A/N: Okay, yes. This is another Jedi Padme story, BUT, it's a retired!Jedi Padme story… That's different, right? Anakin and Obi-wan are also retired as you'll find out. And I PROMISE this is a happy story. Plenty of fluff and smut ahead, my friends. Enjoy!
"Wasn't the show amazing?" Clovis asked excitedly, walking a few steps ahead without realising. Padme lingered behind him a little taking a deep breath. More and more she was beginning to realise accepting Senator Clovis' invitation to dinner and the opera tonight was a mistake. She should have said no but she just… She just couldn't. She was too lonely to reject any offered company even if a big part of her doesn't really want it.
In the distance, the former Jedi could see the soaring towers of the Jedi temple and pressed her lips tightly together. It didn't feel like home. It didn't call to her. But the empty void within her craved to return, not necessary to the Order to the temple, but to the past where she'd belonged there. Belonged somewhere.
"Yes, it was wonderful." Padme agreed quietly, tearing her eyes away from the temple. She did her best to sound happy because Clovis had been kind to her tonight and had tried his best to show her a nice time. He didn't deserve her to be trailing behind him moping. When he looked back at her over his shoulder, Padme made herself smile. He believed it. She felt terrible about it, this never-ending bad mood she's sunk into the past two years but all Padme wanted to do is go home to bed, away from Clovis and his chattering.
She was a terrible person.
By the mercy of the Force, they were just around the corner from the small apartment she was renting. The landlord was barely there and the neighbours were quiet and kept themselves to themselves. It was exactly what Padme needed. She wasn't exactly fond of community spirit these days. She was paid up for the next couple of months and then she could consider whether staying on Coruscant was the best option. Maybe leaving might make things better? There were so many reminders here. The temple, the Senate, the patrolling Jedi she'd see around the streets… It wasn't healthy for someone who was trying to forget.
Maybe she should go visit Dorme? Her old friend from the temple's medward had moved herself to Naboo after they'd retired from the Order and married a man there. From her letters, Dorme was blissfully happy and had just had a baby. She wasn't like Padme. She'd moved on and found herself something good. The idea seemed so foreign to Padme. Finding someone, letting go of the past, not waking up to nightmares of battle droids and Sith every night… Living. She didn't know how to do it anymore.
"Padme?" Clovis had stopped walking and the former Jedi almost walked right into him. It took a few moments longer than she'd care to admit to register that the Senator had asked her a question. Oh, Force…
"Yes. Yes, that'd be nice." She winced and hoped it was the answer he was looking for. From the way his face lit up, she supposed it was.
"Great! Well, there's a place just down the street I know. It's very nice." The direction he began to lead her down paired with his words told Padme she'd just agreed to have a drink with him and it took everything she had not to sigh loudly. When they arrived, Clovis was a gentleman and held the door open so she could step inside first. Things like that might have made her smile a few years ago, but now… She felt nothing.
Clovis wasn't lying when he'd said the place was nice. It was clearly expensive judging by the clothing of the beings inside. Everything was rich velvet and shimmering silks Padme's retirement credits could never afford. Orange and blue lights bathed everything in a strange, otherworldly glow that made her head ache and she wanted nothing more than to turn around and go home. She couldn't do that, though. It would be rude and cruel and worse, Clovis would take it with a smile. He was just nice like that. The last thing Padme wanted to do was hurt him.
But eventually, there wasn't going to be any other option and Padme knew it. She didn't want anything romantic between them. Or with anyone. But two months ago she'd made the stupid mistake of kissing Clovis after one of their not-a-date-dates. And then she'd slept with him. The moment she'd woken up the next day, she'd known it was a mistake. It couldn't be something they'd repeat. It wasn't fair. Padme was… She didn't want to take advantage of how willing he was to give her affection when there was nothing she could give in return. Clovis deserved better than that.
Still, that didn't stop Padme from seeing him once or twice a month for nights like these. Clovis was… Familiar. She didn't see very many familiar faces anymore and as selfish as it was, the loneliness inside her clung to him and didn't want to let go.
They ordered their drinks and found a high table with matching stools to perch themselves on. The place was filled to the brim with beings of almost every species and the noise was irritating. But then, it was Saturday night. Most normal people liked to be out and around people on the weekend.
"You know, I was thinking of going home for a few days next week. The view from my house is stunning… The snowy mountains will take your breath away, Padme. Would you like to accompany me?" Clovis asked, pulling her from her people-watching.
