Part 20: Sorrow Ends Not When it Seemeth Done.
(Richard II act 1, sc. 2)
Days passed. Padmé continued to conduct the duties that were required of Queen Amidala, monitoring her court, dispensing the running of the country amongst herself and her councillors. She watched over the elections for the new prince or princess of Theed, availing herself of each of the front-runners backgrounds, supporters, characters and education.
It brought to mind the first time she had been in such a situation, when she had served only two terms, insisting despite the wishes of her populus not to reign for another. Jamillia had succeeded her then for a term, followed by Neeyutnee for another, who was followed by Apailana. The latter had been younger than Padmé when she succeeded to the throne, in the dying days of the Republic. Apailana had only been on the throne for year before Padmé travelled back in time. She had barely known her.
Neeyutnee was one of the candidates for her successor, but Padmé took care to show no sign of favouritism for her, or any of the others who put their names forward to succeed her as Queen or King of Naboo. Palpatine's dark influence was gone from the Republic, her third term as sovereign was almost at an end, there was no need to concern herself with ensuring the continued safety of Naboo or the rest of the galaxy. But still she did, for though that threat had been vanquished, she had no idea if there was another waiting in the wings to smother the light within the universe.
There was only so much she could do, it was impossible to save everything as she had come to realise during the abolition talks on Tatooine, but what she could do, she would continue to do, returning the favour that time had bestowed upon her by giving her this second chance to save the light.
When she had a moment to herself, it was spent with Obi-Wan, either in his suite or hers, or the gardens of the palace, where some privacy could be obtained. They were careful to keep their relationship discreet, although it soon became a known secret amongst her security and handmaidens. Obi-Wan still left her bedchamber early in the morning however, leaving Padmé to the blushing smiles of her handmaidens who did their best to restrain themselves from asking about her lover.
There were also still days from her first life to remember and mark, although they were soon to come to an end. Padmé woke each morning to glance at the chrono, recalling instantly the events which took place that day, and the consequences that followed. Sometimes those memories were brushed away by a sign of affection from Obi-Wan, other times they lingered like shadows upon her soul.
Although they were the darkest days, as they had once marked the end of the Republic, she took comfort from the fact that thanks to the death of Palpatine, the events which had haunted these days were now just the shadows lingering in her memory. She did not need to focus her energies on remembering the political struggles she and the other members of the Senate had gone through on these days, as they tried to save the Republic, or the endless strategising to try and salvage something from the wreckage, such as the petition or a secret alliance of rebellion. Worried that Anakin would find out she had tried to keep herself from getting involved in Bail Organa and Mon Mothma's plans, but her own principles prevented her from doing so.
There was one other event however that the non-existence of was anything but a comfort to her. Since her youth she had wanted the chance to have a family, it had been a goal to aim for when her days as Queen were over. And though she had never believed that Anakin was ready for children, Padmé had ever regretted their conception, although she was still unsure as to when that had occurred. As for the day when she found out that she was pregnant, that was firmly imprinted upon her memory and when that morning arrived she could not help but feel a grief that not even the presence of Obi-Wan could quench.
He still did not know of her past, for Padmé had yet to find the words or the strength to confide in him, even though she had vowed to be honest with him for the good of their relationship. What stopped her was those feelings that she felt when he had found out, or perhaps confirmed what he deliberately blinded himself to in order to protect them. That day in her apartment when he came to her to found out where Anakin was and tell her of what foul deeds her husband had committed hard been one of the hardest days of her life. The grief in his voice as he confirmed the identity of the father of her children, realised the true depth to which she and Anakin had betrayed him, haunted her. It was something which she had wanted to prevent causing him again, yet she could not keep it from him forever, even though he respected her silence.
Each evening that they spent together without the presence of her court or councillors, Padmé attempted to find the words and the courage to tell him. But each time she failed. The days continued to pass, their passage of time counting down to that fateful anniversary of the conversation in her Coruscant apartment, and the darkness which followed. She found herself holding her breath when at last it arrived, too fearful of invoking some repetition of that day to actually confide in him in then.
