mattlauercansuckit: (It's the perfect disguise!)
[personal profile] mattlauercansuckit
title The Middle Way
author [livejournal.com profile] patientalien
word count 2823
rating PG
summary Padme's decision to trade Grievous for Anakin is not so cut-and-dry.
notesWritten for the "restrained" prompt on my [livejournal.com profile] hc_bingo card. AU of "Shadow Warrior"

-----



Padme Amidala always prided herself on her ability to do what was in the best interest of the Republic, even at a detriment to her personal life. She spent countless hours in meetings, heading committees, and working to ensure that those who disagreed with the war were heard. She always thought she would never come across a situation where she didn't know what to do.

Of course, that was before Count Dooku offered the life of her husband in exchange for the now-captured General Grievous. She stood for a long while, staring at the empty void where just a moment ago she'd watched as Dooku ordered the torture of Anakin Skywalker, clenching her fists and trying to decide how to proceed.

She knew what the real answer was. Grievous' capture was a huge victory for the Republic, and would seriously cripple their military operations. However, Anakin's capture left the Republic in a similar situation, their shining star General unable to mop up the pieces left by Grievous' departure from the battlefield. It felt like a zero-sum game, and Padme realized, for the first time in her career, that she didn't how to proceed.

With a sharp outward breath, Padme accepted that she could not make this decision on her own. She was too biased, too personally invested, to ensure the words she would speak next to Dooku were not "I agree. Release Anakin." She retreated back to Oota Gunga, to a private room appointed for her use, and comm'd the Jedi Council.

As she waited for the Council to take her call, she schooled her features into her Senatorial mask, and jotted down everything she knew about the situation. Grievous had killed General Tarpals, and thus the Gungans would not be amenable to releasing him. However, Anakin was beloved amongst them. Grievous' capture might end the war quicker, but leaving Anakin a prisoner left the Republic without one of its keenest military leaders. Grievous was a murderer, a war criminal. Anakin was her husband. She scratched out the last note violently.

"Senator Amidala." The holoscreen staticked to life, and she saw several of the High Council members peering at her expectantly. She saw Obi-Wan among them, and felt strangely comforted. He was her connection to Anakin, though she wasn't sure which solution he would support. "News from Naboo have you?" Yoda's long ears tilted towards her, and Padme wondered if the old Master already knew what was going on.

She swallowed heavily. "Yes, Master Yoda," she said, fully Senator Amidala, now. "Grievous attacked the Gungans, and their soldiers were able to apprehend him." There was delighted murmuring on the other end of the holo, and Padme held up a hand. "However," she continued, trying to keep her voice steady, "in the midst of the battle, General Skywalker engaged Count Dooku and was captured himself." She flicked her eyes upward; the jovial mood of the Council had vanished. Obi-Wan, in particular, looking stricken. "Dooku contacted me and offered Anakin in exchange for Grievous, and indicated that Anakin would be tortured in the hands of the Separatists."

"A grave situation this is," Yoda intoned, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "Much to be gained from Grievous' capture there is, much to be lost from young Skywalker's." Padme was glad that she was not the only one who thought this was a horrible decision.

"That is true, Master Yoda," Padme replied, fisting her hands in her sleeves, under her desk. "That is why I felt it best to bring this before the Council before I responded." She dreaded responding, especially if they decreed it be Anakin who suffered; she knew Dooku would torture him more, just out of spite.

Yoda leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes. "Discuss this, we must," he informed her. "Our decision we will contact you with."

She'd been hoping for an answer immediately; the longer they waited, the longer Anakin suffered. Still, she had come to them, and she knew the protocol involved in dealing with the Council. "I will await your response," she said graciously, and cut the connection. Once she knew she was alone, she buried her face in her hands and struggled to hold back her sobs.

-----


"Dooku is playing dirty," Mace Windu spat as soon as the image of Senator Amidala disappeared. "We should not give in to his demands."

