Prologue | Chapter One A | Chapter One B | Chapter One C | Chapter Two A | Chapter Two B
Chapter Two C | Chapter Three | Chapter Four
Notes: Wow, a post that didn't take another year to produce. *nudges Miyeko meaningfully* You were saying, dear? ^_~
*looks suspiciously at Carol* I really don't know what this means, but I'm not one to look a cooperative muse in the mouth!
A lot of people have told me that this story is dark-- I hope it's enjoyable inspite of (or because of?) the darkness. I think I've finally figured out how things are going to go, and I've hopefully managed to come up with a Vader/Padme sort-of-romance that won't squick anyone.
This post is brought to you by Godiva Milk Chocolate Bunnies. Because-- YUM. ^_^ Thanks as always to Leia_N for prodding me along, and helping to get my creative juices going. Whee.
Thanks to you guys as well, for taking the time to read this. If I could trouble you a bit more for a comment, I'd be forever grateful.
Faces in the Passageway, 5a/?
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
Darth Vader paid no attention to Dr. Antillies as she struggled haltingly to her feet, nor did he heed her silent exit. Instead, it seemed as if her words were scrabbling against his ears, like the vulture insects of Tatooine, embodiments of a planet that ravaged its dead. Her voice was gone from him-- it was another, deeper pitch that spoke, rattling the cages of the skeletal past.
'She's a politician, and they're not to be trusted.'
(dismissive, complacent, self-assured.)
'Dreams pass, in time.'
(they pass, all things things pass, they die bound at wrists and ankles in the cold, rotting tents of things that walk like men...)
'You were like my brother.'
(and then there was fire-- there was fire and a pain beyond the scope of the word, liquid and towering, stalking through dreams)
'A little young for you, isn't she?'
Vader looked, gazed without context upon the person his wife had become, and saw a girl. A delicate creature with ancient eyes and regal bearing, filled with knowledge but at the same time stumbling, coltish, on uncertain ground. Like a fine jewel placed in a new setting, this girl was Padme at a different angle, facets catching and reflecting the light.
And she was young, scarcely older than the first time his eyes had rested on her, free of the lenses that now defined his world. She had entered with the wind and heat, noon brightness all around her, so that he had been certain she was made of light. A chance glimpse into some other world, and if he turned his head the wrong way she would vanish as suddenly as she had come.
She spoke to him, and he was entranced.
She was kind to him, and he was grateful.
And, in the chilly predawn of the race, she'd sat with him in the courtyard of slave-quarter's miserable hovel, using a stick to draw signs for good luck in the sand. Hand over his wrist, she'd showed him the complicated loops of her native tongue, her longing as open as bone wrenched free of flesh. Vulnerable but determined.
He loved her then.
He loved her now. The pits of Mustafar had stripped much from him, had warped and changed him as something organic is petrified to stone. But fire was fallible, and her memory remained. Somewhere, there was a little slave boy still, laying silent on his pallet as he watched her shadow in the dark, her even breathing like the rhythm of some river underground-- secret and sacred. On a world where a cup full of water could be worth more than gold, stories traveled, ghostly compatriots of those first colonists consigned to Tatooine. A river, they said, deep beneath the rock and dune, hoarded by a planet that worked arthritis into your very soul. Endless water, flowing in the dark, where empty cities lay, forgotten totems that reminded, 'everything comes with a price'.
Oh, there was a price, the stories said. The toll was high; a mouthful of water for your memories, blessed relief for an eternity of wandering alone.
Padme Naberrie had entered that river; it had embraced her body and swallowed all trace, so that when she rose again she was Yalith Minborne, unaware that everything was the same. Beneath her frozen surface, something quicksilver flickered, that essential center which nothing could touch. That his wife was at once dead and living seemed little contradiction to Vader-- his own existence hinged on such irreverent balance. His love for her had been a child's love, then that of a man, and that of a friend. The progression was as natural as aging itself.
He would commit no blasphemy, perpetrate no sacrilege.
Once, in the lengthening twilight of Naboo, he had taken her small, ringless hand in his own. He had promised to love her, to protect, and to have faith-- words he'd carved into a medallion many years before.
'I'd come back for you, if you took too long.'
She had keep her promises.
He would keep his own.
Dawn came to Coruscant, gray-pink and diffuse, filtering away the night. Yalith stood in the kitchen, dressed in only her shift and stockings, a single lock of hair falling as she bent over the counter. She was cutting ojubu fruit for her lunch; the click of the knife was dull and rhythmic as it sliced through the thin blue skin.
Click, click-- she peeled away the filmy covering and set the slices aside.
Click, click. And again.
She watched her hands while she worked, feeling curiously detached, almost as if they were not her own. From within, she felt a curious stillness, like that of a silent ocean unwilling to reveal its secrets. A foreign ocean, in which no land or points of reference could be found, until the horizon blurred and sky began to look disturbingly like the sea.
'You're in shock,' she thought to herself. And, on the heels of that, an older voice murmured, 'Enjoy it while it lasts.' This was a familiar numbness, though, one which allowed her to function regardless of cracking heart or the sound of heavy, metallic feet in the streets of beloved home. The ebony, expressionless face of Darth Vader hovered in her minds eye, masking some other treasured visage, and a little boy's voice saying 'I don't want you to forget about me.' In her dreams, she cupped his small cheek in her hand, and told him that even death could not make her forget.
