Taking the Opportunity
By Izzy

Anakin had never been a very good patient. Thankfully he had almost never gotten sick in his youth, despite the deprivation he had lived in as a child, but he had gotten injured a lot, and almost every time he did during his adolescence, the stories got back to Padmé about his terrible behavior, about how none of his fellow pilots wanted to be the one even checking up on him. She’d dealt with him herself for the first time after the battle of Geonosis, when he’d gone from snarling at anyone who got near him to whining about how he wanted to get up and there was a war going on and Padmé's life was still being threatened and he hated being stuck in bed.

When Padmé heard that Anakin was actually ill, she got back to Yavin IV as quickly as was possible without compromising her mission, but for the first time they’d started training Anakin as a Jedi and keeping him away from her, she wasn’t at all looking forward to seeing him.

“He’s very weak,” Obi-Wan told her as he ushered her into the Infirmary. “Don’t worry, we don’t think he’ll die, but he won’t be able to move from that bed for at least another month.”

“I would worry about that a lot,” Padmé replied. “Have either Luke or Leia been to see him?”

“Not yet. They’re both still on Ossus.”

They would come, of course. If Anakin was here another month, there probably would be time. Padmé hoped he wouldn't be too unkind to them.

There wasn’t much privacy in the Infirmary, but Anakin had been put in the bed by the far wall, and the bed next to it was empty. Padmé sat down next to it and watched while Anakin slept, reluctant to wake him just yet. She thought he would be able to tell she was here even through his sleep, and should wake up on his own.

She was right. She had only sat there a minute or so when Anakin opened his eyes, smiled when he saw her, and said, “I don’t suppose they have any better idea of when I’ll be out of here?”

“Sorry," she tried not to smile back, that might irritate him. "So how are you?”

“How do you think?” he grumbled. “I have been lying here either thirty-one days or thirty-two, or possibly thirty-three, since I’ve been drugged enough to lose track of time once or twice. Most of the time I’ve been so weak I’ve barely been able to breath; if you’d come here last week I wouldn’t have been able to talk to you. I’m still not sure what’s wrong with me. Obi-Wan tried to tell me but his explanation was sort of short. I guess this is something someone who grew up a Jedi would recognize, and he forgot that I didn’t....again.”

“Have you tried using your powers in some way?” Padmé suggested. “They aren’t affected by physical problems, are they?”

He groaned low. “Trying gives me a headache. I can still sense the Force, but even trying to pay much attention to it makes my head feel like it’s going to break.”

“But at least you can sense it.” Padmé had been given to understood it would be psychologically traumatic if he couldn’t.

“Yeah, big comfort.”

“Isn’t it?” She let herself sound chiding; she really was fairly certain it was. “You’re not taking that for granted are you?”

“Well," he replied petulantly, "it’s not doing me much good right now, is it?”

Padmé wasn’t sure what kind of response to this would be a good idea. She decided to change the subject instead. “What are Luke and Leia studying exactly on Ossus? Do you know?”

“Different things, I think. They’ve managed to rescue and store a lot of stuff on Ossus. I should be there with them.”

“What would you hope to be doing there?”

“I don’t know...something. Anything’s better than just lying here.” She was sure he wanted to be stomping around or waving his arms, and that he couldn't worsened his mood.

“What do you need to do?” She tried to sound casual. She couldn’t fool him, though. She saw in his eyes full understanding of how important the question was.

“I need...” He stopped. He looked up. Padmé carefully looked away, and hoped he’d be able to speak if he didn’t have her eyes bearing down on him.

“Obi-Wan says...” he started.

“I don’t care what Obi-Wan says,” Padmé cut him off. “I can hear about that from plenty of people if I asked them enough. I want to know what you can tell me.”

“I know I want too much.” Anakin was now speaking carefully, probably reasoning it out as he went along. “Part of it is that I always wanted this, all my life, without ever getting it, and then when I did...I keep wanting to grab for more, and more, and more. I could become the most powerful Jedi ever.”

