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Knight Amidala

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Obi-Wan is desperate. As desperate as he has ever been in his life.

When Qui-Gon lay dying, that had felt like the definitive tragedy. The tragedy that would shape him. And it was. But this is the tragedy that will shape the galaxy.

Obi-Wan left Anakin for dead on the black sands of Mustafar. But not before Anakin destroyed the Republic and the Jedi alike. The temple, gone. The senate, decimated. The Jedi, destroyed.

His padawan, lost.

Obi-Wan has already lost the grand battles. There is just one fight left that he could win. Padmé—his friend, Anakin's love—lies dying. There is no good reason why.

"The twins," he whispers desperately, pushing his Force sense out, hoping she will hear. "They need you."

As he throws his power out, Obi-Wan realizes, with horror, that he and Padmé are not alone in the room. A sickly, choking presence twines around Padmé's very life-force, choking it out. No, not choking—pulling it away. Obi-Wan throws his own sense out, wraps his whole self around Padmé, and fights to hold her here, with him, with her children.

"No!" Obi-Wan snarls, and then he pulls back.

The intruding presence seems shocked. Its grip slackens for a split second. Obi-Wan presses his advantage with all he has, tying himself to Padmé ever more deeply, every twining of his presence with hers one less place the spirit can grab hold. He pulls again, extending himself further, finding the parts of Padmé's life force that have already fled. He feels that sickly other give, and he hopes.

"Please, Padmé," he whispers, and gathers his strength. Sweat beading around his brow from the effort of the concentration, Obi-Wan pulls one more time.

With a sudden rush, whatever was holding her lets go, and Padmé's spirit floods back into her body. And with that riptide of energy comes another, trailing in her wake. It is a presence that has no right to be in this room, it shakes Obi-Wan's concentration enough that he is physically knocked back. A power washes over Padmé. A power he knows as well as his very own.

"Anakin," Obi-Wan whispers in choked horror.

In the depths of a medical center on Coruscant, a broken body smiles beneath the machinery holding him together. He inhales, one last time, and on his exhale, he whispers, too faint to even be picked up by the machine surrounding his face, "Padmé."

Anakin Skywalker lets go, and the chosen one dies.

Padmé wakes up screaming. The med droids cluck worried noises and rush towards her, but she flinches back, sitting, then standing, as she stumbles away. The droids pause, uncertain what to do, looking at each other, and at the twins they hold.

Shudders wrack Padmé's body as she braces herself against a wall. Obi-Wan finds no trace of the pale woman who was dying for no good reason. Now she stands, enraged, and her fear and anger creating a dangerous vortex around her. Physical objects are picked up, flung against walls. Obi-Wan has seen it sometimes, in the tantrums of the younglings, too young to have yet learned control. Padmé is no youngling, but her power is new, and she has every reason to be enraged. It is a dangerous combination.

Her twins, held safely out of the way by droids, start crying. First Leia, then Luke, their fear and terror adding to the cacophony.

Obi-Wan needs to do...something.

He has no idea what.

He sympathizes, more than anything, his own fear and anger, so well repressed, now bubbling to the surface. It has been a horrifying day at the end of many horrifying years, and it calls for rage.

But a Jedi doesn't have the luxury of indulging in anger. There is too much damage that can be done. So Obi-Wan wades into the vortex of her fear, and reaches out. "You must be calm," he calls to her.

In retrospect, it is the wrong thing to say.

"You!" Padmé snarls, whirling on him. "You snuck on board my ship! You used me to get to him! I might have been able to turn him back but you stole that chance from me. He would have listened to me, if it weren't for you!"

All that anger, pointed directly at him and powered by the strongest Force presence in a generation, knocks Obi-Wan's defenses wide open. He feels her rage on a fundamental level, in his spirit, his soul. He is taken back to Mustafar, to Anakin standing with his hand around Padmé's neck, to Anakin declaring he would do anything to save her.

"You protected him," he cries back at her. "Either of you could have come to me. I would have helped you, but you didn't. You hid and you lied and in the safety you provided him he turned into a monster! It didn't need to come to this!"

"You were his master!" Padmé responds, her anger growing worse with his. "You knew the Force, you trained with him! He went off with you and then he maimed and slaughtered and killed at Palpatine's orders. He was always going to hide this from me, but you! You should have known!"

And that statement is so unfair, when Padmé herself aided Anakin in lying, that Obi-Wan starts to gather his power—

He is thrown back, suddenly, and an unseen hand holds him against the wall. His breath is knocked out of his chest, and when he looks up again, he finds that Padmé now lies flat against the wall she had been leaning on a moment before.

Obi-Wan's is grateful for the intervention. Now that his immediate rage is gone, he is terrified to think of what he might have done.

The diminutive form of Master Yoda walks into the room. He deliberately steps over to the med droids, first, and lays a hand against Leia's head. Once she calms, he continues to Luke.

"Enough," he says gently, and Obi-Wan flushes. He is a Jedi Master. He should have better control.

Obi-Wan can feel Padmé's rage is more resistant. She is terrified and confused, and she is using her anger like a shield.

"Learn to control your grief, you must," Yoda says gently. At the same time Yoda releases the hold he has on Obi-Wan, Padmé slumps down the wall she was being held against. She slides down, sitting at the base of the wall, looking lost.

Yoda approaches Padmé, who doesn't stand, just looks up slightly as Yoda approaches.

Yoda continues, "A weapon, it may be, harming those you care for. Breathe with me, and disturb the children further, you shall not."

The look Padmé gives her children, being ushered out the door by the med droids, is heartrending. But she turns back to Yoda and gives him a serious nod. Obi-Wan feels a surge of pride as she says, "Show me." Despite the thunderstorm of emotion still inside her, she begins to reach for calm.

Padmé Amidala, Obi-Wan remembers, was a fourteen year-old queen of a planet on the verge of destruction. She learned a long time ago the importance of keeping herself under control, no matter what was swirling around her. He's struck by the thought that she understands more readily than Anakin ever did, how power can corrode unless the powerful remain vigilant.

That thought sends a fresh surge of grief and guilt through him, and across the room, Padmé's control slips. A sob shakes through her, and across the room, some surgical instruments rattle.

Yoda tuts. "Exercise your own control you must, Master Kenobi. Leave us, and gather yourself."

Feeling well chastised, Obi-Wan gets to his feet. Sent from the room like the unruly youngling, unable to maintain focus and disrupting the other children.

"Make sure the twins are okay?" Padmé asks before he can take more than two steps towards the door. Obi-Wan can feel her apprehension, her hesitation in asking it of him.

"Of course," Obi-Wan replies quickly.

It is not an easy thing, to control himself. The last few days have badly shaken him. But having a task helps, and he settles as he points his feet in the direction the med droids left.

He is pleased, as he finds the twins, to learn that they have resilient spirits. A few minutes of calm and they are already well again. Bright, and yes, very strong in the Force. Stronger than most infants. Well, most infants do not have such a Force-filled birth. Obi-Wan tucks away his worries that this will make it easier for the Emperor to find them. Palpatine will be reeling from the loss of his apprentice. They have some time to figure out what will keep them all safe.

For now, Obi-Wan takes some time to soothe them, taking them one at a time from the soft hands of the med droids, and feeding reassurance and love into them as he holds them close.

They are barely formed humans, less than an hour old to the world. They are red, wrinkly, and will need some time to become adorable. All human babies do. Obi-Wan has not had many opportunities to be around infants, but he has always felt he had a knack with the younglings. It seems to hold here, as the med droids approve of his presence enough to let him start to handle the feeding.

He can sense the differences between them, young as they are. Leia is full of curiosity, her senses darting to every new stimulus. Luke, on the other hand, seems to be a contemplative soul, fixed on nothing in particular, more caught up in internal dreaming. They both reach for each other, though, and Obi-Wan can see the way the bonds between them grow ever stronger.

Obi-Wan smiles. He hopes that Padmé will gain control, and then she too can share in this joy. There was destruction, there is still hope.

Padmé does not regain control.

She gets close. Within minutes of working with Master Yoda, Obi-Wan could feel shields start to raise around her mind, and she was able to control the worst of her external expression. After an hour or two of in-depth meditation training, Obi-Wan couldn't sense rage from her at all, a sure sign that she had started to address the deeper roots of emotions. Faster than any apprentice Obi-Wan had seen, Padmé had grasped the basics of meditation, and was able to control herself.

When alone.

But she and her twins feed off of each other. The infants are balls of need, hunger and exhaustion and demands for comfort blaring out of them. Padmé is uniquely attuned to that need, and as Obi-Wan watches, she wears down all her reserves.

Luke cries, and she starts to feed him, then Leia starts fussing, and Padmé tries to hold her too. But as she reaches for Leia, Leia's fuss turns into a wail. Padmé reacts physically to this, flinching, dropping the bottle that sits in Luke's mouth. She is barely able to hold on to Luke as she doubles over, crying, and she has to leave the room to get control of herself again.

This continues, off and on, for six miserable hours before Padmé pulls herself together enough to admit that her babies would be less distressed without their mother sobbing in the room. She takes her leave, and Yoda follows her from the room. Obi-Wan stays with the twins, helping soothe them back to sleep, glad for the peace that comes when Padmé is gone from the room, and horribly guilty for that gladness.

He finds her and Yoda in the dining room, Yoda gently supervising as she miserably stirs some soup in front of her. She hadn't eaten, Obi-Wan realizes. In all the fuss of caring for the twins, she had forgotten to care for herself.

"Perhaps I should check…" the words seem more duty, than desire, as Padmé looks back to where the nursery is.

"They're asleep. You should eat," Obi-Wan says.

Padmé gives him a conflicted look, but nods after a moment, and goes back to her soup.

The next morning is the same, and the afternoon is even worse. Yoda eventually puts his hand on Padmé's elbow and says softly, "Care for them, you do. But you neglect yourself. Sensitive, they are, to your pain. Strong in the force, are they. But lacking, they are, in empathy. They will drive you to the ground and never understand why. Both them and you will sufferer. Come away."

"There is no shame in it," Bail reassures her before he takes his leave that evening. He cannot linger any longer, it would be suspicious. "Birth is hard thing under normal circumstances, and this is a particularly hard time. You will find your way with them, I have no doubt."

He leaves, with one last wistful look at the children. He was inclined to take them both, if they needed fostering, Obi-Wan knows. But Palpatine knows that Padmé lives, and he knows that her children live. Bail and Breha suddenly adopting an infant would be far too suspicious.

As would any of Padmé's handmaidens. As would anyone on Naboo. Padmé counts her friends and discards them, unwilling to bring Palpatine's wrath down on any of them. Finally, she looks up with a sudden sharpness, asking, "Anakin—" she swallows, and Obi-Wan feels his own grief spike at the name. Obi-Wan looks away, taking a deep breath, and across from him, he hears Padmé do the same. After a moment, the emotion dies down, and Padmé continues, "his family. Would Palpatine think to look to them? I met the Lars family once. They seem...they seemed like good people."

Yoda gives a slow nod. "Safe, it may be. With Anakin's mother dead, Palpatine will not think of the ties there. Think, you do, that the Lars family will give shelter?"

Padmé nodded. "Yes."

It is decided that Obi-Wan will accompany the twins to Tatooine. Padmé's Force-presence is too strong, and too distinctly Anakin's to safely traverse the galaxy with them. Even without the threat of discovery, Padmé is still unable to maintain her composure around the twins. Obi-Wan feels some heartbreak on her behalf. It must be a hard thing, to say goodbye to your children.

