Like a Gentleman   Rating: PG
Diana DeRiggs

I was certainly surprised to see Anakin again. He's grown so much, I don't think I would have recognized him if he hadn't been with Obi-Wan. They've both changed, it's been so long since I've seen either of them, I can't believe how much time has passed.

But now they say that I need protection, that my life is in danger. I don't doubt that someone wants me dead; what's come of the galaxy that instead of being told off, beings resort to the despicable act of assassination to get their way! I don't fear for myself, actually, but Cordé died in my place when we traveled to the capital. I can't keep risking the lives of my staff and those who care for me.

Which is why it's ironic that they have assigned Anakin to look after me while I travel home to Naboo. I don't know why, but I don't feel safe around him. I think it's the way he looks at me.

I know I'm beautiful; I go to great pains to create the right visual impression. I have been taught that this first appearance of myself will form the opinions of all who view me. So I wear the regalia of my office; my handmaidens are not simply bodyguards, but imageguards. They protect me, help me dress, are my confidants. But they are paid staff; they are loyal, and they care for me.

From Anakin, I get a different feeling. He flushes and stutters when he is near me. Well, I've seen that happen, too. I have had my share of men -- young and old -- who attempt to court me or become intimate. Whether it's for good or bad, I have never had the time to indulge in such frivolity. I know I'm imposing and unattainable -- that's the point.

But to him, I'm imposing because I'm attainable. He knows that with his crooked smile, his unswerving attention toward me, he could force me to declare how I feel about him. I know he knows!

It surprised me when the feeling hit me. Frankly, my fantasies have never included him before; I have had a crush on Obi-Wan for many years, and I sometimes dream of Qui-Gon Jinn, now dead for a decade. But as soon as I saw Anakin shyly standing by his master, all thoughts of Obi-Wan were blown away. Suddenly my whole life and emotion homed in on the former little boy from Tatooine. I don't deny I have always had warm feelings for him, but this surge I feel from him now is blinding me.

He's not a little boy anymore. He's a man.

The Jedi Council and Chancellor Palpatine have ordered me to return to Naboo, in order to hide from the assassins while an investigation is underway. They point out that the killers are very bold, even attacking my ship in broad daylight. If it wasn't for Captain Typho, that would have been me on the landing platform! Then where would the anti-military act be??

There is no telling when they will strike again. They are right -- the assassin attempted to poison me in my sleep the same night.

Since Anakin is assigned to guard me, I have to speak with him about plans. Apparently, the Council has decreed that I am to be disguised as a refugee, and take bulk transport home. Such an action requires deep planning, but I don't trust myself to be with him. My feelings for him are too sudden; they scare me. So I will send Dormé to discuss the plans with him, in my place. I don't trust myself to be alone with him.

* * * * *

Finally, my first solo assignment, but why does it have to involve the protection of Padmé? It's not that I don't relish the opportunity -- I have been craving my first assignment for a long time now. Master Obi-Wan thinks I am incapable of making the right decision; he holds me back. I am burning to prove him wrong, if only given the chance!

My hesitation has to do with the subject of my mission: protection of the Senator from Naboo from assassins. If only she was not the total object of my desire! I have thought and dreamt of Padmé Naberrie every day for ten long years. I try to put her out of my mind, but it ruins my concentration not to have her in my head. She's become my mantra, almost like my muse. It's more stressful not to think of her. Anyway, it's impossible to remove her. The thoughts of her are integral to my very being.

But what will I do when she's real and beside me? I only experience her in my dreams ...

In my dreams, I am a gentleman. She desires me as much as I do her, but I play it cool. But I am not aloof, I was warm and inviting, and she loves me.

I was so excited to see her outside my door this morning that I lost all my composure. I was not a gentleman to her. I was so intoxicated by the thought of having Padmé alone and within reach that I didn't realize it wasn't her. I made a fool of myself, embracing the woman who was there. I should have realized that when I met Padmé, she was disguised as the Queen's handmaiden, while the handmaiden was disguised as Her Majesty. As a Senator, her retinue and staff are considerably smaller, but that ploy saved her life; one of her handmaidens died in her place on the landing platform attack.

I should have trusted my feelings that something was not right, but I was blinded by my excitement. She was real, she as in my arms, lying with me, kissing me back. How could I have been so foolish?

Will she ever forgive me? Does she realize my transgression? Oh, Padmé, I thought it was you!

* * * * *

I am not really uncomfortable in these peasant maiden's clothes. I have worn peasant's and servant's garb many times before, and anyway, I consider it a costume like the many I wear when appearing in official regalia. I'm uncomfortable because Anakin hasn't stopped looking at me. When he talks, he slips and stumbles, except for when he tells me how beautiful I am, or how he's dreamt of me since we parted ten years ago. I find myself growing stern, trying to control those feelings he has toward me. I catch him looking at me, appearing ... like he needs to tell me something.

