Bail was back on Alderaan for all of five minutes before Breha caught him swapping out worn-in clothes for fresh ones and packing to leave again.
"What are you doing?" Breha asked, trying to keep the sharpness out of her tone. "Coruscant is in chaos, I can't believe you made it out safely, and now you're going back?"
"I'm so sorry, love. I want to stay here. But I have to go back," Bail said, and kept packing.
"The Supreme Chancellor was just assassinated. Can't you just…give it a couple weeks to settle down? Stay here and make sure our home stays safe?"
Bail folded a shirt and tucked it in his bag, before straightening up and looking at her. Breha knew she had lost the argument, just by the set of his shoulders. "My queen," he said softly, and yes, there went any hope of victory. "I know you are more than capable of keeping our home safe. But the next few weeks will shape the Republic and I know that I can help shape it for the better."
Breha's jaw tightened, and she stalked over to the window in the royal apartment, looking out over the sweeping mountain view. "Then why did you bother to come back at all?"
Bail's big, broad hand settled over her shoulder. She turned to look at him. He was handsome, and determined, and he had a bag slung over one shoulder. All ready to go charging back into the fire, and Breha had to watch him go.
"I came back, because I needed to deliver a very important package. I need you to promise me you'll keep it safe."
Breha tilted her head. "What is it?"
"Bail. No. Bail. What is he doing in our private medical suite?" Breha had to struggle not to tug out her braids in horror as she stared at the immoble shape of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
He didn't look good. His hair was singed, his face and arms were covered with mottled blemishes. The med droids were in the process of cutting off his tunic, revealing angry pink skin underneath. He was unconscious, and that was a mercy, because if he had been alert he'd be in terrible pain.
"I found him like this, unconscious—I think, I think those are burns? I don't know what happened—"
"I know what happened!" Breha rounded on him. She may feel some sympathy for a sapient in pain, but that was the only pity she was willing to extend to Obi-Wan. "The whole galaxy knows what happened! He assassinated Chancellor Palpatine. And then he vanished which, oh no, that was you! There is a galaxy-wide manhunt going on for him right now, so why is he in my medbay?"
"I knew he'd be safe here," Bail said.
Breha wanted to stomp her foot and ask him well, what about me being safe, after all, you've just brought someone with a penchant for killing heads of state into our palace, dear. She didn't, first, because she was too mature and even-natured to allow that sort of indulgence. And, more importantly, she knew that Bail would never bring Obi-Wan here if he thought it was a risk to Breha.
At least, more of a risk than getting caught harboring the man who had killed Chancellor Palpatine would be.
She didn't say it, but they had been married long enough that Bail picked up on it anyway, and his shoulders rounded. "Please. I don't know exactly what's going on, but I trust him. If he really did kill Palpatine, there was good reason. I believe in him."
Because you're sleeping with him? More words to not say. It would be wrong to use that against Bail. She had approved of their relationship, after all. Happy her husband had found some comfort if he had to be away as often as he did. Excited, even, as he lit up describing his new flirtation. She loved seeing Bail happy. It was never something that had come between them.
Until now. And even now, her problem with Obi-Wan was not that he was sleeping with her husband. It was the slight matter of him being the galaxy's most wanted fugitive.
"Breha," Bail pleaded. "If nothing else, we owe him."
Breha glared at Bail. Low blow.
A little over a year ago, Bail had been kidnapped by dissidents. There hadn't been a ransom, there hadn't been demands. Just the announcement that Bail would be publicly executed for crimes against the Republic in three days. No leads, nothing. It was an impossible situation, and even as she fought for any scrap of hope, Breha had felt herself already start to mourn her husband.
Two days later, Obi-Wan had burst through the doors of the Alderaanian palace, bloody and supporting a woozy Bail.
Obi-Wan had saved him when nobody else could. Bail owed him. Breha owed him.
"Fine," she said briskly. "I'll ensure he's safe. At least until you come back here and decide what to do with him."
"Thank you," Bail said sincerely.
Breha spun and put her arms around him, holding him tightly. "Be careful," she demanded in a furious whisper. "And come back to me."
"I will," he promised.
For the first three days, Obi-Wan slept, Breha seethed, and there was no news in from Coruscant.
Well, there was news, but it was the stomach-churning press of questions with no answers, as news announcers chewed over every scrap of information in nauseating detail to little result. The assassination had occurred in the Chancellor's rooms. Security holos from that evening were not available, but a group of Jedi, including Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi had been seen approaching Palpatine's wing. Palpatine's body had not been found, but there was evidence of a struggle, and an explosion.
A thousand armchair experts weighed in on the available footage, speculated about explosive types, and debated the politics involved. The Jedi were acting without approval from their council. The Jedi were acting on the council's explicit instruction. The entire fight was a set-up for Palpatine to fake his own death and move to Takodana and start a commune. Breha couldn't stop watching, and vaguely hated herself for that. She had aides who could watch the blathering and deliver her a concise analysis.
But she couldn't tear herself away from either the news, or the nuisance.
Breha had initially resolved to keep Obi-Wan locked up with med droids and consider her promise to Bail fulfilled. But while the locked door would keep anyone out, she highly doubted it would keep Obi-Wan in. And she certainly didn't want him wandering about the palace, giving the game away. So the med droids had her comm for when he woke and she checked in on him periodically.
For a given definition of periodically, at least. Frequently. Constantly. Those may be more accurate.
She just didn't understand it. Obi-Wan had seemed decent enough. Bail trusted him, and Bail was usually an excellent judge of character. But Obi-Wan had killed the Chancellor. Breha knew all too well that Sheev was moving to centralize power in the growing crisis. He didn't seem inclined to give it up, either. But there were ways of handling these things, and assassination was not it. She couldn't approve of Obi-Wan's actions.
Why had a man she thought was fundamentally good stoop to this?
She found herself thinking that again on the third day, leaning against the doorframe, watching the man sleep. The web of his burns was healing. They had a very good medical suite. There would be some minor scarring, but it should come out to rakish and weathered, rather than disfiguring.
Obi-Wan opened his eyes. Breha stiffened as she watched him start to move, and immediately several chimes went off. The med droids began scurrying over to him. "Please stay calm," one said in her authoritative-yet-soothing tones.