"It's a fostering. Not permanent. You will learn the control you need, and your Force signature will grow more distinctly your own. Sooner than you think, you will return to them," Obi-Wan offers to Padmé.

It is hardly enough, but Padmé seems to appreciate the gesture. She offers him a smile, and Obi-Wan relaxes a little. Looking back to her children, she brushes her hands over their small heads. "Don't leave them. Please."

Obi-Wan swallows, a lump in his throat at being trusted with such a precious burden. "I won't. I'll keep them safe."

"Good. I—I'm sorry. I don't really believe…" Padmé's eyes go sad, and when she looks up at Obi-Wan, he knows all too well the sorrow inside them. "Anakin had already turned away from me. Long before you snuck on board my shuttle."

"He did it for you." Obi-Wan tries.

"What a terrible thing to say," Padmé shakes her head. "No, I was his excuse, not his reason."

"A fair assessment." In the awkwardness that follows his words, Obi-Wan feels the need to try again. "He loved you. I do believe that was true."

Padmé inclines her head. "He loved you too," she says, matter of fact.

A sudden surge of grief surges in Obi-Wan's chest, pressing against his ribs and choking his throat. He had loved Anakin. Why hadn't that been enough?

Across from him, Padmé sniffs, and it occurs to Obi-Wan that she knows exactly how he feels. She wipes her tears away sloppily, with the back of her hand. It's a very human gesture. After a moment, she composes herself. "You'll take care of his children, won't you?"

"Always," Obi-Wan says. It's a simple truth.

Padmé smiles, and Obi-Wan is glad he can give her that, at least.

The repulsors whined as the shuttle settled down, and with a physical squelch, the landing gears settled into the muck of the planet below them. Padmé approaches the door, wrinkling her nose as the panel hisses and opens into a ramp, and she catches her first whiff of decaying vegetation.

Dagobah is a swamp, and Padmé is not too happy to be there.

She understands the necessity of it. Yoda had explained his reasoning to her, in his patient, implacable way. Dagobah is an abandoned planet where a powerful Sith once lived and died. There is a strong Dark presence here, and it should be enough to mask both his powerful presence, and her own new (unwelcome) power.

Padmé has no idea how Anakin managed to live with this power day in and day out. It's so distracting. Like now, she sees that the planet is wet and overgrown. She feels the sense of humidity against her skin. She can smell the stink of decay mixed with the fresh growth. She can hear the buzz of insects.

But on top of that, over all of it, sits the Force. She feels, in ways she does not yet have words for, the twining life around her. There is an entire ecosystem clambering for her attention. She braces her hand against the side of the shuttle door, head spinning before she even manages to set a single foot on the planet. How can she do this?

Yoda reaches up and lays his hand on her elbow. The dizzy press of life mutes to an acceptable thrum.

Padmé takes a deep breath. "Thank you. What is our plan?"

Yoda looks around and grunts. "First, food we need. Shelter after that."

Padmé gives a wistful look back at the shuttle. Surely it is better shelter than anything they can build.

Yoda chuckles. "Stay for a few days, we can. But need to be hidden, it will. We will need to build."

Padmé sighs. "To work, then."

It is later that evening, tucked safely back in the shuttle after a frustrating day of foraging and trying to find dry ground, that Padmé takes a breath and gathers her courage. "Master Yoda."

Yoda looks over at her, and gives a small smile. "Come, time has for a conversation?"

Padmé bows her head over the now-empty bowl of soup that served as a sufficient enough meal. She does not want to have this conversation. She needs to have this conversation, in order to trust anything Yoda wants to teach her.

Padmé decides to be brave. "Your order was destroyed, and Anakin was the tool that let Palpatine have access. And now I now carry his power. I, who married him in secret, defying your code. And now I am here. You must have some feelings about that. I'd like to know what your intentions are."

"Matter little, my feelings do. More pressing, are my intentions." Yoda sighs and looks up at Padmé. "What to do with you, I know not."

"What are the relevant considerations?" Padmé tries to keep her voice level. Like she is debating legislation she disagrees with, but is willing to consider the merits of.

"Concerned with you defying the code, I am not. You were never bound to it. Troubling, yes, that the relationship may have aided Anakin's fall. But the same could be said of Obi-Wan, of myself. Blame does not lay solely on you," Yoda says, meandering his way through the thought, but certain of every word.

Padmé gives a soft sight of relief. It is a more just evaluation than she thought she would receive. "Barely on me, I would say. The vast majority is carried on Palpatine's shoulders." Padmé can feel her jaw tense as she looks away. She deliberately loosens it. "I hold myself more accountable for not noticing his corruption, honestly. He was my representative when I was queen. I should have known."

Yoda makes a contemplative noise. "Manipulated the galaxy, he has. You are not the only one to fail to notice until it was too late."

"He encouraged me to go into the Senate after my rule," Padmé shares, feeling her anger rise. He used her. Is he the one that pointed her at Anakin, too?

The bowl in Padmé's hand cracks, and she sighs, swallowing her anger back. She closes her eyes and begins the meditation routine, unprompted. Once she is back in control of herself, she opens her eyes again.

Yoda is giving her an appraising look. "If encouraged you he did, wrong he was. Too much love of justice there is in you." Yoda sighed. "You are older, set in your ways. But new to your power. Instruct you, I shall."

Padmé, exhausted after a long, hard day, stares at the cracked bowl in her hands. She holds it up. "I must learn to control this. Right now I feel as if I have been put at the helm of a dreadnought and I don't even know how to fly a landspeeder. I am a danger, until I can control myself."

"Apt, your analogy is." Yoda fixes her with a serious glare. "Work, this will take. Training. The body, as well as the mind. Easy, it will not be."

Padmé gives him a faint smile in return. "Nothing ever is."

That night, Padmé resolves to face her future with all the tolerance and patience she has learned, first as a daughter, then as a queen. The path will not be easy, but at least she still lives.

It is three days later—three grueling days, full of foraging and construction and Yoda prodding her along in the name of training—that Padmé collapses back on the bedroll that will be her mattress until she can make better, and curses her fate.

"I can't believe you've left me in a swamp," Padmé mutters, half to the Force, and half to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan, who is out in the universe with her babies, living some piece of the life she feels should have been hers.

'You left me with twins. I haven't slept more than three hours at a time. I would trade in a heartbeat.'

Padmé blinks. 'Is thought-sharing a normal part of the Jedi? Have you and Yoda been chatting the whole time? Oh, sweet mother moon, was the entire temple been listening in every time Anakin and I—'

'No! We certainly would have found out much sooner. This is...unprecedented. It's you?' The voice in Padmé's head sounds hopeful. 'It has been a long flight with little adult conversation, I believe I may be imagining things.'

'Well,' Padmé thinks irritably, 'I'm not sure how to prove that I'm not a hallucination. For that matter, you might be one.'

Padmé feels amused, and she pauses, catching the feeling. She isn't amused. She's still irritated. This isn't her amusement.

'Are you by any chance feeling more irritable than the moment demands?' she asks, grabbing the thread of the situation and following it.


Obi-Wan goes silent.

The seconds stretch out to an unbearable minute, before Obi-Wan's thoughts enter her mind again. 'This explains why you had difficulty controlling your grief around me. My own was feeding it.'

Padmé sighs, and finds some comfort in the fact that she is not alone in her grief. She mourns a monster, and here is a man that understands that. Not entirely sure what she is doing, she tries to push some of that feeling at him.

'What a peculiar sensation,' Obi-Wan responds.

A moment later, an affectionate gratitude winds through Padmé. She recognizes it is not hers. Now that her mind knows what to look for...there is a different flavor to the feeling.

'Do we share physical pain?' Padmé asks him.

'I don't know,' Obi-Wan replies. 'Are you currently injured?'

Padmé snorts. 'Master Jedi, I gave birth to twins less than a week ago. I have no doubt the physical effects would be unmistakable.'

'Ah.' A sheepish feeling. 'No, I do not believe we are sharing pain.'

'Lucky for you.' Padmé responds, running a hand along her belly. 'I think I'm healing faster than I normally would, though. We've been doing hard work here, and I feel the same as I would expect if I had the chance to rest in bed.'

'I wouldn't worry about it. Accelerated healing is common, with the Force.' Obi-Wan responds quickly.

Padmé shares her relief with him. 'How do you deal with it?' She asks a moment later. 'It's so much.'

'I…have never been without it.' Obi-Wan feels of surprise. 'Would you rather go back to being non-sensitive?'

'Yes.' Padmé doesn't need to think about that. 'I wouldn't be stuck here if it weren't for my powers. I could have joined you on Tatooine. Or...replaced you there, I suppose.'

'Ah. Of course.'

'Don't feel guilty,' Padmé responds, even before she feels his guilt roll over her. She gives a small smile when it hits; she knows him well. 'It is what it is. I'm glad they have you.'

Owen and Beru are bemused to have Obi-Wan appear on their doorstep bearing infants, but they let him in. Owen grumbles about the trouble even as he sets up a space for them all to sleep, and Beru grumbles about supplies but puts in a holocall to the nearby Darklighter farm, and within the hour a 'speeder's worth of baby gear is delivered, along with a handful of dark-headed children, peering at the twins and making excited noises.

Tatooine families seem to have a sort of accepting air around them—Obi-Wan is struck by the thought that he could have brought the whole of the surviving Jedi temple to them, and the reaction would be about the same. Nobody raises an eyebrow at the idea that Owen and Beru have star-faring kin that reached a bad end.

"It's common enough," Beru says later on that day, rocking Leia in her arms. "Good amount of my generation's left. Children don't stay on Tatooine. But the galaxy isn't necessarily kinder. These wouldn't be the first babies to find their way back to the desert." Beru pauses, looking up at Obi-Wan. "So they're both dead? Shmi's boy and his pretty love?"

Obi-Wan considers lying, but he suspects Beru would find him out. "No. Their mother lives, but she is in terrible danger. The Emperor hunts her. The twins would not be safe with her."

"So you take her children to the desert. Maybe for the best. She seemed kind, but not well-suited to the desert." Beru gives Obi-Wan an appraising glance. "You don't seem suited to desert life either. Your skin is going to blister if you don't take care."

'By all means,' Padmé says, amusement rippling through the bond, later on that evening. 'Let's compare who has it worse.'

Sun versus humidity. Deadly wildlife versus an endless parade of bugs. Wind and stinging sand versus swamp and sinking sand. A place so dry that every breath stole water out of a body, versus a place so wet you could never really feel dry.

'I'm not even certain I have lips anymore. Everything is dried up and dried out.' Obi-Wan rubs some of the hydrating oil Beru had left in the room and winces.

'I'm fairly certain there's mold growing between my toes,' Padmé responds.

Obi-Wan looks down at the oil in his hands, then at his decidedly moss-free feet. 'I...have no idea which of us has it worse.'

'I'm fine with declaring it a draw.' Padmé goes quiet for a long moment, before she asks, 'Are the twins okay?'

'Completely healthy, growing so well.' Obi-Wan rubs his hands over his eyes. 'Still not sleeping on the same schedule. It's a bit tiring.'

'I'm sorry.' Padmé feels very sad. 'I should be—'

'Stop apologizing. You'd be here if you could,' Obi-Wan responds quickly, sending reassuring down the line of their bond. 'Infant-caused sleep deprivation isn't a problem I ever expected to deal with, but I don't mind it.

Padmé's head aches, and for once it isn't due to overexertion or dehydration. Yoda has been working her hard, training her body and her mind. She spends her days exhausted, but as the days turn to weeks, she also starts to feel the beginnings of control.