I've been abrupt with him, I feel I know what he wants to say, what he wants to ask me, and I can't afford to hear it. I can't bear to hear it!

When I sleep on the floor of the steerage level, I'm too agitated to fall asleep. R2D2 and Anakin have laid down extra clothing to soften the floor under my body, but it's truly not the discomfort keeping me awake. It's the warmth of the body lying beside me -- I have never slept so close to a man I wanted so much before.

When I left with Anakin, Dormé wept. She told me she was afraid for me, that she feared I wouldn't be safe. At the time, I ignored the feeling that she was trying to tell me something. But now, trying to sleep, I realize she was worried about how Anakin might treat me. She was trying to tell me to protect myself from my Jedi protector!

But he's actually been a complete gentleman, other than staring at me incessantly. He acts like he's afraid if he stops looking at me, I might get hurt or suddenly disappear. Even now, I can feel him looking at me.

I don't mind that. I guess I could understand. In fact, my mind is burning with the desire to feel his hands on me.

WHAT is wrong with me??

* * * * *

I want to touch her. Every cell in my body is screaming out to reach over and put my arm around her. I can pretend that it's because I need to know where she is, even in my sleep. But she knows I don't sleep; I have had nightmares about my mother. Since seeing Padmé again, the nightmares have subsided, but I still can't sleep.

She knows I can't stop looking at her. But I can't help myself. I'm forced to be a gentleman and Jedi. Not a mere human, crazed with love for Padmé.

I want to cradle her in my arms, provide a cushion for her to lie on. But I've sullied my love for her. I don't deserve to touch her, not even to touch the hem of her gown. And even though her body is almost completely covered by that virginal outfit she is using as a disguise, I swear I would recognize her form anywhere, any time. I can't help my feelings, they're stronger than anything I've ever felt before.

I deserve to suffer for breaking that trust. Master Obi-Wan scolded me for worrying about it, he points out that she and I don't have a proprietary relationship, and that what I did was not reflective of my love for Padmé. He's wrong, of course. I do have an exclusive relationship to Padmé. I could never love another woman. It is just as well I'm a Jedi, for Jedi are forbidden attachment. It's my excuse for not being with anyone else ...

My heart belongs to one woman. For a Jedi, that's the same as belonging to no women. Some Jedi have many women or men, connecting only lightly or briefly to them. I can't do that; for me, it's Padmé, only Padmé.

* * * * *

I know I shouldn't. I shouldn't be wearing such provocative clothing, but I can't help myself. Anakin has been so under control, such a gentleman. I am ashamed to admit that I daydream of him being impassioned and out of control around me. So wearing this gown is the perfect tease. It is demure; it doesn't show any of the body parts normally associated with sexuality. My breasts, hips and legs are completely covered. They are all concealed, the dress is made of lots of beautiful fabrics that call attention to themselves.

They are also meant to enhance the wearer. A man not interested in the female form might admire the clothing for the fabric, cut, craftsmanship and design. A man impassioned by the woman within will see them either as frames for the picture, or bindings to be released. Am I not sly?

It's a dangerous game, but Anakin is with me by order of the Jedi Council and the Supreme Chancellor. He would not dare exceed his mandate, at least not physically. In my mind, I am enjoying the game. It makes me feel stronger.

But in my heart, I fantasize that he cannot help himself.

* * * * *

Naboo is a beautiful planet, filled with beautiful people, animals, and plants. But even gorgeous Naboo pales in comparison to one of it's daughters, the exquisite woman sitting before me in the skiff. I am taking her to her family's ancestral home on Lake Como, where enemies would find it difficult to infiltrate. She is properly dressed in an ornate dress and head decorations, as always. Her public office demands constant and appropriate grooming.

But I am the only one here to look at her. Why does she dress like this now? Perhaps for her, it is habit and nothing more. I wouldn't know; my life is so different from hers. When I first met her, she was wearing peasant's garb as a disguise, but it didn't hide anything about her. I was 9 years old, but even then I recognized the beauty.

The dress is proper; it only reveals her arms and back ... the curve of her throat and her neck. There are layers of fabric; a normal man might see them as impediments to get to her. But for me, they are the soul of Padmé, fluttering and beckoning me -- they are near-holy extensions of her. They are ghosts of the soul they encase, tempting me to come to her. A strip of the diaphanous outer covering brushes against my hand in the breeze, and I grow dizzy. I'm afraid I'll faint!

