Disclaimer: Ain't mine, ain't makin' money.

Archiving: It's going to The Peach Tree () eventually, FF.Net
tonight, and probably Restless. But everyone else is more than welcome, but definitely read the notes for more info.

Dedications: To Theed who's recent post on FF.Net reminded me that I had a mostly-finished story somewhere on my
hard drive. And Kerrie because she's writing more Thing and that just rocks my tiny little world.

Notes: This is going to take a little explaining. I have exactly one other published Obidala story. That story ("Road to
Perdition") actually came about *after* I'd started this one, and just grabbed my head and wouldn't let go. *This* is the
story I'd originally intended to write. Basically, this is a companion a/u story to "Road to Perdition" (hence the rather
amusing coupled name) that takes a look at the happier road. Well, more shippy, anyway.

***

Stairway to Heaven
By A.j.

***

Sometimes, when I'm contemplating the stars in the field behind my cabin, I
wonder if destiny really had all of this planned out for me. It's a frightening
thought. Does it, or fate, or even the Force plan things out to be so horrible?
Can our higher power be this cruel just to accomplish an end?

Unfortunately, I think it can.

I didn't used to. When I was six years old, my teachers saw something in me. I
was never sure what they saw, or even how they saw it, but three months after
the cake had been eaten and the presents opened, two men came to the door of our
home. The shorter of them smiled and gave me a candy while the taller went into
the sitting room with mama and papa.

Three days later, while I was playing yenta out in the yard with my sister, they
came again. This time, they did not chat with mama and papa. Instead, papa
came outside with the saddest look on his face. In his hands was a large canvas
bag. He gave it to the men and called me to him.

"Now, my little one," he said, his eyes and voice serious. "I want you to go
with these men. They are here to take you to learn to be a queen. Your mother
and I need you to be strong and do what you are told. You have made us proud
while you have belonged to us. Now it's time for you to give back to your
home."

I'd never been able to understand how he was able to put my hand into the taller
man's.

Cigran IV is a beautiful place. I hadn't expected it to be. It was a strange
surprise amidst a lifetime of not so pleasant ones. The air is clean and sweet
here in the mountains. We, Eirtae and I, have been here for almost five months.

I have not seen the father of my children in six.

It is a daunting thing, motherhood. It changes you in ways you can't even
imagine. My children, my twins, have not even drawn their first breath, but I
know in my bones that there is nothing in this galaxy that I will not do to
protect them. And if it means their father can never know the truth, so be it.

But it pains me. So much...

Distraction is the name of the game these days. While beautiful, Cigran is not
the most forgiving of homes. Its wild beauty comes at a price. The supplies we
brought with us, mostly medical equipment and emergency food rations, are not
enough to carry myself and Eirtae through the entirety of our stay here. As
such, we've had to adapt ourselves to a life neither of us have ever been
prepared for.

As queen, I never really bothered thinking about where my food came from. Oh, I
was perfectly aware that farmers and agricultural gardens provided my world with
enough for all. I am not, contrary to current thought, stupid. I lived my
first six years in a farming community and I even negotiated a few ag-guild
disputes before retiring. But I never really thought about it. Food was
something that came from the kitchens, not the ground. Even when I was small
and did live on one of the farms, I never connected that the plants mama and
papa spent all day tending and the jars we ate out of were at all related.

You learn to think about things quite differently when you're given no other
choice. The first feeling of dirt on your hands is not one that is easily
described. It is almost soft. And the smell just stays with you. Clean, and
rich, it clings to your clothes and skin, mingling with sweat and sun. The
whole process is strangely satisfying. Oh, I know that the small garden Eirtae
and I have managed to carve out next to our cabin is not one of the grand
gardens of Theed, but it feels as if it should be. We've worked for it. The
tiny plants are things we have nurtured and cared for. That alone makes them
amazing.

I had never grown anything important before coming here. Before this garden in
this place, there was nothing. A life lived in the service of others with
nothing that was honestly mine. Not my work, or my home. Not even my marriage.
Before coming here, I created nothing.

Expectations. Bits and pieces of demands that other people placed on me.
They've been missing since I've come here. Delayed so that I can concentrate on
myself and my children. There are expectations attached to them too. But right
now that's not important. Right now, it's me and Eirtae, our garden, our cabin,
and this world. And as much as I miss my life and the people important to me, I
don't think I'd trade this time for anything else in the universe.

