Nine Years
By Izzy

Nine years after Luke and Leia’s birth, Anakin finally proved unable to make it back to Coruscant for his and Padmé’s annual dinner. On receiving his apologetic message, Padmé decided to take the night off anyway, for some quiet solitary contemplation.

She got in half an hour of it. She ended up stripping down to one of her simpler sleeping tunics and kneeling in the middle of the floor and attempting a Jedi meditation technique Anakin must have taught her ages and ages ago, back when they'd had some happiness together. It hurt, how hard it was for her remember the happy moments, harder with every passing year.

But that was not what she could dwell on now. Instead, as she knelt there, she forced herself to recall the days with Anakin that had consisted of the break in their relationship. The words she’d said, the words he’d said, the clear desire of them both to hurt the other that had sent them both fleeing, she, at least, afraid of both him and of herself, and he probably likewise. Then she tried to patch them together, figure out how each event had led to the next. But it was difficult when it was all clouded with anger and pain, and regret deeper than any she had even thought she could know.

She hadn’t made much progress at all when a haughty voice said, “Meditating, Senator?” and she yelled and leapt away from its source.

“Calm down, Padmé, it’s just me.” Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Padmé reached into her closet and pulled out a robe. “What do you want?” she demanded as she put it on, wondering how he could think introducing himself in such a frightning manner could be at all acceptable.

“To talk to you. About what is going on between you and Anakin.”

“Nothing is going on,” she said automatically. “He merely updates me on how my nephew and niece are doing.”

“So he told me at first, but if that was so, I had to ask myself, why was he so insistent on getting back to Coruscant by their nameday? As you may have heard, only one of us had to stay on Ryloth, but to keep Luke there for such a prolonged period of time at his young age, we agreed, was not a good idea. But he kept saying he should take Luke back, and it occurred to me that he’s always been too protective of him, far more so then would make sense for his former Master’s new Padawan, or his friend’s nephew. I sat him down and I got him to tell me the truth. All of it.” He gave her a moment for this to sink in, then continued, “Luke is fine, by the way, if a bit shaken by what he’s seen recently, and Leia was well too, last I heard; she and Bant are still in the Corellian system. But when Anakin told me what happened between you two, I told him that on this night, the two of us were going to talk.”

There was nothing threatening in his voice, but somehow that just made Padmé even more angry still. “There’s nothing to talk about,” she spat. “If he told you everything, then I think it should be pretty clear that our youthful indiscretion took care of itself. I suppose you could still expel him for it, but when he's been a good and proper Jedi for nearly a decade and done everything for you..."

“Did it really take care of itself?” Still his infuriatingly gentle tone of voice. “I don’t think it did, really. Not when I can sense such pain in you both, which he, at least, may not be able to afford.”

“How can you speak about it like that?!” Padmé was snarling now in her bitter fury. “What do you know about it? What could you ever know about it? You’ve never been in love, oh no, not you; you’re the perfect Jedi, caring about all the galaxy while refusing to care for anyone in it! You come in here, all self-righteous and sanctimonious, and you say we're going to talk like I'd thank you for intruding on me, and you can’t have an inkling of what these past nine years have been like for us!” Then she broke down, the tears tearing themselves out.

She felt Obi-Wan’s hands lightly take a hold of her and gently sit her down on the bed. “Padmé...” he started, but then fell silent, waiting for her to cry it all out. “Is there anything else you’d like to say to me?” he asked, when it was clear she had plenty of tears to cry.

If he was giving her that kind of invitation, well, there was a lot Padmé had to say to him. And she started with a topic she just bet he had never seen coming: their coup on Palpatine, the disrespect they had showed the institutions of the Republic while supposedly saving them. But he made no protests, as she would have expected him to make. Then, bit by bit, she poured out every curse she’d mentally hurled against the Jedi Order and their Code, everything she’d fancied herself saying to the Jedi Council, about Anakin, about love, about what they couldn’t possibly know shut up in the Temple, even all the times she’d been angry at Obi-Wan himself, and what in the moments of her greatest fury he had symbolized in her head. He took all her invectives, and listened patiently through her final account of pain, from what had hit when she had first realized she was in love with Anakin, to the dread and aching loneliness of the previous year.

When she had finally fallen silent, he said, “Padmé, there are three things you have said that I must insist are not true. First of all, I do care about Anakin very deeply, and I am very worried about him.”

