Beloved Nemesis

Prologue

Padmé woke up, a strange feeling of emptiness filling her. And then she remembered.

"My babies!" she cried, her hands flying to her rather deflated abdomen.

"They're fine, Padmé," a soothing voice assured her. "See? They're sleeping."

Padmé looked up at Obi-Wan Kenobi, who stood by her bedside. In his arms was a small bundle wrapped in a blanket. Luke, she thought, smiling as the tiny infant slept in Obi-Wan's protective arms.

"Leia's right beside you," Obi-Wan told her, nodding in the direction of the bassinet beside Padmé's bed.

Padmé looked over to where her newborn daughter slept, a feeling of unparalleled joy filling her as she realized that they were both safe, both perfect. She'd had a difficult, labour, and the twins had been born three weeks early; but all was well. Except…

"Where is Anakin?" Padmé asked, looking back at Obi-Wan. "Why wasn't he with me when the twins were born?"

Obi-Wan sighed, a frown forming on his brow. Clearly Padmé was still too traumatized from the nightmare she had suffered on Mustafar to remember everything that had transpired there.

"Anakin…Anakin is gone, Padmé," Obi-Wan told her gently.

"Gone?"

Obi-Wan nodded, looking down at the serene face of his best friend's infant son. "He…he tried a difficult jump," he continued. "I tried to warn him that he wouldn't make it, but..."

"Where is he, Obi-Wan?" Padmé interrupted, panic starting to creep into her heart. "Where is Anakin? Tell me now!"

Obi-Wan hated that he had to lie; hated to think of what had really become of Anakin, of what he himself had done to him. But Master Yoda is right; he reflected grimly; she's better off thinking him dead than knowing the truth.

"I'm so sorry," Obi-Wan said finally, tears springing to his eyes. "But Anakin is dead, Padmé."

We must hide you and the younglings…Palpatine will never stop searching for Anakin's offspring…you must assume a new name…Master Yoda and I will protect you….the galaxy must believe you died along with the infants….we will stage a funeral…

Padmé heard all this as though through a fog. The joy she had felt over the birth of her beloved twins had been shattered by the knowledge that their father, her soul mate, her Ani, was gone. And then it started to come back to her….

The stench of sulphur and the searing heat are the first thing I notice as I leave the ship. What is he doing here in this hell? I hurry down the ramp, seeing Anakin running towards me. Thank the Maker he's okay!

Padmé, I saw your ship . . .
Oh, Anakin!
It's all right, you're safe now. What are you doing out here?
I was so worried about you. Obi-Wan told me terrible things.
What things?
He said you have turned to the dark side . . . that you killed younglings.
Obi-Wan is trying to turn you against me.
He cares about us.
Us?!
He knows . . . He wants to help you. Anakin, all I want is your love.
Love won't save you, Padmé. Only my new powers can do that.
At what cost? You are a good person. Don't do this.
I won't lose you the way I lost my mother! I've become more powerful than any Jedi has ever dreamed of and I've done it for you. To protect you.
Come away with me. Help me raise our child. Leave everything else behind while we still can.
Don't you see? We don't have to run away anymore. I am going to bring peace to the galaxy... I am more powerful than the emperor…I can destroy him and you and I can rule the galaxy. Make things the way we want them to be.
I don't believe what I'm hearing . . . You haven't heard anything I've said…Obi-Wan was right, you've changed…
I don't want to hear any more about Obi-Wan…he's trying to turn you against me.

I don't know you anymore. Anakin! You're breaking my heart! I'll never stop loving you, but you are going down a path I can't follow.
Because of Obi-Wan?
Because of what you've done . . . what you plan to do. Stop, stop now. Come back! I love you.
Liar!
No! You've betrayed me! You were with him!

NO! Anakin. I swear ... I ... I can't speak…I can't breathe! His hand reaches out as his yellow eyes glare at me, squeezing the life from me effortlessly….please don't do this, Anakin! I love you! Think of our baby! You're hurting him….

Overwhelmed by all that she was being forced to assimilate all at once, Padmé simply closed her eyes as silent, hot tears streamed down her face. My babies, she kept telling herself, over and over; I must be strong for them…they need me…I'm all they have…

"Do what you must to protect my family," she said quietly. "Our fate is in your hands now."