Part 19: Justice Design the Victor's Chivalry.
(Richard II, act 1, sc. 2)
They returned to Theed only when the Masters from the orbiting ship had finished their search of Convergence, catalogued the finds and contacted Obi-Wan to call him to a meeting with them so they could brief him on what they had found. Until then they spent their time in the villa, rarely moving from the bedroom except for sustenance. Time in between meals was spent on discovering that their friendship ran deeper than either of them realised. Learning that it had evolved into something far more intimate which they had not known until they took this step.
Padmé was learning other things too. That her future was unwritten and changeable. She and Anakin may have formed a relationship in the past, one that she had planned to delay until the end of her reign and Palpatine was no longer a threat, intending to resume then what she had deliberately begun on Tatooine ten years ago, but now she did not wish to pursue that possibility. She even questioned whether it would have been right for her to do so.
After all, when Anakin had done the same thing, albeit due to a chance second meeting when she was given Jedi protection, it had ended in tragedy. Not only that, but a part of her could not help but wonder if she would have spent their entire relationship in fear of his turning to the dark side again.
Every action she had taken since returning to the past had been after considering all the consequences that may occur. When she had initiated her and Anakin's first meeting, she had not known whether the same dark future or something lighter would result. She remembered judging every look he made, each word he spoke, all the nuances in his voice and expressions. They had sparked memories of not just the light that awaited them, but the shadows as well. And it was the shadows that had lingered, preying on her mind from the moment she returned to the past until this morning.
Sola had told her once that she was afraid when it came to what she felt for Anakin. And she had been right, from a certain point of view. Padmé had not been afraid of her own feelings, she had been afraid of Anakin's. Afraid that once she had unleashed them, the heat of their supernova would burn her forever. And when she had taken that risk, despite all the cautions from herself and from Obi-Wan, they had burned her beyond repair. She had taken heed of everything else that happened to her, to the Republic, to the Jedi, but she had ignored it all when it came to her relationship Anakin.
No more. Her past love life was gone, and a new one now lay before her. In Obi-Wan she had nothing to fear, except perhaps how he would react to what had happened to her. If he would object to what she had done in returning to the past. Or take offence that she had been friends with him for over ten years and she had never told him. Padmé doubted the latter after his assurances last night, but she wondered about the former. She had assumed that the Force had sent her back, in the hope that she would change history. Certainly not to sit back and let it repeat itself. She had learned her lesson already, there was no need for a repetition just to further emphasise the point. Yet she could not help but wonder if Obi-Wan would question some of the things she had done, in both timelines. He had questioned her actions before, and he had been right to do so.
But it would not prevent her from confiding him. Her past had taught her the value of honesty in a relationship. Lies and secrets had been hers and Anakin's undoing. She did not intend them to be hers and Obi-Wan's. She had never considered confiding in him until now because she had never expected that their relationship would deepen into intimacy. Nor had she wished to burdening him with the shadow of the dark history which she had to relate. Yet if last night had never happened, and she had gone ahead with her planned repetition of forming a relationship with Anakin, the desire not to burden him with the same shadow of dark history would not have prevented her from telling him.
Not just because she desired honesty in their new found intimacy, but because Anakin needed to heed the warning just as much as she did. His actions had been the catalyst for that darkness, even though they had been manipulated by Palpatine, it was still his choice to commit them in some degree. On Mustafar he had told her that what he had done was to save her. He failed to realise that dark actions would never salvage or excuse noble intentions. She had been willing to give him a second chance, but now she knew that she would have constantly questioned the future which might have evolved from it, just as she had done so when she initiated their first meeting on Tatooine.
In realising this, Padmé also began to question now what might have happened to hers and Anakin's relationship had it not been manipulated by Palpatine, the Clone Wars and, in some small respect, the Jedi. They had one day on Naboo where nobody and nothing had interfered with their love.
After that, only stolen hours snatched between Senatorial duties and the Clone Wars battlefields that the Council assigned Anakin to. When they were together on Coruscant there had always been the threat of discovery, either by the Jedi or the Senate. A threat that had intensified when she became pregnant, something she thought she had taken every precaution against, intending to wait for the end of the Clone Wars.