Obi-Wan's eyes darted from the droids, to the walls, until finally, they fixed on Breha. He blinked at her, looking confused, then his gaze fixed past her shoulder. She turned and looked behind her, half-expecting to see Bail there. But there was no-one. She turned back to Obi-Wan, who was looking steadily at her.
She looked away. The droids did a brisk vital sign check, a notification to alert at any rising pain or discomfort, and retreated.
Slowly, having no idea what she would say, Breha approached the bed.
"Alderaan?" Obi-Wan rasped out. "Wha—why?"
"Bail," Breha said shortly.
"What about—Chancellor?" Obi-Wan had the nerve to ask. "What—"
"Oh I think you've done quite enough damage there," Breha said, spinning and flicking on the holovid projector by the side of the bed. Sure enough, the news were cycling their same rubble. Supreme Chancellor dead, motivations of parties unknown, Jedi Temple harboring Mace Windu (new information, Breha noted distantly), location of Obi-Wan unknown.
Breha's throat caught as the mostly-rote words were layered over new footage. It was a sweeping pan of the interior of the Senate. There, Bail stood in deep conversation with Senators Mothma and Chuchi. She ached to see him, ached to hold him, and hoped that throwing himself into that chaos would prove worth it.
Obi-Wan furrowed his brow, looking at the screen with deep confusion. "Why am I here?" he tried again. The question seemed to consume his strength, and he collapsed back against the pillow.
"Bail saved you." Breha paused. She was not cruel by nature, but she felt it important that Obi-Wan understood where she stood on things. "I do not want you here. I would not have brought you here. I think you committed a grave crime and should be facing the consequences of that. But Bail brought you, and asked me to keep you safe. And I am in your debt, because you saved the man I love. So you may stay, and heal. I will not betray you. But do not mistake that for approval."
"Understood," Obi-Wan said faintly. He tried to fix his eyes on her. He looked glassy, and they kept falling shut.
"Good," Breha said. An uncomfortable emotion welled in her. She wanted to brush her fingers through his hair and tell him everything would be fine at the same time she wanted to wrap her fingers around his throat until he stopped breathing, and some justice could be done.
Pivoting sharply on her heel, she turned and stalked out the door.
The next day the holonet was buzzing. The Senate announced they would hold an open inquiry into the death of Chancellor Palpatine, the actions of the Jedi, and the alleged abuse of power that provoked them to act.
"We have chosen transparency," Senator Mothma said, her clear voice ringing out over the crowd. "There are many questions, and we believe the way forward is finding the answers together. Testimony will begin this evening."
"Who will we be hearing from?" One of the reports shouted.
"Before this is done, many people," Senator Mothma said. "But first, you will hear from me."
Breha would never be able to explain why, that evening, she swept into their private medical suite, sat down next to Obi-Wan's bed, and turned on the holo, showing the news.
Obi-Wan flinched as the announcers voice blared out discussing the assassination, but didn't protest. They sat and watched the testimony together.
Breha knew most of it. Mon Mothma, Padmé Amidala, and a few other senators that ran with Bail's sect discussed the corruption they suspected, the investigative work they had quietly done, the massive discrepancies found in the Republic's finances.
And then Bail himself spoke, her beautiful, brave husband, drawing the perfect punctuation on the testimonies of the day as he said, "It is clear to me that Chancellor Palpatine's legacy is one of growing tyranny. He was leading our republic down a path of authoritarianism and conquest and lying to say he was doing it in the name of freedom."
It was a damning testimony against Palpatine. Breha suspected it was supposed to invoke sympathy for his assassins. But to Breha's mind, it damned Obi-Wan too. Sheev Palpatine was guilty. It could have been decided in court. If Bail had just had a little more time to act, they could have resolved this whole thing without the need for bloodshed.
She turned to him for the first time that evening, her words sharp with anger as she snapped, "The evidence was there. He could have been tried, found guilty, and deposed cleanly. Why did you kill him?"
The look Obi-Wan gave her was piercing. She looked to the depths of him and found no shred of remorse. No sign of glee or satisfaction, either. Just sharp, clear certainty. "He had to be stopped," he said simply.
Breha, unnerved, smoothed out her skirts, stood, and left quickly. The click of her shoes against the stone floor was the only sound that followed her. Obi-Wan stayed silent.
Breha had resolved to stay away from that room, from the unrepentant Obi-Wan. But when she sat to watch the next day's testimony alone, a prickling sense of wrong-ness plagued her. She shifted on the couch in the royal apartments, tucking her feet up under her like she was a little girl again.
She sighed, gave up, and stood. No. This wasn't…she was just hiding. Trying to pretend something she didn't like didn't exist. That was not how to lead, and not how to rule. She gathered herself, stood up, and pointed herself back to the medical suite.
She arrived to find Obi-Wan taking slow, shuffling steps with a walker in front of him, and a medroid guiding him with a firm hold along his waist. "Very good," the droid said, as she tucked him back in bed.
For a moment, a frustrated expression crossed Obi-Wan's face. As she watched, Obi-Wan carefully schooled his face back into pleasant neutrality. He was perfectly polite when he turned back to thank the medroid. Breha took that moment to walk back into the room.
As she approached, Obi-Wan's expression changed again. To her surprise, he seemed pleased to see her, something about the way the corners of his eyes folded into something more friendly. She had no idea why she was provoking that reaction. It wasn't as if she had been kind to him.
Still, if she wasn't being kind, she could at least not be rude. "Good afternoon, Obi-Wan, I see you're walking."
Obi-Wan inclined his head. "Good afternoon, your majesty. Yes, apparently the nerve regeneration is looking largely successful, and I should regain my full mobility with practice."
"That is good," Breha said.
They looked at each other for a moment, and it was Obi-Wan that broke the silence. "I believe tonight's testimony has already begun. I was going to listen in. Would you care to join me?"
Breha blinked. He had caught her off guard. She had assumed her company unsettled him as much as his unsettled hers. But no, he seemed glad of it. Unless that itself was the feint, meant to throw her off guard. Well played, if he was playing.
"Yes, I would," she said, perfectly polished but a moment delayed.
Obi-Wan relaxed a little and reached for the holovid remote.
She didn't think he was playing, though. Not that he couldn't, she had heard plenty of his charm through Bail's stories, even seen some of it herself when he had been visiting during her holocalls with Bail. But this didn't feel like his charm. It was too raw for that. Breha suspected she was seeing something honest, and she didn't know how that made her feel.
