Many, many thanks to fialleril for helping me sort through all the thematic messiness in this fic! Any remaining messiness (and EU errors) is purely my fault.
Title: Motherhood Is Deadly
Fandom: Star Wars (Disclaimer)
Characters: Shmi, Padmé, Breha, Beru, Teneniel Djo, Mara
Categories: Gen, PG
Word Count: 2556
Summary: One by one, the mothers of Star Wars find themselves in the afterlife - and there's something disturbing about how they all end up there...
At last the pain stopped, and Shmi was at peace, her beautiful son's face held in her heart. "I love you, Anakin," she said again.
Then she wondered how she was speaking. "Where am I?" She looked around. She wasn't in the Tusken camp, or anywhere on Tatooine. She wasn't sure she was anywhere at all. Far off at the edge of her vision there might be a smudge of green or blue, but around her was... nothing. It wasn't a white room, or a gray fog, or endless blowing sand, or a forested paradise, or any of the other stories she'd heard; it had no color, shape, or texture. She waited, straining her eyes against the void, but no other soul appeared to explain. So she thought of home, and family, and every happy memory of Anakin she had. Warm plastered walls appeared around her, a familiar black-and-red ceiling overhead.
She had once told Anakin not to look back. Now the desire to look back overwhelmed her, if she could only find out how. She wanted one last glimpse of his face, unobstructed by blood and swollen eyes. She wanted to know if seeing her and knowing she had been free and happy had allowed Anakin some peace as well.
The pain and the cold metal of the delivery table receded, but Padmé kept shaking. "...in him. There must be," she said. "There has to be good in him."
A figure moved on the edge of her vision. Med-droid, Obi-Wan - it made no difference now.
"Oh dear," a soft voice said.
Something had... changed. The bed beneath her was soft, and the ceiling above was painted in red and black designs of a kind she had seen only twice before. She turned and tried to focus on the figure in the doorway. Sad, dark eyes, brown braid, homespun dress...
"Shmi Skywalker?" she asked, voice still quavering. "Where am I?"
Shmi's expression grew tender. "Oh, Padmé..." She sat next to Padmé, smoothing Padmé's hair as if she were a child Shmi were tucking into bed.
If Shmi was here... Padmé sat up, shaking harder than ever. "No."
"I'm sorry, dear."
"No! I can't - how could I - " Looking into Shmi's face, Padmé crumbled. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She held her hands to her face, but she couldn't stop the tears. "Anakin - I'm sorry, I couldn't save him - and my children - "
"He made his own choices." Shmi's voice broke. Padmé looked up, and saw the pain in the lines of her face. Shmi reached out and hugged Padmé to her. Padmé clutched her back, and they did their best to support each other.
Breha's only consolation was that the Empire would never know who had been in the unmarked freighter they shot down over Chandrila. It was fortunate, in a way, that her pilot tried to run when the captain of the Star Destroyer Emancipator asked to board. Now Mon and Bail would be able to continue their secret work, and Leia would still have one parent - Imperial Child Services wouldn't get her. Breha would die again a hundred times to keep the Empire from her daughter.
There didn't seem to be any danger of that just now, however, not in this... sitting room? Breha closed her eyes, wondering if this were a brief hallucination in the instant before death. But no, it was still a sitting room. This wasn't at all what she had expected. The sofa was sleek and Coruscanti modern, but covered in woven throws in red and black and beige; the marble end table and delicate statuette came from Naboo. More disconcertingly, one window showed a lush meadow while the other showed nothing but blowing sand. Feeling faint, Breha leaned back into the sofa.
A woman dressed in homespun entered. She stopped, no doubt startled at the sudden appearance of a stranger. "Can we help you?" she asked. "I don't believe we've met."
Whatever Breha was going to say flew from her mind when a gauzy, jewel-toned gown came into view behind the woman in homespun.
"Shmi? No, I know that voice."
Amidala stopped, grabbing the first woman's arm. "Breha! What's happened?"
"It was... an accident. The Empire nearly discovered my activities, and - " At Amidala's pale face, Breha quickly added, "But Leia is safe. There's no way they could trace it back to Alderaan."
Amidala's shoulders relaxed, and she smiled. "Oh, you and Bail took Leia? Thank you!"
"Padmé has told me about you," the first woman said. "I'm so glad my granddaughter is with such good people."
Breha felt a rush of sympathy for them both. At least she had had some time with Leia first.
