By Izzy

“I’ve failed you, your highness...”

“No...” Padmé didn’t know what her denial was more of, of Cordé’s supposed failure, or of Cordé’s death, even as the latter happened in her arms, her body going limp.

Then a pair of arms were around her, urging her up. “Padmé," Anakin's voice was tender, but urgent. "We can’t stay. It’s still dangerous.”

“I...” Padmé started to protest.

“You don’t want her to have died in vain, do you? She’s done her duty, you know that.”

She gave in. Anakin had already flagged down an air taxi. He guided her to it and planted her down as a dead weight. She didn’t even protest when he took her into his arms. Under these circumstances, the captain of a Senator’s security comforting her for the loss of so many people, including two of her handmaidens, could hardly seem remarkable anyway.

It wasn’t that their marriage was a secret. A married Senator was certainly tolerated. But many on Naboo disapproved of her having such a commitment, and Padmé didn’t wanted to push their luck, and so she insisted on complete decorum in public.

“You’ll still vote against the Military Creation Act, won’t you?” he noted. “Even after the Separatists attacked you.”

“You think this was the Separatists?” she asked, somehow not surprised.

“Well, it clearly was someone who didn’t know much about Naboo custom,” he argued. “Otherwise they would have known you were likely to use a decoy.”

“Hardly,” she replied. “They would probably have expected me to pose as a handmaiden, and then I would have been killed anyway. That is, if they expected me to worried at all. Why would they want to attack me in the first place? Why not one of the pro-Military Senators? And there actually is that question, too.”

“Well then, who do you think was responsible?”

“Someone who wanted the Act approved,” Padmé said without hesitation. “They would get me out of the way, and capitalize on my murder, which everyone, like you, would assume to have been done by the Separatists. A few stirring speeches, enough fear really, and it’ll fly through the Senate.”

“Padmé,” Anakin started, “you know perfectly well things aren’t always that convenient...”

“In fact,” she interrupted him, “we’re going to go to my place, stop long enough for me to get my face back on, and then we’re going straight to the Senate Building. I’m not going to let them get away with this.”

“It isn’t safe...”

“I don’t care!” Anakin shut up immediately when he heard that tone of voice.

Until she had come into her quarters and Dormé had descended onto her with a little scream. “Milady! Thank all the old gods! I heard you were dead!”

“It wasn’t for lack of trying,” Anakin told her grimly. “We only survived because we were in the fighter escorts. Everyone on board ship was killed.”

Dormé paled. “Including Cordé and Versé?”

“I’m sorry,” said Padmé, and moved to comfort her one remaining handmaiden, but there was a rush of footsteps, and suddenly she found herself wrapped in whimpering Gungun as a voice squealed in her ear: “Yousa okiedokie! Yousa okiedokie! Mesa bein’ so scared...”

“It’s okay, Jar Jar,” she said, gently extracting herself from his embrace. “I’m fine.” She looked him over, noted his haphazard appearance. “Get yourself in order; we’re going to Senate. Anakin, could you help him out?”

“Sure thing,” said Anakin, a fresh security uniform already thrown over his own shoulders, and led Jar Jar into the fresher, leaving the ladies the privacy of the bedroom.

Changing took longer with only Dormé to help her. It drove home to both that Cordé and Versé were dead. By the time Dormé was slipping into her own Senate robes, she was wiping tears off her face. Padmé somehow felt herself beyond tears at the moment.

Until Anakin and Jar Jar emerged from the fresher, and Dormé quietly escorted the latter out of the room, leaving husband and wife alone for a moment, the only way they could properly be husband and wife.

Immediately they were holding each other, tighter than they would have dared in the taxi, Padmé burying her face in the side of Anakin’s neck, whispering “Ani...” softly into his hair, something she never called him in the presence of others now, not even her handmaidens. This was their private place, the only one in a galaxy which kept a relentless gaze on her, and him with her, one they could reach only in spare moments like this.

“Milady?” They broke hastily apart as Dormé came back in, knowingly taking her time with pushing aside the garments that hung across the end of the corridor. “It’s time to go.”