Despite how their argument was progressing, how the intensity and the anger grew with every word exchanged, Padme closed her eyes and forced a breath of hot air passed her lips. The pains were getting worse. The last one made her knees shake. She couldn't keep standing much longer. Inside her mouth, her teeth grit down together as another pain seized her body, clenching and cramping and whisking the air out of her lungs. Anakin was oblivious before her, too caught up in her rage to notice what was happening. When Padme opened her eyes, he was looking at her, not angrily like before, but hurt, smaller somehow, like a kicked pet sulking in the corner and she was lost for words as to what to tell him. What more could she tell him to make him see?
"Anakin…" The Senator began, but her husband shook his head, killing the unspoken words in her throat.
"No." He was before her in three short strides, whisking Padme into his arms tightly, making her wince at the pain of it, but that didn't deter her from reaching up to wrap her arms around his neck. Anakin quivered against her, shuddering, holding back tears she'd seen him shed before and she held him tighter, running her fingers through his damp curls. "Padme, please…" His words came muffled against her neck. "Don't leave me."
Her own face crumpled then, crushed by the overwhelming heartache these past days had brought. Suddenly, she wanted to cry again. To cry for the distance between them, for the people and the couple they once were because it all felt so far away and beyond her reach now. Had they truly been so close once? Were they really so trusting with one another? Why couldn't it be that way now? She knew in her heart that they were two pieces of shattered glass, jagged and fragmented and easily stuck back together. But they'd never be the same. The cracks would always be there. Always space between where the pieces had once fit together so effortlessly. Space that nothing could fill.
She pulled back and fisted the leather of his tabard again, swallowing the misery that filled her heart. "No." Her head shook, eyes glassy and filled with the shine of unshed tears. "No, Anakin, don't you leave me." The unspoken words hung between them in the unfillable space they'd both worked to create. Don't let Palpatine take you from me.
He shuddered again and Padme watched his lip tremble just slightly, barely a quiver against the wave of pain that battered against it. She thought about saying more, of pushing her meaning further, but remained silent. Anakin understood her words well enough. The choice was in his hands now, leave or stay. With her or without. It was a surreal sensation, to feel so utterly powerless in her own marriage and fate. It was all in Anakin's hands. It was his choice. Padme could do nothing but wait and hope.
His forehead came to lean against hers and his eyes fell shut tightly. Padme wondered what it must feel like for a moment, to be pulled in a thousand different directions all at once. She'd been tugged at from different sides before, as Queen of Naboo and in the Senate. She'd been pulled between loving Anakin and doing her duty. But it hadn't been like this. Her choices weren't Galaxy altering, fate deciding moments that would settle on her shoulders for a lifetime and she didn't envy him for it. Anakin's destiny, being The Chosen One wasn't an easy life. There was always going to be forces, evil forces that sought to tear him apart, to corrupt his power and use it for their own ends, but he was strong. Padme loved him and more, she believed in him. She believed in all the good he could do, the compassion she knew he held in his heart. Anakin was going to fulfil his destiny, she knew he would. This was simply a hurdle in his way – in both their ways. But the right path, the light was right before him… All he had to do was walk it. She would be with him, helping him, supporting him for as long as their lives permitted, he just had to make the right choice.
"Padme, I – I…" Anakin's hands, gloved and flesh sought out her cheeks, running their thumbs across the bone beneath her skin softly. "I'm so –"
"I know." She nodded, allowing her own hands to climb her husband's chest to wrap around his neck. "I'm here, Ani… I'm right here…"
His breath trembled between them and Padme felt then that she had him. He was in her arms and surrendering to her whispered words, all she had to do now was lead him to the ship and everything would be alright. It was so close and she relaxed for a moment against him, sagging almost under the relief of knowing he was choosing the light, choosing her above all else, just like he'd promised all those years ago when they were married.
"Wait." Anakin tensed and his eyes snapped open suddenly. His gaze lifted high above both their heads and she watched, confused and let her arms fall back to her sides. He stepped away from her, just by a few steps and toward her star skiff. "It can't be…"
"Anakin?" Padme called to him, dazed and lost until the sounds of the flowing lava were drowned out by a familiar roar she'd heard countless times. It'd never filled her with dread before, but this time, her heart leapt into her throat. A Jedi fighter.
