Fourteen Years
By Izzy

It had been an exhausting day, all the more so because now the population of Coruscant, though whatever means people always did, had caught wind of something important going on, probably in the Outer Rim, and possibly involving the deposed Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, the war hero and Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker, or both. It was known that Anakin’s current Padawan, a young girl called Mara Jade, had been seen alone more often than a Padawan should be. Padmé had refused to answer any questions about either, or about the rumors. Besides receiving the Jedi Council’s strong discouragement from informing the public, she really didn’t want to talk about it.

Not to mention she couldn’t even answer all their questions, because she didn’t even know everything. She knew only what Obi-Wan and the Council had told her. The Council had told her that Anakin had been sent off on his own, and he would kill Palpatine, or Palpatine would kill him, or they would kill each other. Or Anakin would turn. Obi-Wan had told her that he had secretly agreed to follow Anakin as soon as soon as he was reasonably confident the Council wouldn't find out until it was too late to stop him, and that Anakin had made him make a promise of what to do should he turn. “He wants me to be the one to do it,” Obi-Wan had said to her, and Padmé hadn’t had to ask what it was he would have to do.

She knew Obi-Wan was gone when she saw Luke waiting for her on the veranda. She dismissed her entourage almost as soon as they were docked, and beckoning to Luke, she walked inside.

“He’s gone, mother,” Luke said when they emerged into her bedroom. “He sent me to tell you.”

Padmé wondered how long her son had known the truth; neither he nor Leia had given any indication of it before. “Well, I can wish you both a happy nameday, and pass on similar sentiments from Senator Neldonin.” Tessé Neldonin, who had replaced her in the Senate, and enjoyed referring to Padmé’s “nephew and niece” in knowing tones. The last of her and Anakin’s secrets was getting out.

“Give her our thanks for it, then.” They sat down; there was an awkward pause.

“Luke,” Padmé started, “I was planning to be alone tonight...”

“But haven’t you always eaten dinner with father tonight? Every year since we were born? Except the year he was on Ryloth?”

“Well, yes, but that’s part of the reason-”

“So why don’t you eat with me tonight? Please, mother? Leia and Master Bant are off planet, Mara isn’t talking to or seeing anyone right now, and I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

She couldn’t refuse her son’s plaintive tone. “All right, then. I’ll see what we have.”

It was a good thing she wasn’t entertaining anyone else that night. All she could find in the pantry was leftover flatbread, a few slices of a processed meat, a bowl of mixed nuts, a QuickSnack, a tiny stick of Bantha butter, a bottle of wine from Kashyyk aged 17 years, and a half-empty bottle of blue milk. By the time she had finished her inventory, Luke had joined her in the kitchen. “I’m afraid tonight’s dinner will be a disgrace to all dinners hosted by a Supreme Chancellor,” she said, trying for some levity.

To her relief, Luke smiled at her. “It’s okay,” he told her. “I’m a Jedi. We can eat anything.”

They brought the food and the milk out to the table, and Luke made his mother laugh as he tried and fumbled with the Force-tricks his father had performed effortlessly. She finally got up and served them both their portions of flatbread and meat by hand, and Luke settled for easily pushing the nuts and butter and the milk back and forth.

By the time they were digging in, it had come home to Padmé that she’d hardly spoken a word to either her children their entire lives, and the boy whose broad smile was suddenly fading, the thought of his father and his Master intruding, was a stranger to her. Well, she said to herself, clearly I have a duty tonight to change that, and to keep this boy cheerful. Yet memories of her own were intruding, of the past four years, and the past three dinners, once torments, now pleasant intimate evenings in which two people who lived to serve the Republic took a few hours for themselves.

“I see him a lot, you know,” said Luke, and Padmé knew he was talking about Anakin. “He and Master are always seeing each other and working together. I wish we saw Leia more. Either we’re running off to some planet, or she and Master Bant are running off to some other planet. Though our Masters try to see each other too. Except I think they regret it, because when Leia and I get together, we drive them crazy!” He grinned wickedly.

Padmé grinned back. “How do you do that?”

“Well, it seems Master Bant think we talk too fast. Leia talks faster than me, though, I wonder how she puts up with it. And as for my Master, well, all he can talk about is how I’m too much like my father.”

He was like Anakin, Padmé thought. But more like the Anakin of nine than the Anakin of nineteen, and the years after that. She wondered if his father had kept his youthful exuberance as long as Luke had. And would five more years see him as moody and as arrogant? Padmé hoped not.