She woke the next morning hoping to feel some relief over the passing of that day before, but such emotions quickly faded when she realised what came next. For it was the day she gave birth to the twins. The fact that she had also died on this day, along with her husband, seemed immaterial compared to the remembrance of those few precious minutes spent looking at her children.
Summoning the strength to name them, to tell Obi-Wan that there was still some good in their father, as he held her son in his arms and begged her to find the power within herself to live. Those memories were all the more poignant now because Luke and Leia were not born, nor would they even be conceived. She did not regret her relationship with Obi-Wan, or the resolve not to form one with Anakin, but those factors did not prevent her from mourning over the sacrifice of her twins which was the result.
Rising from her bed, she made for her closet to change, forcing a mask of composure on her face to conceal the sorrow within. As much as she would have liked to spend the day mourning this loss, she had duties to perform, councils to attend and a Jedi Master to talk with, though how she would face Obi-Wan or Anakin without breaking down before them, Padmé did not know. Her most vivid memories of that day seemed to focus on them, from the anger on her husband's face as he choked her, to the heartfelt pleading expression on Obi-Wan's as he held her son in his arms and begged her to live.
She could not reveal her sorrow to him, not today, no matter her resolve for honesty in their relationship, for aside from the desire to protect him from enduring such sorrow, she doubted that she could find the strength within her to tell him. She realised something else too, that this was her burden to carry, the sacrifice she made for the good of the galaxy. At the time, she had not realised what would be her price. Now she wished it had been anything other than Luke and Leia.
Keeping her grief behind a mask of regal sovereignty, Padmé made her way to the throne room, mustering a smile for her handmaidens and for the officials who were waiting to see her. Obi-Wan had been called from her bed early for a meeting with the Jedi Council, there was plenty of time to summon the strength to face him when that com call was at an end and he could rejoin her company.
For now she had to deal with the members of her court, finding the strength to conceal her sorrow from her handmaidens, security and councillors. She felt envious at the comfortable expressions others greeted her with, their nonnescience as to the nature of her grief made permanent by her duty to protect them from such knowledge, yet painful to accept and endure all the same.
She thought thirteen years would have been enough time for the grief at the loss of the twins to lessen, but she realised now that she had never given up hope that they might exist someday. Now, she had to, and that made the loss raw once more.
Hours passed. Padmé worked through each one of them trying not to notice their passage, and failing with every attempt. She kept her composure, hid her grief, went through the motions of an ordinary day, all the while her heart was breaking inside. Then Lieutenant Skywalker requested to see her, and suddenly the pain threatened to force itself out into the open for all to wonder at.
Padmé nearly choked, a cruel irony of a bodily reflex, considering the visitor. Refusal or excuse to avoid the meeting was not possible, he must be granted admittance. She could not even make use of a decoy, for there was no time for Sabé to change into the robes of majesty, or for her to assume those of a handmaiden. Summoning what might be a final reserve of strength, she dismissed her councillors, security and handmaidens, then signalled for him to come forward and inquired after his welbeing, and that of his mother's.
"We are both well, thank you, Your Highness," Anakin replied. "I came to ask you for your consent to something. I was told that it is customary to do so."
"An old fashioned formality," Padmé replied, the words a struggle to release from her inwardly quivering mind. "But, please, go ahead."
"I wish to marry," Anakin replied.
The request caught her by surprise, for she was too concerned with keeping her composure before him to realise what he had in mind. Since he had become a member of her security she had been unable to find the time to single out his company, something she had once planned to do, although as the years since their meeting on Tatooine passed, she had come to realise that having a relationship with him again would not be wise.
She cared for him, not as much as to ignore what was sensible, but enough to feel a need to protect him from the risk of damage to him that their relationship might incur. Thanks to her interference he had never realised his potential as a Jedi, but the power of the Force was still inside him and their relationship might trigger the emergence of such powers. She should feel happy that he had found someone just as she had, however, with the memory of today's significance, her emotions were not so easily reconciled.
"Congratulations," she uttered hollowly. "Who is the lucky lady?"