It comes in small moments: a leap that she lands perfectly, a shivering of power she can direct. There are still far too many moments of anger nearly overwhelming her, of grief so potent she could drown in it. But she isn't overwhelmed and she does not drown and she treats each day this is true as a victory.

Yoda, she believes, must see some change too. Otherwise, three weeks into their stay, he would not have sat her down at lunchtime and started explaining the code.

"Understand this, you must," he insisted, before proceeding to spend three weary hours lecturing her on the Jedi Code.

Padmé started arguing back three-and-a-half hours in, and now, after four more hours of spirited debate, she collapses back on the bedroll in her tiny handmade hut, exhausted.

'What were you doing today?' Obi-Wan asks soon after. 'I've been out of my skin with irritation for hours.'

'Sorry,' Padmé responds sheepishly. 'I hope that didn't cause problems.'

'No,' Obi-Wan's tone was reassuring and warm. 'I'm getting better at separating your feelings from mine. But...I know well that Master Yoda can be difficult to handle, but that was an impressively sustained amount of disgruntle.'

'Disgruntle?' Padmé thinks back with a laugh.

'Extremely ungruntled,' Obi-Wan confirms, his own amusement reaching back to her. 'Completely lacking in gruntle.'

Padmé sighs, rubbing at her eyes, 'I suspect you will lack gruntle with the answer. We discussed the code.'

'Ah.' Obi-Wan goes silent, and a complicated roil of emotions pulses back and forth along the bond. He still carries some bitterness, and so does she. It's mixed in with grief, with sorrow, with missing the man who had smashed that code to pieces. It isn't a pleasant feeling, but it is pleasant not to be alone.

'Obviously, I disagree with the bit about attachment,' Padmé finally says.

A sharp disbelief hits her, which Obi-Wan pulls back just as quickly. After a moment, the feeling is replaced with a more gentle curiosity. 'Despite everything, you still disagree?'

'Yes,' Padmé thinks firmly back to him. 'I do. I don't—" Padmé takes a breath, then admits to herself, as much as Obi-Wan, 'I don't even necessarily think it was right for us to get married. We didn't have a plan. But he was so alone.'

'I tried…' Obi-Wan replies softly, a heavy sorrow undergirding his words.

'I know. I don't hold you to blame. But…you were young too, weren't you?' Padmé shakes her head. 'The code isolated both of you. Neither of you felt you could reach out and find help. I understand, what Yoda says, that we should seek to find equality in our compassion for all things. But to try to find that by cutting yourself off from love—no. I cannot agree.'

A thin thread of musing winds through their bond. 'Sometimes, someone cannot fit to the bounds of the Order. So they leave.'

'We took him from his mother.' Padmé shoots back quickly, remembering, for a moment, being fourteen years old and watching a boy try so hard not to grieve. 'The Order becomes everything to someone, and then tells them to comply or leave. It's no choice. It's no surprise the Sith are so attractive. Isolation breeds extremism.'

'Hm.' Obi-Wan feels pensive, and maybe a little guilty. 'I do wonder, what would have happened, if we had saved Shmi too. I think—there may be some truth to what you say.'

'I know there is. Anakin fell, he betrayed the Order, but…I know it is not my love that made Anakin fall. It was Palpatine's hate.'

They both sit contemplation for long minutes. Padmé should sleep, tomorrow will come too soon, but she finds she is enjoying this company. She wonders if it is easier to debate with Obi-Wan, because she knows what he is feeling.

Or maybe it is simpler because they both loved Anakin, each in their own way.

'I have evidence, too,' Padmé says after a while, 'though I didn't trot this out in front of Yoda.'

'Oh, really?' Obi-Wan thinks at her. 'And what is that?'

'This.' Padmé pushes some affection down their bond. 'It is the Force's doing. The moment I became able to use the Force, it tied me to another person. This bond, it's the opposite of staying unattached.'

'A compelling argument.' Obi-Wan sends affection back and Padmé feels something in her relax to receive it. 'You haven't shared this bond with Yoda?'

Padmé sighs. 'I worry he'd manage to do something to sever it. I'm afraid I value my one connection with my children too highly to risk it.'

'Understandable,' Obi-Wan says, but he still feels unhappy. 'Still, more secrecy. I don't like it.'

'Come here and tell him yourself,' Padmé says. She puts some humor in her tone and adds, 'Bring the twins.'

'That would solve the problem of you missing them, wouldn't it.' There's a surge of affection that feels like a chuckle. 'Let me tell you how they are today.'

'Thank you,' Padmé says, and closes her eyes to listen.

Obi-Wan is not a man accustomed to feeling useless. And yet, Owen and Beru, in their gentle, merciless way, inform him that, by and large, that's exactly what he is. The Darklighter's six-year-old son is a better chef than Obi-Wan, he doesn't understand local politics well enough to be a successful trader, and Obi-Wan's suggestion that he may be of help maintaining the vaporators had been met with a derisive snort.

And it's not as if they are assessing him unfairly. Obi-Wan is, in fact, fairly useless. Aside from taking care of the twins, there wasn't much he could do to help.

'Taking care of infants is work all its own,' Padmé reassures him, even as he can feel her exhaustion from the day’s training and her desire to drop off to sleep.

'And I'm happy to do it. But I brought the twins here, and Owen and Beru are feeding all three of us. It would be good, to feel less like a burden.'

'Do they need anything heavy lifted?' Padmé asks, sympathy and humor in her tone. 'Yoda had me build a roof without actually touching any of the building materials. And by building materials, I mean mud. Mud is very heavy.' Padmé's thoughts start to spin out, wandering in her exhaustion.

'You should sleep,' Obi-Wan says, not bothering to hide the fondness he felt. 'You've been doing good work.'

'You have, too,' Padmé says sleepily, starting to drift to sleep, 'Not just with the children. You're learning. Learning takes time. Be patient with yourself.'

The next day, while the twins nap, Obi-Wan pushes his sleeves up and gets to work. He dusts, which is a singularly useless chore, considering how quickly a stiff wind will blow fine sand dust back over every surface. But he can do it, and just because it won't last, doesn't mean it's not good work to be done.

When Owen and Beru enter the house after a long day tending to the vaporators, they both stop. Beru blinks, then offers Obi-Wan a smile. "It looks nice in here."

Owen grunts his approval, looking around. "It does. Easier to breathe."

Leia starts softly fussing. Beru and Owen glance at each other, and Beru turns back to Obi-Wan. "I've got the twins for a bit."

Owen says, "Come on, help me in the kitchen. Only way you get less hopeless is if you learn."

Obi-Wan follows Owen into the kitchen, pride blooming in his chest.

'Well done,' he hears Padmé whisper in his mind.

Padmé stares at the tree. It's a massive thing, it would take at least fifteen people to join hands around it, and it soars up several stories. Thick, stubby branches dot it at infrequent intervals, too far apart to provide good climbing.

Well, for most people.

Padmé takes one massive leap off the ground. She still can't say what she is doing, but it is something like telling the Force how high she would like to jump, and letting her will override the physics of the thing. She soars, gracefully, until she can plant her palms along the first branch, tucking her feet a moment later to then leap off like a (graceful, she is sure) frog, aiming for the next branch.

She repeats it for the next, and the next, until she is up in the thick canopy. It's a new game, after that, to try not to lose speed as she darts through the branches with deft movements, rather than powerful ones. She bounces from tree to tree in her quest for height, dodging thick coiling vines and thin whippy branches.

The branches start to give under her weight, and Padmé leaps back to her original tree, keeping her feet light, exhilaration running through her as a branch snaps under her toes. She should stop, but she is too close to quit, one more leap…

She chose this tree for a reason. It's wider than the others, taller than the others, and she hopes…

Padmé breaks through the canopy, and for the first time she landed on Dagobah, she sees the sun. She clings to the top of her tree, dizzy with the thin atmosphere, and laughing with joy as she turns her face to the light.

Obi-Wan stirs in her mind, a curious, 'Hm?' at her emotional state. He himself is wrapped with the softness of recent sleep, so Padmé doesn't try to explain, but opens the bond between them as wide as it can go, and shares her joy, her giddy delight, the sound the birds make above the canopy, the feel of the sun on her face.

'I can touch the sky,' she thinks, reaching her hands up to the sun.

Obi-Wan hums with pleasure shared.

'I'd have a harder time giving it up now,' she admits, using the Force to pull together enough air for her to breathe in the thin atmosphere. 'I couldn't have even dreamed of doing this before.'

'Good.' Obi-Wan thinks back at her, and then opens up his own end of the bond, and shares his moment with her. He lies on the floor, Luke and Leia both on his chest, all of them sleepy in the post-lunch afternoon.

Padmé sinks in that moment, shares the warm lazy joy of it, as she turns her face to the sun.

Leia turns to Luke and gives him a very opinionated blurble. Luke gives this remark the consideration it deserves, reaches down and grabs his toe, and offers it to her as a counterpoint.

Obi-Wan wonders, as he watches, if they really do understand each other. It seems they have a deep bond, and he can feel the winding of the Force around them. Their conversation goes beyond the physical. He'd believe that they understand each other, even if he doesn't.

Leia takes Luke's toe and bites it. Not hard, more of a curious nibble, but it's enough to distress Luke. Obi-Wan feels the sharp reprimand in the Force, before both twins start crying, Leia dropping Luke's foot in confused angst.

Obi-Wan chuckles as he reaches out to both in the Force, soothing them. They both shush almost immediately, Leia turning to Obi-Wan and blurbling at him instead.

"Well, I certainly think that's a point worthy of consideration," he informs her. "But you still shouldn't bite your brother's foot."

Leia babbles as she rocks backward, staring at the ceiling. Next to her, Luke is wiggling back and forth. At five months old, they both have become proficient in rolling over, and any minute now, they're going to start crawling, and then any peace that Obi-Wan has ever known is gone.

'That's not actually true, of course' he amends, when he shares the thought with Padmé later. Wistfully, he shares, 'To my surprise, I think I may be more at peace here than I have been anywhere else.'

'Considering three days ago you described to me what a krayt dragon looks like, I find that hard to believe.'

'It's just a monster. If I need to, I can kill it,' Obi-Wan explains. 'Very few of the problems in my life have been so easily contained.'

'Anakin,' Padmé says, with understanding. 'The chosen one. I know how heavy it was for him. I don't think I ever thought about what it was like for you.'

'Trying to do my best to uphold a dying man's request. Since the day I took him on I have been facing down one enormous, galaxy-spanning problem after another. The twins…' He pauses, trying to find the right words.

'They're not important like he was,' Padmé says, a sort of understanding sadness in her voice.

'No!' Obi-Wan protests, more fiercely than even he expected. 'They are very important. But what I need to do...keep them fed and clean and comforted…for once, I am faced with a task I feel suited to.'

He realizes, too late, that could be a cruel thing to say.

Padmé doesn't seem to take it that way, though. 'I'm so glad you're doing it. I know they are well-loved, with you.'

'I couldn't hide it if I wanted to,' Obi-Wan says ruefully. 'The Force ensured that.'

'It's a nice thing to share,' Padmé says, and Obi-Wan finds that he agrees.

It has been a long day, but a good one.

She has run, jump, flipped, and levitated at Yoda's demanding training pace, sat down, her skin still thrumming, to fall into meditation, and then stood up to throw rocks around with her power. By the end of the day, she was panting and exhausted, but triumphant.

And now, she goes home back to a hut that she built herself. Her craft had always come more from words than from objects, and it is a surprisingly satisfying thing to look and see, yes, here is a thing I made myself. My hands, my actions.

