Sleeping Hours
By Izzy

The ship on which Padmé Amidala and Barriss Offee were traveling to Naboo together was better off than many refugee ships. There was no worry about food supplies, and the refugees were not so crowded in as they were in some of the footage she'd seen. Anakin might have looked for a while to find this ship for them.

They hadn't specifically intended to pose as a lesbian couple. Anakin probably wouldn't have agreed to it if they had. But when everyone on the refugee ship who talked to them promptly assumed they were one, they'd just let them until it was established fact.

One person had been overheard muttering, "How'd a Mirialan get someone like her?" Both women had tried to ignore that.

At any rate, it did give Padmé an excuse to curl up close to her Jedi protector during their sleeping hours, and her strange aura which was so much like Anakin's, and could help ease the ache of missing her husband so much. There weren't regular sleeping hours on the refugee ship; food was distributed at certain times, but noone on the ship was bothering to adjust their internal clocks otherwise. The two young women, meanwhile, slept surrounded by a large group of Aqualish, none of whom slept according to Standard Time, so it was not unusual for them to be surrounded by empty beds.

It wasn't unusual either for Padmé to wake as she did now, to find Barriss lying awake next to her, having apparently never slept. It wasn't that she didn't sleep at all; Padmé had seen her asleep. But she didn't seem to care to do so very often.

There was something about her cool neutral expression that was mildly provoking, and Padmé asked, "If I came on to you right now, what would you do?"

"Urge you to consider what you were about," replied the padawan calmly. "You would not want to do that to your husband."

"Pretend I wasn't married," she added, more irritated.

"I do not tell lies to myself."

"No, I'm not asking what you would do if I told you to pretend I wasn't married. I'm asking what you'd do if I really wasn't, and I came on to you."

Barris sounded almost condescending as she replied, "I would make certain you were sincere, and that you understood there could be no attachment, then indulge you."

"Just like that?" Padmé asked. "Whether you wanted to or not?"

"As to that, I think I should enjoy it." Spoken in the same tone she'd been using this entire conversation. Did nothing faze this woman? This attitude had driven Padmé crazy when it had been coming from the late Master Qui-Gon Jinn, but coming from a girl barely older than Anakin, it was harder to deal with still.

And now she was saying, "You do seem to have an odd fascination with me. Of course, I suppose I should expect that." Was that just a little life creeping into her voice, or was Padmé imagining it?

"I'm just thinking that my husband could have been you," she explained. "He nearly joined the Order ten years ago, you know."

"Yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi told us that story."

"And what do you think of it? Be honest, please."

"I don't know what Anakin was like ten years ago, but having met him now, I don't think he's at all suited to be a Jedi." Perfectly frank, at least. But maybe only because Padmé had asked for it. "In fact, your marriage concerns me."

"Concerns you? Why?" That actually was interesting. Not that Padmé was assuming her answer would have any merit. It might, but it might not.

"His possessiveness." For a moment she stopped, and she then muttered, "I'm judging too much."

"No, go on," Padmé urged her. This sounded legitimate.

"The entire time the three of us were in each other's company," she continued to speak without much emotion, maybe some distaste, "he hung over you like you were some sort of valuable jewel which would slip through his fingers if he didn't keep a hold on it at all times. I wondered if he let you breath without his approval."

"His approval?" Padmé repeated incredulously. "You speak as if he was the senator!" The idea of Anakin having such authority over her was absurd.

"No, he's your over-zealous captain of security, and I genuinely do worry about conflict of interest."

Padmé did see her point there. She also saw a suddenly irony; for the past two years she'd worried about having too much power of Anakin, and constantly watched her behavior around him for that reason. Did they in fact have the opposite problem?

"I have had to shout him down sometimes," she contemplated out loud. "He didn't even want me going back to Coruscant for the vote, though he knew better than to seriously suggest I don't. It is upsetting sometimes, and I do think he's over-protective of me." But then, she hadn't wanted to flee to Naboo, so of course she thought that.

"Yet you are willing to accept it," said Barriss. She now looked curious; Padmé was shamefully smug about finally getting a response out of her.

"That's what being in a relationship is about," she explained, pleased further that she was capable of educating a Jedi, for all their supposed wisdom. "It's not unlike diplomacy that way. Noone ever gets anything to be exactly as they want it to be, so they make agreements and exchanges, let go of what is less important so they can have what is more important. Perhaps the Jedi shouldn't isolate themselves from other people quite so much."

"We do what we must," said Barriss crossly, and Padmé regretted throwing in the barb.

Just then they heard Aqualish grunts, and both closed their eyes and lay still as footsteps came towards the beds. A pause, and then they heard the Aqualish walk away. They opened their eyes and Padmé looked up in time to see him glance at them, then turn his back.

"I think he just called us 'the two humans,'" Barriss commented.

"Well, why not?" laughed Padmé. "You're closer to Standard Human than I am."

When Barriss laughed in return, Padmé said, "Seriously, I've read about this. You actually are."

Barriss' smile faded; she looked shocked. And strangely hopeful. She gazed at Padmé with such raptness and confusion, a level of emotion that Padmé had never thought she'd see from her.

"I read about this," Padmé told her, marveling at how the padawan suddenly hung on her companion's words. "First of all, there's the genetic map shared by most humans in the galaxy-Standard Human. Then there are those who are still classed as same species, but are thought to basically be mutated variations. There are Wild Humans, who originate in Wild Space, and there's another subspecies called Japrael Humans which are common in parts of the Inner Rim, and a few subspecies centered on a specific planet, like the Lorrdians, and of course the Naboo, Grizmalt originally, where there are differences from the genetic pattern that have to be acknowledged, but, in theory, don't justify not classing them as human."

"And then there are all the official Near-Human races, who in theory are genetically different enough from human to be classed as another species. But if you look at the genetic patterns of the typical Standard Human, the typical Mirialan, and the typical Naboo, you will see fewer differences between the first two than between the first and the third."

"Then why..." Barriss started, then drifted off. If she was anything besides a Jedi padawan, Padmé would swear it was emotion that was keeping her from continuing.

"I don't know for sure, but my first guess?" She put her hand on the girl's cheek and ran her fingers along her green skin. "We looked liked humans and you didn't. Of course, even within most of the subspecies there are varying shades of tan and brown, but it seems five thousand years or so ago that wasn't enough to keep some so-called expert from looking and making a snap judgment."

Padmé watched her companion take a deep breath. She wondered how many things the girl had faced, even as a Jedi, because in the eyes of the galaxy she was not a member of the dominant species, while Padmé herself had effectively passed herself off as human and enjoyed never having to be the "other species" in the room.

"None of that should matter," she said at last. "I am a Jedi, and that should preclude all else. I think it often has, in people's eyes."

"But it hasn't always, has it?" Barriss shook her head. "I never thought for a moment, Padawan Offee, that you haven't been exposed to more of the universe's ugliness than I can even imagine, but I wonder sometimes if you can acknowledge it without somehow feeling ashamed that it exists. You Jedi hold yourself to such standards that even after spending your lives trying to make the galaxy better you still feel as if you've failed. I wonder how you stand it."

"By keeping my mind on the here and now, on the task at hand," the other replied, but this was obviously a repeated answer. Perhaps, Padmé thought, this young padawan simply didn't have an answer for her own just yet, and would get one later in life. Perhaps even Padmé's words would make her think. Padmé hoped so.