"Oh." She grimaced. "That's… That's lovely of you, Clovis, really. But I'm not really fond of wandering off-planet right now. I'm sorry." His face fell for a moment before returning to its normal happy expression. Padme didn't miss the heavy sadness in his eyes at her rejection though. She wished she had. Maybe it would be better to cut things off now before he fell any deeper and spare him worse hurt. This couldn't keep on. It was cruel. Steeling herself, the Jedi opened her mouth only to be interrupted.
"Padme?! Padme Naberrie?"
She would recognise that voice anywhere. The woman snapped her head around to see her old friend Obi-wan Kenobi just a few feet away. She hadn't seen him since she'd left the Order! A strange flush of happiness erupted through the former Jedi and she leapt off her stool to throw her arms around the older man. "Obi-wan!" The old friends embraced for a moment before pulling apart with matching smiles. "How have you been? It's been so long!"
"It has." The bearded man pressed a small, fond kiss to Padme's cheek. His beard and hair were more white than auburn now and she smirked. There'd always been jokes around the temple calling Obi-wan an old man long before his time. It seemed that time had finally come. "How have you been?"
Alone. Quiet. Constantly batting the feeling of drowning in her small apartment.
"I've been fine!" Her well-practised smile came upon her lips again and just like Clovis, Obi-wan accepted it without question mercifully. "What are you- "
It was only then Padme realised that Obi-wan wasn't alone and she'd have known that face anywhere. Just a step behind her friend stood Anakin Skywalker. Her breath caught in her throat. They'd never really met in all their years as Jedi together but she knew his story. He was the one who'd stopped Palpatine. He'd fulfilled his destiny as the Jedi's Chosen One and restored balance and peace to the galaxy. That kind of reputation preceded a person.
Both men were dressed rather sharply in civilian clothing and Padme couldn't shake the odd feeling the sight brought on. Of course, they wouldn't wear robes anymore. She didn't wear them either. None of the retired Jedi did.
Anakin met her eye with a lazy half-smile and Padme immediately looked away. It was a little intimidating to be around someone who'd quite literally saved the galaxy from darkness. When she found the will to look back up, he was still looking at her and this time, it was impossible to look away. His eyes were so blue… So light… Everything about him was light, not at all how she'd imagined. Not that Padme had ever spent any time thinking about him, that was.
A gentle cough from behind her drew her back to reality. Oh, right! Clovis! She'd almost forgotten all about him!
"Obi-wan, this is my… Friend, Senator Rush Clovis." Padme forced her smile again and gestured toward the man still sitting at their table. Really she wanted to wince at the knowing look both men gave her. She knew how this must look and hated it. Clovis stood and came to join the three former Jedi to shake Obi-wan's hand.
"It's a pleasure." The older Jedi smiled.
"No, it's all mine." Clovis nodded.
"Well," Obi-wan smiled over his shoulder at Anakin. "I'm sure you know this is Anakin Skywalker. Former poster-boy of the Republic."
This was obviously some kind of secret in-joke between the two because Obi-wan chuckled quietly to himself as Anakin rolled his eyes. He took Clovis' hand to shake while glaring at his friend. "Poster-man." Those blue eyes turned to Padme and she offered her hand. They may have been Jedi together but they'd never been formally introduced. She wasn't even sure they'd ever been in the same room before now. Instead of shaking her hand as she expected, however, Anakin brought Padme's hand to his lips and placed a brief kiss on her knuckles. "Milady."
Despite her best attempts, Padme felt herself flush before snatching her hand back.
"I'm sorry we've interrupted your date, Padme." Obi-wan smiled politely and she would have loved nothing more than the ground to swallow her whole then and there. She'd been on the verge of telling Clovis they couldn't see each other anymore. Force.
"It's not a date." She insisted a little more harshly than she'd meant to, making the mood more than slightly awkward.
"Yes. Um…" Clovis stuttered. "No apologies needed. Please, join us!"
They did, sliding two more stools toward the rounded orange table with gentle flicks of their wrists. Padme scarcely used the Force anymore these days and it was quite strange to see Obi-wan and Anakin doing so in such a casual manner. It made something deep within her ache.
It was quiet for a few moments while Obi-wan and Anakin ordered their drinks through a service droid that whizzed past until Clovis began talking about his work in the Senate to fill the void the three former Jedi's silence created. Eventually, after a story about the Republic banks which seemed to bore Obi-wan and Anakin while enthralling Padme at the same time, the Senator cleared his throat and sipped awkwardly at his drink. "So… Obi-wan, Anakin… What brings you here anyway?"