Panic filled Padme suddenly and despite all her practice at speeches and natural eloquence, she found herself unable to speak. There was a lump in her throat no words could doge, so they remained trapped and unspoken as Anakin's hands curled into tight, angry fists by either side of his body. There was only one man, one Jedi who could be piloting the ship that appeared through the black clouds above them. And worse, Anakin knew it too.
"Troubling this is." The small Jedi Master sighed, collapsing into one of the chairs surrounding the war table in the centre of the moss-covered hut as the battle continued far below. "Unexpected it is not." Master Yoda's short pointed fingers rubbed across his tired green face and for a moment, Obi-wan thought that he looked as old as he claimed to be. Obi-wan felt old too, tired and spent and frighteningly unprepared for what was to come.
"What do you mean?" The Jedi Master remained standing by the table as Yoda shook his head. "Surely you could never have thought Anakin could… Force, no one could have!" Anakin was passionate and determined, ill-tempered and quick to rise to his emotions, but Obi-wan could have never faulted his skills or loyalty to the Jedi Order. Anakin was a good Jedi, better than he himself could ever have hoped to become. Qui-gon would have been very proud of him. That was what he'd always told himself, when he looked the other way and allowed Anakin to have his family, the parts of him that were happy for the boy he'd raised whispered that Qui-gon would have been proud. That his former Master would have done the same thing. Rules were meant to be broken, that's what Qui-gon always said.
Suddenly, Obi-wan wanted to scream.
Qui-gon wouldn't be proud now. The Chosen One was… Anakin had been manipulated before their very eyes and they'd been powerless to stop him from falling. To prevent the Galaxy's best hope of winning this war from being twisted against them. By the Force, everything Padme had said still rung in the Jedi's ears. Not only had Anakin turned he'd… He'd murdered people, carrying out Palpatine's grisly orders without a second thought. He'd forced himself to watch part of the holos on the way to Kashyyyk but wasn't strong enough to see everything. He had seen enough. The boy he'd raised… Anakin was never cruel. At least, he hadn't been cruel, not before the war. War changed people, even Jedi, and some for the worst. There were parts of Anakin that had been born in the darkness of war, had been raised within it and knew nothing else. He killed easily now, without hesitation. Obi-wan had seen him thrust his lightsaber through chairs to kill pilots, slice through their opponents as if they were nothing and worse… He'd heard from Ahsoka how easily he hurt people when they'd believed Obi-wan had been murdered so long ago in the name of a mission.
They were at war, that was how Obi-wan had always looked at it. People – soldiers – did regrettable things while at war for the good of the Galaxy. They were fighting for the Republic, for freedom, justice and democracy. Everything they did was necessary. But had it been? Had it really been what was right? Or had he simply been excusing what he saw, justifying everything in the name of a familial love he'd come to feel for Anakin and his own little family?
Anakin had a lust for power; Obi-wan had always known it. He chided him for it. They'd all seen it when the Council had refused to allow him into their ranks on Palpatine's word. All along, there was darkness in Anakin they'd all pretended not to see. But Palpatine had seen it. He'd encouraged it, baited it and brought it out of hiding and now… And now the would-be Emperor had perverted the Jedi's Chosen One's mind into something Obi-wan feared he would not recognise.
"Great danger I sensed in his training." Yoda sighed, the long tips of his green ears sinking slightly with the motion as if wilting in disappointment and perhaps resignation too. "Warned you, I did." Suddenly, Obi-wan could see the memory before his eyes as if it had just happened now. He'd been too caught up in fulfilling Qui-gon's final wish to truly consider the words of the Jedi Master then. Everything had been about honouring his fallen friend and Mentor. Truthfully, Obi-wan hadn't particularly wanted to train the boy… But he did it. And he'd forgotten Yoda's words for a very long time.
