"Over my dead body."
Padmé felt a tiny sliver of guilt at the look that flickered across Obi-Wan’s face at her words, well aware that only a few days earlier he had thought her death was all but inevitable. But considering what he was suggesting, what all of them were suggesting, she couldn’t afford to let her voice waver for even a moment. The potential cost was too dear.
Behind Obi-Wan, regret flickered across Bail’s face for just a moment before going studiously blank. And, just like that, she knew that she’d won him over. A pang of sadness flashed through her, part of her well aware of why her friend had agreed to the Jedi Masters’ plan, but she ruthlessly pushed it down. Not now. Not yet.
One down, two to go.
"No," she said firmly, cutting off Obi-Wan before he could attempt to make yet another fruitless argument. She met his gaze straight on. "You have known me for thirteen years. If you honestly think there is any chance that I will agree to this, then you are a—"
Even Master Yoda’s brows rose a bit at the Huttese expletive that she threw out, one that Anakin had taught her for just such situations. And she pointedly didn’t think let herself flinch at the thought of Anakin, no matter how much she might want to do so.
Obi-Wan opened his mouth as if he was about to argue. Then he closed it with a sigh. She recognized the expression on his face just then. She’d seen it many times over the years, usually when he was about to give in to one of Anakin’s more hairbrained schemes.
"There’s no arguing with her, Master Yoda," Obi-Wan said tiredly, reaching up to rub the bridge of his nose. "She’s not going to change her mind."
The smaller Jedi Master looked at her for a moment, an unreadable look on his face.
Padmé felt something at the corner of her awareness. It wasn’t much, just a tiny nudge, but she knew.
Her hand went down to the blaster that she wore at her side, the one that she’d refused to take off no matter how many times the others claimed she was safe for now. "Stay out of my mind," she said firmly, her gaze focused on Master Yoda.
Obi-Wan’s eyes flickered from her to the other Jedi and then back to her. He sighed again, and she could almost see his headache increasing in intensity from where she stood.
It was nice to see that some things didn’t change, even as the galaxy crashed and burned around them. Both figuratively and literally.
Master Yoda shook his head. "Safe with you, they are not," he said. There was presumptuous tone to his voice that immediately put Padmé on edge, despite knowing very well that he mostly likely didn’t mean anything insulting by it. "With us, they must—"
"No," Padmé said again, her voice as hard as rock. "Unless you plan on killing me yourself, my children stay with me."
Yoda’s gaze moved past her to focus on Obi-Wan, and she was well aware that the two of them were having a silent conversation that she couldn’t hear. She glared at them both and then, for good measure, did the same to Bail.
He, at least, had the good grace to look ashamed.
"Approve, I do not," Yoda said, shaking his head again. "But agree I must."
Obi-Wan took a step forward. "You can’t return to Naboo," he said firmly.
Padmé very pointedly raised her brows. "Thank you," she said, her voice like ice, "for telling me something that I was already well aware of."
It was his turn to look at least somewhat sheepish, although she could still see a bit of mulish stubbornness in his eyes.
"You’ll need a ship," Bail said quietly, taking a step forward. His gaze moved over her for a moment, as if he was trying to memorize her face. Perhaps he was. Who knew when the next time they might see each other would be? "I will arrange it."
She gave him a nod. "Thank you," was all that she said, but her eyes said many things more than that.
So did his.
Their child. He’d never known there were two.
Still, the matter stood as it was. She didn’t regret it, most of the time. Yes, there were times she missed her family with an ache that was borderline physical. There were times when she wanted nothing more than the life she had once had. Leia and Luke made it worth the sacrifice, though, more than worth it.
But sometimes? Sometimes she wondered what she had been thinking.
Padmé glanced over her shoulder, making certain that the secret compartment in the floorboard was well concealed. The twins were hiding there, both of them quiet for once. She’d drilled it into them from before they could even talk that when she told them to hide, that no one could see them, they take it seriously. It was one of the few things that they did take seriously lately.
She wasn’t entirely certain what was happening. The ship that attached itself to theirs was clearly that of a scavenger or smuggler of some type, and she’d prepared herself for the worst the moment it had been clear they couldn’t get away. But if that was the case, they should have been boarded by now which very much hadn’t happened.
The sound of blaster fire from the other ship soon after they had grappled them had been clear, even from there. Padmé had no idea what was happening over there, but she couldn’t help but think the worse. Five years of running from the Empire, trying her best to stay outside of their attention, had ingrained that in her.
There was a knock on the airlock.
Padmé tightened her grip on her blaster.
"It’s safe," a somewhat mechanical voice said from the other side, clearly speaking through some type of scrambler. "The bounty hunters are no longer of any concern to you."
If anything, her grip on her blaster grew even tighter.
With a metallic clang, the hatch opened. Whoever was on the other side had opened it.
