Fandom: Star Wars
Characters: Obi-Wan, Padmé, Anakin
Word Count: 3,494
Summary: Anakin and Padmé prepare to leave for Naboo, and Padmé gives Obi-Wan a letter.
Author's Notes: I'm not as pleased with the beginning of this one as I was with the first two chapters, for some reason. Maybe that's because there isn't as much Obidala there, heh. XD But unfortunately the way it works with this fic is that there will be a certain amount of Anakin, by necessity. Just the way it goes, I guess. Oh, and the hug at the end? Totally not planned. I was just writing away and all of a sudden, whoops! Obi-Wan and Padmé are hugging and I'm staring at my computer screen going, "Um ... outline ...?" and they're going, "Don't care!" I always find it so interesting when my characters take control like that. ^_^
PERSONAL RECORD: PADME AMIDALA
I do not believe I have ever been angrier in my entire life.
All the difficulty involved in getting to Coruscant, all the security measures and precautions and the Jedi being recruited to serve as my protectors, all of it was for naught. I am to return to Naboo today on the orders of the Supreme Chancellor himself. I am not to object, I have no recourse if I should wish to protest, and to make absolutely sure I obey, Anakin Skywalker has been assigned to go with me.
Do they think me some sort of disobedient child who deserves to be punished? It is not my fault that unknown assassins are making attempts on my life! It is not my fault that one of them almost succeeded last night! So why must I take the fall for this? Why must I leave the capital, and give up all I have worked for these long months? I did not come back to Coruscant to simply slink away back to Naboo at the first sign of danger!
Of course, outsiders are not to know I have left, so Dormé will be remaining behind to act in my stead while Jar-Jar represents me in the Senate. I only hope that he is up to the challenge. He is very – dedicated, and his intentions are nothing if not pure, but he still has much to learn about being a Senatorial Representative. Hopefully Dormé will be able to guide him using the notes and datapads I will be leaving behind.
This is yet another decision I must take issue with: the fact that Dormé is being left behind. I have already sacrificed one of my friends on this journey. My blood boils at the thought that Cordé may have died in vain. After all, what precisely have I accomplished on Coruscant, other than to disappoint an assassin not once but twice, reunite with two old friends and address the Senate with words I have spoken many times before? Needless to say that is not what I HOPED to accomplish.
Yes, it has been very nice to see Obi-Wan and Anakin again, but other than that I have served no purpose. I have not cast my vote against a possible army of the Republic, I have not spoken out nearly enough against the Military Creation Act and other than one short meeting, I have not completed necessary tasks with the Loyalist Committee. While it is true that I will be able to catch some of this up while on Naboo, no comlink connection can quite replace my presence on Coruscant.
Does this mean that Cordé did die in vain? I am hoping not. Captain Typho can tell me that she did her duty all he wishes, but in the end, the onus is on me to recover and to be sure she did NOT die in vain. The only way to accomplish this is to speak out against the MCA and then to cast my vote against it. And the only way to do that is to stay on Coruscant!
I will admit one positive happening: the renewal of my friendship with Obi-Wan. Yes, I know I mentioned it above, but I wish to speak about it when I’m not in a transport of anger. He helped me last night. Really, he did. In his arms I finally found the peace I had been seeking throughout the day. Obi-Wan is a familiar, calming presence. I am able to be myself with him, as I cannot with anyone else.
In a way, I wish he were the one accompanying me to Naboo, instead of Anakin. I’m not sure why I wish this. I know only that while Anakin pretends to be mature, Obi-Wan is ACTUALLY mature. He does not need to resort to cheap tactics and tricks to impress me. We are … beyond that, somehow. Obi-Wan is himself without realizing it. Anakin must work at it.
Oh, how I dread the trip. Normally I would be glad to return home, but not this time. Anakin and I will be traveling as refugees, which means cramped quarters with two small beds, a shared shower, and no privacy whatsoever. Force grant me the power and patience to get through this. I will need every ounce of my strength.
Shirts, shoes, dresses, undergarments, hairpieces. They littered the midsize bedroom, finding a place on every surface. They spilled out of drawers and out of the two large suitcases on the bed. They were tripped over and tossed aside and selected and rejected.
They were reminders of what Padmé did not want to face.
There were so many things she wanted to avoid, and yet every ounce of her insisted she would gain nothing by leaving Coruscant. Protection, perhaps, but what good was protection when you could not fight for what you believed in? What good was being safe when it would brand you a coward? Why had she come to the capital when she had achieved nothing and paid for her trip with her friend’s innocent blood?