She is settled into her skin in a way she's never been before. She has always worn her ceremonial garb (both royal and senatorial) as both weapon and shield. She is stripped of it here, and she finds she likes the woman underneath.

She always suspected she would, but it is nice to get confirmation.

Her hut is almost cozy, by this point. She's figured out how to add ventilation enough that she can light a small fire in a mud-baked oven, and it warms the little space without choking her. She stretches out, letting the heat sink into her bones. She pulls one thigh to her chest, rubbing her fingers into the muscle there, enjoying the slight ache that meant she has worked hard and well today.

She opens up the bond between her and Obi-Wan (never really closed, but during the busy day muted, in some way) and sends her satisfaction along it. The little surge of emotion has become a shorthand. It's a quick overview of the day and a way to say, 'Hello, I'm free to talk if you are.'

Normally, Obi-Wan is up with the twins for a late-night feeding right around this time on Dagobah. And sure enough, when Obi-Wan opens his end of the bond up as well, Padmé is treated to the emotional landscape of the middle of the night: tired but affectionate.

Tonight, there is a little more frustration tinged in there, too. Luke has been fussy, and Obi-Wan hasn't been able to sooth him.

'It's been about an hour. He's normally so easygoing. I wonder what's wrong?' Obi-Wan thinks at her, worry mixed with affection.

'The trials of a baby are countless and unfathomable,' Padmé replies solemnly. 'I'm sorry.'

'Really, you do need to stop apologizing every time one of your children inconveniences me. They’re children. It is their nature. I don't apologize every time Master Yoda does something infuriating, do I?'

'You'd never stop,' Padmé says with affection for the diminutive master. He feels less like a tormenter, now, and more like an eccentric uncle. 'Still, I wish…that I could help. It seems like the sort of thing I should be doing.'

'You will,' Obi-Wan says with quiet confidence. A sliver of exhaustion chases it, and a moment later he shares with a bit of amusement, 'Sooner than you think. And then you'll deal with late night fussing, and you'll probably wish you had left it to me a while longer.'

'What? I'm sure my angelic babies would never distress me.'

She feels his good humor roll over her, and it fills her with a glow as solid and real as the one coming out of her small oven. Padmé pauses, then asks, 'Would you be willing to try something a bit odd?'

'I am definitely going to need more information.'

'If I share a song with you, could you sing it to Luke?' She feels almost shy in asking it. 'It's one I remember my mother singing to my sister.'

'Of course,' Obi-Wan says quickly. 'I'd love to share that with him.'

It's harder than she expects, to share a song mentally. So much of it is carried in the throat, the actual noise of the thing. The version in her head is too sterile. She changes the thought, and tries to imagine her mother singing it instead. Closer, she thinks.

There are three things you love, my heart

Three things you long to see

The moon, my dear, the rising sun

And yes, of course, the sea.

The moon it knows your secrets, love

The sun it draws your smile

The sea travels a lonely road

Long mile after long mile.

Oh, please, chase not the sea, dear one

My heart it could not stand

To see the one I love so far

Wand'ring that lonesome land.

Obi-Wan pauses after she finishes. 'Are all Naboo children's songs so...wistful?'

Padmé swallows around a lump in her throat. For a long moment, she was back in her mother's arms, and everything was safe. 'We came from an old port town. Many children left for the sea. It's in our heritage, I think.'

'Well, as a wanderer myself, I'll do my best to do it justice.'

Obi-Wan feels faintly nervous before he begins. She knows when he sings. She can't hear it, not properly, but she feels it. Obi-Wan has an honesty to his song, all the longing sorrow and proud love carried in the words. Padmé is certain, that could she hear it, he would have a lovely singing voice.

She is suddenly struck with the desire to hear him sing her mother's song. To hear it day after day, standing next to him with her babies. When she gains control and can reunite with her children, she realizes with a startling certainty that she does not want him to leave. She wants to leave Dagobah, go to them, and make a home make a home with them, Obi-Wan included.

Padmé, fortunately, manages to keep any of her sudden longing from turning into words and Obi-Wan sends back, full of sorrowed sympathy, 'Soon, you will sing to them too.'

She realizes he thinks her feelings are for the twins. And they are, in a way. Obi-Wan's steady love and care for them is not helping her sudden longing. But she is not ready to discuss it, so she lets the confusion stand, simply responding. 'Thank you. For letting me share that with them.'

'Of course. And Luke calmed right down. I think it was what he needed.'

Padmé blinks, finding her cheeks wet with tears made half of sorrow, half of joy. 'I'm so glad they're with you. I wouldn't want them anywhere else.'

The twins are asleep, the cleaning is done, and halfway across the galaxy, Padmé hasn't yet woken up from her own afternoon nap. Owen and Beru are out in the fields, and for a few precious moments, Obi-Wan is alone.

He feels, ridiculously, lonely.

He would have expected that between having twins needing his attention and Padmé in his head, he would be desperate for a few moments of quiet. But he doesn't want quiet. He likes feeling connected. After so many years with his entire social life revolving around his intense relationship with Anakin, it is a joy to build gentler connections.

The front door to the homestead slides open, and in come Owen and Beru.

Speaking of gentler relationships…Obi-Wan offers them a smile. "Back early."

"Finished early, for once."

"Mark the day, we'll need to work it into the festival season," Beru says with a smile. She gives him a one-armed hug as she wanders by.

"Actually…" Owen glances at Obi-Wan. "Twins are sleeping?" At Obi-Wan's nod, Owen continues, "We should have a bit of fun. Break out the Sunbounder's spiced brew."

"Oh, that sounds nice," Beru agrees, as she disappears into the bedroom. She calls over her shoulder, "Grab me a glass."

They are on their second glass, and considering it's been hours from lunch, Obi-Wan is feeling a bit loose. Positively languid. He slumps down their couch, his sit turning into more of a sprawl.

There's a soft chuckle next to him, and Beru pokes her feet into his thigh. She's lying sideways across the same couch. "Lightweight," she judges.

Obi-Wan shakes his head. "I'm fine. Perfectly coherent. Just relaxed."

"It's good to see you relaxed," Owen says. "You do good work. Hard work. We see it. It's important to relax, too."

Obi-Wan smiles. "Thank you," he says, and means it. He's fought hard to become useful to them. "You've been so generous to us. I know we're a burden, but I do what I can to make it...not too much of one."

"Not a burden. Family," Owen says in his succinct way, and Obi-Wan feels himself warm. Owen had a knack of using exactly the words that were needed, and nothing more.

"Yes," Beru agrees. She pushes herself half-up on the couch, grabs the bottle of the Sunbounder's very dangerous brew, and refills Obi-Wan's cup over Obi-Wan's protests. "You might need it," she says with a slight smile.

Obi-Wan gives her a questioning look.

Beru collapses back down against the couch, tucking her toes determinedly under Obi-Wan's thigh. Obi-Wan shifts to accommodate her.

She doesn't answer his question, and Obi-Wan, trepidation pouring over him, takes a long sip of the drink.

"We were wondering if you wanted to make the arrangement more formal," Beru says, looking at him but not moving from her lazy sprawl. "Register it in town."

Obi-Wan gives a slow shake of his head. "I don't want to draw attention, that's not needed."

"You'd use Ben, of course, to avoid the attention," Beru continues. "But it'd let us officially adopt the twins."

Obi-Wan raises the hand not holding the drink, giving a quick negating gesture. "Their mother is still alive. They are her children."

Owen grunts. "They're yours, by our rules. The person who raises them keeps them."

"No," Obi-Wan says firmly, setting his glass down on the table. "Their mother loves them, and if she could, Padmé would be here. I don't want anything said against that."

"Shush," Beru says, to Owen and Obi-Wan together. "That's neither here nor there, and we don't make this offer to undermine her claim." Beru sighs. "Owen, love, we're making a hash of this."

"I'm still not sure what exactly you're making a hash of?" Obi-Wan furrows his brow, and wonders if he needs to drink more to make sense of the conversation. He reaches for his glass.

"We're trying to ask you to marry us," Owen says.

Obi-Wan freezes halfway to the glass. "Excuse me?" he says, his voice far too high.

"You heard him," Beru says with a smile, removing her foot from under his leg to poke at his thigh with her big toe. "We like you, you've found a place on the homestead, you're raising children here. Most of our neighbors already assume we're married. So we figured we should offer in fact."

Obi-Wan says, slowly, deliberately, "So it's a technical matter not...a romantic one."

"We're not opposed to the romance," Owen says. "You're a pretty sort. We both like you. We wouldn't mind taking you to bed."

Obi-Wan is fairly certain he has never been so red in his life. He feels his blush as a tangible thing, in his ears, along his cheeks, prickling its way down his neck.

Beru laughs. "Oh dear, I think we may have broken him."

"I..." Obi-Wan, for the life of him, can't find a reasonable answer.

"It doesn't have to be romance," Beru says simply, untucking her feet and sitting up straighter. "If you want to marry in to give the twins some legal standing here and all of you a share of the farm, you've more than earned it, and we're willing." Beru hums. "For that matter, we're willing the other way too. If you'd prefer to keep paperwork out of things and just come to bed with us, we'd be happy to have you."

Obi-Wan's mouth is as dry as the sands outside. He has no idea how to respond gracefully. "Uhm," he says to start, and then gradually turns the words into something more coherent. "That's very kind, however..." After a dizzying moment of terror, wondering what he would do if this answer got him and the twins thrown out of the homestead, Obi-Wan presses on. "I believe I must decline."

Owen shrugs. "Okay," he says and takes another drink.

Beru is less inclined to let it go that easily. "Mind if we ask why?" she asks.

They've been so honest with him, that Obi-Wan finds it easy to be honest in return. "The Jedi don't...didn't...weren't supposed to wed. Weren't supposed to become attached at all. I've recently been thinking about the wisdom of that but..." Obi-Wan shakes his head. "It's too fresh. I can't trust my ability to make reasonable decisions about this sort of thing."

"Makes sense," Beru says. "Now, I'm about to ask a very impertinent question, and feel free to tell me to leave it be...Luke and Leia's mother, is she a part of the consideration?"

The blush returns to Obi-Wan's skin in a rush, and he desperately wants to escape, to flee out the front door of the homestead and let the dark sands swallow him. It seems to be a better fate than seeing this conversation through.

To make things even worse, he feels Padmé's sleepy stirring, knows the moment she clocks his emotional state, and she sends a little pulse of curiosity down their bond.

'Later,' he thinks at her, desperately, and does his best to mute the bond from his end. He can feel her withdrawing, and feels a (hopefully) private relief.

"That's a yes," Owen says with a chuckle.

Ben lifts a hand, brushes the backs of his knuckles hand against his cheek. "I used to have something of a decent sabacc face," he mutters, before giving them a wry smile. "She might be. Both in the sense that she is the twins' mother, and that, if attachment isn't a concern, perhaps…" Obi-Wan sighs. "Please forgive me, I've never had to have a conversation like this before, and I'm afraid I'm the one making a hash of things."

Beru gave her hand a lazy flick, as if flinging the idea away. "It's a first for us too. We're all in this together. And we don't need an answer tonight. If you'd do us the honor of thinking it over, instead of dismissing it out of hand…?" Beru raises her eyebrows at him.

Obi-Wan nods. "I can do that."

And the conversation moves on to the coming duststorms. Obi-Wan is grateful for the reprieve, and, once his adrenaline calms enough that he can rejoin the conversation, for the company.

