Padm? couldn?t see. She needed light to see and she had none, presently. It hadn?t truly occurred to her ? not with the knowledge of experience ? that darkness, like that of night, was the absence of light. Not the opposite, merely the total absence. Nothing had a new power in Padm??s eyes. It was that special kind of darkness, where it is so dark your eyes see shapes and things that aren?t there, shadows of a brighter time. There was no relief from it. It was totally still, unchanging, even as Padm? closed her eyes and patterns danced across her eyelids.
She could hear, though. Obi-Wan was here, somewhere. Not too close, but not on the other side of the cell. She could hear him moving, even; if she listened closely enough, hear the scrape of his hand across the stone wall. She was fairly certain it was stone, and the sole door was durasteel.
?Why do you suppose Palpatine put us down here?? Padm? said quietly. They hadn?t spoken much since being put in the cell, beyond confirming their stories ? Obi-Wan taken in battle and Padm? drugged, waking up here. There wasn?t much to discuss, truthfully, and Padm? was uncomfortable with doing so anyway. Obi-Wan?s reaction to Anakin and Padm??s marriage hadn?t been the best, and Obi-Wan, she knew, had a low opinion of politicians in general. ?I mean,? Padm? added at the silence, ?here, specifically.?
?To weaken us, perhaps,? Obi-Wan offered at last. His voice seemed unusually rich in tone, but she suspected it was simply something she had never noticed before. She hadn?t realized how much she depended on the slight visual cues to read him ? or anyone, for that matter. Anakin had an expressive voice, all minute changes that told how he felt. ?Though I don?t why. This has something to do with Anakin, but in what way, I don?t know.?
Padm? nodded out of habit. ?I would think he would want us dead. To ensure that Anakin stays with him, as Darth Vader.?
?To...get rid of our influence,? Obi-Wan agreed. He sighed. ?Perhaps he wants to make sure Anakin ? Vader ? has fully turned.?
Padm? was silent for a moment. ?Anakin would never hurt us.?
?You, I agree. Me? Possibly,? Obi-Wan said quietly. His voice went lower at the end, coming closer to silence.
Padm? had nothing to say that, mostly because she wasn?t sure Anakin wouldn?t hurt Obi-Wan either. Anakin was not entirely Anakin anymore, even to her. He still had his lovely blue eyes and that smile, but it was all tinged with some burning in his voice. She hadn?t seen him in months, but she doubted that had changed. Sometimes he had made her feel ? uneasy, and she had distanced herself from him somewhat, observing him and trying to understand the changes being wrought in her husband.
Instead of speaking, she sat down against a wall and briefly put her face in her hands, then smoothed back her hair, which was a mess, since it had already fallen out of the tight, intricate bun. Her thick skirts rustled with every move she made, almost sounding like whispers.
She could hear Obi-Wan walking, investigating every square inch of the cell. Padm? had arrived first, and had done a cursory, cautious exploration. Four walls, a slightly uneven floor, and a few rocks she had tripped over.
?Why the darkness?? Padm? asked suddenly.
Obi-Wan said nothing for a moment. ?Perhaps because we aren?t psychologically prepared for it.?
Padm? turned in the direction of his voice. ?Then he?s a fool.?
?I hope so,? Obi-Wan said, an edge of uncertainty to his voice. It was like a rasp lying over the depth in his voice.
After a few hours ? or what Padm? guessed were a few hours ? Obi-Wan finally sat down. He sat near Padm?, but not touching; she could hear his breathing. The steady inhale-exhale slowed as time went on, and Padm? wondered if he was sleeping. Or maybe meditating; Jedi meditated, and would usually do so in virtually any situation, even in the middle of a battle, if there was time for it. So why not a dark cell?
They waited for something to happen as time dragged on, staring out into the darkness as if they would, at some point, see something.
When the noise came, Obi-Wan was lightly dozing, lying on his side with his arm as a pillow. He immediately leapt to his feet, scrambling in the direction of the noise. It was harsh, with a stretched out squeal. Obi-Wan?s hands blindly smacked into the door, and he searched the area quickly, palms lightly skimming the smooth surface. His hands came upon something being ? forced through the door, it felt like. A box. He tried to reach around the box, but his hands encountered vertical lines of something hard, like strings stretched to perfect tautness.
The box fell to the floor with a harsh clanging noise. Obi-Wan tried to get his hands to where the box had gone through, but the space was gone. There was only the hard lines.
?We have a box,? Obi-Wan stated. He picked it up cautiously, using his fingertips to investigate its surface. He heard the rustle of Padm??s skirts, how her breathing grew louder as she drew nearer. Soft hands joined his, bumping into him and then withdrawing.
Obi-Wan found a latch. ?I think I can open it.?
?What are you waiting for?? Padm? said, a hint of amusement in her voice.
Obi-Wan flicked the latch and slowly started to open it. The box opened exactly in the middle, and since it had fallen, it was hard to tell which way was up. Shrugging mentally, he opened it. He felt liquid hit his hands and he jerked in surprise. A large cup fell out, the top loosened, water splashing everywhere.
?What was that?? Padm? asked, alarmed.
?Something wet,? Obi-Wan said, telling his heart to slow down. Another brush of her hands, and a quick retreat. He put his hands in the box, finding something that felt like a wrapper. Two somethings, he amended. ?These feel like rations.?
?Let me see,? Padm? requested. ?Or feel,? she added.
Obi-Wan smiled and handed her one of the wrappers. The rest of the box was empty.
There was a crinkling sound, and he heard Padm? bite down. ?Yuck,? she said. ?Definitely a ration bar. All the nutrients most species would ever need, and utterly nasty. Hard to forget.?
?I think it?s a safe bet to say that the other container was water,? Obi-Wan observed, hefting the ration bar in his hand.
There was a moment of silence, then, ?Yes,? Padm? agreed. ?I keep forgetting you can?t see me nod,? she admitted ruefully.
?I know, I keep doing the same thing,? Obi-Wan assured her, and he felt her relax slightly. Her sense in the Force was constantly tense, alert ? something he had noticed when meeting her as a Senator. He didn?t think she had had it when Queen of Naboo, but he wasn?t as attuned to the Force back then, to even be able to tell.
?Do you think we?ll get three square meals a day?? Padm? asked.
Neither of them was eating. ?I don?t know,? Obi-Wan said. ?Ration bars are usually done so that one bar is enough for one day.?
?That water may be our last for a while, then,? Padm? said.
Obi-Wan winced. ?I?ll have to catch the box next time. Or not tip it.?
Another short silence, then, ?Yes. Or I?ll have to. Do you suppose we should put the box back? I?m sorry, but I?ve never done this before and I keep getting these visions of old holodramas about prisoners...?
Obi-Wan laughed. ?No, you may have a point. We can test your theory, but I?ll put the box near the door this time.?
There was a faint noise of fabric shifting, like Padm? was shrugging. ?If there is a next time,? she said uneasily.
?Point taken,? Obi-Wan muttered, then spoke more clearly. ?We should probably eat these.? He waved the ration bar, even knowing she couldn?t see it.
?I may wait until I?m hungry enough to want it,? Padm? said dryly.
?If you do,? Obi-Wan pointed out logically, ?your body may reject it from not having food for so long. Besides, as far as we know, Palpatine or anyone else could come along at any time. We should have our strength.? He paused. ?If you don?t think about it, the taste isn?t so bad.?
?You know from experience?? Padm? inquired with polite amusement. He heard her discard the rest of the wrapping.
Obi-Wan tore his open. ?Unfortunately,? he said with a smile, knowing it would carry to his voice.
They ate while conversing about possibilities. What did Palpatine want them for? Before waking up in the cell, both had met briefly with Palpatine. He hadn?t said much, just mentioned something about future use of them, then they were knocked out and thrown into the cell. Padm? first, then Obi-Wan. What Palpatine had said to them hadn?t differed much, and was largely vague. Both had seen the triumphant glint in his eyes.
Obi-Wan had heard the anger in Padm??s voice. He shared the feeling, but more privately, and on a more controlled basis. Anakin...Vader, had turned and was serving the Sith. Palpatine wanted Anakin?s power and he had gotten it, along with the rest of the galaxy. Everyone was still reacting to the massive change in events. Padm? had been on Naboo, meeting with their government and trying to decide what to do with Palpatine?s takeover and declaration of the New Order.
Obi-Wan had been with several other Jedi running from Coruscant. The Senate had passed a bill introduced by Palpatine that declared all Jedi criminals of the state. Most Jedi were gone from the Temple by then anyway, but the rest were trying to get the children out and off Coruscant, to someplace safer. Obi-Wan had been with one such group.
He was fairly certain they were all dead by this point; if they weren?t, they probably wished they were.
Nothing new happened for hours, and, eventually, Obi-Wan and Padm? quieted. They lay down close to each other but not touching, uncomfortable on the hard floor. They eventually slept.
?I don?t think we?re going to get more food unless we put everything back,? Padm? admitted. She sat in the middle...middle-ish, anyway, of the floor. Obi-Wan was walking in a loose circuit from what she could tell, like an absentminded pacing.
?You?re probably right.? Obi-Wan?s voice floated over to her, almost seeming to come from everywhere. It was still odd, how everything was changed because there was nothing to see. Padm? was having difficulty orienting herself. The black seemed never-ending, even though she knew it wasn?t. It was as though she was taking a step off into an abyss. Obi-Wan, she noted, didn?t appear to have the problem ? which made sense, as he was a Jedi, she supposed. But it wasn?t fair, she thought uncharitably.
?I guess that rules out digging our way out with the water cup,? Padm? said lightly, trying to cheer herself up. She considered herself a strong person, but the darkness was wearing.
