When they had finished with the interrogation, Anakin accompanied his master back to his ship.
“I must leave you to put the last pieces in place,” Maul signed, and if it weren’t for the bare of his teeth, he may have seemed truly sorry. “Be ready for the final phase of our plan.”
Anakin dropped to his knee once again and bowed his head.
“Yes, my master.”
He stayed down until the rumble of the engine had been swallowed by the silence of space. The weight of all he had suppressed in the presence of his master crashed down on him all at once. He had to use his hands to push himself to stand.
He should have gone to give Ahsoka the all clear, but he took a moment in the silence to himself. The familiar vibration of power crackled in his veins; it was burning him from the inside out, but he felt only cold. This was not how he had planned the moment of his reunion with Padme. Maul had now poisoned her against him. He should not have been surprised. He should have known his master would come and check in on his investments.
He could not clear his mind of the look on her face. She had studied him, sized him up. She had spoken to him. She had feared him. But she had not truly seen him.
His fingers ached from how tightly he had begun to clench his fists. The stars beyond the docking bay began to wiggle as if they were about to go to lightspeed, and he felt, for a moment, powerful enough to control them. He thought, for a moment, that it was he who moved the stars.
Then a scream reached his ears. It bounced out of the walls. Ahsoka’s scream.
The ship was shaking. He was making it shake. Quickly, he opened his hands and released his grip on the vessel. The screaming stopped.
Anakin ran to the grate, blowing it open with the force before he reached it.
Ahsoka crawled out looking exhausted. Her knee was scraped, and one elbow was bleeding. Her clothes were wrinkled and twisted. She looked at him with wide and wild eyes.
“What was that?” she gasped. “Did we get hit?”
Anakin offered her his hand, but she had already jumped to her feet.
“I don’t know. It was so fast,” he lied.
She tilted her head.
“You, Anakin Skywalker, didn’t check it out?” she asked. He ignored her and started to walk away. Thankfully, she didn’t push further, which was uncommonly considerate of her. In fact, she wasn’t acting her usual self at all, he thought, realizing she was lagging a few steps behind him.
“Keep up,” he grunted but tried not to sound too terrible. Something strange was radiating off her, an uneasiness he had not felt int a long time.
She picked up the pace, but only just. He led her back down all the halls and she paused when they reached Padme’s cell, but he did not stop. He walked her down the hall and to the dining hall. The droids had not yet cleared the table.
When he opened the door and she saw all the food, she snapped back into the young girl he knew. She skipped to one of the chairs and began to shovel food onto Maul’s dirty plate. He smiled at the gleam in her eye. One day she would use the finest platters, designed by artists of Naboo to her own taste. For now, he was glad to see she had something more exotic to eat that the usual half of his portion on protein bars. Unfair as it was, they could not have Maul ordering food for two and suspecting them.
Ahsoka loudly pulled the chair from one side of the table all the way down to the other. She plopped down in it and began eating. Mouth full, eyes wide, she turned her eyes up to him and back to the empty chair.
He sighed and sat down.
“We have our work cut out for us,” he said.
“Don’t we always?” she said, but he could barely understand her through the food in her mouth.
“Slow down,” he told her, pulling a fork into his hand to give to her. “This food isn’t going anywhere.”
She nodded and took the fork.
He stopped trying and let her eat for a while. There was no way to know how long it would be until she might have the luxury again. Before she began licking the plate, he started again.
“Maul scared the queen. I suspect she will not speak to me,” he started.
“Ouch,” she said, but it was quiet.
He shot her a look, but it was playful. He swiveled in his chair and looked out at the stars. Slowly, they slipped by in the deep belly of space. Out on the edge of traveled republic space, so far from the crowded, dusty streets of Tatooine cities.
“I need you to… to speak to her for me,” he tried to explain. “I think that might make her more comfortable and give us back some control. If she can start to believe you are safer - and I know you’re just as…”
He looked back around, hoping to get in the explanation before she could argue with him.
That wasn’t going to be a problem.
Ahsoka’s arms were on the table beside her plate acting as a pillow for her head.
“Ahsoka,” he tested, but she was out.
He got up and scooted back her chair, careful to catch her before she fell out of the chair. He lifted her into his arms and carried her out of the dining room. Down the hall was her room. A guest quarters, he told Maul, for if he ever decided to hire some company. Maul was always fascinated to find the room untouched. A tribute to his love for a woman who did not know he was alive. In truth, he had designed the room for Ahsoka. She kept it spotless in case the Sith boarded without warning.
He set her down on the bed and tucked her into a blanket. They could start tomorrow. Ahsoka would have to be her cleverest self to play a politician.
Anakin turned off the light on his way out and was careful to quietly shut the door.
He stalked back through the hall to Padme’s cell. His finger hovered above the lock panel and paused. He could feel her in the force. It was stronger than any time he had ever tried to reach her through the stars. It warmed him like stepping into the sun after spending too much time in the darkness of space.
“Hello?” she asked. “Is someone there?”
Anakin lowered his hand and sat down, resting his back against the door. He gave her no answer. All that separated them was a slab of metal. She was no longer far from his help, in danger from enemies she did not even know she had. His eyes closed and rested there between Padme and whatever might try to take her from this world, her captor, and her sentry.