The silence was deafening.
He had done this, had done those horrible things? no, not him. Not him. The other. A dragonsnake was coiled inside him, sickly green fangs twisting and sinking into his soul and making him into something he was not? he would come back to her. Anakin had to come back to her.
Or would he?
Through the frantic confusion of her thoughts, she heard someone enter the brightly lit room. Her eyelids were shut tight and she dared not open them - dared not face the white of light when she knew it would only serve to prove the darkness he had become. To compare the two? she could not. She would not. But she had to know, and the one that had entered would be able to answer her. She knew the person wasn't the one she hoped - and feared - to see, but he could answer her. If she was brave enough to ask the question.
Hope. Her heart swelled for just one moment as she let it flood into her. Hope drove her thoughts down a bright path? Anakin had turned his back on the Dark and all those horrible things he had said would be wiped away? Obi-Wan had spoken to him, talked to him, showed him the truth? he had remembered the love they shared, the future they shared, and turned his power on the dragonsnake, defeating it, dodging the burning flame of its greed. It was possible, wasn't it? Maybe? maybe Anakin was there, just so weak that he couldn't be felt. It was sporadic for her, at best, those times she could feel him? aside from those times that he was trying to communicate with her. Then she could feel him without fail. So maybe he was there?
She opened her eyes.
Obi-Wan was alone.
Of course. Had Anakin been with him, she would have sensed it in some way. Sensed him. But she? didn't. Not really. A small thread still spoke to her, tiny, thin. Like a single thread of silk from a spider's web, it connected them. It pulsed once, a feeble movement. She gasped, eyelids fluttering as she fought to continue to face the light. The strong bond they had once shared was gone, either consumed by the dragonsnake or? no!
"Obi-Wan? Is Anakin all right?" Her voice was distant, low, weak. But she wasn't weak. Not Padm?. Not her.
Obi-Wan didn't reply. When his hand moved to her shoulder she shut her eyes, blocking out the mocking white light.
Her fear was the reality. She could still feel the crushing grip of nothing around her throat. The Force, the dark side of the Force, wielded by her husband? no, not by her husband! By the dragonsnake coiled inside of him. That's why she couldn't sense him, not really sense him. She knew he yet breathed, but that was all. The dragonsnake had taken over, hiding him from her. But Anakin was still in there, still? he had to be. Had to be. Buried under the dragonsnake, there was still good.
She knew this.
The ship moved under her but she did not react. No words were spoken, not even a flutter of eyelids to betray her consciousness. Because she wasn't, not really. Not truly conscious. With all of her strength and will she clung to that gossamer thread, holding it against all hope? maybe, maybe?
But the thread grew thin.
She tried to tell herself it was the distance, the space between their physical selves. Tried to fool herself. But it was hopeless. Anakin's voice- and her own - echoed in her mind. Just a month before? or was it two? Unable to stop the memory from coming, she whimpered slightly.
"Distance means nothing to the Force, my love. When I'm in the Outer Rim, I still feel you - your emotions. I still see your face in my mind-"
She laughed. "A memory, only."
"No. No, not a memory. A week ago, you cried. You stood here - right here, and cried when you heard the rumors that I was killed." Anakin looked oddly pleased at that. "You just stood here, with Threepio beside you. You were wearing red, with your hair bound in a fan of gold. Returning from the Senate, I think."
"A meeting with Senator Organa and Mon Mothma?" She swallowed. "I was wearing the fan the Queen sent me?"
He smiled and moved closer, bending down to kiss her neck. "You see? I wouldn't lie to you, Padm?."
A shaky sigh left her. Her emotions had been unwieldy since she'd become pregnant, and she hated it. "I know, Anakin. I'm sorry, I just- I can feel you, sometimes, I think. But I can't see-"
As if he hadn't heard, he continued, "It's hard. I wanted to be with you so badly but I couldn't? and then the Chancellor was kidnapped and we were sent back here. And I was almost happy he'd been kidnapped, so I could come back to you. I'm glad it happ-"
He pulled back to look at her, that mischievous expression not at all tempered by the gravity in his voice. "It's the truth."
"But? it was awful, what happened. You shouldn't wish for such things, just so we can be together. It's not worth it."
"It is to me."
Once breached, the dam flooded over. Memory after memory swept through her mind with no rhyme or reason or order, pulling her along helplessly.