A few steps, and then a gentle hand touched Padm??s shoulder. ?It?s all right,? Obi-Wan said softly. ?I can...feel the room in the Force, but I know you can?t. I can teach you a few mental tricks to orientate yourself, however, if you want.?
Padm? nodded, then said, ?Thank you.?
She heard Obi-Wan rise. ?Besides,? he said, ?I think the water cup would chip before these walls.? There was a twist to his tone, a note of dry humor.
Padm? smiled, but didn?t say anything. Obi-Wan would probably pick up on her reaction anyway.
After a few moments, she heard Obi-Wan doing something ? it took her a moment, but she realized he was putting the wrappers and the water cup in the box, and then putting the box up against the door. They had also discovered ? to their embarrassed relief ? a hole in one of the far corners. It wasn?t very deep, only a meter or so, and at the bottom they could feel more lines like with the door. It wasn?t hard to guess what it was for.
?What do you think Anakin is doing?? Padm? asked suddenly. ?I wonder if he knows we?re down here.?
?I doubt it,? Obi-Wan said bluntly. ?Whatever his personal feelings may be, he?s not the type to not act.?
Padm? laughed. ?That can be a good thing.?
?Yes,? Obi-Wan said softly, almost affectionately. ?And a bad thing.? He paused. ?I suspect he?s helping Palpatine stabilize the New Order. I imagine everything is chaos out there.?
Padm? traced her eyebrows, the side of her face, her chin. It was a restless movement she had taken up in the past few days. ?He?s killing people.?
Obi-Wan didn?t answer.
?He didn?t mean to change,? Padm? whispered. Anakin, Anakin, Anakin. She couldn?t help but think of him here, and she couldn?t stay silent and do nothing. The boredom was eating away at her and she knew it. So...she thought. She contemplated Anakin, politics, life...It was better than the alternative.
?I think he did,? Obi-Wan said at last. ?Mean to change, that is. I don?t think he knew where it would lead him.?
?I didn?t know. I?m sorry. I just didn?t see clearly enough,? Padm? whispered.
There was a rustle and the sound of Obi-Wan. Then she felt his touch on her back. They were always so careful about touching each other, here. ?I?m sorry, too.? He breathed in sharply. ?Padm?...whenever Palpatine or Anakin comes, you have to remember, Anakin is not who he is. Vader might be a more appropriate name.?
?He?s not the person we knew, Padm?. Would Anakin murder Jedi?? Obi-Wan demanded sharply. Then he softened, becoming conciliatory. ?He?s gone.?
?No, he?s not,? Padm? said defiantly, but she didn?t move. ?Just lost. He?s lost. He?ll realize...he?ll remember...? She shook her head.
?As much as I would like to believe that, the Dark Side is...it?s powerful, Padm?. And he?s made his choice. Even if he were able to turn back, he would never be the same. You will never have what you had. Padm?, I?m not trying to hurt you. But you?re trying to hold onto an ideal that is gone.?
Padm? sighed, making herself relax. ?I know. Things...time cannot go backwards.? She reached out for Obi-Wan, finding one of his hands and taking it in hers. ?I know. But he?s still Anakin.? She felt upwards, touching his face. He started, but allowed it. ?It?s almost appropriate. We?re so blind here,? she whispered.
Obi-Wan twitched. ?Yes.?
They would stare out for hours. Obi-Wan knew Padm? did it, just like he did. There was nothing to see, yet they persisted, unable to help themselves. If he stared long enough, Obi-Wan would begin to see things in the darkness ? things in his own mind. Eyes open or closed, it was all in his mind. It was like dreaming while awake, struggling to come out of it, even though there was nothing to struggle for.
The nothingness of the dark was bad, but Obi-Wan felt the silence was worse. The silence wasn?t just physical for him; the Force was silent as well. It was there, and that was a comfort ? he spent most of the day meditating, when he wasn?t trying to talk to Padm? ? but he couldn?t sense anything beyond it. There was no life other than themselves, wherever they were. Obi-Wan was so used to there being something. Even on long hyperspace missions, he had often had companions ? Qui-Gon, Anakin, Garen.
He had never been alone for so long.
The darkness danced, and Obi-Wan closed his eyes.
?How long do you think it?s been?? Obi-Wan asked, wandering the perimeter of the cell.
?Three hours.? Padm??s response came without hesitation, but it was doubtful she was confident of it. It was a thing they did, one of them asking how long it had been, the other answering. Every ?24? hours they would say a day had passed. They talked sporadically, with long periods of silence. Mostly, they thought, the memories gone over so many times they seemed altered by the remembrance.
Obi-Wan continued on his mindless circuit. He could feel nothing beyond the cell walls. The Force was silent. So he walked, restlessly pacing the edges of the cell, stubbornly trying to sense something, anything. And again and again there was nothing.
Obi-Wan shivered, pausing, and then started walking again, struggling to ignore the sounds of Padm??s hitched breaths, to give her some privacy.
Obi-Wan finally grew tired of it. ?If you would stay awake for a few hours ? exercise or something ? and then sleep, you?d be much better off,? he told Padm?.
Padm? sat up. She had been trying to sleep, and her efforts were keeping Obi-Wan awake. She would thrash around and then pause, fully waking. Obi-Wan had heard her go through the cycle a dozen times now. He almost asked what was bothering her, but it felt too personal a question. Padm? was...Senator Amidala.
?I?ll deal with it, Obi-Wan,? Padm? said coldly.
?Three plus four makes seven plus six makes eleven makes twenty-four...? A pause. Obi-Wan put his hands over his ears, but it didn?t block the sound of Padm??s voice out. ?Twenty-nine plus one makes thirty makes a month. Three hours plus twenty-nine days plus one day makes one month, three hours.?
?They aren?t coming!? Obi-Wan finally snapped, his voice breaking. ?We?re alone.?
?No. No. Three hours plus twenty-nine days plus one day plus one month ?? Padm??s voice was flat, without inflection.
?No! Three hours plus twenty-nine days plus one day makes one month...? Obi-Wan trailed off. ?They aren?t coming. I can?t sense anything. It?s all nothing. The Force is here, but nothing else is.?
?Shut up, Obi-Wan. How do you know? Maybe they?re just ? just leaving us down here for a few months. Then they?ll be back.? Her voice rose at the end, becoming high-pitched.
How did he know? He felt it. He couldn?t explain it, but he felt it in the nothingness. Despair sang in his mind, yes, but there was something beyond that. They were alone; he felt their aloneness in its entirety, like they did not exist. The darkness hid everything. Didn?t Padm? realize that yet? It hid everything. They were gone.
Had it been a month? Was he cracking after merely a month? It was so hard to tell. They slept, and they didn?t know how long they slept. Obi-Wan kept track at first, but it became harder and harder. There was no comparison; there was just the endless span of time and the unchanging dark. He couldn?t keep track anymore.
They had to stay sane. Obi-Wan knew that. Being down here was psychological torture. For Padm?, for the never-ending darkness, for him in that he could sense nothing. There was no life here, wherever they were. He could sense nothing but the naked expanse of space. Even the Force seemed still.
When Padm? spoke again, he spoke along with her: ?Three hours plus twenty-nine days plus one day makes one month...?
?He isn?t coming.? Padm? seemed almost calm, sitting totally still; Obi-Wan couldn?t hear her moving. But despite that, her voice was high and cracking.
?You don?t know that,? Obi-Wan whispered. He was walking back and forth. ?We don?t know what?s happening out there.? Out there. Vague and mysterious and unknown. But couldn?t he believe there was hope out there, too, if he knew nothing? He had been the first one to believe they had been left here to...die. Stagnant. He hadn?t said it, not directly, but Padm? had heard anyway, in his words of Anakin.
And now, Padm? was convinced they would be left here forever. With only a droid supplying them with food and water, until or unless that ran out.
?It?s been three months,? Padm? pointed out rationally. Three months of long silences, of restless exercising ? more on Obi-Wan?s part ? and the two of them hardly having anything to do with each other, except for the occasional, fearing touch. Fear that the other person was disappearing.
?We think,? Obi-Wan said softly. ?Doesn?t time drag on when you aren?t in a good situation? It could be less.?
Padm? was starting to breathe faster. There was an odd noise, too. Obi-Wan stopped walking and cocked his head, listening. It was sort of...scratchy, but squishy. Unable to identify it, Obi-Wan reached out to the silent Force ? and found it starting to roil.
?Padm?? Padm?, what are you doing?? Alarmed, Obi-Wan stepped over to Padm?, nearly stepping on her. She scrambled back, but Obi-Wan grabbed her by the arms, forcefully. Her right one ? it was slick, and very warm. Slick and warm ? ?Padm?!? He yanked her hands away from herself and sat by her, forcibly bringing her to his chest.
?Stop!? Padm? cried.
?You were digging into your arm with your fingers, your nails, Padm?,? Obi-Wan said hoarsely. ?You?re trying to kill yourself! I can feel your blood.? He felt nauseous. Why hadn?t he guessed this? He?d kept his distance from Padm? because he thought she needed it, needed that privacy...had he only been separating her, making her alone?
Padm? sniffed. ?Let me go, Obi-Wan,? she said angrily.
?That?s it, isn?t it? You?re angry. You want to punish Anakin. You want him,? Obi-Wan said slowly and deliberately, ?to find your dead body so he?ll suffer.?
?No, I don?t!? Padm? snapped.
Obi-Wan found Padm??s self-induced wound and put his hand over it. It didn?t seem to be bleeding that fast, so she hadn?t dug out the artery. ?Liar,? he hissed.
She tried to yank her arm out of his grasp.
Obi-Wan softened his voice. ?I?m here, Padm?.?
Padm? didn?t answer, but he could tell she was listening.
?I?m not going through this on my own, and neither are you. From now on,? he whispered. They had to stay sane. They had to stay together to do that, didn?t they? Not have distance, not create distance. ?What does killing yourself accomplish, Padm???
