Liz (amidala_thrace) wrote,
Liz
amidala_thrace

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Desert Rose: Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Characters: Obi-Wan, Padmé, Yoda, Leia
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2,738
Summary: How can you possibly communicate that it was you who killed her husband, you who delivered the final, dismembering blow?



You’ve been told to sleep, but you can’t.

You can’t stop thinking of Anakin, Padmé, the babies.

A part of you cannot help but wonder why your body isn’t just shutting down. You’ve been awake for … well, how long has it been? Ever since you began battling with Grievous, anyway. So much has happened since then that you can’t remember when that was. Stress, grief, and a maelstrom of other emotions that you’ve either put off dealing with, or released into the Force. You know you cannot do so for much longer, however. Facing the guilt, the sadness, the images that come to you whenever you close your eyes will be the first step to healing.

For now, you are curled up on the floor beside Padmé’s bed, in a separate room of the medical centre. You aren’t sure why you insisted on sleeping there; only that you feel a sense of duty towards the little family. Perhaps because you bear full responsibility for snatching that family’s patriarch away. Anakin should have held Padmé’s hand during the delivery. He should have been the one to coo at Luke as the latter was born. He ought to have comforted Padmé through the pain of her post-delivery care.

But Anakin is gone.

That is the simple, naked truth of it. Anakin. Is. Gone. The words echo inside your head whenever you stop for a moment to take stock of the situation. Slain by your hand, although his slide into darkness was his own choice. You try to tell yourself that, anyway. But a part of you, the part that your guilt appears to be listening to, is insisting that you could have done more to prevent it. Trained him better, armed him with more weapons against the Dark Side.

And Palpatine! Why could you not see that accursed man’s influence on your friend? Of course, that’s partially a lie – you could see it, you just didn’t know how important it would turn out to be. Or that when it came down to a choice between Darth Sidious and the Jedi, Anakin would turn his back on the only family he’d ever had.

You turn over again on the floor, restless, wishing that somehow you could pluck the terrible events of the past days from your mind. Then, perhaps, you could sleep.

A shrill infant wail splits the air, and you startle, momentarily disoriented. Then it comes back to you that there are two babies in the room, babies who are ostensibly depending on you for their care. Padmé is deeply asleep, on her side, snoring lightly. You run a hand softly over her cheek, then hurry to the two bassinets on the far side of the bed.

Leia is squalling, hands drawn up to her face, face bright red. You pick her gently up, remembering to support her head, and hoist her to your shoulder. “Shh, Leia,” you whisper, carrying her to the chair set in a corner of the room. You’ve been using it to feed the twins a specially-prepared formula that mimics breast milk, since Padmé is in no condition to do so yet. Quickly you mix the formula and insert the bottle into the baby’s mouth. She immediately stops crying, sucking furiously.

It still surprises you how you’ve adapted to your new duties. Perhaps it is because you’re trying to avoid dealing with the inevitable. Or maybe it’s that sense of responsibility. You’re holding Anakin’s daughter, and you need to make sure that she’ll be all right. Because Anakin can’t do that himself.

You sigh, shifting in the chair and repositioning Leia against your arm. It all comes back to Anakin, one way or another. No matter what you do, you can’t rid yourself of the feelings that bubble up within you at that name. You close your eyes, leaning back against the chair.

Flames. The lava bank is red, stones crackling and popping. All you can hear is moaning. All you can smell is charred flesh, fire, brimstone. You taste fear. And you see your former apprentice, your brother, your partner, writhing on the ground in desperation. His legs catch fire. Then his torso. Then his arms.

Anakin is screaming. You wish you could shut it out. You wish you didn’t have to stand there, listening. But you are transfixed. Rooted to the spot. You clutch Anakin’s lightsaber, taken after you dismembered him.

His face is aflame now. The scent of hot, sizzling flesh fills the air and he yells, louder and more desperate. And finally, you cannot resist reminding him of all that has been lost.

“You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them!”

The fire has consumed Anakin’s head.

“Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”

He opens his mouth, and for one moment you have hope. For one moment, you see a glimmer of the man you knew and loved. For one moment, you expect a reconciliation.

Then it is gone.

“I HATE YOU!” Darth Vader bellows.


Your eyes snap open, the words still ringing in your ears. Fire still in your eyes, the unpleasant memory burning as hot as any of the flames did. For a moment, you teeter on the edge of breaking down completely. Then Leia spits out the formula bottle, cooing softly.

You gaze down, blue eyes meeting those of deepest brown. Brown like Padmé’s eyes. The child blinks, staring back up at you.