She's telling me about how she and her friends would swim naked as young girls in these very waters. I try not to gasp as I reach down to touch the wetness of the lake. These very molecules may have embraced her, as I long to ... it's too much for my heart! I think about draining the lake, concentrating it so that I can put those very molecules in a jar to take with me forever.

* * * * *

Shortly after I met Anakin, I met a man who claimed he loved me. Even then, I knew it was not the same love as the type what I would want from a man. I did not know at the time that my passions would be for the boy from Tatooine; how could I? He was 9 years old! But I had feelings and longed for the embrace of men like Obi-Wan Kenobi, or even Qui-Gon Jinn. They are pure men, working for others, for the betterment of all beings. I greatly admired that ethos, and I still do. Perhaps charity and good works are a sort of aphrodisiac for a girl like me?

That man even approached my parents to discern if courtship and marriage might be appropriate. Fortunately, my parents told him it was up to me; if I was old enough to save Naboo, I was certainly capable of deciding such matters for myself.

I remembered my first love, a boy named Palo. I loved him as a young child would love someone, romantically and encased in sugar-coated fantasy. Isn't it strange that I lost interest in him when he decided to leave the Legislative Youth Program and became a painter? I should have admired a man who knew his calling, but at the time, it seemed selfish to pursue his own wants. I did not understand and I lost contact with him.

I see that I am destined to love a Jedi; their choice of living meshes with my thoughts perfectly. They live not for themselves, but for others. They preserve their own lives for the sake of doing good. I understand that; I came face to face with that when Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation invaded my planet. I transcended my own fears. My place, I thought, was with my people, but Qui-Gon convinced me that I'd do them no good dead.

I mull these things on the skiff, wondering why I am so attracted to the quiet gentleman sitting behind me, propelling the boat. I can feel his desire; it's palpable and a living thing on it's own. Whenever I shift my body, rearrange my skirts, I hear the silence of him not breathing. I wonder how long I can go on before he passes out, either from desire or from lack of oxygen?

* * * * *

The Council has ordered me to protect Padmé. Master Obi-Wan has reminded me that she is to be protected from anyone and anything -- even her protector. I feigned ignorance, but my master is wise, and knew I got his message. How could he know that this mission would be excruciating? Obi-Wan seems infallible -- he is the model Jedi. Could his wisdom discern the feelings I'm suffering? Could he possibly understand the strain? I don't know. I wish he was here to admonish me. I don't think I can hold on to this charade of propriety for much longer!

* * * * *

I tell him about lying on the sand, the sun drying my body. I feel his blood boiling; I don't know how I know this. Perhaps it's my imagination. Perhaps his Jedi demeanor is cracking. I grow afraid that he will release that torrent of passion on me. We are alone on this patio, overlooking the waters of Lake Como. It is the most beautiful spot on Naboo, to my mind. I have often fantasized as a young girl standing here with my love, taking vows of marriage. On this very spot. Like many young girls, every candy-coated detail was perfect. In my head, I have even designed my dress and head coverings.

He's talking now, almost philosophically, but I know he's talking about me ... and him. How the sand is so coarse, how Naboo is so smooth and soft. I can feel his hand coming closer ...

* * * * *

I am mesmerized. My mind and heart overrule my sense of duty. I watch helplessly as my hand reaches out to stroke the perfect flesh of her back, along the ribs ... it seems such a neutral place. But touching her, my mind explodes; and electrical surge runs from her skin, through my fingers, detonating my heart, searing my mind. In a fit of shorted circuitry, my memory replays the night I spent with her handmaiden, then suddenly the memory is destroyed. It shatters into a billion pixels, gone forever.

Nothing matters anymore. It's just me and Padmé. Her handmaiden is her. I touch her, and it's like our bond is consummated by that touch. She turns to me and I feel her desire wash out toward me, pulling me in like a wave draws back to the ocean. I feel like I'm going home, into her ...

It was she who drew back, gasping, "I shouldn't have done that!" She? She shouldn't have? Was it her? Was it me?

I sit in my room, wondering if I should call my master to confess my failure.

A Jedi is forbidden attachment and possessions. How can I be a Jedi, when Padmé belongs to me?? And I will forever belong to her ...

* * * * *

He will give up everything for me; I know this. He will give up his career as a Jedi, the noblest profession in the Galaxy. I grow fearful; I am afraid if he is not a Jedi, I will not be attracted to him anymore.

What is the love of a man and woman compared to the needs of the Galaxy? I told him in a rather arrogant manner that I thought Jedi were forbidden to love, and he replied that compassion is central to a Jedi's life. He defined it as "unconditional love." He impressed me so much with his thoughts. I am ashamed of thinking of him as the slave boy from Tatooine all these years.