But being content doesn't stop my mind from asking questions.

Have you ever wondered if your life is completely planned out? Have you ever
had a realization like that? Have you been sitting quietly eating your morning
meal and just suddenly look up, knowing that this particular meal, at this
particular time has been executed and planned for a reason you have no
comprehension of? Have you ever made a decision knowing that it isn't the right
one, but somehow knowing it was the one that needed to be made?

I've done this. And that choice changed my life almost as dramatically as
nodding at my father and waving him goodbye.

That day, in the arena on Geonosis, I felt another push. Nothing physical or
mental. I just knew that I needed to tell Anakin what he wanted to hear. That
I loved him.

I did love him. But not to the depth he needed me to. I don't think that I'm
honestly capable of loving him in that way. I have no idea if I can love anyone
in the way he wanted me to love him. I don't even know if anyone can love
another like that.

I've lived my entire life moving from one major responsibility to the next. If
I was not being raised to lead, I was taking lessons, or governing a planet. I
do not wish to say that I did not enjoy parts of my role. It is amazing to
travel through space and to live and adventurous life. It is exciting. But it
is also one of the loneliest and scary lives possible.

I took office at the age of fifteen. And while I was raised to do this thing,
no one is ever prepared for that kind of duty. I had the health and safety of
millions of people depending on my decisions. Even if it was a democratic
state, the decisions came down to me. When I was finally forced to step down, I
was giddy. This paralyzing weight was to be lifted from my shoulders at long
last. I knew I could not go and live a quiet, dull, life, but I was going to
try.

There was absolutely nothing I wanted more than to be able to sit on the porch
of a remote cabin and not see another soul for days. Rather ironic now, given
the circumstances. Be careful what you wish for.

But the timing was not right. The new queen, she who I did not envy in the
least, stepped in and personally asked me to stay on as a senator to the
Republic. I wanted to say no. How desperately, I wanted to look her in the
face and laugh. I was twenty-two years old and had not slept without an armed
guard in the next room since I was six. Did I want to put what was left of my
life on hold and jump, once more, into the breech? God, no.

But something stayed my tongue. Standing there in those grand chambers, all
those eyes upon me, I felt so old. The weight I'd tricked myself into believing
was gone returned. Looking into those wide dark eyes, eyes that were entirely
too young for the burden they'd been asked to bear, I saw myself. How could I
do anything but accept? This girl, and my entire world, still needed my help.

In that instant, Destiny laid her hands once again on my head, and this thing,
this fate, was sealed. It was a cruel thing, that choice. But it's lead me
many places, and given me Anakin. And Obi-Wan. And my children.

I had to cut my hair not long after we arrived. It is strange to go day to day
without its familiar weight on the back of my neck. But it was impractical and
hard to care for. Besides, it was freeing watching it hit the ground, lock by
lock, and as the weight disappeared off my neck, everything in me felt lighter.
It was symbolic, in a way.

Anakin always loved my hair. Sometimes he would play with it for hours.
Running his fingers through its heavy weight. More than once, I awoke to find
him smoothing it down across the sheets of our bed. It was something so sweet
and entirely Anakin.

I still dream of those times. The ones right after our marriage, where
everything seemed better. Less tense. Looking back, I'm not surprised that
those times did not last. I wanted them to. Desperately. Before anything
else, he was my friend, and for that, I wanted to give him something. What he'd
lost... what he'd never had? I'm not entirely sure, even to this day.

He was a beautiful soul in so many ways. He had such an amazing and quick
laugh... He could find humor and joy in the smallest thing. It was so easy for
him. Everything came naturally to Anakin. Joy. Humor. Physical ability.
There was nothing to hard for him, and when he was with me, I felt I could do
anything. Even dare to love a Jedi.

I miss him so much.

But I don't miss the fear. Or the anger or the lying. Because as happy as we
were, there was always something just out of reach with us. Before she died,
Sabe told me that the cloud I'd felt was due to him going slowly mad. Smart as
she was, I don't think that was all of it.

I think part of our wrongness had to do with the fact that we never really were
an 'us'. Not in the way we should have been. Or could have been, maybe. We
could never actually be who we really were because neither of us really knew
until it was too late. There was too much history and tradition wrapped around
us. He was a Jedi, I, a senator. We defied convention and duty to marry. And
love.

