It was the time of day when they talked.
“It seems simple, but think about it,” Padmé 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?” Padmé returned, more serious.
A slight pause, and Padmé 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.”
Padmé cocked her head, considering that. “I’ll accept that answer,” Padmé 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,” Padmé 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.”
Padmé 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 cracked the routine slightly. They didn’t break it, the routine was still there and they still followed it, but it was altered slightly.
Padmé counted the paces wall to wall, and Obi-Wan let her.
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 Padmé. 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 over much over it.
The routine was too precious to lose.
It almost seemed like everything was a whisper, when no thing but themselves made sound: “Four plus six hours plus twelve days plus one year . . .”
“Silly things,” Padmé murmured. Obi-Wan was five steps away, and she knew he heard her clearly. Heard her every moment, as 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.
Padmé 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 Padmé that.
“I don’t think about it much, now,” Padmé replied. “Those games.” Comfort, and a slow movement, closer to him. She could feel him react, calm.
“Neither do I,” Obi-Wan said calmly. Which was true. He further relaxed, and Padmé knew it, because she was attuned to every sound he made, as he was to her.
“We have new games,” Padmé added. “Do you think we’ll always play them much?”
“Yes,” Obi-Wan said instantly.
Padmé 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 the walls were shrinking. And they would recount, and calm down.
It was, Padmé 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. Padmé 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,” Padmé said, but her voice trembled.
“You know,” Padmé 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,” Padmé 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,” Padmé responded in an agreeable tone. “You hardly say anything to 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,” Padmé 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 Padmé’s words. Padmé didn’t push; she walked away.
“I wonder what he’s doing now,” Padmé 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.
Padmé 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?” Padmé 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,” Padmé 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,” Padmé 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.
Padmé 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, her hands 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. Padmé 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 Padmé 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 . . .” Padmé whispered, quite suddenly. “We’ll make him pay.”
“Yes, we will,” Obi-Wan agreed, just as faintly.
A moment more of breathing. Then Padmé 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.
Back | | | Next Part: Faith