lord found
himself suffering from nightmares and in reality he was slowly growing used to
them. That was until tonight.

Waking up with a start, Anakin caught himself just before he cried out in pained
horror. Visibly shaken by memories, he was too shamed to dwell upon the Sith
Lord's eyes immediately went to his family who were for the most part sleeping in
peace. He was too distraught to register that Laic was awakened by his father's
nightmares.

A soft sigh of relief escaped his lips as he took in the sight of his sleeping family.
Their children were alive, safe, and well and that alone eased much of his fears.
But almost as soon as the relief was felt, a rush of shame poured over him and it
was only then that Anakin registered the tears that lingered on his cheek and
stained his pillow. Just as he took note of cold sweat that covered his body and
the fact his hands were shaking so badly that he was certain he wouldn't even be
able to touch Laic's cheek or Runa's forehead without waking them.

Chapter Ten
A whimper escaped Anakin’s lips as he fought back renewed tears at memory of the nightmare, more
exactly the memory of the corpses of his children at his feet, dead because he was too lost in his
bloodlust to decipher them from the others. Biting his lip until he tasted blood, Anakin quickly
clambered out of the large bed feeling too dirty and disgusting to remain in this place of peace and
harmony.

Silently, he grabbed his robe—for despite controlled temperatures, the night was still far too cold for
the Tatooine native’s liking—and departed for the balcony. Upon taking his place, half leaning, half
sitting, on the couch’s edge, the Sith Lord struggled to keep his emotions and thoughts together. He had
restored peace, had he not? The guilty paid, didn’t they? Closing his eyes, he forced his thoughts to
clear. The more he wanted to ease his conscience, the worse he felt.

How could he return to his family, call himself a father, with the blood of so many younglings on his
hands? The thought brought a shaky sigh to his lips and furrowing his brow Anakin found himself
struggling to resist the urge to keep the truth of his actions from Dormé as even now he could still
recall her warning from years ago. Everything in his life was finally in control and as it should be, yet
Vader couldn’t shake the eminent feeling that he was on the verge of losing everything.

Through the Force he finally registered Laic’s troubled emotions as well as Runa’s and realized he had
awoken them in his disorientated attempts to flee from his solace. But as much as he wanted to return
to comfort them, the Sith Lord felt too unworthy and thus remained frozen. Guilt seemed weighed him
down, rendering him unable to move.

For a while longer, Anakin remained, staring out to the night sky as he struggled to clear his mind and
bury the memories that continued to haunt him. Though he longed to return to his family, Anakin
eventually retired to the couch where he once more fell into a fitful sleep filled with dreams of blood
and loss.

<hr>

Laic’s cries awoke his ama and infant sister, which promptly awoke Dormé. Though Dormé expected
Runa would wake her, she was surprised that Laic was upset, for he had been sleeping through the
night for months now. In the dark, Dormé called to Anakin, only to find he was no longer in bed. She
then set about comforting Laic first. Once Laic’s cries slowed and his breathing returned to normal,
Runa calmed down as well. Dormé kissed them both, figuring they were upset because Daddy had a
nightmare.

Over the years, Dormé had grown accustomed to Anakin’s bouts with nightmares he believed to hold
future truths and those that forced him to relive the horrors of war. This night was no different and as
much as she wanted to be there for Anakin, she knew their children would not be safe in bed alone so
she remained with them, though her thoughts were with her tormented husband. After everything he
had done to ensure the peace of this empire, he was the least deserving of restless nights.

Dormé awoke again later, in the wee hours of the morning to feed Runa, noticing Anakin still had not
returned to bed. She lamented the fact he wasn’t resting with them and immediately began to think he
wasn’t comfortable, that perhaps it wasn’t a nightmare at all. She fell back into a discontented sleep.

Once it was daylight, Dorme rose with Runa and summoned two handmaidens to help her with their
children so she would be able to wash up and change for the day. It was a slow process, for she was
still recovering and she had a droid fix breakfast instead of doing it herself so that she could check up
on Anakin.

She found him on one of the couches on the balcony and slowly approached.

