Amidala became caught up in the wartime frenzy, lending her aid to those left as homeless as she has been. For she could not truly claim Alderaan as home, no matter that they had opened their hearts to her plight. Bail Organa offered his palace to house her, Anakin and her handmaidens and had extended this gracious proposition to Obi-Wan as well. However, the Jedi Knight made his regrets.
"Though I do not wish to offend, I cannot accept your kind offer, Your Highness. I believe it more important that I stay among the people," he told the Prince, but Organa realized it had more to do with being under the same roof as the Skywalkers. Despite the politeness between Anakin and Obi-Wan, even non-Force sensitives such as himself could feel the tension radiating from both Jedi.
"No offense taken, General Kenobi. Just don't make yourself a stranger here." He gave Obi-Wan an understanding smile and clasped his hand in friendship. "Besides, we're all on the same side here."
That conversation had taken place several weeks ago... when they had first arrived on Alderaan. At that time, Amidala could almost pretend she had only come for a visit. That the open vistas and green growing things found even in the cities reflected her own planet's beauty. Now it seemed the ugliness of the war bled over into everything in her life, reminding her of Naboo's fate.
Well, almost everything, she thought with a wistful smile as her hands covered her flat abdomen. Deep within her womb, a tiny flicker of life glowed. She had tried to pass off her missed monthlies as a reaction to the stresses she had undergone. Yet, when she finally accepted her pregnancy as real, a rush of joy had flooded her. Despite her happiness, she hesitated to tell her husband. So absorbed in training the Alderaanians and ensuring discipline among the workers in the Alderaani factories, he seemed to have little time for her. Sometimes she wished she had stayed on Coruscant, for at least there she could have kept in touch with other rulers and ambassadors of worlds similarly abused.
To keep her isolation at bay, she began going out among the refugees, giving what succor she could to the confused, grieving people. Her own loss loomed large as she gazed into the desolation in their eyes, yet she pushed it aside, reminding herself that at least she had a husband and a child on the way. This morning, Anakin had kissed her briefly before going to work. Lately, even during their lovemaking, he seemed distracted. She wondered if he began to tire of her, then shook off her depression. Esme', who had taken on the duties of a healer since their flight,
confirmed the conception and had warned her of the increased mood swings she would experience.
Though Amidala knew it foolish, she wondered why Ani hadn't sensed their child yet. At times it seemed he shut himself off from her. With a sigh, she dressed for the day, then gathered up her former handmaidens and made their way toward the refugee camps the Prince had thrown up in one of the few remaining city parks.
Although Amidala believed Anakin didn't know of their child, he had indeed felt the stir of life within her. Ordinarily, he would have rejoiced, but as she continued as though nothing had changed, he brooded. Did she regret their alliance... their relationship? Obi-Wan had started making pointed remarks about how inappropriate their marriage had been until Anakin had begun to avoid his Master. What had changed Obi-Wan so that he objected so strenuously? Before the whole fiasco on Naboo, his Master had seemed to accept it. Now...
His mind gnawed on the growing distance between him and Obi-Wan, the Chancellor's proposal returning to haunt him. Perhaps it would be best for all if he took Palpatine up on that very offer. Anakin felt the Jedi wasted his talents on these menial tasks they set him to... indeed, he felt he should have been promoted to Knight after the onset of the war. Having to answer to Obi-Wan had begun to gall. In fact, he'd nearly told his Master he planned to go back to Coruscant to accept the Chancellor's employment. He chafed beneath the relative inactivity, wanting desperately to hurl himself into the war, piloting a fighter once again to deal with the Mandalorians directly instead of this grinding, tedious way.
Distracted as he was, his face revealed nothing. The workers stole hurried glances at him, their own faces reflecting a certain wariness in his presence. Though fair, he tended to be a harsh master, expecting a great deal of those who labored under his supervision. All knew of his Force abilities, though he never used them in the work place. Still, a sense of oppression not connected to war hung over the factories under his control. As if there boiled something hot and dangerous beneath his calm exterior, ready to burst forth and incinerate all that stood in its way.
