Liz (amidala_thrace) wrote,
Liz
amidala_thrace

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Desert Rose: Chapter 7

Chapter 7
Characters: Padmé, Obi-Wan, Bail Organa
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,801
Summary: The idea doesn’t really sink in until you speak the words, but it’s true: you are all traveling to your new home.
Author's Notes: Would've had this posted sooner were it not for my stupid muse and equally stupid body abruptly deciding not to cooperate. *smacks both* It's pretty hard to write and post chapters when you've got a raging migraine, let me tell you. But I think I'm on the mend, and despite not making my word count again today, I expect to be able to put in some good hard work on it tomorrow to catch up. As for this chapter? Well, more angst. That about sums it up. XD It was fun to write, mostly, though it seems plodding at times to me.



It’s the day of your funeral.

How many times throughout your early youth did you hear your mother say, “Padmé, hurry up! I swear one day you’ll be late to your own funeral!” More times than you can count. And now, paradoxically, you are late to your own funeral.

You won’t be attending directly, of course; to do so would be foolhardy. But you will be watching, through a HoloNet feed, like much of the rest of the galaxy. You aren’t sure why you insisted on being allowed to witness the event. Perhaps just to see how good of a job they did on the decoy. Perhaps to catch one last glimpse of your parents, Sola, your nieces. Or perhaps to reflect on what is, in a sense, the death of one life and the birth of another.

The funeral on the screen marks the death of your public persona, of Padmé Amidala and all that she stood for. Her dedication to the Republic, her service to democracy, her tenure as Queen and Senator. How you mourn for that part of yourself! You knew that when the news of your pregnancy got out, you probably would not be able to serve as Senator for Naboo any longer; in fact, you told Anakin as much. But you had still counted upon perhaps being able to work behind the scenes, as a consultant or a political advisor. Now, all of those doors have slammed shut in unison.

Bail Organa’s aide is late bringing the HoloNet screen to your room, with the result that you miss the first moments of the funeral. You become momentarily angry at this, shouting and crying, and then just as suddenly as the emotions flared, they have dissipated. You lie quietly in the bed in a secluded room of the Alderaan Royal Palace, resting passively as one of the Polis Massa medical droids injects you with more medication, and watch as your body makes its way through the streets of Theed.

The decoy is indeed almost a perfect model. “Your” hair is brown and full, splayed out on the ivory pillow of the casket, white flowers woven into the delicate strands. The decoy wears a blue dress shaded with white, looking almost like a waterfall. It even clutches a fake japor snippet, making the illusion all the more believable. You finger the real one, in your pocket, almost to make sure it is still there.

The decoy is pregnant as well, a significant bump showing through its dress.

“Why did you make it pregnant?” you ask Obi-Wan in a monotone voice. The first words you’ve spoken to him since he told you the story of his battle with Anakin.

“We wanted to make sure the Empire would believe that the child had died too,” he says softly. In fact, so softly that you have to lean forward to hear him.

You might be concerned about him, if you weren’t so angry. Angry at him, angry at Palpatine, angry at the galaxy. It seems that your life has taken such a devastating turn lately. The babies, whose kicks and hiccups and squirms you felt for the last five months, are being brutally snatched away and will never know either of their parents. Your husband is dead. You can no longer work in the Senate. Life as you know it appears to be over, and not a day passes when you don’t question your decision on the delivery table to live.

But if matters are bad for you, they seem even worse for Obi-Wan. Since recounting his horrific tale, his eyes have taken on a sort of lifeless, haunted look. You notice many more gray hairs than ever before. Instead of the jaunty, purposeful walk he used before, he now lopes through the hallways as though he is carrying the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders. (Which, you remind yourself, he probably is.) Sometimes he just slumps into a chair in the corner and stares for hours at nothing in particular. More than once, you’ve heard him crying when he thinks you are asleep.

It is here where you wish Master Yoda was not so strict about emotional attachments, and could comfort Obi-Wan. You certainly don’t feel up to the task yourself, and the two Jedi have known one another since the latter was a four-month-old infant. Yoda cared for Obi-Wan in the crèche, attending to his every need and sending warm Force currents around him for soothing purposes. So why, when Obi-Wan is in need of such help, does Yoda not provide it? The Code, perhaps. The Code’s influence makes you want to throw things. Expensive, breakable things.