It is, of course, too much to hope that Padmé will have forgotten about things once he's alone again. It's bedtime when their connection pulses again, and this time, Obi-Wan has no excuse to ignore her.

Not that he really wants to. She is a good friend, a steadfast source of support, and an anchor in a confusing time.

And perhaps something more? Obi-Wan still hasn't examined that part of himself closely enough to know.

'What was that about?' is the first thing Padmé asks him when he opens their bond again, more fully.

Obi-Wan considers trying to mislead her, or find another subject. But no, Padmé has always been someone he can be honest with, and Obi-Wan resigns himself to blushing again.

'I had the strangest conversation with Beru and Owen today,' Obi-Wan says, trepidation leaking out of him down the line, and only making Padmé's curiosity stronger. Honestly, emotion sharing was so indecorous, sometimes. 'They...well, basically they proposed to me and then two sentences later they propositioned me. It was, as you might imagine, a very overwhelming experience.'

The bond is silent. Not muffled, or muted, but a sharp quiet. One that only exists because, on the other end of the galaxy, Padmé is frozen.

Obi-Wan sends a cautious thread of worry down their bond. He feels something on the other side growing, something nebulous becoming defined, and then it barrels down the link between them and slams into his mind.

'NO!' Padmé snarls, more emotion than thought. It overwhelms Obi-Wan with its sheer power and he falls to his knees, gasping. There is no word for the feeling: it is part fear and part passion, all overlayed with a vicious, possessive claiming. 'You are mine!'

It terrifies Obi-Wan. She feels like Anakin in a way she hasn't in months, like Anakin in his last days, willing to do anything, anything, for the ones he loved.

'Padmé,' he gasps in her direction.

And then, just as suddenly, it stops. Padmé stops pressing at his mind, she pulls the emotion back, and after a twisting, churning moment, Obi-Wan can feel her find calm. When she sends her thoughts into his mind again, there is no trace of that jealous rage.

'Oh, no. I… yes, I see the problem with attachment. It so quickly turns into possession, doesn't it?' she asks, rhetorically, the words a part of a wall she is building between Obi-Wan and her emotion, which he is realizing still churns behind that wall. 'And for us, tied together as we are...please forgive me, Master Kenobi. Make whatever decision you think best.'

Obi-Wan reaches out to her, not liking the sudden formality. She has laid this calm persona between him and her true passions. He doesn’t want her succumbing to fear, to hate, but he doesn’t want her hiding away her heart, either. 'Padmé,' he tries, reaching out, 'I'm not…'

'You shouldn't be reassuring me, I was clearly in the wrong.'

Obi-Wan can feel Padmé's distress, her jealousy, her anger, and he can also feel the way she's keeping watch on all of them, forcing them back until she can deal with them properly. She feels, and she has control.

Obi-Wan loves her for it.

He can't stop the pulse of that love that echos down their bond, he wouldn't if he could, he wants her to know. He still doesn't know what to do with this part of himself, but he suspects that it's going to wind up in her hands, in her heart.

Padmé doesn't respond well. 'Don't,' she says, soft and implacable. 'Don't confuse the matter. I just …'

The bond goes quiet. Nearly silent. Obi-Wan's sense of her presence is gone, shrouded in fog that is a far thicker barrier than anything they'd managed so far. Obi-Wan reaches out, but finds only the slightest sense of her presence.

Obi-Wan curls back on himself, an ache in his mind where there should be company. She is gone, and he misses her.

"Speaking with him, the entire time you have been?" Yoda gives Padmé a long and level look, across the cleared floor of his hut. The space between where she sits by the door and he stands near the stove feels like no space at all, and Padmé keeps a tight control on her emotions to keep from clinching away from him.

"It took about four days or so for us to realize it. It seems to be active thought sharing, and passive pickup of emotions. We...well, we were in the same emotional state for long enough that we didn't notice the difference."

Padmé feels the banality of her last sentence like a knife. The same emotions. Rage. Grief. The worst possible thing at the worst possible time—that is what they shared.

Is it so unreasonable, that she would want to lay claim to the one person who understood the depths of her sorrow?

Yes. She knows it. His life is his own, she has no claim on it.

Yoda flicks one ear, looking at her pensively. "Tell me, you did not."

"I thought you might have the power to take it away, and I didn't want to lose the connection with my children," Padmé answers, honestly, if not completely.

She also didn't want to lose her connection to him.

Yoda hummed. "But tell me now, you do. Why?"

"Well," Padmé begins, before folding her arms in her lap and taking a deep breath. "Beru and Owen invited Obi-Wan into their bed, and for a few seconds all I wanted, with alarming strength and clarity, was to rip their stupid faces off." She keeps the words calm, herself calm, because she doesn't know what will emerge if she lets her anger out.

"What did you do?" Yoda asks gently.

Padmé bows her head. "I quieted the connection between us. And then I came to you."

"Trust my guidance, do you? Argued on this topic extensively, we have." Yoda has some amusement in his voice as he settles, cross-legged, into the floor across from her. "Have you changed your mind?"

Padmé closes her eyes. "I…I don't know. I still maintain that love is no bad thing. Connection. That dreaded attachment. It encourages us to empathy and compassion and reminds us we are mortal, too. But jealousy. Possession. Acting from those emotions only serve to harm those around me."

Yoda hums. "There is no emotion, there is peace," he intones, reciting the words that have lead to so many impassioned arguments. Padmé has protested that there is emotion, clearly there is emotion, and pretending otherwise for the sake of appearances just leads to a bunch of perennially guilty, emotionally repressed telepaths. Padmé has seen the results, and she's not impressed.

Tonight, she finds she has a different answer. Head still closed, eyes still bowed, she responds, "Peace is not predicated on an absence of emotions. Even if I could choke it off, choke it out, I wouldn't know peace."

The grunt Yoda makes is almost contented. "Another code, there is," he says after a moment. "Rather, another expression. Recite it, I shall." He takes a breath, and then Padmé hears him say, "Emotion, yet peace."

It continues on in that vein, all the couplets Padmé has argued are unreasonable, blind, and avoidant are changed, just slightly, and they suddenly make sense. Ignorance, yet knowledge. Passion, yet serenity. Chaos, yet harmony. Death, yet the Force.

Not a denial, but an addition. Emotion, yet peace.

Padmé opens her eyes suddenly. "We're supposed to wrestle with it, aren't we?"

Yoda smiles. He waves his hand out in front of him. "Continue with the thought."

"The whole order was based on connection. I saw Anakin and Ahsoka. Obi-Wan and Anakin. The whole way you train is based on love." Padmé rubs her hand over her face. "I still disagree. Strenuously. With your decision to separate children from their families. But once they're with love them."

"As you said. Wrestle with it, we are supposed to. Defy it, we are not. A difference, there is." Yoda paces in front of her. "When Anakin was confronted by this, come to me he did not. Or Obi-Wan. Room for discussion, there was not." Yoda sighed. "Admit, I will, that we became bound to our ways. Listened to him, I would not have, if he had come to me and argued that he be permitted to marry."

"Obi-Wan would have listened, I think." Padme shakes her head. "The secrecy was still Anakin's choice. And I make a different one. I've brought this to you, and invite your wisdom."

"Perhaps I shall find a different answer, as well. Gone, the Order is, after all. Time for rigidity, it is not. Seek your wisdom in return, I do. Search your feelings. What is right?"

Padmé swallows. "Emotion, yet peace. Do I love for the sake of others, or for myself? If I love Obi-Wan for Obi-Wan, then I will rejoice wherever he finds happiness." She takes a breath. "That doesn't feel wrong. I can find peace, there."

Yoda inclines his head. "Wise, you are... And ready, I think, for another test."

Yoda leads Padmé well away from their little clearing, without explanation further than, "Come."

Padmé decides she trusts him enough to follow. They wander deep into the swamp, and even through the emotional churn, Padmé feels a small joy of celebration as she moves easily over rough terrain. She could not have done this when she first landed.

Three hours later, they draw to a stop outside the mouth of a cave.

Padmé recoils. There was a filthy stench in the Force hanging over the entrance, thickening to a miasma of hatred further inside. Padmé draws back. "There is evil inside."

"Yes." Yoda does not deny it, but does not withdraw, either. "Strong it is with the Dark Side of the Force. Into it, you must go."

Padmé wants to ask why, but knows she won't get an answer. So instead, she asks. "What will I face?"

"Only what you take with you," Yoda says, his face inscrutable.

Padmé considers this, then looks down at the lightsaber sitting on her belt. Only what you take with you. Padmé unhooks the 'saber, and hands it over to Yoda.

Yoda's smile is proud, and Padmé feels confident she got that one right, at least.

She enters the cave. It is dark, and full of twisted roots and hanging vines. She picks her way gingerly forward, moving slowly enough that her eyes have time to adjust.

In the dim light from the cave's mouth, Padmé can see a figure hovering on the other side of a clearing, inside the cave. It moves, a dark-grey shadow against the black, and Padmé can see the outside of a shrouded cloak. The figure cackles in vicious delight.

Perhaps Padmé should have brought the lightsaber, after all.

But no. She does not flee and she does not advance, just stands her ground and reaches out with the Force. The evil presence is there, but no person stands where the figure does. Padme closes her eyes and continues forward, ignoring the figure. It is either a figment of her own mind or a manifestation of the Dark Side, and either way, she is better served using the Force to see, rather than her eyes.

Padmé walks forward, until she reaches the center of the cavern, right in the middle of the malevolence. She presses her palms together—fingertip to fingertip, dismisses the ever-louder maniacal laughter, and breathes. She runs through the meditation exercise Yoda taught her on the worst day of her life, all those long months ago.

Padmé's awareness settles inside her chest, then expands. She sinks herself into the ground, out of the cave. The evil circles her, and she lets it. She dismisses it, letting it move around her, never letting it touch her. Once she is certain she is wholly herself, no hitchhiker to her mind, she opens her eyes again.

The illusion, or whatever it is, has moved in front of her. It slowly reaches up and starts to pull back its hood.

The face that peers back at Padmé is her own, twisted. This other version of herself is sharp, gaunt, and her eyes glow yellow.

"Why are you showing me this?" Padme asks—of the presence, not the figure. "Is this what you want me to become?"

There is no answer, but Padmé doesn't think she needs one. It is probably supposed to serve as temptation, and if not that, then fear. Draw the vulnerable closer to the Dark by promising them power. Scare off those that are uncertain of their own strength. If Yoda had taken her here the first day, she would have been terrified of what she might become.

She has grown stronger, since then. She turns, and walks out. "There is nothing for me there," she informs Yoda, who is still sitting on a fallen log outside the cave entrance. "A singularly uninspiring place. Tedious."

Yoda's smile is warm. "Strong in the Force are you. But also wise." He flicks an ear, looking at her sideways. "Tempted, were you not?"

Padmé shakes her head. "That woman that it showed me would have broken whatever was needed to get what she wanted. I care for the galaxy too greatly to destroy it."

"Your answer, then, you have."

Padmé looks away, imagines she can see the twin stars of Tatooine through the clouds that wreathe Dagobah. "It is good to know I do not seek to destroy. Or consume. But I do not think that I could reasonably consider the matter of Obi-Wan falling in love with Owen and Beru." She sighs. "There's still too much pain there. I will give us some more silence."

Yoda inclines his head. "Plenty more there is to learn. Come, Knight Amidala. Teach you, I will."

Padmé smiles at him. "Knighting me? Seems rather sudden."

"And who will argue with me?" Yoda huffs, brushing his knees as he hops off the log.

Padme is glad she has grown to know his humor. She gives him a dutiful chuckle. "I'm still not swearing to your code."