"Miss Yalith?" the query was quiet, but startling. Yalith set the knife down, turning to see Nurse Genea standing in the polished chrome threshold, holding a clean school uniform draped over her arm. Yalith smiled briefly, placing the fruit in her lunch canister before she washed her hands. The nurse pursed pale peach lips and tugged impatiently on her white veil.
"Thank you, Genea," Yalith murmured, slipping the stiff cotton uniform over her head. A thin trace of resentment flickered in her heart-- she was honest with herself enough to realize that she sometimes disliked her caretakers as much for who they were not, as she did for their actions.
[Hooded faces, secret smiles. The squeeze of a hand, silent support.
"We are brave, your majesty."]
"You're welcome," Genea sighed, stepping back as Yalith slipped past her. Deftly, quickly, the schoolgirl parted her hair, drawing it into loose buns that dangled on either side of her face.
She heard, rather than saw, the nurse moving in the kitchen, calling out lightly, "You're not a maid, Genea-- you don't have to take care of my lunch, too." Part peace offering, held out the same way her smile was. 'We don't agree,' said the harmony under her tone, 'but let's not fight.'
"You shouldn't be going to school today," the nurse muttered, tidying the lunch canister and wrapping it in a loose kerchief. "You missed the first two cycles-- and you did scream so, last night." Almost unnoticeably, Yalith stiffened, knowing her offerings had been refused.
"They were nightmares, Genea," Yalith said, accepting the canister. Fetching her shoes, she perched herself on a low stool to tie them. "Everyone has them. Besides," she added, before the other woman could interrupt, "I want to go, I _like_ to go."
"Winds know why," Genea said, and then, under her breath, "Doesn't really matter, anyway."
Yalith looked up sharply, eye narrowing. "I don't appreciate that."
Genea crossed her arms over the white yoke of her bosom. "All you do is cause trouble, disagree'n with your teachers every five minutes. For such a little thing, you do take a lot of work."
"I suppose you'd like it better if I just stayed in bed," Yalith remarked dryly, well aware that things had swiftly gotten away from her. So much for being peaceable. Her movements became more terse as she finished tying her shoes, the only real outward sign of her anger.
"You'd do us all a favor, instead of sitting around spoutin' disloyalties left and right. You're too young to remember what it was like under the Old Republic, but I can tell you--"
"I don't glorify the Old Republic," Yalith said, closing her eyes. With a deep breath born of long experience, she said clearly, "It had it's problems-- I don't know how many times I have to tell you that I disagree with that sort of nostalgia. The Old Republic was corrupt and dying. But that doesn't mean that we have to just lay down and accept whatever the Emperor hands us."
(What if the Republic we swore to protect no longer exists?)
"Things are safe, orderly," Genea pointed out.
"Stifled, restricted," Yalith corrected, voice staccato. "Freedom is important-- and that means freedom to make your own decisions, even if they might be the wrong ones."
(Have you ever considered that we may be on the wrong side?)
"No one asked what you thought," Genea said, following Yalith as she went down the hall. "What makes you so sure you know better than anyone else?"
"That's the idea of a democracy," Yalith said, fighting hard to keep her teeth from biting into the words. "The people make the decisions, so no body 'knows better' than anyone else." Genea opened her mouth, but her charge had already slipped around the corner. In the back of the nurses' mind, it gave her just a little chill, how ghostlike and silent Dr. Minborne's daughter could be. She stood in the threshold, watching the other with discomfort in her spin and perhaps a trace of envy.
[So this is the way liberty dies. With thunderous applause.]
There was a tightness in Yalith's stomach, like the clenching of a fist. Not for the first time, she marveled with a sort of half-horror at those who would rather be told what to do. To follow anyone with direction, content to turn a blind eye and never step out of line, even if the person behind or in front of them vanished, a mere whisper of a scream.
Sentient nature? Perhaps. But while the marrow of Yalith's bones was etched with an intimate understanding of fear, she could _not_ understand complacency.
('You can't take on the whole Empire yourself, Yali.')
The words were Hisae's, but they were wielded by someone else. Someone without a voice-- Yalith's shadowy twin, born within her own body; the girl who saw if she looked deeply enough into the mirror.
With a deep breath, Yalith straightened her skirts. 'Maybe not,' she conceded internally, feeling a strength both old and now, 'but just watch me try.'
Ignoring her white shadow, the young girl went about gathering the few books she'd left out in the gray-blue parlor, slipping them into her school case. "You need to settle down, stop embarrassing your father." Then, needling in just as deftly as administering a shot; "You're to be presented at Court soon, and you'd just better hope your mouth doesn't put suitors off. What's he gonna do if he doesn't get an offer for you?"
"I'm not getting married," Yalith bit the inside of her lip, buttoning up her wool coat. For a moment, her face was utterly without color or blood, as white and foreign as the moon. It was as if she could feel her skull behind her blank expression, fashioned of brittle ice. She tied her scarf over her hair, grabbing her train-pass from its slot by the door. "Not to anyone, especially some Imperial drone. Heaven forbid I actually have a brain."
"Ungrateful child," Genea said, just shy of venomous.
Yalith looked back over her shoulder as the pearl-chrome door slid open, bringing a breeze from the apartment corridor. "I'm going to school," she said cooly. Then, with a childishness that was refreshing because it was purely her own; "You wonder why I like to go to school? It gets me out of here."
She let the door slide loudly shut behind her.
Forget physics-- feedback makes the world go 'round! ^_~ *puppy eyes* Pretty please?