You would try to help Obi-Wan yourself, but at the moment, you just aren’t feeling very charitable towards him. You pin the culpability for Anakin’s death on him because you don’t know who else to blame. Certainly not Anakin himself. You know there is still good in your husband; you sensed a thread of it on Mustafar and you don’t believe his subsequent actions negated that. Or his previous actions for that matter, though they are obviously reprehensible. That’s why you turned away from him, in fact …

You pull the sheets further up over yourself and slide down in the bed, keeping your eyes focused on the screen. The funeral procession has reached the main Theed parade route now, where it has been joined by a group of dignitaries who walk, slowly and silently, behind the casket. You can see Jar-Jar Binks, and Queen Apailana, and several of your handmaidens, and –

You choke back a sob. There are your parents, and Sola, and Darred and Ryoo and Pooja, all wearing black and all walking with their heads bowed. You can’t ever recall seeing your father cry, but the holocam zooms in on him now and tears are pouring down his cheeks. Every so often he reaches a hand up to wipe them away, and more come. Your mother is surprisingly calm, as is your sister, but Ryoo and Pooja are hugging each other, crying desperately.

This is hardest. Harder even, perhaps, than the knowledge that Anakin is dead and your children will be raised by others. Seeing your family grieving without real cause, for you are still as alive as you’ve ever been. Your parents, believing themselves to be cheated out of a grandchild, and grappling with the death of their youngest daughter. Your sister, mourning the loss of – in her words – one of the best friends she’s ever had. Your nieces, crying over the aunt they loved so much. It’s too much. It’s all too much.

“Why can’t I let them know?” you whisper bitterly. “An anonymous message, a signal, a hint … however small … just to reassure them, just to tell them, I hate this …”

“Your parents’ home will be the first place the Empire looks, should it suspect a ruse,” Obi-Wan replies dully. “They will use all necessary methods of interrogation. This is as much for your family’s protection as for yours.”

“I didn’t ask your opinion,” you snap. “You can’t possibly have any understanding of how difficult this is for me.”

“Then why did you ask to watch it in the first place?” he grumbles, though there is no enthusiasm in his protest.

“I wanted to see them together … one last time,” you answer softly.

It is true. If the current protections are put into place as planned, you will never see any of your family again. It will be as though they have died, too, along with your husband. Effectively, you are now not only a widow, but a childless parent, a sisterless sibling and a parentless child.

You bite your lip to keep the tears in.

The holocam pans upward from the procession to a balcony overlooking the proceedings. Two dark figures stand there with hands tucked firmly behind their backs, silently observing. “Emperor Palpatine and his mysterious assistant, whose name has not yet been made public, preside over the funeral,” a somber voice intones.

Hatred twists in your stomach as you spot the wrinkled old fiend, a false expression of sadness on his face, wiping a pretend tear from his eye. And to think this man once held so much of your respect! To think that you essentially handed over the Republic on a silver platter, heedless of the eventual result! This is yet another thing to grieve, another thing to feel guilty about.

“He fooled us all,” Obi-Wan murmurs, almost to himself. “The bloody piece of bantha fodder fooled us all. We let the Republic slip away, right under our very noses.”

You make no reply, but you’ve got to admit, you agree with him. You tried to resist … you tried to bring the Republic back into the original intention of the Constitution, but like so many of your efforts lately, that failed. Palpatine had such a grip on galactic government that by the time a resistance movement was organized, the supermajority was too powerful. The rebellion had no choice but to slink away, defeated.

“‘And lo, we retreat, and lick our wounds for a battle yet to come,’” you say quietly.

Obi-Wan blinks. “What’s that?”

“Naboo Holy Texts, Book Eleven, Chapter Six,” you answer without thinking. “In which a heroine meets with many trials before finally achieving her goal of overthrowing all evil.”

“How … apropos,” he remarks.

The scene has panned away from the Emperor, towards his dark companion. There is something … tragic about this man, something you can’t quite identify. Palpatine, of course, is faking sadness; you can tell that there is no wetness on his cheeks even though he is feigning wiping tears away. The being beside him … is different, though. The man – if indeed that’s what it is, you find it very difficult to tell through all the armour he appears to be wearing – stands there with a quiet desperation, as if he would rather be just about anywhere else in the galaxy. Several times you see him reach a hand up, almost as if to wipe a tear from his cheek, and then stop abruptly when the hand bumps the heavy black mask he wears to hide his face. Then he shakes his head, clenches both his fists and goes back to watching the procession.

“I wonder who that man is standing with Palpatine,” Obi-Wan says presently. “I don’t remember ever encountering him before.”

Then, as if to answer his question, the HoloNet commentator comes back on air. “My assistant has just informed me that the being at the Emperor’s left is called Darth Vader. Apparently, his job is to enforce peace, justice and security in our glorious new Empire.”

The change in Obi-Wan’s demeanor is immediate. Before, he had been sitting slumped, despondent, occasionally raising his head to ask a question or make an observation, but otherwise staring silently at the holoscreen. Now he is stiff, alert, his hair almost appears to be standing on end, and one hand has flown to his mouth.

“Oh, Force,” he whispers.

