Evening finds them sitting in the living room of the small rented apartment together. It's dangerous to stay in any place for too long but they needed to switch ships and pick up more supplies and Padme trusts Obi Wan to sense any danger. She is grateful for the chance to sleep in an actual bed instead of a cot. The ache in her back that's lingered unwinds by small degrees as the evening progresses and she sits propped with pillows on the worn couch watching Obi Wan move around the apartment.
He is holding Leia, whose been fussy, humming and rocking her gently as he waits for his tea to steep in an attempt to get her to go to sleep. Padme can't help but smile at the image. It's certainly not one she ever expected. For all Obi Wan was her friend, she had never been sure how he'd react to news of her pregnancy. It was easy to now see how easily her children had found their way into his heart. Without them to focus on she wasn't sure how he'd be handling things. Between helping her heal and caring for the twins and keeping them ahead of any Imperial troops he barely seems to stop moving. It certainly is one way of coping with everything that had happened.
She feels an ache start up between her legs and knows it's almost time for another dose of medication. Between the pain from the stretched and torn flesh between her legs to the constant feeling of weakness due to blood loss to the lingering rasp in her voice from being choked, Padme knew how close to death she'd come. How dangerous the situation still was. On the run like this, weak as she was, with the newly formed Empire on the lookout for her and for Obi Wan, and for her children…it had been a horrible reality to awaken to. She'd been so close to giving up. So tired of fighting and struggling and not gaining any ground. Now, little moments like this, watching Obi Wan soothe her daughter and seeing the concerned lines on his forehead being smoothed in return…she was willing to endure the ache a little longer, just for one more memory to hold close. She knew, with a bone deep weariness that she'd need moments like this to hold on to in the coming times.
When he finally puts Leia to bed and washed up the cup he'd used for the tea he comes for her. The outstretched hand a silent question as well as an offer of help. The twinge of pain that flashes across her face as she shifts to stand is answer enough. He places her arm around his waist to help steady her as they slowly make their way to the bedroom.
"I should have asked earlier." she admits.
"Well, stubbornness is not a trait you can unlearn in just a few weeks my Lady," he jokes, falling back on the old formality, but she can tell his heart isn't in it. She lets it pass anyway and pinches his side as he helps lower her into the bed.
"Cheeky" she chides, and is rewarded with a soft huff of laughter.
While he heads to the small fresher to get her next dose of pain medication she begins to get ready for bed. A process much changed from her years as queen, and even her years in the Senate. Gone were her heavy gowns and elaborate hair styles. She'd traded them all for simple dresses in plain, dark colors, and her hair stayed in a set of simple braids. Gone was her collection of hair brushes and jewelry. Instead makeup and brushes she had a bag of medical supplies and salves and a handful of medicines. It had been easier than expected to transform her life so far. Later, she supposed, when she was less exhausted and less injured, other emotions would surface, but for now she took comfort where she could and formed new routines.
Settling into the single bed she finger combed her hair and waited for Obi Wan.
It doesn't take long before he returns with the familiar injector. He brushes her newly redone braids over her shoulder and places a hand on her neck, tilting it slightly for easier access.
"Just relax, Padme," he murmurs, breath tickling her ear, "it shouldn't be long now until it kicks in."
She knows what to expect, he's been doing this for, caring for her, for over two weeks now, but she appreciates the reassurance all the same.
A cool feeling that flows from the injection sight and she sighs as he runs gentle fingers over her neck soothing the leftover sting.
"I'll have a new ship for us by tomorrow evening." he says, standing. "So there's no reason to rush in the morning. And we could use the extra rest."
Padme gives him a Look.
"Well, as long as the children allow it." he amends. The twins are wonderful, really, but for all her reading Padme wasn't really prepared for the realities of a newborn, and especially not two of them. Early mornings and diaper changes and interrupted night feedings would be more than enough for any new mother, but doing things while on the run added an extra level of difficulty. But still, it was nice to know they could linger.
He put the medicine back into its small pack and stood to leave.
"Good night Padme. Sleep well."