"I don't know what to do, Master Yoda." Obi-wan sighed mournfully, his heart and his mind twisting in battle with one another. A Jedi's duty was to destroy the Sith, but Anakin was Anakin. He was Obi-wan's brother, his comrade… He couldn't kill him. He couldn't. Shameful as it was, he loved him too much to do it, despite his duties to the Galaxy, but more… Killing Anakin meant the destruction of the family he'd built. It meant leaving Luke without his father, Padme without her husband and the unborn child she carried with nothing but stories of a fallen Jedi to listen to.
Obi-wan couldn't be the one to do it. He'd promised Padme he would do his best for Anakin and he would… Perhaps if he confessed and aided in Palpatine's capture then execution wouldn't be necessary. But freedom wasn't an option either. What Anakin had done… It was beyond words. He had to be punished. Justice must be served. But in what way, Obi-wan wasn't sure.
"Turned to the dark side, young Skywalker has." The Jedi Master sighed. "Treated as any other Sith, he must be."
Obi-wan shook his head before he could stop himself. "I won't kill Anakin… He is like my brother, Master Yoda… And… And he has children…" The confession felt heavy on the Jedi's lips, like stone tumbling to the ground and he braced himself for what was to come. It felt like treason despite everything to tell Anakin's secrets now. But perhaps their knowledge could change things, maybe inspire a mercy that wouldn't have come otherwise. He was trying to help him.
"Of a child, I already know. Unborn it is." Yoda nodded gravely. "But of more than one, I do not."
Obi-wan gaped at the small being. He knew? How was it possible? Who could have informed him about the baby? Anakin should have been called into the Council Chambers to be suspended if Master Yoda knew the truth and yet it hadn't happened… His mind spun, puzzled and more lost than he'd ever felt.
"Confessed, Skywalker did. Nightmares he had. Death and loss… Begun then, his journey to the dark side did."
"Confessed what?" Obi-wan implored, desperate to know more. "About Senator Amidala? Their marriage? Their son? Master Yoda, I must know everything he told you."
Yoda did not speak, only heaved a great sigh and shook his head. The silence carried on for several moments until at last, the elder being's thin lips parted. "Destined for the dark side, Skywalker was. There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, only the Force." He was silent again for a moment, leaving Obi-wan's mind reeling. "None of this Skywalker was. To the dark side, he belongs. Dangerous it was, that see it, we could not."
Childishly, the Jedi felt tears prick at his eyes. Was this the truth? Had there really been no hope for Anakin all along? He couldn't believe they were all simply deluding themselves all this time about him. Anakin had been good; Obi-wan had seen him go out of his way to help people. He hadn't been evil… He'd been… Passionate and chaotic and selfish occasionally. And fearful. Prideful. Jealous. Each little realisation furthered his anguish.
I have failed you, Qui-gon. I have failed you.
"What should I do, Master Yoda?" He asked again.
After a moment, Yoda answered. "The will of the Force, you must carry out."
He could hear Anakin shouting before he'd even landed. Though the words were just beyond the Jedi's mental grasp, the blazing anger in his voice was clear as the orange glow of the lava just ahead. Worry filled Obi-wan's senses… If Anakin had truly done everything he had been told, if he'd knelt to the dark side, it meant he was volatile. Quick to let his anger take over without a thought, allowing it to fuel his actions. The glass dome of his fighter lifted and Obi-wan leapt up and out of the ship as quickly as he could. Now words of the couple were clear for his keen ears to pick up and he didn't like what he heard.
Anakin paced like a caged animal, black cloak swaying by his ankles like a cape. "You're with him!" He roared at Padme, "All this time, you've been with him – Palpatine was right!" Palpatine? What nonsense had the Sith been pouring into Anakin's ears? He watched for a few moments, listening to the couple's argument before intervening.
"No!" Padme shook her head, sniffling and took a step toward Anakin. "Anakin, no! You know Palpatine lied – the holo was fake. Stop this, please!"
"You told him I was here! You brought him here to kill me!" Anakin accused and Padme released a small, horrified gasp, shaking her head frantically.