She didn’t, she couldn’t, know.
Sighing, Padmé straightened up and massaged the crick in her back. The time had come for something she’d been putting off.
She went to Anakin and Jar-Jar, who had been watching her and Dormé pack, and addressed the gangling Gungan.
“I’m taking an extended leave of absence,” Padmé told Jar-Jar gravely, hoping in some way to transfer a bit of her seriousness to him. “It will be your responsibility to take my place in the Senate. Representative Binks, I know I can count on you.”
Jar-Jar cleared his throat and stood a bit straighter. “Mesa honoured to be taking on thisa heavy burden,” he began formally. “Mesa accept this with muy … muy humility and, ah –”
“Jar-Jar, I don’t wish to hold you up,” Padmé interrupted, using the polite method she had been taught. “I’m sure you have a great deal to do.”
“Of course, m’lady,” the Gungan replied, bowing low and turning to exit.
That menial errand complete, Padmé could do nothing but turn back to her packing. At least this time she had no need to conceal her true feelings about the trip. “I do not like this idea of hiding,” she told Anakin bitterly, stuffing a shirt roughly into her suitcase as though it, too, had angered her.
“Don’t worry,” Anakin said, attempting an aura of calm. “Now that the Council has ordered an investigation, it won’t take Master Obi-Wan long to find out who hired that bounty hunter. I believe we should have done that from the beginning,” he added pompously. “It is better to take the offensive against such a threat, to find the source rather than try to react to the situation.”
“And while your Master investigates, I have to hide away,” she grumbled.
Anakin nodded. “That would be most prudent, yes.”
“I haven’t worked for a year to defeat the Military Creation Act not to be here when its fate is decided!” Padmé snapped. She was in no mood to be lectured by this … adolescent, this boy who had only recently become a man. Who did Anakin think he was, really? He was not a politician, he could not possibly understand how much hard work was shortly to be wasted.
Obi-Wan would not lecture, said a small voice in the back of her mind.
“Well, sometimes we have to let go of our pride and do what is requested of us,” Anakin offered.
It was decidedly the wrong thing to say. “Pride!” Padmé exploded. “Ani, you’re young, and you don’t have a very firm grasp on politics. I suggest you reserve your opinions for some other time!”
Dear, dear. Did Anakin learn nothing about manners from Obi-Wan? asked the little voice.
Anakin, as was his custom when confronted with an unexpectedly negative reaction from her, tried again to backpedal. “Sorry, m’lady, I was only trying to –”
“Ani! No!” Padmé was having none of it. Perhaps Obi-Wan’s teachings had failed, but someone had to knock some humility into Anakin. If she was the one to do it, so be it.
“Please don’t call me that,” was his surprising response.
Padmé blinked. “What?”
“Ani. Please don’t call me Ani.”
She paused in her packing, very much wrong-footed. “I’ve always called you that. It is your name, isn’t it?”
“My name is Anakin,” he said softly, never taking his eyes off her. “When you say Ani, it’s like I’m still a little boy. And I’m not.”
Padmé turned, letting her eyes drift up and down his tall frame. A man in body, perhaps, but not in mind, she thought. He acts as though he’s so world-weary and wise, but is he, really? Obi-Wan is probably much moreso, though I know he would never admit it. He’s far too modest. Which is another quality Anakin could use.
For the third time since the previous day, she realized she was thinking about Obi-Wan. What was going on? Was she just pleased to see him again, or … was something else going on?
No, Padmé told herself sternly. You CANNOT keep thinking this way! Obi-Wan is a Jedi! And Jedi or no, you do not have time to fall in love. There is too much at stake for you to be worrying about your personal life.
Once more she forced her thoughts back to Anakin, who was expectantly awaiting an answer. “I’m sorry, Anakin. It’s impossible to deny you’ve … that you’ve grown up.”
For the barest of an instant, she thought she saw something flicker in his eyes. Like desire, or longing. Longing to cross some invisible barrier that could nonetheless not be crossed. Is it possible that he could be having some of the same thoughts as me? But … about me? Padmé shuddered involuntarily at the thought. If Obi-Wan was off-limits, Anakin was just as much if not more.
But a moment later, the feeling had passed. “Master Obi-Wan manages not to see it,” said Anakin gloomily. “He criticizes my every move, as if I were still a child. He didn’t listen to me when I insisted that we go in search of the source of the assassination.”