"Yané," he replied.
Padmé sighed for he did not need to say anything further for her to realise who he was speaking of. Yané was the youngest of her handmaidens, intelligent and talented, who aside from her duties to her sovereign, could have a thriving career as a musician. As one of Padmé's youngest handmaidens she would have stayed behind with Saché at the palace during the blockade, if Padmé had not changed history by forming an alliance with the Gungans without fleeing to Tatooine and then Coruscant first. Yané had also been her choice of escort for Anakin when he first came to the palace and volunteered to become a member of her security.
Originally she had hoped to turn her duties as Queen over to Sabé and show Anakin around herself, using the meeting to form the foundation of their relationship in this life, but like everything else between them, that was not possible. She wanted him to be happy, but not with a member of her household, someone she had spent most of her girlhood with, and counted as a friend. It was perhaps selfish of her to wish to avoid any encounter with him or people he was close to, yet because of today's significance, experiencing such a desire, even if only for a moment before sense intervened, was unavoidable.
Padmé wanted the meeting to be over before it had even begun, but she had to prolong it, in order to appear pleased with the match, flattered by his adherence to the old fashioned protocols and customs of his adopted planet. She had to welcome her handmaiden in, praise them both, offer her felicitations, and invite them to hold the wedding within the grounds of the palace. To her relief that offer was graciously refused, they desired to have a small wedding, attendance of close friends and family, without the pomp and circumstance that Theed would demand if they solemnised their union here. If she wanted to attend they would put off the event until she was no longer Queen, an invitation which Padmé felt would be wise to decline, but was unable to do so, for she could not see how to refuse without disappointing them. Not until she had endured all this could she freely dismiss them without calling attention to such a departure.
When at last she was alone in the throne room, she drew a deep breath, attempting to regain her composure, knowing all the while it would be a useless endeavour. She wanted to flee the room, seek a fragile and temporary solace in the fresh air of the balcony nearby which called out so temptingly, but her body had not the strength for it, the strain of concealing her grief too great to cope with anything else that might be required of it. Shakily her fingers reached out for the button on her throne which controlled the doors, pressing the lock so she could cry for a little while, else she feared that her concealment would not last the day.
Like a waterfall the grief was released from the prison of her divining, and once let loose, could not be quenched. She fell from the throne to the marbled floor, a rapid yet graceful descent, softened by layers of elaborate silk, cushioning the blow of contact with the hard patterned rock. Her hand went to her mouth in an effort to lessen the ebb and flow, though no one would hear her beyond the vast thick walls of the room. Droplets of saddened moisture slid down her smooth cheeks, leaving damp paths within their wake, wetting her hand in their journey to the silk of her gown. She cried out until her breath was spent, then stilled as the tears continued to descend without the slightest sign of abatement.
An eerie quietness settled over her then, casting an spectral quality to the passage of time, as though she was locked in this limbo of grief forever. Then abruptly the silence was broken, the noise unnaturally loud due to the suddenness of its commencement, as someone attempted to open the doors.
Anxiously she turned towards that barrier, fearful of the intruder, the questions they would ask, the words with which they would exclaim upon catching sight of her and her grief which she had not yet recovered the power to contain. Even the energy to move from the floor to flee this visitor, to escape to another room where she could wash away the evidence of how she spent her past hours was beyond her at present. Padmé fixed her eyes fixed on the entrance and the visitor behind the doors, hoping they would not continue to struggle with the locking mechanism, but her hope was in vain. Abruptly the doors were waved aside, and her visitor entered, only to come to a shocked halt the moment he crossed the threshold.
"Padmé?" Obi-Wan Kenobi queried, all care to observe formalities that usually applied to the throne room and her role as Queen gone when confronted thus with her pitiful sight.
Only her security or he could make his way past the lock, and yet he was the last person she needed to see right now. She took him in, her brown eyes assessing the look splayed across his handsome features, the same look she remembered from that day in her Coruscant apartment when he told of Anakin's crimes, and grief conquered her once again.
