“We can’t keep doing this.” Padmé’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. Padmé 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,” Padmé 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.
Padmé walked over to him; four steps exactly. She knelt and grabbed his face roughly, his beard scratching her hand. “You’re breaking,” Padmé 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.
Padmé 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,” Padmé 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.
Padmé 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 Padmé’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.”
Padmé 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, Padmé 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,” Padmé 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?” Padmé said with a laugh.
“I don’t laugh at your embarrassing childhood nicknames,” Obi-Wan said in an aggrieved tone.
Padmé 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 Padmé 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 Padmé 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 Padmé 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,” Padmé 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.
Padmé 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 Padmé, 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?” Padmé 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. Padmé 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.
Padmé snatched her hand away, laughing, but Obi-Wan followed her. She scrambled backwards, and Obi-Wan scrambled forwards, ruining their board. “Hey!” Padmé said, forgetting herself.
“We’ll fix it,” Obi-Wan said, grasping her wrist. Just as easily, he began to tickle her.
Padmé 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,” Padmé disagreed.
“Four, then,” Obi-Wan said, agreeable. “Three months plus twenty-four days plus six hours plus four hours . . .”
Padmé 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 . . .”
Padmé 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?
Padmé 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 . . .”
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