Until she had told Anakin, until she was sent into the past, Padmé had believed that the twins were sent by the Force, or she had forgotten precautions, even though she was sure that had not been case. Now she wondered if Palpatine had somehow managed to bring about their conception. It could not be the Force, for it would not have sent her back to the past if it was. Both she and Anakin had balked at telling Obi-Wan that the one thing he had advised them not to do they had gone ahead and done, but she doubted that the same could be said where Palpatine was concerned. Both were Anakin's mentors, but Palpatine had always held more sway over Anakin's actions that Obi-Wan had ever managed to achieve. It was not unreasonable to contemplate that he could have known of hers and Anakin's relationship, and made what use he could of it to bring about Anakin's fall to the dark side.
If the Clone Wars had never happened, if Palpatine had never manipulated them along with everything else in that time, Padmé doubted that she and Anakin's relationship would have lasted as long as it had. There was too much risk that the Jedi or the Senate would find out. Not only that, but their own suspicions, intensified by the threat of discovery that constantly hung over them would have damaged their relationship. They had both known the risks before they married, they had even foreseen the outcome during that evening on Naboo, when Anakin had told her his feelings and she had argued against returning them.
She had thought that the evening had prepared them for the consequences of committing to each other as they had done, but with the benefit of hindsight, she realised now that it had not. They had not known each other as well as they thought they did, nor had either of them been ready to deal with their feelings. If they had been, they would not have gone behind the Council's back. They would have taken themselves to Obi-Wan, to the Jedi, and argued for having a relationship like the reasonable, intelligent beings that they believed they were, and accepted the judgement of the Council, whether it was in their favour or not. Their refusal to do so had not been the mature action of adults, but the impulsiveness of younglings. And as a result the ruination of the Republic had followed.
For a moment Padmé recalled the day Obi-Wan had come to her and argued with her over what she and Anakin felt for each other. He had told her that he had been sent to warn her against making such a mistake. At the time she had been too angry to listen to him, too sure that she was doing the right thing to defend her actions and her feelings, as well those felt and committed by Anakin. Now she realised that she should have listened to him, that she should have questioned why, knowing what she now knew about the Order's view on relationships.
She also wondered if Obi-Wan would have protected her and Anakin from the Council if they had taken the risk of confiding him. He protected Anakin so many times, even after he was no longer his padawan, as much as Anakin resented and denied such an attachment even existed. There were times when she had wondered if Obi-Wan had known or suspected their relationship, and refrained from asking, or deliberately ignored anything which might allude to it. He had been disappointed when he realised who the father of her children was, but at the same time there had been no outrage, no sign of surprise or display of ignorance that he had not known or realised until that moment.
Such cause for speculation was now over. She no longer needed to reflect over her and Anakin's relationship and what went wrong for now it was not going to happen again. Instead he would find someone else, and she would be with Obi-Wan, providing the Council gave their blessing. She was willing to go before them and argue for it if she had to, but she doubted that their objections would come.
Obi-Wan was not like Anakin, he had waited for her rather than forcing the relationship to come about. He respected her silence on the secret of her sorrow, her past that she had yet to tell him about, and waited for her to do so in her own time, not at a moment of his choosing. He loved her but without any expectation that she would return that love, or any demands on her to do so. Such a commitment was the convincing factor for her in her willingness to go ahead and return his feelings, his steadfastness with her own, whatever the future may bring. She had not been ready for what she had with Anakin, but she was ready for this relationship.
A clear indication that this intimacy was right came at the moment they were interrupted by a communication from the Jedi who had been orbiting Naboo in case Obi-Wan needed help against Palpatine, and were now searching Convergence for anything pertaining to the Sith, along with information on what her councillor had intended to do with the Republic. Padmé had known that it was only a matter of time before Palpatine did something, it was why she had been so careful to monitor him and sent the records to the Council in the hope that they would manage to spot what she had missed. She had been fortunate that they had, and that in doing so they hand sent Obi-Wan to deal with him.
Instead of resenting the interruption, they had dealt with the communication in a calm, albeit reluctant fashion. Neither of them had wanted to go back to Theed so soon after discovering this new layer of intimacy between them, but they had both accepted the need to do so, that their duties to the Republic required their parting. That there was the possibility of further intimacy once they returned to Theed, after those duties were dispensed with was undeniable, but the contrast as to how she and Anakin had dealt with being parted was vast.
