The Force. She had grown to sense it these last few...hours? Days? Since leaving Coruscant she had not kept track of time at all. She wasn't even sure how far out Mustafar had been, though she suspected it was fairly far out, and she must have been traveling at least a couple of days, if not longer. She had slept much of the time she had been on board, leaving Threepio to wake her in case of emergency. Her sleep had never lasted long, and she had gotten into a cycle of rising, staying up for a short while, lying back down, and attempting to sleep again. Enough time had blurred by now that she might go into labor at any moment for all she knew. Her sense of the Force was due to the baby, she was sure, and she was close to term.
“Threepio,” she called out, “do we still have the medical kit on board?”
“You’re awake.” A movement near her, a shadow, and she was staring into Obi-Wan’s face, the first sight that got through to her. Her surface senses still seemed unimportant. “Threepio deactivated himself shortly after we took off. Have you gone into labor?”
“Not yet, but someone needs to keep watch. I might not stay awake.” That she wouldn’t stay awake was in fact a certainty. A lot of certainties had settled on her between Anakin’s choking her and her waking up, the most important being that his dreams had been true, and she was going to die in childbirth. Or possibly of a broken heart; she wasn't sure. But the knowledge that she would not outlive her baby by more than a few minutes was too strong in her brain for any denial, or even any resentment, thought perhaps regret. “You left Anakin on the planet, didn’t you?”
His expression turned so sad. “I killed him.”
“No.” It came out automatically, as a denial, and then as a statement of fact. “No. He’s not dead. I can feel it. He’s alive. Or at least, what used to be him is alive.”
Obi-Wan drew away and closed his eyes. “You’re right. I can feel it too. But I left him burning to death just above all the lava, and that was...” He took a look at the readings, while her eyes spotted Threepio in the corner, indeed deactivated. “Nearly three hours ago. If he’s survived this long, he has even more of a will than I thought, but he will die.”
Her first thought was to order him to turn back, or beg him if necessary. But a moment later she knew he could not do that, and she could not want him to either.
“And I killed him,” she added out loud. “Even if you delivered the final blow. Which I was even ready to even deliver. When Threepio woke we up and carried me back into the ship, I was ready to take off, track the two of you down, and use the ship’s weaponry against him. I was ready to do it. But Threepio insisted I lie down...and it doesn’t matter anyway. I never should have married him.”
“You were married?” Obi-Wan had been facing away from her, but he turned back, and Padmé saw his cold lack of surprise. “When?”
She felt no anger at him. She understood, certainly, and she had no ability to feel any more anger for anyone besides herself. “After Geonosis. I think I knew even then.”
Had he ever asked Anakin, Padmé wondered, what they had been doing on Tatooine? But he might not have had to; he had talked too openly about his worries for his mother for Obi-Wan to not guess. Anyway, Anakin Skywalker would be dead in a short while. Part of her was now going onto alert, waiting to sense the descent of emptiness that she knew would tell her of his passing. Those things which she had kept close to her heart for his sake she could now disclose without worry. And even if she had not been about to die in childbirth, she could not care about the consequences of her actions to herself either. Her career was over no matter what. She had taken sides against the new Emperor, all but declared herself treasonous, and the thought of setting foot in the Senate House again as a member of that body disgusted her.
So she spoke about his mother being kidnaped, of his finding her dead and slaughtering her captors in his rage. “It was later he recited the Code for me. There is no emotion; there is peace.”
Obi-Wan joined in her recitation, “There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no death; there is the Force.” The last line comforted Padmé as she said it. Perhaps she would follow where Anakin was going after all.
“Perhaps...” Obi-Wan lowered his head, looked down at his fists. “Anakin’s case was extreme, but perhaps no Jedi has ever been perfect in the eyes of the Code. No, I don’t think any has ever been. We spend our lives striving to get past our emotions, and our ignorance, but I would be amazed to hear that any of us achieved it before death.”
His face and tone were impassive, betraying nothing to even Padmé’s politically-trained eyes. Her newer senses were speaking of something just beyond their detection. But that he knew firsthand of this failure he spoke of was beyond doubt. He had to harbor guilt about that.
