As I looked into Luke and Leia's cribs, I felt strength return to my legs. I stood a little taller.

"He can never know, Obi-Wan" I said.

"It will be difficult to keep it from him. We are at an advantage, though. I sense that he believes you and your unborn children to be dead."

I could feel that, too. I knew the man I once loved was gone forever. But I had my children to think about. I needed to make sure they would always be safe.

Obi-Wan interrupted my thoughts. "Padme," he started carefully, "we may have to consider the idea of separating them."

"What? They should not be raised apart! Both should be together with their mother. Who could you imagine would care for them?"

He considered my retort carefully. "I'm afraid they must be separated and away from you. If Anakin feels your presence, reaches out, and discovers their existence, I fear they could be in great danger. You may lose two more of your beloveds to the dark side."

I was floored. I felt my legs give way again. The world seemed to spin around me, faster and faster, my breath quickened, and then the world was black.

I woke up again to Obi-Wan's face. His eyes were filled with concern and trepidation. "Padme, I am sorry for the shock I gave you. It was too much for your first visitation."

Although he was right, I knew that I must do whatever was necessary to keep my children away from Anakin.

"No, Obi-Wan. You were right." Every word felt like a dagger in my heart. "I just couldn't face it. I can't be with them. Though I don't know how I will survive without them."

Obi-Wan gently touched the side of my face. He smiled. "We may be able to arrange a discreet visitation and habitation plan. That is, if you are willing to share a residence with a Jedi."

"What Jedi?" I asked.

"I will do whatever I can to help you stay alive, Padme."

"But Master Kenobi, do you not have work of the Jedi to continue? Surely protecting me can't be your primary concern."

"You underestimate your importance to the Empire, Padme. Should Anakin ever find you, he could search your memory and discover the truth about Luke and Leia. You are a precious carrier with many secrets to keep."

I understood, but couldn't help feeling a bit overwhelmed at the task of living a secret life. I had always been a public figure, one that the people of Naboo could trust in. What would my life now be like in solitude?

"Obi-Wan, I am not sure there are many place on Naboo where I could find seclusion."

"Unfortunately, I don't think it wise for you to ever return to your home planet," cautioned Obi-Wan. "I fear Anakin has grown dangerously intuitive in his newfound dark power. I feel his anger. He bears much hatred towards his old friend, and I regret to say, his wife."

The words singed me, as if they might erode at my very soul. As Obi-Wan spoke about him, I felt as though Anakin were strangling me all over again.

"I feel such anger, Obi-Wan. Do you feel it, too?"

"I do, Padme. I, like you, loved Anakin very much. The betrayal is devastating. It is my worst nightmare. I promised Qui-Gon that I would train and care for him. And I failed."

"You can't blame yourself. The Emperor is powerful, and seductive. He led Anakin down a path he could not come back from."

"I ought to remind you of the same, Padme. You could not have saved him."

I had no problem consoling my dear friend, but letting myself be free of the guilt was too much. I was guilty. I had indulged Anakin, supported him, almost to the end, and certainly to a fault. I had helped him down his path.

Obi-Wan stopped my thoughts. "Padme, you must rest your mind. I'll leave you for the time being. Bail Organa will kindly house us in Alderaan for a time while we develop a plan. Goodnight, Padme."

I know the Jedi are hesitant to express emotion, but I felt so alone. I couldn't help but wrap my arms around Obi-Wan. I hugged him tightly and whispered, "Thank you."

He returned my embrace warmly and smiled, "goodnight, Padme."

As I watched him leave, I heard one of my babes stir. I turned to see Leia sleepily batting her eyelashes. I leaned over her crib and caressed her head.

"I promise to protect you."

I sat beside her crib and watched her fall sweetly back to sleep.