Obi-Wan Kenobi shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He understood the Korun Master's point, and could make his own arguments for not initiating a prisoner exchange. But there was another part of him, a part he tried to bury deep down, that cried out that Anakin was his Padawan and they shouldn't leave him tormented at the hands of the Separatists.

"Then what of young Skywalker?" Plo Koon asked. Since Anakin had taken Ahsoka as his own Padawan, Plo Koon had taken a vested interest in the young man. "He possesses a wealth of information the Separatists would be interested in obtaining, likely by any means necessary."

Like what had happened to Evan Piell, Obi-Wan thought. But, like Master Piell, Anakin would never willingly betray the Republic. "Anakin won't talk," he pointed out. "So my concern is he will die in the process." He spread out his hands. "I realize that I am biased, Masters, but Anakin is vital to the war effort, and he is the Chosen One. Should it not be our responsibility to keep him safe?"

"At the expense of the galaxy as a whole?" Stass Allie asked. "We cannot sacrifice the many to save the one. You know that, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan bowed his head. "Of course not," he replied. "What I am suggesting is... a middle way."

"The Negotiator strikes again," Windu commented dryly, but with a genuine warmth. "What are you thinking, Obi-Wan?"

"Obviously, we must keep Grievous in custody," Obi-Wan began, the plan forming in his mind as he spoke. "I also feel it is in the Republic's interest to free Anakin. Therefore, I suggest we send a team of Jedi to Naboo. Half of the team will oversee Grievous' transfer to a holding facility on Coruscant, while the other half will rescue Anakin." He sat back in his chair, trying not to feel pleased with himself.

There was silence in the Council chambers. Finally, Yoda spoke. "An astute plan this is." The old Master steepled his fingers. "Plan on which Jedi to take do you?"

"I would volunteer my services," Plo Koon said, nodding to Obi-Wan.

"And I feel Ahsoka would want to join us. She is more than capable of such a mission," Obi-Wan pointed out. Besides, he had a feeling he would never hear the end of it if she were not allowed to come.

"Padawan Tano should not go up against Dooku," Windu stated. "But she may come. I will be your fourth. We should not allow one life to be sacrificed for the many if that life can be reasonably saved." He leveled his intense glare at Stass Allie, who shrank in her seat.

Obi-Wan felt a surge of gratitude. "Thank you, Master Windu," he said, sincerely, bowing his head. He didn't think about the option of failure - if there was one thing he'd learned from his years of training Anakin, it was that every difficult situation had a solution. Every deadly encounter a chance for survival.

-----


The Council called back sooner than she'd expected. She listened intently as Obi-Wan outlined the plan, and she was almost surprised she hadn't thought of it before. "My thanks, Masters," she said, clasping her hands in front of her in supplication. "Any resources the Naboo can provide will be at your disposal." It was the least she could do, really, and she knew she could convince the Gungans to provide support as well.

"We will be there shortly," Windu said. "Do not contact Dooku - we don't want to give him any reason to further harm Skywalker."

Padme swallowed heavily. Part of her longed to call Dooku, let him know his plan would fail and that Grievous would stay in the hands of the Republic and soon her husband would be back in her arms. But she understood the wisdom of holding her tongue, did not trust that Dooku wouldn't kill Anakin outright. "Of course," she replied. "I look forward to your arrival."

Outside, she was Senator Amidala, gracious and diplomatic. Inside, she was Padme, and she was screaming.

-----


Anakin had lost track of time. He knew he must have been hanging in the suspension field for a while, if the cramps in his arms and the gnawing hunger in his belly were any indications. He'd heard part of the conversation Padme and Dooku had been having, before the magna guards had hit him with the force pikes and he'd lost consciousness, and he hoped Padme was going to make the right decision. Grievous needed to be brought to justice.