I have never felt such desire for any man, not even in my dreams. I see me and him on the terrace; I am wearing the dress I designed in my mind many years ago.

But is it his "unattainableness" that attracts me so strongly?

I have to preserve that. I can't let him give up anything for me. What he is doing is bigger than my love for him. I suspect I would respect him less if he gives up being a Jedi, like my love for Palo faded quickly when he left the Youth Program. Love is a fickle thing. I respect him too much to let him throw it all away for what might simply be an infatuation!

* * * * *

Having dinner with Padmé calms me. No one is taking her away from me; I can see her, see past her. She is safe as long as I can see her. I can sense anything that has anything to do with her; nothing will surprise me. The servants move in and out of the room, serving, clearing. Things are being done in the house. I extend my surveillance of the Force to the mountains and lake surrounding the house. It's likely not necessary, but it keeps me busy. I like being busy.

We talk about this and that, catching up on the ten years since we were last together. She saw me off as I left for the Jedi Temple to begin my training. And now, I am on the verge of being a Jedi Knight. Her presence seems to mark the important events in my life. I tell her so.

She laughs; ten years older, and she is more beautiful than I remember her. The years have matured her, it's true. But they have given her aspects and clarity, a greater sense of purpose. I can feel the Force flowing through her, she is achieving her potential in the universe. I admire her. I also fear her.

She possesses me, even if she doesn't want to do so. She owns me, though she never traded or purchased my heart and soul. I love and respect many people; it is the nature of the Jedi to love. But what I feel for Padmé is not love in the same way. I wish I could describe it, even to myself.

We share this meal together; I haven't seen her in ten years, and we have already shared meals, even bedding surfaces. We act like we are old friends, but we aren't. I pretend that we act like a married couple, but I know we aren't.

I have shared so much with Padmé, but the one thing I long to share with her, I shared with her handmaiden. I deserve to suffer.

* * * * *

He did it ... he declared his love for me. It was the passionate release I craved, but I am disappointed. It's over so soon, the dance, the teasing. And he was truly a gentleman. He stated his love like poetry; perhaps he had been writing it these past ten years. I can feel his love for me is sincere and genuine. He loves me! Not in the lustful, slimy way so many men who pretend to love me feel ... Why am I frightened?

Because I love him. I want him desperately. I used that leather corseted dress I was wearing to full advantage. I let it define my posture, making me like a smooth-skinned statue. I tried to chill my voice and my demeanor, scolding him for losing control.

But I was so angry and upset at him! Why did he have to be a gentleman? Why didn't he let the fires of passion stoke his actions? I hate him!

* * * * *

She said no. She is right, she is always right. A secret love would destroy us. But at least then we would have each other. I fear I will be destroyed from the inside anyway. My heart seems to have stopped. It aches, but it feels empty. I need someone ... if her handmaiden was here, I don't doubt what I would do ... I can't stand it!

My whole body is crying out to take her, to run into her sleeping chambers and force her to feel my passion, to feel the true and total love I have for her. I scream out, because I only know physical love in the form of a woman so close to Padmé, but who isn't her! The memory, I thought it was gone, but it overwhelms me ... I tear off my clothes, remembering the feel of that body, wishing so fervently it was Padmé!

* * * * *

I hear him cry out, and I fear for him. I silently run down to his room and open the door ... and see him lying naked! He's thrashing in his sleep! I know I should run, but I don't. I watch him, and I hear him calling my name!

I have chills ... I feel my body respond to his motions. I am struck with indecision. Should I enter his bed?

But before I can decide, he stops and collapses, still asleep. Carefully, slowly, I move to him. I touch him, lightly. His skin is molten hot, wringing with perspiration. His muscles are hard, even in sleep. I lie down next to him, daring to rub his chest, his belly ... I can't help it, my hands wander up and down his form with their own will ...

I hear him whisper my name as my palm hovers over his hardened member and I freeze. He murmurs and stirs, then thrusts his hips upwards, making contact with my skin ... I am amazed that it feels so smooth yet so rigid. Like ferrocrete, covered in velvet ... I don't dare move my hand, but I don't have to. In his dream, he is making love to a phantom with my name. He moves faster, and ejaculates!

I stare at the sticky liquid on my fingers, mesmerized. Do I have the power to do that to him? But he's Jedi ... so in control ...

He's grown still, mumbling incoherently. I draw the covers over him, as his body cools, afraid to touch him again.

I leave quietly, breathing hard ...

* * * * *

That dream of my mother ... it woke me. She's dying ...

