Fandom: Star Wars
Characters: Padmé, Anakin, Obi-Wan, C3PO, the Lars family
Word Count: 5,352
Summary: Padmé comforts Anakin after his mother's death and takes action to save Obi-Wan.
Author's Notes: Thanks to the innovation of Word Wars, you're getting Chapter 9 much earlier than I had planned. It's good in a way, though, because I want to get as many chapters completed and posted as I can before heading to Toronto on Tuesday. Besides, it makes up for the times I said I'd post quickly and ended up leaving you guys hanging longer than I (or you!) would have preferred. This is another huge update, and I didn't realize how gigantic it had gotten until I did a word count. Over five thousand, phew! Things are starting to move along, plotwise, and Padmé at least has come to her senses! "That chapter" is only about two or three chapters away now ... *grins*
PERSONAL RECORD: PADME AMIDALA
I hate feeling so helpless. Granted, it’s a feeling I’ve become quite accustomed to over the past few days, but that doesn’t make it any easier to tolerate. It seems as though I’m always waiting for something to happen, for someone to return, for a mystery to be solved, ever since the first assassination attempt that caused Obi-Wan and Anakin to become my guards and then me to be transported to Naboo against my will. Now, I’m waiting on Anakin’s return, with news about his mother and whether she is all right.
I suppose I should back up and explain. The night before last, I was going to fetch a glass of water when I heard strange noises coming from Anakin’s bedroom. It sounded as though he was talking – no, crying out – in his sleep. I wasn’t sure if I should venture closer, but he seemed to be in such distress that I could not help myself. I creaked open his bedroom door to find him tangled in his covers, pounding one hand into his pillow and moaning, “Mom! No – stop – Mom! Please, no!”
I didn’t know what to do. I stood there, frozen, while he thrashed and cried. I couldn’t exactly march in there and climb into bed with him and hold him. I don’t want to give him mixed signals, especially after what happened between us by the fireplace. I don’t want him to think I’ve changed my mind, because I haven’t. And yet, as I said, he was in such distress.
As I stood there puzzling, he suddenly quieted. The thrashing stopped, his breathing slowed and he became calm, right before my eyes. I didn’t understand what had happened but neither was I about to question it. I simply returned to my room and climbed back into bed, falling quickly asleep.
I didn’t give the matter another thought until the next morning, when I passed by the balcony. Anakin was there, standing with legs wide apart and eyes closed. I could tell he was meditating, and I began to withdraw because I didn’t want to intrude upon what was obviously a very private moment for him.
“Don’t go,” he said.
“I don’t want to disturb you,” I explained.
“Your presence is soothing,” Anakin replied, breathing deeply.
I wasn’t sure what to say to that. I should have been touched, perhaps, but something about the lines in his face and the memory of the nightmare last night – if, indeed, that’s what it was – stopped me from feeling anything but concern and worry. I also felt exposed, standing there in my sheer nightdress and dressing gown, but I couldn’t leave. Not until I figured out what had occurred last night.
“You had a nightmare last night,” I said. It wasn’t intended to be a question.
“Jedi don’t have nightmares,” Anakin said firmly, without turning. He looked like a small, innocent child at that moment, just as much as he had when I met him at the age of nine. So small, and yet wanting to be so strong.
“I heard you,” was all I said, hoping that the truth could make him understand.
And suddenly, he had turned, and was looking at me unguarded. “I saw my mother,” he confessed, his voice full of raw pain. “I saw her as clearly as I see you now. She is suffering, Padmé. She is in pain. I know I’m disobeying my mandate to protect you, I know I’ll be disciplined and possibly thrown out of the Jedi Order, but – I must go to her. I don’t have a choice.”
I moved forward and embraced him, though I didn’t intend to at first. “I’ll go with you,” I said softly into his shoulder. “That way you can rescue her and yet you won’t be disobeying your mandate.”
I’m not even sure what caused me to say that. I’ve acted rashly in the past, certainly, but I like to think of myself as older and wiser now, less prone to acting without thinking. Maybe it was the influence of having spent so much time on Naboo doing nothing, while my colleagues laboured in the Senate to oppose the Military Creation Act and Obi-Wan searched the galaxy for my assassin. That’s what I’m trying to tell myself, anyway, because from where I sit at the moment our decision does indeed seem to be quite a dangerous one. My conscience, my soul, knows that it is because I could not stand to see Anakin looking so lost, so helpless, on that balcony. He is so very close to his mother; I was even able to see it in the short time I spent with them ten years ago. Shmi is such a kind woman. I would hate for anything to happen to her.