With nothing to do but think, and glower at the magna guards, Anakin found himself drifting in and out of trance-like meditation. He thought he understood, though wasn't sure why Dooku hadn't just killed him yet. It would be easy to say he was alive, to kill him, transfer his body, and be off the planet with Grievous before anyone realized. He could tell Dooku wanted to kill him, could sense it in the old man, could see it in his eyes and in the cool disdain he showed every time he set foot near Anakin's suspension field.

The manga guards must have thought he was getting too comfortable, because a force pike slammed into his stomach and everything went dark.

-----


Despite the world's beauty, Obi-Wan Kenobi did not like Naboo. He knew it wasn't a very Jedi-like sentiment; one should not show preference to any planet over another, and one certainly shouldn't let previous experiences on a planet color one's perceptions. Focus on the now, Qui-Gon had always told him. But Qui-Gon had died on Naboo, and he was having trouble separating, especially with Anakin in the hands of yet another Sith Lord.

Ahsoka Tano looked up at him expectantly, her huge eyes glistening in the dim light of the LAAT/i. Obi-Wan knew he had to set aside his own discomfort with the mission at hand and provide guidance to his Padawan's Padawan. He'd already made it clear that she was to assist Master Plo with the transfer of Grievous back to Coruscant, but he had a feeling the bucking of authority she'd learned under Anakin would rear its head when it came time to separate. He'd voiced this opinion, softly, to Windu - She'll want to be part of the rescue, and I don't think forbidding her would be a good idea. Windu had agreed, reluctantly, that if Ahsoka really did stray from the plan, he would support it.

The LAAT/i landed with a jolt on the swampy land of the Gungan territory. The four Jedi and the small squad of troopers from the 501st and 212th stepped out into the sunlight and rich air, greeted by Senator Amidala, Jar Jar, and the Gungan ruler Boss Lyonie. "We thank you for your presence," Padme said, bowing. Obi-Wan could see the strain on her face, the tell-tale tightening of her jaw and posture. He knew how she felt about Anakin, knew that this was as hard for her as anyone.

"We'll get Grievous off-world first," Windu explained. "As soon as Master Plo is out of the atmosphere, we will begin our infiltration of the fortress Skywalker's being held in."

"Boss Lyonie has offered several of his scouts to accompany you," Padme replied. "They can guide you to the fortress itself." Obi-Wan had to admire her resolve; if he didn't know her as well as he did, he wouldn't realize there was anything personal at stake.

"That would be appreciated," Obi-Wan replied, doing his own best to keep his personal feelings buried. He knew Padme knew how he felt, just as he knew how she felt, and neither of them could ever speak of it out loud. He was just grateful the Council had agreed with his plan.

"May the Force be with you," Windu intoned to Plo Koon as the two bowed to each other. Plo Koon followed Jar Jar and Boss Lyonie towards Oota Gunga, while Obi-Wan and the others hunkered down to work out a plan.

-----


Though Anakin was cut off from using the Force, he could still sink into the flows and ebbs as it washed around him. In the tide, he could feel Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, Windu... Not far in the distance, as if on Coruscant, but nearby. He wondered if they were on Naboo, and if they were, why. He'd come to terms with the fact he would be sacrificed for the greater good; if it meant a quicker end to the war he would sacrifice himself a hundred times over. Maybe they were here to claim his body.

He'd never felt beaten before, was always able to see a way out. Now, though, he wasn't sure.

-----


While he hadn't been able to convince Ahsoka to remain behind, Obi-Wan was glad that Padme had realized the futility of her joining them. She remained behind to monitor Grievous' trip to Coruscant, which Obi-Wan was grateful for. It wasn't that the woman couldn't hold her own in a fight, it was that fighting Count Dooku and countless magna guards could not be accomplished with a blaster.

The trio of Jedi followed the Gungan guides through the jungle until they reached the side of a steep cliff. "Oh, that's not an obvious evil lair or anything," Ahsoka commented as they saw the ornately-carved opening of the fortress. It was the kind of comment Anakin would make, which made Obi-Wan hide a smile while Windu glared at the Padawan.

