By Izzy

Tatooine had been behind them for a week when Padmé woke up from a dream in which a voice had hastily whispered her a farewell. Next to her, Ben lay awake and frozen. She wanted to touch him or speak to him, but was afraid to. Her heart unbearably heavy, she lay next to him and waited.

When she heard him quietly crying, she knew she'd had enough. She reached under him and rolled him over into her embrace. He went unresisting, and his hands clung to her shoulders.

"Was he able..." Ben started when he was capable of speech again.

"Barely," she answered. "It's okay; the last of his time was owed to you."

"I will see him again, though." He was talking as much to himself as to her. "We will be one in the Force in time. Indeed, in that way he is still with us."

"Yet you still grieve."

"I do." He was relaxing in her arms now; she could still hear him breathing in and out. "That is a comfort of every religion I have ever heard of, the thought of seeing one's loved ones again."

It seemed that in this moment he had forgotten. His words could not help but make Padmé feel a chill in her heart.

"Must you always see them?" she asked. Even if Anakin was not still somewhere in this universe, waiting to play his part in accordance with Luke's dreams, would he chase her down when they had both passed to whatever came after death? It was enough to make her hope there was no afterlife.

"I've never thought of it like that. One always thinks you would be glad to see them, after losing them with what was such finality. Even with Anakin..." Padmé was amazed she didn't flinch at the name then, even though she hadn't for years. "You've forgiven him, right?"

"I have. I swear I have. But I can't see him again. After what he did to me, it would still hurt too much."

She only realized she was trembling when Ben shifted their positions so now she was the one lying in his protective embrace. She felt the irony; even when he had just lost the man he loved, he was still the one doing the comforting.

"I believe you have forgiven him. Padmé, I believe that if you had the will to let go of your anger and pain, you could face Anakin again and be only glad to see him."

"No!" She yanked herself out of Ben's arms and away. "I can't!"

"Padmé?" He thought there was something wrong with her. Of course he would. He was a Jedi. He scolded her for the hatred she harbored against Palpatine, and this was the same.

But he was imperfect, even so. She'd learned that over the past year, and over the past fourteen as well. So she asked, "If we do run into him, in our travels, in the form of ghost perhaps, will you be able to manage that, Ben?"

After a moment he shook his head. "No. I wouldn't. I wouldn't be able to trust him."

"Nor can I; that's another thing. I'm not like you, Ben. There was a time where I might have tried to be, at least in this particular way, but not anymore. I know anger, I know pain, and yes, I know hate. And I'm not even ashamed of it anymore."

In Ben's face, Padmé had expected to see disapproval, or pity perhaps. But instead she saw there a strange mix of compassion and fascination. She found herself wondering if her face had bourne that same look when she had sat with Anakin in the basement of the Lars homestead, so many years ago.

But this was only fascination, not love. Padmé wasn't sure these days that it could ever be love. And on this night, she wasn't sure she would ever want it to be.