Padmé was very familiar with guilt at the moment, and unlike him, she no longer wished to keep it concealed. “He had so much hate. You didn’t need Jedi skills to see it, or sense it. I was so sure he could never stop hating. When I married him, part of me was sure I was going to my doom right then. I had the feeling if he fell, he’d take me with him.”
“Well, he hasn’t, has he?” Obi-Wan tried to point out.
Padmé was surprised. She’d assumed he knew. “Yes he has. I don’t mean I’m going over to the Dark Side or anything like that,” she quickly amended when she saw his expression, and felt his panic. “I mean he’s killed me. It’s not his fault, not really, but I’m going to die in childbirth, like he feared. I know it. I can feel it.”
“You don’t know that for sure.” Obi-Wan started.
“Yes, I do,” she told him, in a tone which bespoke her certainty. She could tell he still didn't believe her, but that didn't matter. He would soon enough. “Since I realized I was in love with him, I've felt like I was sitting in a fighter hurtling towards an asteroid, and I'm powerless to turn it aside, but I can't bring myself to bail out, and I don't know why I'm so determined to see it through to the end. Maybe because I thought it was possible to save him, and I felt I had to try. I thought that maybe if he had to hate, he could love as well...”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that, Padmé,” said Obi-Wan sadly. “Love cannot cure hate. Indeed, it only encourages it. They form a Light and Dark Side of their own, and you cannot have one without incurring the other. A Jedi knight must therefore have neither.”
“Must...” Padmé repeated.
“Padmé, you have to realize, wielding the Force makes us too powerful. Had Anakin not been a Jedi, he might have still gone into a rampage, and he might have killed a few people, but I know the Tuskan Raiders are able to defend themselves if need be; he likely would not manage the level of murder he did. When passion combines with the Force, the result is madness. You saw the results in Anakin. And you can comprehend what will happen to the galaxy in consequence of his actions. That is why.”
“You’re lying,” she said suddenly. At his disappointed look, she corrected herself. “No, you’re telling the truth, in fact what you’re saying is probably the most unshakable truth of your soul. But there’s still something you’re not telling me.”
He smiled, a bitter smile, but a smile still. “The Force was always strong with you,” he said. “Not as strong as with a Jedi, perhaps, but stronger than with most laypeople. That you should at this stage of your pregnancy have a Jedi’s senses does not surprise me at all. Indeed, your inexperience, your overestimating my deception just then, surprises me instead. I would've expected this to come to you earlier.”
He anticipated her thoughts before they came into her head, and answered her question before it formed coherently enough in her mind for her to ask it. “When a woman carries a future Jedi, the Force always grows stronger with her. Word of her growing unusually intuitive or her reflexes turning remarkable getting back to a Jedi is one of the most common ways we’ve found Younglings.”
Padmé had the same sensation from earlier, and this time she knew what it was: Obi-Wan was telling the truth, but he was leaving something out. She supposed she ought not to press, not when she would be dead within days anyway, but somehow that she would be dead had the opposite effect, made her want to know everything Obi-Wan could tell her, and she said, “There’s still something you’re not telling me.”
She knew how he would take it. She was a politician; she didn’t need the Force to tell that kind of thing. He would reveal whatever details he had left out of the explanation he had just given, so as to avoid giving away whatever facts he had left out of the earlier one.
She should have taken into account, she realized a second later, that he was a Jedi Knight, so he didn’t react to words the same way other people did, but when he asked, “Do you want to know?” she suspected here he had, and she said. “Yes. Whatever it is, I want to know.”
“Those mothers whom I have just described,” he said, “aren’t the main source of our knowledge of how a Jedi’s mother is affected by her pregnancy. Jedi may be forbidden love, but they are not, strictly speaking, forbidden sex.”
“I couldn’t imagine having sex like that.”
“That doesn’t surprised me,” he replied, “but many women do. They range from those who want the glory of bedding a Jedi Knight, to those who genuinely want to bear a Jedi’s child, even if they have to give it up the moment of its birth, or even those who may feel love, accepting it as unrequited by necessity, or simple lust. And those women are often monitored, without their noticing, by other Jedi during their pregnancy. Their behavior is recorded in the archives. There’s a record in there of one of them that developed full powers as early as two months before her delivery, and then kept a limited amount of them for the rest of her life. She ended up becoming a famous leader of her people.”