He closed the door behind him with a wave of his hand and darted to her side, gathering her into his arms. His fingers went to her back and her hair, caressing the shaking body beneath soothingly. She clung to him, cries muffled by his rapidly soaked tunic, her tears frantic now, almost hysterical. Mystified, he could only wait for enlightenment, offering hushed words of comfort until her sorrow subsided. His heart ached to see her like this, and he yearned to know what could have happened to alter her so sharply from the happy woman he bade farewell to earlier that morning.
Consciousness regarding herself slowly returned, and she shrank from the embrace of the man who offered her solace, embarrassed and afraid of his reaction. Obi-Wan did not resist her quest to part from him, but nor would he let her leave his side entirely either, his hand loose yet firm about her waist. She raised her face level with his almost fearfully, only to be met with an eloquent look of patient willingness to listen. The urge to confide in him was overwhelming; she had carried this burden by herself far too long.
"They would have been born today," her voice began before she was aware of the words escaping her mouth, the tone surprisingly calm considering all the grief she still held. "My beautiful children." She turned away from him and he pulled her back into his arms as her body began to shiver for warmth. "I didn't even have the chance to hold them, and now I never shall. Their father will marry someone else. Why did they have to be the price I paid, Obi-Wan? I would have gladly sacrificed anything else. After all I did to save the Republic, to save Anakin, save the Jedi. Should I not be given some reward? Oh, I did not expect any, I never have, but nor do I believe two innocent babes should be the price of a peaceful galaxy." She paused to swallow away another onset of tears. "How shall I go on? How can I live without nothing to live for?"
Obi-Wan could not answer. He wanted to tell her that there were things to live for, that he was here for her, body and soul, as he had been from their time together in the lake country. But he held back from saying as much, because he realised that there was a deeper grief within her, one which such words of love from him could not soothe. Some of what she spoke of he could make sense from, such as the security officer whom she took care for him not spend much time in the company of, for reasons she had not explained. He could be the hoped for father she spoke of, yet she had made no mention of anyone special in her life before they embarked on their relationship.
But what of the children who had never been born, yet somehow existed her mind. She mentioned saving the Republic, but from what? Searching through his memories, he recalled the first time he met her, the actions he witnessed taking place, her detailed plan of attack for the pilots on the control ship. He remembered her request to keep in touch, to keep her informed of events on Coruscant. The concerns she confided to the Council about Palpatine, concerns that were proved to be true, resulting in the death of that councillor turned Sith at his hands.
All these acts and more predicted, seen through and dealt with by her. Now he looked back on them, it seemed to him that she must have known what the alternative would be if she did not take care to do this. He had wondered about her prospicience before, but until now he had no clue as to how she came to acquire such a talent. Her words seem to imply that she might have been gifted with a vision of the future, or travelled back in time. Neither were unheard of, although such were rare occurrences.
He turned his attention back to Padmé who was still inconsolable. Sensing that she was most likely exhausted from her grief, one which she might have carried for as long as he had known her, Obi-Wan summoned the Force to her aid, sending a calming wave into her body and mind, which would allow her to regain the strength to leave the throne room so she could recover in the privacy of her chambers, although it would not prove to be a cure for the heart of her grief. When she was quiet and calmer, the wave sending her into a light restorative dose, Obi-Wan lifted her from the floor and took her out of the throne room to those chambers.
Laying her down upon her bed, he sank into a chair beside her and waited for the wave of the force to restore her calm and wakefulness, hoping that when it did, he would have the words to offer comfort for the rest.
Padmé opened her eyes to find Obi-Wan seated in a chair by her bed where he had evidently spent the time she had been asleep watching over her until she regained her composure from the grief that had overwhelmed her. How he had managed to take her from the throne room to her chambers without alerting the concern of her security, handmaidens or councillors was a mystery perhaps left to the Force. She also felt that the ancient energy was responsible for the calmness which she felt now.
"Thank you," she said, offering her hand.