Padm? stilled. He felt her nod. Not a verbal response, not even a total agreement, and even less of one since they knew the other couldn?t see nods. Padm? knew that.
?I hate the darkness,? Padm? whispered. ?It?s nothing. Who knew nothing could be so terrible??
?I know,? Obi-Wan said into her matted and dirty hair. They were both filthy, unable to properly wash.
She stopped fighting him. ?It was stupid.?
This time, Obi-Wan didn?t answer. Nothing was to be gained. Padm? was not naturally depressed, or normally suicidal. She would be all right. Obi-Wan would be with her, so that she would be okay, and that would have to be enough.
He would be here. Not present; here.
?We can?t keep doing this.? Padm??s voice was whispery soft, that kind of soft where it seems not a product of voice, but of breath. But she knew Obi-Wan would hear. Along with the darkness, the silence was draining. Padm? found herself constantly searching for the noise of Obi-Wan breathing. Sometimes he would get so quiet in his meditations that she would poke him, just to hear him breathe. She had a feeling she amused him when she did that.
?Doing what?? Obi-Wan?s voice was loud, compared to the quiet of his breathing.
?We?re not surviving, we?re existing,? Padm? snapped. They talked; they counted the ?days?; they speculated. They didn?t talk about Anakin, about the Jedi, about the newborn Empire or the dying Republic. After the first few days, those became forbidden topics by default. Thinking of those things was both disheartening and energizing, but the energy had nowhere to go, and the sadness had nothing to dispel it.
?Maybe existing is easier.? It was a response uncharacteristic of the Jedi. Of Obi-Wan, or any Jedi.
Padm? walked over to him; four steps exactly. She knelt and grabbed his face roughly, his beard scratching her hand. ?You?re breaking,? Padm? said softly. It was amazing, to her, what little things could do to her. A mere thought could bring her to tears, when before it had been fact, life, a memory or a token of a memory. The present and past seemed so much more fragile.
??Oh, that I could do without; that greatest thing, hope.?? His voice rasped.
Padm? ran her fingers over his eyes, and they were wet. ?A quote from a classic tragedy play??
?Even Jedi have moments of weakness,? Obi-Wan pointed out. He sighed. ?What do you suggest we do? I never went through POW preparation like the others in the Clone Wars.?
?Well, obviously I didn?t, either,? Padm? said. ?We need...a routine. And something fun to do.?
Obi-Wan paused. ?Does this great wisdom come from holonovels, by any chance?? There was a new lightness to his voice.
Padm? laughed. ?Yes. At least they do their research ? sometimes.? We?re going to live, she thought. ?We can do this.?
Obi-Wan reached out and touched Padm??s face, rough fingertips lightly skimming along her jaw line. The contact was surprisingly comforting; it felt so real. ?Yes, we can. I?m a Jedi, and you...are you.?
Padm? took his hands in hers, and they stayed that way for a long time.
It weighed very heavily at times, thick and cloying. The darkness would press in on them again, they would let their minds wander...Of course, Padm? didn?t see or hear any of this directly, but she nevertheless knew it was the case. There was something to be said for the existence of instinct; it was clear, here, that something intuitive was at work at times. She wondered if it was the Force, some meager communication allowed by the small number of her midichlorians.
It didn?t really matter; the fact of it was enough.
They spoke sparingly, still, but they both made an effort. They talked about random little things, past experiences and philosophy. Sometimes they even told jokes. Obi-Wan only got some of hers, and she got only some of his. The one about Padawans and the number of eyes in the room simply didn?t make sense to her.
From what she remembered, Obi-Wan was sitting about four steps away. Every time she moved, every time he moved, she would adjust her mental map of where the two of them were in relation to each other and the walls. It was something he had taught her to do. It had been surprisingly easy to learn, once Obi-Wan had connected it to Senate politics ? keeping track of who was where, the alliances forged and broken. She had been taught to overlay the image of any political meeting with ?colors? ? each color representing a political view, a group, something of importance. She did it as easily and naturally as breathing, and while keeping track of their whereabouts was not so easy as that, she did it well enough.
She walked the four steps, sat down. Put her head on Obi-Wan?s shoulder as his arm came around her.
They sat facing each other, close enough that their knees were touching. Her hands rested in his, lying between the two of them. The ends of her long hair lay over her shoulders and down her arms; he could feel it. The physical contact was a habit now, and a comfortable and welcome one. Their sense of touch kept them grounded when the walls seemed to contract or expand, the darkness hiding it all.
?Sounds like you didn?t like Bruck,? Padm? noted in an amused tone.
It was their ?daily? ritual, after they ate every day, to tell each other stories. True or fiction, it didn?t matter. They often stuck to truth, though, or stories passed down to them. ?I didn?t,? Obi-Wan said, amused. ?Even then, when we were both eight, we fought a lot. And that was before the Oafy-Wan incident.?
?Oafy-Wan?? Padm? said with a laugh.
?I don?t laugh at your embarrassing childhood nicknames,? Obi-Wan said in an aggrieved tone.
Padm? slapped his arm, not fooled. ?Oafy-Wan. And I thought there was no way to twist your name.?
?It?s better than Paddy Frog.?
Routine. In the beginning, they had none. They would count the days and hours, but there was no routine. They talked aimlessly, the silences frequent and the contact sporadic.
Obi-Wan quickly realized the importance of routine, once he accepted the reality of their situation. Reality not meaning awareness, but more than that ? damning knowledge, more like. He and Padm? set up a schedule as much as was possible. Wake, eat, talk, silence, relax, play, talk, exercise, play, sleep. It was comforting to know what was ahead, and to control it to some extent. It brought order where there was chaos, a sturdy structure for them to fall apart in. It was safety.
Waking every ?morning? ? morning being whenever they both woke ? was filled with mingled despair and acceptance, with a strange sort of happiness, looking forward to the things that made up their lives. Sometimes he would smile when he woke. Sometimes he did not.
Eating was one of the things that reminded them of the lack of control. It was the same thing, every day, and while it had all the necessary nutrients and ingredients in it, they both nevertheless lost weight. They always ate silently, that part of the routine grown and not born. They discovered, with the implement of the routine, that the food and water did not arrive every day ? it appeared to be slightly off, slightly random, and Obi-Wan silently cursed Palpatine at this subtle torture.
Then they would talk, as they shared the water. Talking was one of the few things they looked forward to. They would talk of many things, usually serious things this first time of the new ?day?. Philosophy, art, and the past, save for all the past they knew personally. Going nowhere, and everywhere, exploring the facets of each other?s minds.
Silence, to think. To allow it and limit it, so it would not spin out of control, collapsing everything in the weight of its power.
They would relax in each other?s arms. They would touch nothing save the floor and each other, and the walls would disappear to nothingness, out of sight and out of mind.
Play was teasing; play was anything of joy; play was making rules and breaking them, doing away with the rules of the game.
Exercise was what Obi-Wan had insisted upon; body and mind were connected. He knew this as a Jedi, and he had convinced Padm? to include it as part of the routine. Their exercise was not mindless, but focused and intense. They stretched and danced, Obi-Wan even teaching Padm? katas, in all that he knew how to teach, with him blind and her blind in more than one way. She would stretch out an arm, and he would trace the curve of her body, making sure she had it right. Sometimes the Force wasn?t enough to tell the subtle positioning.
Play again. Games and strategies, stories and outlandish tales of truth. It was a reaching again for that quality of life that they did not possess here. More than comfort or surroundings, but the reassurance of knowing another enough to play, and know the other would catch you, should you trip and fall.
And rest, apart and trying not to stare out into the darkness, to do it all over again.
?You?re cheating.? Obi-Wan?s voice was calm and amused, floating out of nothing. They weren?t touching.
?I am not,? Padm? said in a deliberate, affronted tone. She hid a scrap of cloth behind her, even knowing perfectly well Obi-Wan couldn?t see it. Maybe he could sense it, or something.
Padm? only wore her undergown these days. The outer layers of her elaborate outfit ? not even the most elaborate ? were sacrificed in the cause of bedding and game-playing. Scraps became game pieces, and the larger pieces became beds. It no longer seemed quite so utterly ridiculous to Padm?, that she and Obi-Wan slept on her clothing. Obi-Wan had also undone the outer layers of his outfit, such as his robe. It was practical, and yet so very odd, still.
Still, the game pieces were even better than beds.
?You added a pawn piece!? Obi-Wan insisted.
?What? You saw it?? Padm? said mockingly. The pawns were the littlest scraps; the kings the biggest. Their board was the floor, with rather loose boundaries. ?Steps? were created by long strips of cloth, but the sides were endless, without boundaries. Padm? lightly and silently slipped her hand forward, fingertips just barely touching the scraps of cloths, finding her way. A lot had to be done in their heads, but moving the pieces required a light touch, so as not to disturb what degree of organization they did possess. She moved to take away that extra piece...
And bumped into Obi-Wan?s hand.
?Aha!? Obi-Wan said triumphantly.
Padm? snatched her hand away, laughing, but Obi-Wan followed her. She scrambled backwards, and Obi-Wan scrambled forwards, ruining their board. ?Hey!? Padm? said, forgetting herself.
?We?ll fix it,? Obi-Wan said, grasping her wrist. Just as easily, he began to tickle her.
Padm? squirmed breathlessly, striking out blindly in between fits of laughter.
Eventually, though, Obi-Wan let her go. They paused together, silent, breathing and taking a moment to calm down.
?Three hours,? Obi-Wan suggested.
?It felt more like four,? Padm? disagreed.
?Four, then,? Obi-Wan said, agreeable. ?Three months plus twenty-four days plus six hours plus four hours...?
Padm? nodded, repeating after him.
Another moment of silence.
?So what do you want to play next??
