The whole planet is burning with a fire to match the pain in Padmé’s throat. She’d once promised Anakin that only death would part them, and not long after that she’d realised that the death was going to be hers.
She’d watched as the young boy that she’d fallen in love with – bright eyed and full of wonder – had been dampened and squashed by rules and regulation and the cold hearts of the Jedi. Every question had been flatly rebuked, every attempt to learn outside the prescribed curriculum had been squashed. He hadn’t grown up in the temple like the other children, and the Jedi had failed to appreciate that. They’d failed to realise that a small child born into slavery wouldn’t have the naive innocence of a child raised in a Jedi temple. Of course he’d question. Of course he’d have a problem with authority. The arrogance of the Jedi was astounding, and she regularly dealt with the republic senate. They’d looked the other way and ignored any problem that they couldn’t control, and then pleaded ignorance when it blew up it their faces. Rigidly stuck in lines of ancient code, bound by tradition and stuck too far up their own arses to do anything about it.
She can feel the heat of the rock soaking through her shirt – she hadn’t exactly dressed for the situation, but needs must. She feels a wave of pain pulse through her. It’s masked by the burning in her throat, so it takes her a while to recognise what it is. She feels the wetness between her legs, cool in the hot dry heat of the planet. She almost laughs out loud at the inappropriateness of the situation. Lying broken and useless on a slab of rock, unable to move, her husband and his best friend lost somewhere, fighting each other with little mercy in their hearts. If neither of them came back for her then she’d die here, and so would her child. Padmé wheezes out a laugh. Spices, sex and stress, the doctor had told her could induce labour - she was certainly stressed but honestly? Not the time. This child really took after its father.
There was never any way that they were both returning. She hopes that Anakin is dead because she’d really, really like to finally be free. She needs him to be dead, because she can’t look into that darkness and smile again. If Anakin lives then she’ll have to go with him. She’ll have to go and be his trophy wife, his kept pet, and her child will be strangled by the same darkness that cost her her husband. She doesn’t think she could live like that again. She doesn’t think that she could let her child grow up with that as a role model. But she also doesn’t know how to escape it.
Obi Wan eventually returns. She doesn’t even need to look at his face to know what’s happened. He falls to his knees and sobs. He loved Anakin too much to kill him. He was his brother. He loved him.
If you loved him, you’d let him die.
Obi-Wan tries not to tell her what happened to Anakin. He says that he wants to protect her from such horrors – doesn’t he realise that she’s been living a nightmare for months now? She needs to know what happened so that she can sleep at night. If she thinks Anakin’s coming after her child then she’ll never sleep again. She feels numb at the news that Anakin was left, burning and limbless, on a deserted lava planet. She doesn’t know whether she wants to feel grief or relief, but instead of either there’s just…nothing. The little blue eyed boy who carved her trinkets from what little he had grew up a long time ago. The monster that replaced him doesn’t deserve sorrow.
The next twelve hours of her life are nothing but pain. It turns out there’s two children – these are the kind of surprises that trying to keep a pregnancy secret puts you in line for. The labour is long and arduous and so unbelievably painful. She won’t cry though, she won’t scream. She will not show weakness to the two Jedi watching her every move. If she’s learnt one thing in her long career, it’s that women who show any weakness will never be taken seriously again, and she’s going to need them to respect her with every inch once this is all over. In the glimpses between contractions, she can feel something pulling at her, trying to draw her away. She fights it, pushing it away. She recognises the force as it pulls at her very lifeforce, she’s felt it before when Anakin would decide to control her, projecting his love into her heart, and she fights it with everything she’s got. She doesn’t know if it’s Palpatine or Anakin trying to kill her, but at this point she doesn’t care. Nothing is going to stop her from raising her children. Nothing. She fights him off and pushes.
Not even Yoda and Obi-Wan, standing at the end of her bed. She’s bone tired, hair clinging to her sweaty face, and it’s the least well-kept she’s looked since she was eight and went into politics. But ceremonial makeup or not, she is a queen, and they would do well to remember that. Propped up by pillows and clutching two children to her chest, there’s steel in her eyes and ice in her voice as she stares down two Jedi masters. If they keep asking questions that she doesn’t want to answer, this meeting isn’t going to last very long. She went toe to toe with the Jedi when she was fourteen, she’s not going to start bending backwards for them now.