"I think…it is not a thing that requires swearing. Better, perhaps, is the commitment to consider."

"That," Padmé decides, "I can give you."

Padmé keeps herself apart from Obi-Wan for five days. She intends to give it a full ten-span before reaching out, but in the faint echo across their bond, she feels a sensation from Obi-Wan she is entirely unfamiliar with—fear.

She quickly tears down the wall she placed between them, reaching for Obi-Wan with a pure question, nothing put into words.

'Padmé,' Obi-Wan says, and there is no mistaking the terror in his town. 'The Empire, they're here. I've got the twins, we're running, but I'm—'

The bond falls quiet between them. It isn't death, she can still feel the weight of him in her mind. But it is like when she reaches out to find that he has already gone to bed for the evening. Except, no, this feels more sinister than sleep.

Padmé feels her fear creep up around her, pressing at her mind and demanding she do something they are going to die your children and Obi-Wan are going to—

She notes that voice of fear inside her, desperate for attention and screaming at the top of its lungs, notes it and disregards it.

It is not useful, right now. She goes to find Yoda.

"Obi-Wan is in danger," she announces, ducking her way into his hut presumptuously.

"Know this, from your bond?" Yoda asks, gesturing her to sit.

Padmé does, though her body, right now, is inclined toward action. She wants to move. It does her good to control it. She folds her hands and breathes. "Yes. I felt fear, and when I reopened the bond, Obi-Wan told me the Empire had arrived and then…nothing."

She is gratified, to feel the shock and concern from Yoda. She's not sure she could take it, if he were unmoved by this. Yoda leans forward. "Is he…?"

"Not dead. But quiet, too quiet for sleep. I think that they've…" Padmé chokes on all the visceral, too-close words she wants to use—knocked him out, drugged him—and instead retreats into the clinical. "…induced unconsciousness. Either physically, or chemically."

Yoda begins pacing. "Likely, alive they want him. For transport, perhaps."

"To where?" Padmé asks, already knowing the answer.

"To Palpatine," Yoda says gravely. "He knows Obi-Wan took Anakin from him." Yoda stops pacing and stares at Padmé. "After you, he may be. Using Obi-Wan as a hostage, he might, to lure you closer." Yoda stops, then says very gently, "Dangerous, it is. Prepared, I am not, to face Palpatine again."

Padmé raises her eyes to the ceiling of the hut, and considers what she has learned. "Alone, perhaps, but I believe together, we are. There is a technique I've been working on. Would you care to join me outside?"

Padmé leads Yoda to a clearing, sets him on one side and walks a few deliberate paces away from him. Turning back to him, her lightsaber still holstered, she calls, "Master Yoda, please attack me, as quickly as you can."

Yoda actually smirks at her, an entirely undignified twisting of his mouth. "Sure, are you?"

"Yes," Padmé says, and before she has finished the word, he has leapt at her.

She never would have caught his movement before. But the Force is her ally now, and she sees more than she used to. She feels the shiver of the Force announcing that danger is coming before he ever moves. As he manifests his intention, she readies her response, and before he can make it over to her, she says, "Hold," and bends her will.

The Force shivers around him, and for two seconds, Yoda does not move.

After those two seconds, he is on her, lightsaber gleaming at her throat. Padmé holds her hands up, fingers spread, lightsaber never drawn.

Yoda narrows his eyes at her as he lowers his blade. "A surprise, that was. Work a second time, it would not."

Padme smiles innocently, as if she does not know how extraordinary it is for a Knight of five days to stop a centuries-old Jedi Master. Yoda snorts. He isn't fooled by her expression.

Sobering, Padmé says, "It only needs to work on Palpatine once. I trust you can kill him in two seconds. And if not...a blaster should do the trick."

Yoda gives a considering hrmph. "Perhaps."

The plan is a simple one. Padmé will go to where Palpatine holds Obi-Wan and the twins. She will offer herself in exchange for their safety. Palpatine, of course, will keep her and the twins alike. But he is a cruel man, and he will want to be there to watch her hope die.

That should give her and Yoda enough time to act.

They unearth the shuttle and head toward Coruscant. Midway through the journey, Obi-Wan wakes, full of pain and fear. Padmé shudders in sympathy, but reaches out to comfort him. She learns where they are, a small station orbiting a gas giant in an out of the way system.

'There are no people here. Just droids, myself, and the twins. No one to influence to escape. He's coming. Padmé, he's coming, and I can't—'

Padmé soothes him. 'It's okay, it's okay,' she sends her love across the bond to him, hoping it will serve as some sort of comfort.

She stays with him until a droid comes to drug him. He fights, because of course he does, but he does not succeed. Padmé slips away from his awareness as he drops to unconsciousness again. Her hands shake as she goes back to the shuttle's cockpit and directs their ship to the station.

Palpatine beats them there. He seems bemused when they comm him, believing they managed to track his shuttle. Palpatine allows them to land, and they face him, flanked by four guards, all cloaked in red and humming with the Force.

Padmé stands, face to face with him, and makes her offer. Herself, so long as he lets the twins go free with Yoda.

For a moment, Padmé isn't certain she can do this. He has always loomed in her awareness, her counselor, her chancellor, older and respected. And here he is, evil radiating out of him, but putting on his genteel old man face to inform her that of course, her babies are safe.

Padmé doesn't hate him. But she doesn't think he should be premitted to continue to bend the galaxy to his will. The only question is whether or not she is strong enough to do the job.

She lets that uncertainty flow through her, move outside her. She lifts her chin, stares him in the eye, and instructs the Force to hold the air around him and all his guards.

That is the trick. And it is a trick, nothing more. But Jedi and Sith alike are trained to guard against invasions of the mind first, and next to retain control of the body. A Jedi themselves cannot be restrained so long as their concentrations holds.

But the air. It's too difficult to hold the air, millions upon millions of swirling particles. But Padmé was never told it was impossible, so when she ran among the treetops, she learned to draw the thin air toward her, to breathe more easily. From there, it was a simple matter to learn how to draw the air into a web and force that web to hold.

It is enough to hold Palpatine. Long enough for Yoda to kill him.

Yoda, who he allowed to exit the shuttle alongside Padmé. Padmé knows Palpatine, and knows it was arrogance. He thinks he will break Padmé, force Yoda to watch, and then defeat Yoda, tying off the most irritating of the lingering Jedi threads in one fell swoop.

He is arrogant, and that arrogance kills him, as Padmé holds the air around him, and Yoda draws a lightsaber across his defenseless neck, as his guards stand frozen too, unable to jump to his defense.

It's all very dramatic, after that.

Palpatine explodes, shattering Padmé's concentration and carving a great gash in the space station. Those guards not killed by the explosion attack, and everything is a whirling bustle of blades and fight.

The last red-suited figure falls, and Padmé looks around, wildly, noting for the first time the blaring klaxons and alert systems. The oxygen is failing, Palpatine's guards are in disarray, and they need to find Obi-Wan and the twins and get out before this place comes down around their heads.

She looks at Yoda, who gestures her down one hallway and points himself at another. They both run, splitting up to cover the station. Padmé's boots thud down the hallway, and she throws her Force-sense out, trying to find Obi-Wan and her children.

A menacing-looking black droid full of sharp angles and sharper needles wheels in front of her path. Padmé slices it in half with a certain malicious glee, staying well clear of the needles. For you, Obi-Wan, she thinks, imagining it is the one that drugged him. She doesn't get a response.

But she does feel a flicker of organic life down the hallway, and Padmé sprints towards it, putting all her hard-earned muscle to the task. The last time Obi-Wan was awake, he confirmed that he and the twins were the only life on the entirely automatic station. So, unless Palpatine brought in a staff…

She skids to a stop in front of a small room. The life is in there. She slices open the lock, and pushes open the door. It is not Obi-Wan. But it is, Padmé realizes with a wild surge of joy, her children, sleeping in a hovercrib.

She would not have known them, if it weren't for Obi-Wan's stories. She barely saw them before they left, and they are so big now. Luke, with his wispy blond curls that barely manage to cover the baby baldness, and Leia, her brown hair growing in thick and fast.

Padmé looks at them for a long moment before she comes back to herself, grabbing the crib and reaching out with the Force again. No life that she can feel around her. She races back toward the shuttle, pushing the crib in front of her. She has to trust Yoda to find Obi-Wan, while she gets her children to safety.

She rounds the last corner, and in the chaos their battle has made of the landing bay, she sees the most beautiful sight: Obi-Wan, awake, alive, and limping toward their shuttle.

A frantic surge of joy surges out of her, and she sees Obi-Wan look up, and something in her chest shifts and orients his direction. She wants nothing so much as to run into his arms. She is desperate to hold him, the truth of him, the voice in her head that has kept her anchored all this time.

Padmé slams her end of the bond shut, again, before too much can escape. They just need to get on the shuttle and get out of here. Obi-Wan doesn't need to deal with her fawning.

As she turns her attention back to the twins, out of the corner of her eye, she sees his face fall. She braces herself. She may just be seeing what she wants, and she has more important things to focus on.

The emergency force fields that slammed shut over the gaping hole Palpatine caused with his death have managed to keep the landing bay from being turned entirely to vacuum. But still, the air is too thin, and Padmé reaches out with the Force and makes sure it flows more thickly around her and the twins. She races for the shuttle, pushing Luke and Leia in front of her.

They all reach the landing ramp at the same time, and it's quickly evident that the blast managed to scorch the shuttle too.

"It…might still work," Padmé offers, her words based more in hope than any practicable engineering knowledge.

Obi-Wan shakes his head. "I think…" his eyes flick over her shoulder, and he jerks his chin in a nod. "I might have a better idea."

Padmé follows his gaze and finds Palpatine's personal transport, an imposing-looking Lambda shuttle, bristling with guns. "Yes," she agrees, looking back to their much-abused shuttle, that still, somehow, reeks faintly of swampwater. "Much better."

Obi-Wan settles back against the pilot's chair, breathing a sigh of relief as that accursed station shrinks behind them. He turns to look at Yoda, who has made his way to the seat next to Obi-Wan. "Where to?" he asks Yoda.

It isn't an idle question. Obi-Wan wants to turn the shuttle back to Tatooine, to make sure that Beru and Owen are alright. They fled before the Empire came, in a different direction to Obi-Wan and the twins. They are alive, he hopes, but it seems entirely likely their farm has been burned to the ground.

But the Emperor is dead, and they are the only three people alive who know. There is an opportunity to be had here, he is sure, if they act quickly.

Yoda hums, contemplative. "Padmé's wisdom, we need for this. Get her, I shall."

Obi-Wan swallows his quick spike of nerves. He is excited to see her, and she came to save him. But she is still muting herself and her feelings. Obi-Wan wants their closeness back, even as he is terrified of what it means.

There are, of course, more important things to consider than his own romantic feelings as he sits crammed alongside her in the cockpit. His knee nearly brushes against hers, as she settles into the co-pilot’s seat. Yoda deposits Leia into Obi-Wan's arms, as Padmé, a little awkwardly, holds Luke. In these odd circumstances, they proceed to hold the strangest sort of war-council.

"When Palpatine declared his emergency powers, there were of like minded individuals, in the Senate, who worked to oppose him. Bail Organa is one. Mon Mothma is another. We should go to them. If there is a political advantage to be gained in how we release the news of Palpatine's death, one of them will know how to use it.”

So they point Palpatine's shuttle towards Alderaan, and after the jump to hyperspace, Yoda looks to one of them, then the other, before nodding shortly. "Much to discuss, the two of you have. I will be…here"—he waves vaguely behind him—"until one of you emerges."