Together they had risen from the bed where they had spend almost every nanosecond since his return from Convergence, dressed and eaten before leaving for the capital. He had escorted her to the palace council chamber for her meeting with the council regarding what they had witnessed via the vid stream from Convergence, who would replace Palpatine and whether they would reveal any of his actions to Naboo or the Republic. Outside the entrance to the council chamber he had parted from her with a chaste kiss, and now she waited for him to have dinner with her as usual, after his meeting with his own Council.
Apart from discussing Palpatine, she had also informed her Councillors of her intention to begin elections for a new prince or princess of Theed, with a view to stepping down from her sovereignty when her third term came to an end. Her councillors had been disappointed, but no one had objected to her decision. As popular as she was, the memories of the corrupt reigns of her predecessors still lingered. It was why the regulation of two four year terms had been introduced. Her councillors had expressed their sorrow and wished her luck with whatever she intended to do at the end of her third term.
Concerning Palpatine, much of their intentions regarding how much they told Naboo or the Republic about him depended on what the Jedi wished them to do. Padmé knew that the Order would want to keep the Sith a secret and respected their need to do so, but she could not tell her councillors as much until she had heard from the Jedi in this time, as oppose to what they had told her in her past, when Yoda and Windu came to her and Palpatine before they returned with Obi-Wan and Anakin to the Temple. They had counselled her for secrecy regarding the Sith which Obi-Wan had fought on Tatooine, but Palpatine had done far more damage than his apprentice, though fortunately not as much as he might have wished to do.
After preparing a statement regarding Palpatine's actions that ignored his abilities as a Sith, along with a discussion on who could replace him, although the role that she had handed him after he returned to Naboo from the Senate had been little more than a symbolic position in the hope that she could keep an eye on him, the council meeting was at an end.
Returning to her private suite afterwards, Padmé had changed out of her robes of office and called the kitchens to prepare a selection of dishes for her meal with Obi-Wan. There was nothing extraordinary about it, for since his arrival on Naboo to monitor Palpatine and deal with the contract disputes of the miners, they had dinner together alone in her private chambers often.
Yet it was the first time that they had done so since beginning of their more intimate relationship and Padmé could not help but feel all the usual nervous thoughts that accompanied any first date. She also speculated as to what was happening between Obi-Wan and the Masters that came from Coruscant to support him in confronting Palpatine if he needed them and to search Convergence, a thought process which was perhaps influenced by her nerves concerning this first date. She was worried about what they might think of her and Obi-Wan's relationship, but not unduly so.
Time passed, but all the more slowly as her anxiety came into being, slowly increasing with every passing nanosecond. Then at last the wait was at an end as the door opened and Obi-Wan appeared.
Obi-Wan watched Padmé enter the Council chamber, then when the doors of that room had closed, turned and headed back the way they had come, towards the suite of rooms she had given him for the duration of his stay on Naboo, where the masters the Jedi had sent to support him were waiting to deliver their report on the findings at Convergence.
He had met with them briefly in the aftermath of his duel with Palpatine, as he stood over the body of the fallen councillor and sith. Seeing his battleworn state they had brushed aside his request to assist them in searching Convergence and sent him to rest back at the villa in Varykino, along with the assurance that when their search of the late councillor Palpatine's estate was over, they would travel to Theed and brief him as well as Queen Amidala and her council on the findings which they had discovered.
He had been unaware of their arrival until Master Yoda came to stand beside him, too focused on ending the fight to realise that support would soon be at hand. Only later did he learn that the moment after they saw Palpatine throw the chair, sensing he might need their help, they had moved their ship from its orbiting position above Naboo into a clearing outside Convergence's north front, before making their way through the rooms to the concealed chamber where he and the sith were fighting. When they contacted him to declare their search over and readiness to brief him in Theed, he also learned then who else the Council had sent aside from Master Yoda. Master Windu, along with Master Dooku and his own former Master Qui-Gon Jinn, who had left Ahsoka at the Temple, as this was too dangerous an assignment for a new padawan to participate in.
What met him upon his return to the villa was utterly unexpected. He had loved Padmé for a long time, hoping that one day she might return his feelings but never expecting her to do so. For her to greet him with a kiss, followed by a confession that her feelings might be the same, she had just never realised that they could be until now, caught him completely by surprise. That he had been bold enough to suggest that they might explore her newly awakening feelings was not quite how he imagined he would react if ever the moment came when his hopes were realised, but he held no regrets for what followed, and to his profound relief neither did she. And what had followed was far more glorious and intimate than any of his dreams had conjured into being.