“If you’re looking for cheerfulness, you won’t find it here,” you tell her with a sigh.

She waves her arm, momentarily shaking it free of the blanket in which she is swaddled. Absentmindedly you press a finger to her palm, and she grasps it with surprising strength. A small moment of peace, when inside you feel anything but.

“You’re so lucky, Leia.” You rock her slightly as she continues to clutch your finger. “You can’t know pain, or anger, or suffering … so long as someone feeds you and loves you, the galaxy is perfect. Wish I could say the same for myself.”

She burps, a drop of milk snaking its way down her chin.

It makes your heart clench to think that this innocent will someday know pain, fear, anger – simply by virtue of being caught in the endless crossfire of the universe. Perhaps one day Leia will help to rebuild the Republic, but better, less corrupt, less vulnerable to the factors which caused it to crumple. It will not be easy. Only the powerful and just can defeat Palpatine.

Leia seems to sigh softly, and then suddenly, earsplittingly, she begins to cry.

“Oh, Force,” you mutter. “What’s wrong? I fed you … are you tired? Shh, it’s all right, you’ll wake your mother!”

The words have no effect on the child, who continues to squall.

You can see Padmé stirring fretfully, and Luke, too, is making faces in his sleep. Frantically you stand, jiggling Leia up and down, hoisting her onto your shoulder again, patting her back. Trying desperately to calm her, thinking back to your times volunteering in the crèche at the Jedi Temple – what did you do when a baby wouldn’t stop crying? Food, sleep, comfort …

And then a telltale odour reaches your nose, and you stop short.

Force. Not this. Not now. Not when you feel so inadequately equipped to deal with any situation.

You glance over to the table piled with diaper changing supplies. It stands there almost mockingly.

“For Force’s sake, you’re a Jedi Master,” you tell yourself sternly. “You’ve faced down battle droids, arena monsters and General Grievous – why in the galaxy are you so afraid of one dirty diaper?”

The message is a good one, but somehow you cannot seem to make your legs obey. Then, worst of all, Master Yoda himself appears, clearly attracted by the crying.

“Assistance do you require, Obi-Wan?” he asks, barely able to restrain a smile.

“N–no, of course not, Master Yoda,” you say, hastily striding over to the changing table. The only thing worse than fumbling through the task at hand would be admitting to Yoda that you feel incapable of doing it. You can just picture that particular story getting back to Bail Organa, too …

You set Leia carefully down, keenly aware of Yoda’s eyes on your back. Quickly as you can without tripping over your own fingers, you pull up her sleep robe and unfasten the diaper. What a mess. How can a baby barely the length of my arm produce more waste than a Coruscanti industrial factory?

“Blast it, where are those wipes?” you mutter.

Almost in answer, the box levitates directly in front of you. Keeping one hand on Leia, you whip around to see Yoda watching you with a twinkle of amusement in his green eyes.

“Very funny,” you grumble. “I was about to find those, honestly.”

“Of course.” Yoda smiles gently; it’s clear that he doesn’t believe you.

You begin the cleaning job, remembering from the crèche that it’s important to get into all the creases and feeling acutely embarrassed for doing so. A hot blush rises to your face.

You’re a Jedi Master. She’s a baby, and she needs to be cleaned. For Force’s SAKE, get a grip, Kenobi!

You let out a slow breath, wishing that Yoda was not observing you quite so closely. At least Leia has stopped crying. She’s sucking contentedly on her fist, looking drowsy again.

“Master Yoda, with all due respect, am I undergoing some sort of test of which I wasn’t aware?” you ask, throwing the wipes into a nearby trash and beginning to fasten on the new diaper.

Yoda chuckles gently. “No. No test was intended. Curious, was I, to see how you would handle a youngling.”

You raise your eyebrows. “But I used to volunteer in the crèche all the time. You came and watched me then, and you seemed to approve!”

You’ve never seen Yoda shrug, but he comes close to doing so right then. “Curious was I. An excuse for curiosity, not necessary it is.” A pause. “Requested your presence is at a meeting two hours from now. Short, the meeting will be. Plenty of time you will have to return to your charges.”

He stumps back out before you can reply. You can hear his cane clicking on the floor.

As you replace Leia in her bassinette, part of you cannot help feeling nervous. Surely this is the meeting at which the fate of Padmé and the twins will be decided. Measures will be enacted to keep them safe, but how can that be accomplished? No one knows if Anakin really died that night – it is suspected that he did, but you wouldn’t put it past Sidious to possess the resources to heal someone as grievously wounded as he was – and if he didn’t, there’s no doubt in your mind that his first priority will be to find his family. And, more likely than not, place them in terrible danger.

