"Padme, Padme, wake up please."
Half awake I smiled. What a horrible dream, maybe I shouldn't tell Anakin about it, it would only upset him. I hoped I hadn't been crying out in my sleep. Then I opened my eyes and saw Obi-Wan's worried face hanging over me instead of my husband's and reality crashed in on me.
We weren't on Mustafar anymore and this bare, antiseptic little room wasn't aboard my skiff either. "Where are we?" I croaked, and began to cough.
Obi-Wan poured water into a glass and gave it to me, steadying it as I drank. "A medical center in the asteroid belt of Polis Massa." he said, answering my question.
I finished drinking and he put the glass aside. "Anakin?" I asked, or rather pleaded.
His face closed like a door. "Anakin is dead, Padme."
Dead. Dead. I'd lost my Anakin. I'd never see his smile or hear him say my name again. Dead. Gone. Dead. I felt empty, anchorless. Then rage surged through me filling my hollowness.
"You killed him!" I shrieked at Obi-Wan. "You killed him! Murderer! Murderer! I hate you! I hate you!" I pounded his chest with weak fists, screaming and sobbing like a madwoman. And he took it, solid and calm and immovable as the high cliffs of Naboo.
Finally he put his arms around me, holding me firmly as I leaned against him, exhausted, tears seeping into the rough cloth of his tunic. "I did not kill Anakin Skywalker." He said quietly. "The good man we both loved was already dead, Padme, destroyed by the Emperor. What we saw on Mustafar, what I killed, was a Sith a creature of the Dark Side."
"No," I whispered, "no."
Merciless he went on. "Would Anakin Skywalker have tried to kill you, his beloved wife?"
"No." I moaned, trying not to remember the alien, insane look on Anakin's face as he used the Force to choke the life out of me. "He was angry. He thought I'd betrayed him."
Obi-Wan said nothing. He didn't have to. We both knew that the man I'd married would never have used his powers against me no matter how hurt and angry he was. He would have listened to me, believed me...
"Padme." the steel was gone from Obi-Wan's voice, now he sounded only tired and sad. "I did what I had to do. I hope someday you can forgive me for it."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry." I said miserably, then pulled away to look him in the face. "I know you loved him too. I didn't mean it, Obi-Wan, I'm not myself."
He smiled faintly but his eyes remained bleak. "Of course you're not. Neither am I for that matter." gently he pushed me back against the pillow. "Rest, Padme, you need to
regain your strength."
"You're right." I agreed, then a new fear struck me. "Obi-Wan, could you ask one of the medics to come in here? I have something I want to ask, something private."
"Of course." he said soothingly.
The medic - a funny, skinny little creature in a tight suit and featureless mask - reassured me and gave me a relaxant so I could sleep. My dreams were of Anakin, of the good times we'd had and how happy we'd been for all the universe was falling apart around us. Then I woke and remembered and cried again. Finally I dried my eyes, pulled myself together and sent for Obi-Wan.
I was out of bed, wearing a warm white robe over my loose nightgown, when he came in but he wasn't alone Yoda was with him. I didn't know the ancient Master very well, and was inclined to regard him as an opponent rather than a friend, but even so his appearance shocked me. Ears and shoulders both slumped and there was a pain in those gooseberry green eyes that spoke to my own. I had lost my husband, Yoda - and Obi-Wan - had lost everything; home, comrades and hope for the future and all at the hands of a man they'd loved and trained and trusted.
"Master Yoda, are you all right?" I asked.
He assayed a puckered smile. "Asking you that, I should be, Senator."
"Not really," I said, "and I don't suppose you are either."
Nobody said anything - there was nothing to say. None of us would ever be all right again and we knew it. Having Yoda there made what I had to say more difficult - but he had a right to know, as did Obi-Wan, and I was going to need both their help.
"Master Yoda," I said steadily, "I was married to Anakin Skywalker."
His eyes closed in pain and he shook his head. "Conflict that must have been, disobedience -"
"It was not disobedience." Obi-Wan said quietly. "He had the permission of his Master." Yoda's head snapped up and he glared but Obi-Wan just lifted a brow. "My marriage was also against the wishes of the Council." he reminded the old Master.
I almost smiled remembering what a shock it had been to learn that Obi-Wan was married to another Jedi and father of a son almost Anakin's age. Then my fragile, amusement was swallowed by a jolt of horror; Obi-Wan's wife and son were almost certainly dead - and here I'd been burdening him with my grief, my hysterics!
"Willful you both were." Yoda was saying resignedly. "To late for reproaches it is."
"I'm glad you feel that way, Master." I said as steadily as I could. "Not only was I Anakin's wife but I'm carrying his child."
Neither Jedi moved, they didn't even seem to be breathing. Suddenly I was terribly afraid would they think the child was stained by the father's evil, might they want to destroy it too? I wouldn't let them, this baby was all I had left of Anakin! But could I stop them? Then the fear left me, as abruptly as it had come. What was the matter with me? of course they'd do no such thing!
Obi-Wan said: "Are you sure." in a strange, flat voice.
"Yes. I'm beginning to show." I answered in a small voice, feeling foolishly embarrassed.
"Did Anakin know?" was Obi-Wan's next question.
My eyes filled with a rush of tears and it was a moment before I could answer. "No." I hadn't told him because I didn't want to add to his worries - and because I hadn't quite decided what to do about it myself. I'd meant to tell him on Mustafar but I hadn't had the chance.
"Thank the Force." Obi-Wan said fervently. "And thank you Padme!" he turned to Yoda in something like excitement. "Anakin's child, Master, heir to his powers - and maybe to his destiny too!"
