Consumed 2/5 (Star Wars, Ani/Obi, Mature, 1,519 Words) Fandom: Star Wars Title: "Holiest of Altars" / Consumed - Part 2 of 5 (1,519 Words) Author:jarkai_fic on LJ / jarkai everywhere else Beta:legolad Theme(s): (For 30_somethings on Insanejournal, Nights: #05, Flower) Pairing/Characters: Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi Rating: Mature - previous part contains character death, violent imagery, and sexual situations Disclaimer/claimer: AU, but heavily influenced by Matthew Stover's adaptation of Revenge of the Sith Critiques: Yes Summary: Sometimes the 'ghost of the past' is more than just a metaphor.
Holiest of Altars
"Vac suits," Obi-Wan said flatly, as if we hadn't just seen what we had seen, as if we found Padmé's ship adrift in space every day.
"Waste of time! I can have my breather ready, handle the jump with a Force bubble! Besides, we have no idea what's on the other side of that door, and it's impossible to fight in a--" His silence cut me off. Without a word, Obi-Wan began struggling into his vac suit, his movements awkward within the confines of his cockpit. I nearly tore off my headset in frustration.
"Patience, Anakin, and forethought. Recklessness gains nothing in situations like this."
"And here I was sure that I should embrace the Living Force and try to live in the moment, Master." I jerked my vac suit from its storage compartment and thrust my feet down its bulky legs.
"The point is that I'd like you to live, period." Obi-Wan's voice softened, the change evident even from beneath his space helmet. "Don't be like this. Don't be anything right now. Concentrate on the matter at hand."
In response, I slid into the last of my gear and burst from my cockpit. I'd lied to myself. The jump took more than the seven seconds I'd estimated. It took nearly twelve, almost double what I had predicted. Still, I was certain I could have made it. I was half-tempted to tell that, but the urge died the moment the door swung shut. Darkness closed around us, utterly complete, but hardly silent.
The wind? I cocked my head to one side. No, that whistle wasn't the wind. I stiffened.
"I can hear it, too," Obi-Wan whispered. "Birds. Anakin, light a--"
Without warning, the ship obeyed.
Overhead, the massive glass and crystal chandelier that had hung in the grand foyer of the lake house known as Varykino blazed to life. Most likely it still hung there. I had no idea. Since her death, I had never returned to the place where Padmé had fallen in love with me, where we had married, where I had most likely fathered the twins. I had planned never to do so again. Yet I was here. I knew the gloss of the marble walls. I knew the pattern of the tile floor.
Mouth dry, I unfastened my helmet and lifted it off.
I inhaled. There. Sandalwood and patchouli, the perfumes of Naboo. I squeezed shut my eyes.
Obi-Wan's gloved hand settled my shoulder. He squeezed. "Are you all right?"
"The air's breathable." Still turned from him, I began to tug off my suit.
"I'm not certain that's such a good idea. Surely--a gas that causes hallucinations--something--"
"That could get through our vacs?" Finally I looked back at him. Beneath his helmet, Obi-Wan's face was pinched, worried. "Are you coming or not? This is a search and rescue, not a sight-seeing tour."
He blinked, obviously taken aback. "Of course, but we need to make sure the door is secure first."
"Obi-Wan," I said quietly. "There isn't any door."
He glanced over his shoulder, then made a slow, visual sweep of the room. On the second, an oath escaped him, so soft I barely heard it. He pulled off his helmet, setting it on a nearby table of dark, intricately filigreed wood.
The table held. Not an illusion then. Or, if it was, a solid one.
"Was that always here?" Obi-Wan asked, shrugging out of his suit.
"Was what--" I followed his line of sight, and my words stopped dead. A massive portrait hung on the west wall, set in a gilded frame. It wasn't the opulence that struck me. That was the norm at Varykino. But the dress, and the face...
"Padmé," I choked out, unable to hold it back. The gown was the same one she'd worn the first time I'd kissed her, her smile just as inviting and enigmatic.