Padmé took two dresses from her closet and tucked them neatly into her suitcase. “Our mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults than we would like,” she acknowledged. “It’s the only way we grow.”
Anakin seemed to be barely paying attention as he walked to the window and lifted an ornament into the air with a small prod of the Force. “Don’t get me wrong, Obi-Wan is a great mentor – as wise as Master Yoda and as powerful as Master Windu,” he murmured. “Only, although I’m a Padawan learner, in some ways – in a lot of ways – I’m ahead of him. I’m ready for the trials! I know I am! He knows it, too, but he feels I’m too unpredictable. Other Jedi my age have gone through the trials and made it. I know I started my training late, but he won’t let me move on!”
She bit her lip, barely restraining the lecture about maturity she longed to throw at him. Anakin might pretend to be mature, but the reality was something entirely different. It was interesting to get a view of how Anakin’s training had gone for him. She just wished he would be a little more appreciative of Obi-Wan. His Master deserved better.
Out loud, Padmé said, “That must be frustrating.”
“It’s worse!” Anakin blurted, his voice taking on a distinct whiny tone as he continued. “He’s overly critical! He never listens! He just doesn’t understand! It’s not fair!”
Padmé could no longer restrain the laughter that burst from her lips. Nor could she stop herself from replying, “I’m sorry. It’s just, you sounded exactly like that little boy I once knew, when he didn’t get his way.”
“I’m not whining!” Anakin exclaimed, appearing to sense her thoughts. “I’m not!”
The sight of him, standing there looking so indignant, softened her a little. Perhaps she wasn’t giving Anakin enough credit. She knew Obi-Wan could be critical, and harsh, and distant, and difficult to get along with. And really, Obi-Wan and Anakin were so different. Their personalities, their ways of looking at the world, the manner in which they associated with others. She could imagine that their personalities had clashed many times.
“I didn’t say it to hurt you,” Padmé told him.
Anakin gave a loud sigh, seeming to release all the tension that had built up in the past few moments. “I know.”
For a moment, the child was back. She could see it in him, the way his blue eyes slid to the floor, the way the corners of his mouth turned down in a pout, the way he shuddered and turned his head as though looking for some source of comfort that wasn’t going to arrive. He still misses his mother, just as much as he did when I comforted him on my starship ten years ago, she thought. And somehow, her feet began to carry her across the room, towards him, and her hand lifted to lightly touch his cheek.
“Anakin, don’t try to grow up too fast,” said Padmé quietly.
The fire blazed in his eyes again, the passionate fire that was never far away. “I am grown up. You said it yourself.”
Anakin looked at her, those blue eyes fixing directly onto hers. Padmé had a sudden sense that he was regarding her not only as an old friend, but also as a woman, a sensual and sexual being. He was relishing a fantasy, and it was much the same sort of fantasy she had slipped into the previous night about Obi-Wan. He was scanning her soul, and if she were not careful, he would find all her secrets, he would unlock that box where she kept the thoughts she wished to share with no one else … her disgust at having to leave the capital … her caring feelings for him, perhaps more than they should be … her more developed romantic feelings for his Master …
“Please don’t look at me like that,” Padmé choked out, averting her gaze.
“Why not?” Anakin blinked, seeming to come out of a trance.
Somehow, away from those eyes, she was able to recover a modicum of calm. “It makes me feel uncomfortable,” she said shortly, turning back to her suitcase.
“Sorry, m’lady.” And he was instantly the professional again, stepping back with the detachment and decorum befitting a security guard.
Another woman might have been sorry. But Padmé was not.
She felt in her pocket for the flimsiplast. Was it still there? Was it secured just as she had made sure back in her apartment? Yes: yes, there it was. She could feel it now, rolled up, waiting. Waiting not for Anakin, but for Obi-Wan.
“I need to say something to an old friend,” she’d told Dormé back at the apartment, after changing into her Thousand Moons refugee dress. “Well … several things, actually, and I’m afraid if I don’t say them now, I might not get the opportunity again.”
Padmé wasn’t sure why she thought that. She knew only that there was an urgency to her letter. It could not wait, nor was it something that would be written and then put into storage. She needed to write these things and have Obi-Wan read them. Perhaps that would ease some of the tension in her soul.