Slowly the old Master nodded. "Yes, possible it is." he looked sharply at me. "Know about your marriage did Palpatine?"
"I don't know." I said. "I didn't tell him but Anakin might have."
"We can't take the chance." Obi-Wan said. "Padme you must not go back to Coruscant, or even home to Naboo. Palpatine is certain to regard Anakin's child as a threat."
It wasn't really a surprise, and I was so empty and numb that I almost didn't care, but: "Senator Amidala is too important to just disappear, my friends and my enemies would never stop looking until they'd found me." And I couldn't to that to my family. But there was another way, they'd grieve but at least they'd have closure. "Padme Amidala must die." I told the Jedi calmly. "I have an idea, but you must tell me if it can be done."
Once again I opened my eyes to see Obi-Wan leaning over me. But this time I wasn't in a medical bed but lying in a deep stone sarcophagus. I could see the lid, with its beautifully carved image in my likeness, leaning against the wall nearby.
"It worked?" I whispered.
He nodded and held out his hand to help me out of my grave. I shrugged off my shimmering burial cloak and climbed out then stood clinging to the corner of the sarcophagus as dizziness washed over me.
"I feel so weak."
"That's normal," he reassured me, "it will pass."
"The baby!" I cried in sudden fear, "is the baby all right?"
"They're fine." he answered. "Keep your voice down, Padme, you're dead remember?" Putting an arm around me he guided me to one of the mourner's chairs and sat me down. "Just rest for a moment."
He picked flowers from my hair, and bent to collect the ones that had fallen on the floor putting them back into the sarcophagus with the cloak. Then with a wave of his hand he floated the massive lid back into position.
I looked at the pure stone profile, cold and unfamiliar. That was how I would be remembered for all time; the wise and valiant queen and senator, beautiful and impervious. The people who came to visit my tomb would never guess at the fallible, often foolish woman behind the image. All memory of her would die with my family and the handful of handmaidens who'd known the real me.
Obi-Wan was wearing a dark, hooded mourning cloak of figured velvet, another was draped over the second mourner's chair. He picked it up. "Ready?"
I nodded. My head wasn't spinning anymore and I certainly didn't want to linger here! He took me out the little metal door tucked into the rear corner of the tomb, meant for workmen and inspectors. I stood, enveloped in the heavy velvet folds of my cloak, as Obi-Wan used the Force to lock and bolt it behind us. Trees pressed close around my tomb, hiding us in their shadows.
Obi-Wan took my arm, I was still shaky enough to be grateful for the support, and led me around to the front. I stopped dead; the space before the tomb was filled with shrouded mourners holding memorial lights, so many that they spilled out of the plaza, their twinkling lights visible far down the causeway and even in boats clustered around the island. I was stunned. I had seen King Narain's funeral back when I was still a student at the Royal Academy, people had stood vigil outside his tomb for days after his burial but not crowds like this!
"You were greatly loved, my Lady Amidala." Obi-Wan breathed softly.
I felt sick, I didn't deserve all this. I had given Palpatine the Chancellorship, it was my fault he was now Emperor. My fault that the Republic was dead - and my husband. Then I saw my parents and my sister Sola standing at the head of the crowd of mourners the lights they held showing their devastated faces.
"We could tell them the truth, Padme." Obi-Wan whispered in my ear. "It's not too late."
I took a deep breath. "No. No, they're never going to see me again, Obi-Wan. Better they think me dead then spend the rest of their lives wondering and worrying." But my voice shook on the last words.
"Go ahead and cry if you want to." he said gently. "This is a funeral."
So I did. I pulled the hood deep over my head and let the tears fall freely; for my family, for Anakin, and for the Republic as Obi-Wan steered me through the crowd. It was the best thing I could have done, nobody paid the least attention to an overwrought woman being taken home by her husband or brother.
I had cried myself out by the time we got back to our transport, not my skiff of course but the homely YT-1300 freighter Yoda had used to escape Coruscant. The boarding ramp was down and Anakin's apprentice, Raj Palpatine, was waiting for us at its foot. I gave him a watery smile that didn't deceive him for a second. It's not easy to fool even a thirteen year old Jedi.
I had been so glad to see him on Polis Massa, one more person I cared about saved from the ruins of my old life. But poor Raj had been in the Temple when it was attacked and the memory of that horror showed in his eyes. Obi-Wan had cut off the identifying Padawan braid and they both wore ship suits instead of Jedi Robes.
Standing in the glow of light from the freighter's interior I turned to Obi-Wan, he would not be coming with us. "Be careful." I said, and then a little awkwardly; "May the Force be with you."
He smiled. "And with you, Padme." he turned to go but in that split second something he'd said back in my tomb suddenly registered and I caught at his cloak as it belled around him.
"I beg your pardon." he said with totally fake incomprehension.
"You said 'they'. When I asked you if the baby was all right you said 'they' were fine."
"Did I?" he asked innocently, eyes glinting teasingly.
I stamped my foot. "Obi-Wan Kenobi you tell me what you meant this minute!"
"Shhh. Don't say that name so loud." he cautioned, but with laughter rather than alarm in his voice. "I thought you wanted to be surprised?"
"Obi-Wan...!" I said threateningly, but more softly.
He gave in. "You're carrying twins, Padme, a boy and a girl."
I stared at him. Twins. A boy like Anakin and a girl like me. For the first time since that horrible moment on Mustafar I felt joy - and that maybe, just maybe, life without Anakin might be endurable after all.