If he could akin their union to anything, it perhaps was similar to what he felt when he was deeply immersed within the Force, the light surrounding him utterly, his body working in harmony with the ancient energy, but even against that, the intimacy which he and Padmé now shared was somehow on a higher plane of contentment. Yoda had been right about him finding his centre at Varykino, although Obi-Wan doubted that such an intimate union was what the Grand Master had in mind when he said the words.
Once had not been enough, and fortunately Padmé had been in agreement with him, sampling the delights of their intimacy throughout the rest of their stay at the villa, until he was contacted by the Jedi Masters, necessitating a return to Theed.
Reaching the end of the hallway that led to the suite of rooms given to him by Queen Amidala, Obi-Wan entered the first of them and found the masters gathered together upon a cluster of seats that, either by accident or design, they had arranged in a layout similar to those in the High Council Chamber back on Coruscant. Following the protocol that was established for that room, Obi-Wan took his usual place before the masters, then bowed in greeting.
"Obi-Wan," Mace Windu began, "your actions have saved the Republic from a terrible darkness. According to the findings we discovered in Convergence, Palpatine was a student of Darth Plagueis, who studied under Darth Bane, the survivor of the Ruusan wars. After killing Plagueis, Palpatine spent his life amassing a network of contacts in a scheme to take the position of Supreme Chancellor and turn the Republic into an Empire. He arranged the blockade of Naboo, and planned to convince Queen Amidala to declare a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum, assuring his succession to the post. Thanks to Queen Amidala's extraordinary actions, that never came to pass. Palpatine then tried again when Valorum's second term came to an end, but lost then as well. He resigned from the Senate, but kept his contacts, waiting for Queen Amidala's third term to end, when he planned to take the Nubian throne and build an empire.
"Aside from his financial and business networks, Palpatine had a horde of Sith holocrons, crystals, weaponry, and datapads, all concealed in various panels about that room and the rest of the house. There was a holomap of the known galaxy, with planets whose existence we had not learned of until now. Some are Sith worlds, others part of his schemes for his empire. On one he was having an army of clones engineered. Another, an army of droids. His aim was to pit these two forces against each other in a war that would split the republic and stretch the power of the Order to the point of extinction. And when the civil war was over, amass the remnants together to transform into an empire under his autocratic rule.
"It will take the Order the better part of a decade to properly go through everything in Convergence. Master Yoda has contacted our archivists within the Temple to come here and begin that cataloguing. As for us after we have briefed Queen Amidala and her council, we will return to Coruscant, where a special ceremony shall take place."
"Rare it is that we make a Jedi a Master who has not taught a padawan," Master Yoda remarked. "Yet deserve such a distinction you do."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "Masters, I did what any Jedi would do when faced with defending against a threat to the Order and the Republic. My actions yesterday do not merit such an honour."
"You are the first Jedi to defeat two sith in a millennium," Master Windu countered. "Not all Jedi possess that skill. I doubt most of those who sit on the Council would be able to accomplish what you have."
"Listen to the Force," Master Dooku added. "And you will see that we are right."
"Master?" Obi-Wan appealed, turning to his teacher.
Qui-Gon nodded. "I am afraid this must be, Obi-Wan. You have earned such a title. Accept it, my padawan."
"I may need some time before I can fully accept this, masters," Obi-Wan conceded.
"Time you shall have," Yoda agreed. "Wait the ceremony can."
"Masters, if I may request one thing from you. Your blessing regarding a relationship."
The Grand Master nodded before Obi-Wan could elaborate any further on the nature of such relationship. "Heard the Force's contentment on this matter as well we have. Given our blessing is. Happy you and Queen Amidala shall be."
"I hope so, Master," Obi-Wan replied. "Though we shall be discreet until her third term is at an end."
"We trust that it shall not take you two years to return to the Temple," Master Windu mused, causing everyone to chuckle. "May the Force be with you, Master Kenobi."