"Padme," Obi-wan spoke at last, worried at the fire in Anakin's eyes. "Get on your ship." It wasn't safe to be around Anakin now, not in this state. Part of the Jedi recoiled, however, at the thought. Anakin couldn't hurt Padme – anyone but her. The man had worshipped her every day since boyhood. How many times had Obi-wan heard him call her 'Angel'? How often had he caught the sweet kisses between the pair, the little fond touches that spoke of the depth of their love? Anakin loved Padme. He would never harm her, surely… But Sith could not be trusted. Nothing was sacred and nothing was safe when their emotions took control. He'd rather Padme be safe than be sorry he hadn't spoken.
Alas, the Senator ignored the Jedi's order and stepped closer still toward Anakin, reaching out toward him with one trembling hand. Obi-wan bristled. What was she doing? "Padme! Get away, now!"
Anakin's searing gaze flicked toward Obi-wan suddenly, and for one tense moment, his fingers twitched above his lightsaber as the boy looked ready to pounce with his own. It passed. But he'd rather the anger be directed at himself than Padme. Especially in her condition.
"Anakin, you know this isn't true! I lo– "
"Don't!" Anakin's voice was thunder around them." Don't dare say that! Don't lie to me."
"Padme!" Obi-wan called again, a bad feeling growing stomach. Something was happening…. She had to step out of the way. Now. He moved suddenly, all but running to drag the Senator away if she would not move herself out of danger. Emotions were clouding everything here and it was difficult to sense much of anything through the fog everything created. It felt as if they were watching the ropes of Anakin's self-restraint tightening, coiling, on the verge of snapping.
Force help them both if it did.
"I'm not lying! Ani, I love you! Only you!" Padme cried.
"Liar!" Anakin's voice roared and before the Jedi could do anything but gape in horror at what was happening before him, his black-gloved hand lifted toward his wife and clenched, making Padme gasp and reach for her throat suddenly. No! No, he couldn't… He wouldn't… "Liar! You're with him!" He growled again.
"Let her go, Anakin!" Obi-wan cried, frozen at the sight before him. He was wrong. He was wrong about Anakin. He was hurting her – choking her. Squeezing the breath from not only her lungs but the child's. What was he thinking? What monster harmed their unborn youngling?
Obi-wan couldn't see the expression on Padme's face, but he saw the slight shake of her head. "Anakin…" She forced out. "The baby…"
As if cold water had been thrown over Anakin's face, he released his wife from the deathly hold he had upon her slim throat and sent her tumbling to the hot, grimy ground with a sickening thud that made Obi-wan flinch. He watched Anakin watch her, narrowing his eyes at the flash of sheer horror that crossed his face before shaking his head. How could he? How could he?
"What have you done?" The anguished shout tore from Obi-wan's lips without any thought. His Force perception reached out toward the unconscious woman on the floor between them and felt her heartbeat. It was weak, but it was there. But the child's… It was weaker, fading… Could Anakin feel it too?
Anakin's lips peeled back from his teeth in a furious snarl. "You did this! You turned her against me!"
"If she turned on you, the fault is your own."
This time, the younger man's growl felt more deadly than a nexu's. "I should kill you for what you've done! But I won't. For old time's sake. Leave Obi-wan. Walk away."
How could this have happened? When he'd seen Anakin last, their conversation had been friendly and civil, filled with unspoken words and a fondness he'd always felt for the boy. And now… Now he was threatening death if Kenobi didn't leave? What had Palpatine done to him?
"Padme is hurt, Anakin. She needs medical help, can't you sense it? Let me take her to a medcenter."
His former apprentice glared warningly and took a single possessive step toward Padme's body. "You can't have her! She stays with me."
Desperate, Obi-wan ran a hand through his hair, disbelieving. He could not be serious? Would Padme even want to see him when she woke? He would not if he were her. "Anakin, she's dying! Your child is dying! Are you truly so lost that their lives are meaningless to you now?"
Anakin bared his teeth once more and shrugged off his long black cloak, tossing it to the floor. "She isn't going anywhere with you! I'll save her – I'm the only one who can save them! Walk away, Obi-wan because I'll burn every planet in this Galaxy to ashes before I let you touch her again."
He did not want to have to do this. How could it have come to this so quickly? Resigned, Obi-wan sighed. "I will fight you if I must, Anakin."
"You can try."