It had only been two weeks since he'd moved in, but already Padmé's new neighbor had apparently decided he was in love with her. It was her own fault, really. Her family had invited Anakin and his mother over for dinner on their second night in the neighborhood, and Anakin had immediately attached himself to Padmé. From her vastly older and more mature fourteen-year-old's perspective, the nine-year-old boy had seemed absolutely adorable, which was why at the time she hadn't had the foresight to nip his obsession in the bud.
So now here she was, walking to school with Sabé and Dormé when suddenly a little voice behind them called, "Hey, Padmé! Wait up!"
"Oh, look, it's your boyfriend," Sabé teased under her breath, making Dormé laugh and Padmé scowl.
But she put on a smile instead as she turned to see Anakin trotting down the sidewalk to catch up with them; as annoying as her friends' teasing was, she didn't want to give the poor boy a death glare when he just wanted to say hello. After all, he was new in town and probably hadn't made many friends at the elementary school yet, so it was perfectly understandable for him to latch onto one of the only people he knew so far. Even if Padmé maybe wished he wouldn't latch quite so tightly.
"Hi, Ani," she said when he reached them. "Where's your mom?" Shmi usually walked Anakin to school every morning.
"She said I could walk by myself today," he said proudly.
Padmé raised her eyebrows. "Really?"
"Well…as long as I caught up with you guys and walked with you," Anakin amended, looking sheepish.
Padmé heard either Sabé or Dormé heave an annoyed sigh behind her, but she just smiled politely at him. The elementary school was on the way to the high school. "Okay, then. Let's go."
They set off, Sabé and Dormé walking slightly ahead as Anakin chattered on to Padmé about a whole host of things she couldn't entirely keep track of; he changed topics at lightning speed. She just ended up nodding along and interjecting the occasional noncommittal remark when he paused for breath.
Padmé looked over and saw that Anakin had stopped his prattling and was now looking at her nervously. "Yes?" she asked, wondering what had caused his sudden change in attitude.
He took a deep breath, then said, "Will you marry me someday?"
Padmé gaped at him and heard Sabé and Dormé snickering in the background; even in her flabbergasted state, she still had enough compassion to hope Anakin didn't hear them and have his feelings hurt. "I, uh—that's—" she stammered, trying to come up with a rejection that was kind but thorough. "It's very nice of you to ask, but we're a little young to get married, Ani."
"I know. That's why I said someday," he said matter-of-factly, and Padmé had to give him credit for covering all his bases.
"Well, why don't you ask me again someday, then?" she suggested. "I'll have a better idea of what my answer will be when we're older. Much older."
"How much older?"
"I don't know. Like, thirty."
Anakin furrowed his brow, considering the situation. "So I can ask you to marry me again when you're thirty?" he said after a moment.
"Sure," Padmé said, figuring he'd forget all about it within a month. "That sounds like a good idea."
"Okay," Anakin said brightly, and he promptly launched into another spiel about the science project he was doing on the solar system; true to his word, he didn't mention marrying her again after that. Although Padmé's friends hardly let her hear the end of it for the rest of the year.
13 Years Later
A Christmas party was the last place Padmé wanted to be the night before a huge job interview at Coruscant city hall, but she'd promised Satine weeks ago she'd be there and would've felt guilty for bailing at the last second. She'd therefore spent the last two hours standing awkwardly in the corner of Satine and her boyfriend's apartment, sipping nothing but water as she watched the rest of the guests get plastered, and trying not to think about how much extra interview preparation she could've squeezed in had she stayed home.
"Padmé?" said an incredulous voice.
Padmé looked around and was puzzled to see an extremely attractive man goggling at her. "Sorry, do I know you?" she asked politely.
"I'm Anakin," he said, still looking stunned. "Anakin Skywalker. Me and my mom used to live next door to your family?"
Now it was Padmé's turn to goggle. Anakin Skywalker? The little boy who'd always trail after her like a lovesick puppy? "Oh! I-I'm sorry, I didn't even recognize you," she said, inexplicably flustered. He was definitely not a little boy anymore; he towered over her, muscular and broad-shouldered, his tousled hair falling nearly to his shoulders. It was darker than it used to be, she thought. The Anakin she remembered had sunny blond hair, but now it was nearly brown.
Anakin smiled, though he seemed a little flustered too. "Yeah, it's been a while," he agreed. "I moved away…what, ten years ago?"
"Something like that."
"It was when my mom and Cliegg got married, and I was twelve then, so yeah, ten years," Anakin said, almost to himself.
"So you're twenty-two?" Padmé said, doing the mental math. "Are you in college?"
"Just finished last May," he replied. "I'm on the Coruscant police force now."
"Really? Obi-Wan works there too, I think."