The holocom flicked on, to show one of the clones speaking. An interesting choice of witness, Breha thought, settling into her chair. "Rex," the text below the form said.
"They were installed in every one of us," he was saying. Breha read the text scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Something about…control? Controlling the clones? "And what they do…they undo. They undo us. Our jokes, our humor, the things we care about, the things we love…" Rex's voice cracked slightly on that last one, and Breha felt her heart constrict. "They're all gone. Replaced with only the order to obey. And maybe, you think, that doesn't sound like such a bad thing. Soldiers have to follow orders, right?"
Next to her, Obi-Wan actually growled. Breha turned from the screen, shocked to find Obi-Wan half pushed up in bed, a furious expression on his face. "No," he said. "Soldiers choose to follow orders." His words were low and intent, not made for Breha at all. They were pointed right at the figure on the screen, as if Obi-Wan's words could travel across space and be heard.
"There is a difference," Rex continued, "between choosing to serve and being forced to. We always thought we had a choice. But with one word, the former Chancellor could have taken it all away from us. And if that doesn't bother you, maybe this will. Those chips were implanted in every clone. But their use is not limited to clones. They can be installed in fully-functional adult sapients of all species. They could be installed in you."
The audience went suddenly loud at that. Many clamoring voices rang out, most saying some variation on, "That is not the sort of thing you can say without proof."
Rex smiled. It wasn't a nice smile. "Well, I believe after a quick break Tau Sian will be testifying. She's one of the kaminoan scientists that helped create us. I think there will be some interesting answers revealed there."
The interview cut off, jumping over the newscasters that breathlessly reviewed every horrifying detail of Rex's testimony. Once they started to repeat themselves, Breha muted the feed, and turned back to Obi-Wan.
He still looked furious, glaring at the screen like he wanted nothing more than to resurrect Sheev to kill him again.
"You didn't know," Breha said softly. There was too much shock for Obi-Wan to have known.
"No," he said brokenly. "I should have."
"Did you actually read the information at the end, there? The chips were very hard to detect."
"I found the clones," Obi-Wan said. "I let the council know they existed. I'm the reason the New Republic knew—I should have known." Obi-Wan laid back in bed. He made a soft noise of despair. "And now, all this attention. What to do with the clones is going to become a talking point. Political. They can't—the chips must be removed. It should not be debated."
"Should not is not the same as won't," Breha said. She reached down and pulled out her holocomm, punching in a few codes. "Stay quiet," she ordered Obi-Wan. "We don't know how secure the line is."
After a few chiming rings, the rich voice of Bail Organa came over her comm. "Breha, dear, it's good to hear from you, I don't have long—"
"Yes, quite busy with that media grav-circus you're running, aren't you?" Breha said. "Don't worry, this is business, not pleasure. I just saw Rex's testimony. Are the chips getting removed?"
Bail paused for a long moment. "I think that falls under things I'm not supposed to technically tell you. There's some...debate…"
"You are for the removal of the chips," Breha said briskly. "That is your formal stance as a representative of the Alderaanian government, so much so that we will declare amnesty for any clone that comes to Alderaan, and we will bear the price of chip removal ourselves. We will follow the same policy we have for any other unwilling slave."
Bail blinked slowly. "Breha, you recognize that position is…"
"The only possible moral one?" Breha said crisply. "I will make a formal announcement tonight."
"That's…okay. Okay, uh, I'll need to—" Bail abruptly cut off. "I'm sorry. That sounds like I'm dithering. I support you, and this, entirely. I will simply need to think fast and talk faster to avoid some nasty political consequences."
"You're good at that. I'll give you five hours," Breha said. "Love to you." She paused, looking down at Obi-Wan, then added, "Our thoughts go with you." She put a soft emphasis on the our. Bail would understand she was not using the royal 'we'.
After a moment, Bail said softly. "Of course. And mine with you." He echoed the same emphasis. Plural you.
Breha took a deep breath after the comm went off. "I'm afraid I won't be able to keep you company through the Kaminoan testimony. I'm going to be too busy stirring up a galactic fuss." Breha gave a tight little smile to Obi-Wan as she stood to leave. Her thoughts were already racing forward to who she needed to call and what discussions she needed to have.
"Wait," Obi-Wan said. His voice was choked with urgency and Breha felt herself wrenched back into the present moment.
She turned to look at Obi-Wan, slightly impatient. "Yes?"
"You…you mean it. Any clone that comes?"
Breha tilted her head. "Of course I mean it. I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it. It will be a logistical nightmare if the entire army comes, but we will stay true to our word. Alderaan does not tolerate slavery. We free any who make it to us. I see no reason this should change."
"Thank you," Obi-Wan said, the words so raw it was like they had been torn from his throat. Quickly, he added, "I know you don't do it for me, I know I do not have your approval. But please, no matter how little you value it, know you have mine."
Breha swallowed, unsure what to say in the face of that intensity. She retreated to formality. "You're right, I do not do it for you. But I am pleased that in this, we are aligned."
"Would you—" Obi-Wan cut off the words, and after a brief internal struggle, said instead, "If you find the time, I would be greatly interested in knowing how this matter is received."
Breha felt something in her soften. Whatever else he was, Obi-Wan cared deeply about this. It was clear how much it cost him to ask. "I will," she promised, and was rewarded with a genuine smile crossing Obi-Wan's face as he sank back into the bed.
It was nearly two entire days before she managed to make it back to the medical suite. She found Obi-Wan up out of bed, shuffling his way back and forth across the room.
"I'm sorry it took me so long," she said as she came in. "I've barely slept, much less... Still, I wanted to tell you every…all the—oh, nevermind. I'm exhausted. But here."
"Breha," Obi-Wan said, holding up a hand. "It means a great deal to me that you came, and I am curious, but please, go get some sleep. I can wait." He made a face. "It's not like there's much else I'm doing."
"I won't be able to sleep until I wind down, anyway. I'm just a bit scattered, need to process…oh!" A brilliant idea occurred to her. It was probably not actually brilliant, as she had gotten six hours of sleep in the last fifty hours lived, but it felt brilliant, and she would accept that feeling with pride. "Would you care to go for a walk with me? I usually clear my mind with an evening stroll. Are you well enough? I can get the guards to clear the gardens, we'll have sufficient privacy. We can both wear cloaks, to be certain."