Obi-wan smiled and waved away a death-stick dealer when he approached their table. "I live quite close by and Anakin came on-planet to pay me a visit. We've been training together."
Padme's eyes widened. "You're training together? What for?" The idea of still training, of following their old routines as if nothing had changed lit the strangest fire in her stomach. It'd been years since she'd even looked at her lightsaber much less picked it up. She'd just never seen a reason to. There were other Jedi, newer, younger, people unhardened by war to take care of things now. She wasn't supposed to be fighting anymore, just living.
She hadn't realised she'd missed it until tonight.
Anakin shrugged. "To keep in shape. Because we're bored. I also kinda missed pushing the old man around lately."
She didn't mean to laugh, but a loud snigger slipped through Padme's lips before she could stop it All three men at the table looked at her, Clovis confused, Obi-wan withering and Anakin… She couldn't place her finger on it.
"Do you still have your lightsaber?" He asked quietly. His gaze was intense and it seared into her own so that she wanted to look away to escape it but couldn't find the will.
"Yes." She nodded. Some Jedi had given theirs back to the remaining Council before leaving the temple but Padme had kept hers close, not quite trusting the peace despite Palpatine being dead. Apparently, she wasn't the only one.
"You should join us." His voice lowered as though the words were for Padme only. "It's good… To take it up again. Helps, I think."
Padme nodded without thinking about it, excited about something for the first time in what felt like forever. "I… I think I will."
It was late in the afternoon the next day when the three former Jedi lay on the soft patch of artificial grass outside the small house Obi-wan owned. They were panting, muscles burning and smiling not in spite of, but because of it. Padme had surprised herself. She wasn't nearly as rusty as she'd feared and had held her own surprisingly well against Anakin and Obi-wan. They'd all been at it for hours now and she hadn't felt this content in some time.
"Force, I've missed this…" She sighed.
To her left, she heard Obi-wan heave a breath into his lungs. "I'm getting too old for this."
Anakin barked out a laugh at that before sitting up with a grunt. "You got any blue milk, old man? I'm dying here."
Obi-wan made a noise of disgust while Padme sat up, raising a curious eyebrow. "What's blue milk?"
The older of the two male Jedi shook his head. "For the love of the Force, don't ask."
Their little training sessions became routine quickly. The three of them would gather together at Obi-wan's house and unleash their lightsabers on one another, though more often than not it was just Anakin and Padme while Obi-wan lounged and offered comments afterwards. It felt amazing. The burn in her muscles, the heat of her lightsaber, the sounds of blue and green clashing over and over again… It was a release for Padme, one she didn't realise she'd so desperately needed. A heavy weight had been lifted from her chest and she was beginning to sense Anakin and Obi-wan felt the same way about their meetings.
Whenever she was around Anakin, both with Obi-wan and the few times without, Padme always had to battle down her natural curiosity. She wanted to ask him questions about his part in the Clone Wars. He'd been the Order's greatest warrior, that was indisputable. She wanted to trade experiences and stories but held back. There was nothing that felt worse or more evasive than nosey people who badgered her with questions about her time as a Jedi and what it was like to fight in a war. Every time it happened, only bad memories came back and threatened to make her spiral. She didn't want to be the cause of that for Anakin. So when, one day, the three of them lounged around in Obi-wan's living room, Anakin began to tell a story, Padme was rapt with attention.
"Obi-wan, do you remember the time we were stationed on Naboo to protect the Queen and you caught the… Ahem, affections of that female kaadu?" Anakin chuckled.
Beside her, Obi-wan choked on his glass of water and grimaced. Whether from the bad memories or Anakin bringing the story up while Padme was here, she couldn't tell. "Anakin, let's not rehash old stories, please?"
Padme smiled widely for the first time in what felt like forever. "No, tell me! Come on! You made friends with her?"
Anakin snorted. "He almost made way more than friends…"
He was ignoring Obi-wan now and focusing on Padme. "You see, we were standing to the back of the Queen and her handmaidens as she gave a speech with Gungans present. One of their kaadu thought Obi-wan here looked particularly fetching in his new cloak and came forward to introduce herself…"
Padme slapped a hand over her lips to hold back her giggling. "Oh no! What happened?"