Anakin nodded. "He's my partner, actually. That's why I got invited to this party. You?"
"Satine and I were roommates in college," Padmé said. "She's the one who helped get me my interview at city hall tomorrow morning." That wasn't strictly relevant to Anakin's question, but she couldn't get the interview out of her mind, she was so nervous.
"Tomorrow morning?" Anakin echoed, looking surprised. "And you're out partying?"
"Trust me, I wouldn't be here if I hadn't already promised Satine," Padmé said, chuckling. "I don't even celebrate Christmas anyway."
Anakin laughed too. "Oh yeah, you're Jewish, right?"
"Yes," she said, feeling an odd warmth in her heart at the thought that he still remembered that after ten years.
"So what's your interview for?" he asked a moment later.
"Deputy mayor," Padmé said, unable to keep excitement out of her tone. "I've been trying to break into politics since college, but this is my first really great opportunity."
"That's amazing," Anakin said, smiling. "I hope you get the job. I'm sure you will if the people interviewing you have any common sense."
Padmé ducked her head to hide a smile, feeling her cheeks turn a little pink. "Thank you," she murmured. Why was such a simple compliment affecting her so strongly? She'd known Anakin since they were kids. Except that she hadn't, really; she'd only known him for three years before he'd moved away again and she hadn't seen or heard from him since then. And now here he was, standing in front of her like a completely different person. Except for the clear blue eyes and boyish energy, those were the same.
"You've changed so much," she said next, voicing her thoughts.
"You haven't changed a bit," Anakin replied.
"Really? I'd like to think I'm at least a little different at age twenty-seven than I was at seventeen," Padmé said dryly.
Anakin blushed slightly, endearingly embarrassed. "I just meant, I recognized you the second I walked in here and saw you," he explained. "I knew it was you right away."
"So I look exactly the same as I did ten years ago? I'm not sure if that's flattering or insulting."
"Not exactly the same. You're even more beautiful now."
As soon as the words left his mouth, Anakin turned even redder and winced a little, clearly internally berating himself for the slip, but Padmé just smiled in delight and…was she imagining things, or were there butterflies in her stomach? "Thank you. And you're much more handsome than you were when you were twelve," she said jokingly to make him feel better.
Anakin gave her a grateful smile, his cheeks gradually fading back to their normal color. "Thanks."
Just then Padmé felt her phone vibrate in her pocket; pulling it out, she saw that the alarm she'd set before the party for ten o'clock was going off. She quickly silenced it and turned back to Anakin. "I promised myself I'd leave at ten so I can head home and try to get a good night's sleep before my interview," she said apologetically. "Except I'll probably be too nervous to sleep at all."
"Good luck tomorrow. You'll do great," he said. Then he laughed a little. "I still can't believe we ran into each other again after all these years."
Padmé joined in his laughter. "I know, it's crazy. But I'm so glad we did," she added, almost a bit shyly."It was really nice catching up with you a little."
"You too." Anakin paused, looking nervous, then said in a rush, "Maybe we could get coffee or something next weekend and catch up some more? If you want?"
Padmé beamed at him, feeling the butterflies return. "I would love to."
3 Years Later
Padmé awoke to sunlight streaming in through the curtains, and she stretched contentedly and yawned. It was always nice to wake up after the sun on weekends since during the week she had to get up early enough to have time to get ready and be at city hall by eight.
"Happy birthday, Padmé."
She rolled over and came face-to-face with Anakin, who was still burrowed under a comically large number of blankets; he got cold easily, not to mention that he always slept shirtless even in February. Something about his skin needing to breathe, though Padmé personally didn't see how his skin could breathe if it was smothered under a thousand blankets anyway.
She scooched closer and snuggled against his bare chest, smiling as his arms wrapped around her; despite her constant nagging him to put on a damn shirt if he was cold, she did like being able to take advantage of his body heat like this. "Thanks," she said. "But technically it's not my birthday for a few more hours." Padmé had been born at three twenty-six in the afternoon and she made sure to take note of the precise moment of her birth every year, which Anakin always whined was unfair since he'd been born at four in the morning and usually slept through it.
He rolled his eyes and kissed her on the nose. "I take it back, then. Unhappy birthday."
"Shut up," Padmé said, laughing. She tilted her head up for a deeper kiss, and Anakin eagerly indulged her.
They kissed lazily for several long minutes, and then Anakin shifted so that she was on her back and he was kneeling over her. Padmé broke the kiss with a soft gasp as his hand slipped under her nightgown. "I thought last night tired you out," she said, closing her eyes and sighing as his hand wandered further.
"As if I could ever get tired of you," he murmured, brushing his lips against her neck.