The position he was sleeping in looked rather uncomfortable, especially given his tall frame, but as she
drew nearer, she realised she had disturbed his rest and felt bad. It was too late though and when he
stirred, he collapsed onto the floor. Dormé clamped a hand over her mouth as she smiled and tried not
to laugh. In the end, she couldn’t help it and at his greeting, she giggled.

Awoken by both his fall and the pain of smacking his elbow Vader cried out a curse of shock before
struggling in his disorientated state to grab for his lightsaber, believing himself to be on the frontlines.
It was only when he noticed Dormé’s presence and the fact his lightsaber wasn’t on his person that
Anakin glance around and take in his surroundings. As his eyes settled on Dormé his cheeks
immediately lit up like two super novas as he grinned, embarrassed. ‘...morning...’

‘Morning to you too,’ she said, offering him a hand. ‘I’ve got breakfast ready, though I have to admit I
didn’t make it.’ necessary.

Taking her hand, the Sith Lord soon rose to his feet before growing serious as Dormé spoke of
breakfast. To his relief, Dormé didn’t try to overexert herself and had the droid tend to it.

‘Are you all right?’ She wasn’t about to ask why he was out here or why he felt it was

‘How are you feeling?’ he asked at the same time.

Dormé smiled kindly when they both enquired about the other. She waited for him to answer her
question first, as her own issues were to be expected.

‘I’m fine, just the usual nightmares. I’ll explain later,’ he admitted knowing that ultimately he would
have to tell her whether he wanted to or not. Anakin tried to bury the shame that seemed to grow at
Dormé’s concern for him as he knew he was hardly worthy of it. He was grateful to be home and was
eager to help in what way he could with Dormé’s recovery.


She nodded to his words, though her expression did not belie her concern. Wrapping an arm around
him for support, she admitted to the usual pains, but was sure to add that, ‘It’s certainly better than last
time,’ offering him another gentle smile.

Feeling her arm around him, the Sith Lord soon had his wrapped around her as he studied Dormé
intently at her admittance that things were an improvement this time Anakin couldn’t help but nod. The
memory of Laic’s birth had been both wondrous and painful at the same time. It also reminded him that,
once more, he had missed the birth of their child and this did little to ease his shame. ‘I’m glad this
time wasn’t so bad, but if there is anything I can do to help with the recovery, be sure to tell me,’ he
said with gentle concern before pulling her into a hug.
Dormé hugged him back, grateful that he was home now. ‘You can start by coming inside and having
breakfast with me,’ she said, hoping he would at least have an appetite. She also hoped that he might be
able to get a few hours of sleep in later as well.

Anakin grinned at Dormé’s words and was reminded of the fact that outside of the nutrition given to
him at the medical centre he really hadn’t had much in the way of food. ‘That I can do,’ he said eagerly
as he kissed her cheek before growing a bit more serious as he decided he would see to it that Dormé
was able to get some much needed rest as well.

‘Did you want the doctor to come and have a look at you?’ she asked, referring to what happened while
he was gone, as they made their way inside.

Vader furrowed his brow as he shook his head. ‘No, I’m fine. Besides, I think I’ve put up with enough
doctors in the past couple of days to last me a lifetime,’ Anakin teased as he followed her inside.
‘Although, I’ll have yours stop by to make sure everything is as it should be with both Runa and
yourself,’ Anakin continued as he was most mindful of Dormé’s delicate condition and didn’t want to
encourage trouble.

‘That’s probably a good idea. Thank you,’ Dormé replied with his suggestion of having the doctor
check in on Runa and her. Though none of the Vaders particularly enjoyed examinations, they knew
there were some instances when they were unavoidable.

Anakin gave an understanding look to Dormé’s reply knowing how much she enjoyed having such
visits but knowing it was a necessity given the situation. ‘I’ll look into it after breakfast then,’ he said
gently.

Breakfast was wonderful and having not eaten real food for some time it was quite a treat to say the
very least. Anakin’s thoughts were heavy as he knew had and would tell Dormé what had happened in
his absence. As if sensing his thoughts, Dormé spoke up.

