Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade were accompanied by his sister Leia, though her less than Force-sensitive husband had sensibly bailed out, and by two of their fellow hundred, both older, she thought. Luke introduced them as Kam Solusar and Tionne. Padmé saw their eyes travel to the crossed lightsabers on the plaque set opposite her front door. Then they smiled and nodded at her as two members of the Hundred to another member.
The food had already been prepared and it was quickly laid out for six. Padmé sat at the head of the table with her children on either side of her. They were both taller than her now.
Before they could eat she raised her glass and said, “First of all, a toast, I think. To my son and daughter-in-law, Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade, the new heads of the Hundred.”
Everyone raised their glasses and drank, then they set to the food.
A minute or so into the meal, however, Kam commented, “I’d heard it said, Lady Amidala, that you originally didn’t want either of your children joining the Hundred.”
“Hey!” Leia took offense. “She kept us aware of all our options. We always knew about our powers.”
Well, of course they’d known about their abilities, because Padmé hadn’t been so much of an idiot that she would keep them ignorant about such a drastic part of themselves. And ultimately, she had wanted her children to make their own choices. But what she wouldn’t admit to in front of Luke and Mara, and especially not in front of their two friends, was that she’d been secretly relieved when Leia had married a man who’d rendered her ineligible, even if she’d initially disapproved of him for other reasons.
“Well, it was just something I heard.” Kam seemed to shrug it off. Padmé let him.
“Is it true T’ra Saa visited you two last night?” Leia asked Luke and Mara.
“Yes, it’s true,” said Mara. “She had a lot of advice to give us.”
“I can imagine. How long was she in charge of the Hundred before her husband finally died? A whole century?”
“More,” said Kam. “I’m not sure of the exact year count, but I know it was far more than a century.”
“There’ll never be another leader like her,” Tionne added. “No offense to you two.”
“Oh, none taken,” Luke replied. After a moment, he went on, “I sometimes wonder what it’s like to live that long and see that much. And she still has centuries left, probably.”
“I find that comforting. She’ll always be around to guide us. At least us six, anyway.”
Luke and Mara, too, looked comforted at the thought. But Padmé found herself saying, “I don’t think you can rely on anyone always being around. Anything can happen.”
“True enough,” Mara conceded. “But at least she’s helped us out now. That’s something, at least.”
“I remember back when Tholme died,” Kam commented. “I remember worrying it would completely be the end of the Hundred. Thank the Force we were able to carry on in the end, even after the attack that followed it.”
From what Padmé had heard, that attack had claimed the lives of nearly half of the Hundred’s members, including Aayla and Kit. From the accounts, she never even had time to fully react to his death before her own.
“I remember hearing the ballad you wrote on that, Tionne,” said Leia. “One of your best, I think.”
“Yes, I’m very proud of that one. I’m thinking of maybe writing a new one for Luke and Mara.”
“Didn’t you write one for our hostess and her late husband as well?” Kam asked his wife. “You should perform it for us, perhaps. If she doesn’t mind, that is.”
“I don’t mind.” Padmé knew that ballad. She had a recording of it and she knew it by heart. At one point listening to it had been painful, but that time was long past now.
They finished the meal, now eager for the song. Then they removed to Padmé’s living space. Tionne would have to sing the song a capella, but she could do that without too much trouble.
Padmé in fact knew the song so well she didn’t have to listen to the words themselves. Just the notes stirred up the memories and emotions for her. The confusion and insecurity. The cave. The feeling of getting used to things. The calm before the storm. The pain. All rendered for her by Tionne’s beautiful voice.
What the ballad barely acknowledged, though, was what came afterwards. She’d gone home and had the twins. Taking care of them had kept her mind occupied, and for the first few months two babies constantly waking up every two hours meant she hadn’t even tried to sleep, except when she’d been too exhausted not to. When her schedule had returned more to normal she’d dreaded the nights, the loneliness when she didn’t sleep, the nightmares when she did.
The pain never went away fully. It lessened, it stopped ruling her life day in and day out. That was so even for members of the Hundred who had lived and fought besides their spouses for years upon years, like her old friend Obi-Wan Kenobi. But the mark of the Hundred was upon her, like the two lightsabers crossed over her wall. And though she’d taken lovers over the years, she had never remarried, and did not think she ever would.
When Tionne finished singing, everyone clapped loudly. Padmé clapped with them, and hoped noone noticed that her mind was so far away. But she had to come back to the present and give her guests the attention they deserved as she saw them out.