He reached out to take it in his own. Cradling her fingers and palm, he uttered softly, "Padmé, it pains me to see you cry. Almost from the moment I met you, I have noticed this deep sorrow. I would not force your confidence, but Padmé, it is tearing you apart. Please allow yourself to confide in me, or someone else if you feel that you cannot tell me. You may find your burdens eased by doing so."
While he was speaking Padmé had been unable to move her gaze from the sight of their clasped hands. His friendship, his support, his love, she realised had never wavered no matter which lifetime they lived. Now she found the courage to meet his earnest gaze and tell him the source of her grief, though his expression still reminded her of when he came to tell her the full horror of her husband's fall into the darkside of the Force.
"I would have told you before, Obi-Wan, but I did not wish to lay the burden of misplaced guilt upon you which you have carried previously," she began, causing him to frown in confusion. "I wanted to spare you that fate, along with all the others that I tried to prevent. and I was not sure if you would believe what I am about to tell you. It is so fantastical that sometimes I even doubt it myself."
"A Jedi can sense sincerity," Obi-Wan assured her. "And you have always held the truth of your convictions."
"Thank you," Padmé murmured as she prepared herself to tell him. "I have lived this life before. The first time you and I met, I listened to your Master and travelled to Coruscant. Only the ship was damaged enroute, causing us to make a stop on Tatooine, where he met a little boy who was very powerful in the Force.
"Your master freed this boy from slavery and took him before the Jedi Council to be tested. Though he passed the tests, the Council were reluctant to train him because he was too old, too attached to his mother and held too much fear within him. But your master was determined to train him, and after the boy's actions in helping my people lift the blockade on planet, the Council conceded.
"He trained to become a Jedi, though his fear and his need for attachments caused him to take revenge on the beings who killed his mother, and secretly marry the woman he loved. But he allowed himself to be manipulated by a man of the Senate, who had taken a close interest in him ever since the boy helped save his planet.
"I was also manipulated by that man, into declaring a vote of no confidence within Chancellor Valorum, a motion which the man used to assume the office himself. Once he was in power, he used the means at his disposal to provoke a civil war within the Republic and to persuade the little boy to betray his Master, the Order, his wife and his unborn children. He fell to the dark side, unleashing a wave of killings on the Order and the Republic.
"His wife learned of his actions through his Jedi Master and unwilling to believe him, went to confront her husband. When she realised the truth and reacted with horror at what he had done, he choked her with his new powers. She would have died but for his Jedi Master who snuck aboard the ship and now confronted his apprentice.
"I woke from my injuries, only to grieve over what I had lost. I could not find the strength to nurture my children. You took me to a medical base where the med-droid induced labour to deliver them." Padmé broke to smile at his startled expression. "You held my son in your arms as you begged me to hold on. I wanted to so desperately, for you and my children. But something pulled me away.
"When I opened my eyes again, I was standing before a window, overlooking the entrance to the palace, which was filling with the troops of the Trade Federation. My life had begun again, and I had a chance to change everything. So I ignored your master's advice, and went to the Gungans first.
"Then I sought to free Tatooine from slavery, and bring my future husband to Naboo. I thought that I could still have him and my children, even while I prevented him from becoming a Jedi and ensured the defeat of my Sith of a Senator.
"Later I realised that it would be wise if I never formed the relationship at all, as part of his downfall was how much he cared for me. I also came to realise how deeply I cared for someone else, who had been a close friend in both my lives." she smiled at him, gripping his hand to indicate that it was him she spoke of. "But today is the anniversary of the birth of my twins, and before you saw me, I had just finished a meeting with him. Anakin told me that he was in love with one of my handmaidens and asked to marry her."
There was no incredulity or astonishment from Obi-Wan when she finished. He merely clasped her hand affectionately before saying, "I realise now why you were always so tense whenever your security lieutenant and I met. I could sense the power within Anakin Skywalker, but I never received a note of recognition or curiosity in reply, which together with your caution caused me to refrain from asking him if he wanted to harness his Jedi potential. And though the loss of his affections and the prospect of a future together may grieve you now, I can assure you that there is still time for you to have those children you would have had today."
"But they won't be the same children," Padmé protested.