So it was for all of those reasons that we took my starship and departed Naboo. I wanted desperately to send a message to Obi-Wan to tell him, but I knew that Anakin wouldn’t forgive me and Obi-Wan wouldn’t condone our trip. Not that his approval is the be-all and end-all for me, but I hate the idea that I might be lying to him. And Anakin … well, he would certainly forbid him from going. I hope Obi-Wan doesn’t discover we are gone. He would worry so.
Anakin wanted to start on Tatooine, which of course logical given that it’s where he lived with his mother before Qui-Gon freed him. After arriving at Mos Espa spaceport, grabbing our provisions bag plus my cover-up and being shouted at by an irritated dockhand (he referred to my ship as an “oversized planetoid yacht”), we were able to charter a rickshaw pulled by a droid to venture into the main part of the port. Our destination: Watto’s junkshop. We were unsure if it even still existed, but we figured that was our best place to start.
“If he’s done anything to her, I’ll take him apart and won’t put him back together!” Anakin promised with a snarl.
I put my hand on his arm. “Don’t worry. Once we get to the shop, we’ll figure everything out.”
Watto was sitting outside his junkshop when we arrived, attempting futilely to fix some broken pit droids. I stood back and let Anakin handle the details.
“Excuse me,” Anakin said to the green fluttering creature who, just ten years ago, had owned him as a slave.
“What? I don’t know you, what can I do for you?” Watto blustered in Huttese. As part of my language education, I could understand him perfectly. He fumbled with his tools and finally looked up, taking in the whole of Anakin’s admittedly quite tall form. Anakin took the broken pit droid and a spare wrench and began to effortlessly effect repairs. Watto babbled frantically.
“He doesn’t know you,” I whispered to Anakin, still chuckling over Watto’s last exclamation, which translated to: “Wait, you’re a Jedi! Whatever it is, I didn’t do it!”
Anakin gave Shmi’s name, and realization dawned over Watto’s face. He then recounted a story that sounded almost too amazing to be true. According to him, years ago a moisture farmer named Lars had come to Mos Espa and Watto’s shop. Seeing Shmi, Lars fell in love with her and persuaded Watto to sell her. Upon arrival at Lars’ moisture farm, he freed Shmi and then asked her to marry him. She accepted, and they were now living happily last Watto had heard.
Our next stop was the moisture farm outside of Mos Eisley, where Lars had taken Shmi to live as his wife. Upon our arrival we were reunited with an old friend – C3PO, the droid Anakin built when he was nine years old to help his mother. Threepio was very pleased to see us, and introduced us to Owen Lars, his girlfriend Beru, and Cliegg Lars, who is Shmi’s husband. Cliegg was riding in a powerchair that hovered a few feet over the ground, and his right leg was amputated above the knee.
The Lars family led us inside to a kitchen and served us juice. Then the whole story came out. Shmi had indeed been living quite happily with the Lars family, and she and Cliegg were deeply in love. One morning Shmi went out to pick the mushrooms that grow on the moisture vaporators. Halfway back, she was taken by Tusken Raiders. A group of local farmers attempted a mission to retrieve her, but they were attacked by Tuskens and many were killed. Cliegg’s leg was cut off by a trip wire. They were thusly forced to turn back without their quarry. Shmi has been gone a month, as of today.
I remember the Tusken Raiders from the last time I was on Tatooine. I didn’t encounter them directly, but I watched on a viewpad as a group of them shot at Anakin’s pod when he roared past them during that fateful podrace. They didn’t cause any direct damage to his racer, but one of their shots found the engine of a fellow contestant’s pod and exploded it, killing the contestant and causing a fireball that Anakin just barely managed to escape.
The Tuskens just look … strange, as well. You can’t see an inch of their flesh because they keep themselves all wrapped up in brown bandages and rags. They carry heavy gaffe sticks with which they’ll hit you if you get too close. They certainly don’t sound as though they would show any mercy to anyone. Their camps are virtually impossible to attack.
Yet that’s where Anakin is headed, probably right at this moment. Immediately after he was given the news by Cliegg, he stood up from the table and announced in a matter-of-fact tone that he was going to find his mother. He planned to seek out the offending Raiders’ camp and rescue Shmi. All this without knowing if she is even alive, or where she is.
I knew that there was no talking him out of this course of action, however. I too stood from the table and went outside to see him off. He was polishing the seat of Owen’s speeder bike, preparing to set out. He spotted me and moved towards me.
