Chapter 15. Penance, the End
Sabé tried not to think about what happened to Padmé. She made a discreet call at Padmé’s old house and got no response. She never heard from Jango Fett again though - so that was the comfort she used whenever the fate of her friend gnawed on her conscience.
She never counted on the Jedi themselves approaching her. Of course, Sabé knew a great deal about them. In the old days in the university, when she wasn’t going in or out of a new relationship, she was as avid for knowledge as Padmé had been.
Seven Years Earlier
“It sounds so romantic,” Sabé declared with a big sigh.
Padmé looked skeptically at her from across the picnic blanket.
It was a free afternoon in the university and the two girls were having their meal outside. Sabé had just finished a work of fiction, an underground publication on the history of the Jedi.
“Well if it didn’t, people won’t read it, would they?” Padmé said rather waspishly as she spread oil on bread.
Sabé’s eyes narrowed at her friend. Did she always have to sound so condescending all the time? A stranger meeting the two for the first time would have though that Padmé was the child of aristocracy while Sabé was the charity case Jobal Naberrie had taken in out of compassion to her old friend, Matol Jankerrie.
But all Sabé said was: “What if these stories are true? And the Jedi are meant to be the protectors of the Republic who use their powers to keep us safe and in harmony with each other? What if the Emperor is really a Sith Lord with a small army of evil Jedi?”
Padmé snorted, and elegantly swallowed her bread. “What if you write that for our History paper? Yes, I can imagine how well Professor will grade you for that.”
“You never take anything I say seriously,” Sabé said, pouting.
“That’s because you rarely are, my dear.” Padmé winked. “But pretty girls don’t need to be serious, isn’t that what you always said?”
But all the sense of elation Sabé had felt after reading the story was gone. She reached for the bread silently and thought about also asking Padmé what if her old grandmother, whom Matol and Padmé had declared mad, was actually one of the very real Guardians who were supposed to protect the Jedi.
Maybe it was the look in Padmé’s eyes as she passed Sabé the green sprigs but Sabé didn’t dare.
In the end though, it was Padmé who wrote that History paper.
The Jedi met Sabé, of all places, in the audience hall of the Young Legislators’ Academy. Her eldest son was giving a presentation. Once again, Tenlo couldn’t make it - Imperial business so it was only Sabé that was there to cheer the little boy.
She shouldn’t feel bitter. He was lobbying for Deputy Governor. Still…
“…you’d like him to pay more attention to his family as well as his career,” said a gentle voice beside her.
“Yes, of course,” Sabé began without even thinking. Then she jumped. Her eyes looked at the stranger - a distinguished old man with peppered hair who had been sitting calmly all the while beside her - and began to pound painfully.
The gaze that answered hers seemed to look right into her soul.
“I don’t think,” he said softly, “that introductions are in order. You know who I am - or more precisely, what I am.”
“No,” she whispered urgently. “No.”
The man’s eyes turned to the stage in front of them. To all intents and purposes, he was studying her boy’s performance with rapt attention. “It’s a very delicate position your husband is in now. Bibble ill, he a shoo-in, but certainly not without competition. I understand you won’t want to do anything to upset that.”
“So you’ll understand when I say that I’m also in a delicate position. And you’ll help me. I’m looking for someone. Someone very important to me. To a lot of people like me. We know she came to Naboo to see you a few days ago. And then she disappeared. Tell me what you know.”
“Nothing!” Sabé hissed furiously. Her eyes looked frantically at the people around her but they were quite out of the nearest earshot. Her eyes bore into the side of the Jedi’s - what else could he be? - head. “Leave me alone.”
“That is something I am afraid I cannot do. I can make you tell me where she is. It will hurt you quite badly and as a Jedi I’m not supposed to do that. But this woman is very important to us and we are prepared, we’ve always been prepared, to take certain measures to keep her and her kind safe.” The Jedi turned to her and she could see the promise of fear in his eyes. She swallowed.
“I never wanted to hurt her,” she said at last.
“I find that very hard to believe,” he said gently and his eyes went back to her son.
Four Years Ago
After the class, Sabé had returned in time to catch Padmé shutting her suitcase. One quick glance round showed Sabé that everything of value that had belonged to her roommate (and best-friend and foster sister) had been stripped from their shared rooms.
“What are you doing?” Sabé asked.
“Graduating,” Padmé replied with a broad smile.
Sabé sat down on the bed, her knees weak. She looked at Padmé in desperation. “Y-you don’t have to go. Just apologize to the Professor. Take it back. It was only a joke, wasn’t it?”
Padmé laughed. “She’s probably already calling the Imperial police by now. My History paper is more than enough evidence of sedition and treason for them to lock me up and throw away the key. No, Sabé. It was not a joke.”
“Then what do you plan?” Sabé asked urgently. “I thought you didn’t believe in the old stories - you called them a myth. And then your grandmother-” Padmé gave Sabé a very sharp look but for the first time in their lives, Sabé actually braved her friend’s displeasure, “-and your whole family seems somehow tangled up with them and you never wanted anything to do with them until a few years ago.” Her eyes narrowed as realization dawned. “That’s when it happened, isn’t it? That’s when you started changing!”
Padmé lifted up her suitcase. It was only the one - most of the things that she ‘had’ were actually Sabé’s. “Brilliant observation, Sherlé Hollerie.”
“Where are you going?” Sabé asked desperately.
“It’s better if you don’t know.”
Padmé made for the door. In an uncharacteristic fit of rage, Sabé got up at once and blocked her friend.
“Don’t you dare walk out on me without letting me know what you plan on doing! Don’t you dare! After all my family’s done for you and your sister, is this how…” Her voice trailed off, then started again with equal passion. “What do I tell my Mother? Look at me!” Because all this while, Padmé had been looking away, eyes a little above Sabé’s shoulder.
She turned back at Sabé’s demand, her eyes flashing with anger - and with tears.
With a wail, Sabé threw her arms around her friend’s shoulder. Padmé hugged her back with desperation and abandon for the first and the last times in their lives.
“I thought we were going to be sisters forever!” Sabé wailed. “Going to each other’s weddings. My son would marry your daughter! Why do you have to do this, Padmé?”
“I’m sorry, Sabé. I’m so sorry! But I can’s sit by idly and let this go on. I just wasn’t made like that. I have to do my part!”
“Can’t you at least try to explain it to me? Why it’s so important?” Sabé asked, sniffing.
Very reluctantly, Padmé stepped out of the embrace. Her face was smudged with tears and she sniffed too. “The last thing I’d ever want to do is harm you in anyway. Goodbye, my friend. May-may the Force be with you.”
“Mommy, who was that man?” her son asked solemnly when Sabé came to meet him after the performance.
He heart stopped. “Which man, dear?”
“The one that sat beside you during the rehearsal,” her son said solemnly. “He upset you.”
“Did I look upset?” Sabé asked in a teasing voice to mask her worry.
The boy frowned, thinking. “No, not really. But you felt it though. Somehow. You shouldn’t have worried. He wasn’t a bad man. He only pretends to be so that bad people don’t hurt him.”
He skipped ahead of her out of the auditorium.
Sabé was frozen where she stood for a long time. Then she quickly caught up with her son and held his hand firmly.
“Mom-” he said, with all the injured pride of a four-year-old but she didn’t let him go. he felt her fear and wondered about it. And because she was his mother and he loved her, he let her hold his hand all the way home.