“How much joy would you take in that power?” she asked him quietly. It was hard not to look back him, but she was more than a little afraid of what she would see if she did.

She was surprised when he answered immediately, but only for a split second before she comprehended what he said, “That would depend on whether or not I had to ability to bring back the dead.”

She looked over. She'd been imagining anger and impatience, but in him now she only saw sadness. “Your mother.” It was not a question.

“Sometimes I wish I’d just left her on Tatooine. Which is ridiculous; anything’s better than slavery. Even the kind of fate she suffered. And that’s why it’s a good thing I didn’t become a Jedi immediately, because then I think she would have stayed there. You can be shocked, but the more I learn about how the Jedi Order used to work, the more I become convinced of that. And then I wonder what kind of organization I’ve joined.”

“Do you want to walk away?” Padmé interrupted. “I’ll go to Mon Mothma and tell her we're refusing to work with the Jedi anymore if you want. I’ll go to Ossus and get Luke and Leia...” Briefly she wondered if the Jedi might even try to forecefully hold on to them; she remembered the infamous baby Ludi case from just before the Clone Wars. But Anakin's response rendered that irrelevant.

“No,” he said. “No, I can’t leave. I’ve come too far. And I’m greedy; I don’t want to give this up. I’m not even supposed to feel that way.”

Seeing and hearing his pain had been bad enough, but now she saw and heard his guilt and Padmé felt herself get fed up. “It’s starting to seem to me," she said angrily, " that you’re not even allowed to be human among the Jedi."

“I think that too." He spoke it as a simple matter of fact. "We’re supposed to be better than human. And I’m afraid of being that.”

“Excuse me?” Obi-Wan called from not far away enough a distance. A distance he was closing as he spoke. “He needs to sleep.”

Hotter anger flashed through Padmé, causing her to retort, “According to you.”

“Padmé, allow me to be blunt. You do not understand what is happening to him. I do.”

“No you don’t,” said Padmé, surprised how absolutely sure she was of that. “You’re right that I don’t, but you don’t either, so don’t pretend you do. I do know now he’s facing a struggle where I might not be able to help as much as I want to, but you’re wrong to make him shut me out.”

Obi-Wan just stood there, frozen in his tracks, as if he'd never imagined she'd dare speak to him like this. Padmé took advantage. “You’ve never listened to him, or me, any more than you had to, have you? You’ve kept us separate to weaken our position, ignored what we've said about it, dismissed our protests with false and empty words. Ever since Sheldi was weaned you’ve come up with excuses to keep me away from Khaleen even, because you know the two of us together can cause trouble. It’s bad enough that we have to fight the Empire, but we will have to fight each other as well if things don’t change.”

He opened his mouth, then closed it again. She pressed home. “I want to help you. I’m sure we both do, Anakin and me. And I don’t want to fight. I hate fighting. But even the most pacifist of people can only accept so much. Sometimes you have no other choice. You know that as well, I hope.”

Obi-Wan turned and walked away.

Padmé looked back at Anakin. He was grinning. When was the last time she had seen him smile and mean it? Months and months ago, maybe. Before his mother had died? Before she'd been kidnapped? “I love you,” he said.

“I know,” she replied, and touched his hand. She began to squeeze it, but it felt so fragile that she stopped.

That brought a reminder of their situation, and caused his grin to fade. “He’ll bring back Master Windu. And then you’ll probably want to be nicer to Obi-Wan. At least he means well.”

“I think they both mean well,” said Padmé. “That’s not the problem. Even those that mean well can be so set in their own views that they can do people great harm. Ani,” she suddenly became urgent, as their entire conversation reviewed itself in her head and left her almost shocked with a completely new dread, “promise me that whatever happens, you won’t become like them completely. I know you’re changing, I know there’s much about this that I don’t understand, but whatever happens, whoever you eventually choose to be, you will at least remember that there are other ways to view the galaxy. I taught you that once, when you were twelve. Promise me you’ll remember it.”

“I promise,” he said, and Padmé believe him, because if she hadn’t, he might not have been her husband any longer.