“You’re going to have to stay here,” he said gently. “These are good people, Padmé. You’ll be safe.”
I acknowledged his words with a nod and then just stood looking at him for a few moments. He looked so grown-up, so refined, every bit the part of the heroic-looking Jedi about to set off on an important mission from which he might not return. I was frightened for him, but I was also frightened for me. What if I never saw him again? I didn’t think I could bear it. He had, has, become such a close friend to me.
Maybe that’s why I was suddenly rushing towards him and, with an “Oh, Anakin!” and then hugging him tightly. We did not kiss. But he definitely hugged back. We held each other for a period that was both infinite and not nearly long enough. I squeezed as tightly as I could, barely able to restrain myself and my feelings. And then, as suddenly as it had begun, the hug was over, Anakin was mounting his speeder bike and he was taking off, leaving me to stare for as long as I could at his quickly retreating form.
I am still concerned for him now. So, so concerned. Having him here with me has become so familiar, a distraction from my frustration at being taken away from the Senate and my work, and my feelings for Obi-Wan that will mostly likely never be reciprocated. And now Anakin is gone as well. I don’t know what to do. I feel … lost. It is not a comfortable feeling.
I must try to sleep.
Toss, toss, turn. Toss, toss, turn.
Padmé had been repeating that sequence for over two standard hours, and still it had not helped to ease any of the pain in her heart. Nor had it allowed her to drift off into a peaceful sleep.
I wonder if I will ever be peaceful again, she thought.
There was so much about her life that she wished she could change, or have a chance to do differently. Why had she decided to follow this path so hopefully, believing that she could change the galaxy when all she had done was to make herself miserable? Did all beings live like this, exchanging their personal satisfaction for the greater good?
Of course not, she reprimanded herself. Too bad the one being I am in love with does. And the other, for whom I care so much, also does.
Yet she knew it wasn’t right to think in such a negative fashion. She loved Obi-Wan precisely because he had followed that path of selflessness. It was one similar to her own. They had so much in common, and they had admitted to each other more than once in their letters that they considered the other their best friend.
Mom always told me ‘Marry your best friend, and you can’t go wrong,’ Padmé thought. But what if my best friend is a Jedi? Besides, she was lying to me. She doesn’t want me to marry my best friend. She wants me to marry a man who suits her sensibilities. Hers and Dad’s.
She turned again in her bed, punching her pillow for the twentieth time. The bed wasn’t uncomfortable, nor was the room. But there was so much on her mind, and so little space in which to store it all. She felt as though matters would soon be coming to a head, that a resolution was at hand. But what might it be? Would it be positive, or negative?
Padmé’s heart ached for Anakin, who might be right now risking his life to save his mother, and for Obi-Wan, who was risking his life to save her. They were such different people. But she cared about them both, and her feelings of friendship and affection towards Anakin were no less strong than her feelings of love for Obi-Wan. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to tell either of them.
She rolled to face the wall, and knew that sleep would not arrive to claim her that night. Slowly Padmé pushed back the covers, swinging her legs over the side. Perhaps if she explored a little, got some air … she wouldn’t go far of course, for a fine mess it would be if somehow she got into trouble when Anakin wasn’t there.
Padmé climbed the steps mechanically, not really thinking about where she was going until she felt the night air on her face. It was surprisingly cool for a desert planet, but then the sun wasn’t up yet. She could see a thin line of gray along the horizon, the only signal of the approaching dawn. By reflex she lowered her gaze to the spot where Anakin had driven off, riding Owen Lars’ speeder bike. There was no sign that he was returning, no approaching shadow or soft roar.
She sighed. Suddenly, she felt very alone.
Without knowing how, Padmé found herself in the workshop. It was small, and doubled as a shed where equipment could be kept. She wandered along one of the workbenches, picking up tools, examining them and putting them down again. Wondering where Obi-Wan and Anakin were now, and what they were doing.
“Hello, Miss Padmé!” exclaimed a voice, causing her to jump with alarm. It was C3PO, peering out at her from behind a power console. “You can’t sleep?”
“No,” Padmé sighed. “I have too many things on my mind, I guess.”
“Are you worried about your work in the Senate?” C3PO asked kindly.
“No, I’m concerned about my friends. Obi-Wan, and Anakin … there’s things I should have said to Obi-Wan in person before I left Coruscant, but I didn’t. I gave him a letter instead, and I don’t know if he’ll even read it or take seriously what I wrote. And Anakin – well, I said things, and I’m afraid I might have hurt him. Maybe I only hurt myself. For the first time in my life, I’m confused. I don’t know what to do.”