Padmé doesn’t go with Obi-Wan, despite him repeatedly offering. He’s everything she despised about the Jedi and the Republic – stuffy and righteous and not willing to change for anything or anyone. Not willing to bend and move with the world, moral righteousness with bad ideals. Pretending to be above everything whilst bending the rules to suit themselves. The kind of people who would take a young slave boy from his mother, from the only good thing that he has ever known, to a new planet whilst his mother rots in chains, and then tell him to call them master. In the eyes of a small child, what’s the difference? You can’t leave, you have to address people as they tell you to, you have to do what they tell you to, when they tell you to. You sleep in a dormitory and you have no choice in anything. Most of the children are taken from their parents when they are too young to remember and all placed together under a set of masters. Is she talking about slavery, or the Jedi? Same difference.
The Jedi took small children and told them that they shouldn’t ever feel love and should isolate themselves from everyone else. What kind of monster tells a child that? In any other life, that would be called abuse. No wonder the Jedi were so fucked up. But Obi-Wan? He’s one of the worst. Obi-Wan knew what was happening to Ani and did nothing. He claims he didn’t see it, but who could miss the sweet little boy turning into that? She refuses to believe that not a single member of the Jedi council knew about the marriage. They’re not idiots and neither is she. They just found it easier to pretend than to deal with an issue. She’s a small, slight woman who’s nine months pregnant with twins. It doesn’t take a Jedi to notice that.
In the silence following her flat refusal, Obi-Wan ventures a question. ‘What are they called?’ he asks, his voice as smooth and calm as his smug face. He’s so plastic and emotionless that it’s honestly terrifying. And yet he wants her to live with him? She seethes, imagining facing that level of condescension every day. No wonder Anakin went mad. If she wasn’t in such an intense amount of pain, she’d punch him.
‘I don’t think that’s really necessary for you to know,’ she says, and her voice could cut iron. ‘With such high levels of secrecy to be maintained, I don’t think that anyone should know more information than absolutely necessary do you?’ She holds the children just a little tighter. ‘In which case, I guess that you’ll be leaving now.’
She refuses to listen to Yoda or Obi-Wan’s entreaties that her children will be safer if they split up. She scoffs. Safer? The Jedi order couldn’t even recognise the two Sith lords under their noses and now they expect her to just give up her children to be raised in the same manner? With all due respect, fuck that. They couldn’t stop her getting married, and they’re not going to stop her raising her children in a loving and caring environment.
‘With all due respect,’ Padmé says coolly, ‘I’ve seen your method of teaching, and I don’t care for it.’ She smooths down her little girl’s blanket and looks them dead in the eye. ‘Good day, gentlemen. I’ll contact you when you’re needed.’
When they are gone, she allows herself to cry.
‘Sabé? I have something to ask of you.’
Her bags are packed and the children are sleeping. There’s few people in the galaxy that Padmé trusts, but there are those that will always have her back. It’s not uncommon for Queens and their handmaidens to stay close after the reign is over, and it’s hard to go through invasions and coups like Padmé and hers did and come out the other side as anything less than sisters.
Sabé doesn’t ask any questions, just agrees and hangs up the phone. She’ll meet Padmé on the station, bringing Dormé with her. The two of them still regard themselves as Padmé’s handmaidens, despite their new jobs.
Dormé will remain behind. She’s the only one that can still pass as Padmé, and as far as Naboo knows, she’s out in the Outer Rim trying to combat Jabba’s new slavery laws. She’ll pose as Padmé’s (still pregnant) corpse whilst the other two slip away in the opposite direction. Naboo’s royalty are afforded certain luxuries even after their reign has ended, including a royal burial. The elaborate ceremony and cremation will ensure that Palpatine won’t be able to see the body or touch it or test it. With the right officials conducting the ceremony, they’ll be able to swap Dormé with another body for the cremation, and nobody will ever know. It’s horrifically cold and callous of Padmé to think like that, but with the way that Palpatine has been treating Naboo, it won’t be hard to find an unclaimed body.
She wants to go to Naboo herself, to raise her children in the mountains, to take them to the house by the lake, but she can’t. The Emperor hopefully won’t be looking for her, but there’s always a chance that word could get out. She might place her family in danger. She can’t chance it. She can’t be weak. She has to think like a Queen.
She tells Obi-Wan that she’s going to Tatooine, to Ani’s family, but honestly? She’s from Naboo and she can’t sacrifice her love of green to all that sand. She’s not loved Anakin for a while – he got controlling and dark, and you can’t love someone when they scare you that much. Not truly. She doesn’t know when she started falling out of love, only that one day she realised that she had. She’s no sentiment, no nostalgia. She’s no reason to go to Tatooine.
She sets the course for somewhere green.
Obi-Wan looks at her from where he’s seated at the table, watching the twins play. ‘You have to tell them at some point, you know? You have to tell them who their father was, how Darth Vader killed him.’