Obi-Wan can't help but think that's an ominous way to phrase things.

"That's a dire way of putting it," Padmé replies. "Makes it sound like you expect us to fight to the death or something."

"Hm," Yoda says, fighting back a small smile as he nods his head. "Easier, a deathmatch may be."

Padmé laughs, and Obi-Wan realizes, then, that she had Yoda have forged a relationship entirely their own. It is a surprise to see it. It seems that Yoda has finally taken on a new padawan, after all these years.

Yoda gives them a wave and leaves. A sharp-edged silence falls in the cockpit.

"So…" Obi-Wan tries to begin. He isn't certain where to start.

"I'm sorry," Padmé says. "I shouldn't have…I behaved very badly. I—" She looks away from him, swallowing a little. "I keep thinking I have better control and then…something new comes along to shake it."

"It's alright," Obi-Wan says. "I know you didn't intend it. And you controlled yourself quickly again. Consider it forgiven."

Padmé exhales, and there's a slight shake to her breath as she does so. "Thank you."

There is silence, softer this time. Padmé's eyes fall to her son, and Obi-Wan watches as she adjusts her hold, trying to figure out how he'll be most comfortable. Obi-Wan resists the urge to interfere.

Padmé sneaks a glance across to where Leia lies in Obi-Wan's arms, and a moment later, her hold shifts to match his.

"Thank you," she says again, breaking the silence. "For looking after them. They're so beautiful. You've done such a good job taking care of them."

Obi-Wan thinks he knows the emotion that goes with those words. Some wistfulness, that she wasn't the one to see them through infancy. A sorrow, for how much she'd missed. Joy and love and excitement, for who they were now. He knows the emotions because he has felt them before, but she holds herself so silent now.

Padmé looks up, and when she finds him looking at her she smiles, some pink blooming on her cheeks. Obi-Wan doesn't know the emotion that goes with that expression, and that is enough that he shifts, so he is holding Leia in one hand. He brushes the other across her cheek.

"Let me in?" he asks, hesitantly. He has nothing to offer her except his honesty, so that is what he uses. "I miss you."

Padmé stiffens slightly. Very quietly, she responds, "There's...something of a hurricane of emotions within me, at the moment."

"That's fine," Obi-Wan doesn't move his hand, doesn't press closer, doesn't withdraw. "More than fine. I'd like to know."

Padmé's eyes close, and she leans in, pressing her hand against his cheek. She takes down the wall, and finally, Obi-Wan feels her company again.

He does know her, after all. All the emotions he guessed are present, sorrow and joy and excitement and love for the twins, contentedness in having them close and fear that she'll never be comfortable with them. But the twins are not the only thing on her mind.

She loves him. She has considered it and measured it, and she knows it to be true. She loves him, she doesn't want him to leave. She wants nothing more than to get the chance to build something with him and their twins, and see how they could be a family. But she wants him to be contented even more, and if that means that he stays with Beru and Owen, then she is determined to find her peace with that.

During his delirious, drugged captivity, sinking in and out of unconsciousness, he remembers her care and he remembers her love. But when they met again she was so guarded, that he half-thought it was his own imagination, desperately craving comfort in a confusing time.

Obi-Wan presses his palm more firmly against her cheek, and sends back his own love. In the destruction of everything he's ever known, he managed to find her, and he has no intention of giving her up for anything.

"Really?" she asks.

"Yes," he says simply. "Beru and Owen, I think. But you are—" Obi-Wan runs out of words, and fortunately, he doesn't need them. He sends the feeling he doesn't have words for—that she is the one that knows him. That he wants that knowing to deepen, and he wants no further barriers between them.

Padmé takes a breath. "I have made…a certain amount of peace with the code. Enough to know that this love…"

She pauses, reddening, and he understands why. They understand this about each other, but it is the first time they have spoken it aloud. "I love you," he says, and sends the feeling with the words.

There is a magic to feeling her reaction as she hears it, a reverberating joy that bounces between them, building with the mutuality.

"I love you too," she replies, and the feeling surges again. Obi-Wan feels her draw herself back in, there is something important that she needs to say. "And I know that for myself, that's not a bad thing. But…I am not the only Jedi here."

"Taking the title?" Obi-Wan asks.

She smiles, and he feels it against his palm. "Yoda knighted me. It seems rude to refuse. And you, do you keep it?"

Obi-Wan understands what she is asking. She knows that for Obi-Wan, the title of Jedi Master meant that he would never get this—to have a family, to have a home outside the order.

"I don't know. I know I love you, and I know I love the twins, and both those loves are so very attached that I know it is against the code as I understood it. I am unwilling to give them up, though. So, either I will make my peace, as you have, with an altered understanding of the code, or I will give up the title of Jedi. Either way, you will not be the one left behind."

Obi-Wan knows the moment Padmé feels his certainty, because she bows over, her cheek sliding free of his palm. Relief and joy wash over her, but they are shot through with a sour emotion—grief.

Obi-Wan understands the source. Anakin, as ever, as always, standing in the space between them.

"Did you ask him to leave the Order?" he asks, softly.

"I didn't," she says, softly. "In the beginning, I didn't even want to marry him, for fear it would hurt his future. But he was so determined. I believed him, when he said we could find a way to make it work. But by the end…I still didn't want to limit him. But I wanted, so desperately, for him to say something like what you just said."

"I wish he had," Obi-Wan says, feeling her grief, his own grief, all muddled together. "You deserved it. And so did he."

Padmé reaches for him then, fumbling until she wraps a hand around the back of his neck, and pulls him across the narrow cockpit toward her. It's an awkward movement they're both holding babies and the chairs aren't designed for this. But still, when their lips meet, everything is perfect.

The bond between them is clearer than ever, and all that is echoed back and forth between them sings in his blood, the sorrow for what was, the excitement for what is, the hope for what is to come.

Padmé breaks the kiss, and leans her forehead against his. Her breath hitches, as she admits, "I never thought I'd feel this way. My feelings for Anakin were so overwhelming, I didn't care if it made sense. But you…" She pulls back, her hand still warm against his neck. She catches his eyes, and he can see the emotion gleaming inside them. "I feel just as strongly for you. But it doesn't overwhelm. It clarifies."

Obi-Wan leans in, and takes another kiss from her, softer this time, a brush of reassurance. "I loved Anakin in a…worried sort of way. I tried to warn him off from you, from every destructive impulse. Trying to help him fight his own worst nature was consuming." Obi-Wan rests his hand against the crook of Padmé's elbow. "I'm not worried, with you."

"I'm always going to love him," Padmé says. "Or at least, the memory of him."

"And so will I. I think…I think that is a thing that binds us, not a thing that divides us."

Padmé pulls back, letting her hand trail from his neck to his elbow to his hand, pulling back and simply holding him. "I will not hide," she says firmly. "If you need time to be certain, that is fine, but I will not hide who we are to each other."

"No," Obi-Wan says, squeezing her hand gently. "We are each other's, no hiding needed."

Padmé smiles, looking down at Luke and Leia, and back up to Obi-Wan. "Good," she says softly, before repeating again, more firmly. "Good."

Five Years Later

Padmé nods to the representatives of Corellia, and stands to leave their office. The Senator, a human woman wearing plush robes and studded with jewels, stands to walk with her to the door. Padmé is struck by the similarities and differences between Corellian garb and her former wear. Naboo traded on costume, finding dignity through layers of fabric and paint. Correllian fashion leans into intimidation, it makes the body bigger, it shows off wealth. Still, there are some similarities too, Padmé muses, as she clocks the gems that double as a camera, the way the broad sweep of the robes were their own layer of personal distance.

Padmé finds she enjoys her new garb more. Tunic, robe, sensible shoes, lightsaber on her hip. Easy to move in, and amazingly enough, she is still generally granted her personal space. The mystique of the Jedi, or maybe just the threat of the 'saber.

"Padmé!" a jovial voice calls out, and Padmé pauses, turning to face one man who didn't seem to fall for the mystique at all.

"Chancellor Organa," Padmé responds with real pleasure. She could have gotten away with calling him Bail. But after the trauma Chancellor Palpatine, Chancellor Organa is still a welcome thing to say. "I understand congratulations are in order. The last planetary governer installed by Palpatine, gone from his post?"

Bail smiles, some tiredness in the corner of his mouth. "Just took a couple years longer than we'd hoped. Still. It's done, and the Republic is stronger." He looks back behind them in the hallway. "You're meeting with Corellia?" he asks in a soft undertone.

"Jedi business," Padmé says, gently chiding tone in her voice. "You know I'd tell you if it passed into your realm."

In fact, Corellia had found an Imperial cache of seized Jedi goods. They had initially attempted to barter the found goods for Jedi assistance in trade negotiations, which Bail absolutely would have needed to know about. However, as Padmé had talked them around to donating the goods for nothing more than the opportunity to make a public gesture of goodwill, Bail didn't need to be informed.

It was important to keep the roles separate. Also, Breha is dragging her feet about hosting a Jedi retreat on Alderaan, and it won't do the Organas any harm to get worried about the Temple finding some competition. Padmé may no longer be a politician, but that doesn't mean she can't play the political game.

Bail takes the mild rebuff with good humor, inclining his head toward her. "Fair enough," he responds easily. "Oh! Breha and Winter are coming in tomorrow. I was planning on bringing them by for the temple dinner? I think your girl might murder me if Winter was on-planet and didn't have the chance to play."

"Well then, for the sake of galactic stability, you'd better bring her by, then." Padmé grins.

Leia and Alderaan's princess are fast friends, even though the quiet, dignified Winter is a studied contrast to Padmé's own slightly wild daughter. Padmé faintly hopes that Winter will be a good influence. Bail has informed Padmé that he thinks Leia is the good influence. In either case, it's an excellent excuse for the parents to enjoy each other’s company while the kids are happily occupied.

Padmé gets on the shuttle that takes her back toward the temple. There are no checkpoints, and the gates stand open. Padmé plants her feet in a courtyard full of milling visitors. This scene is, in many ways, her first major contribution to the new Jedi Order. As they reopened the temple, Padmé argued fiercely that it should be a place where people could visit.

There was ceaseless debate, but Padmé won the skeptics around. The Jedi could not afford their isolation any longer. There are still private spaces, of course, since this is also a home. But there are public spaces too, where anyone can come and visit, to learn what wisdom they can.

Padmé moves from courtyards to classrooms to kitchen—from the public space to the private. A pair of guards, graciously provided by the Republic, nod to Padmé as she slips into the space reserved for those that train at the Temple.

And their families. That had been Padmé's second contribution—the Jedi could not continue to take children from their families. Let the family come, if they so desired. She had a staunch ally in that one. Obi-Wan didn't want to be separated from the twins any more than she had.

They also had gained a pair of excellent administrators out of the deal.

Padmé winds around the outside edge of the kitchen, pushing open the door to Owen and Beru's office.

"Considering changing our wheat supplier to Sovador, they had a good season, so the price is—" Beru cuts herself off, looking up with a smile. "Padmé! You're back early. Is that good news or bad news?"

"Good. Corellia knows the value of a well-publicized PR stunt, they'll give the cache back."

Owen scowls. "Shouldn't need the stunt. Return things to their rightful owners. It's the right thing to do."

"The galaxy could use a million more like you," Padmé says to him, and means it.

Owen and Beru had initially agreed to accompany Obi-Wan back to Coruscant simply because there was nothing left for on Tatooine. The farm and been scorched and their equipment destroyed. They could live on their neighbors' generosity for a time, but the long-term prospects were grim for an unlanded family on Tatooine.