Knowing he was being dismissed, Obi-Wan bowed and returned the farewell, before exiting the room to that of his bedchamber. The room opened on to a refresher, balcony and the grand corridor that led to the other chambers within the palace. After he had a wash and changed his robes for fresh ones, Obi-Wan used that access to the grand corridor for his walk to the Queen's suite, where he and Padmé had agreed to have dinner this evening.
He sensed Padmé's nervousness almost as soon as he entered the room, causing him to forgo the usual formalities which he observed when they had dinner together in her suite and walk over to her. Kneeling by her side, he gently touched her waist and then her face, cupping her cheek until her eyes met his.
"What's wrong?" He asked her softly.
"I'm just a little nervous, I'm not sure why." she replied. "What did the Masters say?"
"In a moment," he answered, before kissing her. When she came to forget her anxiety and kissed him back, he waited until her nerves faded away, then softly broke from the gesture to answer her question. During his tale she called for the meal to be brought in so they could eat while he told her everything, relating to her all that the masters had told him, along with the assurance that they would brief her and her council tomorrow.
"They also made me a master," he added, causing her to smile brightly.
"About time," she observed. "You deserved to be called such long ago."
Obi-Wan shrugged away the compliment. "I wish I had earned the ranks differently. Being the first Jedi to defeat a Sith before earning his knighthood, then another to earn the title of master is not a distinction I would wish on anyone. It may be the old way, but it lends a certain darkness to what is otherwise a celebration of the pillars of enlightenment. Not to mention an unhealthy amount of gossip and attention throughout the Temple."
"Well, perhaps you should have taken on a padawan before now," Padmé pointed out. "Then one of them would have been earned the traditional way. I do not understand what prevented you from doing so."
"Timing and the Force itself in some respect," Obi-Wan answered. "When I felt I might be ready, I would make a point of attending the Initiate Tournament, but either I was prevented from choosing because there were enough Jedi present, or a mission would arise. Now I wonder if I should wait until our children are ready, but I know that could take just as long as it would to train a padawan and I would not deprive any initiate of their chance to earn a knighthood."
"As I said before, you would make a great teacher," Padmé remarked. "And it will be some years before our children are ready." She smiled. "I still can't believe I'm talking about our children already. I never imagined I could come to care for you so much."
"I'm honoured that you do," Obi-Wan replied. "I know how long you have wanted to settle down and have a family. How you adore your nieces. I should meet them, along with your parents and your sister and her family."
"And you will," Padmé agreed. "We'll see them at the end of this season. It would not do for me to take another holiday so soon. They'll be delighted to meet you. Sola will take the credit of finally wearing me down. She thinks I've done my duty too long already."
"Do you feel that you have?" Obi-Wan queried. "I know you wish to have a family, but we can do our duty to Republic as well, if you feel that there is more you desire to do."
"Honestly, I don't know," she replied. "I need to have a break and think about what I want to do. If I still want to serve. Sometimes I feel as if I have spent my whole life serving the Republic without accomplishing anything. I think I need to realise what I have managed to do before I think about if I can do more." She paused to take a bite of her meal before adding, "for the first time in this life I don't know what's coming next. That's going to take some adjusting to."
Obi-Wan knew that he should not feel surprise concerning such a statement coming from her, for that prospicience was a conclusion that he had drawn some time ago during their conversations over the com ever since they had first met. However this was the first time she had spoken directly about it. Usually she tended to be vague or subtle, concealing her foresight, offering only allusions in return.
Once she had commented that the future was uncertain and forever changeable, a cruel god that played havoc with their hearts. She never elaborated further and he respected and cared about her too much to force a confession from her, or even attempt to persuade her to confide in him. As he had said to her when they had first made love, she could chose to tell him in her own time, if at all.
While he never forced her confidence, he did speculate on her prospicience in private, wondering how long she had possessed such a sense about the future, and where it came from. Years ago, when he and Qui-Gon had first met her, she had seemed certain that if they took her to Coruscant as they had originally planned, it would accomplish nothing for her system, no relief, no charges made against the Trade Federation. By acting on her own initiative, she had destroyed the blockade and through her own determination pushed the courts to entangle the Trade Federation in such a mess of business infractions that even now Viceroy Gunray and his cohorts were still tied up in the legalities.