?What about a story? I want to hear more about this Palo kid...?
Padm? laughed. ?Anakin asked me that once.? The words fell from her lips without thought, startling her. Anakin headed that forbidden list of things they did not discuss. They talked of everything else, her and Obi-Wan, and it seemed that now walls were dissolving.
?I?m not surprised,? Obi-Wan said at last, no trace of censure in his voice. There was a thoughtful lilt to it, instead. Tacit permission?
Padm? rose to her feet and walked over to Obi-Wan; small steps, always small steps. When she reached him, she took his hand. The physical contact felt comfortable, normal. She encouraged him to stand as well, taking his hands and placing them just so to demonstrate, and then spoke. ?We went to a dance ? it was this dance, that we were taught...?
It was the time of day when they talked.
?It seems simple, but think about it,? Padm? challenged, sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, but facing in Obi-Wan?s general direction. ?The main character has a twisted relationship with his lover, but the whole thing says much more than that ? it?s a commentary on culture, on how ingrained beliefs complicate and change things hopelessly.? She paused. ?Kind of like the Jedi, in fact,? she noted with a teasing tone.
Obi-Wan laughed lightly. ?It?s just a play, even if a very good one. I doubt it was a commentary on the Jedi.?
?But does that mean it?s not applicable, nevertheless?? Padm? returned, more serious.
A slight pause, and Padm? wondered if he was shrugging. ?No,? Obi-Wan admitted. ?However, culture tends to be blind, and the Jedi are at least aware of those differences, traditions.?
Padm? cocked her head, considering that. ?I?ll accept that answer,? Padm? said finally. She rose to her feet, aware Obi-Wan was still sitting. Two steps to the left, and she was just to his right. Out of sight, in a bizarre way, or that?s how it felt; he couldn?t quite look at her here. Silly, how such conventions still bound her in moments of uncertainty or nervousness. ?Do you think Anakin realized that? That...the Jedi were aware of it??
?The limitations, possibly damaging, of Jedi culture?? Obi-Wan said rhetorically, then answered his own question. ?I don?t think so. Aware of the flaws, perhaps, clearer than any of us, raised to it more cleanly, but he always had difficulty seeing both sides of an argument.?
No real hesitation to his reply. None of the brusqueness of before, certainly; that tacit permission arising again, more clearly this time.
?I know,? Padm? said softly. ?But he did try, sometimes, and he did see.?
?I...do love him,? Obi-Wan said hesitantly. ?Whatever part of him that is left that I would recognize. He was a good person, and I have not forgotten that.?
Padm? turned her head sharply, as useless as it was. ?Yes,? she said at last, to have something to say, not sure if she was agreeing or confirming.
A moment more. ?Did you ever read the play...? Obi-Wan began, and the topic shifted, not abruptly, but in its due time.
It wasn?t that she liked to watch him, precisely. For one thing, there wasn?t anything to watch. But there were times when she let herself become hyperaware of him, of what he was doing, of every breath and every movement. When she focused on him, she didn?t exist in her own mind, and that was sometimes a comfort.
And sometimes, just sometimes, she would be aware of his regard, and she would close her eyes and take that in, because she understood and it was all right.
They worshipped their routine. It was everything to them, and thus, it was their god. In it, life was structured, apparently meaningful; without it, there was nothing. But like many worshippers, they did not always obey, and it was always bad for them when they didn?t. Obi-Wan felt a sense of spite when he did not follow it; so did Padm?. He?d asked her. But it was also a delicious sort of self-destructive freedom, one they could not seem to help but seek. Their nature as human beings, perhaps.
Still, they followed the routine. Mostly.
There was the occasional argument over whether to change the routine. It always ended the same: the routine must be unchanged. It lost validity if it were changed. They both knew this, instinctively, and did not argue much over it.
The routine was too precious to lose.
They cracked the routine slightly. They didn?t break it, the routine was still there and they still followed it, but it was altered slightly.
Padm? counted the paces wall to wall, and Obi-Wan let her.
It almost seemed like everything was a whisper, when nothing but themselves made sound: ?Four plus six hours plus twelve days plus one year...?
?Silly things,? Padm? murmured. Obi-Wan was five steps away, and she knew he heard her clearly. Heard her every moment, but she could only tell some of his, when they were as far apart as possible, one at that wall and one at this wall...
?I never had them,? Obi-Wan said simply. ?Must have been a toy craze that missed the Temple.? He didn?t move; that meant he was thinking serious thoughts.
Padm? wanted to squint. ?Do they ever get any? There?? Curious, a light leaning forward, but no decisive movement. Obi-Wan would sense that.
?Oh, sometimes,? Obi-Wan assured her, and she was relieved; what a normal thing, then.
?Did you ever -??
?No. Not so much; I mostly played with little starships I built, models, really. Jedi children learn even in play, I suppose,? Obi-Wan said reflectively. Still, there was sadness: he had moved as he said it, a quick motion to the left, and that quick motion told Padm? that.
?I don?t think about it much, now,? Padm? replied. ?Those games.? Comfort, and a slow movement, closer to him. She could feel him react, calm.
?Neither do I,? Obi-Wan said calmly. He further relaxed, and Padm? knew it, because she was attuned to nearly every sound he made, as he was to her.
?We have new games,? Padm? added. ?Do you think we?ll always play them much??
?Yes,? Obi-Wan said instantly.
Padm? paused, and so did Obi-Wan. Games were and went, with their lives and how they changed. Would they always play the games so much, these games where it did not depend on sight?
Counting was a bad thing. Counting meant obsession with their captivity. In the beginning, it was time they had counted ? which they still did, but to a lesser degree. They carefully, ever so carefully, controlled how they did it. No repeating. It was part of the schedule, when they would estimate time, when they would add it all up.
Counting how many steps it was from wall to wall was not permitted. Counting the number of finger-sized spaces from one wall to another was not permitted. They had, at one point, quietly agreed that they could not do that anymore, because whenever they miscounted, they would panic: it seemed like the walls were shrinking. And they would recount, and calm down.
It was, Padm? rather thought, like an itch.
Irresistible, painful, but seemingly so necessary. What did scratching do but temporarily deaden the nerves? And what was she doing to herself, she wondered, in counting?
She started to walk, to count, when Obi-Wan approached, the sound of his movement soft and yielding. He caressed her arm, and she went still. ?Time for play?? he murmured into her ear, so close she could feel his warmth.
?Do you think he?ll ever know??
?That we were down here?? Obi-Wan shrugged. ?Who knows if we?ll ever know anything, for it to even matter??
A moment?s pause, and a slightly more icy tone: ?Obi-Wan.?
Obi-Wan sat up from his slumped position. Padm? was six steps away, sitting calmly, correctly. Something within her tone, the way she breathed, told him that. ?He would care,? Obi-Wan said softly, closing his eyes.
?Yes,? Padm? said, but her voice trembled.
?You know,? Padm? said calmly, ?I think it?s really stupid the way you try to control yourself sometimes.?
Obi-Wan didn?t turn ? he was already facing her ? but he was startled out of his unfocused state. They had been sitting in silence for about twenty minutes, doing nothing, saying nothing. Thinking. ?What??
?You always have to be in control,? Padm? said matter-of-factly. ?Never show anything. Just...shunt it away. Stifle it. Do your job. Whatever the hell that is, here.?
?I?m doing nothing of the sort,? Obi-Wan responded, unshaken. ?I am attempting to meditate.?
?Attempting to stifle,? Padm? responded in an agreeable tone. ?You hardly say anything to me anymore. You?ve changed since the way you used to be, when we first came here.?
?I haven?t,? Obi-Wan denied, but something inside him quibbled at that.
?Being strong doesn?t mean being quiet,? Padm? whispered. ?I know it, even if I?m not...that way myself.?
Obi-Wan didn?t reply. But he stared out at the darkness, trying to see something, in vain, other than Padm??s words. Padm? didn?t push; she walked away.
?I wonder what he?s doing now,? Padm? whispered. The quiet shifts of her feet as she walked kept Obi-Wan aware of where she was. Her whisper was very soft, seeming to come from nowhere, or very close.
?Perhaps the same thing the last time you asked that question,? Obi-Wan said with a flash of irritation.
Padm? stopped. ?It was rhetorical question,? she snapped.
?Then why speak?? Obi-Wan returned. The mentions of Anakin had grown more and more frequent, as time went on. Gradual, even healing, Obi-Wan thought, so that one on the list of forbidden topics drifted away. First, just gentle touches in a conversation, then entire swathes of speaking devoted to him. He heard affection, love, in her voice, and then anger. ?You?re just holding onto him,? Obi-Wan said, knowing he was cutting deep, and wondering if he was making the wound worse or cleaning it.
?Like you hold onto your Jedi ideals, which are meaningless down here?? Padm? said after a second, mockingly.
Obi-Wan flinched. His insistence of not judging, of not thinking ill when he didn?t know the whole story of things had in turn irritated her. That wouldn?t normally bother him, except he knew she was right, just like he was right: he held onto his Jedi ideals, trying to keep some fragment of the time before, just as she held onto Anakin.
?Maybe I do,? Obi-Wan said, struggling to keep his voice even, ?but at least my foolish, painful holding on isn?t making me go crazy.? He was hissing by the end, hurt.
?Go to hell!?
?We aren?t there?? And Obi-Wan laughed, the sound coming out more sarcastic than it felt.
A quick step ? hard, the sound was hard, she was moving fast. The first blow landed on his shoulder, telling him where she was, the position of her body, and he grabbed for her wrists, catching one and getting the upper part of the other. Her nails, long and sharp, dug into his skin, and he heard her harsh breathing.
?I?m sorry,? Obi-Wan gasped out.