I know that my mother is truly in need. I have had a dream about Padmé, holding me, deigning to let me love her. Like so many times before, in my sleep I climaxed; I feel the mess under the blankets. But it was the dream of my mother that awoke me; that's how I know my mother needs me.

Since Padmé came back into my life, the terrifying dreams of my mother have abated. I welcomed the dreams of my love, even though dreaming of the woman I long to caress is a different sort of pain, more intense than the pain of not knowing why my mother is hurting. But last night, as I dreamt of a life with Padmé, my mother's pain broke through!

I am a failure as a son. I have not kept my promise to return to Tatooine and free her. And now I know I am a failure to the Jedi Council, for I cannot stay on Naboo with Padmé. I must go to my mother, rescue her from her torment!

Can I bear to leave Padmé? What will I tell her? I need to get a speech written in my head, so I can explain before she says anything to me. If Padmé tells me I have to stay here, what will I do? I simply can't give her the chance to tell me that. I can't. My mother needs me!

More than I need Padmé ...

* * * * *

He doesn't remember last night. How could he? I couldn't sleep. My mind was in a turmoil. I had shared an intimate act with Anakin, one he didn't know or consent to. Does that make me a rapist?

He was asleep, then he had that nightmare about his mother again. As I skipped from his room, I heard him yelling out, "No, Mom, no!"

I go search for him when the morning light comes, but I know he's not in his room. He does the exercises prescribed by the Temple on the balcony. I remember seeing Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan doing them, so many years ago. I used to stare at them, unobserved. Their movements were so perfect, so controlled, like Anakin's are now. But it's different watching him now. Why would it be different? Because I'm in love with him? And in a way, I loved the other Jedi I'd met, too! Yet ...

* * * * *

She's watching me, I can feel her presence. Why does she stare at me? What is she thinking? Does she know about the nightmare? Does she understand why I have to leave?

I am done with the proscribed exercises. Master Obi-Wan told me long ago that I have to do them, every day. The only time I would be excused would be a day when I would love nothing more than to do them. For if I could not do them, I would be imprisoned or dead ... I think he was teaching me gratitude. If I didn't do the exercises, then I'd really be unable to do them.

I'm doing them now because I can. The repetition and routine is helpful. I don't have to think as I go through all the maneuvers to keep myself limber and to chase away the stiffness of sleep. My mind is occupied with what I must do, what I must tell Padmé.

I put on my covering and stand at ease to meditate. I am aware that my silhouette is framed by the pillars of the balcony, overlooking the lake. The air is humid; I've grown used to wet air in my time on Coruscant. It dampens my clothes from the outside, as my perspiration wets it from the inside. I breathe deeply, and an struck by the fragrance of the flowers, the water, the wet stones ... and something else.

It's an smell I recall from my sleep. I had dreamt I was making love to Padmé, and I could smell the perfume of her hair, her skin, her breath ... it was totally unlike the smells of her handmaiden. The smell from last night was so different. The handmaiden's smell was light, delicate; last night in my dream, the smell was richer, earthier ... so much sexier.

I hadn't given the scent any thought, but I smell it now, and I remember. Is it ... Padmé? It is really her smell that made me soil the sheets?

I reach out with the Force ... she is so near ... I have to breathe ... breathe ... concentrate ....

* * * * *

He tells me he's sorry, but he has to leave Naboo to save his mother. I try to say silent, but I start to talk even before he can finish. I told him I would go with him. I would provide transport for him. I explain to him I will not have him chastised by the Council on my behalf. He is grateful.

I sense he knows that it's because I can't bear for him to be away from me. The thought of it makes my gut freeze. I'd only felt that once before, when I made the decision to have my handmaiden dress as me, back when the Trade Federation invaded Naboo. But then, I was terrified that Sabé would be killed in my place. This time, I fear not for a handmaiden, or even for my Jedi protector ... I fear for myself. I can't have him away from me. I can't!

If he left me, I would be safe enough, I know. No one would find me here. But what would I do? How could I stand to be alone?

The memories of last night still burn me. I still smell his essence, preserved on my hand ...

* * * * *

My whole being cries out for my mother. She's in pain, she's in trouble. My eyes brim with tears, praying the first woman in my life is safe. I know she isn't; I have dreams and feelings, and they are never wrong.

Padmé has been so generous, taking me to Tatooine, telling me that she wants to go and see Shmi. She tells me that she never thanked my mother for letting me help her and Qui-Gon so many years ago. I know she's telling the truth, but there is something else there; like a frisson of something deeper. I thought it was regret, but I could be wrong.

Everything I learned at the Temple, every rush of confidence and accomplishment, they're all undone by Padmé Naberrie of Naboo. Around her, I'm always wrong.

