But she couldn’t bring herself to say anything before Cordé automatically got up and pressed the button, and the image of Jamilla appeared. “So,” she said with enforced cheerfullness, “how’d the reunion go?”
“It didn’t,” said Padmé. “Gunray’s a coward, always has been, always will be. He sent the Archduke in his stead, with apologies. I don’t even remember what excuse he made, it was obvious a false one.” But at least with Gunray she could’ve probably gotten what she wanted out of him. Archduke Poggle was made of harder stuff, literally as well as figuratively, and in the end she’d been forced to insist she had to talk to Gunray before making any agreements.
“Maybe you should try to meet with the Settlement Officer instead,” the Queen suggested. “Rune Haako’s a coward too, but he usually doesn’t run before a meeting. Though he actually does have the ability to negotiate, so look out for that.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” said Padmé, but at that moment, she didn’t want to ever look at another Neimodian face again. Or another Geonosian face for that matter.
“I know,” said the Queen, sounding genuinely sympathetic, but Padmé fought back the urge to demand how much time she actual had spent with the Confederate heads. She’d apparently communicated mainly with Count Dooku, who was much more pleasant company. “Did you at least get that other reunion too? I understand Dooku’s general and his padawan learner got back to Geonosis yesterday.”
And then Padmé had to smile . “Yes,” she said. “I did.” Sweet stars, it had been good to see them both again. Her great solace here were Dooku’s followers, meeting with them always wiped the dirt from her mind and made her feel clean and whole again, and those two familiar faces, though she never had gotten to know Obi-Wan Kenobi all that well(“Not as well as you did,” she had once giggled to Sabé), had been the highlight of her stay on Geonosis so far.
But even there she felt a painful tug to her heart when she thought about seeing Anakin for the first time in ten years. Gone was the little child with the friendly if somewhat worn face; in his face, a tall and handsome young man with a strange look of pain in his eyes. She’d said something about him always been that little boy to her, but she’d more wished than believed that.
“What were they like?” Jamilla was asking. “I’ve never met either of them, you know.”
“Good men,” said Padmé. “Very kind-faced, and that’s something I haven’t seen much of since going to the Senate. Really did listen to everything I had to say. Powerful, though; you could tell just by looking at them.” That was actually more a description of Kenobi than of Anakin. But she didn’t have words for what she’d thought when she’d looked at the latter, at least not words she would say to anybody.
“Glad to hear it. Let me know if you can get an appointment with Haako, okay? I can get some word from old Sio Bibble about how to talk to him.”
“Good. I will. Goodnight, Your Highness.”
“Goodnight.” The hologram flickered off. Padmé went to her window, where evening was starting to fall. The Geonosisian evening was darkish and dull, not like the beauty of the Naboo or even Coruscant twilight.
Outside she could hear vague buzzing; locals walking and/or flying by in groups, full of conversation. It made her feel lonely, even though her handmaidens were there.
Maybe they saw it, because Dormé said, “Milady, would you like to invite Anakin Skywalker over for some company tonight? I believe he’s free, and the two of you might enjoy being able to sit down and fully catch up.”
Padmé wanted to say yes, absolutely; her heart leapt at the thought. But something also twisted in her stomach, the slowly growing fear that there was more pain in seeing Anakin too, because something was lost between them, now, with him bound by the detachment Jedi seemed to have from everybody, however warm and kind they might be.
“I think he would appreciate it too, milady,” Versé spoke up. “I saw how he was looking at you when we left. He wants to see more of you.”
Versé’s perceptiveness had been growing by the day here, and Padmé’s trust in her judgement had grown absolute. “All right,” she said. “We’ve got enough here to feed him, I believe; let's invite him to lastmeal.”
Her heart was pounding nearly out of her ribs as she commed him; it was a relief when she discovered he wasn’t receiving live transmissions at the moment and she could just send a message. It pounded even harder when the panel beeped a few minutes later with his response; he accepted, and at the suggested time. But that was nothing compared to the way she felt her blood pound all throughout her body when a little more than an hour later, the door chime sounded.
Then he was before her, letting his dark hood down to reveal that burnished face, bright blue eyes much softer than they had been at that first meeting, but they were still on fire, and he said her name softly, but it was so loaded it scorched Padmé. And she felt heat run down, from her chest down to below her stomach, and she no longer had any doubt of what she wanted, but surely she couldn’t, not when he’d known her as a little boy.
The air around them felt charged as an ion storm, though, and Cordé’s voice was timid as she asked, “May I take your cloak, Master Jedi?” As he handed it to her, she added, “Lastmeal can be on the table in two minutes, and then, milady, would you like some privacy?”