“I’m not sure it will make you feel any better, Miss Padmé, but I don’t think there’s been a time in my life when I haven’t been confused,” C3PO said.
“I want Anakin to know that I care about him, Threepio,” Padmé said softly. “I do care about him, even if it’s only as a friend would. And now he’s out there, and possibly in danger –”
“Don’t worry about Master Ani,” the droid replied, coming to stand reassuringly at her shoulder. “He can take care of himself, even in this awful place.”
Padmé regarded him quizzically. “Awful? You’re not happy here?”
“Well, this is a very harsh environment, I’m afraid,” Threepio replied. “And when Master Ani made me, he never quite found the time to give me any outer coverings. Mistress Shmi did well in finishing me, but even with the coverings, the wind and the sand are quite harsh. It gets in under my coverings, and it’s quite … itchy.”
“Itchy?” Padmé asked, chuckling a little.
“I do not know how else to describe it, Miss Padmé. And I fear that the sand is doing damage to my wiring,” he finished rather pitifully.
Padmé smiled as she looked over into the corner and saw a tub bubbling with a dark amber liquid. “I bet you need an oil bath,” she said.
“Oh, I would welcome a bath!” C3PO said, obviously delighted.
It took her a few moments to figure out how to use the hoist mechanism, meant for lowering droids and mechanical parts into the tub, but eventually she had it operating properly. Padmé fixed C3PO into the hoist and watched as he descended carefully into the tub.
“Oooh, that tickles!” he exclaimed.
“Tickles? You’re sure it’s not an itch?” Padmé laughed.
“I do know the difference between a tickle and an itch,” said Threepio haughtily.
Giggling, she kept her hand on the switch, sending him lower and lower until –
“Oh, oh, oh my goodness, help!” he screamed. “I’m blind, help!”
Momentarily startled, Padmé peeked into the tub and realized she had lowered him too far, so that his eyes were covered by the oil. Hastily she flicked the switch in the other direction, manipulating the hoist to raise it and deposit the droid on the outside of the tub. He stood dripping with oil but looking much more comfortable.
“Better?” she asked.
“Much better, Miss Padmé,” Threepio said, moving his arms around as though to check that the bath really had made a difference. “No more itches.”
“Good, I’m glad,” Padmé said, leaning closer to examine her work. The droid definitely looked shinier and cleaner after the bath, and it had given her something to do. A temporary refuge from her troubles. But alas, only a temporary one.
For Owen came running suddenly into the workshop. “Well, there you are!” he exclaimed. “We’ve been looking all over for you. Anakin’s back, Beru spotted him coming over the horizon.”
Padmé was racing from the workshop before Owen could complete his sentence. “Where?” she gasped breathlessly, joining Beru and Cliegg on the crest of a small sand dune. “I don’t see him.”
“There.” Beru pointed, and Padme caught sight of a small black dot on the horizon, silhouetted against the now-shining sun. Soon enough, Anakin pulled up a short distance away from them, dismounted the bike, and cradled a shrouded figure in his arms.
“Oh, Shmi,” Cliegg whispered, bowing his head. Beru buried her face in Owen’s chest; her shoulders were shaking with sobs.
Padmé could only look on, numb and dumbstruck, as Anakin walked past carrying his mother’s body. Their eyes met momentarily, and she was shocked at how much his had changed. Instead of the soft blue to which she had become accustomed, she saw only blackness. Dark, blank depths that reminded her of cold tunnels. Terrible pain was etched on his face, but there was something else there too … a kind of haunted guilt. She bit her lip, resolving to ask him about it as soon as she could.
The funeral was set for later that afternoon, and when the discussion to hold it had been completed, Anakin disappeared. Padmé grew even more concerned, and hurried into the kitchen to prepare a snack for her friend. There she found Beru, pouring out juice with a vacant look in her eyes.
“What’s it like there?” asked Beru.
Padmé started. “I’m sorry?”
“On Naboo. What’s it like?”
“Oh, it’s … it’s very green,” Padmé said, her mind not on the conversation at all. “You know, with lots of water, and trees and plants everywhere. It’s not like here at all.” She began arranging food on a tray.
“I think I like it better here,” Beru replied.
“Maybe you’ll come and see it someday,” Padmé offered politely.
Beru shook her head. “I don’t think so. I don’t like to travel.”
