The past twenty-three years of her life had led to this.
Padme Amidala looked to the stars above, overcome with an emotion she thought she could never feel again.
Pure, unadulterated joy at the end of an Empire and the return of democracy and justice to a weary galaxy. Yet, there was something else there.
If one looked at her eyes, finely wrinkled with premature aging from stress and sorrow and laughter, they would see that their chestnut depths contained a certain grief.
Cascading blues, violets, reds, and pinks lit up the Endor sky, far above the fire and smoke that remained from the battle. And from a funeral pyre.
Normally, the figure engulfed in flames presented an imposing figure.
The deepest black was visible through the flames, and they reflected the light from the fireworks and and the fire around him.
The man inside the armor, hidden from her sight, was responsible for millions of deaths, and had likely been directly responsible for dealing the death blow to hundreds. Darth Vader.
The Emperor’s assassin and a Sith Lord. Vader was remorseless and it seemed unfeeling. Obi-Wan Kenobi had said he was more machine than man.
The galaxy would remember him as a monster, even as the few who knew spread the story of his redemption. Padme would remember him differently.
Even after being choked by him on Mustafar, realizing he had killed younglings, and hearing of his exploits after being trapped in that horrible suit, she still loved him.
She always knew there was still good in him. Images of the Clone War hero danced in her head. While the galaxy wondered who he was before, Padme knew.
Darth Vader was the man who liberated Togrutas while on Zygerria. Darth Vader was the man who was instrumental in taking back Geonosis to stop droid production in a terrible war.
Darth Vader was the man who saved the Republic time and time again.
She may have disagreed with the war, but she could not deny the compassion, leadership, and heroics Anakin Skywalker demonstrated during its course.
Yet, when Padme looked upon her twins’ innocent faces, she knew she had to hide.
She allowed Obi-Wan to fake the death of both herself and her believed to be unborn children and she even allowed them to be seperated.
It was something about hiding their Force signature from the Emperor, or so Master Yoda said.
She settled for returning to Alderaan with her closest friend, Bail Organa, and daughter,
while Obi-Wan swore (she made sure he was on his knees promising his lightsaber if he would fail Luke) to train and protect Luke on Tatooine.
Disguised as a royal guard (so a helmet could disguise part of her face), she cut and dyed her beautiful hair, traded her wardrobe for plain clothes, and waited,
occasionally making the trip to the planet with two suns when the opportunity rose. When she discovered Ahsoka’s survival, she refused to sit by any longer and became a Fulcrum agent.
All of this, while avoiding Darth Vader like the rakghoul plague.
She sighs as she pulls back from her reminiscing, and walks up to her son, still holding the torch that lit the pyre.
She was grateful he was honoring the Jedi’s tradition, but as the hero of the Rebellion, he needed to be seen at the celebration with the Ewoks. “Luke,” she says simply.
He turns and smiles, and Padme holds on to his bright smile as tight as her heart can bear. He may have inherited her height, but Luke certainly had his father’s smile.
Padme refuses to let the tears forming to fall. She had been strong for this long and she could hold on longer. This was how she would remember Anakin Skywalker, smiling.
But, time was beginning to catch up with her, as it did Master Yoda and Obi-Wan. Her memory of it began to fade.
She once held a more romantic belief that you could never forget your lover’s smile. Time was proving her wrong.
The party is unexpectedly boisterous.
As she and Luke join to celebration, Leia going to hug her brother and then her mother, she allows the joy of the Empire’s defeat to plaster a smile on her face.
They had lost loved ones and friends along the way, but Padme knew that her parents, Bail and Breha, Obi-Wan and Yoda, and so many more must be smiling down on them.
Padme could not feel the Force in the way the Jedi did, but something simply felt right and balanced.
She extends a warm hand to Han Solo with a knowing smile as the dancing continues in earnest. And she watches and she swears she tried to participate.
At least, she tried until a strange nudge guided her to look at Luke.
His back was turned away from them and Leia was behind him, pulling him back to join them.
Leia, although confused about her feelings toward her biological father, recognized that Luke was greatly saddened by his sacrifice. She was wise and selfless, similar to her beloved mother.
Leia pulls him back to be among friends, murmuring a soft condolence with a warm smile (she must of inherited Anakin’s smile as well), and for a fleeting moment, Padme’s heart stops.
Nearly translucent with a soft, blue tinge, Masters Yoda and Obi-Wan stand (or in Yoda’s case, sit) together observing the proceedings with contentment evident on their faces.
But their shocking appearance went largely unnoticed when she saw who stood next to them. He was resplendent in Jedi robes, ones that he only occasionally wore while in the Temple.
His eyes were warm and his face at peace, although their sky-blue depths hold a hint of mischievousness. He looks young, handsome, and strong, just as she remembered.
His eyes are locked onto hers with the intensity of a thousand suns, and despite the peace on his face, she could see the apology in them. Then, he smiles and Padme finds it hard to breathe.
Wide, gleaming, and full of pride as his eyes fall on his twins, their children, and Padme knows. Then, the moment is over and he is gone.
But it’s okay. He was finally at peace and so was she.