They rappelled down the cliff wall, careful to duck away from the prying photoreceptors of hovering surveillance 'droids. Of the many fortresses (too many, he thought dourly) Obi-Wan had broken into, this was not among the more difficult. But the fact it was Anakin they were rescuing somehow made him feel as though it were more urgent, the stakes higher. He knew it wasn't the Jedi way, but somehow 'the Jedi way' never seemed to matter when it was Anakin.

The corridors of the fortress were surprisingly well-lit, but the battle 'droids in attendance made their descent into the area Anakin was being held more difficult. A shrill alarm cut through the air to alert the base to intruders. "Great," Windu snapped, as a blaster bolt sliced through the air, only to be sent right back with a swing of his lightsaber.

"I don't sense Dooku," Obi-Wan said, deflecting his own volley of incoming fire. "Do you?"

Windu shook his head grimly. "No," the Korun Master replied. "The snake has already left." His frown deepened. "It would have been a great boon to capture both him and Grievous." A great push with the Force dismantled the 'droids pursuing them. "Here," Windu said, waving open a door.

Ahsoka ran through first, her dual 'sabers still glowing in her hands. "Master!" she exclaimed. To Obi-Wan's surprise, there were no guards. Anakin had been left to starve in the suppressor field; those actually holding him had gone. Anakin was unconscious, tunics scorched, mechno twitching slightly.

With a quick slash from her shota, Ahsoka disabled the field, staggering under the dead weight of her much larger Master. Obi-Wan and Windu moved forward to help, grasping Anakin under the arms and hauling him as upright as they could. "Master?" Anakin's voice was hoarse, but his eyes were open now. "What about Grievous?"

Obi-Wan chuckled and shared a look with Ahsoka. Only Anakin would be in such condition and still worry about the outcome of the battle. "In custody and en route to Coruscant," Windu spoke up.

Anakin's eyes drifted closed. "Good," he murmured.

------


"I wish Dooku hadn't gotten away," Anakin informed Padme days later, wrapping his bruised fingers around her hand. "I should have been able to defeat him." He shook his head. "Next time..." His fingers tightened, and Padme resisted the urge to pull her hand away. Since waking, Anakin had been recovering well, though he was still blaming himself for Dooku's escape.

"Yes, but with Grievous in custody, the war is that much closer to over," she reminded him, raising his hand to her lips and kissing it gently. "And the sooner you'll come home to me."

Anakin smiled, and it was as if the entire galaxy had lit up. "As soon as I kill Dooku," he assured her with a stark intensity, smile fading into a scowl, "We'll be together."

Padme frowned slightly, but let it go. She knew it was a discussion she had to have with him, but now was not the time. She wasn't sure the time would ever come.

Date: 2011-10-08 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladyhadhafang.livejournal.com
Poor Padme and Anakin... :(

That was really well-done! :D

Date: 2011-10-08 01:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patientalien.livejournal.com
theirloveissodoomed

Thank you! :D

Date: 2011-10-08 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sileri.livejournal.com
Is Anakin wearing an eyepatch in your icon?

Date: 2011-10-08 11:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patientalien.livejournal.com
Shhh, that's not Anakin, that's ~Lars Quell~. Or, you know, Anakin in an eyepatch.

Date: 2011-10-11 12:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wrongly-amused.livejournal.com
I like how crisp and succinct your style it. You manage to get a great deal across with very simple, subtle cues. I especially like this line: Grievous was a murderer, a war criminal. Anakin was her husband. She scratched out the last note violently. It speaks volumes as to how much the war and her own deception are weighing on her.

One nitpick -
It felt like a zero-sum game, and Padme realized, for the first time in her career, that she didn't how to proceed.

I think you forgot a word there. :)

Date: 2011-10-11 11:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patientalien.livejournal.com
Honestly, that was probably my favorite part. :)

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Lars Quell

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