‘Did you have a chance to speak with Kei?’ she asked offhandedly, figuring he would be excited to
share with him the good news of the order restored to the Empire.

The Sith Lord’s expression grew troubled. Glancing away, he swallowed as he nodded. ‘Yes—I saw
him when I first learnt that you were on your way to meet me on the Humbarine colonies,’ Anakin
began carefully. ‘I filled him in on the details...He seemed pleased to a degree...’ he hinted not really
wanting to out and speak his thoughts just yet while at the same time uncertain how to describe the
deadly pain he had experienced then either.

‘Oh,’ Dormé replied, blushing. ‘I really wasn’t thinking straight,’ she said, shaking her head and
feeling quite embarrassed about that decision. ‘I was just so worried about you—and I really should
have brought proper medical care with me...’

Anakin just shook his head at her words, feeling her embarrassment before reaching over to take her
hands into his own. ‘It’s okay, Dormé, what matters is that both you and Runa are safe and fine. It’s
that fool’s fault for scaring you like that,’ he continued as his expression darkened. ‘I made sure that
was the last mistake he made,’ the Sith Lord continued in fiercer tones before his expression softened
as he reached to touch her cheek.

Dormé nodded at his words and squeezed his hands in return. She was glad to hear it had been the
officer’s last mistake, which reminded her of the handmaiden she had allowed to live. The thought was
fleeting. ‘I didn’t even consider the possibility that I might go into labour on the ship. I was so stupid...
Runa could have—and it would have been all my fault.’ She paused to take in a long breath, trying to
comfort herself with the fact that Runa was just fine...that no harm had come to her by being born
aboard a starship...that people were born and died in space all the time.

‘It wasn’t your fault, please don’t ever think that. He should have known better than to frighten you
like that. He is to blame not you,’ Anakin continued gently as he couldn’t help but feel bad for causing
Dormé to worry as she did. ‘Besides, as I said before, Runa is safe and healthy and so are you. In the
end, that is all that matters.’

She leant forward to rest her forehead against his. ‘And so are you,’ she murmured, temporarily
forgetting about the nightmares which caused him to miss resting the entire night.

Closing his eyes, Anakin tried to bury the shame that left him feeling more than unworthy of the family
he now belonged to.

After a moment, she pulled back to give him a more well-rested kiss than those he received the day
before.

He wanted to drown himself in the solace that her embrace offered, but his conscience wouldn’t allow
him this moment of peace. Once their kiss drew to a close, the Sith Lord sighed as his expression grew
troubled. ‘I—I need—there is something I need to tell you…about the Humbarine conflict,’ he
admitted finally as he bit his lip and glance away.

As much as Dormé wanted to content herself in her husband’s presence and in the joy of their newborn
and their family, it seemed that whatever was weighing on Anakin’s mind came to the forefront of his
thoughts. She heard it in his tone as much as it was visible in his expression. Dormé hoped that by
telling her about it would put his mind at ease. She squeezed his hand again in a silent gesture of
encouragement. She would not force it out of him, even though she could tell it was something that
bothered him a great deal. Her thumb softly brushed over his hand.

Her gentle gesture of assurance did little to ease his thoughts but it did encourage him to face what he
knew he had to do. Rising to his feet, Anakin continued to hold her hand, enjoying the feel of her
fingers over his own though hr knew he was unworthy this loving gesture. ‘Perhaps we should continue
this in the next room,’ he said, uncertain of her reaction and inwardly fearing their children might hear.

Rising with him, Dormé silently followed him to the balcony once more, having a growing feeling that
this was far more serious than she imagined. She didn’t want her thoughts running away with all the
possibilities, but despite her curiosity, she held her tongue. She held his hand through his silence,
waiting as patiently as she could for the inevitable revelation.

Anakin remained silent for a moment longer as his eyes drifted to the vast city ahead. ‘...I went too
far...again...’ he admitted quiet and shamed tones. ‘I was able to take down the resistance, but when I
went to destroy their families—so as to ensure there wouldn’t be a second uprising—I—’ he swallowed
hard and fell silent knowing he didn’t need to explain himself further.