"I—forgive me, your majesty, but you seem a bit—"
"Scattered? Rambling? Yes, I'm drunk on exhaustion, and I always get a bit hyper and talkative. Which is why I'm no longer safe to be in front of a camera. I should be safe enough with you. But you didn't answer my question, Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan gave a smile. It looked fond, and to her surprise, Breha did not mind it's intimacy. Obi-Wan said, "If it's safe, certainly. It would be a relief to leave these walls."
"I'll make it so," Breha said, and started punching orders into her datapad.
Soon they emerged from a palace side-door, wrapped up in hooded cloaks. She guided them through the elegant but minimalist alpine garden, narrating as she went. "It gets cold here, only certain plants survive. But we find beauty in that simplicity, as it allows a focus on form."
"It is lovely," Obi-Wan said. "It should be stark, but instead feels almost carved. Artistically shaped."
"Yes," Breha agreed. She stepped a little closer, linking her arm through Obi-Wan's. "We will look less suspicious, whispering this way."
She felt his arm shake as he gave a soft laugh. "Can two people in hooded cloaks whispering ever not look suspicious?"
Breha tched at Obi-Wan, and then began recanting her progress over the last few days. "When we began, it was certainly a minority position. Well-received by the people of Alderaan, but deemed either helplessly naive or a dangerous attempt to undermine the New Republic Military by the greater galaxy." Breha paused. "Poor Bail, I really do put him in a terrible position sometimes. He could be so much savvier, were he not tied to such a hopeless idealist."
"He would have it no other way," Obi-Wan said with a hint of laughter. "He loves your clear lines. He once said—nevermind." Obi-Wan seemed to retreat back in on himself.
"No, please, tell me, or I'll be wondering all night." Breha's exhaustion gave her curiosity more of a claim to her tongue than it usually had.
"He said it must be the Force that led him to fall for not one, but two people with unshakeable moral centers. He was…trying to reassure me at the time that he didn't mind my devotion to the Jedi Order. Forgive me, I know the comparison must no longer be flattering."
Breha grunted, a sourness stealing over the moment. "It's more complicated than that. I was flattered. Before. When Bail would tell me all the similarities he saw between us. Bail is a good man, and those he cares for are fundamentally good, as well. Or so I thought."
They walked in silence a little longer. It felt like a gift Obi-Wan was giving her, as Breha tried to force her tired thoughts into some sort of an order. "I understand that the Chancellor was not a good man. But when we open ourselves up to believe that killing is justified so long as the person is evil, then soon the definition of evil becomes 'those who are our enemies.' I can't agree with it."
"I would not ask you to," Obi-Wan said gravely. "You are a pacifist. I imagine you have many, many objections to the life I've led as a general. And to be honest, I do as well. But I do not regret Palpatine's death. And it occurs to me…you asked me why. I gave you a true answer, but not one that allowed for greater understanding. If you are still curious, would you give me another chance to explain?"
Breha took a breath, and felt her thoughts give a fuzzy lurch. "I would like that. But I am too tired now to hear you fairly, I think. Perhaps…right now I can tell you the state of the clones, and after I sleep…?"
"Of course," Obi-Wan said quickly. "I did not share before because it was too complicated to say. This will give me more time to put my thoughts into words."
Breha squeezed the arm she held. "Alright, where was I…"
As the testimonies had continued, Breha's stance went from absurdly radical to something worth considering. The Kaminoan scientists reluctantly confirmed that yes, the chip technology could, hypothetically work on most sapients with a central nervous system. Then clones had quietly come forward and shared things that might have been after-effects of the chip. Decaying central nervous systems, sudden insanity, and now, the quiet horror of knowing it was inside them, and could it still be activated?
"And the more they heard the testimony, the more came out in favor. Our offer was joined by several others. Including, to some's surprise, the Jedi temple."
Breha looked over at Obi-Wan, to see how the comment would land. He looked back at her, gently curious. "Were you surprised?"
Breha shook her head. "Not after seeing your reaction. I thought about it…the Jedi stand apart from the broader galaxy. There are not many connections. So I imagine the connections you do have, you value all the more. The clones fought beside you for how long now?"
"Too long," Obi-Wan whispered, sounding exhausted. "Your insight does not fail you. The Jedi and the clones, we fought beside each other and saved each other in a war that seemed to have no end. We are both prepared to sacrifice if needed. But it should be willingly offered, not taken. Nobody should be able to order that."
Breha nodded. "I ag—" a yawn took over her, interrupting her words "—gr—gree. Oh dear." She stopped walking, feeling suddenly woozy.
"Please, let's go back in, and you should get some sleep," Obi-Wan said, taking her elbow and turning them around.
"Wait, I didn't—just wait," Breha covered Obi-Wan's hand with hers, and stopped turning. Once she was sure she had his attention, she said, "The Republic passed an emergency measure. The chips will be removed, immediately."
Watching Obi-Wan's face as the news sunk in was a comfort in a way even the best sleep wouldn't have been. His worried, horrified face when they had first learned the news had stuck with her. She was glad to be able to replace that mental image with this: a smile so broad it wrinkled the corners of his eyes.
Obi-Wan seized her hands and brought them up to his mouth. He laid a dignified kiss along the backs of her knuckles. "Thank you," he whispered, his breath brushing over her skin.
Breha shivered. "You're welcome. And thank you. It's been good to have someone to share this victory with." She felt herself listing, and shook herself awake again, and upright. "I think I will let you take me back inside now."
"Yes," Obi-Wan said, as he released her hands. Then he took her elbow again, and was a steadying presence all the way back to the palace. Breha missed him at her side when their paths parted, and she continued to the bedroom alone.
Breha slept solidly for eleven hours, and when she woke, her husband was there.
"Bail?" she murmured in sleepy confusion. Was she still dreaming? Possible. Likely, even.
"She's up!" Bail said, and the bed shifted as he sat down next to her. He leaned over to give her a kiss. Less likely to be a dream, now. He was just too wonderfully real, next to her. "I'm glad you got some good sleep after shaking the foundations of galactic governance to its core."
Breha yawned. "I hardly managed most of it. Just a push in the right direction."
"That's all any of us do, darling," Bail said fondly.
Breha shook her head, rubbing her hands against her eyelids to try to get the grit out of them. She felt like she was swimming through a pool of plickar-pine syrup.