Despite your anger, concern rises up within you and you turn towards him. “Obi-Wan? Is something the matter?”

The Jedi lurches from his chair. “I – er – I’ve got to go talk to Master Yoda. I’ll return as soon as possible.”

“What about? Are you all right?”

Immediately an unreadable mask seems to clamp down over his face. “Yes, of course. I’m fine. I must go.” And he hurries from the room.

Puzzled, you turn your attention back to the funeral, wondering idly what could be so urgent and frightening that Yoda must be immediately consulted. Didn’t he and Obi-Wan already have everything planned out? Hadn’t all eventualities been considered, all wrinkles thought of and ironed smooth? What could be the problem now?

You would try to work it out, but your eyes are fluttering closed and you can feel sleep stealing slowly over your body. You flip onto your side, tug the covers up to your chin, and focus your eyes on the twins in their bassinets as you drift off.

***

You awake hours later to the frantic shuffling sounds made by someone attempting to gather as many possessions as possible in the shortest period of time. You are curious, of course, but not enough to want to open your eyes and wake up fully. You relax again, hoping to drift off and fall right back to sleep.

Then someone starts shaking your shoulder.

“Mmmrrph. Lemme sleep,” you moan, turning over to your other side.

“No, Padmé, we have to leave right now,” Obi-Wan insists. “Come on. You need to get up and put this on. Quickly.”

“No. Too tired.”

“We’ve got to be off-planet in one hour, no questions asked,” he replies, and that at last jolts you into consciousness.

Your eyes fly open. “What? One hour? Obi-Wan, what in the galaxy are you talking about? We were supposed to leave tomorrow morning!”

You’d been counting on that extra time to say a proper goodbye to Leia, figuring it is the least you owe her.

“The situation has become much more complicated,” says Obi-Wan shortly. “You and I and the children are in a lot more danger than even Yoda previously suspected. That’s why we need to get to Tatooine as soon as possible. Bail Organa has arranged to cast us off from the Tantive IV in an escape pod. We expect that will be safest.”

“But – but –” you sputter, frantically trying to digest all of this new information.

“Padmé, I really don’t have time to argue with you.” He is becoming desperate. “Please, put this on, get out of bed and come with me. We must hurry.” Obi-Wan thrusts a full-length shawl at you. It looks a lot like the ones you used to wear when masquerading as a handmaiden at age fourteen.

Numbly you accept it, thoughts reeling through your head. What terrible danger is causing Obi-Wan to be so thoroughly frightened? It isn’t often that you see him look even rattled, with his Jedi control and relaxation. Now, he seems to be in full-on panic mode, which makes you even more nervous. Nervous for yourself, for him, for Luke. Worried, suddenly, that the carefully-laid plans will not succeed.

You begin to pull on the shawl, not bothering to take off your nightgown for modesty’s sake. Obi-Wan appears to have no intentions of leaving; he is talking softly to Luke while dressing the child for the journey. When Luke is ready, Obi-Wan comes over to your bed. “I’m going to help you into a hoverchair now and put Luke in your arms. We’ll go right to the ship. If anyone questions you, tell them you’re touring the palace on orientation for your new job as Bail’s personal assistant. You had to bring your son because you couldn’t find a caregiver that day, and you’re in a hoverchair after a speeder accident. Do you. Do you understand all that?”

“What about you?” You aren’t sure why you feel concern for Obi-Wan, but you do. “It might look a little strange if you’re accompanying me.”

“I won’t be,” he answers. “Bail will take you to the ship. I’ll find my own way there, I promise. Now, let’s go.”

Obi-Wan moves to your side and tucks his right arm under yours. You push up with your legs, but even still, you can hardly manage to hoist yourself up off the bed without his support. You feel embarrassed at your lack of strength, try again to make it on your own, fail again. Eventually, you have no choice but to lean on Obi-Wan, cursing yourself for having to do so at the very same time.

Perhaps he senses your unease, for he says, “Padmé, it’s all right. You’ve been lying in bed for almost four days now, and before that you went through a very grueling delivery. You can’t expect to hop out of bed and run off the very first day.”

“Oh, how would you know?” you grumble in response. “You’ve always been so fit, ever since I’ve known you. I bet you’ve never been sick a day in your life.”

Together you hobble over to the hoverchair in the corner, you leaning heavily on him and he supporting you.

“You’re always assuming that I have no idea what you’re going through,” Obi-Wan says quietly. “Nothing could be farther from the truth, at least in some cases. Remember Geonosis? I was burned, very severely, on my arm and my leg. The medical technicians forced me to stay in bed for a week. When I was finally allowed to begin walking again, I was just as weak as you are now, if not more so. So perhaps, instead of continuing to make these assumptions, you could look at things from my point of view. I shouldn’t think it very difficult.”

