The fourth act is supposed to be the catastrophe which the previous act made unavoidable. It usually consists of a messenger coming onstage and describing what happened in gory detail, since all violence in Greek tragedy occurs offstage. I followed the same convention of not showing the violence, though I cheated a little at the end by cutting off just before Padmé kills Dooku. Also, strictly speaking, Padmé should have killed Dooku before the act opened, and the messenger should have been some unnamed person completely uninvolved, but I wanted the storyline to keep a little suspense to the end. This was also why I chose not the reveal the catastrophe-Anakin's death-until the very end. If my reader's response was any indication, I was quite effective; at least two people told me I made them cry!
Finding a prompt for this fic drove me crazy; I finally decided any fic with Dooku could probably qualify for the "King" prompt; he's that sort of character. It was posted on July 7th as the 38th Padmé AU.
A week and a half of no events, of performances which noone of importance came to, and of going to sleep alone each night and even falling asleep after only an hour or so of tossing and turning, had, by the last night of the week and a half, lured Padmé into complacency. On the last day, the failure of her period to come might have counted as an event, but that was a busy day, and so she had no time to contemplate the possible significance of that before it happened.
I wanted this story to begin with what I thought of as a feeling of "peaceful emptiness," which you sometimes get in the epilogues of stories where the protagonist has walked away from something or someone and are now trying to get on with their lives, and nominally succeeding, but really, what happened can't be left behind that quickly. In epilogues, of course, you get the general feeling that more time will heal the wounds. Here, on the other hand, the peace is deceptive.
She slept for hours and hours, perhaps the Force telling her body to rest when it could and it obeying. She woke up with her mind clear of thoughts. By force of will, she kept it blissfully empty while she showered and dressed, then walked into her living area and screamed at the sight of the cloaked and hooded figure standing in the middle of the room.
“You need not panic,” said the figure, and the voice was not Vader’s. It was much deeper, and very elegant, like that of an aged bard. The envoy removed his hood, and she saw a face to match the voice, despite his golden eyes. “I will not hurt you if you answer a few questions.”
“Who are you?” she asked warily. She stared downwards, at his belt, where lay his lightsaber; Vader had carried the same weapon.
“My name is Darth Tyranus, if you wish to know it. The rest, I believe, should be obvious.”
I would have stated outright that he was the other envoy if there'd been a graceful spot for it, but as there wasn't, I just left that to give my reader's brain a teeny-tiny bit of exercise, which I think is quite healthy anyway (in fact, while revising these fics in 2011; I have now seen places for it I hadn't before, but decided to leave it as it is). I did want to establish that this was Dooku, which I did.
“Questions. Why do you need to ask me anything? How could I possibly be of concern to you?”
His features drew together, angered. “Do not play games, Miss Padmé. This business between you and Darth Vader must be cleared up.
I think in the rereading it should be obvious at this point that Anakin is dead, though I was hoping it wouldn't be quite on the first read. Again, my reader response suggested it wasn't.
Did you know him at all before we came to the performance of your theater company?”
“No,” answered Padmé truthfully, hoping she wasn’t doing Vader any harm. Especially because she’d heard that it was impossible to lie to one of the Emperor’s envoys.
“When did you receive his summons?”
“What hour?” he demanded, impatient.
“I don’t know...the play had to be over by the tenth, it was maybe half an hour after that, maybe less, maybe more....oh the swamp take it, I don’t know!”
"Swamp take it" is one of two exclamations I made up for my Naboo characters to use. Since Naboo is often described as having a high amount of swamps, I thought it a good one.
I don't think Dooku gives a damn about the hour; he's trying to knock Padmé off balance emotionally(it worked).
“Did he admit to any such liaisons in the past? He has no history of behavior of this sort, but it may simply have escaped our notice. Did he strike you as experienced, Miss Padmé?”
“He was a virgin,” Padmé answered. She saw no surprise on Tyranus’ face.
“What did he inform you about the Emperor’s policy on sexual relations?”
“That they weren’t encouraged. If they were forbidden-”
“He spoke truthfully. All too much. Did he speak of love?”
“Oh yes, he did! And of fate and the Force and I would still swear that he meant it!”
If Padmé had been thinking straight, she would have made every effort to avoid revealing something like this. But the stress has gotten to her.
Still no surprise, but she thought she saw his eyes darken. “Then he had indeed betrayed us in his heart from the beginning,” he said, more to himself than to her. Fear for Vader gripped Padmé’s heart. What have I just done? “Did he mention at this time any intention of leaving the Emperor’s service?”
“No...” If he had, she might not have run so hastily.
“There is no summons on record for the following day. Is the record faulty?”
Padmé tried not to answer this, suddenly afraid, but he glared at her, and she just shook her head. “Yet he came to you.” She nodded, determined to give him no more information than he demanded. Soon, though, they would likely come to her opinions of the Emperor. The wild thought came to her head that if she could provoke him into killing her, she could give away no more information, and perhaps Vader could be saved punishment that way. But was it already too late for that? Would he now face death? She knew the Emperor often killed his minions when they displeased him.
By now, if it hadn't become obvious on the reread already, it should.
“I assume in this meeting he informed you of his intention to desert, since he had not already done so.”
“What?” There was no hiding her shock. “He...he didn’t...but surely he....as far as I know he had no such intention.” Surely it would had to have been her words that had spurred this. “What have you done to him?” What have I done to him? “It wasn’t him, it was me, I...”
“Miss Padmé,” he cut her off with a sharp gesture of the arm. As he did, as cylindrical object fell from his robes and rolled onto the floor near Padmé’s feet. “Stop now before you incriminate yourself. If you intend to somehow make things easier for him, it was too late for that even before this interview started.”
Padmé’s eyes were locked on the lightsaber; that was what it was. She knelt down and scooped it up. “This is his. I recognize it,” she said feebly. “You killed him, didn’t you?”
Version of one of her lines from movie canon: "You're going to kill him, aren't you?"
“He had turned his back on his Master,” said Darth Tyranus coldly. “I had no choice.”