?So am I,? Padm? said, nearly choking over the words, making them all that more sincere. Her body was still tense, but the attack had stopped, and Obi-Wan let her go. His hands were still loosely curled around her arms, but he didn?t hold her anymore. It was a touch.
?It?s not that easy to let go,? Padm? murmured.
?Isn?t this our reality now?? Obi-Wan whispered. ?At least the dreams will stop hurting, if we can hold onto each other, instead of what?s gone...lost to us,? he said, struggling with the words, searching for the right ones and only coming close.
Padm? inhaled sharply. She moved her arms, and Obi-Wan let his hands fall. She touched his face. ?I?ll let go if you do.?
?Ever the bargaining politician?? But it was not biting, but warmth, and he smiled when she laughed.
?Not so much,? she said quietly.
Obi-Wan nodded, his hands on her and hers on him, and he reached up to her face.
She was twitchy and he was angry.
It went like this:
?Don?t do that.? Firm.
?I can walk around the cell when I want to.? Light, with an edge.
?Not when you?re counting.? Dark.
?So are you allowed, then, to wallow in self-induced misery because you no longer believe in the Jedi so much ? and I, I am not allowed to count?? Hurting.
?Don?t ?? Hurting.
?Obi-Wan...? Uncertainty, tempered and sharp.
?I?m not wallowing anymore.? Soft. ?Angry, as it is now.? Slightly sarcastic. ?No counting.?
A long pause. ?No counting.? The slow, methodical walking stopped. ?No wallowing.?
It wasn?t the schedule?s time to relax, but they both broke it anyway, with no argument, and held each other.
She was twitchy, wanting to count, and he was angry, wanting to grieve.
Obi-Wan drifted. It was quiet, as always, but there was calm, too, and that was pleasant. Padm? lay in his arms, as much as he lay in hers, and the only sound was that of them breathing. He could feel her warm breaths, slow and even, on his face. The Force was tranquil, like an isolated pond. Still beautiful, even its stillness.
It was the time of day when they relaxed; when the walls were as thin as paper in their minds.
His hand was settled on her waist, and her arm lay over his back. The warmth between them was delicious. It felt like home. They did not, now, see things in relation to what they were, but how they made them feel. Obi-Wan realized that when Padm? started describing things in how they felt to her ? not how Alderaan fruit tasted, but the memories behind them. The red ones were her mother, the yellow her older sister. Things became immaterial in their minds; emotions and memory became tangible.
?If we get out...? Padm? whispered, quite suddenly. ?We?ll make him pay.?
?Yes, we will,? Obi-Wan agreed, just as faintly.
A moment more of breathing. Then Padm? spoke ? not of their situation, but of what would be. She explained, in soft tones and harsh words, how she would destroy Palpatine?s political strength. She described every dirty trick she knew and had never used, every piece of blackmail information she had ethically ?forgotten?. It was laid out before him, clear as day, and he smiled, because it was so perfect.
He didn?t think her weak for thinking of revenge. She was strong. And he was suddenly reminded of the optimistic fourteen-year-old Queen, diligent and aware, yet not cynical.
And still not, he rather thought. He brushed his fingers over her lips, and felt her smile. He felt the quirk of her eyebrow, the intensity of her blind stare.
He kissed her, softly, on the forehead. She exhaled warmth.
She felt what he wanted her to feel.
Like velvet. Stars were the glitter on the tips of its curves, from light outside. The velvet sky was a deep purple, not black, and the stars always twinkled with laughter, even in the depth of space. The planets were terrifying in their beauty, whirling past her at brilliant speeds. Some stark and silent, and eerily right in their own way, some green and teeming with life, and others mixtures of orange and yellow and turquoise, all those strange colors you could never imagine on your own.
He whispered it all into her ear, and she closed her eyes, seeing it all.
It was hard not to scratch her own skin. She paced restlessly, muscles spasming in tension. One block and another and another, and she couldn?t help herself from thinking about it, and it all added up relentlessly.
She wanted to tear it off. Tear. Tears. ?Obi-Wan?? Her voice sounded desperate even to herself.
?Yes? Padm??? A few quick steps and she felt his hand settle on her shoulder.
Is it possible to feel claustrophobic in your own skin? she wondered.
?Knock me out. Use the Force. Whatever. Just do it, please,? she whispered, grabbing his arm and tightening until she knew it was painful.
?Padm? ? no ??
?I can?t get out,? she breathed.
He touched her forehead gently, and her thoughts slowed, became drowsy, then stopped altogether.
He wouldn?t do this for her again. There was no one to do it for him.
Still talking to her, he took her hand, telling how soft the silk of her gown felt, how smooth and clean. He was behind her, one hand settled on her waist, the other gently massaging her palm. He pushed against her, telling her to take a step, and she did; and when she did, it was not the stone of the cell that she felt beneath her feet, but the warm tile that led to her balcony.
And outside, on the balcony, velvet skies shone with sparkling stars.
Padm? lay next to him, half on top of him, her head on his chest and one arm casually thrown over. She was warm, and the curve of her back where his hand rested was beautiful. So relaxed, amazing, even now. He could feel her rise with his each breath, could match his breathing to hers. She was asleep. They no longer slept separately. He was awake, staring up.
The Force was intangible. Inexplicable. The Jedi pretended to understand it, but they didn?t, not really. Not that the Sith had any better of an understanding ? or that he did. He remembered, vaguely, Yoda saying something similar to him once. And the saying went through his head, like clockwork: The more you know, the more you realize how little you know.
Padm? was intangible. In a different way, in an odd way, but she was. He could feel her, touch her, but her mind amazed him. Her spirit, her personality, what made her...her. It was beautifully strange and alluring. She had such strength. She broke, she cried, but she rebuilt herself. And how...was intangible.
Obi-Wan wasn?t intangible. He knew when he broke, he couldn?t put himself back together like Padm? could. He?d averted it, somewhat, learning as Padm? did to adapt to this environment. But where she found comfort in hope, in the little things, Obi-Wan couldn?t grasp that intangible thing. He was ? limited. Why had he once thought, that with the Force he could see more than most?
He stroked Padm??s back. She felt so real when he touched her. She inhaled, exhaled. Inhale. Inhale. He never wanted her to just exhale.
It was getting harder to remember. Things once familiar became unfamiliar, blurred in the attempt to recall them properly.
Obi-Wan knew that if the reality of the outside universe was fading for him, it surely was for Padm?. He could, with his training, recall things with perfect clarity, every moment sharp and clear, as cutting as a blade. All Jedi could. He wasn?t sure when he had stopped trying to remember, except that it was gradual, happening less and less often. And now, when he tried to remember, the memory was...distant. Fading in the way of a dream, where everything is perfect when you first wake, but as time goes on it leaves you, even as you frantically try to grasp what remains. It wasn?t the clarity that was leaving him, it appeared to be his ability to connect to what he was remembering.
Of course, then there were the little true remembrances. They flashed in his mind, oddly clear, and effulgently beautiful in the brief moments they lasted.
But they didn?t hurt anymore.
Was it a good or bad thing, he wondered, when the past is no longer as haunting as it was once?
?Obi-Wan?? She was five steps away ? close enough to hear his breathing, far enough away that she didn?t want to be bothered.
?Do you still cry at night??
Night; how silly. Even now the notion persisted. ?I never cried,? Obi-Wan said instead.
A slight pause. He knew she had. ?But ? you held onto it, then. You cried, I know you did, you just didn?t...sob.?
?Yes,? Obi-Wan said, admitting the truth of that. He could certainly admit to her.
?So then, now that we?ve gotten past your tangent, do you?? she said lightly, teasing, but the question still serious.
?No,? Obi-Wan said at last. ?I don?t think so.?
?Do you think we?ve really lost our minds now??
?What?s with all the questions?? he retorted.
?I think we?re sane, but that?s not really indicative of anything,? she said, as if Obi-Wan hadn?t spoken.
Obi-Wan held out his hand. ?Padm?...? He heard Padm? rise, and after a few seconds ? of searching ? she took his hand and sat beside him. One step. ?We?ve adjusted,? was all he said.
?What do we adjust to when we get out??
Obi-Wan laughed, the joy of talking to her as inescapable as it was sometimes unavoidable. ?Whatever awaits us.?
Padm? put her head on his shoulder. After a second, Obi-Wan let go of her hand, to put his arm around her. She sighed deeply, but her breathing was smooth and even. She wasn?t upset ? and, had she been, she probably would have kept out of reach.
?I don?t think about getting out anymore.?
?Neither do I.?
That was a lie. A discerning mind that cared to see would see that. But it was a comforting lie, and a lie that let them dissolve the boundaries, and for a while, at least, they could play and pretend they didn?t do so in the dark. She realized this, later on, in the relaxing time. So Padm? let it pass. It was these little things that they did for each other that counted the most.
The balcony was endless. With each step Padm? took, Obi-Wan gave her something new. The first had been the room, the tile beneath her feet. The second, the shimmersilk she wore. The third, out onto the balcony ? and the stars, and the purple sky. He created such wonderful things for her. She smiled, and so did he.
The fourth, stepping next to the sun. Obi-Wan?s breath was warm in her ear, and the warmth of the sun tanned her skin, filled her to her bones. It was a fiery orange, so bright in places it was yellow and white, and in others a dark red. Long strands of fire lifted from its surface, only to fall again in massive loops that seemed to be made of feathers.
?Another step,? Obi-Wan whispered.
Another step into the unknown. The system spread out before her, with the deep, dark green of the gas giant to the deep red of the little planet that circled nearby, to the cloud of ice comets hardly touched with interstellar dust, instead refracting again and again the light of the sun and stars in the depths of the ice. Small asteroids crashed into others, and there was a sudden, strange vision of having to dodge between those suddenly dangerous comets ?
Padm? turned to Obi-Wan, who had briefly recalled to her such an experience.
