[6 months post-Identity;
2 yrs + 6 months post-Endor]
Pooja Naberrie had admired her aunt for as long as she could remember – she had hero-worshipped the woman in all aspects personally and professionally; she had been in awe of her accomplishments as a precocious young queen, fascinated with her senate career, titillated by the whispered scandals in her personal life, and devastated by her premature death, haunted pleasantly by her lingering ghost – Pooja's veneration of Padmé Naberrie had developed in stages, and the reasons for which she held her in such esteem had changed as she herself grew and matured, but the veneration itself had lingered unshakably -
When she was a little girl, she had loved her as any niece loved a glamorous aunt; Padmé had brought her gifts and smiled at her and taken her seriously, even at such a young age, and Pooja had thought she was beautiful and angelic and mysterious –
- and then Padmé had died, so suddenly, so abruptly, and so tragically, and Pooja's mother had been in a rage, demanding answers; and her Gran-Papa had lashed out in anger, as well – Pooja remembered the funeral so well; thousands, thousands of people bowed their heads and prayed and mourned and it stuck with her.
It stuck with her so poignantly that she studied Padmé in secret as she grew up – the records were destroyed, but Pooja's mother would talk about her often, in hushed voices, and Gran-Mama would, as well – and Pooja found ways to read about her in the old archives in Theed because – not everything was gone. Her name was stricken, but Pooja could read between the lines - she pieced together gaps in history, and knew where to place her beloved aunt, and was fiercely proud of the things she'd done.
She grew older, and she was a sucker for the scandal of Padmé's love live, mysterious and whispered about, and Padmé hadn't cared for their opinions at all – and then she tasted a hint of Padmé's political ideals in old documents she found in the attic, in a box the Empire hadn't taken –
Because the Empire had taken everything, Pooja remembered that, too – Stormtroopers, called Clones back then, had come to the house shortly after her aunt's funeral and torn it apart; they removed her clothing, her trunks, anything personal that had belonged to Padmé and Padmé alone, and Gran-Mama had only managed to hide and save that one trunk –
Pooja had viewed her aunt like a secret idol, nursing a desire to be like her, but cursed with the blacklisted Naberrie name –
Pooja had bravely volunteered when an envoy of Emperor Palpatine visited their house and, without explanation and completely unexpectedly, demanded that a member of the Naberrie family put him or herself forth for the Galactic Senate –
What's going to happen to us? – Ryoo had cried, her face pale with fear – I thought we were blacklisted – Mami, you always said they would kill us –
It's an attempt to appear merciful – Pooja's father had said stiffly – Welcome, back into the fold, a disgraced family –
It was Pooja's father who had felt it would fall on him to step up, but Pooja had gone behind everyone's back and sworn the oath to the envoy of the Galactic Senate and to the powerless Queen of Naboo –
Her parents had been furious; her grandfather had withdrawn even more than he had after Padmé's death, her grandmother had worried – and Pooja went to the Senate and sat in Naboo's traditional seat, her name forgotten by many and reviled and mocked by others, and she learned quickly she was there for a political statement only, and opening her mouth would be a death sentence –
Instead she watched, captivated, as someone else said everything she wanted to say, shouted it even, emphatically, yelling at Grand Moffs and Imperial Governors and caring not a whit for her own safety –
Pooja, who had grown up nursing a desire to carry on Padmé's legacy, was trapped by fear and shackled by shadowy threats against her life and family, she was forced to bite her tongue while the nineteen-year-old Princess of Alderaan, fearless, sat across the Senate Arena and flicked her wrist at threats and laughed at insults and swore up and down that she was not going to stop fighting the crushing power of tyranny.
She would think – Padmé must have been like this.
She would think – I wish I was brave like her.
But Pooja's family was under direct threat, and she held her tongue, and she toed the line – and then, Alderaan paid the price for its Princess' fervor, and Pooja's fear turned into anger and shock; she wanted to fight, but she was afraid to make that choice for her family – for Papa, and Mami, and Ryoo, and Ryoo's gorgeous little children –
She retreated to Naboo, laying low, hiding once more with the rest of her family, seeking bits of news about the Rebellion and hanging on to hope, and she developed a habit of stealing away to Padmé's secluded, flowery Lake Country resting place and sitting by her grave, thinking to herself, or talking out loud.
Pooja's closest confident for the unstable, scary years of the full scale Galactic Civil War had been an embossed gravestone, surrounded by trees, marking the bones of a woman who inspired her and gave her strength –
It was to that haven she ran now, when the silence that permeated her family's resort home became too heavy, and she felt she was about to burst with shock and excitement –
Bail Organa and Luke Skywalker were sitting in the grand parlor, and when their story had finished, Pooja, rapt for the entire tale, had been the only one to burst into a grin.
Her sister turned her head away, speaking quietly with her husband – and Sola covered her mouth in quiet shock, shaking her head – Anakin? – Sola gasped through her fingers – Anakin – Viceroy, Ani wasn't –
Gran-Papa was the only one who seemed unsurprised – Gran-Mama as well, even; both were quiet, subdued, until Jobal said – Yes, we knew Anakin was the father – and Ruwee said – and we knew what he became, as well.
Luke Skywalker was beside himself – How? He asked – and Ruwee explained, quietly: He came to us after the funeral – and Luke wanted more, but Ruwee closed his mouth, and turned to Bail – You do not expect us to believe this without genetic testing - ?
There were so many loose ends suddenly dangling all around the room – Luke had his hands full of them, so did Bail Organa, and Pooja knew her family had their own secrets and answers. There was so much that could so easily be integrated to form a tapestry of a story and in the uproar – Of course, Ruwee, Luke knew that would be requested –
Pooja leapt up, still smiling, her heart racing, and darted from the room.
Her father yelled after her, as did her mother - she ignored them, running through the halls of the resort, leaping over one of her nephews to get out the back door and down the cobblestone path –
Down by the river, in the overgrown family plot, neglected, but not forgotten, she burst through the wrought iron fence and found Padmé's Hydenock tree, dropping down to her knees.
Grinning madly, she spread her palms over the yellow irises and blue forget-me-nots, pushing aside the flowers and soft green grass to run her fingers over the name –
Padmé Amidala Naberrie.
She shook a deep breath, her eyes stinging – she felt elated, and curious, and all kinds of wild things, but mostly, she felt some sense of justice, some sense of an ability to come to her aunt with good news, a blessing – your baby, Padmé – babies, she thought – they're okay, they're alive – I think you'd be so proud - !
"Aunt Mé- Mé, you won't believe," she gasped – and then laughed at herself, bowing her head, "well, I suppose you will," she amended wryly – "Oh, but the things Bail Organa just told us!"