Part 14: When My Poor Heart no Measure Keeps in Grief.
(Richard II, act 3, sc. 4)
Padmé was pleased that the Council had taken her concerns over Palpatine seriously enough to send someone to examine the findings for themselves, and she was glad that it was Obi-Wan. But she was worried as well, an emotion which had intensified briefly when she witnessed him and her newest security officer enter the dining room together. She had no way of knowing if the knight had noticed what was so special about Lieutenant Skywalker unless she asked him, and to do so would arouse his curiosity, something she wish to do her best to avoid occurring. She knew that Anakin was too old to begin training, nor did she blame Obi-Wan for the young man's fall, but she thought it best not to risk the situation altogether. She would have to speak to Captain Panaka, provide a suitable excuse for her security to assign another officer to help Obi-Wan, so he and Anakin did not spend too much time together for his special talent to become noticeable.
As for her own time with Anakin, that had been difficult to arrange. She was reluctant to reveal herself to him as Padmé and Amidala, because of Palpatine. If the Queen started to take an interest in forming a relationship, the being of their choice would arouse an considerable amount of interest, both in the Council, and in the Nubian populace at large. As much as she feared Obi-Wan noticing what was different about Anakin, she feared Palpatine doing so more. He was the fatal catalyst for Anakin's fall, the one who taught him to equate power with courage, invincibility with survival, possession with attachment. Until the councillor was dealt with, she could not express an open interest in Anakin.
But her duties as Queen left little time for privacy. She was not in danger, rendering the use of her handmaidens as decoys a technique that was rarely employed. She could not slip off her royal robes as easily as she would like, or for long periods of time. There were too many duties for her to fulfil. Even as a Senator she had never been this busy. As a result, Padmé and Anakin had rarely encountered each other. It concerned her, despite her worries about making her interest in him known. By this time they had been married, albeit secretly, but aware of each other's love, waiting for a moment when the galaxy was at peace and did not require them elsewhere so they could express that lasting affection. Now because of the changes she had caused, they were still little more than strangers to each other.
They were both still young, there was still many years ahead of them for love and family, but she found that the absence and the waiting brought a chill to her more than anything else. It also caused her to wonder whether she was right in continuing to plan for a time when they would be together again. For the fear of losing her had been just as much a catalyst for Anakin's fall as had everything else which she strove to prevent from occurring. As much as she cared for him, it might be better if she sacrificed the possibility of their relationship to protect him from repeating the horrors that she witnessed him committing.
Padmé also found herself haunted by the dreams she had, the memories of their courtship soured by the eventual fall of his light in the Force. She had seen little of his dark acts during her previous life, but what she had seen and what she was told, both by Obi-Wan and by Anakin, had been horrifying enough. She had no desire to unleash such a nightmare upon the galaxy again, and the thought that their love might have been one of the causal factors worried her deeply.
However, the alternative also bothered her. She knew not where to start in finding someone else, concerned at how Anakin might regard the relationship, strangers as they were. His jealousy in her previous life had been terrifying, she feared to rouse such an emotion from him again.
It left her focusing on making sure that Palpatine was not a threat to the continued peace of the galaxy. Until he was no longer a danger, she could not allow herself to enjoy the rewards of the future she had so desperately sought to repair.
With that in mind, her first object that morning was a wander into the room where she had set up the surveillance, located in the secret passageways of the palace, rooms and corridors which only the Queen, her handmaidens and her security knew about. Last night she had instructed Captain Panaka to show Obi-Wan their locations, thus she was not surprised to find the Jedi knight already present within the chamber when she entered it.
"Good morning, your highness," he uttered, turning round at her entrance and committing a bow in accordance with the usual Nubian protocols. Despite their friendship, he was still careful to be correct and circumspect in the company of others, as well as making sure to accord her with all the notice due of the office of her sovereignty.
"Good morning, Knight Kenobi," she replied, adding a silent nod of greeting to Panaka, who was also present. She walked the short distance from the door to where they stood, just before the banks of monitors that recorded every microsecond of Palpatine's movements.
"What do you think of my efforts?" she asked the Jedi as soon as she had drawn level with him.
"Impressive," Obi-Wan replied. "Even with the Force, I doubt you could have been more thorough. I am curious as to how you have managed it. Presumably you do not put trackers on his person or he would have become aware of the surveillance by now."
"No," she agreed. "When he informed me of his intention to retire from the Senate and serve upon my council, I took the precaution of installing monitors in his quarters within the palace, his apartment in Theed and his estate in Varykino whilst he was still on Coruscant. As for his private yacht and other methods of transportation, I had those monitors put in place when he returned to Naboo."