This speech provoked a very vague horror in Padmé. She was no longer capable of a stronger feeling.
“You won’t get very many records out of me,” she finally said. “Not that there’s much place to archive them anymore anyway...and it’s a good thing I didn’t have any conscious powers earlier, though now that I think about it, I think my mobility in recent days has not been normal. I’ve spent the last eight months, since I realized, avoiding doctors.”
“You shouldn’t have,” he said.
“Naivety does not become a Jedi,” she sighed. “The political situation the war induced was one where anyone who didn’t bend their heads couldn’t make a single misstep. I spoke out against the Chancellor’s policies more than once. His supporters would have loved to take me down. The Queen on Naboo now is young, younger than I was when I first took office, and easily swayed by corrupt advisors. If she found out I was pregnant, it would be the work of a moment for them to persuade her to declare me medically incapacitated, force me to step down, appoint a temporary replacement, and then just make that replacement permanent. Any doctor on Coruscant could very well have been an informer. Plus he would have run tests to determine the father, possibly even if I directly asked him not to. I couldn’t risk it. If I had been able to get back to Naboo, that would've been different, but with the Chancellor continually grabbing more and more powers, I kept finding myself having to stay on Corsucant in a desperate struggle to curb him. I kept praying the war would end before I gave birth, because I don't know how I would have managed that.”
It was Obi-Wan’s turn to feel horror, and she could not but feel the irony of it being far stronger than hers. Hadn’t she been the emotional one, in first the Senate House, and then with Anakin, and he the Jedi? Now, even her anger at herself would not last, she thought. Soon there would be no emotion left. Already she had no ignorance of her fate. Passion would give way to serenity, and hopefully death to the Force. While true peace and serenity eluded him, and perhaps would continue to do so for a long time. Maybe even for the rest of his life.
Her anger would be bled out of her, she thought, when she had confessed the rest. So she spoke. “When I told you on Coruscant that I didn’t believe you, I was lying. You were only confirming what I had feared, feared to the point I nearly blurted out everything in front of him when he left for Mustafar. He knew I was keeping something back from him. I can only imagine what he thought it was. Perhaps I hadn’t really thought he’d gone far as he had, but once you said he had...I didn’t want to believe you. When I said I didn’t, I wanted saying the words to make that true. But they wouldn’t.”
“Yet you came here.”
“Yes. I led you to him.”
She couldn’t keep the lingering bitter guilt out of her voice. It was alleviated only a little when Obi-Wan replied, “I think eventually I would have found him anyway.”
“I needed to hear it from his own lips. To see what he had become myself. Not to believe it, but to accept that I had really lost him. And to know for sure that he was beyond saving. You heard me beg him to run off with me. I knew by the time I left Coruscant that one way or another, I was going to leave the Senate permanently. I just wanted us both to walk off together. Leave the opposition in Senator Organa’s hands. I knew I could rely on him to manage without me. He will now anyway, though perhaps if Anakin had done it, tossed his lightsaber into the lava and renounced the Sith, I might now be able to bear this child without dying, who knows?”
He was silent. “Do you think that was impossible?" she demanded. "That noone who went as far as him could at least escape, if not return to where they were? Would you have let us go?”
“If he could tell me to my face that he was giving it up, and I knew without a doubt that he meant it, yes, I would have let you go.” But he still sounded torn.
When she said nothing immediately, he went back to the readings, and said, “Yoda and Senator Organa have taken refuge at a base in an asteriod field. We can go there, and probably stay long enough for you to give birth.”
“Tell him to take my body back to Naboo. I think he would anyway, but make sure he does.”
He opened his mouth to protest, no doubt to insist that she couldn’t be sure she’d die, but he must have realized it was no use, so he simply said, “If you do indeed die, I promise you it will be done.”
“Thanks.” Silence again. Yet she still felt fairly awake, and another question occurred to her. “Did Qui-Gon guess my deception immediately? I remember sometimes the way he spoke to me when I insisted the Queen wouldn’t approve of his actions...he said the Queen didn’t have to know. That did make me angry. Did he think a handmaiden loyal to the Queen would keep things from her just because he wanted her to? When I didn’t really hope he wasn’t going to realize, if nothing else, that I was there to spy on him?”