You pull up a chair next to Padmé’s bed. She is calm now that Leia has stopped crying, although her face occasionally contorts into an expression that suggests to you she’s having a nightmare. You wish there was some way you could stop those nightmares, but in the long run it may be better for Padmé to experience them. Dreams are one way that the mind works through its previous experiences.

How are you going to tell her?

The thought crashes into your mind like an unwelcome visitor. And yet, you know it’s been lurking there ever since you rescued her from Vader’s clutches.

How can you possibly communicate that it was you who killed her husband, you who delivered the final, dismembering blow? That Anakin may as well have died at your hand, even though he was gone before the first lightsaber was ignited on Mustafar?

She’ll hate you.

She can’t hate you. You don’t want her to hate you, you can’t have her hate you.

But she will.

How will I survive if Padmé never speaks to me again?

You shake your head as if trying to dislodge the unpleasant thought, and almost immediately, another takes its place.

Anakin and Padmé were married.

Married for three years, and you had no idea.

You had your suspicions, of course. But suspecting something is very different from choosing to believe it. And you chose to believe that Anakin’s excited mood whenever you returned to Coruscant, the light that came into Padmé’s eyes whenever Anakin was mentioned, the secret glances between them when they got together, were just signs of friendship.

After all, you and Padmé were the same way, once.

A little more than that actually.

So you should have seen, you should have known, but it was your own cowardice that prevented you from facing the truth. Your own biases, and your own desires. You just wanted Anakin to be happy, even at the expense of the Jedi Code. He’d had such a hard life already. And the Code had nothing against happiness.

Yet, if you’d known what that would turn him into …

But it was for Padmé, too, you remind yourself. You cared about her happiness, perhaps even more than you cared about Anakin’s. And if she loved him, if she wanted to be with him, if that was her choice, if that made her happy, then you were more than willing to turn a blind eye. Pretend you couldn’t see what was right in front of your face.

That thought warms you. You hold it like a talisman in your mind to guard against the inevitable nightmares as you slip into sleep.

***

Two hours later, you’re sitting in a conference room.

Two hours later, you’re staring at a burn in the sleeve of your tunic, a tunic you have not changed since – when? You can’t remember.

Two hours later, you, Yoda and Bail Organa are deciding the fate of the entire galaxy.

Yoda is speaking, but you find your attention drifting in and out of focus. Your mind is back with Padmé and the babies in a room down the hall. A medical droid is with them to attend to any situations that might arise, but you cannot help feeling as though you should be there too. In case something happens.

“Hidden, safe, the children must be kept,” Yoda says.

You jerk yourself back to the present. “We must take them somewhere the Sith will not sense their presence.”

The ancient Jedi Master nods. “Split up they should be.”

Bail smiles, half-rising from his chair. “My wife and I will take the girl,” he says fondly. “We’ve always talked of adopting a baby girl. She will be loved with us.”

You bite your lip. Padmé isn’t going to be happy about this. “And what of the boy? What of Padmé?”

“To Tatooine, take them,” Yoda advises. “To his family, send Luke. Raised he will be by Owen and Beru Lars. Live with Padmé, you will.”

“Where, in the Jundland Wastes? At least there I could watch over Luke, I suppose. But Master, are you sure that’s – proper? My living with Padmé?”

He heaves a sigh. “Changed, matters have. Once, condone that I could not. But now, necessary it becomes. Safe, Padmé must be, until the day she can reunite with her children. To protect her, your job will be.”

“But our past history –”

“Is of no concern,” Yoda interrupts. “Closed the discussion is.”

Part of you is elated. Another part is frightened beyond belief. So you decide to change the subject entirely. “Master Yoda, do you think Anakin and Padmé’s twins will be able to defeat Darth Sidious?”

“Strong, the Force runs, in the Skywalker line,” he replies. “Hope, we can. But until the time is right, disappear we will.”

Bail leaves, and you rise to do the same. You can feel the pull of the young family in the next room. But Yoda stops you.

“Master Kenobi, wait a moment. Upon your arrival on Tatooine, training I have for you.”

You blink. “Training?”

“An old friend has learned the path to immortality,” Yoda explains. “One who has returned from the netherworld of the Force. Your old Master.”

You blink again. You can’t ever remember feeling so surprised. “Qui-Gon?

Yoda smiles. “How to commune with him, I will teach you.”

Tags: nanowrimo 2007
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