Ever since the blockade of Naboo, she hadn’t entirely trusted Palpatine.
Of course, Palpatine was the pride of Naboo, a long-serving Senator, Padmé’s sometime long-distance mentor, and he had always done what was best for their planet. She believed that. And she never doubted that the man was doing what he thought was right.
It wasn’t that he’d persuaded her to betray the one leader in the Senate who had done nothing but support the Naboo, though the look on Valorum’s face still haunted her. It wasn’t that his, “I will be Chancellor,” had sent a chill down her spine for reasons she was not quite able to identify.
It was simply that, while he had been doing what was best for their planet in the Senate, he had forgotten about their planet’s suffering people. He had believed he was right when he’d told her, “We must accept Federation control for the time being.” That was what frightened her about Palpatine.
But she never told Anakin that, because Anakin loved Palpatine almost like a father, and hearing her doubts would only make him angry—over nothing, because she was loyal to the Chancellor. She appreciated the special attention Palpatine gave her as his former protégée-of-sorts, and Anakin knew that. But her husband was very protective of the people he loved. That was just it.
If she told him, if she tried to explain, he wouldn’t even know what she meant. Anakin never saw planets instead of people.
An epic allegorical poem, an instrumental theme, and a popular song had been written about her during her terms as Queen on Naboo.
All three had appeared in the year following the blockade crisis, when the Naboo were feeling particularly patriotic and all but worshipped “the Savior of Her People.” It was very flattering at first. The poem was beautifully versed, and had clearly taken an immense amount of work. The instrumental theme was haunting, composed by a master. But the song.
All right, so she’d liked it the first time she’d heard it. The first few times, even. The artists spent about three minutes extolling her virtues and declaring undying love for her. It was silly, it was fun. At first.
But then the Naboo broadcast stations had picked it up, and for several months it had played in every home and every speeder from Theed to Otoh Gungah. Every day. Approximately thirty-seven times.
As much as Padmé was a gracious Queen, she was also, at the time, still a teenager. And this was embarrassing. Once while her sister, Sola, was home from university, she, two of her friends, and all five handmaidens had chased Padmé around her parents’ house singing “Sweet Queen Amidala” off-key at the top of their lungs, laughing their heads off while she turned bright red and yelled at them to stop. They were only teasing, but she’d never felt sofourteen in her life.
On one of his weekends of leave, Anakin escorted her (as her Jedi protector) to a charity ball at TheedPalace, and in the speeder on the way she heard the familiar opening bars playing through the speakers. She started up in her seat and instructed the driver to turn the music off so urgently that Anakin asked her what was wrong. She closed the opaque partition between the driver and them and made out with him to shut him up.
She found Obi-Wan Kenobi attractive.
She’d had kind of a crush on him the first time they’d met, when she had been a teenager and he had been a padawan. It had been a pointless schoolgirl crush, and she’d never expected it to be reciprocated because he was a 26-year-old Jedi, for goodness sakes, while she was only fourteen, dedicated to serving her people, and wearing ceremonial makeup half the time. She’d just thought he was cute, and that Jedi intensity was pretty sexy.
She’d told Anakin how all the handmaidens had been infatuated with Obi-Wan, and he’d laughed. She’d told him about her own first kiss with Palo, and he’d scowled. She’d even told him about the total stranger she’d almost slept with a few months before she’d met him again—some of the old handmaidens had come to Coruscant and convinced her to go clubbing incognito—because she was just so tired of waiting. He’d only kissed her. But she couldn’t tell him about this, innocent as it was.
There were some lines you just didn’t cross.
She’d thought she might be pregnant once before.
It was a few weeks after the Blue Shadow Virus incident. On his last day on Naboo she’d finally felt better again, and they’d shut themselves in her room in the Palace for a day and a night that he’d told his troops he’d spent in solitary meditation. She was about four days late when it occurred to her that she’d never thought about whether the virus or its antidote would interfere with her birth control.
She spent the next two days telling herself that this was not, not happening. That vaguely nauseous feeling had to be due to worry. On the seventh day, a weight seemed to settle in the pit of her stomach. There would be a scandal. Anakin was definitely going to be expelled for this, and she would probably be fired.
Anyone who knew her must have noticed her distraction. She couldn’t focus in the Senate, her mind racing through possibilities. If she was, could she hide it? Who could she tell? If she took a leave of absence for a few months and went home, or went somewhere else, would that attract more or less attention? Would it be too suspicious if she were to refuse midi-chlorian testing? Could a person refuse midi-chlorian testing? The Jedi couldn’t take a baby without the mother’s permission, wasn’t that the rule?
Would someone find out if she looked these things up?
She was at the point of weighing the risks of being recognized while buying a home test versus confiding in her handmaidens and making one of them buy it for her when, just before a committee meeting, she started bleeding.
She spent the rest of the day feeling as though an enormous weight had been lifted from her shoulders, smiling inanely during budget review procedures and laughing at Orn Free Taa’s terrible jokes. But when she got back to her apartment, she shut herself in her room and cried until she fell asleep.
The next time Anakin came home, she didn’t mention any of this. After all, there was nothing to tell.
When he first told her that she was going to die in childbirth, she believed him.
The truth of it was that it was like being told she had a terminal disease. They could have been in a hospital; his words could have been a diagnosis. It amounted to the same. The moment he said, “It was about you,” his dream like the ones he’d had before his mother died, she felt a cold shock of fear reach into her chest and squeeze her heart. She didn’t think, It was only a dream; she knew he was gifted enough to know the difference. She didn’t think, Women don’t die in childbirth on Coruscant; she hadn’t intended to be on Coruscant much longer.
He could have said, “You have perhaps three months to live,” and after a moment, her first response would still have been, “Oh.” Because what are you supposed to say? In a situation like that? What are the right words when you’re facing down an onrushing fate?
In that moment, her mind reeled. She thought, But I’m only twenty-seven. She thought of her mother and father, her sister and her nieces. She thought of the work that had kept her away from the ones she loved, which had seemed so important at the time. She thought of the war, the Senate and the Republic and how everything now stood balanced on a sword’s edge. What kind of galaxy would her baby grow up in if she wasn’t there to protect it?
She thought of her baby. The baby she’d wanted so much would never know her, or else… Did this mean the baby would die, too? But though she had begun to accept her own death in the space of a breath and that whispered word, “oh,” this was a thought she could not bear.
“And the baby?” she asked, her hand hovering over her abdomen, her voice sounding very small to her own ears.
Anakin said, “I don’t know.” And if Anakin didn’t know, that meant there was still hope.
So she went to him, and she told him, “It was only a dream.” She told him, “Women don’t die in childbirth on Coruscant, Ani.” And for the time being, she tried to believe it.