"You cannot know that," he countered gently. "When you knew them, they were nothing more than babes in arms. Who knows what the future held for them, even if it was in a government of darkness. There is a balance in all things. For the darkness to exist there must have also been a light as well. Perhaps your children were the ones who found it and brought it back to the galaxy. And who is to say that in this time they will be so different? That they will not continue to spread the light which you have spread throughout the galaxy? Their father may be a different man," Obi-Wan conceded, "but if the Force intended you to have them, then they will come to exist."
"I don't deserve you," Padmé murmured. "How is it you always manage to comfort me, to be a source of strength for me even when what I have to say will cause you grief? It cannot just be from the Force."
"The force is generous, and it is patient," Obi-Wan answered. "And the light is a lone candle in face of darkness. But love is more than a candle. Love can ignite the stars." He smiled at her before adding, "you proved that doing what you have done to change the past and the future. It is now time for patience, to gather your strength for what is to come."
"Some days that's harder to accomplish," Padmé remarked to which Obi-Wan nodded in agreement.
"I know this might not be what you need to hear right now, nor perhaps is our relationship ready for them, but if you wish for children, just say the word and I will grant that desire," he added.
Padmé smiled at him. "Thank, Obi-Wan. You're right, while we may be ready individually, our relationship is too early formed to welcome children. Yet I am grateful and touched by your willingness to do such a thing for me."
"There's no need to be grateful," Obi-Wan replied, before saying, "a Jedi lives to serve," making her laugh.
Time passed. For two years Queen Amidala ruled, carrying out her duties while a new Princess of Theed was elected. When her third term came to an end, Padmé stepped down in favour of Neeyutnee, returning to her family's home as an ordinary citizen of Naboo.
In the lush warm grass and stone of the Naberrie dwelling another role was waiting for her, the wife of a Jedi Master. She and Obi-Wan married within a few months of Queen Neeyutnee's succession, a few days after Lieutenant Skywalker's marriage to her handmaiden Yané. Despite her initial reluctance to attend the ceremony, Padmé paid her friend the honour of doing so, with Obi-Wan as her escort. To her relief, witnessing the ceremony together with seeing her handmaiden and former husband deeply in love, caused her no further grief.
After their own wedding Padmé and Obi-Wan spent some time at Varykino, before leaving Naboo for Coruscant, to take up residence at the Jedi Temple. In the interim of her last years as Queen, Obi-Wan had taken on a padawan learner, which required them to spend the first part of their marriage on the Jewel of the Core Worlds, until his apprentice acquired the necessary skills and discipline to accompany their master off planet.
While on Coruscant, Padmé felt what would prove to be the first fluttering of their children. Whilst the babes quickened inside her, she joined the Core Relief Movement, an organisation that was tasked with providing aid to the poor who lived on Coruscant's lower levels, where little sunlight or vegetation, justice or mercy ventured. In her youth she had served in a similar movement on Naboo, and the familiarity of the duties required allowed her an opportunity to keep herself busy when Obi-Wan was teaching his apprentice.
Months later, Padmé could not help but feel a sense of familiarity as she struggled through her labour, with the med droid waiting at the foot of the bed to take her daughter into its mechanical arms, whilst Obi-Wan stood beside her cradling their son. The fact that it was their son and not a part of Anakin was a comfort, along with the sight of her husband, who was not battleworn nor suffering from a deep betrayal and loss. There was also a Jedi healer present, for the delivery was taking place within the Temple, rather than a remote asteroid base in the Outer Rim Territories. Still, the eerie symmetry of the last time she had endured childbirth was unsettling, and did little to alleviate the labour pains.
At last she saw the med droid bend to retrieve the babe, muttering notes designed to soothe the child's fears on entering the universe, before shuffling around to place the newborn in her arms. Padmé sank against the pillows exhausted and relieved as she cradled her daughter, glancing at the babe before turning her gaze to Obi-Wan. Nothing was pulling her away from those she loved to a past that required remedying, nor was she weakened from the injuries of a broken heart and a sith choke.
Her journey had come full circle, and the future lay ahead of her.