A home was a home, they decided, as they followed Obi-Wan from their quiet backwater to the very heart of teeming human civilization. Also, they'd get to stay involved with Luke and Leia.

Padmé approved of Obi-Wan bringing them back, of course, but was less certain of her own relationship to them. Were they jealous of her? Bitter? Did they feel entitled to her children, since they had raised them while Padmé was gone?

Her nerves made their first few meetings rigidly formal. Owen and Beru no-doubt picked up on her discomfort, and responded in kind. It went on like that for five days, On the sixth day, Beru quietly pulled Padmé to the side. She explained that yes, they had maybe fancied Obi-Wan, but Obi-Wan was also very clearly head over heels for Padmé, and Beru and Owen weren't the sort to interefere with love. So could they please drop the 'Mister and Missus Lars' and get along?

Padmé decided she could see why Obi-Wan enjoyed their company so much. They had a way of cutting to the heart of an issue, instead of dancing around it. Padmé had agreed, so long as they also dropped 'Mistress Amidala,' from their vocabulary.

Beru winked, and admitted she had mostly been using it because she had hoped it would irritate Padmé into informality sooner.

Padmé laughed, and decided, "Beru, you're my children's family, and I think, given a bit of time, we'll be family too."

Beru had smiled at that, and from there on out things were much warmer. Now, Padmé can't imagine the temple without them. They're the sort that know how to keep things running, and Force knows this lot of dreamers needed some more sense.

Padmé looks around the office as a thought hit her. "Luke's not in here? He's been your little shadow, lately."

Owen gave a fond smile and shook his head. "Leia found him, dragged him off to the archives a bit ago. Probably still there."

Padmé nods to them, and leaves to find her children.

She hears her children before she sees them. Leia leads the charge in questions, peppering the archivist with a series of questions on how lightsabers were built. But Leia's isn't the only voice, she hears Luke's too. Even though they are growing into their own individual people, Leia and Luke can usually be found in each other's company. Though, there was usually also...

Padmé smiles as she hears a third voice start chime in with another question. Ezra Bridger, whose family had moved into the temple from the Outer Rim when they heard the Jedi were being reformed. Padmé and Ezra's mother had given birth the same day, and Ezra took to Luke and Leia with ease. Triplets, is the joke. Add in Winter, and it's a neat set of quadruplets, and Padmé is just grateful there are also four sets of parents to run herd on all of them.

"Mama!" Luke sees her first, and comes running up to her, crashing around her knees in a tangle of limbs. Padmé staggers dramatically, and Luke ducks his head, a sheepish expression on his face. "Slower," he says with a sigh, and Padmé nods seriously, before falling to her knees and opening her arms.

"How was the Senate? Were the people nice? Did you win?" Leia comes over in her own sort of whirlwind, made less of limbs than of questions.

Padmé wraps her up in a hug too, before answering. "They were nice, but this isn't the sort of thing you win. We just had a discussion and figured out how we could both get what we wanted."

"Did you get what you wanted?" Luke asks, tilting his head.

Padmé nods.

"That means you won," Leia says decisively.

"Maybe they both won?" Ezra offers, joining the conversation.

Padmé gives him a thumbs up. For a five-year-old, that's a surprisingly nuanced understanding of the situation. Ezra nods, contented.

"We're learning about lightsabers!" Luke says, having reached his hug limit and starting to wiggle out of her arms again.

Padmé releases him. "Oh, that seems interesting!" She looks over at the archivist and arches and raises her eyebrow in a silent question. The question, specifically, is, 'Do you need me to remove these hellions so your nice archives can know peace again?"

The archivist, an old Jedi named Jocasta Nu, shook her head. Padmé never really knew her before. Anakin didn't really speak of the archivists. But Obi-Wan was so overwhelmed with joy when she turned up at the temple that Padmé was inclined to like her from the start.

That inclination was quickly affirmed as Padmé discovered the sheer wealth of information Jocasta had been able to preserve from the Emperor's purges. Padmé threw herself happily into learning, and she and Jocasta had quickly learned they were kindred spirits when it came to knowledge.

The fact that Jocasta had decades upon decades of experience putting up with enthusiastic proto-Jedi was a delightful bonus.

Leia leans in to give Padmé a kiss on the cheek, before shaking free herself. "Do you want to learn about lightsabers with us?" she asks.

Padmé makes a show of thinking about it. "I should probably let Master Yoda know how things went with the Senate, first."

Leia wrinkles her nose. "That sounds boring," she informs Padmé.

Padmé smiles. "Why don't you tell me what you learned over dinner." Leia nods in agreement, and returns to Jocasta.

Padmé finds Yoda in the meditation garden. He sits with Obi-Wan along the banks of the river that winds through the indoor garden. Padmé spent a while wondering how exactly the water was piped to form this river, but then decided to let that process be a mystery, and enjoy the result.

Padmé approaches the two men, and at their gesture, settles down on the ground next to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan kisses her cheek, and Padmé leans her head on his shoulder. She is, once again, grateful that Obi-Wan managed to make his own peace with the code, and stayed at the temple. Being a Jedi would have been a lonelier path if he had decided to become a civilian.

She opens up their bond so he can easily read her emotions, sends over her smug contentedness as she shares her victory (because, even though she's trying to teach Leia that it's not about winning or losing, Padmé absolutely won) with the Corellian negotiations. Obi-Wan sends back pride, underlined by a sort of contentedness that runs heavy in both their emotional landscapes, these days.

Life is good.

"Yoda and I were just discussing the reconciliation with the clones. Ahsoka hosted another meeting last night. Kanan went!" Obi-Wan says happily.

"How'd that go?" Padmé asks, wrinkling her nose.

"There was a bit of shouting. But it was productive shouting, I think," Obi-Wan said, shrugging slightly, which displaced Padmé's head. Padmé sat back upright, reluctantly.

"I'm glad. It's been good to see more of Rex, lately."

The clones were a delicate subject, all the way around. The Jedi never challenged the Republic's decision to turn the clones into what was essentially an enslaved army. The payment for that neglect was their own near-elimination, as every clone heeded Order 66 and destroyed the Jedi.

Ahsoka, in her return to the temple, looked around and said she missed her brothers. Then she rolled up her sleeves and got to work mending the relationship between the two groups. There is reason for immense hurt on both sides, but there is also a legacy of close cooperation and affection. Reconciliation is a slow process, but Obi-Wan and Ahsoka both feel there is hope for the future.

"Sometimes, the best we can hope for, productive shouting is," Yoda opines. "Glad I am, that you are here, Padmé. There is another topic I want to discuss, and involve you, it does."

Padmé incliens her head and gestures for him to proceed.

"Retiring, soon, I think I shall be," Yoda says. Padmé sits up straighter, shocked, and next to her, she feels Obi-Wan's just as strongly. Yoda has always been a pillar of the Jedi Order. She can't imagine the temple without him.

"When you say soon, you mean..." Obi-Wan asks.

Padmé realizes it's a good question. Yoda is nine-hundred-something, after all. He likely perceives time differently.

"A year, maybe more, maybe less. Grand Master I would stay, I decided, until things were stable." Yoda looks from one of them to the other. "Things are stable. Growing, the order is. Besides," Yoda flicks his ear back in amusement. "Let me guide in peace, you have not, from the moment we started training."

Padmé smiles unapologetically. "We are stronger with healthy debate."

"Indeed," Yoda says. "The question of who guides next, will of course be determined by the council. However, recommend, I shall, that the title of Grand Master be held jointly by the Masters Kenobi-Amidala."

Obi-Wan is surprised, Padmé isn't, and there's a brief internal flurry of communication as they sort out their respective reactions. Obi-Wan was still shocked by the idea of a time after Yoda at all, and he certainly never expected to be Yoda's replacement. Padmé, on the other hand, can read a conversation, and there was only one reason she could think of for Yoda sharing this with the two of them first.

"Appointing us jointly won't solve the name confusion," Padmé said with a grin. "People already give up and just call us Master Padmé and Master Obi-Wan. We're going to be bringing some informality to the title of Grand Master."

"One name is all you need," is Yoda's opinion. "Most species overcomplicate things. So, take the position if you are offered, will you?"

Padmé and Obi-Wan look at each other. They are both hesitant, but determined. Padmé turns back to Yoda. "We will, I think. Though we would need to discuss how it would look, logistically. Obi-Wan and I will not always be in agreement."

Obi-Wan, who earlier that week had spent three hours debating with Padmé the appropriate conjugation of one line of translated text, feigns shock. "What a thing to say! Surely we live in harmony, always."

Padmé grins at him.

Yoda inclines his head. "The final vote on internal matters of the temple shall fall to Obi-Wan. The way we relate to the outside world, to Padmé." Yoda gives a small shrug. "Assuming, of course, the council heeds my wisdom."

Obi-Wan snorts and Padmé chuckles. There will be no argument. The council is largely full of too-young Jedi, who haven't quite managed to be confident in their own voice, yet. The only people who argue with Yoda are Padmé and Obi-Wan (Jocasta doesn't argue, but that is only because Yoda would never countermind her on matters archival, and she trusts him with the rest).

'The council may protest the appointment of two instead of one,' Padmé points out, thinking of the council's traditionalists.

'If Yoda, myself, and you all show a united front...?' Obi-Wan replies.

"Leave, I shall, so you may continue your conversation aloud." Yoda stands, stretching as he goes.

Padmé colors, "Sorry," she says. "It's terribly rude."

Yoda flattens his ears in mock-annoyance. "Used to it, I am." He relaxes, and smiles, then makes his way out of the garden.

'It really is a bad habit,' Padmé admits, falling back into their unspoken bond nonetheless.

'I don't think so. It's sensible. If a little rude.' Obi-Wan looks to Padmé, then to the river, and Padmé feels an emotion from him she would best describe as desire-for-small-indulgence.

Her ability to read him has only grown more refined, over the years. She reaches down and takes off her shoes.

Obi-Wan smiles and follows suit, and they wind up side-by-side, with their feet dangling in the stream. Padmé watches as the water swirls and eddies around her ankles, and lets her thoughts sort themselves out. Obi-Wan wiggles closer to her, warm and solid and affectionate, as he always has been. It still amazes Padmé, how much peace she can get from another person's presence.

'It will be a lot of work,' Obi-Wan says as he takes her hand and winds his fingers through hers. 'A lot of work for a long time.'

'Yes,' Padmé affirms. 'But neither of us are people who have ever been afraid of toil. So long as the cause is worthy.'

'It is worthwhile work,' Obi-Wan agrees. 'Still. This is not a short commitment. This would be the work of a lifetime.'

They share, back and forth, thoughts that are more images, moments from the temple. Watching a tourist brush tears from their eyes as they look around in wide-eyed wonder. The wild surge of joy that accompanied Ahsoka's return. Watching Leia and Luke sprint through the temple, sure in their place and the love of the adults around them.

They share their hopes for the future. Decentralized training centers. Educational outreach. Welcoming children with their families, to learn control and guidance. Finding a way to incorporate Force sensitive adults who, for one reason or another, didn't find a home with the Order. Crafting a Jedi Order that teaches and learns, one that can both guide, and be open to guidance. One that they will be proud to hand over to Luke and Leia and whoever else carries on the legacy.

'It will be a lifetime well spent,' Padmé decides.

Padmé reaches out with her foot and hooks it around Obi-Wan's ankle. She watches the water swirl around both their legs. She sits in peace with her husband, and they begin to plan the future.