"Obi Wan, wait." she calls out before he can reach the door.
He'd been taking the couch, the perfect gentleman, but something in her tonight needs more. The comfort of touch, and the warmth of another person's body.
"Stay." she entreats, holding her hand out. He hesitates.
"Until you fall asleep." he relents, and it's a start.
He eases onto the bed beside her, a careful distance between his legs and her own beneath the covers, but while she is healing she is not quite so fragile as all that. Padme reaches out and pulls at his sleeve until he slides close enough for her to rest her head on his shoulder.
The warmth of him mixes with the slow drag of medication through her veins and she begins to relax. She's grown used to fighting through the pain, to resisting medication, worrying about wasting their small supply. Obi Wan insists that he can find more but she can't quite see him, the upstanding Jedi, with many underworld contacts. But still, he does his best to care for her and to fight her own stubborn nature.
The solid weight of him next to her mixes with the dim flickering of lights through the single smudged window in the room and she thinks maybe this is the time to bring up topics they've carefully been tip toeing around. Perhaps it is cowardly to do so with the pain medicine flowing through her, a convent excuse should he react unfavorably, but she doesn't want the questions to sit inside her and fester and bleed for any long than necessary. Surely that day on Mustafars weighs just as heavily on Obi Wan. Surely he will welcome a listening ear. Someone else who knows the pain of loss and betrayal.
Padme isn't sure if she is trying to convince herself of this, or merely hoping it is so. Wants and needs blur so easily these past few weeks.
She hasn't asked about Anakin since giving birth. Obi Wan hasn't offered any information. Too focused on running and caring for Luke and Leia and sorting through her own feelings (paingriefsorrowdisbelief), she didn't push for answers. As the weeks go by though, her need for answers, for closure, grows.
She wants Obi Wan to stop the horrible thoughts that creep up on her during long nights and longer transports. The thought of Anakin gonedeaddestroyed. The thought of the boy she fell in love with twisted beyond recognition and beyond hope of redemption. She needed Obi Wan to correct her.
Or to confirm her worst fears.
She presses to his side, ear pressed close, just feeling the rise and fall of his chest. The steady, calming beat of his heart.
He lets her. Which is a good, she thinks. Contact will help. Having someone else close, feeling the gentle up down of breathing, that confirmation of life. She needs that when thinking about all the death and destruction of that day. When thinking about her husband's hand, reaching out and choking the life from her body.
"Obi Wan…" she asks, not raising her head.
He hums in answer, clearly relaxing. The tension in his shoulders slowly easing. If the need for answers wasn't eating away at her she might feel bad for disturbing what little down town he allows himself. But she must know, so she continues.
"Will you tell me about that Day." She doesn't need to specify further. They both know of no other day in their shared history that had such an effect on not only them, but the galaxy at large.
"Tell me what happened to Anakin. What happened after he- after I-… after."
She feels him draw in a large breath and slowly, so slowly release it. Then he begins. In the dark, with a voice that hitches occasionally, he tells of their final duel across the fires and pits of Mustafar. She's sure he is glossing over certain parts, but he tells her enough, and she will not push him farther. Not now. Not when the memories are still so fresh. Some things are meant to be kept clutched close to your chest. To bury them deep down in the dark and only take them out in the early morning light, when even the most painful memory can take on a bittersweet sheen.
He tells of Anakin's beliefs, twisted and deformed. Influenced by the Chancellor.
"He was under our noses the entire time. I never…" he pauses. "He'd always shown a particular interest in Anakin. From the moment I took him as a Padawan."
Her fingers reach out for his over the covers, squeezing, offering comfort. The Chancellor had fooled them all. Her own Senator, her adviser all those years on Naboo!
Obi Wan takes another shuddering breath, and squeezes back.