I mull over the contrast. With things concerning my mother, I know I am always right. With things concerning Padmé, I am always wrong.

Mom, hold on!

* * * * *

He is a Jedi, but this thing with his mother is personal. I see why the Temple takes candidates for training at such a young age, so they would not know their mothers. I wonder if Obi-Wan thinks of his mother?

We saw Watto, the Blue Toydarian who once owned Anakin. He revealed that Shmi Skywalker had been sold to pay his racing debts. I feel a pang of guilt, knowing that I was responsible for Watto's loss of money, forcing him to sell his remaining slave. The guilt is knowing that the slave in question is the mother of my Jedi protector.

She could be my mother-in-law!

I gasp as the thought hammers hard into my brain, and Anakin looked at me. I hoped he thought I had tripped or something normal. But the way he looked at me to ask if I was all right ... I felt his presence in my mind. I shivered. Anakin is so different these past few days. He is confident, determined. He is still my protector, but he is focused now and knows his duty to his mother. His determination is exhilarating to me. He is irresistible.

I held him close to me before he left to find the Tusken Raiders who had taken his mother. He was not the bumbling youth who wanted to tell me how beautiful I am. He is a gentleman on a selfless mission. Will he always feel so strongly about me, too?

I am ashamed that I still smell him on my hand.

* * * * *

For the first time in ten years, Padmé was not in my mind. I killed ... no! I murdered ... no, I SLAUGHTERED those beings. The Tusken Raiders knew fear and confusion last night, I made them taste the consequences of their arrogance! I vomited when it was over, remembering how I had saved one of them ten years ago. That male had broken his leg, and had been left to die by his tribe. I stayed with him, using powers I did not then understand, until his tribe came to retrieve him. I showed mercy to that being. And this is how they repay me!

My mother died in my arms, struggling to tell me she loved me. I felt her life ebbing, I knew she had worked hard to stay alive. I felt her this past month, calling to me. She wasn't trying to tell me she was in trouble; she was trying to tell me to hurry and see her because she was dying.

I fell terrible guilt, but not for coming fast enough to save her. I couldn't have saved her. She hung on to life the whole time, only for the chance to see me again. The thing that kept her alive was my absence. My guilt is because Obi-Wan was right -- running to rescue her would not save her. No, my guilt is from knowing that seeing her again killed her! She died in my arms, just as she wanted to. If I hadn't come, she'd still be alive now ...

I killed the Tusken Raiders who'd held her captive. Why had I done it? Because I blamed them for her death. In truth, it me ME who caused her death. I should have questioned them, asked them why they held her ...

I should have resorted to diplomacy. I should have done as Padmé would have done.

I am a Jedi. I am better than this.

But my mother is gone. I have failed.

How can I explain to Padmé? How could I make her love a failure?

* * * * *

I had never seen him cry openly. I don't understand him, but I know if someone had killed MY mother, I might come close to the feelings that churn in the former slave. I can't help but feel disappointed, because I want him to be strong!

I brought him some food, and he started crying and yelling, shrieking and throwing things. He frightened me! I could feel his emotion bang through me! I wanted to run, but he willed me to stay where I stood. His glare froze me, and it all poured out of him, how he'd made an awful mistake and slaughtered his mother's captives. Even their livestock lay dead on the unforgiving sands. He whispered that the krayt dragons would pick them clean ...

He collapsed like a child who needs his mother. I remember long ago helping refugee children relocate to another planet, and I remember their emotions as they were forced to leave their families and homes. I get a similar wave of feeling from Anakin. So I did as I did with those other children. I sat on the floor beside them and embraced them, murmuring that it will be all right. But I was wrong then; their relocation was a disaster and they all perished. I prayed I was not wrong this time ...

I embrace him, I desperately want to comfort him. Anakin, stop ...! I'll be your mother ... shh ...

* * * * *

If it wasn't for Padmé, I would have lost myself. I would have had to kill myself, before Master Obi-Wan could have done the job for me.

But when I left the Lars homestead to seek Shmi -- the place which had been my mother's house these past few years -- I deliberately left anything that was compassionate and decent with Padmé. The man who left her to find the Tusken Raiders was a vengeful, dark animal.

I was unaware I'd done it, but I realize now that everything that is good and whole about me once was held by my mother. My promise to my mother to return and free her kept me at my mission to become a Jedi, even when the task was beyond endurance. I would think of my mother, and find the energy or patience to endure.

A Jedi should stand alone. We own nothing, we belong to no one. But I need my mother.