Padmé sighed as she climbed the steps to the courtyard. Beru was nice enough, but so different from her. The simple, kind woman would undoubtedly do well as a farm wife when Owen took over, yet Padmé herself could never think of a life like that. So tethered, so … simple. So far removed from the rest of the galaxy as to be able to believe that it didn’t exist. What a strange way to live.
She entered the workshop where hours earlier she had whiled away time with Threepio. Anakin was bent over the speeder bike, tinkering with a piece of equipment, murmuring to himself. Padmé carefully set the tray down on a free surface, searching for the right words.
“I – I brought you something to eat,” she said lamely.
“The shifter broke,” Anakin muttered in her general direction. “Life seems so much simpler when you’re fixing things. I’m good at fixing things, always was. But …” He broke off, squeezing and releasing his grip on a wrench.
Padmé went to him, resting her hands gently on his waist and pulling him into a backwards hug. She saw his lips form the words, “Why did she have to die?” and ached for him. He was feeling what she felt after Cordé died, only much more magnified and enhanced. And still, there was something else there, some other truth that had not yet been revealed.
“Why couldn’t I save her?” Anakin whispered. “I know I could have.”
He was a boy again, a small, terrified nine-year-old boy in the greatroom of the Naboo Royal Starship. Only now, he had no mother to think of for comfort. Padmé swallowed hard to keep in the tears that were threatening to burst forth.
“Ani, you tried,” she said softly. “Sometimes there are things no one can fix. You’re not all-powerful.”
“Well I should be!” he said savagely, finally demonstrating some of the anger she had suspected was simmering below the surface. “Someday I will be. I will be – the most powerful Jedi ever! I will even learn to stop people from dying!”
“Anakin!” she gasped, abruptly letting go. Stunned by the depth of his words and the obvious intent behind them.
“It’s all Obi-Wan’s fault!” Anakin snapped, throwing the wrench away as though it, too, had angered him. “He’s jealous! He wants me out of the way because he knows I’m already more powerful than he is! He’s holding me back!”
Padmé bit her tongue until she tasted blood. She hated hearing him talk about Obi-Wan that way, but this was not the time to bring up her feelings for him, either. “Anakin, what’s wrong?” she exclaimed, her voice rising in tone and volume despite her attempts to keep it under control.
“I told you!” Anakin roared.
“No!” she shouted back just as harshly. “No, you didn’t! What’s really wrong?”
He stared at her, his eyes liquid black. Brimming, she realized, with unshed tears.
“I know it hurts, Anakin,” Padmé said a little softer. “But this is more than that. What’s really wrong?”
He began to shake. Slowly at first, until his whole body was trembling. He looked as though he was going into shock. Frightened, she went impulsively to him and held him.
“I – I killed them,” he said, and there was disbelief in his voice. “I killed them all. They’re dead. Every single one of them.”
Padmé sucked in her breath, unwilling to believe it. “You did battle …”
“Not just the men,” Anakin continued, as though he hadn’t heard, “but the women and the children too. They’re like animals! And I slaughtered them like animals! I hate them!”
She kept holding him while he shook, not knowing what else to do or say.
“Why do I hate them?” He was whispering again.
Padmé found her voice at last. “Do you hate them, or do you hate what they did to your mother?”
“I hate them!” Anakin blurted.
“Listen,” she said, guiding him down to the floor, “I’m not going to sit here and lie to you, tell you that what you did wasn’t wrong. Because it was. And I’m not a Jedi, so I can’t tell you what impact this has on your training or you as a person. You need to talk to someone. A Jedi.”
“No,” he tried to shout, but it came out as more of a whimper. “They wouldn’t understand, I’m the only – the only Jedi who was accepted into the Order when I was nine. Padmé, you’re the only person … I can talk to you. And you understand me.”
She swallowed again and held him tight as he collapsed into her arms, rocking him and trying to tell him everything would be all right.
“I know wherever you are, it’s become a better place,” Cliegg Lars said quietly as he picked up a handful of sand and sprinkled it on his wife’s grave. “You were the most loving partner a man could ever have. Goodbye, my darling wife. And thank you.”
Padmé stood with them, but separately, feeling as though she was an intruder upon the family grief. Three white headstones stood as brutal evidence of the toll a life on Tatooine could exact. One of them, newly dug, belonged to Shmi. It was before this stone that Anakin now crouched, and although he spoke softly, Padmé could hear every word.
“I wasn’t strong enough to save you, Mom,” he said simply. She wanted to go to him, hug him, but held back. She had served her role. “I wasn’t strong enough. But I promise I won’t fail again. I miss you … so much …”
Suddenly, a frantic series of beeps interrupted everyone’s quiet contemplation. Padmé whipped around to see R2D2 rolling determinedly towards them, tootling as he went.