The longer he talks, the more her heart sinks. Against all odds, she had hoped that maybe…maybe Anakin had survived. As Obi Wan tells of Anakin's anger, his rage against not only him but the entire Jedi Order she remembers dark thoughts, in those long transports, crowded together with strangers fleeing together, she wonder if maybe death was the kinder option. As he draw closer to the end of their fight she doesn't know what outcome she wants. Pain is all that's left no matter what. Her emotions feel more distant, slower to materialize through the pain medication, but more likely to linger. Her sorrow feels drawn up from a great well, from the depths of her very being. Just when she's sure she can feel no deeper the pain wells up, swallowing her down. Only know it feels like Obi Wan is being swept out with her.
"I had the higher ground." he admits, tears finally falling. "I cut him down, left him there. I watched him burning and I left him! Even after everything I couldn't-"
She pulls back and looks into his bruised face, the dark marks beginning to yellow and fade faster than her own, knowing her husband caused those marks and whispers, "I know. I know you love him too. It's okay. It's okay for us to mourn."
That's all he seemed to need; this permission, because he collapses in slow motion against her, still so careful in his grief. His head now pressed against her chest while quiet sobs rattle through him. It sounds painful. She allows her own grief to spill over as she brushes clumsy fingers through his shaggy hair, like she does for the twins, soothing, even as she draws him even closer on the bed, wrapping her arms around. He hides his face against her, the damp seeping in her night robe.
"I failed him. I should have seen-"
"We did everything we could." she whispers into his hair. Whispers it until she is tempted to believe it. She'll keep repeating it until it overrides memories of the doubts and secrets and times they'd talked of confiding in Obi Wan.
Eventually he cries himself out and makes to move but she doesn't let him. The meds have fully kicked in by now and she feels sleep start to tug on her conscious. Combined with the heavy weight of grief, of knowing Anakin's gone it's easy so easy to give in.
"Stay," she whispers again and it's a testament to much he must have been holding back because he this time he doesn't bother protesting. She pushes a corner of the blanket in his direction and leaves her arm curled around his shoulders. As she slips into sleep Padme feels a light brush of lips on the back of her other hand.
He's gone when she wakes. The morning light is already streaming in through the foggy glass and she groans. He must have bottle feed the twins before leaving. A kind gesture, but one that leaves her breasts aching now. They feel tight, and hot to the touch. Still, the extra hours of sleep were appreciated, despite the discomfort. All this running and hiding was taking a toll on her still healing body. Carefully, she rolled to the side, on hand gently pressed against the swell of her breast, and made her way to the make shift cradles in the next room.
Luke was already waking up, his eyes blinking up at her and feet beginning to wiggle and kick. Even in less than optimal conditions such as these, watching how far they'd come was astonishing. They'd learning to lift their heads up and were following along with people or object much better. Moving and kicking and stretching and testing their limits all in such a short time it seemed. She picked Luke up and nuzzled him, brushing a kiss over soft curve of his small ears. He cooed back at her, hand swinging up to grasp at hers, such a strong grip already. She smiles down at him again before leaning over to carefully grab Leia and then heads to back to the couch to nurse. Relief soon follows as the twins latch on, the tight feeling slowly ebbing as they feed. Hands rubbing over their warm backs, she feels her resolve strengthen. The pain and despair and ennui beginning to be overridden by the will to fight. She will continue to heal, to regain her strength. She will continue to run, to search for a safe place with Obi Wan, and find others doing the same. She will stand up against this new Empire and it's treachery and fight to bring back the Republic, to undo the damage she helped cause. There is plenty they can do from the shadows.
She brushes a hand over the fuzz on Luke's head, his eyes wide open, taking in everything around him. So curious already. And Leia, snuggled against her, fingers curling and uncurling in her robe as she still suckles. She will fight, for them.
That evening she and Obi Wan make their way to the next transport.
"I couldn't get us a ship" he apologies. "Not here. This vessel will take us to Dasoor, and there we can purchase our own vessel." He coughed a bit. "Off the record, so to speak. Which should make things easier on us in the long run however."
Padme glances us at the large ship and clutches the twins closer. Leia, perhaps sensing her worry, beings to fuss.
It's been a while since she's been on civilian transport like this. Surrounded by strangers. The last time was… she had… had been with Anakin. She lets the grief wash over her. Pretends it's getting easier. Now that she has closure.