She did not glance at him during the ride to the dock, where a transport would take her away from Coruscant against her will. She did not speak to Anakin either, staring straight ahead in silent contemplation. Padmé could do nothing else. Now that a part of her was naked, vulnerable, exposed on the flimsiplast, she had retreated into herself for protection. It was the only way her mind could deal with the possible ramifications of her actions.
The airtaxi pulled up at the docks and its occupants rose, grabbing bags and hand luggage before lingering at the exit for the formal goodbyes.
“Be safe, m’lady,” said Captain Typho nervously. It was clear he wished he was going along.
“Thank you, Captain,” Padmé answered, her mind not really on the situation. She was thinking of how she might get Obi-Wan on his own to give him the letter. “Take good care of Dormé. The threat’s on you two now.”
Dormé grinned. “He’ll be safe with me.”
Padmé attempted a smile, but could not quite complete the simple action. She was leaving so much – her work, her staff, even Obi-Wan – and for what reason? Because the Chancellor and the rest of the Loyalist Committee are worrywarts, and don’t understand how important this is to me, she thought. Even moreso than life itself. Unexpectedly, Dormé hurried forwards and embraced her.
“You’ll be fine,” Padmé whispered.
“It’s not me, m’lady,” Dormé said, two tears slipping down her cheeks. “I worry about you. What if they realize you’ve left the capital?”
“Then my Jedi protector will have to prove how good he is,” was the best Padmé could offer. But it was apparently enough, for Dormé stepped back beside Typho and swiped at her eyes.
Padmé waited for Obi-Wan to finish giving Anakin instructions – standard fare about staying on Naboo and not taking any action without consulting the Jedi Council – and then stepped up next to him. “Excuse me, Obi-Wan, may I speak with you a moment? Privately?”
He looked puzzled, but agreeably walked to one side of the airtaxi and waited, facing her. She could see Anakin watching them with a curious expression, but she resolved to ignore it.
Looking into those deep blue eyes, that handsome face, words suddenly failed Padmé. She swallowed once, twice, then took a breath. Why does his gaze have to be so disarming? “Obi-Wan, I … I want to thank you for coming to me last night,” she finally began. “You didn’t have to do it, and yet you did, and – I really don’t know what to say, except … I needed it. I needed someone who could comfort me. Who understands what it’s like to grieve. I needed, well, a friend. So I just wanted to say thanks.”
“Padmé, you needn’t mention it,” Obi-Wan said kindly. “You’re my friend, and I lo – well, really do care about you,” he seemed to quickly correct himself. “It was my pleasure. I promise you.”
Did he really almost say “love”? Padmé wondered. It had certainly sounded like that. And somehow, it gave her courage to continue. “I’m very sorry that we haven’t had much contact with each other over the past two years. You’re one of my dearest friends, and I don’t want us to fall out of touch. Promise – promise me we won’t go another two years without speaking?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Of course. I’ve missed you, Padmé.”
She found herself blushing. Oh, curses, why must I go red NOW? “And I you,” she managed. “Since we haven’t corresponded in a few years, I – I wrote you a letter.” She pulled the flimsiplast from her pocket and clumsily thrust it at him. “Just to say some of the things I feel I can’t say to you out loud. You don’t even have to read it, I just wanted to … give it to you. Some things shouldn’t go unsaid.”
“Thank you,” Obi-Wan said, accepting the flimsiplast. “And Padmé, if you feel you need to talk to someone, on Naboo, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Anakin will have a comlink with a signal scrambler, so you will not be put in danger should you choose to use it.”
Padmé wasn’t sure precisely why she hugged him then. She knew only that suddenly she was moving forwards, her arms were opening, his were receiving her, and they were squeezing each other tightly. Padmé breathed deeply, inhaling the scent of his robes and the cologne and soap he had used that morning. “Take care, Obi-Wan,” she whispered.
“Be safe, Padmé,” he murmured into her hair.
They seemed to linger there for an eternity, wrapped around each other, taking each other in. Padmé didn’t want to let go, she felt safe in those arms, secure and happy. Oh, why couldn’t Obi-Wan accompany her to Naboo instead of Anakin? Why did the Jedi Council have to –
It was small, and it was insignificant, just Anakin clearing his throat, but it was enough to make the moment pass. Obi-Wan released her, and their gazes locked for an instant before she turned away, picked up her bags, and walked with Anakin towards the transport in the distance.
No one saw Obi-Wan slip the rolled flimsiplast into his pocket. And they certainly did not see the jealousy that flickered in Anakin’s eyes, for the barest of moments, before dissipating.