His admission tore her heart as the news sunk in and she released his hand. ‘Anakin—’ she began, her
tone of horror, not condemnation. Though she was no longer touching him, she remained close as she
gasped, ‘Why?’

As Dormé released her grip from his fingers the Sith Lord suddenly felt incredibly alone and cold,
despite the fact it was both warm on the balcony and Dormé remained near to him. Her voice so filled
with horror, yet without judgment, only added to his shame as turned his back to her and began to
fiddle with his utility belt marking his nervousness. Her question was justified and yet Anakin didn’t
know how to respond as he bit his lip so hard he tasted blood. Shaking his head, he just closed his eyes,
forcing himself to keep it together, not to fall apart or try to leave. There was no running away when it
came to Dormé or denial of the facts.

‘...I...I don’t know....’ he croaked in barely audible tones. ‘I was just so caught up in the battle...I...’ he
shook his head, trying to ignore the nagging doubts that warred within him, telling him that he was
truly a monster, that his children would come to hate him because of his actions. ‘...I don’t know why I
keep doing this...I can’t seem to stop myself,’ Anakin admitted as he fought back tears of despair and
shame.

‘You don’t know,’ she breathed in response, folding her arms around herself as she suddenly felt cold.
Just when Dormé thought everything was set right once more, something like this had to happen to ruin
everything. She couldn’t comprehend the power of the dark side or the light side or anything having to
do with the Force, but what she did know was that there was something in Anakin that he needed to
either eradicate or learn to control. Certainly, his brother wasn’t going around killing younglings for no
reason. Certainly, when Obi-Wan went into battle he engaged in some sense of self-control.

The distance between them wasn’t missed by Anakin who didn’t dare look at Dormé whose simple
reply said so much more than words ever could. Vader wished he could say that he knew why he
always seemed to lose himself in battle or why it was that he could no longer tell the difference
between the innocent and guilty. Though he didn’t admit this aloud, Anakin found himself suddenly
wishing he hadn’t killed his Master, as he was in reality the only one who would know what was wrong
and how to mend it.

What did this mean? What was going to happen now? Dormé wasn’t sure. Would he ever become too
angry to think straight and kill her without intending to? Dormé didn’t care if he did, so long as the
children were safe. It was because they were the enemies...the children of the enemies... Certainly,
Anakin wouldn’t see her as an enemy. He wouldn’t see their children as enemies...

Vader could feel Dormé’s shift in emotions and felt another wave of shame for it. Her concern wasn’t
unfounded and he could only imagine what was going through her mind, which encouraged more
thoughts of despair. He knew things were getting out of hand and knew that something had to be done
otherwise—Anakin closed his eyes once more at the thought not daring to allow it to reach its
conclusion.

This was the second, no, the third time he had killed innocent people. It was unforgivable. Shaking her
head and letting out a despondent sigh, she grasped the railing they installed a little while ago for a
safety precaution for their children. After a moment, she looked over at Anakin. ‘I don’t care how you
do it, but you need to learn to control it, not for my sake, but for our children.’ She didn’t need to
remind him why.

Vader’s eyes opened as he stared ahead once again, not daring to look over at his beloved, for the
chasm that had formed between them felt more like a wall than anything else. Swallowing hard,
Anakin furrowed his brow as he weakly nodded in reply, feeling every bit the monster he knew he was.
‘I...I will stop at nothing until I find away,’ he whispered in sincere tones as he fought back his despair
and shame. He had no idea where to go or how to tend to this matter but he was determined to find out
one way or another. ‘I’m sorry...’ Anakin murmured quietly, wishing he could better express his
thoughts but not daring to try lest he fall prey to his guilt and self disgust that now flooded his mind.

Dormé had heard a similar testament before. She knew he meant it, but at the same time, something
within wouldn’t allow her to believe it fully. She didn’t know she was already being to forge walls to
protect her heart from him. It was infuriating that Anakin wouldn’t even look at her when he spoke.
While apologies were sometimes necessary and desired, in this case, it just made her angry. ‘You’re a
father, Anakin...’ She moved in front of him in an effort to make him look her in the eye, grabbing his
arms forcefully. ‘...and a husband,’ she continued, her voice firm. ‘It’s time for you to grow up.’