She held me. She held me tightly. I groped back, wanting to feel my mother, wanting to rest my head in my mother's chest. I crawled onto her lap, weeping, ashamed ... I close my eyes, I hear her heartbeat, I sniff her fragrance ...

That smell, so familiar ... like her handmaiden ... like my mother ... but uniquely something else.

I felt her lips on me ... no ...

She's not my mother! Padmé, how dare you!

* * * * *

He buried his mother in the sand, next to the grave dug for the first wife of the man who had been Shmi Skywalker's husband. I was proud of Anakin, talking to her, promising he'd not fail again. Of course, he had not failed at all; this was beyond his control, I wish he'd understand! Anakin is human, and he can't control the galaxy. He replied that he's Jedi, that he's better than human, and he swore that he'd conquer death. He frightened me last night.

But this morning was different. We woke up on the ferrocrete floor of the Lars workshop, where he'd collapsed after bringing his mother home for the last time. Her body was dressed by her husband and stepson, readied for burial. In the meantime, her son buried his past and his pain in me.

I held him closely, afraid to leave him alone. He was dangerous last night, boiling with anger and unresolved sorrow. Though he attacked me, blind to his actions, I felt relief that I was his font of redemption. He wept this morning, begging forgiveness for ravaging me. Anakin said he hated being human, he wished he was a machine, like a 'droid. He didn't want his emotions and his pain or his memories. He held me closely and tightly as he cried.

He needs me. I need him. We are equal now.

* * * * *

I led her to danger. I let her go after my Master. We headed for Geonosis, confident that we could save him. It felt good to be on a mission. I could not save my mother, but I would save my Master! Obi-Wan and I have many differences, but he is like a father to me! How could he be my father? Qui-Gon is the man I consider my savior, like a strict, caring patriarch. Maybe like my grandfather ... and since Obi-Wan was his apprentice, that makes Obi-Wan my father, in a way. It's hard to explain.

Ten years ago, Padmé and Qui-Gon rescued me from a life of slavery. Qui-Gon died for Naboo. My mother died for no reason, but she stayed alive for me. I only have Padmé and Obi-Wan left. I am ordered to protect Padmé, I have to save Obi-Wan!

So we traveled to Geonosis, where the Secessionist Alliance was holding my Master prisoner. But now I am in prison myself, awaiting execution. They took Padmé from me. I can feel her; she is frightened, but unharmed. I can sense Obi-Wan, who is calm. He knows I am here.

Master, I'm here! I won't fail!

* * * * *

Last night, Anakin's mother died. Last week, my handmaiden. Ten years ago, Qui-Gon. Today, perhaps I will die.

Death is the only thing anyone can count on. Everyone and everything dies. The only thing you can control is your path, leading up to your death. You can choose to love or hate. You can choose to serve or take. You can choose to live ... or die.

There are so many ways to die. I'd never seen it before, but stopping your life is not the only way to die. You can die by denying your destiny. You can kill yourself effectively by hiding from your emotions. A person can die by struggling to do the right thing, by destroying the truth about yourself.

I'm dying now, I've been dying ever since that assassination attempt on Coruscant, ever since Anakin Skywalker came back into my life. I've been in denial -- my feelings, my emotions ... my love, my reality. He is everything I've ever wanted. He is a Jedi, I know he can't belong to me. No one owns a Jedi. And a Jedi cannot love. They cannot possess.

But he possesses me. He belongs to me. Why had I never seen it before? I can't deny it anymore. I'm dying. It's a death that actual death can't relieve or quench. I will die, knowing I had been killing myself by doing the right thing ...

* * * * *

I will do the right thing. I will save Padmé, I will make sure I fulfill the mandate handed to me by the Council. I will not allow harm to come to her. She will not die, even though Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation is here. Count Dooku had said they had paid dearly to see her die.

It is times like these, when the challenges seem impossible, that I am at my best. I am outside myself. I am attuned to the Force like no other time. I will stay alive to make sure she lives. I will not fail!

* * * * *

I come awake in the sands, the heat beating down on me. One of the clone soldiers asks me if I'm all right. Me? Me? What about Anakin?? I feel him, I know he's in pain! I have to get to him, get me to him, right now!

Is this how he felt when he knew his mother was in danger? Is this the bond he had with her? My feelings for him have deepened in the past day ... and the link we share seems to be a tangible, palpable thing. Ever since his mother died, the feelings he held for her, he seems to have transferred to me.

I remember when I first met Shmi, that night at dinner when she gave her consent for Anakin to help us win money to repair our ship at the podraces ... she looked at me for a brief second. In that moment, I felt her giving her son to me. I didn't understand it then. But the mother of a Jedi must have Jedi abilities herself. Perhaps she saw the future and knew my destiny? Or was it a plea?