Obi-Wan smiled at that, and said, “Yes, he knew. Yet he was just a little dismayed that you wouldn't trust a Jedi Knight.”
“I didn’t trust anyone then,” she said simply. “I already knew I’d keep an eye on you on Tatooine when you left without me, and that only confirmed in my head that I needed to!”
Then she noticed his gloom had returned while she had been speaking, and in fact grown heavier. His guilt was coming close to the surface; she could sense it. Something had provoked it.
“I respected Qui-Gon by the end...” she started, but both her eyes and her less physical senses detected Obi-Wan’s reaction at the name of his former master. His guilt had to do with him.
And then suddenly it clicked. “You were too close to him, weren’t you?”
“Much too close.” This was it. The guilt, the shame, the long-buried fears, partly provoked out of hiding by witnessing Anakin’s descent, so strong Padmé could almost see it in the air around him. “Anakin could have accused me of hypocrisy. I warned him against doing what I had done myself. I loved Qui-Gon.”
He turned away, but it hid nothing from her. Nor could his broken voice. “We spoke of it, we struggled with it, we lost. We let ourselves feel...we touched. Then we told ourselves it was nothing, that we could still act without regards to each other... Qui-Gon was always a maverick, always doing things his own way. But I could always believe he knew what he was doing, even in this. And he was ready to give me up, in the end. He would’ve taken Anakin as his apprentice, released me to the Trials and full knighthood, as sooner or later he would always have had to do. It would effectively have separated us from each other for the rest of our lives. It hurt me, the way he just brushed me aside without hesitation, the minute he thought duty called. It shouldn't have, and I knew it. He had already kept me longer than he should have.”
"You two were stronger than Anakin and me," said Padmé, attempting to console him. But there was still something wrong, some sort of denial. "Weren't you?"
His response was a anguished whisper: “I murdered that Sith.”
“I thought you had to kill him anyway.”
“Even if his death was necessary, when I did the act, nothing can change or excuse how I felt. I sliced him in half with the same rage, the same hatred, that Anakin felt when he slaughtered the Tuskan Raiders on Tatooine. My love for Qui-Gon led me to feel hatred, which would have been unknown to me otherwise.”
He could never have allowed himself to grieve for Qui-Gon, because his grief was coming loose from its suppression. She thought she could see a dark cloud around him. She knew she could see his shoulders shaking.
Then he gained control of himself. He calmed, the air seemed to lose a certain thickness. “I was only a few years older than Anakin, and it took every bit of my training to get past my passion, my grief. Had I been his age...I might have ended up like him.”
“But you didn’t!” Padmé cried.
Finally he turned back towards her. There were tears on his face, but they had stopped falling quickly. “You’re right. I didn’t. I was lucky.” He wiped his face dry with the sleeves of his robe and knelt down beside her. “Do you need me to activate Threepio?”
“You should,” she replied, feeling herself grow tired. “Wait,” she said suddenly as he stood up and turned towards the droid.
He stopped and turned back. “What is it?”
That was probably the last thing he’d expected her to say, and it showed. “Kiss you?”
“Please. I don’t know why, but I want you to. Do it out of compassion. You’re supposed to feel compassion, I know that.”
But when he knelt back down, she sensed an apprehension, and instinctively understood its nature. He was attracted to her, a simple physical attraction which his training under normal circumstances reduced to the point it could go completely unnoticed. But these were not normal circumstances, and he feared losing control.
“I don’t think it’ll hurt you,” she assured him. “I know I might be wrong; I know got it all wrong with Anakin. No, if you really can’t....”
“I can.” And very tenderly, he took her chin in his hand and kissed her.
His beard brushed roughly against her face, and his lips and hands were roughened as well, as Anakin’s had been. But the warmth of his mouth and hands traveled through her face and into her scalp. Padmé always loved to savor a kiss, and she let her lips bathe in this one. The last of her and his turmoil evaporated, and she allowed all thoughts to leave her, soon aware only of his breath against her face, and her own body shutting down.
“Thank you,” she murmured, “for everything,” and she slipped out of consciousness.