"A well executed operation," Obi-Wan mused. "Do you believe he is aware of how closely you observe his activities?" he asked her.
"I hope not," she answered. "But I also wonder. I have had this in place for over ten years and he has yet to make a false step or arouse my suspicions further. I cannot help but worry that he has become aware of what I have done, and is doing his best to sabotage my efforts." she sighed as she gazed at the monitors. "He is a very clever man."
"That much is evident," Obi-Wan agreed, his fingers rising up to his face to stroke his bearded chin. "Whether he is also devious, will take much longer to determine."
Padmé stilled as she watched him, a sudden memory flashing into her brain. It had taken place in an apartment on Coruscant, at Five Hundred Republica. Obi-Wan had to only bend his head and turn, stepping away from her little to appear the same as he had done in that location. She could almost hear him speaking, his voice choked with grief as he recanted the horror that he had witnessed in the Temple security recording archives. Determinedly she shook the memory away, though the emotions which had accompanied it lingered. This was the most disturbing aspect of her previous life, the similarity her friends, colleagues and acquaintances bore to how they had appeared back then. Changing the future could not alter their appearances, thus she was plagued with sudden flashes of certain memories she wished were gone for good.
A hand touched her cheek, and she was startled out of her remembrance into the present. Looking up, she found her friend's sea shaded eyes staring into her own, his callused hand framing her face in a soft, comforting caress. His own conveyed an expression of concern as he gazed at her.
"Padmé?" he queried softly. "What's wrong?"
Her emotions must have been too overwhelmed by the memory for him to sense her sudden sadness. Usually she had better control, a necessary acquired skill, for she had no desire for Obi-Wan to endure the same suffering that she did on a daily basis.
Gently she clasped the hand that touched her cheek, drawing it away as she strove to brighten her mind and emotions. "Nothing, Obi-Wan, thank you."
"Are you sure?" he persisted, his hand lingering in hers as his eyes cast a journey upon her face, his ability within the Force doing the same upon her soul.
"Truly," she promised him.
He relaxed his guard as his observation of her encountered nothing more, but she could feel that his focus would be split for some time to come. Inwardly she was annoyed with herself. It was not the first time she had allowed her shields to slip, but that was when he had been just a padawan. Now he was almost a master, who could sift and filter through the fine notes of the Force like a gifted musician. She would have to be more careful in hiding her secrets from now on.
"Why have you no padawan?" she queried now, anxious to change the subject.
He smiled at her. The inquiry was an old one, oft repeated over the com whenever they contacted one another during the decade between their last time spent together, on Tatooine.
"I haven't found one willing to let me train them," Obi-Wan answered.
"Really?" she mused in disbelief. "I would have thought that the initiates would clamouring to be trained by Knight Kenobi."
"I wouldn't know," Obi-Wan added, "I don't venture down to the youngling halls when I am Temple bound."
"So Master Yoda hasn't interfered just yet?" she queried, remembering him telling her once of how he came to be Master Jinn's padawan.
"Not yet," Obi-Wan confirmed. "Although I was preparing to consider taking on such a privilege before Master Windu gave me this mission."
Reluctantly, she let go of his hand, aware now that she had been clasping it for quite some time. "I had better go and get ready for the first meeting of the day."
"I shall see you when the spice miners come calling," he promised, bowing to her as she backed away before turning round to quit the room.
He too turned round, but his thoughts lingered upon her, even as he resumed his observations of the surveillance monitors. That moment of intense emotion which she suffered in his presence had been too profound to be nothing more than a passing fancy. Even though she had done her best to hide it from him, with mental shields that he would swear a Jedi had taught her, although whom he did not know, the emotion had been easy to identify. It was sadness. Something had caused her a deep grief, possibly a memory, roused into immediate recollection by an instance of action or sight, sound, smell. He had sensed such a condition within her before, but now, with his ability within the Force more finely tuned than when he had last been with her, he was better able to analyse it.
Now, just as before, she had repressed the grief, hiding the emotion from him and refusing to confide, despite their deep friendship and trust. He respected her silence, but he was also concerned. For if she continued to contain these emotions, instead of the sadness fading away, it would continue to grow in size, until it overwhelmed her, interfering in her ability to reign, threatening perhaps her survival.
But unless she was willing to break her silence, he could do little to ease her grief. He would just have to add a third mission to his other two whilst he was on Naboo. Perhaps in solving the nature of her distrust of Palpatine, he might gain a clue as to how to alleviate the sadness within her.