Joss Whedon owns "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and related characters; George Lucas owns "Star Wars" and related characters; I own nothing.Note:
Title is from a Shakespeare quote, "Hell is empty and the devils are all here."~*~*~
Walking through the halls of the main hospital on New Holstice, Buffy stopped short when she spied Anakin with a companion of the non-Jedi sort. She squinted and resisted the urge to swear in Mando’a when she saw who it was. She was not in the mood to deal with him right now. Luck was not on her side, though, as she had been trying to find Anakin for the last ten minutes. How had Palpatine managed to get here with so little fanfare? Normally, the swarming of the place with Senate commandos would have given her a much wanted heads-up.
Plastering a smile to her face, she walked up to the duo and gave his Supreme Chancellor-ness a short bow. Just because she didn’t like the man didn’t mean she wasn’t going to be polite.
“Chancellor, what a surprise to see you here,” she greeted him. He smiled at her, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. He liked her about as much as she liked him.
“I came as soon as I could when I heard about Master Kenobi’s tragic loss,” Palpatine explained, resting his hand on Anakin’s shoulder. “I know how close he was to both you and Anakin. You have my deepest condolences. Is there anything I can do?”
“Thank you, sir, but there’s nothing I can think of at the moment,” Buffy answered, feeling the polite mask on her face starting to crack. “Anakin, Master Hett was looking for you. Something about a mission.” She noticed the slight shift of Anakin’s features before he schooled his face into a blank mask. What was that about?
“And you?” he asked. “Are you coming?” Buffy grimaced slightly.
“No, I’m stuck here until they’re done with the review-age and the eval-age,” Buffy answered. And to make sure that she was still functioning somewhat normally after Jabiim. She didn’t tell him that, though. There was no reason to burden him any more than he already was. “He made it sound like it was of the urgent, though, so you shouldn’t keep him waiting.” She knew her particular Scoobisms annoyed Palpatine, so she tended to use them more than she normally did when she was around him. A girl needed to get her kicks in somehow.
“And we wouldn’t want to keep him waiting,” Palpatine stated, squeezing Anakin’s shoulder. “Until next time, my friend.”
“Until then, Your Excellency,” Anakin replied, giving the older man a deep bow. “And I’ll see you when I get back, Master Summers,” he added, giving Buffy a ghost of the roguish smile that had become a much rarer sight. Buffy playfully swatted at him, which he expertly ducked. He knew she didn’t like him calling her that, but it had become somewhat of a joke between her and the Padawan Pack, since she was the closest thing they had to a master on Jabiim. She watched him walk away, hoping that he would be one of the lucky Padawans who got a new master. She knew her chances of being assigned to work with the Pack again were next to none after first Zule’s death and her reaction to finding out that not all the transports had made it off Jabiim, and she knew Obi-Wan would want somebody keeping an eye on him.
“Commander Summers?’ Palpatine’s voice interrupted her mental rambles. Turning, she looked up at him and gave him another forced smile. “While I did come to see Anakin, there was another matter I wished to discuss with you.”
“And what would that be, sir?”
“I’ve heard several reports about your performance on Jabiim,” he began, gesturing for her to walk with him. After a half-a-second pause, she joined him, hands tucked into her pockets. She had a feeling where most of the “reports” had come from - Anakin certainly did have a hard time keeping his mouth shut around Palpatine. “All of them glowing, of course.”
“I’m so glad to hear that,” she answered, trying her best not to let the sarcasm be too obvious. Yep, she definitely knew that Anakin had been the one talking. There was no way Windex would ever give her that good of a review. Not without having several teeth removed first. And maybe not even then.
“The reports haven’t been made public yet, but among certain Senators, they have been making quite an impact,” Palpatine continued, as if he hadn’t heard her comment. “There has been talk of giving you a Republic Medal of Valor, as well as promoting you to the rank of general as a reward for your efforts on Jabiim.”
“Has there?” Buffy asked, stopping short and looking at him. “Well, I’m sure that between them and the Jedi, something will sort itself.” As if. She would be back in Sunnydale thinking this was all just a dream before that would happen. Although, to be on the safe side, she would probably need to talk to Padmé about making sure nothing came out of the talks. Being a general was the last thing she wanted. Jabiim had been making the best out of an impossible situation. She didn’t know if she would be able to handle something like that again.
Buffy really wanted to ask if it was his idea of a reward, a way to get her out of her depth even more than she already was, but she bit her tongue. She may not like him or trust him all that much, but she doubted he was actively trying to get her killed. Then again, he could be. If the whole mess with the Mayor had taught her anything, it was that you could trust politicians as much as she could throw a larty--which, as strong as she was, wasn’t actually possible.
“I’m sure they will,” he answered, a cool and calculating look flashing through his eyes for a brief moment before going back to its previous polite concern. “Well, I must return to the grand adventure of politics. I will let Senator Amidala know that you are in good health. Are there any other messages you wish to give her?”
“Just not to let Representative Binks near anything that moves,” Buffy replied, giving the Chancellor another short bow. “Until then, sir.” He returned the bow with a nod of his head and walked off to join his aide, Sate Pestige, who was giving Buffy a wary look. Buffy smiled at him evily, and enjoyed the sight of him gulping slightly. He was terrified of her ever since she “accidentally” broke his roaming hand when she first arrived on Coruscant with Padmé. Oh, the memories.
Buffy watched the duo walk away, absently biting her lip. She didn’t know why Palpatine reminded her so much of the Mayor--he didn’t have that same “Look here, I’m cheerfully evil!” vibe going on--but there was just something off about him that she couldn’t really place. Maybe it was like Ben said, and it was because he had outstayed his terms. But that wasn’t all of it. She had learned to trust her instincts over the years, and they were now telling her that Palpatine was a ritual or two away from turning into a giant worm.
“Commander Summers?” She nearly jumped when she heard Windex’s voice not two feet from her ear. Gritting her teeth--she was normally better about catching people sneaking up on her--she turned around, not bothering to put a polite smile on her face this time.
“Yeah, General Clean?” she asked, using one of her other nicknames for him. “What’s the what?” Like Palpatine, her Scoobisms annoyed him, and after shutting her down about Ben being alive, she was in no mood to be polite-girl to him.
“The Council wishes to speak to you,” he told her, a glimmer of annoyance in his eye the only sign that he acknowledged her name for him. Resisting the urge to sigh loudly, she followed him to the main communications room. Today was just not her day for dealing with people that she actually enjoyed being around. Putting Palpatine out of her mind for now, she steeled herself up for the meeting that lay ahead.