Obi-Wan sought Amidala in the southernmost refugee camp. Sab頨ad spoken to him of the Queen's impending motherhood and he worried she overworked herself. Though he avoided the palace for all but conferences with Bail about the war, he realized she looked even more distraught than immediately after Naboo's demise.
He could only surmise the responsibility for this lay with his apprentice. Anakin remained icily polite with Obi-Wan, no matter what gesture of reconciliation he made. The few times he attempted to bring Amidala's distress up, Anakin brought the conversation to an end. Obi-Wan sighed in exasperation, fearing his Padawan thought he disapproved of the marriage. Indeed, his greatest concern lay with the barriers Anakin had built around himself... even shutting out his wife.
Although he had not been successful in his prior efforts, Obi-Wan vowed he must at least attempt to bring up Amidala's condition and urge Anakin to take greater care with her. She might be strong, but that very strength also meant she would not speak of her troubles if she felt it would add to her husband's own burdens. Obi-Wan made his way toward the Queen and her ladies, girding himself for the first difficult conversation he planned for the day.
He found her bending over a young Twi'lek woman, heavy with child and with obvious injuries. Her very demeanor spoke volumes to Obi-Wan. Amidala saw herself in her patient as she tenderly dressed the woman's wounds. Sorry to disturb her work, he nonetheless had to speak to her. He cleared his throat to call attention to his presence.
"Oh! Obi-Wan...I didn't see you. Is something wrong?" she asked, her brow furrowed. She gave the woman before her a distracted smile, then took Obi-Wan's arm and led him away from the others.
"No. Should there be?" How sad that she thought he would seek her out only if there were trouble. "I only wished a moment of your time, Your Majesty."
"Amidala, please. You've proven yourself my friend." She sighed heavily and bowed her head. "Besides, I'm a monarch without a realm."
He couldn't stand her sorrow. Whatever was wrong with Anakin that she would remain thus? With grim determination, he resolved he could no longer delay his discussion with his Padawan. Obi-Wan clasped Amidala's hand, then raised her face with a finger beneath her chin.
"Look at me, Amidala," he commanded. "No matter what, you'll always be a Queen. I know things are terrible at the moment, but you must pull yourself together. For your sake, for Anakin's... and for your child's."
Amidala stiffened, her eyes widening, then squeezing shut with a mortified expression. "How did you... Sabe'," she whispered. "I should have know she'd never keep a secret from you."
"Why did she need to? In these troubled times we need the hope a child provides." He glanced over at Sabe', warmed at the love in her eyes. She understood the need for that hope, the need to believe the world would continue.
Amidala slumped against him, exhaustion in every line. He helped her to the nearest seat, Sabe' joining them to chafe her hands.
"I'm sorry, my Queen, if you feel I've abused your trust. Obi-Wan should know... as should your husband," her friend chastised gently. "Tell him, Amidala. He needs to know."
To their shock, Amidala broke into tears, refusing to answer their questioning looks.
Despite his heavy shields, Anakin sensed Amidala's distress. His skin felt itchy and tight as he fought the need to join her immediately. As the weeks had gone by and things had cooled between them, he kept telling himself it was his fault. He had no one to turn to about his problems for no one he knew had experience in marriage and he would never let Obi-Wan know of the growing distance between Amidala and him.
The impression of Amidala's misery continued to build until he could no longer ignore it. He must seek her out. With a curt gesture to his next in command, he turned over supervision and left without further delay. Once he left the building he halted. He had absolutely no idea where he would find her. Ashamed, he realized they no longer spoke much. After he returned home from work they would eat, then retire to their bedchamber. There, they might or might not make love, depending on his frame of mind. And he knew lately that his mood had been a dark, angry one as he mulled over the refusal of the Council to accept his actions on Naboo.
They will never see me as more than that slave boy from Tattooine... Full of fear and anger.
Ani! I miss you so. Why have you left me?