"You said you didn't think you'd ever be able to walk again and fell asleep about ten seconds later."
"True. But I was being overdramatic."
"You? Overdramatic? Never."
Anakin stuck his tongue out at her and Padmé snickered. "Anyway, I rested up and am now full of energy again," he continued. "Besides, what kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn't try to give my girlfriend the most mind-blowing birthday present of her life?"
"Try? You'd better succeed after talking it up so much."
"Oh, trust me, I will."
And luckily for Padmé, Anakin had never been one to fail to deliver on a promise.
Once they finally made it out of bed and into the kitchen, Anakin ordered her to sit down and not lift a finger as he whipped up some birthday pancakes, and Padmé was only too happy to oblige. She was a terrible cook. After breakfast, Padmé was showered with gifts and did her best to protest at how many there were (every year she insisted she didn't want anything, every year Anakin ignored her, every year Padmé pretended to be annoyed at him for going to so much unnecessary trouble, and every year Anakin knew she was secretly thrilled).
Then they cuddled on the couch talking and exchanging the occasional kiss until three twenty-three, at which point Anakin excused himself and disappeared back into the bedroom. He returned at three twenty-five with his hands behind his back. "What have you got there?" Padmé asked.
"One last present."
She frowned. "Anakin, come on, you got me way too much already."
"Trust me, you'll like this one," Anakin said rather mysteriously; his face was full of barely suppressed excitement, though Padmé thought she also detected some nervousness there. With one hand still carefully hidden behind his back, he used the other to tug her off the couch and over to stand in front of him.
Padmé only had to wonder what his game was for a few more seconds: as soon as the clock changed to three twenty-six, Anakin got down on one knee and brought his hand out to reveal a small box with a ring inside. Padmé gave a tiny shriek, which she would be quite embarrassed to recall later though at the time embarrassment couldn't have been further from her mind. "Oh, Ani," she said, tears immediately welling up in her eyes as her heart did several backflips.
Anakin held the ring out to her and took her hand with his free one. "Sixteen years ago, a nine-year-old boy with a huge crush asked a fourteen-year-old girl to marry him," he began, grinning through his own tears. "And rather than making fun of him like anyone else would've done, the girl kindly told him to ask again when she was thirty. So now that it's three twenty-six on February eighteenth and you're officially thirty years old, I'm going to ask you again. Padmé, will you marry me?"
Padmé burst into tears and laughter at the same time and ended up making some truly horrid sounds, though Anakin would later insist she had never been more beautiful. "Yes," she sobbed. "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!"
Beaming, Anakin stood back up and Padmé threw her arms around him, and they were clinging to each other and laughing and crying and getting tears and snot all over each other and sharing the messiest kiss of their lives. "I love you so much, Padmé," Anakin said, resting his forehead against hers and looking more overjoyed than she'd ever seen him.
Padmé was smiling so wide the muscles in her face were starting to hurt. "I love you so much too."
Anakin slid the ring onto her finger and Padmé held her hand up to admire it for a few moments. Then she started to laugh again. "I can't believe you remembered your first proposal," she said. "I'd completely forgotten. That was sixteen years ago, Ani. You were nine."
"In all honesty, I'd forgotten about it too," he confessed. "But then I was helping my mom clean out the attic last year and I found my journal from middle school—"
"You kept a diary in middle school?" Padmé interrupted in incredulous delight. "I need to see it."
"It's not a diary, it's a journal," Anakin protested, blushing. "And it's still in my mom and Cliegg's attic, so next time we're there you can go up and look at it to your heart's content."
"Oh my God, I can't wait."
"Anyway, as I was saying, when I was looking through it I found an entry from the day my mom said we were moving again. I was talking about how mad I was and how much I was going to miss all my friends—meaning Kitster, basically—but then I mentioned you," Anakin said. "The last line of that entry was, 'How will I be able to ask Padmé to marry me when she's thirty if I've moved away and don't know where she is anymore?' And once I read that, the memory came back to me so clearly and I decided then and there that I was going to propose on your thirtieth birthday."
"So you decided a year in advance to propose to me on the day I told you to do it sixteen years ago?" Padmé shook her head, grinning. "And I always thought I was the only one of us who planned things ahead of time."
Anakin laughed. "Well, I'm glad I can still surprise you after three years together."
They soon called their families to share the news, then plotted when to tell all their friends (Obi-Wan and Satine would be the first to know, of course). It was during this vein of conversation that Padmé suddenly said, "Oh no. Remember how much shit Sabé and Dormé gave me when I first told them I was dating that little kid who used to follow us around all the time because he was obsessed with me?"
"Leave me alone, I was only nine," Anakin complained. "But yes, I do remember how much shit they gave you."
"Yeah, they're never going to let me live this down."