‘Don’t say that.’ Padmé snaps. ‘Don’t say that Vader killed Anakin. He didn’t kill anyone.’ Her jaw clenches. She hates how people say things like that, like Anakin was so pure and perfect and Vader was his dark opposite. Anakin had never been innocent, not even as a nine year old. ‘There wasn’t one defining moment, there was no sudden point where the man that was my husband snapped and became something else. It was a long time coming, and I refuse to believe that not one member of the Jedi council saw it.’ She turns to Obi-Wan, eyes blazing. ‘I could see it, and so could all of you. You knew and did nothing. The old republic and the Jedi order deserved to burn because there was nothing good left in them. Democracy became a farce. We all got too powerful. Ruled too much of the galaxy. You all got too greedy.’ She sighs. ‘How different were we really from the empire? Ask the Separatists.’
Obi-Wan recoils. ‘Padmé-‘
‘Don’t pander to me Kenobi. We all let this happen. The republic was a failure before it let Palpatine take charge. The Jedi council was ashes before it burnt. We were an empire long before we took the name.’
Padmé raises her children. Luke is politeness and sunshine. Her parents would be so proud – he’s a Naberrie through and through, from his beatific smile to his kind words. He’s a carbon copy of his father at that age, but the two couldn’t be more different.
Leia may look like her mother, but she has her father’s fire and boy, is that dangerous. Padmé won’t let her travel the same path as her father, though.
She educates her children. She won’t lie to them, they deserve the truth. And so when they start asking the difficult questions, about why they don’t have a mama and a papa and hundreds of friends like the children in their favourite holos, she sits them down and explain. She won’t tell them that Anakin’s dead, like Sabé suggests. They deserve better than that. They deserve to know how their father was slowly corrupted by others and by himself. They deserve to know that they have to respect their powers because that’s what happened if you think you can rule the world. They deserve to take responsibility for their actions. They do not deserve excuses.
Padmé’s seen hundreds of children who wanted to be Queen of Naboo who were raised in a culture of excuses and praise. It builds monsters of children. The kids that think they deserve everything, because nobody ever told them no. Children so bolstered in their abilities that failure never occurs to them. She’s never seen that technique succeed. Children have to know that they’re vulnerable in order to understand why we need to work together. If you tell a child that they’re the chosen one, there’s only one way it can go.
Ask the younglings.
Padmé tell them all about the Senate. About how glorious and fine and hopeful it was, and about how it became what it fought against. She tells them their father’s story. She tells them about Shmi, about Watto, about their heritage on both Naboo and Tatooine. She tells them how their parents met, and then met again. She lets them absorb it all, and then she asks them what they would like to be called. Leia chooses to remain a Naberrie. In her words, she owes nothing to her father but everything to her mother. Luke chooses to be a Skywalker, to honour a woman who had to give up everything she had in the world in the hope of a better future, who lived in slavery only to die a free woman. He says that it’s not for his father, but for where his father comes from. Padmé couldn’t be more proud of either of them.
She teaches them about the Force as a religion, in the way that she was taught when she was little. She teaches them about how it’s in every living thing, about how it affects every single person, every single plant, every little stone. She teaches them that they have a special connection to it, how it can help them, and how they can help it. She teaches them about how the Force can be dark or light, and that you can’t force yourself to be one or the other. (That’s something she learnt from watching Anakin. If you starve half of yourself, you can never be strong. If you smother an ember, you just start a fire.) She teaches them to accept the darkness in them (especially Leia) but how not to get too deep, not to let themselves drown in it. Everything in life is a balance. Being a Queen taught her that.
She still doesn’t understand the Jedi Order’s stance – life isn’t all goodness and neither are people. You have to have both. You have to have both sunset and sunrise. You have to have both life and death, otherwise everything will break. Life’s a tightrope – you might fall to one side or the other every now and again, but ultimately you’re somewhere in the middle. The Jedi Order rejected everything even vaguely grey. It was their undoing.
And here she thought only Sith dealt in absolutes.
By the time the twins are eight, the Empire is everywhere. It lurks in every corner.
They’ve moved planets a couple of times – always to a remote area, always somewhere that the Stormtroopers overlook. She knows that they would draw less attention in a bustling metropolis, but there’s always the chance that someone would detect the children’s Force present, or recognise a long-dead Queen.