Then she finds a corner in the hold and quickly leads Obi Wan to it, claiming the space. Putting her back to the wall and doing her best to tune the clutter around them out.
The rumble of the ship helps, and she presses back against the wall, feeling the vibrations rumble through her. She tries to breathe deep, but the air feels thin suddenly. Panic crawls up her throat, memories of invisible hands cutting off her air. She reaches across her body with a free hand and clutches at Obi-Wan's sleeve. He turns from his bland study of the other passengers and meets her wide eyes.
"Padme? What it is? What's wrong?" He moves to kneel beside her, his hands hovering, seeking out signs of some injury or reopened wound.
Padme grabs a hand and clutches it tight. Her other clutches at the wrap Luke lies in, tied safely close to her. Leia is similarly secure around Obi-Wan's chest. Her eyes dart between them.
"Padme?" Obi-Wan tries again, but Padme sucks in another hard fought breath and shakes her head.
He pauses, realization dawning. "Another panic attack?" He guesses, and she squeezes his hand in confirmation.
She can tell he is out of his depth here. The physical he can help with, but this? Her own mind cycling through worst case scenarios and filling her waking hours with what ifs…he isn't prepared for that. He is barely dealing with his own emotions. She's talked enough with Anakin in the past to know the Jedi weren't exactly champions at dealing with their feelings. Even Anakin, who'd come to them late had internalized many of their views. She'd done her best to draw him out and allow him to show however he'd been feeling, but apparently not enough in the end.
Still, she lets Obi-Wan draw her down to the floor, draw her forward until they are forehead to forehead, and tries her best to copy his long slow breaths in and out. She listens to his low familiar accent talk of small things: a favorite meal he'd had at Dex's, a planet he'd visited as a Padawan with the most gorgeous sunset, that time two weeks ago when Leia's unexpected shriek had made him drop the dinner he'd worked so hard on making.
It feels like ages have passed before she can lift her head and unclench her shoulders, but it can't have been that long. It's almost time for another feeding.
"Thank you," she whispers, and Obi-Wan simply nods.
Padme holds Luke close under the fold of her tunic and closes her eyes, hoping the warm weight of him will help clam the beating of her heart.
She has to stop falling to pieces like that. One day it could get them all killed.
If only she could order her body like a soldier. Do this, go there. Straighten up! A memory surfaces, Sabe and the others training. Sabe had been making faces behind their instructors back as they corrected Padme's stance while sparring. Her crossed eyes had almost sent Padme into fits of giggles.
She passes over Luke to Obi-Wan to burp and takes Leia. Her heart more at peace now. The past seems so rosy now looking back. Why didn't she appreciate it more then?
They buy a ship. A beat up old freighter that Padme would normally suspect pirates to be the owners of. However beggars can't be choosers and they are very much beggars in this new world.
They find ways to cope. Ways to keep themselves occupied.
Padme stays busy. She sits with Obi-Wan and together they makes lists. Lists of potential contacts and allies, lists of supplies they need, of plants they can travel to. It's an ongoing project, one that they like to end the day. On her own, she organizing their few possessions, planning out how and where the twins area will be. They're hoping to keep this ship for a while but there are no guarantees these days, and planning for a future play area keeps her mind occupied. If she stops for too long, that's when dark thoughts start to creep up on her.
There are some nights where she dreams of Anakin's anger radiating out along with the hand that had choked her from afar. Times where she berates herself for knowing Palpatine for years, and for never knowing or even guessing.
If she even admits that part aloud Obi-Wan is there to remind her that not even the full Jedi Council had seen anything amiss, so she shouldn't be too hard on herself. "His shielding must be astonishing."
She agrees to be less harsh but only if he does as well. She looks him in the eye, small hands wrapped in his tunic that's filthy with engine grease, "It's not your fault either." she says. "If he truly is so powerful, so much so that we were all fooled, all manipulated…"
But she can tell he doesn't believe the words. He's shaking his head sadly even before she's finished.
"We should have known," he insists. "We should have sensed something."