Staring at her in disbelief, the Sith Lord just gaped as he shook his head. ‘Grow up? Just what the
iquicha is that supposed to mean?’ he snapped. ‘You think it’s just that easy don’t you? I’ll just flick
some hidden switch and immediately be in control of the Force?!’ he snapped in sarcastic tones.

‘I told you, I don’t care how you do it.’ Sighing, she fought back tears as she said.

‘Not that it matters to you! It’s nothing more than an optical illusion at the best of times or a joke at the
worst,’ he snapped in defence, shirking her touch.

‘You’re right; I don’t care about your powers. I don’t care about them until they hurt our children.’

‘I said I am going to tend to the problem and I will. It’s not like I can just go to a random Sith Lord and
ask for help. I’m the last one remember?’ he continued before growing serious once more. ‘You’re not
the only one who is worried about all of this—’ Anakin admitted in quiet tones.

‘What about your brother?’ Dormé replied, not letting his attitude get the better of her.
Vader’s eyes wavered at her statement and he swallowed hard as he glanced away. He didn’t dare face
his brother now, not like this, not after all that had transpired. While Anakin had convinced himself that
Obi-Wan had overreacted pertaining to his use of the dark side, he couldn’t deny the truth of Aené’s
loss and the loss of the other children.

‘I thought he helped last time—when—’ Dormé swallowed hard and looked away from him, not
wanting to remember the fact that his brother could have saved Aené.

Dormé unfinished statement also reminded him of how his brother could have saved their daughter and
with this memory he fell silent. Any and all further denials and defence faded away leaving behind
only vulnerability and shame. Instinctively, he was about to slip his arms around Dormé, but his guilt
wouldn’t permit him to, so he refrained. ‘Obi-Wan doesn’t know, nor does he care to know, about the
dark side. All he’ll do is try to convince me to return to the ways of the Jedi. It would be a lost cause,’
Anakin whispered. ‘I’ll just have to find another way.’

She put a hand over her mouth, trying not to cry at the thought of Aené. She didn’t say anything further
as he whispered that he would have to find another way. She didn’t say that she thought his brother
loved him and would do what he could to help, or that if the Jedi didn’t kill things that maybe that
would be a better course to take. Instead, Dormé placed her faith in Anakin as a person. Unknowingly
so much like Obi-Wan, Dormé had faith in Anakin, a kind of faith that would never fully break, tried
and worn, as it would become over the course of their lives. They had already come so far and this was
just another test. She had to believe that.

The silence was almost deafening and despite Anakin’s initial hesitation to hold his wife, in the end,
the sight of her struggling with her tears proved to be too much. Quietly, the Sith Lord approached,
feeling more than aware of how unworthy he was to stand by her side. Cautiously, he slipped his arms
around her, neither expecting her acceptance, nor about to hold it against her either. At the same time,
he couldn’t deny the fact they were in this together, no matter how much this was entirely his own
problem.

Though his darkness would remain between them, Dormé held him tightly in return. It was as though
she were clinging to him, trying to pull him away from someone else who strained to hold onto him.

There was something almost desperate about Dormé’s embrace that wasn’t missed by the Sith Lord
who held her with equal fervency. Though he couldn’t explain it, it felt as though they were once more
caught in an unseen storm that was threatening to drown them both. ‘I will not fail you,’ he murmured,
wanting to desperately believe his own promise, yet unable to deny the sinking feeling that this matter
was far from over.

In that moment, Anakin made an oath to her, that he would find a way out of this, that he wouldn’t
harm their children and Dormé so desperately wanted to believe it that it would become true. She
wouldn’t know what to do if this weren’t the case. Not only was she relying on him, but Laic and Runa
were as well.

Anakin knew that this was his doing and if they were to survive, he would have to be the one to calm
the storm. There would be no running away this time, no pointing fingers or passing the blame onto
other people. However, though the emperor’s determination was unwavering, he would soon learn that
the storm had only begun.

				
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