She’s positive that if Vader didn’t think that she was dead then they’d have been found by now. Anakin at his worst had a kind of feverish intensity. He could stop her from leaving their house if he wanted her by his side, he could get into her thoughts, into her dreams. Dormé says that there’s a memorial to her in the Palace gardens at Theed, and that sometimes Vader visits it. She hopes he cries. She hopes he feels repulsion at what he’s become. She hopes that one day he remembers how to be the man that she married. He won’t, but she can hope.
The memorial must be the only place left on the whole planet where she is remembered. One of Palpatine’s first orders as Emperor had been to order all portraits, all statues, all images of her to be destroyed. Padmé had been offered Naboo on a silver platter and turned it down. Palpatine had had to seize it by trickery and force. It’s incredible what a jealous man full of self-righteousness can do. After everything he’d done, allowing Padmé to be remembered would have inspired rebellion and insurgence, so everything had to go. She had been framed as the enemy – she had died ‘aiding the treacherous Jedi’ and did not deserve remembrance.
It’s a poor tactic. Padmé would have chosen a different narrative – Naboo’s beloved Queen murdered by the Jedi as she tries to stop them. Framing a national hero as a traitor sparks outrage – framing them as a victim sparks anger. After all this time, Palpatine still has a lot to learn about people.
Five foot of anger and determination, and a crack shot at twenty feet. She’s a woman who would make her own way, and not look behind to see if people followed.
When the twins are ten, she thinks that they are old enough for her to re-join the fight. She was queen of an entire planet at 14. They’ve not grown up in the same luxury as her. They are by no means innocent. They can live on a base no problem. It’s high time they had some company other than her and Sabé.
She contacts Bail Organa through Sabé and Bail looks like he’s about to faint when her face pops up. He, like everyone, thought she was dead. She’s bided her time in hiding, contacting no-one, waiting for Palpatine to get sloppy. Telling anyone of her plan would have resulted in death. She knows full well that Ani can read minds because he used to read hers with no concept of privacy. He will search for what he wants, and if you don’t know how to fabricate a truth just for him then you’re as good as dead. Padmé has no doubts about what would have happened to her had Ani realised that she no longer loved him. That he scared her. That she wanted to leave. He would have killed her in a fit of rage before she could have even reached the door.
Bail agrees to start a war. Mon Mothma joins, and soon they have a group. A rebellion. They set up on a remote planet and start recruiting fringe groups. There’s plenty of unrest, plenty of planets who don’t take kindly to Palpatine’s heavy handed rule. The separatists weren’t happy under the Senate, and they’re sure as not happy under an Empire. Padmé still hides her identity – there’s not many who look at her and connect her to the child that was Queen. Naboo’s royal make-up was invented to help disguise decoys. Bail and Mon Mothma are big enough names to convince other partners, and so Padmé can act as a civilian, promoted to General. They gain defectors and ships and allies. They get strong. Well, strong-er.
Her children grow with the rebellion. Luke loves to fly, but Leia would rather be at her mother’s side, deep in the plots and the planning. There’s no democracy in the military, but Padmé is a good leader and welcomes suggestions. She listens. The whole base knows her face. Complaints come straight to her. She’s not afraid to get dirty, and most of the respect she is given comes from her willingness to help out, her time spent elbow deep in an X-Wing. Bail and Mon Mothma act as the figureheads of the rebellion, shuttling between the Senate and the base, but anybody who Is anybody knows who runs the organisation. Half the base sees her as a second mother and the other half sees her as a friend. Padmé Amidala does an incredible thing and manages not be seen as a goddess. There’s nothing so dangerous as a pedestal, and Padmé knows it. Sometimes Leia looks at her mother, tired and a little bit gaunt, and can see the straight backed Queen who inspired a whole planet to break one of their oldest traditions to try and keep her for a third term. She sees a woman who was wise enough to decline.
Padmé thinks that the new looks suits him. It certainly reflects what he is inside.
When Luke faces his father on the Deathstar, he knows exactly who he is. Luke may have taken his father’s last name, but he’s his mother’s son, so it’s Leia that first charges Vader. He goads her on, tells her that he can sense the darkness in her and that he can make her strong if only she gives in to it. But Leia Naberrie was raised on her mother’s tales and knows that power comes from balance, not blind devotion. In another universe, Leia might refuse to ever pick up a lightsabre, scared of what she might become, what her children might become. In this universe, Leia knows exactly who and what she is. She and Luke fight Vader together. They move as one, having trained and fought together since childhood. They’re perfectly in sync, both with each other and the force.
Luke calls him Anakin and it makes Vader pause – he’d almost forgotten that name. Luke tells him, between clashes of their blades, of a wonderful woman who fought and fought and fought and would never stop fighting, never stop believing. He tell him of a woman who had suffered so much, but still had so much love.