She can sense there will be no changing his mind, so she pulls him close to touch their foreheads together, feels the hot puff of his breath against her.
"It's not your fault." she whispers into their shared space, breath ghost across his cheeks. Maybe if she repeats it enough, they'll both begin to believe it.
Things don't exactly get better, but they don't get worse, and that's all they can ask for in these times Padme thinks. They stay on the move, finding odd jobs here and there, making new contacts. Once, finding an old contact. An old friend of Obi-Wan's, he was tall and broad, and his long dark hair heavily streaked with grey caught the street lights as Padme watched from her spot across the street. Obi-Wan had pulled the man down into a hug before they parted.
That night, they curl together in the bed, long used to sharing now, and she drags out bits of information from him. Rael, the man's name was. Someone he'd known from the Temple. He hadn't been much involved in the War. "It saved him," Obi-Wan whispered. "His stubbornness…" he didn't continue after that, and Padme let the pain ease away, until they both found sleep.
The next morning she wakes to find the twins already up and awake. Obi-Wan has them laid out on the floor next to what passes for their kitchen. Luke is in danger of figuring out crawling. They've both been moving more and more. It's one of the few things that makes Obi-Wan smile these days. He's absolutely wrapped around the twins' tiny fingers. Padme just watches as he holds his hands out to Leia and she frowns and kicks her legs, pushing, trying but not quite understanding how to push herself forward. She laughs as she finally discovers a full body wiggle motion will bring her towards her goal. Obi-Wan picks her up and beams at Padme.
"Enjoy it now," she says. "We'll be run ragged once they figure out how to get around." Padme remembers her cousins endless pools of energy. Remembers the wide grassy yards they had to run and play in.
She starts another list that night. Planets for potential home bases. Ones away from the Core, but with space enough for two children to run and play without fear of the Empire breathing down their necks.
one month later
Running through a marketplace, Padme clutches the twins close and breathes heavily. Obi Wan a steady presence behind her, his hand like steel on her shoulder pressing her forward, faster. She's lost all sense of direction as they twist and turn through the streets, neon lights and dirty alleys blurring as they run. She feels warmth run down her thigh and thinks the stitches on her leg from their last mishap must have opened again but there's no time. They'd gotten too complacent, and now they are running and running and oh what she wouldn't give to stand and fight but she won't risk the twins like this, strapped as they are on her back and chest, too easy of a target.
They pause, chests heaving and ears straining in the dark.
Footsteps thud past, and she holds her breathe, mind whispering out prayers to any Gods that will listen.
Her heart feels as if it is about to beat out of her chest. She can feel her throat tighten, anxiety crawling up tightening its grip about her. It's makes her think of Anakin. Those terrible last moments and his hands clenched in the air and- No. She pushes that thought away and presses tighter against the damp wall, letting the rough grit of stone anchor her in the now, and forces herself to take long, slow breaths. She can't fall apart. Not now.
Leia begins to fuss in her sling and she freezes. No no no. She cradles her tighter with shaking hands and sways in place gently, hoping to lull her back into sleep but the tiny pink face scrunches up in preparation for a scream that will damn them all.
Obi Wan reaches out suddenly, hand soothing over the downy fuzz of hair, and she can feel the faint hum in her bones that she's come to recognize is him using the Force. Miraculously, Leia calms. Features smoothing into a soft yawn before slipping back into slumber.
The troopers stomp past, the fuzzy sound of their commander's orders growing distant. Padme and Obi-Wan's eyes meet. That was too close. Closer than it had been in weeks.
Padme is already in the med-bay by the time Obi-Wan finishes setting their route in the autopilot. The used med droid rolls over to spread bacta over the blast wound on Obi Wan's shoulder, while Padme finishes undressing and unwrapping her layers of veils and baby wrap. Obi-Wan's wound had been a lucky shot from when they'd first stumbled across the group near the underground market they'd been seeking out. One of the soldiers had panicked it seemed. Or simply been eager for a fight. Who knows what kind of beings the Empire has recruited these days. Obi-Wan can tell that some of the white armored figures are still clones, but not all of them. Neither of them have been able to figure out why the switch is happening. Not that it matters who is chasing them, but Padme knows Obi-Wan mourns the men who served with him. Mourned the loss of more good men who'd apparently been convinced by the Chancellor's manipulations and lies.
