Despite the darkness, Padmé 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?” Padmé queried.
“You started it,” Obi-Wan said, amused and aware.
“Well, I agree,” Padmé 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,” Padmé 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.
Padmé breathed deeply.
“What do you mean, you didn’t know your life would be like this? Couldn’t you have guessed in some way?” Padmé asked, turning around to ‘face’ Obi-Wan, 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?” Padmé 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.”
Padmé 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.
Padmé 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,” Padmé 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.”
Padmé 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?” Padmé 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,” Padmé hoarsely snarled.
“Can you figure out the difference?” Obi-Wan demanded, voice clear, apparently unaffected by Padmé’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 Padmé 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,” Padmé whispered.
Padmé 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.
Padmé 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.
Padmé 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 Padmé 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.
Padmé just nodded.
Obi-Wan sighed softly and tightened his embrace briefly, then relaxed.
“I love it when you let me hold you like this,” Padmé 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 hers, had never really changed at its core. Yet it had in other relationships, less stable ones.
Padmé 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 Padmé 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,” Padmé 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, Padmé 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 Padmé’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,” Padmé 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 Padmé would do – breath 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,” Padmé 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?”
Padmé 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?”
Padmé sighed dramatically. “Now, that was bad.”
“Your turn,” Padmé said lightly, stroking one of hands that lay on her stomach. “Were you ever locked in the dark?”
“A few times, actually . . .”
Padmé 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 Padmé 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.
Padmé 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?” Padmé 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, Padmé’s grip on his arm tight and painful. “The door is opening.”
The door is opening –
They would step out strong.
Okay, so actually not quite.
Added July 29 -
set after The
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