The rub of it, is all that we had known were our roles. A senator and a Jedi.
Our marriage was a way for us to push away our boundaries and try to see what
was underneath. It was needed, I think, at the time. We used each other to
explore and learn. But by the time we figured ourselves out, I knew he wasn't
the one I needed... and he was gone.

In his wake he left a pile of burning rubble and a regret I'll bear the rest of
my days. But as horrid and painful as the days after Anakin's defection became
clear were, I was gifted with something even more beautiful.

Because the morning after Anakin walked away from me, Obi-Wan truly came into my
life.

I don't think ever knew, exactly, what a Jedi was before Obi-Wan pulled me from
the burning mass that had been the Nubian royal palace. All I'd known of the
order, and Obi-Wan for that matter, had been seen through the slowly darkening
lens Anakin presented.

Structure, discipline, rules. The Jedi Order is about finding a balance with
the Force, and through that, your own life. It's a simple philosophy, really.

But Anakin never saw it that way. I think that, when he was still a child,
becoming a Jedi represented a rebellion against the rules of his home. I've
only been to Tattoine twice. Both times, the thing that almost overwhelmed me
was the intensity of its harshness. There was alive, and there was dead. There
were slaves and there were masters. Masters made the rules.

I think it is rather unfortunate that the Jedi adopted the term 'Master' as an
honorific. I don't really think it is. A positive one, at least. Because on
some level, after Qui-Gonn and his mother's passing, there was no positive to
that term. Rebellion by living a simple life was not enough.

I think Obi-Wan knew that. But the same rules that Anakin chafed against, Obi-
Wan embraced. And they were binding. He made a promise to his own master. He
promised Qui-Gonn Jinn that he would train Anakin to be a Jedi. He would offer
what had been given to him, no matter that the child did not truly understand
what he was being given. No child really does.

And I think that is what Anakin still is. Was.

For Obi-Wan, being a Jedi was more than just a way out. It was his life. A way
*of* life. The discipline, and the lessons, and the people... They were order
in chaos. Something to depend on. I wish Anakin could have seen things that
way.

He was a beautiful person, my Anakin. So full of life, with such capacity for
joy. But, he was also just as capable of being so cruel.

He slaughtered an entire village to avenge his mother. An entire village, from
the oldest man, to the youngest babe. Everyone.

I knew this before we married. He told me about it, crying but not sorry. Not
sorry at all.

And I wonder, sometimes, when the moon is full, and Eirtae is asleep, just why I
opened my heart to that fascinating, dangerous creature. He was beautiful, my
Ani. He had so much promise. Potential. I think I loved that. And when I'm
being truly honest, I let myself admit that it was that potential and the
rebellion that I loved. Because, as much as I hate to think it, those were the
things that I could love.

But there was something missing. In him, and in our relationship. There were
days when I could taste his soul screaming just by placing my lips on his. But
I had no idea what to do. I wanted to heal him, but I couldn't. And it was
only after I figured this out - after he left - that I could face the entire
truth of it all.

Sex with Anakin was an exercise in need. In the beginning, it was exciting and
passionate, it left me dizzy. He desired me in a way that I could not
comprehend. I was his angel, beautiful and entirely his. He was always looking
for something with me. Ani, my beautiful man-child, put his entire being into
our joinings. It was as though, if he tried hard enough, we could meld into one
being. Then he would no longer be alone.

But, like so many other things, it didn't work.

I couldn't give him what he needed. And that lack in me, in us, was yet another
nail in an iron coffin.

The... last time was not my choice. It was a last attempt, I think, to force an
intimacy. I can still remember his hands on my sides and my face, the calluses
rough and almost painful on my sensitized skin. It was not rape, I don't think.
Our coupling was not my choice, but Ani knows my body's responses. Similar to a
mind trick, he can get this mortal shell to do exactly what he wants, whether my
mind likes it or not.

It's different with Obi-Wan. Quieter. Softer in a way I cannot put into words.
There was need between us. But that desperation for *something* was missing.
It's just he and I and whatever we chose to do. He did not demand so much as he
asked. And for all that what we had was something out of time, I can not help
but hold it close to my heart. There is a peace in it.

I will not say that what we have is better or worse than what I had with Anakin.
It's different. But there is love. I know this in my bones.