?No wonder you hate flying,? Padm? said, eyes still closed, still surrounded by purple. She touched his face, and was surprised to find it wet.
?I don?t hate flying, I dislike the things that always happen to me when I fly,? and despite the flippant words, his voice was uneven.
?Obi-Wan,? Padm? whispered, turning around and uselessly opening her eyes, but focusing entirely on Obi-Wan.
He gripped her arms painfully, but his hands trembled. Padm? took his head in her hands, but he slipped down, falling, and she lowered herself to the floor with him. He shook helplessly, and Padm? stroked his face, ignoring his beard, trying to comfort, not knowing if she was succeeding and doubting it.
He laid his head on her shoulder carefully, fitting perfectly, tucked under her chin and above her collarbone, quietly falling apart, in an oddly organized fashion, Padm? felt.
That was Obi-Wan.
Break right through.
?You should have been there for him.? Accusing, but not meanly so.
?You should have realized what was happening.? Curt. Perhaps.
?You should have felt what Palpatine was in the Force.? Sly.
?You should have realized how he was using you to gain control of the Senate.? Even slyer.
?I should have tried harder to reach Anakin.? Sadness.
?I should have listened.? Regret.
A long silence. Neither touched the other. Padm??s breaths were coming rapidly, far quicker than normal; he suspected he was having the same problem, though perhaps less noticeable. They were always very aware of the other?s breathing. Breath was life. Breathing was living.
?Feel any better?? Obi-Wan asked at last, throat tight, the words difficult. He didn?t reach out; the absence was somehow telling to him.
?No.? Shortly, but that was all.
?Neither do I.? Agreement, and with agreement, tacit healing.
Tensely breathing; too tense to relax enough to enjoy a breath.
Padm? was laughing.
The game was simple, strategy but simple. Unfortunately, it was a game Obi-Wan didn?t know. Two years, seven months, three days, four hours, and it was new. And he was losing horribly.
?How do you do that so easily?? He asked because he wanted to know; because it was part of her; because...
?What? Win?? Mischief.
?Laugh,? Obi-Wan replied. ?As you make me,? he added, smiling.
She was struck silent temporarily. ?Good question.?
?I had a teacher at the Temple who would say that to every question he didn?t know the answer to, you know,? Obi-Wan teased.
?So did I!? Padm? laughed.
?It?s about faith.?
Obi-Wan started, and began to get up. Padm? gently pushed him down, and he acquiesced. She lay behind him, curled up against his back, one arm lying over his waist. ?And what is faith?? he asked at last.
Padm? stroked his hair.
?And what do you trust in??
A moment of silence. ?That wrongs will be righted. That happiness can be had.? She levered herself up, and he didn?t move. She drew a hand down the side of his face, noting no wetness, and knowing there would be none. ?I trust you.?
?Trust is intangible,? Obi-Wan said, strangely.
Padm? cocked her head. ?Hmm??
?Am I intangible, Padm???
Padm? said nothing, not sure what Obi-Wan needed to hear. But he needed something, clearly, and so she spoke. ?You?re real. But what I cannot see, what I do not yet know of you...that is intangible.?
?But not like you.?
?Like me in what way?? Padm? asked curiously.
?I?m...do you remember the play, Padm??? Obi-Wan said hesitantly.
?Yes,? Padm? said, nodding at the same time; it was still a habit, though to speak ? yes, that was a habit too.
??Is this nothingness that I am, that I can only reflect what I see in others?? Will I shatter like a mirror, never to be rebuilt??
Padm? paused carefully, walking with only a veil between her and the edge of whatever doubt or fear Obi-Wan felt. Am I only a Jedi? seemed to be what was asked, and yet, she was never sure, could not be. ?And do you remember what his love said? ?A mirror, but of beautiful things, changing like the river of Alnoth Se, as unconquerable as the sea.??
He shifted, quickly and gracefully, and Padm? started in surprise when he was able to touch her face. And she thought over what she had said, and what he had said. Are you my love? she thought. Anakin is gone. And you are only Obi-Wan to me.
Each step was a step into another universe. It wasn?t that they didn?t think about the outside anymore; it just didn?t matter. They were here, and they had each other. The breathless depth of their minds was their world, and they could be satisfied with that.
Obi-Wan touched the walls. Cold, hard, stone. The metal of the door that never opened could hardly be called a door. Smooth except the grooves, chilled to the touch as always.
He felt no pain, and no sadness.
Faith was trust; he trusted that even if they died here, they would have this: each other. That was the Force?s gift to them. He could be content with that. Would he have ever known her so deeply and intimately, other than this? Too high a price, perhaps, or one that should have never been paid, but it was a gift nevertheless.
He trusted the Force. He trusted Padm?. He trusted...he had faith in those things. Somehow Padm? knew, and she said nothing when he touched the door, that damn door, and it was all right that it was closed; accepted even if not acceptable.
And he was granted a new kind of peace, brought by more than the Force.
Sometimes he?d pick a word and think about it. Avoid. Avoidance. It was impossible to avoid Padm? in here. Very possible to avoid everything else.
At first, he had thought there were things you couldn?t really avoid. But, he realized, you can always avoid such things. Blank it out of your mind, forget it happened, refuse to believe it exists. He remembered a Jedi Master teaching a class of young, sixteen-year-old Padawans a survival course. Obi-Wan had thought it silly at first ? he already knew how to survive in a wilderness, how to improvise in bad situations and trust the Force.
Then Master Jeltenth started talking to them about torture and pain. ?The mind will do nearly anything to avoid pain.? He told them to unlearn to what they knew, to never block out the pain, and as long as they did that, as long as the pain edified, as long as they could transmute its existence into purpose, they would be the sanest people in the galaxy. You could ignore a scratch, but ignore torture and you will be lost in what its absence creates, he told them.
Why he was thinking of all this now, he didn?t know. He didn?t avoid Padm?. He didn?t avoid the reality of her, the beauty of her nature or the fiery temper that lurked beneath. Not the rudeness nor the laughter. She was always here.
Sometimes it was peaceful. It was always quiet, unless they deliberately made it not quiet, but sometimes it was peaceful. Peace was a different thing, a thing of the essence of a person. A deep, settled contentment; unshaken, at least for now.
Routine. Their beautiful thing.
?Do you ever think our routine is a bad thing??
?What do you mean??
?That we get too...set.? To see new things.
Uncertainty. ?I don?t know.?
?I would never avoid you.?
?Whatever that means, thank you.? Amused.
?I can see why your people fell in love with you.?
Padm? laughed. ?Can you? I understood it, I suppose, but I think I could have done better. As Queen, as a Senator.?
Obi-Wan shrugged, knowing Padm? wouldn?t see it. They were both breathing a little more than usual, the exercise starting to become real exertion now. They were both doing the same kata. Even though Obi-Wan couldn?t see Padm?, he could feel her, and was timing his moves to coincide with hers, giving a murmured correction here and there. ?I don?t even mean that, really. They forgave your mistakes because they loved you, they didn?t fail to see them because they loved you.?
?What do you mean??
?They ? loved your bravery, your strength, your determination. It amazed me even then, that you could rule Naboo so young.? He smiled. ?You were a lot wiser than I at that age.?
?Don?t be silly. You were a Jedi at fourteen, weren?t you? I can?t imagine having to go out on dangerous missions, risking my life ? I never knew I would when I became Queen.?
?I left the Order when I was fourteen, remember?? Obi-Wan said dryly.
?Ah,? Padm? said, and he could almost feel her wince. ?You know, the thing I always admired about you was your serenity. You always had such clarity of purpose, in being a Jedi. I didn?t necessarily have that as a Senator. I wasn?t always sure what I wanted.? She sighed. ?As you know,? she added, referring obliquely to Anakin, her voice soft with affection, and no regret.
?I have always known that I was meant to be a Jedi, and that has given me a certain degree of serenity, but that didn?t stop me from choosing wrong paths, making wrong choices,? he said quietly, reflectively. ?I understood why Anakin chose to marry you, despite my reaction when I found out.?
?But he still made the wrong decision??
?I?m not so sure as the Jedi were, even then. You...aren?t a weakness.? He hesitated. ?You grant your friends strength by the strength of your own character and devotion to duty.?
Padm? suddenly stopped the kata, throwing Obi-Wan off balance. ?Do you think Anakin is dead??
?He could be,? Obi-Wan said easily, expecting the question would come again at some point.
?Do you think we?ll get out of here??
?Looking doubtful,? Obi-Wan said, amused. He heard no regret in Padm??s voice, just matter-of-factness.
She paused at his light tone. ?We avoid thinking about it, talking about it, even now,? she said softly.
The past. ?Yes, I know.?
?We pretend it doesn?t exist.?
?It might as well not, in here,? he said.
He twitched when she gently settled her hands on his shoulders. ?But it does,? she whispered. ?And I still ? know you. I still love you, I still want to spend time with you.?
I never knew it could be such a gift to know another as well as I know you. But he didn?t say that. Instead, he reached forward and brought her into his arms, kissing her on the forehead, on her hair, heedless of the sweat and dirt. Both had ceased noticing that long ago. ?As do I.?
To avoid pain, certain things must be done: first, denial. Then, a new reality. Then, sticking to that new reality. Whether your leg was broken and you thought of fields of lilies, or if your heart was broken and all you could think of was revenge easing it. It was normal. All very normal.
And then, what then? When the pain fades, does the new reality fade, too? But you?ve created it. Haven?t you? How does it go away, when it comforts you so?
Padm? was sleepy. Sleepy, but not yet enough to actually fall asleep; a light doze, maybe, but those didn?t give much rest, so she stayed awake, and dealt with being sleepy.
?What is the soul, do you think??
?You want to discuss philosophy?? Obi-Wan asked, voice slightly breathless from sleep, but waking up.