"The return to consciousness is putting up a struggle this morning, hm?" Bail saved himself from a grumpy attempted kick by immediately producing a cup of caf. "Thought it might."
"You may live," Breha said regally, sitting up and taking the mug. Bail gave an exaggerated sigh of relief.
As the caf filtered through her drowsy thoughts, she lifted her head and realized that Bail was here. Well, of course Bail was here, but he wasn't supposed to be. "Wait—" was all she managed before Bail's laughter took over.
"I wondered how long it would take you," he said, amused little chuckles still rolling out of him.
Breha did try to kick him then, and managed an ineffective prodding with her blanket-covered feet. "What are you doing here?" she insisted.
Bail sobered, and reached out to squeeze the blanket-lump that was her ankle. "The next testimony is the Jedi. I didn't want Obi-Wan to be left out because I made the impulsive decision to steal him away. So I brought a camera and a hookup—we should be able to obscure his location, don't worry."
Breha waved that away. "We made the decision to shelter him. If that gets out, it gets out. We've already drafted formal asylum papers for the duration of his recovery. And my speechwriters have something prepared."
Bail gave a rueful chuckle. "I would protest how many people know, but my writing team has already drafted the same."
"I'll send Lis should talk with Byl then, make sure we're all on the same page." Breha said with a wry grin. This was one of those times that Breha remembered that their marriage had been a partnering of political strengths. They were both the sorts to choose a sensible match. And then, joy upon joy, they had been blessed enough to find a deep and enduring love, too.
"I'll make sure it happens," Bail agreed. He paused. "The other reason I'm here…I suspect the Jedi testimony will be…I don't want Obi-Wan to be alone." Bail flinched a little as he said it, but then gave a firm nod.
Breha sighed. "I see why the two of you get along. Utterly unapologetic when you believe you're doing the right thing." She rubbed the corner of her left eye. "And yes, I suppose I should include myself in that. What a trio we make."
"Unapologetic can lead to some ferocious arguments," Bail said, raising his eyebrows.
"That it can. But this won't be one of those times." Breha reached up and laid her hand along Bail's cheek. "I'm glad you're here. It's good that he'll have you. I hope you don't mind if I join, though. I've been watching the rest of the testimony with him, it'd be lonely watching it by myself, now."
Bail raised his eyebrows. "And how has that gone? I can't imagine it was a…quiet affair."
Breha laughed, reaching up a little further to run her thumb along his eyebrow. "Oh, I was furious. And probably quite mean, at the beginning. But he seemed to like having me around anyway. I got more tolerable in response."
"Then by all means, let us watch together. Do you mind if I invite him to the apartment? The medical suite is small, it'll be cramped if we all cram in there."
"Good idea," Breha agreed.
Bail went to fetch Obi-Wan, and if it took a little longer than perhaps it strictly 'should' have, well then, good for them. Obi-Wan deserved some time with Bail's friendly, reassuring presence after putting up with her prickles the last week.
Breha had managed to get herself from 'sleep-wracked shamble' to 'presentable but comfy' by the time Obi-Wan and Bail returned to the room. Obi-Wan shuffled inside and immediately separated from Bail, maintaining a stiff distance between himself and Bail. Bail looked hurt for a second, instinctively reaching for Obi-Wan, but then he caught himself and pulled back.
"Good to see you, Obi-Wan," Breha called in a deliberate attempt to break the awkwardness. She walked towards him, gesturing at herself as she reported, "I'm pleased to announce that I have been blissfully sleeping since the last time we met, and feel much more myself."
Obi-Wan offered her a small smile. "Good. You needed the rest desperately."
"True," Breha agreed, and before Obi-Wan could realize what her plan was, she darted forward and gave him a hug. He was stiff, but Breha insistently tugged him down until his mouth was next to her ear. She quickly whispered, "You two have been lovers for over a year. Don't stop touching on my account."
Then she released him and walked over to an amused Bail, whom she also tugged down so she could kiss him on the cheek and announce, "I ordered breakfast."
Bail opened his mouth, and Breha held up a hand. "I don't care what time it actually is, what we're eating is breakfast."
"The privilege of royalty," Obi-Wan said quietly. Breha flashed him a grin and moved away.
She was gratified to see him shift toward Bail, standing a little more comfortably in Bail's company. After a moment, Bail reached out and brushed the backs of his knuckles against Obi-Wan's forearm.
There. Perhaps they'd get through this without it being entirely awkward, after all.
Breha carried that hope with her through the first course of fresh fruit. They ate thin slices of the nella melon dusted with chili and salt and made comfortable conversation about what Obi-Wan thought of the palace garden. But just as she cleared her small plate and started eyeing the pastries, Obi-Wan cleared his throat.
"I have decided to testify," he dropped into the conversation. It hit like a sonic detonator, obliterating all other conversation.
The silence hung for long seconds, until Bail broke it by reaching over and taking Obi-Wan's hand. "Of course. I'll make sure you get the chance."
"Before I do so, I would like…" Obi-Wan paused and turned toward Breha. "I think I owe you the right to hear the story first. And I would like you to hear it from me, not from Mace or whoever else is testifying."
Breha's appetite quickly deserted her. She sighed and set down her fork. She had been enjoying the truce between herself and Obi-Wan. But it was built on unstable ground, and while the truth of things might shatter it, it was better it happened sooner rather than later. After a moment, she folded her hands and looked up at Obi-Wan. "Go ahead, then."
"Forgive me, but in order to tell this story properly, I need to start a long, long time ago. So, as far back as we have recorded time, there has always been the Force."
"We can't need to go that far back," Bail protested.
"It is essential for understanding." After a moment, Obi-Wan added, dryly, "I will attempt to skip the non-relevant parts."
Obi-Wan explained that just about as long as the Force had been recorded, there had also been the Jedi. Force users that shared a guiding principle. The Force is a connecting presence. The Jedi are not alone, they are connected to the galaxy. To use the Force is a powerful gift, and it must not be used to better oneself at the cost of others.
"And even to today, though our code has expanded and gained complexity, that is the core of it. That is who we try to be. We try to be protectors, mediators, healers. We try." He rubbed the bridge of his nose, looking tired. "We don't always succeed. But it is our goal. It is not the goal of the Sith."
"Well that sounds ominous," Bail said, a little half-smile on his face.