That sobers you, and you are quiet for the moment.

He takes the opportunity to settle you into the hoverchair and make sure the shawl is adjusted properly around your head so as to conceal your identity. Then he hurries to the bassinet, scooping up Luke and placing him in your lap.

“Wait, Obi-Wan!” you exclaim. You’ve just seen that the other bassinet is empty. “Where’s Leia? Where have they taken her?”

He starts to respond, but at that instant, the door chimes. Obi-Wan hastens to open it. Bail Organa is standing there, holding your daughter. He is at your side in an instant, proffering Leia for the hasty goodbye.

“Oh, Bail,” you whisper. “Thank you.”

“It is the least I could do, Padmé.” His eyes are bright with tears. “You’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and now … now, you’ve given me the child I always wanted. I cannot ever thank you enough.”

You’ve already spilled over with tears. “Bail, you don’t have to thank me. Just knowing that she will be raised by parents who will love her … who will give her everything I can’t … is enough for me.” You pause, gathering up the courage necessary to make your final request. “All I ask is that you don’t let her forget me. Tell her about me, show her pictures of me … explain to her why I couldn’t raise her myself. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that her biological mother didn’t want her.”

Under the lines of worry creasing his face, Bail wears a very kind smile. “Of course. You can count on Breha and I to give her the full story. When she is old enough, and when she is ready, she will know.”

You offer a watery smile. “Thank you, Bail. Thank you.”

Now, the moment of truth has arrived. You accept Leia into your arms, juggling her with her brother, reflecting on the sad truth that this is, in all likelihood, the last time your twins will be together before they are grown. Your tears run down your cheeks and drip gently onto her hair; she gurgles and fidgets in your arms.

“Oh, Leia,” you whisper to her. “I wish I could take you with me … I wish I could raise you, and be your mother, just like I always dreamed of. Promise me you won’t forget me. Promise me you’ll meet me again some day. I love you so … so much …”

You kiss and hug her one last time, wishing you could stop the moment in its tracks and let it go on forever, but you can’t. Obi-Wan is already looking impatient, though not intentionally, and nervous about meeting the imposed deadline. You hold Leia for as long as you can, for as long as is permitted under the circumstances, until Obi-Wan fixes you with a regretful look and says, “I’m sorry, Padmé. We must go.”

Another tight squeeze, and then Obi-Wan has scooped Leia out of your arms and Bail is accompanying you and Luke out the door, down the hall of the palace, instructing you to duck your head so as to avoid being seen. The door swishes shut as you pass, and you fix your eyes on Leia in Obi-Wan’s arms as she gets smaller and smaller, until she is just a dot. Then a speck. Then gone.

***

Despite everyone’s misgivings, the transfer to the Tantive IV goes smoothly, and you depart from Alderaan without incident. The Empire has not yet placed departure controls on member planets, but both Bail and Obi-Wan suspect that they will soon do so, and that was the cause of the extreme urgency. But now, you are sequestered in an isolated stateroom with Luke, awaiting arrival at the isolation point. There, you, Obi-Wan and Luke will be put into one escape pod bound for Tatooine, and Yoda in another bound for Dagobah.

Then, your new life will begin.

You haven’t spoken since being parted from Leia. Really, you see no reason to. Your life these days seems like a long string of abandonments and goodbyes, and you’ve started to question what the point is of interacting with people if you’ll just have to leave them again soon. So, you stay silent, and allow no one to touch Luke or help with his care. Obi-Wan tries to engage you in a conversation, but you turn your back and close your eyes until he falls silent.

Three hours and numerous randomized hyperspace jumps later, it is time to head for the escape pods. Once again you clutch Luke, say a quiet and emotional goodbye to Bail, and continue to ignore Obi-Wan as you climb into the pod. The two medical droids are pushed in after you, the hatch is sealed and locked, and a low mechanical hum and jerk announces that the pod has been jettisoned from the Tantive.

Immediately Luke begins to fret, disturbed by the new sounds and the strange motion. You lift him to your shoulder and rub his back, ignoring Obi-Wan’s proffered hands and offers of assistance. “Shh, Luke,” you whisper. “Shh, it’s okay. We’re going home now. We’re going to your new home.”

The idea doesn’t really sink in until you speak the words, but it’s true: you are all traveling to your new home. Tatooine, where you will all spend the next many years of your lives. At that moment, you also realize that you probably won’t see Naboo again, at least not in this lifetime. Beautiful Naboo, with its waterfalls and grass and flowers and the Lake Country where you and Anakin married … so many lost memories.

You are powerless to stop the tears now. They trickle down your cheeks and drip onto Luke’s sleeper as the desert planet grows larger and larger in the viewport beside you.

Tags: nanowrimo 2007
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