"Please," Amidala said, coming over to the sofa with a longing look, "can you tell me about her?"
It was quick. Beru had been afraid of dying slowly ever since Shmi's drawn-out agony, so that was a small mercy. She hadn't expected to find herself in a kitchen after being shot in the head, however, and that almost frightened her more than seeing stormtroopers descend on the homestead. She only hoped they wouldn't find Luke.
She looked around, hoping to find some way of looking back. It was larger than her kitchen, but otherwise much the same as one from any Tatooine homestead. The feeling that she was home, and that Owen was just over in the garage, grousing about the speeder oil getting low, struck her so strongly that she almost believed it - until she saw the window overlooking mountains covered with trees. Beru backed away from the window and clutched the doorjamb.
She turned to the next room, hoping for something less disorienting. Some of it was familiar and comforting, like the throws on the sofa and the plastered walls in an alcove across the room. But some of it was clearly from off-world, things in silky fabrics in bright blues and greens, and some things all in perfectly clean white.
Voices beyond a second door told her she was not alone. They grew louder, and the door swished open.
They locked eyes for an eternity. Then Beru and Shmi ran to each other.
"Beru, what's happened? Is Luke all right?"
"I don't know - he's been missing since this morning, and then stormtroopers came to the homestead - "
The lines of Shmi's face grew tight. "And Owen?"
Beru shook her head. "He should be with me. I know he must be nearby."
Shmi closed her eyes and hugged Beru to her. "We'll find him, then. Nothing can harm him here. Let's just worry about Luke for the moment."
One of the other women rushed to a shuttered window and flung it open. Beru recognized the outlander girl Anakin had brought home that time. So she was Luke's mother.
"I can't see - wait, there! He's with Obi-Wan." She peered through the window for a moment longer, then shook her head. "It's gone blank again. It never works for more than a moment," she told Beru.
Some of the knot in Beru's chest uncoiled. So he was safe, at least for now. "I hope Ben can protect him where we couldn't," she said. "We've done our best by him." It was hard to look at this woman who was Luke's mother. Beru and Owen had raised Luke since he was no more than a few weeks old, and she had almost started thinking of his mother as the woman who had died to bring him to them. To bring him home.
"Thank you," Padmé said. She paused, looking uncertain. "While we look for your husband, could you... what's Luke like? I never got to know him..."
She heard voices from far away, distorted through the haze of medication and pain. "I had so little..." "...never knew me." "...doubt she even remembers me." "If only..." "...protected him."
Suddenly, it all came clear, and Teneniel Djo felt her strength return at once. She was newly grateful that she had sent her daughter to Dathomir and Luke's praxeum for so much of her childhood. Because of it, Tenel Ka had chosen the only way to avoid Ta'a Chume's murderous attentions: refusing the throne. She hoped her death would convince her daughter to fly far, far away and never return. Hopefully, she wouldn't leave Jaina Solo to suffer the weight of Ta'a Chume's twisted schemes, either. "Poison is such a coward's weapon," she said, now that she could speak easily.
A group of women sitting at a table nearby turned. She glanced around, taking in the room and its occupants quickly - nothing seemed threatening. Though she supposed it didn't much matter anymore.
"Would you like some tea?" a dark-haired woman in homespun asked after a moment.
"Thank you, yes," she replied, joining them at the table. Here the tea couldn't possibly be poisoned.
"I don't believe we've met," a regal-looking woman with a crown of braids added. "I am Breha Organa, Leia's mother. Foster mother," she amended, looking at a young woman with curly hair.
"Mother," the curly-haired woman said, smiling at Breha. Breha looked touched at this.
"Queen Mother Teneniel Djo of Dathomir and Hapes." Teneniel took a second to study the other women's faces further. "Are you Skywalkers?" she asked the curly-haired woman and the older woman in homespun.
"Why yes," the older woman said. "I'm Shmi Skywalker, Anakin's mother. Do you know my grandchildren, then?"
"We have met. And your great-grandchildren attended Luke's Jedi Praxeum with my daughter."
"How wonderful!" the curly-haired woman - she must be Luke and Leia's birthmother - said. "I'd love to hear about them. We get so little news here."
Teneniel looked around at the expectant faces and wished she had better news to relate. But she owed them a full accounting. "I'm afraid they're having some trouble at the moment," she began.
To think that they had given Ben into the care of this... monster. She tried to force the bitterness back down her throat. The only thing that mattered now was finding a way to warn them.