His bid for humor faded when Obi-Wan looked back on him, his features full of grave concern. "It is."
The Sith had all the same access to the Force, and none of those guiding principles. They used the Force with no care for the very interconnectedness that gives it meaning. The Dark Side. And the further someone went down that path, the further the Dark Side drew them in. As for what the Sith actually did…
"Lie, manipulate, stir up fear, gather power, hurt others if it helps them, and eventually, hurt others just for the sheer twisted joy of it." Obi-Wan looked sick. "There is a reason we have such strictures, why we guard ourselves and our impulses tightly. We know what we might become. Now, I know this sounds fanciful beyond words—"
Bail gave a sad laugh. "Obi-Wan, darling, I've seen what you can do. And I'm a politician. You think I can't imagine what happens when greed and ambition meet the sort of power you've got? Too easy."
Breha nodded her agreement. Her only issue with the story… "So why haven't we heard of the Sith?"
"That is the next part of the tale. We thought they had died out," Obi-Wan continued. "It turned out, they learned that important political skill"—Obi-Wan winked at Bail as he said the words—"hiding your true intentions behind a pleasant smile."
Bail gave Obi-Wan a very pleasant smile. Obi-Wan grinned toothily in response, and Breha stifled a chuckle. After a moment they all grew more serious again, remembering what was being shared.
Still, Breha was grateful to see their gentle teasing. She had occasionally wondered what her husband's other romance actually looked like. She believed Bail that there was real affection there, but she couldn't help but be a little puzzled. From the outside, Obi-Wan always seemed warm, but distant. But now that she knew him better, she saw the sly humor he hid beneath the formality.
Not so different from herself, really. Bail did have a type.
She was drawn back to the conversation at hand when Obi-Wan said gravely. "Here is the part that is hard to believe. They have been operating in secret, since their supposed death. Manipulating the Jedi and the Republic alike to weaken us, to try to break us. And it nearly…he nearly—" Obi-Wan broke off with a shudder.
Breha looked at Bail. Bail was frowning slightly in understanding. He turned to Obi-Wan. "So Chancellor Palpatine. He was…?"
Obi-Wan stilled and straightened. When he spoke, his voice had calmed again. "Yes. He was. There are always two, a master and an apprentice. I don't know who Palpatine's master was, but I know who he picked as his apprentice. First, a zabrak named Maul. When—when he was defeated, then it was a former human Jedi named Count Dooku."
"Wait." Breha straightened. "The head of the separatists. That Dooku?"
"But, Palpatine fought him. He kidnapped the Chancellor! Bail told me you rescued him! What sort of a plan is that?" Breha couldn't stop her outrage from spilling out. It was just so needlessly dramatic.
"A very complicated one," Obi-Wan said dryly. "Particularly considering one of the main goals of the entire operation was to replace Count Dooku with a new apprentice."
Bail tilted his head, looking puzzled. "He wasn't trying to recruit you, was he?"
Obi-Wan gave a bitter laugh. "No. No, not so simple. He was trying to recruit Anakin. That was his third apprentice."
Bail made a horrified noise. Breha didn't know Anakin beyond vaguely being aware of him as Obi-Wan's former padawan. Still, it was clear from Obi-Wan's expression and the way that Bail was reaching for him that this was no mere teacher-student relationship.
Obi-Wan took Bail's offered hand and squeezed it. "He didn't fall. But it was so—Bail it was so close. Close enough that Palpatine revealed to him that he was a Sith, and asked Anakin to join him." Obi-Wan's voice cracked. "He could have—I was supposed to leave, I was supposed to go fight Grievous on Geonosis. But—of all things, it was my shoulder."
"You said you were fine," Bail said reprovingly.
Obi-Wan looked up, pulling himself together enough to give Bail a small smile. "I was fine. Mostly." Obi-Wan grew more serious again. "But Grievous is a punishing battle even when I'm in top form. So another Jedi was sent in my stead. And I thank the Force that I was. Anakin trusted me enough to come and tell me that Sheev Palpatine had revealed himself as a Sith Lord. I told the council, and we gathered what forces we could and went to go arrest him."
"Arrest?" Breha couldn't stop the word from slipping out.
Obi-Wan turned to her, nodding seriously. "My goal was the same as yours, to start. To hold him where he could do no more harm, to let him be tried, judged, and sentenced. To let justice work."
"He fought us. And he was…terrifying. He had so much power, he was so fast. He killed three of us before we even managed to land a hit on him. Mace and I were able to rally, drive him back. He kept shifting his focus to me, trying to throw me around or dominate my will. Anything to get me out of the fight quickly. I thought it was sloppy, it gave Mace too many openings."
Breha didn't say anything, still struggling with the mental image of the old man she knew Sheev Palpatine was dominating a fight with five Jedi.
"And then…here is the disappointing truth, I don't know what happened next."
Breha coughed in surprise. "What?"
"He threw Mace across the room, turned back to me, and struck me with some sort of lightning. From his fingertips. I know, I'm sorry, this sounds impossible, but the sheer evil power of it knocked me out. I remember pain, I remember—someone coming. Maybe that was you, Bail. And then…I woke up in the care of your med droids."
"No wonder you were confused," Breha said. They had been lucky that Obi-Wan hadn't torn their medical suite apart out of sheer panic when he woke up.
"I certainly was. But then you turned on the news, and Palpatine was dead. I was just…relieved. Exhausted and relieved. He wouldn't kill any more of us."
"You…" Breha said slowly. "You didn't kill him."
"It seems very unlikely that I did," Obi-Wan agreed.
Breha blinked. "You just…you let me accuse you of—"
Obi-Wan reached over and took hold of her hand. He squeezed it, gently but firmly, as he said, "I would have. After seeing what he was, seeing the truth of it, I would have. I only didn't because I couldn't."
Breha looked down at their combined hands. "I didn't even give you the credit of thinking that the Chancellor may have been dangerous. I—" Breha looked up, meeting Obi-Wan's eyes. "I'm sorry."
Obi-Wan smiled at her. "Forgiven."
Breha looked over at Bail. "And I'm sorry to you too, my dear. Your trust was placed correctly."
Bail smiled, and reached across their little table to cover both of their hands with his. "I trusted him, you trusted me. It all worked. Thank you, my dear, for your faith."
Breha blinked, looking up at Obi-Wan. "You must really be looking forward to the testimony today."
