Title: Three Breaths
Characters: Anakin, Obi-Wan, Padme, OCs
Timeframe: Post-ROTS
Genre: Short story
Summary: The manner in which three heroes of yesterday continue to live on.
Notes: Part 1 of 3 and a big thanks to the two guys who continue to give me feedback on whatever I put before them. Thanks gents.

The First Gasp

They will come in huddled masses of twos or threes at first, silent as the dying sun. Some will travel from the stars, through the lonely abode of space where words are meaningless and thoughts are give free reign. Some will navigate on the rivers in boats that can be mistaken for broken branches from ancient trees perched atop grand cliffs and hidden mountains. Others will be carried across grassy plains- fields that dance with the wind- in vehicles that touch neither ground nor sky.

Most will walk.

They will come from their homes in dark raiment- the women without the comfort of blush, lipstick or powder; the men without their trinkets and rings; the children without their toys and smiles. Some will see their neighbors leaving as they are, and join them without a word, a bowed head or two the only communication among them. Together they'll leave their hearts behind with their tears, for their time is the next day, the following week, and the years not yet known.

It will be their kindness to her, who they lost, and to those precious few who knew her better than they. Their gift, a final recompense to their child-queen who gave them that which they cannot repay.

So they will walk with silence as their companion, sorrow atop their shoulders like a millstone, and they'll push their feet against the ground- the shining marble- and march onward in disorganized columns.

Their minds will wander past the empty shops as their feet continue, through the archways and museums dedicated to past glories, up, up towards the sky where clouds will be docked- as if waiting for their captains' final order to fly free. Their thoughts will not stop there. No, they will continue past the two twin stars that now quietly blaze, past the white dwarf that wraps itself in midnight armor, to Coruscant where her face will still live in recordings and deeds.

They'll remember her stalwart speeches, her impassioned cries, the way her voice would echo through the center of the Republic as though the very walls would ring with support of her conviction. They'll remember how she led by example, how she stayed above the den of thieves the Senate had become, how she gave them the Chancellor who saved them all, how she toiled and fought for the civilization that so many had many forsaken.

They'll remember seeing a tiny little girl standing at the palace doorways with a steel gaze and a small, hidden smile that could light the sky if the sun were not so jealous. They'll remember seeing her visage after the camps had been destroyed, after computer chips and trackers were thrust into their neck, and how they screamed with joy that she had returned, safe and whole.

For now, they will remember the handmaidens that stood by her at the celebration of victory, the alien warriors that have come to be known as friends instead of outsiders and enemies. For now, they will remember the security forces and their trim uniforms and how their bearing and stances gave them hope for tomorrow. For now, they will even remember the Jedi with their humble, brown robes and the little blonde hero whose eyes were ice.

But that is only for the moment when their minds will race to all they hold dear of her, the cold abstract cloud called memories.

Eventually, their groups will grow from families and neighbors to strangers who dress the same as they, who speak in gestures and mannerisms and whose eyes are tinged with the same sorrow as theirs. At first they will not notice this, so lost will they be in clouds and stars. But somewhere-possibly in front of the roar of the waterfalls- their eyes will focus, and their bodies will jump- ever slightly- and they'll look from form to form and find that each man is his brother, each woman her sister, and the separation between them will disappear.

And once this epiphany is upon them- and each will give the other a sad, almost smile that shows no teeth with silence still weighted on their tongues- they will stop at the river, at the bridge and await their queen one last time.

She will still be beautiful to them, lying there in her coffin. Her hair will remind them of wood, her face of the sculptures that adorn their city- goddesses and heroes of a different age- her gossamer gown of plains, and grass, and trips through forests with creatures beyond their imagination.

And the swell of her belly behind the cloth- the delicate curve of flesh that once held the promise of tomorrow and laughter- will have them grip the hands of their children, as if they needed the touch of their flesh on theirs to banish the sudden fear that snakes surround their necks. The children will be confused, torn between pulling back- their parents' grips are often tight and sweaty- and leaving well enough alone. But then they'll see the woman through the crowds, and they'll understand and tenderly acknowledge back. This small action will not be remembered for it will be one of innumerable lost snippets between the generations, but for today it will be enough for the seniors to continue standing with porcelain faces.

Her body will fade from view and her cousins, and sisters, and mother and father, and uncles and aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers, will give their goodbyes and end the story of the child queen.

Tomorrow, they'll speak of her, over dinner tables and through office barriers after the gate of hesitation is opened with an opening line like "Were you there?"

They'll praise her. Students will write papers about her. Therapists will talk to those who can now cry. Security personnel will continue to wear mourning clothes. Boatsmen will tip their caps when they pass her tomb. Vessels will be named for her. Artisans will build statues in her honor. The Queen will continue to rule.

Her family will fade into their homes and they will live.

But the children will speak of her in questions. Who was she? What did she do? Why did she do it?

And somewhere in their questioning, there will be a remark. A quiet whisper that only a few ears will hear and even fewer mouths will repeat.

She gave her last breath for the galaxy.

This will spread through gossip and hallways, and through chiseled marks on governmental buildings, and even through committees that would have those words inscribed under her name and eventually their demands will be met.

And for time immemorial, those words will stain her resting place and they will breathe easy.

They will not know that she gave up her last because of the heart that lay broken in her chest. They will not know that the japor necklace she clutched in her hands was the truest expression of her husband's love. They will not know that the fire that burnt between them dwarfed all connections, all devotions. They will not know that the hero with ice eyes shattered her like glass.

And they will not know that her last breath was given to the two new stars and the white dwarf that hides in the dark.