Even if he was as reckless a pilot, at least according to his Master. By the time they were finishing off their flatbread, he was regaling her with an adventure involving half the structures on Veck III, where, as he carefully explained, his piloting skills saved the mission, not that his Master had been grateful. Padmé made a mental note to have a word with Obi-Wan.

They retreated to the kitchen, left the dishes in the sink, and ate the rest of the nuts while sitting on the kitchen floor, Padmé’s robes getting so crumpled she knew Motée just might throw a fit. When they were gone, she reluctantly said, “You probably should be getting back to the Temple and to bed. It must be close to midnight.” But already she was starting to miss him, and wonder when she'd see him next.

“I don’t think I’ll get much sleep,” sighed Luke. “I’ve been having bad dreams this past week. Too vivid. Far too vivid.”

He emphasized the last words way too much. “You think they might be real?” asked his concerned mother.

“I hope not! They’re all about Leia being tortured, and father...father...” He was clearly terrified that they were real.

Very deep weaknesses that Palpatine can play on. Padmé felt cold.

Hand in hand, they walked back to the veranda. Most of the buildings were darkened, and the nonstop traffic of the planet had thinned as much as it ever did.

“Can we just sit here for a while, mother?” Padmé voiced a soft assent, and they sat down together and stared out into the night, leaning into each other. There was still so much Padmé wanted to ask, but now was not the time.

But they had only sat for a few minutes when a taxi broke out of the line of passing ships and came towards them. Luke pulled his calling rod out of his pocket in confusion, then looked up, and saw Mara Jade was in the taxi, and she looked very relieved to see him.

She handed the driver his fare and leapt on the veranda without waiting for him to dock. “Luke! Our Masters are back! They’ve got Leia with them; Darth Sidious killed Master Bant and captured and tortured her.” She was activating her communicator. “Paging Master Skywalker. Master, are you there? I’ve found him. It's as Master Kenobi thought; he’s still with the Chancellor. What? Are you sure you’re up to it, Master? Are you sure Leia’s up to it? Shouldn’t she be in bacta? I see. Very well, I’ll tell her.” She turned the device off, and said to Padmé, “I apologize for the intrusion upon your hospitality so late at night, Chancellor Amidala, but you will have three more guests after me tonight.”

“What happened?” Padmé and Luke demanded together.

“I don’t know, really. All I know is your Master left earlier this evening and came back with your father and sister, and both of them have been spending most of their energy healing her.”

The three of them arrived in almost no time. Physically Leia was completely unmarked, which made her empty expression all the more frightening, but she was leaning on both of the men for support.

“Luke...mother...Mara...” she murmured. Very gently Luke took her into his arms and helped her sit down. “It’s fine, Luke,” she protested weakly.

Padmé found herself frozen between husband and children. “What...”

“He tried to use her to make me fall,” answered Anakin. He sounded more tired than he had ever been. “And he very nearly succeeded. If he hadn’t tried taking us to Coruscant...if Obi-Wan hadn’t found us...if he hadn’t been there...I think I’ll be all right now.”

“’s over now?” After all this time, it was hard for her heart to believe that yes, all the fear and pain was finally behind them.

Obi-Wan answered. “Yes. You can inform the Senate and the galaxy that Palpatine is dead. It’s over.”

“I...” She was getting choked up. When Anakin took her into her arms and nearly squeezed the life out of her, she finally cried the way she’d wanted to cry the entire day.

“Hey,” everyone turned their attention to Mara, who, unnoticed, had slipped into Padmé’s apartment, and was holding the bottle of wine in one hand, and a glass in the other. “Kashyyk wine. There’s no drink more soothing.”

Padmé laughed through her tears. “I bought that months ago. I was saving it for tonight. It’s at its best age right now.”

“Are you sure Leia’s old enough?” Obi-Wan asked nervously.

“On Naboo she would be,” replied Padmé. “In fact, she would be just today. Happy fourteenth, Leia.” And taking bottle and glass, she knelt before her daughter and helped her drink. She looked from her mother to her brother to her father, and Padmé thought she saw just a bit of spark return to her eyes. She almost started crying again.

In the end, all six of them together drained the bottle. They didn’t bother returning to the Temple, deciding the Council could wait, since the rest of the galaxy was going to wait even longer, until the Senate met relatively late the next day. The bed went to Leia, of course, with Luke humorously collapsing against its side, while the rest collapsed on the furniture. Padmé woke the next morning on the couch in her husband’s arms.