In another room, on the other side of the ship, Palpatine dies. He’s an old man who made many mistakes, but his biggest is this: Padmé Amidala loves democracy, but she is not here to talk. She’s here to do a job. She warned the Senate once that if they created an army then war would follow. War is here, and she wears a smile.
Padmé follows her heart to her children and this is what she finds – Luke is on the floor, hand missing, Leia crouched over him with her teeth bared. They have not defeated Vader and she is glad. She does not want them to have to. He is still their father, despicable as he may be, and she doesn’t want her children to ever have to grow up in that way. Vader says her name and if a mechanical man could cry, then he would be. He doesn’t apologise though. He never apologises, and that’s the final nail in the coffin for Padmé. The last inch of her love for him, for that little boy with the mop of blonde hair, is rubbed out. She tells him that her children are alive in spite of him, she is alive in spite of him. She shoots him, in the face. There’s no sorrow in her heart, no sense of relief – it’s not emotional for her. That masked man is not her husband, he is what her husband has become.
Padmé Amidala collects her children, kisses their foreheads, and smiles.
The arch over the gate is just as she remembers it. Naboo looks as if war has not touched it, even though she knows how much they gave to the resistance, and her childhood home is no different. Her parents don’t know that she’s alive – Anakin would have pulled it from their head immediately, and so they don’t know that she’s coming. Or about her children. She was only a child herself last time she set foot on this planet and now she feels so very old.
She takes Luke and Leia by the hand, as she did when they were small, when they would take long walks in Dantooine woodland, jumping and laughing and playing as children should. She can feel the strength that they push to her, and she takes comfort in it. Neither is tall, but they’ve both outgrown her. They’ll be taller than their grandparents. She tuns to them, drinking them in. They’re both dressed in the clothes of Naboo, something that Padmé’s longed to see them in since they were babes. They look like fine young people. They look like leaders. She takes a deep breath, and steps through the arch.
Pooja is in the garden, tending to the flowers as Padmé used to do. Her niece has grown into a fine woman, slender and strong. Her words are polite, but the Naberrie spirit shines in her eyes. She would make a fine Queen.
‘Can I help?’ Pooja looks wary – as she should be. It is not long since the Empire was finished, and whilst Padmé and her children are very recognisable, no-one is expecting to see the heroes of the rebellion and a long-dead queen in their back garden.
Padmé smiles. ‘I was wondering if I might see Ruwee and Jobal?’ She knows she’s lucky – her parents are not young, and the war could have easily killed them. She’s so very grateful that they have all lived to see this day. ‘Please, tell them that an old friend has finally come home.’
Pooja gives her a look of distrust, but turns and heads into the house. She looks so very like Sola, and so very different from that small girl who used to cuddle with her by the fire. She enters through the wide kitchen door, and Padmé wonders if they ever painted over the growth marks of the little girl who once played there. She squeezes her children’s hands and tries to calm her hummingbird heart.
There’s chatter from inside the open door, and the sound of her mother placing the kettle on the counter top. Pooja emerges, followed by a woman – elderly and grey, but still full of grace. Jobal looks up, and freezes. Padmé knows that all likenesses of her were destroyed during Palpatine’s reign. This is likely the first time that her mother has seen her daughter’s face since the funeral march.
Jobal crumples from the knees upwards, and Padmé breaks. Rushing forward, she gathers her mother together and they sob. It’s me, she repeats, over and over and over and over, it’s really me, I promise. Jobal pulls back and cups her daughter’s face. Her eyes flicker like she’s trying to catalogue every cut and bruise, every laughter line and wrinkle. Her daughter is home, and she wants to drink her in.
Padmé can hear Pooja calling into the house, gathering the family. It seems that Luke has introduced himself and his sister. There’s precious few Skywalkers who aren’t in shackles on Tatooine, and only one related to a Naberrie. From there, it’s not a hard leap to make. The rest of the family emerge, and here is Ryoo, and Sola, and Padmé’s own dear, dear father. She separates herself, and reaches back for her children, pulling them to stand next to her. Her little family is finally home.
Luke is charmingly shy. Leia stands as tall as she can and greets everyone with the grace that Padmé taught her, aged six, the grace that you need to be a queen. The family of three suddenly has aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. There’s tears and laughter, and Padmé feels lighter than she has since her wedding day. She smiles, feeling like she’s going to split from the joy. The whole Naberrie family is alight, and nothing could bring them down. Later, when everyone’s quieted and her children are dozing by the fire, Padmé sits at her mother’s table, tea in hand, and drafts up plans for a new kind of republic.