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? Padmé?” 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.
“Padmé – 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.
Padmé 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.
Padmé 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 Padmé could. He’d averted it, somewhat, learning as Padmé 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 Padmé’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 Padmé. 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 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. “Padmé . . .” He heard Padmé 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.”
Padmé 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 Padmé 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 Padmé 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 –
Padmé turned to Obi-Wan, who had briefly recalled to her such an experience.
“No wonder you hate flying,” Padmé 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,” Padmé whispered, turning around and uselessly opening her eyes, but focusing entirely on Obi-Wan.
He gripped her arms painfully, but his hands trembled. Padmé took his head in her hands, but he slipped down, falling, and she lowered herself to the floor with him. He shook helplessly, and Padmé 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, Padmé 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. Padmé’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.
Padmé 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!” Padmé laughed.
“It’s about faith.”
Obi-Wan started, and began to get up. Padmé 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.
Padmé 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.
Padmé cocked her head. “Hmm?”
“Am I intangible, Padmé?”
Padmé 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?” Padmé asked curiously.
“I’m . . . do you remember the play, Padmé?” Obi-Wan said hesitantly.
“Yes,” Padmé 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?”
Padmé 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 Padmé 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 Padmé. He trusted . . . he had faith in those things. Somehow Padmé 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.
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