I'm not the Jedi I should be?
I killed them? every single one of them?
Someday, I will even learn how to keep people from dying?
My loyalty lies with the Chancellor? and with the Senate? and with you?
I've become more powerful than any Jedi has ever dreamed of and I've done it for you. To protect you.
Love won't save you, Padm?! Only my new powers can do that?
I am more powerful than the Chancellor. I can overthrow him, and together you and I can rule the galaxy. Make things the way we want them to be!
Anakin, you're breaking my heart!
Don't you turn against me!
I love you!
Voices surrounded her. Gentle, soothing voices, sometimes interspersed with others? the others would perhaps have been soothing to any other, or in another time?
One of the medical droid's voices rose above the others. "There are two? healthy babies."
What was she going to do?
The thread had grown stronger while she slept. It was no longer just a delicate strand, but a small rope, twisted with love and hate and jealousy. And it was then that she realized she wasn't the originator of the rope that yet connected them - he was. She couldn't release the rope, couldn't let it go, couldn't cut it loose. She didn't even try.
Because it couldn't be done? or because she didn't want to do it?
She didn't know.
The darkness seethed on the other side, the dragonsnake's breath seemed to brush her as pain flowed through the rope. Pain, and anger. And a hot resolve. Revenge? Hatred?
Just then, her baby moved. A girl. It was a girl. She knew this. And yet? there was sometimes another feeling? twins. That's right. The medical droid had said twins. The baby moved again, and the darkness seethed again. And the dread pooled in her stomach, flooded her limbs, seeped into her heart.
Anakin would not stop.
He'd wanted her by his side to create his new Empire. Would he ever stop trying to find her, to convince her? Would he then turn to their daughter, or their son? She knew, knew without question, that she bore a boy and a girl. What chance would they have? He would hunt them down and take them from her, kill her if necessary - he'd already proven himself capable of that. What if they resisted? He would kill them, too.
I have seen a security hologram of him killing younglings.
He'd already proven himself capable of that, also.
She would hide with them, take them to the far reaches of the galaxy, ask Master Yoda and Obi-Wan for help? an icy snake of fear slid down her back.
Distance means nothing to the Force?
Even the dark side? she wondered briefly, before the rope made itself known with another pulse of anger. Distance didn't matter.
In a panic, her mind raced. She was a liability, she was the real threat to her children! If she lived, Anakin would know, he would know? the Sith would know? they would know that her child - her children - had to have survived! But?
?if she died?
?if they didn't know the child survived?
It was their only chance.
There was no decision. It simply was. Her will, ever strong, gave the order. Her body obeyed.
There was pain.
The rope pulsed and twisted, pain flowing through it sharper with each breath. Something was happening to him. Something? he wasn't dying. Almost, but not?
Now was the time. He was distracted by his pain. She was distracted by his pain; her own pain was minimal, the medical facility advanced enough to provide some surcease from the normal pains of delivery? just a slight pulling, a tearing ache, as the surgeon droid pulled one babe from the incision in her stomach. She cried out, and wept, her tears for the child she'd never get to know. Never?
She opened her eyes, saw Obi-Wan standing next to her holding her son, holding Anakin's son. "Luke," she whispered, bringing her hand up to touch his face. His eyes were shut tight, face screwed up in anger at being pulled from his warm, safe hideaway. Her arm dropped back to the bed. She had to protect him. To protect them.
She had to die.
The pain came again and she sobbed, forcing her eyes open once more as the medical droid held up her daughter. She was awake, her eyes staring into Padm?'s with an unusual sense of awareness. She tried to reach out, but was too weak. A thin thread seemed to form between them, stretching from her daughter to her, and she almost smiled? but then she felt his pain began to lessen.
She mustn't linger.
She was slipping away, her body obeying her will? the rope pulsed once more, and with a wave of sadness she pulled back from the thread that connected her to her daughter. The rope pulsed strongly, pain and fear still there, but something else? something else beneath the fear and anger.
A kernel, nothing more? a glowing ember hidden beneath ice and dragonsnake's flame. She saw it. She felt it. She knew it.
Their children would be the key.
"Obi-Wan," she breathed. He moved closer, Luke still nestled in his arms. "There is good in him? I know there is? still?"
One final breath, and then the rope was fluttering blindly... reaching out for something that was no longer there.
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