Whatever it is, I know Anakin is in pain. I know he has been injured. I felt him crying out ... did I feel the Force?

* * * * *

My Master is wise, but I do not think he understood what he was doing when he ordered me to take Padmé home to Naboo. We did not have to take a bulk cruiser this time as refugees. We had separate cabins on the diplomatic corvette, mine adjacent to hers, so that I could continue to protect her. We spent the time together, silently at first.

Before we entered the execution arena on Geonosis, she told me she loved me. I had resolved to die for her, making sure she was protected. But knowing she loved me ... hearing her declaration ... it changed my resolved, altered my mission. I would live, so I could live with Padmé!

I had bared my love for her, it clouded my judgement, and Obi-Wan had seen it. He protected me when she fell out of the gunship, forcing me to do my duty. His action kept me from being punished or expelled by the Council. I'd lost my arm fighting Count Dooku; that probably saved me from expulsion, too.

She asked to see my prosthetic arm. She touches it, asking if I could feel her. I told her it would take some time to be fully functional, but that I was healing well ... in my mind, I longed to cry out that I could feel her anywhere, any time, whether she touches me ... or not ...

I joked that C3PO and I could swap components if need be. To my surprise, tears sprang in Padmé's eyes and she cried that it was all her fault that I was now part machine. I held her close ... I told her that I liked machines more than humans. She cried even harder.

I'm so stupid. She's human, isn't she? And I love her ... I love her more than anything or anyone. I told her so. I apologized ... I didn't mean that I didn't love her best. I talked calmly, letting my heart pour out, letting her know that my heart would forever belong to her, and that I would do anything for her. I told her how it broke my heart to be unwhole for her, to have to leave her and say goodbye once we arrived at the palace on Naboo.

I asked her to take C3PO, to take care of him. "A Jedi has no possessions," I joked. I explained that I can't keep him. But I had made him, he belonged to my mother, and I can't sell him. He's my creation, it's my responsibility to make sure he is okay. Would she keep him for me? Would she remember me when she used him?

Those brown, luminous eyes, rimmed with the wetness of tears, stared up at me. Her lips parted and her breathing grew shallow. My heart ached. If I succumbed, it would be much more painful to leave her!

I told her I can't ... how had she put it that night? "We live in a real world, come back to it."

* * * * *

Anakin is so cruel ... he threw my words back at me! I had told him when we first arrived at Varykino that we can't live like lovers, we need to be realistic about our lots in life. But that was before I understood death and dying. I don't want to continue dying. I want to live ... and these past few days have taught me that I needed to live through and with Anakin Skywalker.

For so many years, I served those around me. It was a noble thing, something I was brought up to do. But it was also a convenient excuse to avoid the emptiness in my life. Yes, I served and bettered the lot of others, but at the sacrifice to my own soul. I had never seen it that way before. Is sacrificing yourself worth the cost?

With Anakin, I have been filled, and I can't bear the thought of being empty again. I want to remain whole. As confirmation, for every parsec closer to Naboo we become, the more my soul drains from me. I can feel myself becoming more of a shell. I tell him so.

He looks at me with those deep, soulful eyes. I hold my breath, afraid of what he might do; terrified of what he might not do.

Then my heart stops, as he gently presses his lips to mine.

* * * * *

I'm kissing her. Now and forever, I have the right, the power, to kiss her. Anything that came before, anything that comes in the future, we belong to each other.

My heart is bound to this woman, now and forever. My heart is free.

I hear the holy man utter the words. The 'droids are our only witnesses. We uttered the vows, declared our promises ... I will never love another ...

* * * * *

It's like my girlish dreams. We're on the terrace. I'm wearing the dress and veil I designed in my heart so many years ago. It's not something a former Queen or a current Senator would wear. It's something old-fashioned. It's the essence of who I am, if only I had taken the time to listen.

The holy man here before us is the same man who helped me bury Qui-Gon Jinn, ten long years ago. And today, he buries my guilt and torment, my loneliness, my doubts.

I am Padmé Skywalker. My husband can no longer be a Jedi, for he is attached. He has possessions. He has me.

He is not a Jedi any longer, but merely a gentleman. And that is enough for me.

Disclaimer: All content is made up, and no profit or lucre is expected, solicited, advocated or paid. This is all just for fun. Any comments, please e-mail the author or WOOKIEEhut directly. Flames will be ignored. Characters and situations are based on those which are the property of LucasFilms Ltd., Bantam Publishing, Random House, and their respective original owners and developers. The rest is this story's author's own fault. This story may not be posted anywhere without the author's knowledge, consent, and permission. This story is presented by