Title: A Second Opinion Author: Mechalich Timeframe: 19 BBY - During the events of RotS Characters: Rig Nema, Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala, Chancellor Palpatine Genre: Drama, Adventure Keywords: Jedi, MediCorps, Doctor, Clone Wars, Chancellor Summary: What if, upon having a vision of his wife dying as a result of physical injury, Anakin had talked to a doctor about it? Notes: So, I've noticed, in looking about this board, that there seems to be a common strain of fanfic AU where the Empire just sort of never happened. This spurred me down a path of thinking long-inspired by the 'Dr. Ball' sketch in Robot Chicken Star Wars about the rather, shall we say, medically negligent, nature of Padme's pregnancy and death. And, since I just happened to have spent much of the past year writing about a certain Jedi Doctor who represents possibly the only canon medical professional Anakin actually knew this just sort of snapped into place. At the moment I'm not sure how far it will go, we'll see. A Second Opinion (RotS AU) I. Ever since the moment Master Yoda absconded from her care to go gallivanting about the galaxy on a secret mission he consistently elided adequately explaining Nema made a habit of arriving early for the intermittent health checks she, backed by a somewhat peeved High Council, foisted upon the Grandmaster as penance. Though whatever strange messengers had troubled Yoda’s thoughts were apparently quiescent in the present interval, Nema insisted the meetings continue regardless. The chance to plumb the many biological mysteries of the Grandmaster’s extremely rare and curious species was not one she could possibly pass up. As it happened, this particular punctuality chanced to bring her face to face with another of the Order’s extremely famous luminaries, for she was not three steps away from the door to the Grandmaster’s private meditation chamber when Anakin Skywalker walked out. At this apparition a witty remark jumped to Nema’s lips, for Skywalker had never actually apologized for his part in smuggling the Grandmaster past her scrutiny, and she intended to make it clear the incident was not forgotten. A single step forward and then the Jedi Knight, doubtless keyed to her presence through the Force, turned to acknowledge her being. Snide words perished upon Nema’s tongue. A different set entirely replaced them. “Master Skywalker, are you alright?” The young knight’s typical expression, well-known to Nema from his many appearances on post-battle HoloNews vids, could not be found. Instead every portion of his face betrayed a gaunt, haunted countenance. His eyes were pale and empty, the target of his gaze lost in spaces far away; a visage common to soldiers passed through the fires of one too many bombardments. In the Force his presence surged wildly, all sharp edges and jagged flows, none of the refined control typical of such a noted member of the Order. He was a man on the precipice of some terrible plunge. “Doctor Nema,” recognition drew out the barest suggestion of a nod, but no evidence of friendship or courtesy. “I’m fine.” “You do not look fine.” There were any number of peculiar personal choices a Jedi might make whose wisdom Nema would readily forebear judgment upon. Denial of such obvious instability and overwhelming stress was not among them. To neglect such signs would violate more than one oath and no part of her would accede to such a lapse. “Nor do you look like anyone should after a private session with the Grandmaster.” Their elderly mentor could certainly be prickly and, Nema privately recognized, sometimes willfully obtuse, but she’d never heard of him unleashing the kind of brutal reprimand that would account for this level of disruption. “It’s nothing,” Anakin brushed her concerns without a moment’s consideration, denial painfully obvious. “He just gave me a lot to think about, about the Council. That’s all.” Sufficient holovid exposure long ago made it clear that while often outwardly jovial, General Skywalker was probably the most fearsome living Jedi. Only Master Windu could conceivably challenge for that title, a contest Nema would very much prefer to be parsecs away from should it even occur. That ferocious intent whirled about him now, the rushing coils of a great storm, lashing outward and inward in tandem. But none of it directed toward her. Whatever the target for Skywalker’s burning doubts and gestating despair, the doctor before him bore no consequence; shattered by insignificance. Yet it was this very lack of consideration, the absence of importance, wherein an opening existed; just enough protection to slip a single helping hand through those blades of whirling durasteel. “Perhaps, if Master Yoda’s words were of little help, you might wish to seek a second opinion on the matter.” A moment’s intuitive impulse, triggered by the startlingly youthful, almost boyish, expression of longing at the edge of the Jedi Knight’s eyes directed her to proffer a particular addendum. “Perhaps with someone who cannot reveal your words to anyone else? If so, feel free to stop by the medbay later.” Anakin froze. Every part of his body went completely, impossibly, still. Only his eyes moved. They directed the terrible potency of his complete and undivided attention upon Rig Nema for the very first time. Nigh unbearable in its immensity, it took a distinct effort of will for Nema to hold herself in place before that visage and deny the primal desire to scurry backward. “What do you mean?” he demanded, each word hard as durasteel and scalpel sharp. “Can’t tell anyone?” The smile Nema forced on her face lacked all sincerity, but she pressed it through her muscles all the same. “Medical confidentiality,” she explained. “If you present yourself for consultation as a patient, with a question the least bit medical, then all conversation is completely privileged. No one, not Master Yoda, not Chancellor Palpatine, can compel my to reveal anything said.” The latter statement, she would privately admit, was no longer strictly true. Technically any statement that suggested sedition was no longer protected due to new wartime laws, but that could not possibly matter in this case. Anakin Skywalker was the brightest anti-Separatist star in the galaxy. Besides, Nema knew that if Palpatine’s agents ever asked for access to any of her patient records she’d tell them to eat duracrete. “That can’t be true,” the immediate denial and stubborn confusion that followed only reinforced the oddly boyish impression of the Jedi Knight, of how rushed his life had been. “I mean, on Tatooine, that would never-.” Fury wavered in the face of puzzlement, enough that Nema dared administer an interjection. “Master Skywalker,” she spoke gently. “Tatooine is in Hutt Space. My doctor’s oaths were sworn here in the Republic. The rules are rather different.” She paused lightly, giving that a moment to find purchase. “Please, don’t consider this any sort of order, merely a suggestion, and you need not speak to me, but any doctor would serve. The war has been hard on all of us, sent us down paths we regret,” she tapped her own lightsaber, felt the suture marks there carefully. “Just speaking of them freely can ease our burdens.” He said only ‘maybe’ before turning away. The sudden cessation of this conversation, and the subsequent bitter argument in which she tried to convince Grandmaster Yoda to actually take his joint medication at least occasionally, did little for her hopes. Nema had no real expectation that, privilege or not, Master Skywalker would confide in her. They barely knew each other and their paths could hardly be more different. He was the Chosen One, the great general and likely to be one of the youngest members of the High Council in centuries. She was a member of the Service Corps who lived in solidarity with the slum dwellers. The variance between them served up an unbridgeable gulf to honest interaction. Despite everything, he arrived in the Medbay the next morning, early enough that he might have skipped breakfast.