"It was a relief just to know that Mace lived. I assume he killed Palpatine. I suppose whatever is shared will be illuminating, won't it?"
They moved to the little sitting area in the royal apartment. There was a moment of confusion as they navigated couch seating. It would have been simplest with Bail in the middle, but he was the sort of man that felt trapped without access to an armrest. So Obi-Wan wound up in the middle instead, and Breha perched next to him. Bail slung an arm around Obi-Wan and then wiggled his fingers near her shoulder. Breha obediently shifted so the tips of his fingers touched her shoulder, and Bail pressed lightly against her skin in acknowledgement.
To all of their surprise, it wasn't Master Windu that showed up in the holo. Instead, it was the figure of Anakin Skywalker. His chin up, he looked grave and serious, and recounted much the same tale Obi-Wan had told, but with a slightly different focus. Anakin's story was about power and seduction, and all the tricks that Palpatine had used to try to turn Anakin to his side.
"He made me desperate. He made me think that going to him was the only way to save the people I loved. But then I walked into those chambers, and found him electrocuting one of those very people. Lightning shot from his fingers, and Obi-Wan lay on the ground, screaming. Master Windu was already unconscious, slumped against the wall. I begged him to stop and he just laughed."
Next to her, Obi-Wan trembled. Bail pulled Obi-Wan tight against his side, and kissed Obi-Wan's temple. Breha moved in closer too, and put what she hoped was a comforting hand against Obi-Wan's knee.
"So I killed him," Anakin continued. "He was in that room, surrounded by the corpses of Jedi, and killing those that were left. I killed him rather than let him kill anyone else."
Obi-Wan's exhale was long and shaking. "Oh, Anakin," he whispered.
"Since then, I've spent my time in meditation at the Jedi Temple. And I've come to the conclusion that the best course for me is to leave the Jedi. I will submit to whatever justice the Republic thinks is fair, but I will do it as a citizen, not a Jedi Knight. I came too close to falling. I need to step away to see clearly again."
Breha didn't understand the significance of what was being said, but Obi-Wan seemed to take the news like a blow. A fresh shudder rolled through him. Breha thought he was on the edge of bursting into tears. But he seemed to catch the edge of it, breathing slowly and steadily, and he straightened again, pushing away from Bail.
"Can I talk to him?" Obi-Wan asked. Breha didn't need the Force to see the way he was keeping his emotions leashed, the desperation leaked out in every word. "Is there any way to set up a line—"
"Of course, don't worry, we'll get it done." Bail made like he was going to stand up, but Breha leapt off the couch first.
"I'll get it done," she informed the men. "It'll take at least twenty minutes to make the connection. You two should…" Breha wasn't sure exactly how to finish that sentence, so she ended with a vague gesture, and walked out of the room feeling vaguely embarrassed.
She had meant to imply that Obi-Wan should cry if he needed to, and Bail should hold him, or they should talk, or whatever was needed to find comfort in a terrible time. She was a little worried the gesture had come across as sexual. Breha sighed. Not that she had a problem with them having sex, of course. But twenty minutes just didn't seem like enough time to enjoy things properly. Not the way Bail liked to—
Breha shook her head. Her mind was just wandering. Too many revelations, too much sudden intimacy. Wires were crossing. She took a slow breath and focused herself. Comms patch for Obi-Wan. Right.
After all the revelations, what followed felt almost banal by comparison. Obi-Wan was able to speak with Anakin, and emerged looking grave but slightly more at peace. "I worried that he was running away. But it seems he has other priorities. I believe—I hope, that he is running to."
After that, there was Master Windu's testimony, and Obi-Wan's. They were nearly identical, except Mace had woken up in time to see the killing blow. And then after that, the great explosion of "evil fire" that had consumed Palpatine's body. "I assume it's a Sith thing," Master Windu said, shrugging and looking tired.
Obi-Wan shared his story publicly, and after that the three of them played distracting rounds of sabbac. Finally, the Senate hearing committee's judgement came back. The Jedi were acting within their rights as peacekeepers and sacred warriors of the Force when they went to arrest Palpatine for corruption and suspicion of being a Sith Lord. When Palpatine responded with violence, they were within their rights to act in self defense.
All charges dropped, and a more thorough investigation of Sheev Palpatine and his government to follow.
The relief of that heady, but also exhausting. As all the twitchy tension drained away, Obi-Wan was clearly shaken and in desperate need of comfort. Breha made a polite excuse about needing to meet with the media team, and tried to leave Bail and Obi-Wan alone together.
"You'll want to go with her, I'm sure," Obi-Wan said, taking a deep breath before standing and starting to move toward the door.
Breha indulged in the childish gesture of rolling her eyes and grabbed Obi-Wan by both his elbows. She maneuvered him a few shuffling steps backward until his shins hit Bail's still-seated thighs. Bail, bless him, understood her goal, and reached up to snake an arm around Obi-Wan's waist, and pulled him down onto his lap.
"No, I don't think I will," Bail said, low and husky against Obi-Wan's ear.
"Have fun," Breha said, abandoning subtlety entirely. "I'll be at least three hours. Make sure the bed gets clean sheets."
"If we use the bed," Bail said with a grin. Breha laughed at how red Obi-Wan got, and turned to leave.
She came back to the room, hours later, to find Bail and Obi-Wan asleep, with Bail curled protectively around Obi-Wan. Breha looked at the two of them and smiled. Bail loved to cuddle, but unfortunately Breha could only tolerate it for a few minutes before she felt trapped and started fidgeting. It seemed like Obi-Wan finally gave Bail an outlet.
Breha considered waking the men up, but she wasn't tired yet. If they were still asleep in a few hours Breha would disturb them in order to negotiate bedsharing. She blinked as she realized she really wouldn't mind sharing a bed with Obi-Wan.
She mused on it as she continued past the room into her office.
She and Bail had worked out their feelings on monogamy before even formalizing the engagement. It had been one on a very sensible list of questions, in among questions of cleanliness and sleep habits, the duties of the prince-consort and the expectations of the queen.
"I hope," Breha had said, "that our marriage is something that brings both of us real comfort and affection. But I do not need to be the only source. I know all too well from my royal parents how many demands are placed on a ruler's attention. I would not want you to be lonely."