A solid illusion, then, and an exceptionally cruel one.
Without looking back, I set off deeper into the house, Obi-Wan following quickly behind. I didn't know what he was thinking, but his silence spoke louder than any words.
The hall led straight forward, tiny parlor rooms and other corridors branching off in nearly every direction. With every step, I saw something I knew--the room where Padmé had so often insisted we take tea; the dress she had worn the night I had confessed my love to her, so casually draped over the back of a chair; an oil painting of the first time we'd been intimate hung on the wall. I rushed past it with my head down, but Obi-Wan stopped, holding me back.
"You seem to know your way around," Obi-Wan stated evenly, gazing up at the scene, voice devoid of emotion.
I shrugged, jaw tight.
"I thought that you'd only been here twice."
"Good memory, I guess." More bitter than I should have sounded. My cheeks burnt.
Obi-Wan's eyes lingered on the painting a moment longer, but I couldn't bear to look. I fixed my gaze on the giant window just ahead of us. Green fields dotted with white flowers spread out beyond the glass, their slopes still unforgotten after all this time.
In the distance, a woman knelt, gathering blossoms. The wind caught her as she stood, unraveling the ribbons in her dark hair and snatching the flowers from her hands. Petals scattered with the second gust. She lifted her head, laughing, as beautiful now as she had been the first time we had come here.
I shot forward, seizing Anakin's fist in my hands before it could slam down a second time. "I know that you miss her, but now is not the--"
Anakin swung towards me. Spots of color rode high on his otherwise blanched cheeks. The fist inside my grip shook. "Miss her? Can't you see her?"
He turned back to the blank marble wall. "Anakin," I started, but went no further. The last of the blood drained from his face. He took a step back. He had already seen.
Anakin ran a hand through suddenly sweat-damp hair. "One of my visions?"
"Perhaps, but I think it's best that we get you off the ship--"
I bit my tongue. Ki-Adi-Mundi, Anakin--I was sick of arguing with both of them. I would not add another branch to the flames.
Anakin glowered. "What? I won't run away from petty Separatists. You expect me to run away from this?"
Not this, I thought. From her. And just once I wish you would.
His eyes narrowed. I fought the urge to drop my gaze. My face had already said what I'd promised myself I would not.
"She was never jealous of you," Anakin managed, his voice just above a whisper. He turned sharply on his heel, at the doorway again in four long strides.
"Of course Padmé was never jealous of me," I said quietly. "There wasn't a me then."
But he was already gone.
I counted the rest of the way to ten, giving him just enough distance to cool off before I followed. At the last number, I reached the parlor's threshold, peering out into the hall. It led off in both directions, just as long as before, but this time truly empty. Its granite walls housed nothing but smooth doors of grey metal. No portraits lined the corridor; no rugs adorned the floor. I scarcely dared to breathe. Distantly, birds trilled, their song underscored by the constant burble of running water.
This was not Naboo. If I headed past all the classrooms and meditation nooks, I would find the Temple's Thousand Fountains. If I went back, I would come to the stairs, the stairs that led to my rooms.
Anakin. If the ship was becoming the Jedi Temple, surely he would head for my rooms. At least that is what I told myself. Something about the light as I ran the length of the corridor, something about the height of the few placards set into the walls--I took the steps two at a time, my chest burning by the time I reached my chambers.
My hand began its regular dance over the entry-pad, and then paused, taking up a different and older pattern. My fingers left perspiration on the keys.
The door slid back. Inside, my common room was cool and dim, every lamp unlit, except that it was no longer mine. Beyond the sofa, beyond the low table and the tea set eternally in use upon it, tall windows spread across the outer wall, the gold and scarlet of the Coruscanti sunset filling the panes. A man stood before them, his back to me, little more than a silhouette against the light.
"Anakin?" I asked, even though I already knew it wasn't him. The shoulders were too wide, the fall of the man's hair too long as he turned toward me. All I could smell was kopi tea.