“I do believe that,” Padme said quietly. “I haven't every moment of my life, but I do believe it generally.” She almost apologized too, but she couldn't quite, not when he had so often giving such a strong impression of not caring.

“Second, I actually have been in love. I don’t care to say when or with who, but please believe me that I understand all too well at least part of what you and Anakin have been through.” Padmé didn’t know whether to believe him or not, but to this she said nothing; she wasn't sure there was much to say anyway.

“And third, you voiced the suspicion of the Senate that Master Windu killed Palpatine, and then claimed he had escaped. Much as it might upset you that I hold this view, I would in fact wish he had. The truth of the matter is he is still out there, and over the past nine years has been the cause of much strife and death on the Outer Rim. Half of the missions Anakin gets sent on these days involve him, sometimes with us not even knowing it until later.”

“Have you told Bail about that, at least?” she asked challengingly.

“Yes, we have told him everything we know. He has even employed some of the Republic’s more clandestine elite forces in search of him. Though it’s little enough use sending them after Palpatine, and no use sending anyone else, his being, as Anakin told you, a Sith Lord.”

“And you never made that public.” A rebuke she’d already made, but she wanted to give him another chance to respond.

“It would cause nothing but panic, do more harm than good. Not even all Jedi can deal with a Sith as powerful as Darth Sidious. According to the Prophecy, Anakin is the one who has to defeat him. And...” For the first time that night, he faltered completely; indignant as she had been, Padmé found it frightning to see. But then he continued: “I am worried Sidious may be able to win Anakin over to his cause.”

“What?” An automatic denial came up in Padmé’s mind. “Anakin wouldn’t possibly...” But at the same time, some voice in the back of her head, the one that had spoken to her when she'd sat with him in the basement of the Lars homestead, whispered the truth to her.

“Padmé, allow me to be blunt. You’ve seen him once a year for nine years. I’ve been with him constantly. He has very deep weaknesses that Palpatine can play on. He did even before the Clone Wars began, and what he experienced during the wars only made them worse. In a way, the wars made us all more vulnerable to our own darkness. And his separation from you has made it worse.”

“You think..." Padmé could barely bring herself to think it, "if I took him back...”

“Actually, I don’t know if it would make him better or worse,” Obi-Wan admitted, and it said enough about the situation that Padmé found that statement reassuring, because it was one she could believe. “I am no longer certain of anything. But I felt you had the right to understand the situation as it is. Now I need a clarification. Do you indeed intend to run for Chancellor?”

“Yes. I was intending to tell Anakin tonight. I’m going to officially announce it on Harvest Day. And I think I have a good chance of getting elected.”

“Very well, then. Anakin has told me that he is considered resigning his position as Senate liaison if you win, and if the Council lets him.”

“But that would cost him his seat on the Council, wouldn't it?" Padmé protested; she knew more than enough about its politics to be dead certain about that. "Obi-Wan, I’ve never wanted to be in his way-”

"He'll accept that much, Padmé. It's a bigger thing for you than for him; he knows that. In fact, I'm not sure it wouldn't be a relief to him in one way. But on that topic, I mentioned earlier that the war has changed the Jedi. The Council is beginning to accept that. There is a strong faction that is pushing for the loosening of the Code. And the simple fact of the matter is that we can’t expel Anakin. That would drive him straight into the arms of Palpatine. If you two were to resume your old relationship, it would likely be tolerated, at least on our side, though what the political ramifications for you would be, I will not pretend to know.

Simply put, you’ve got a decision to make and in theory a year to make it, and I don’t know how to advise you, expect to lay out everything before you, and say also that as a person, I find it difficult to watch Anakin suffer the way he has under your current arrangement.”

“I understand,” said Padmé, and she felt the last of her anger against him fade. “Thank you.”

Then she wasn't sure who moved, but suddenly he had her in a bear hug, and she felt a rush of relief that confused her for a moment, until she realized something she'd overlooked, because being estranged from Anakin had been so devestating: she'd missed Obi-Wan too. "I wish we could be friends again," she sighed.

"I hope we can be," he replied. "But that's not the important thing right now, and we both know that."

She did not sleep at all that night, but stood on the veranda for a long time after seeing him off, then walked back in and sat back on on the bed, where she remained for the rest of the night, contemplating the ins and outs of what he had said to her, until when Threepio automatically activated himself the next morning and went to wake her, he found her still crouched there, staring out for an answer in the air that held none.