It took everything Padmé had not to glance back at the secret compartment in the floor, to make absolutely certain it could not be seen. She knew that doing so would put Leia and Luke in even more danger, though, which she couldn’t risk.
A figure appeared, tall and thin. They were wearing dark robes that hid their shape, but there was no hiding the fact that it covered lekku. Not that it particularly mattered whether it was a togruta or twi'lek approaching her. Anyone could be dangerous, no matter who or what they were.
"What do you want?" Padmé snapped, trying to make her voice as firm and unyielding as she could. She couldn’t show fear, not now. She wasn’t the only one whose life was at risk.
The figure stopped dead in their tracks, their head tilting a bit to the side.
"Padmé?" the mechanical voice asked. It sounded almost surprised, although it was hard to tell through the scrambler being used.
Padmé tightened her grip on her blaster, holding it up a little higher. "Who are you?" she asked, her voice much steadier than she felt. "How do you know my name?"
The figure stood there for a moment, and Padmé had the strangest feeling that she was being gaped at. Then, without one fluid movement, they pulled down the hood that covered their head.
A very familiar figure stood in front of her, albeit one that was older and slightly taller than the image in her memories.
Padmé felt her grip slacken all on its own, her hand dropping so that the blaster was pointing at the floor of the ship. "Ahsoka?"
Ahsoka was sitting cross-legged in the center of the small dwelling they were renting, with Leia sitting in her lap. Luke stood a few feet away from her with his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrated on keeping a small silver ball hovering several inches off the ground.
The ball suddenly dropped to the floor, clanking softly. Luke’s face dropped. "I couldn’t hold it."
"You did better than last time," Ahsoka said with a smile. "Good job."
His mouth twisted into a small smile.
"My turn now!" Leia called out, pushing herself out of Ahsoka’s lap. "Let me try to lift it!"
Ahsoka glanced over at Padmé, clearly checking to be certain she wouldn’t mind a bit more training before they stopped for the day. With another smile, Padmé nodded at her.
Luke ran over to Padmé’s side as Leia took his place in front of Ahsoka. He pulled at her tunic, clearly wanting to climb into her lap, and after a moment’s hesitation Padmé let him do so.
At seven, almost eight, he was getting a little big to sit in her lip. For the time being, though, she was happy to pretend that he wasn’t growing up. That neither of them was growing up.
Padmé glanced over at Leia. Unlike Luke, she was watching Ahsoka, not the metal ball that she was keeping hovering.
Not for the first time, Padmé couldn’t help but be thankful that she and Ahsoka had stumbled across each other. Ahsoka never claimed that it was anything more than a coincidence, to the point where Padmé wondered if she was afraid to admit it might have been the Force.
Padmé, at least, was willing to consider the idea. Every time she watched Ahsoka with her children, teaching them how to control the powers that they were slowly coming into to the best of her ability, it brought it to the forefront of her mind.
It felt right, like this is how it should be.
Leia turned towards her and beamed, the silver ball still hovering in mid-air behind her. "Luke, look!" she called out. "It’s higher than when you did it."
"No it’s not," Luke shot back immediately.
"Is too!" Leia shot back.
Luke glowered. "Is not," he said firmly. Then he held out his hand, his eyes narrowing.
The metal ball slammed into the ceiling hard enough to leave a crack. Leia let out a shriek, and in Padmé’s lap Luke flinched. The ball dropped back to the floor with a clunk, bouncing slightly before rolling towards the wall.
The room went quiet.
Ahsoka’s face stayed carefully blank for a moment, although Padmé knew her well enough to see the amusement in her eyes. Then she sighed. "And that," she said patiently, "is why the two of you are supposed to take turns."
Luke shifted in Padmé’s lap. "Sorry ‘Soka," he said sheepishly. "I forgot."
"Did not," Leia muttered, loudly enough that all of them clearly heard it.
Luke stuck out his tongue. "Did too."
Ahsoka glanced over at Padmé and met her gaze, her eyes twinkling. Padmé let her mouth twitch, just slightly, before putting a stern expression on her face before the twins went too far.
Padmé’s own lips felt like they were burning. This had been coming for months, maybe even years, but it had still caught her by surprise. She wasn’t even certain which one of them had made the first move, or maybe it had been both of them, relief and elation at getting away from the Inquisitor’s men overriding common sense.
The last person she had kissed had been her husband, a lifetime ago in every sense of the word.
"Are you sure?" Ahsoka asked quietly.
Padmé stared at her for a long moment. Then she smiled. "As sure as I’ve ever been."
The corners of Ahsoka’s mouth turned upwards. "Well then," she said. "I suppose we should try again."
"You’re the one who’s always telling my children that practice is important," Padmé said lightly. "I’m glad to see you’re not a hypocrite."
Ahsoka leaned in for another kiss.