His pensive reflections broke at the intrusion of Amidala's involuntary cry in his mind. He opened his shields wide, searching for her, his face taut. There... he would find her in the southern refugee camp. Without another moment's hesitation, Anakin hurried toward his wife.
At the sight of Obi-Wan hovering over her, Anakin stopped abruptly. Rage began to simmer as he took in the solicitous manner in which his Master held her hand and leaned toward her. How dare he? That place belonged to her husband and only her husband.
Amidala's face lit up at Anakin's appearance, then fell at his expression. His anger had the better of him again. She bit back tears, giving Obi-Wan's hand a quick squeeze before she released it and rose.
"Ani! How good to see you! What brings you here?" she said as calmly as she could.
"Nothing important, it seems," he told her, his voice tight with suppressed fury.
Obi-Wan intruded before she could stop him and she worried that he and Anakin would come to blows, such was the anger in her husband's features.
Oh, Ani! He only gave me comfort, that's all!
"I came to see how the Queen fared. Sab頨as told me she hasn't been well lately. My only purpose here was to ensure she still enjoyed her health," Obi-Wan tried to reassure him.
"Perhaps it is time then for us to return to Coruscant... Master," Anakin ground out. Amidala gasped. "I believe I have accomplished all that I can here and I have had... a better offer than this to provide for my wife."
Though Amidala saw only their profiles, she watched Obi-Wan's face sag in defeat. She felt the same, as though somehow she had failed Ani. With great effort, she moved between them, taking her husband's arm.
"Let us return home, my husband," she begged him. At first, she thought he might refuse, but then he gave a curt bow to Obi-Wan. Sabe' stood beside Obi-Wan, a distraught look on her face. With a quick shake of her head, Amidala told her to remain with the others until later. This was something Anakin and Amidala must work out alone.
They moved quickly back to their rooms at the palace, not a word said on the way. Anakin hadn't closed his shields and he heard Obi-Wan's exasperated thoughts.
Why do you always try to hurry things, young Padawan? Why do you take things the wrong way? We must talk...and soon.
Once they reached their destination, Anakin pulled Amidala into his arms, holding her carefully as though she might break. He hadn't done this for quite some time. When he had made love to her, it had been hurriedly and without truly giving anything of himself to her. At this moment, he understood that if he continued in this path he might lose her forever. Desperation at the thought drove him to claim her again, this time with exquisite tenderness and painstaking effort to please her. In the aftermath of their passion, he held her close, afraid if he released her she would disappear.
"Ani?" she murmured.
"I have something to tell you..." She hesitated, then plunged on. "You'll be a father in a few months. I wasn't certain at first, but the healers have confirmed it."
He hugged her closer, nuzzling her cheek. "Thank you, Am. I wasn't sure you would tell me."
With a shrug, he answered, "Dunno. Thought maybe you didn't want it... maybe you didn't want me anymore."
She hit him once, then pressed kisses to his face and neck. "Anakin Skywalker, I swear you are the most aggravating man! After what we just did you can say that? After all we've been through, you think I wouldn't want your child. Gods, Ani! How could you?"
A relieved sigh flowed from him. "Sorry. But I still think we should go back to Coruscant. There's nothing here for us. They don't need us."
"That's not true, Ani. Your work and mine both help against the Mandalorians." She pressed her fingers against his mouth as he opened it to protest. "Oh, I know it's not as exciting as piloting a fighter against them, but someone must help build the ships and weapons. And someone must heal the wounded..."
Her voice trailed off and he remembered the horror of Naboo's ruin. All the more reason to return to the Chancellor and take up his offer of a job. Anakin felt certain Alderaan's role in the war would not require his presence. That and he wanted out from the friction between he and Obi-Wan. He would go before the Council and demand they let him take the trials. He would not tell his Master, for he believed Obi-Wan thought him unprepared for Knighthood.
Without a qualm, he planted the suggestion to sleep in Amidala's mind. She needed it and he had a great deal of preparations before they departed.