That incident was the first piece of prospicience he had witnessed, and as the years went by he came to hear of more, either through the holonet or their communications over the com. There were times when he had wondered if it was a part of some untapped Force potential inside her, but this was disproven when they met, for he could not sense from her any indications which would prove such a conclusion. As his speculations continued, each one growing more outlandish than the first, he still kept his silence and respected hers, coming to terms with the possibility that it might forever remain a mystery, just as certain aspects of the Force were.
"Whatever my future holds, it shall be welcome to spend some days with my family and you, free from concerns over Naboo and the Republic," Padmé remarked, causing Obi-Wan to silence his thoughts for now. "Three terms as Queen was never something I planned on serving, though it became necessary in the end."
"Do you regret taking on such a lengthy responsibility?" Obi-Wan asked her.
Padmé shook her head. "No, it was something I had to do." She met his steadfast gaze, almost ready to tell him everything. Yet something prevented her. She could not find the words with which to begin, nor the heart to destroy such a lovely evening between them with the sad tale of her past. For the telling of it would damage the peace of the day, no matter what the outcome proved to be. She had confided in no one, so it would be difficult for her to relate it as well as it would be for him to listen. Not only that, but it would cause him grief, something which she had striven to keep from bestowing upon him in this life.
Instead she let the silence after her last words linger and continued with their meal. If Obi-Wan had sensed anything of her brief desire to unburden herself, he mentioned nothing, respecting her silence once more. Together they finished the meal which the palace cooks had laboured over to provide for them this evening. When there was nothing left on the table but mere crumbs of their deserts, they rose from their chairs and retired to the living area.
As they reached the furnishings Obi-Wan was tempted to take her in his arms again as he had at the villa in the lake country, but he withheld himself from doing so, for there was a thoughtful earnestness about her tonight that caused him to question if his affection would be welcome. There was also another factor to consider, here in Theed she was Queen, there were formalities to be observed. It would not do for the entire court to become aware of their relationship, for despite her declaration of resignation being made, it would incur the speculations about the possibility of a dynasty which they wished to avoid. It could be the reason for her silent contemplation, perhaps she was thinking over how best to send him back to his rooms.
So he was surprised when she turned round and caught him in an embrace that clearly hungered for more than a chaste gesture of farewell. Her hands wrapped themselves round his neck, while her mouth fastened upon his in an almost frantic need. Returning the emotion was as natural to him as breathing, he savoured every touch from her, ones which for a long time he had never expected to receive.
Their first time had been through his beginning, so he let her dictate the opening motions for tonight. Padmé was more than happy to comply, and evidently grateful for his more than eager response, as though she had been worried that he would not return her desire with his own this evening. Obi-Wan felt guilty that his hesitation over discretion had made her unsure and strove to eliminate any further uncertainty.
She pulled his robes off, pushing him backwards towards her bedroom, where he fell upon her bed. Rising from the furnishings, he watched her as she removed her dress, then leapt astride him. He grinned at the graceful motion, and she smiled back, preening herself before him. As she seemed to be waiting for him to make the next move, he obliged her, making a little series of movements with his fingers so her hair fell down in unwoven dark strands around her, before his hand began beckoning her to come closer.
She slowly made her way, brushing the sensitive skin between her thighs over him, each advancement causing him to groan from the sensations that were aroused through her actions, until she reached his neck whereupon he took hold of her, lifting her up until that sensitive skin was above his mouth. His tongue parted her folds, his eyes never moving from hers as he licked and caressed her into the peak of her desire. Before she could achieve her release, she slid downwards to take him inside her. She rode him slowly but powerfully, her body arching up and down with every wave until the sea inside them crested.
Seeing her smile as she stilled above him, he was glad when she put voice to the worry which had plagued her at the start. "Why did you hesitate?"
"I wasn't sure if we should where you have a certain reputation to uphold," he replied. "I'm sorry my hesitation caused you concern."
"I imagined you leaving in the morning, before my handmaidens disturb us," she said. "Until then there is little need for such discretion."
"So I have gathered," he uttered wryly, making her smile. "Is there anything else I need to know?"
"Try not to scream my name as loudly as you did in Varykino," she answered, causing his smirk to turn into a full-fledged grin.
"I thought that was you," he remarked teasingly.
Padmé shook her head. "Definitely both of us."
"You've forgotten something," he added, his hands reaching out to her waist, his callused fingers running pathways across her skin. Inside her he grew hard, making her arch above him once more.
"Do or do not, there is no try."