Finally free of her layers, Padme can see the damage. It's as she thought. The cut from earlier that week had re-opened up during their run. She hadn't wanted to waste supplies on it then, but well, she hadn't expected to be running through the streets today. She lies back to let the droid work. Obi-Wan stands beside her bed, close enough that she can grab his free hand, but facing away to give her the illusion of privacy as the droid attempts to fix the cut on her upper thigh.
It's while she's being seen to that he brings it up. The twins.
"Perhaps," he says slowly, deliberately, "you should think of finding somewhere for them." She turns her face towards him but his eyes remain down. "There are places…even a few people we know of, who might take the children. Hide them. Keep them…away from all this."
Coward. She thinks. That he would make such a suggestion without looking a mother in the eye. She wonders if Qui Gon Jinn had looked Shmi in the eye before he'd had taken Anakin but quickly dismisses that thought, along with the wave of grief that follows. That would be crossing a line. One that even she isn't angry enough to cross.
"I will not abandon my children Obi-Wan." she says, placing every bit of the power she had in her Queen's voice behind the sentence. Even prone and bleeding, she will not allow him to think her weak in this matter. She feels pleased when he flinches at her tone.
Still not meeting her eyes he continues, "That not- I didn't mean to imply that you should. Only that, we both see what kind of danger we are in. Today was only the first in a long line of such reactions. The Empire is coming for us, for the twins and…" he pauses, hand running over the ragged length of his beard. "I fear that I cannot keep all of us safe."
The whir and clack of the droid finishing up is the only noise in the room as she takes in his confession.
"I couldn't bare it Padme," he admits. "I don't think I could survive seeing either of them cut down. So many Younglings have already been lost. Cut down in the very heart of the Temple, the place they should have been safest." he is opening crying now, silent tears leaving tracking through the dirt and grime on his face. "I need to know…that they, at least, are safe."
"Nowhere will be safe." she counters gently, sitting up. "The Empire is expanding every day. We've seen troopers on how many planets now? How many trading posts? Palpatine has been after this since the start. We tried to-" her voice shakes and she has to pause to breathe, "we tried to stop him, to make the others in the Senate see…but it wasn't enough." She holds his hand tighter. "He gave himself so much power, with so little oversight, and I doubt even Mon or Bail has the backing now to stop him or send us help. They whole senate is probably being carefully watched to make sure no one is openly challenging him and I did warn them but I-" Padme stops. Obi-Wan is staring up at her. "What?" She asks.
"Bail," he breathes out. "Bail was there at the med center. Bail knows about the twins, he knows, or surely assumes that we aren't out here traveling the galaxy on a pleasure cruise. He would take the twins." He's speaking faster now, the idea has taken root in his head. "Alderaan is a peaceful world, he and Breha could keep them safe, keep them away from Coruscant, away from the fighting!"
Padme pulls away to grab a nearby robe. She wraps it tightly around herself and sits in a nearby chair. Obi-Wan follows and kneels before her.
"It could work, Padme. It will keep them safe." Padme still sits silently, unsure. "You could even stay with them," Obi-Wan suggests softly, and Padme's head jerks back to meet his red rimmed eyes. "You aren't in any way…obligated to stay with me. My fight against the Empire need not be yours. I would…understand completely if you-" Padme silences him with a finger against his lips.
"No." She says. "This is my fight too. I just…I fought so hard to be here for them. I feels like, like I'm failing, if I give them up now."
"No, no, no," Obi-Wan mutters and draws Padme down until their forehead touches. "It's not you, it'll never be you that I doubt."
Padme sighs and pulls back to look Obi-Wan in the eyes. "Just…just give me some time to think. It will take time to figure out the safest way to contact Bail anyway, but just, let me have some time."