?Philosophy implies just ? reasoning, thinking, no actual answer. At least to me, it does,? Padm? remarked. ?Do you think our souls determine what we act like? Do you think if you?re a bad person, you have a bad soul? Is the soul eternal??
Obi-Wan didn?t answer for a moment. ?I believe so. I also think what we do affects our souls. But...I think a soul is separate from a person?s personality.?
Padm? exhaled, then took another deep breath. ?Some people have beautiful souls. You can see it shine out of them.?
A moment, then, ?Yes,? was all Obi-Wan said.
?Spirit!? Padm? said, whacking Obi-Wan on the shoulder.
?I know,? Obi-Wan said, amused. ?I was just teasing you. You have a strong spirit. Not so much fierce, but strong. And serene.?
?Shouldn?t I ask you that??
?Strong. And loving.?
Obi-Wan said nothing, but Padm? realized after a moment it was because he couldn?t think of what to say. He tensed slightly, and she thought, He disagrees? You may hide it, but you feel it. She had a feeling, though, that there was nothing else there ? no pain, or fear. Something within him had settled, peacefully, over time.
?Go to sleep,? Obi-Wan said at last.
?You think I haven?t been trying??
?You?ve been talking.? Pause. ?I?ll help you sleep, then,? Obi-Wan said, ?but you might have to stop talking first.?
They danced. Padm? hummed, quietly, but here quietly was more than enough. His hands were settled on her lower back, her arms were loosely encircled at the nape of his neck. He could feel her breaths, could feel the heat of her body. His thumbs caressed little circles into her bare skin, the ragged edge of her shirt not quite covering that dip, just right there on her lower back. She shivered when he pressed on that spot.
Her head lay on his shoulder, the curve of her neck set against his. He held his head up high, and she fit there perfectly that way. Her fingers tangled through his hair, longer now than it had ever been, and sometimes she would stroke up, from his nape into his hair, and he would shiver.
Do you think the changes are little or big? Good or bad? Are you more patient, more loving, can you sit in the silence and see the beauty of it? Should I not be a better person, forged anew and hammered into something new and more beautiful in the pain of the making?
They didn?t always get along.
Padm? didn?t want to ?get along?. She didn?t want to get anything. Sometimes she just wanted him to leave her alone. So they would sit in darkness and silence, because if they did nothing that?s always what happened, and ignored each other to the best of their ability. But she couldn?t help tracking him, where he was sitting in relation to her, how fast he was breathing, even the sound of it ?
They didn?t always get along. But they had to live with each other anyway.
?You know, this is a life changing experience,? Padm? said suddenly.
Obi-Wan said nothing, perhaps thinking it was like a rhetorical question, which perhaps it was.
?So how have we changed??
Obi-Wan let loose a strangled noise. ?You don?t think we?ve changed? We dream of new places, places we?ve never seen, we go days hardly talking, we?ve actually gotten used to never being able to see ??
?Are we better? Tell me, are we better?? Are we stronger? Wiser? She wondered, often, if they still viewed the galaxy the way they once had ? as real, solid, present. Sometimes she realized he and she would have a totally silent discussion, from listening to breathing, to how far away they were from each other, from the way they subtly altered the routine...Their world had tightened, become smaller. They dreamed of it being bigger, but if the world were to ever become solid, and real, and present, where would the dream go? Could they let go of happiness for something so vaguely remembered?
Obi-Wan inhaled deeply. ?All our experiences change us, no matter how slight. And we always learn. Learning never stops.?
Padm? closed her eyes. ?Is it normal that I still grieve for Anakin??
To her surprise, she heard Obi-Wan rise to his feet. He walked over to her. ?Tell me,? he whispered, ?is the grief still sharp and strong? Or part of you, accepted and brought into your life, while you live on??
She reached out blindly, taking his hands. ?Does grief ever leave??
?Has your grief for the Naboo who died, all those years ago under the Federation, ever truly ceased? Or has it changed, been transmuted?? Obi-Wan asked quietly.
?I guess I have changed,? she whispered.
?But for the better?? Obi-Wan finished. His voice dropped. ?I know you now. And that has changed me. Isn?t that enough??
Padm? sighed. ?How do you know what to say??
?I don?t until you ask it,? Obi-Wan replied lightly. He paused, and in that pause Padm? heard uncertainty. ?I do my best to answer you.?
I am seeing the real you. Even if everything else I see is delusion, to stop the pain of the dark, you are real.
He reminded himself of that often.
Laughter was sweet; it energized and lifted up, and when the source of that laughter was real, it didn?t leave emptiness behind, but a gentle contentment.
Padm? made him laugh.
?Come now ? surely you?ve thought about it? It?s subtle, but don?t you think it would have occurred to them??
?That we have a dress code for that reason??
?It?s like grade school ??
?Which you?ve never even been in, Miss Tutored.?
?- They make everyone dress the same to give a feeling of community, that no one is above any other. Or humbleness, as you say. But they also do it so you won?t dress like they do on holovision, don?t they ??
Obi-Wan laughed at the mental image of himself in leather pants.
Anakin was gone, and the present was real.
She had a nightmare. She didn?t dream in colors and light anymore, just black and shades of gray. The dreams varied, from detailed to the only vaguely but strongly horrific. Obi-Wan woke her by shaking her until she stilled. Then she turned in her arms, and put her head on his chest. His breathing deepened gradually, as he fell back asleep, whatever remained of his internal clock telling him it was still time for that.
Padm? remained awake, listening and feeling him breathe. She felt a sudden rush of feeling for him, powerful, and tears stung her eyes.
She wondered, frantically, mentally, if it was a rationalization that she was no longer Padm?, Anakin?s wife, or Padm?, Senator Amidala. Or even Padm?, daughter of Ruwee and Jobal. Or sister to Sola, or aunt to Pooja and Ryoo. . .
?Don?t hide from me. Don?t hide it. Don?t avoid it,? Padm? whispered into Obi-Wan?s ear.
He shivered, but held her tighter.
Padm?. Beautiful Padm?. Wise Padm?. He did love her, with desperate strength. He had always known he loved quickly, deeply, but always, always it had been tempered. And now, tempered by what?
He wasn?t sure if he kissed her or she kissed him, but either way, both went after it like it was a race, to see which could feel the other more, which could give into this wonderful feeling more completely. She was amazing beneath his hands, and the rake of her fingers against his back made his whole body arch.
?I love you,? he told her, over and over, and she whispered it back, louder and louder.
He wasn?t particularly padded, but neither was she. Nevertheless, sleeping on top of him was comfortable: her head on his chest, one leg thrown over his, her right arm curving around his, beneath his arm with her hand on his shoulder. Her other hand rested gently on the inside of his wrist, his arm loosely laying out. She could feel his pulse. Thu-thump.
They both breathed slowly, easily. Afterwards, they had said nothing, simply held each other. She hadn?t expected that, that quietness, but it didn?t seem out of place.
She thought of Anakin. Naturally. If she tried hard enough, she could remember his touch, his laugh, his smile. But with those wonderful memories, still treasured, came those others, that she could not forget, and knew she shouldn?t wish to forget. His anger, the blood on his hands, staining his spirit. And the pain, too. But her perception of those memories had changed over time, with new realizations and new truths learned even down here. He had made his choices, and he had had many; ultimately, he had made decisions that had separated him from her. She didn?t think it had been intended, on purpose; he had always needed and loved her, but he had still made those choices. Did this ultimate separation cut all bonds? She didn?t think so, but new bonds had been formed.
Obi-Wan. His gentleness, his spirit and his soul. His own pain, his own grief, but his own joys and happiness too.
?I love you,? she said, and she didn?t whisper it this time.
?I love you,? he said simply, breathing not altering a bit, and she had to laugh a little. She wondered if he had been asleep, dozing, or faking it entirely. She decided it didn?t matter, and relaxed against him, to the steady beat of his heart, and fell asleep.
She never could quite control her breathing. So he knew the exact moment she fell asleep.
Don?t hide it, she had told him. And she was right. He had hidden his love long enough, at great cost ? not only to himself. Not mainly to himself. If this could heal, if this could heal her and him, that was more than enough. And he had more than enough, and even more than that.
?Why do you think most plays have happy endings??
?You know why.?
?I know I know why, I just wonder if you do.?
?Because most people prefer happy endings,? Obi-Wan said softly.
?Most?? Padm? said with faint laughter.
Obi-Wan paused. ?They prefer happy endings at all costs, I sometimes think. The thing about stories is that they can teach, edify...Life doesn?t always give you happy endings. Tales can deal with that fact, even teach us...if not how to survive, that there is meaning behind it.?
?Good tales,? Padm? said softly. She was curled against him, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder. One of her hands lay on his thigh. ?Good tales do that.?
Obi-Wan smiled. ?That?s why the Jedi have a lot of tales where everyone dies at the end ? but justice, peace, civilization ? they are preserved.?
?Jedi can be morbid. Don?t they have happy endings sometimes??
?Yes, they do.?
?Are we learning from our tale, that we tell each other??
That we speak in our stories of our past lives, our discussions of art and even philosophy, in how I learn every day how much I love you... ?Yes. I think we are.?
?What is a soul??
Blink. There was no light, but to blink ? instinct to protect the vulnerable eyes, fear being the immediate reaction to shock? Who knew. ?It?s...I don?t think it?s supposed to be describable.?
?Something...more, I think.? You have a beautiful soul.
?More than personality ? more than reacting a certain way to a situation, more than liking chocolate.? You have a beautiful soul; that will never change.
?How then, does one see a soul?? You have a beautiful soul, that will never change, and I see it through the veil of mine.
?How then does one know love??
?It?s as indescribable as the soul.?
Smile. ?Precisely,? and the words were a breath, a breach, a breaking through, a simple word.