Mara swept the sitting room with her eyes, noting the diverse decor. More important, though, were the five women gathered around a table holding teacups. It figured. Even in the afterlife, she got dumped alone into a group of friends who probably already had years of shared memories which didn't include her.
"Hello, Mara," said a matronly woman with short hair and a weathered face, turning away from a shuttered window behind the table. "We've been expecting you."
The hair on the back of Mara's neck rose. "Really."
"Our window doesn't work often, but we saw some of the last few hours," a red-haired woman in lizard skins said.
Mara started. "Teneniel Djo?" She hardly recognized the Queen Mother without her royal finery.
"Unfortunately. For both of us."
Mara looked around the table again. "And the rest of you?"
"Breha Organa. Will you have some tea?" a woman with a crown of dark braids said, gesturing toward an empty chair.
Mara moved to the chair, but didn't sit - something about this gathering made her uneasy.
"I'm Padmé Amidala Skywalker," said a young woman with curly hair. Now that Mara looked more closely, she thought she recognized the woman from the grainy old recording Artoo had saved. "And these are Shmi Skywalker and Beru Lars."
"I'm sorry we had to meet so soon," the woman by the window said. So this was Beru.
"Not more sorry than I am," Mara responded, her feeling of unease growing.
"Though I admit I have wanted to talk to you," Beru continued.
"Yes, I want to know the woman our son loves," Padmé said, smiling at Beru.
Mara's prickling unease turned to ice along her spine. "Wait. You're all mothers or foster-mothers of Skywalkers."
"I am not," Teneniel said.
"Okay, except you, but you intended to marry Luke once. And your daughter and my niece and nephew spent time together when they were at the Praxeum."
"Actually, they still do. Jacen is Allana's father," Teneniel said.
That threw Mara off her train of thought. "What?"
"They agreed to keep it secret for Allana's safety. That is one of the things we have seen."
Considering this fact only increased Mara's sense that something was horribly wrong. "Okay. And she's in constant danger on Hapes even with Ta'a Chume out of commission, isn't she? Especially from Jacen. Tenel Ka will never accept what he's done, and somehow, I don't think he'll deal well with rejection right now."
Teneniel pressed her lips together and nodded. "I know. And?"
"And it's history repeating itself, that's what. You're... we're all dead. Horribly, violently dead. I can't help but notice a pattern."
The women were silent for a moment, staring at Mara or into their tea. Then, "It isn't just us," Beru said. "Our husbands are here too, and Chewbacca and the others. It's just that we have things in common to talk about."
"Like being murdered after having Skywalker babies?" Mara took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to explain. "It's not just about the numbers, though it sounds like we still outnumber the dead Skywalker fathers even if you include Kenobi. Look at the life expectancy. Padmé dies young while Vader has a long career of mass murder to look forward to. Breha dies a decade before the Viceroy. Isolder's still in perfect health, Luke's fine. And where are we? I think the Larses are the only couple who died at the same time. Unless Anakin's father died with you?"
"Anakin had no father," Shmi said.
"Literally," Teneniel explained. "The Force created him."
"You see? None of use could outlive that father."
"No," said Padmé, her fingers white around her teacup. "And worse, I don't even know if Luke and Leia have ever wondered about me. It's not that I want them to feel they're missing something - it's just..."
"You don't want to feel as if you never existed," Breha said slowly. "Even if your husband did live longer, you were still important in your own right. You were more than just - a sad face for your child to remember occasionally, or a symbol to motivate her..."
"Exactly," Mara said.
"It's not fair," Shmi sighed. "But sometimes things just happen. I don't know that it's part of any plan, or anything we could have stopped."
"The Force itself knocked you up - that sounds like a plan to me. And I refuse to sit by while this happens. We are going to stop this."
"I hope Mon Mothma returns from her visit to Ackbar soon," Padmé said. "She's always been good at seeing these larger patterns and knowing what to do."
"While we're waiting, I have a suggestion," Mara said. "You say this window shows what's happening back there sometimes? I want to figure out how to work it in reverse so I can send a message. Kenobi managed it somehow. We should be able to get it, too."
"What message?" Padmé asked.
Mara shook her head. "I don't know exactly. I need to warn them about Jacen - they don't know. Otherwise," she added, "the way things are going, I have a bad feeling that Leia and Tenel Ka might be joining our tea party early."
This is the complete story, but there's also a bonus epilogue that I'll post later. ETA: Here you go.
*looks at posted version of story* Gee, do I have enough tags on this?