"Your majesty is too kind," Bail had said, bowing slightly. "I would do nothing that may endanger my marriage. And I would take no freedom I would not grant myself. I would also want you to take whatever joy presented itself to you."
So it was agreed, with clear communication and always placing the safety of their marriage and service to Alderaan at the forefront, they were free to take other lovers. Neither of them had all that often. Bail was more likely to enjoy a friendly, brief encounter with a pretty face. Breha had a few long-standing friends that she occasionally sought out intimacy with.
Obi-Wan was different. He was Bail's longest partner by far. He was the only one who had been inside both Bail's senatorial suite and the royal apartment. The only one Breha could possibly imagine both of them crawling into bed with. The only one of Bail's lovers she was attracted to.
Yes, she thought, staring blankly at the scroll of text in her communications inbox, making no move to actually address it, she could admit her own attraction. Obi-Wan was objectively a beautiful man. And spending all this time in his presence had only reinforced it. Seeing his passion, thrilling at small touches…Breha liked him, and would enjoy more.
But she had also wrongfully accused him of assassinating the Supreme Chancellor, and seemed like it would be a detriment to any developing relationship.
Breha sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. It didn't need to be resolved right now. Some time would probably be wise, let all the high emotions settle.
"Are you alright?" a voice called softly from the doorway.
Speaking of…Breha looked up and gave Obi-Wan a smile. "Yes, I'm fine. You simply caught me in a moment of contemplation."
Obi-Wan looked over his shoulder. "Should I leave you to it?" He didn't immediately move to leave, though, and Breha found that interesting.
"No," she said, "it was dangerously on the verge of turning into navel-gazing, and I'm grateful you saved me from that fate. Please, come in."
Obi-Wan smiled, and entered. Since this was her private office, she didn't really have other seating. So Breha patted the corner of the desk. "This is Bail's usual perch."
"Does he often interrupt you from your work?" Obi-Wan asked with amusement, negotiating the slide onto the desk with grace.
"He has a good sense of when I need it. He usually comes in with some fol-blossom gin and is forgiven the intrusion."
"And here I am without any hard spirits," Obi-Wan spread his hands apologetically and gave a little, knowing smile.
"Fortunately for you, I am in a forgiving mood," Breha replied with a chuckle. Obi-Wan's mischievous smile in such close proximity was not at all helping her resolution to give them both some time and space. But she was enjoying herself, and curious to see how this would play out. "Did I wake you?"
Obi-Wan nodded. "I have recently spent too much time on battlefields to not be a light sleeper. Despite that I still had a hard time convincing myself I wanted to be extracted from a warm, soft bed."
"With very pleasant company."
Obi-Wan's smile was soft and genuine. "Yes, that too. But I wanted to let you know that both the bed and the company are returned to you, and thank you for letting me borrow them."
And still, he made no move to leave. It was that, more than anything else, that gave Breha the courage to cock her head and say, "No, that won't do."
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at her.
"Bail is not a thing you borrow, he is something we share." Breha took a deep breath, and reached out and laid a hand on his thigh. Not so high as to be a blatant grope, but high enough that her intention was clear. "And the bed could be too, if you desired it."
Obi-Wan slowly reached down and took Breha's hand. Giving her ample time to pull away again, he slowly lifted her hand to his mouth. He laid a kiss along the backs of her knuckles. His eyes stayed locked on hers, and Breha felt electric, between the warm pressure against her skin, and the intensity of his gaze.
Obi-Wan turned her hand over, and kissed the center of her palm. What was Obi-Wan seeing? What could he sense. Could he feel the certainty of her intention? Could he feel her rising desire? A shudder ran through her, and she did not look away.
A third kiss, up her arm, against the pulse of her wrist. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, then, inhaling deeply against her skin. "Breha," he said softly and the feeling of the words danced up her arm.
"Yes?" she replied, not quite managing to keep the tremor out of her voice.
"Come here," he said, and pulled her hand.
She let herself be led up out of the chair to stand between his legs. He lifted his free hand and brushed his fingers along her lips, her cheek, finally cradling her jaw. "May I?" he asked.
"Please," was the only answer she could possibly give. He pulled her in and they kissed. It was brief, almost polite, and Breha felt a private disappointment when Obi-Wan pulled away.
Not for long though, because he was back for another kiss in a heartbeat, and then another, heat an intensity growing, before Obi-Wan retreated one more time and bit out, "If there's anything further we need to discuss—"
"Many things, and we will address them later," Breha responded, and wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in.
Obi-Wan fell into the kiss with startling focus and intensity. Every angle, every flick of the tongue, every soft scrape of teeth, it all seemed calculated and crafted to perfection. It left Breha shivering and hungry, and she tried to give it back in equal measure. From Obi-Wan's noises, she thought she was succeeding.
"Well!" Bail's warm voice came from behind her. Breha jumped a little, but Obi-Wan's arms stayed firm around her, and he kept kissing her, slow and deep, as Bail approached.
Well, indeed. He had probably sensed when Bail had woken up and decided to put on a show. The least Breha could do is play along. She ran her nails lightly down the side of his throat, and enjoyed the shiver that ran through Obi-wan. Not so unaffected as we appear, hm?
Bail came up behind her, and covered her hand on Obi-Wan's collarbone. His other arm reached around her to splay across her belly. "If I have to wake up alone, at least it's for a very good reason," he said, his voice low and rough with both sleep and lust. "But I don't suppose I can convince the both of you to relocate this back to the bedroom?"
Breha pulled back, leaning against Bail's chest, waiting for Obi-Wan's answer. Obi-Wan looked from Breha to Bail and back, a slow-growing smile on his face. "I'd be delighted," he finally answered.
In the morning, there would be more questions to answer. What did Obi-Wan want from them, in the long run? Was this sustainable, or only a moment's delight? And if this was the mutual, developing, long-term thing Breha suspected they were beginning, there were even more logistics. Was Obi-Wan willing to be a recognized royal consort? Where would their primary residence be? Would Obi-Wan be willing to move to the palace or would Breha need to make more time to visit Coruscant?
Breha didn't need to have the answers, though. She trusted Bail and Obi-Wan. She trusted herself. She had confidence in their ability to navigate the practicalities of the future. And that faith, that solid foundation of trust and decency, meant that for the moment, she could throw caution to the wind and enjoy herself.
She returned Obi-Wan's smile with one of her own. "Then that's exactly what we'll do."