Despite the darkness, Padm? had dreamy days where she could find herself lost in love. The odd exuberance of something beautiful and newly found would overtake her, and she would smile the whole day through. Young love, she would have said, except this was so hard-won, and along with the giddy happiness came the gritty reality... And trust. That, too.
?You?ll never leave me, will you?? Habit.
?Absolutely not.? And not so much habit.
?This is serious.?
?Reverting to childhood, Obi-Wan?? Padm? queried.
?You started it,? Obi-Wan said, amused and aware.
?Well, I agree,? Padm? said lightly, but with an admission, too. ?It is serious.?
?Of course you agree.? Still amused.
Another silence, though this one was less heavy. There had been a few already, with them running in ellipses, not quite getting to where they had agreed they should be.
?They?re just games,? Padm? offered at last, beginning again.
?They are more than that. In the sense that we play them.?
?But is that so bad??
?It is when we lose ourselves in them,? Obi-Wan said quietly.
Padm? breathed deeply.
?What do you mean, you didn?t know your life would be like this? Couldn?t you have guessed in some way?? Padm? asked, turning around to ?face? Obi-Wan, her movement shifting his arms around her.
?No, I didn?t. How could I?? Obi-Wan asked lightly.
?Well, you knew you wanted to be a Jedi, didn?t you?? Padm? asked. ?At least that was a constant in your life.?
?Not really,? Obi-Wan disagreed. ?So much of life is in the people around you. I never knew I would get so close to my Master. I never knew he would die in my arms, and how that would haunt me. Anakin ? I certainly didn?t know about him.? He paused. ?Or you.?
Padm? sighed. ?I suppose that?s true.?
?And consider, you knew you would be a politician ? but I?m fairly certain you didn?t think that you would lead your people through war,? Obi-Wan pointed out.
Padm? smiled. ?True.? She was silent for a few moments. ?I suppose I ? it seemed logical, the way it happened. Most of the time. I never thought of the differences between then and now.?
She felt his nod.
?I guess we don?t have control in the way we think we do,? Padm? finished softly.
?No,? Obi-Wan agreed. ?But we have control in how we can react. We can?t control the galaxy or other people, but, at the very least, we can choose how to react to those around us. That, I think, is where it all really lays.?
Padm? lay her head on Obi-Wan?s chest. Is that not what we do here? she thought. ?Hmm,? was all she said, but she knew Obi-Wan understood anyway.
?I really hate you sometimes, you know that?? Padm? screamed at Obi-Wan, unable to quite leave off that word, ?sometimes?. She hated being in here, everything compressing her, holding her down. She hated the darkness.
?You state it so eloquently, I think all I have to say is the same to you ?? Yes, he could be vicious when he wanted to be.
?Anakin hurt me like this,? Padm? hoarsely snarled.
?Can you figure out the difference?? Obi-Wan demanded, voice clear, apparently unaffected by Padm??s words, that made tears sting in her own eyes ? much less his. ?I?m still here,? he whispered in finish.
Obi-Wan slept, and Padm? drew her hand across his face, his closed eyes, over his eyebrows and down the side of his face, to his cheekbones to his lips. He slept through it all; Obi-Wan, who was always aware of what was going on around him. Especially here, she supposed, as she often was.
Closing her eyes, her hand went down his chin, caressing his neck, to the hollow beneath his collarbone.
?Obi-Wan?? she breathed into his ear.
?Hmm?? he murmured, still mostly asleep.
He woke up, and smiled.
?It?s not a struggle anymore. I think that?s it,? Obi-Wan said softly. ?The routine, the games, they were all a struggle.?
?But it hurts,? Padm? whispered.
Padm? breathed deeply. ?The loneliness ? even with you here, always ? the anguish of being able to do nothing, the time...It all hurts. But ignoring it, avoiding it ?? She stopped, unable to continue, knowing it didn?t matter because Obi-Wan already knew.
?Acceptance doesn?t ease the pain, it helps us to deal with it,? Obi-Wan said, in agreement.
Padm? sighed. Hearing it, believing it...?Yes.?
It was somewhat possible to run in the cell. It wasn?t a small cell, by any means, though certainly not large ? there wasn?t enough room to sprint, but you could work up to a slow jog before you hit the wall. If you ran in a circle, you could even get to a faster jog.
Padm? was breathless. ?How are you still in so much better shape?? she gasped, dodging from Obi-Wan?s quick grabs, hearing him and reacting by moving away, even though she could see nothing.
?Jedi exercises are designed ? ? he began.
?Then why can?t I ?? A hand touched her wrist, and she yelped.
Obi-Wan made a satisfied noise, and even as Padm? jerked back, arms went around her. ?I win,? Obi-Wan said smugly, and very lightly kissed her.
The way he loved her, he made her tears seem beautiful.
Like her tears were simply another part of her, and he loved all of her. When she wept it was never easy or pretty, but that didn?t matter. Just like it didn?t matter how filthy they were here. It was like such things were transient.
How could she not love him? It was not possible. And she wouldn?t wish it to be.
?Are you all right?? Obi-Wan murmured into her ear.
Padm? just nodded.
Obi-Wan sighed softly and tightened his embrace briefly, then relaxed.
?I love it when you let me hold you like this,? Padm? whispered.
Obi-Wan exhaled, and kissed her.
When he meditated ? active meditation, that?s what he called it ? he would hold her, often. She would let her mind drift, thoughts coming to a standstill, yet complete awareness remaining. Everything stopped in those moments, and the universe was vast and beautiful, not at all alone or beyond reach.
That, she thought, was what the Force felt like.
It didn?t really change. That was the odd thing.
From day to day how they expressed their love changed ? from laughter and patience, to caring and concern. Little things, in the games they played, the things they talked about, those all changed, shaded by their love.
But he was just as dedicated to her as in the beginning, six years ago. His feelings for her, born of that dedication, that caring, that connection, didn?t change. And despite everything, this was new and old to her. Her love for her parents, and theirs for her, had never really changed at its core. Yet the center and foundation had changed had in other relationships, less stable ones.
Padm? smiled. A bit of a hint, perhaps, of what this was?
They couldn?t see each other?s expressions. Much of the normal visual cues were lost, save for when they were close enough to touch, to feel every twitch, tensing and relaxation. When he thought of what Padm? looked like, he had this image of her in his mind, where she was not quite smiling, not frowning, but just peaceful, relaxed, focused eyes.
?It?s a mad place that we live in,? Padm? said suddenly. She sat apart from him, not touching, but still pretty close by. ?Don?t you think?? She paused. ?I don?t mean...insane. Just...? She laughed.
Obi-Wan smiled. ?I know what you mean.?
As suddenly as that topic arose, Padm? shifted. ?You were telling me about that ? thing. You know what I mean,? she said, unable to find the word but confident nevertheless.
Obi-Wan laughed. ?Yes,? he said simply. ?Want me to start where I left off in the story last time??
He kissed her lightly.
Then more deeply.
?I love you,? he sighed into her neck.
?Hmmm,? was Padm??s response, too steeped in slightly giddy contentment to reply properly. These moments were rarer, but no weaker. It carried over some, too, into the rest of the time.
?Is that all you have to say?? Obi-Wan asked, sounding amused.
?Hmm,? Padm? said shortly, then began to laugh.
I promise. A swear, an oath, a contract. He meant it in every sense of the word, and so did she.
That was Obi-Wan?s advice; had been for quite some time. It sounded so completely inane, but it worked. Deep breaths calmed the heart rate, soothed the mind. When the darkness became pressing, that?s what Padm? would do ? breathe deeply. She didn?t close her eyes. She calmed herself, deliberately. She didn?t run.
?So ? yes. I got locked up in my own closet,? Padm? finished, with a sigh.
Obi-Wan made an amused noise. ?That?s some accomplishment. You managed to accidentally deactivate the failsafe and the lock...How long did it take before you were found??
Padm? shrugged, the movement more difficult with Obi-Wan?s arms wrapped around her. ?A few hours. It seemed like longer, though. And afterwards, my father stayed with me a few times in the dark, just to see that I wasn?t scared of it. And to be there if I was.? She smiled. ?Mom never said anything about it, either. I guess being locked in the closet was enough punishment.?
?What about your sister??
Padm? sighed dramatically. ?Now, that was bad.?
?Your turn,? Padm? said lightly, stroking one of hands that lay on her stomach. ?Were you ever locked in the dark??
?A few times, actually...?
Padm? had forgotten this, and she wasn?t entirely sure Obi-Wan had ever known it. The way afterwards peace and total relaxation would settle down, leaving an emotional high of bliss.
Obi-Wan went after things with single-minded determination and fascination. He traced her every feature like he was memorizing it, slow and gentle, slow and gentle. He took his time until Padm? was impatient with frustration. On the other hand, she was learning about him, too. This touch and that touch, and more than that, this slowness here and this word there. And he would respond, and it was just startling. Good.
Padm? smiled and leaned back in Obi-Wan?s arms. She felt him kiss the top of her head. There was a new level to all their interactions, a new intimacy ? even here, where there was no separation or privacy to be had. Everything was new, in seeing it this way, in this perspective.
?What do you want to do today?? Padm? murmured.
She felt Obi-Wan?s slight shrug. ?Whatever you want.?
The routine was no longer everything.
Noise. Deep, aching noise.
They weren?t making it.
It reverberated against them, under their feet, they could feel it through the walls. It was noise from action, loud and unyielding. And then, the other sound, that deep groan, slow and then fast, then slow again, and the whole world was changing.
They couldn?t see it, there had been too much darkness, but there was light. Obi-Wan whispered it first, Padm??s grip on his arm tight and painful. ?The door is opening.?
The door is opening ?
They would step out strong.
Original cover by obaona. HTML formatting copyright 2007 TheForce.Net LLC.