Two days before he left, he told me he loved me. We'd been walking, chatting
quietly about nothing and everything, dancing around the topic we both wanted to
avoid. He was leaving and I was staying. There was nothing we could do to
change that. He was needed elsewhere, and I was needed to stay safely still.
The night had been quiet for Cigran and the evening chorus of ground insects was
a soft buzz in the distance. We'd stopped by one of the several trees that
lined our path and had just been watching the moons and then he turned to me and
just said it. Plainly, simply, and with no hint at a demand for reciprocation.

I love you. I love you.

And it was just right.

So maybe that's why I can still look up at the stars and smile. Because I know
there's someone out there who loves me not for what I can give him, but because
he just does.

And it is for him that I do this thing. That I perpetuate this lie. For him,
and for my children. I never could understand how my father would willingly
give up his child. He was my FATHER. More than anything else, he should have
wanted me to grow happy and strong. With him.

I understand now.

He knew, somehow, that my path did not lie with his and mama's. He knew that he
had to let me go, because destiny had chosen something else for his young
daughter. I was marked. And he was strong enough to choose the harder road.
Because it was the right thing to do.

Just like this is.

I love my babies more than anything in this universe. They are precious to me,
just as their father is. But I know something very important, that no one else
does. And I also know that if the rest of the universe finds this thing out,
these two little souls will be in so much more danger than they already are.

Anakin Skywalker is not the father of my children.

That last night produced nothing in me save a sense of doom and loss. Anakin,
my friend and husband, the man I tried desperately to save, was gone. When he
left my bed the next morning, I knew he would not come back. Not ever again.

Two days later, I watched from the distant Gungan swamps as Theed burned. Obi-
Wan stood beside me, face stony, watching the temples and the museums and the
homes fall. Mud and soot streaked our clothing and grief our minds. He'd gotten
me away just in time. He and Anakin had fought.

Obi-Wan may have been the one to walk away, but neither won.

I don't remember much of the next few days. We - Obi-Wan, I, and a handful of
my most trusted assistants - fled Naboo. Deep in my bones, I know I'll never
see my homeworld again. I don't even know if it still exists right now. But we
got away, us five. Eirtae. Sache. Dorme. Obi-Wan. Me.

And we ran. Hard and long. Because Naboo was not the only world burning. Or
the only people dying. No, Palpatine and the thing Anakin had become were, and
are, doing their merry best to make sure that everything they'd once claimed to
embrace falls to dust.

The Old Republic, the mistress that demanded my service above all, is falling.
Just as the Jedi Order falls under the blade.

As much as that scares and saddens me, I'm not entirely convinced it's a bad
thing. From the depth of chaos comes change, and though it is heralded on a
cushion of pain, change can be good. It can be new, and I think that this
universe needs something different. We all do. Because the old ways are no
longer working.

I still don't know how he and I became lovers. It wasn't a conscious choice
either of us made. How could it be?

I'd lost a husband. He'd lost a son. We were both losing every stable piece of
ground in our world. And when there's nothing but each other, a body tends to
cling. And we did cling.

My hands cradle around the result.

Is it another turn in this strange game I've found myself locked into? I think
it might be. Because with the first little tug of Force inside my body, there
was no question in anyone's mind as to who's children these must be.

Even Obi-Wan has never questioned. And that's a strange thing, considering what
we've become. But looking at it now, it's the only way this can work. It's the
only way these children can survive.

So this illusion must continue. Obi-Wan's legacy will live on, but under the
taint of the Skywalker name. It is so unfair and wrong that it chokes me. But I
am a mother. I will sacrifice anything for my children. As it stands, this
fate is asking me to take these two precious lives away from their father, a man
more than worthy of their love.

But not matter what tomorrow may bring, in this moment I am content. I am happy
because while this road destiny has chosen for my children and I is hard, and
the risks terrible, I have faith. It has given me two amazing, beautiful men,
and my life has never been boring.

Destiny knows what she's doing. And though the price for extraordinary lives
may be painful, a life is still extraordinary.

When I was fifteen years old, I had a chance encounter with three males. The
father, the young man, and the boy. Each touched me in some way. And when they
left me, each had placed his mark on my soul. It saddens me that of the three,
only two are left, and both are broken.

But destiny is not a kind mistress. She is demanding and cold, but she has a
plan. And as much as I wish it were not true, my life, Anakin's life, Obi-Wan's
life, even the lives of the children I bear, are hers. We've her thumbprints
all over us. Not all of us will live to see the end of this game. I know this
in my bones. But no one does live forever.

And there will always be another game.