“Artoo? What are you doing here?” she asked.
The little droid whistled shrilly and C3PO interpreted, “It seems that he is carrying a message from an Obi-Wan Kenobi. Does that mean anything to you, Master Anakin?”
Padmé’s heart gave a huge bound and she felt the corners of her mouth lifting for the first time in hours. Obi-Wan had contacted them! What did he want? Was he all right? Had he found her assassin so she could go back to Coruscant and the Senate?”
“What is it?” Anakin was saying. “Retransmit? Why, what’s wrong?”
“He says it’s quite important,” Threepio informed them.
Five minutes later Padmé, Anakin, R2D2 and C3PO (whom Owen had said Anakin could keep) were back on board Padmé’s starship listening to a recorded holomessage from Obi-Wan. As soon as it flickered to life, Padmé felt herself relax. If he was able to transmit a message, he was obviously alive and okay. She scanned his frame, noting that he seemed to be holding himself rather carefully – perhaps he had been injured? – and drinking in his soft musical accent. How she had missed hearing his voice …
“Anakin, my long-range transmitter has been knocked out,” Obi-Wan’s hologram explained. “Retransmit this message to Coruscant.”
Quickly Padmé slid over to the communications console, typed in the coordinates for the Jedi Temple, then turned back to hear the rest of the message.
“I have tracked the bounty hunter Jango Fett to the droid foundries on Geonosis,” Obi-Wan went on. “The Trade Federation is to take delivery of a droid army here and it is clear that Viceroy Gunray is behind the assassination attempts on Senator Amidala.” A ghost of a smile, so quick as to almost not be noticeable, moved across his face as he said her name. “The Commerce Guild and Corporate Alliance have both pledged their armies to Count Dooku and are forming a – wait! Wait!”
For Padmé Amidala, time slowed and then stopped as she watched him swing around, draw his lightsaber, and begin to deflect blaster bolts from three destroyer droids. She was breathing heavily, she could hear Anakin speaking with Mace Windu, but it all seemed to be coming from very far away. She could see nothing but Obi-Wan, repeating his message then fending off the droids, over and over, and she wanted to cling to that image, protect it, have him there physically in her arms to reassure herself that he was safe, that he had not been shot, that this was all just a big mistake …
Fright and desperation enveloped her, and she could not escape.
“The most important thing for you, Anakin, is to stay where you are,” Windu was saying. “Protect the Senator at all costs. That is your first priority.”
“I understand, Master,” Anakin replied.
Padmé was sliding back over to the communications console before she even realized it. “They’ll never get there in time to save him, they have to come halfway across the galaxy,” she said desperately, choking back a sob. “Look, Geonosis is less than a parsec away.”
“If he’s still alive,” answered Anakin grimly.
She sat there, shocked and only just holding onto her emotions, gaping open-mouthed at him. Yet some small part of her knew that she could not just blurt out But Ani, we have to save him, I love him! Rather, she needed to appeal to the side of her friend that was Obi-Wan’s student. Padmé swallowed hard. “Anakin, are you just going to sit here and let him die?” she cried. “He’s your friend, your mentor –”
“He’s like my father!” Anakin shot back. “But you heard Master Windu, he gave me strict orders to stay here!”
Padmé turned away, determined not to let him see her cry. Sure enough, two tears rolled down her cheeks before she could stop them. Her shoulders shook as wave after wave of panic and grief rolled over her. She couldn’t lose Obi-Wan, not now, not when she had never kissed him or told him that she loved him! She needed him. That was the simple, fundamental truth of it: Padmé Amidala needed Obi-Wan Kenobi, much as she had tried to deny it, much as she had tried to close herself off from her emotions and convince herself that it was impossible. It had taken the threat of losing him to realize just how powerful her emotions had become.
Perhaps, then, the time for action had come at last. And if Anakin was not going to take that action, it was up to her.
She swiped at her eyes, pulling herself over to the copilot’s area and taking two deep breaths. “He gave you strict orders to protect me,” she told Anakin, surprised that her voice was no longer quivering. “And I’m going to help Obi-Wan. If you plan to protect me, you’ll just have to come along.”
Padmé had expected further resistance, but met none. Instead, Anakin smiled for first time in days and assumed the pilot’s chair, familiarizing himself with the controls while Padmé keyed in the coordinates of Obi-Wan’s last known position.
Moments later, the Naboo starship blasted off into the sunny Tatooine sky.