Padmé wanted to say no; it felt dangerous to be left alone with this man when she wanted him as badly as she did. But she knew it would be awkward trying to talk to him freely with the handmaidens there, and he might even get offended if she didn’t show the trust in him; she’d had more than one confederate leader get mad at her recently because of that(not that they had gotten rid of the handmaidens that way, since them she genuinely didn’t trust). So she hesitantly nodded.
The table was set in less than two minutes, and they and the handmaidens bid each other good night, and Padmé swore she saw Cordé wink at her just before she left. Thankfully it had been more than enough time to think of something to say then: “I must say, it’s nice to have a guest with similar taste buds to mine. Last time I entertained here in my quarters I had to provide two platefuls of these ghastly slithering black things. My kitchen stunk for a week afterwards.”
“Let me guess,” said Anakin, “Shu Mai?”
“Yes,” said Padmé. “We had a female to female conversation.” At least that was what the Presidente had called it, though it really hadn’t been much different from most of the meetings Padmé had endured with Naboo’s new allies.
“Sounds like her,” said Anakin as they sat down and Padmé stuck her fork in. “When we met her, she was very smarmy with Obi-Wan. We spent an hour on what was supposed to be a quick introduction, until he finally claimed Master Dooku needed him to...I believe his exact words were ‘sort out his purchases from Asation.’”
That couldn’t help but make Padmé laugh, though afterwards she had to say, “That’s not good though; there’s no way she fell for that.”
“No, but she still had to let us go. Did you have trouble getting rid of her?”
“Well I’d agreed to put up with her for three whole hours, and I think I managed to wear her out in less time. Lately I’ve learned to talk very rapidly about complete nonsense; I’ve discovered it’s a useful skill to have around here.” Now it was Anakin’s turn to laugh, and they were both relaxing.
They didn’t have any trouble after that for the next couple of hours. Swapping stories about their latest adventures eventually led to more stories about his and Obi-Wan’s earliest days with Dooku and his other followers, before the Seperatist movement had really gotten off the ground. He especially wowed her with stories of the beauty of Serenno, which he offered to escort her to and around if there was ever the opportunity.
They had done eating and were lounging in her living area by the time they got to how things had been for her the last ten years, she talked about forming permanent relations with the Gunguns and the lengthy recovery from the invasion, how Naboo had been intensely angered by the interference the Republic had run and how that had begun the discontent that Separatist ideals had set afire, and about her two years in the Senate and how miserable those had been. “I grow more and more tired of politics,” she said, head sagging as she spoke. “I’ve been tempted to announce my retirement and leave all this to someone else, but then I look at what’s going on and I feel like I can’t turn my back.”
“It must be hard,” said Anakin softly. “Spending all your time with people so antithetical to everything you are.”
That was a pretty strong thing to say, but it wasn’t unlike what Padmé sometimes thought herself. “I’m glad for the Jedi, though,” she said. “I feel like I can trust you.”
“You can always trust me, Padmé,” he said. “I’ll always be here for you.”
That was definitely a funny thing for him to say, and it caused her to look up and at him. The intensity with which he was looking at her shocked her, and brought out the twisting of her stomach again, only this time it was so strong it made her whole body grow hot and achy with want.
They were just close enough to each other he was able to reach out and seize her hand; he gripped it so tight she feared blood loss. When he spoke again is was in a low, driving voice, the words tumbling out of him. “For the past ten years there hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought about you. Seeing you again earlier today, I felt as if I was being intoxicated. Sitting with you now, it’s...I’m in torment. You make me feel like I’ve never ever felt.”
Padmé opened her mouth to stop him, because there were a thousand reasons this wasn’t a good idea. This wasn’t even entirely Anakin that was making her feel like this; she recognized her own desperation in it too. But all that came out was “Ani...”
Hearing that old nickname just spurred him further, with the speed of a Jedi he was out of his chair and on his knee before her, holding himself just enough for them to be eye level. His hand was still crushing hers. “I hate seeing you like this,” he said. “It’s terrible pain to see you so unhappy. Please, let me do something.”
“Are you even allowed to do this?” she blurted out. If he was, she knew, that was it; she’d be out of ability to resist.
“I wouldn’t have been in the Republic,” he said. “They’re so afraid of attachment over there they probably would’ve even insisted I let my mother stay in slavery. But Master Dooku knows better. He and Obi-Wan have warned me to be careful, but surely noone could ask me to walk away from you when I see you like this.”
He was now inches from her face, and there hovered another moment that felt like an eternity. Then his lips ghosted across her.
That was about when Padmé lost her mind, grabbed his tunics with her free hand and hauling him into her, and he went eagerly, pressing his strong hard body against her and fueling her frenzy as she mauled his mouth; him giving way to her even as he claimed her, curling into the shape she bent him into, ready to let her take whatever she wanted.
She thought about how far away the bedroom was, and knew they weren’t going to make it there. She was going to throw him onto the floor.