Anakin shook his head with a chuckle and Obi-wan stood abruptly. "I am going to make some tea." Both Anakin and Padme laughed as the older man walked into the kitchen across the room, leaving the door open behind him.
"Well," Anakin came to sit on the couch Padme did, taking Obi-wan's spot. "I was still just a Padawan, so I was too excited by everything going on to notice it coming close until it'd jumped up on its hind legs to mount Obi-wan."
Padme laughed out loud, not caring to hold it back. "I thought I was panicking until I heard him shrieking."
At that, Obi-wan appeared at the kitchen door, finger raised. "That is untrue, Anakin. Jedi do not shriek. I was merely… Exclaiming loudly for someone to get the beast off me."
She laughed harder, throwing her head back and clutched at her stomach as it began to hurt. The image of the Great Negotiator screaming in panic as a kaadu attempted to have relations was too hilarious to resist. "Oh Force, stop!" She smacked Anakin's forearm as he grinned.
"That's not even the best part. It snuck up on us so fast that the weight of its legs was unexpected and sent Obi-wan crashing to the floor where his new lover began to… Well, attempt some aggressive negotiations…"
Speaking of shrieking, Padme almost shrieked herself as he told the story. Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes and her stomach burned in protest of using its muscles like that but the laughter wouldn't end. Anakin was no better. They were like a pair of school children giggling at their teacher's misfortune.
"Obi-wan!" Padme rasped when she could breathe again. "We've been friends for how many years and you never told me about this?"
He only grumbled upon his return to the room and lowered himself down into the chair Anakin had formerly been sitting in. "Yes, yes. It's very funny. If we're going to exchange stories, Padme, why don't we talk about your first time on a battlefield? Hm? I seem to recall a certain bladder issue at the sight of oncoming battle droids?"
Humiliation flared up inside Padme. Her cheeks turned red and her ears and neck followed suit. "I thought we'd agreed never to speak about that again?!" She hissed.
Anakin barked out a laugh. "You wet yourself?"
"No!" She cried.
"Unfortunately so." Obi-wan nodded.
Padme rounded on Anakin, pointing her finger at his face. "You must have some embarrassing stories too!"
His chest puffed up pridefully, smug and handsome.
"None. I have perfect bladder and creature control."
Obi-wan began to smirk knowingly and Padme raised an eyebrow. "What about the time that youngling tripped you up in the temple hallway and you burst your chin open on the floor?"
Anakin almost physically deflated right before her eyes. "Obi-wan!"
Padme spluttered out a laugh. "Wait, you were beat up by a youngling?"
"I was not beat up! I just… Tripped! Little bastard saw I wasn't paying attention and took advantage."
Both Padme and Obi-wan roared with laughter as the Jedi's Chosen One pouted and folded his arms over his chest.
It was Saturday night and she'd made the foolish decision to see Clovis again. As friends. Nothing more. Really, Clovis was lovely! A real gentleman many women would be happy to be with, Padme wished he'd find one of them. Still, she'd made the decision to go and she wouldn't cancel on him at the last minute.
It's a nice evening they shared together. They had dinner and discussed the latest goings on in the Senate over some glasses of wine. Clovis was good company and she truly enjoyed hearing about his tales from the Senate rotunda. Padme had always loved politics, even when she was in the Order. Sometimes she thought that if her life had taken a different path, she might have worked in that field instead. She had to admit, she was having fun with Clovis, she always did when they spent time together. But, if Padme was being truthful, fun wasn't the reason she found herself going out with the Senator over and over again… Honestly, he made her feel wanted. It was selfish and childish and she hated it, but to feel that way was something she'd always wanted… Clovis providing it was addictive.
When the night was over, Padme felt especially alone. She needed something, something she couldn't put her finger on. It was like part of her was missing and the gaping void was growing larger by the day. She felt numb sometimes because of it. Tonight was one of those times.
Which was exactly why, when Clovis walked her back to her apartment and she opened the door, Padme let him lean down to kiss her.
His hands were on her waist suddenly, gentle, barely there, as if hardly believing she was allowing this to happen between them again. Clovis was always like that, so very gentle with her, as if he thought she might shatter in his arms if he pressed her just a little. This has always baffled Padme. She was a Jedi. She'd mowed down countless battle droids throughout the Clone Wars. She wasn't delicate. Being treated so made any fire in her body dull to embers where the guilt could stamp it down for good.
That's exactly what happened when Clovis reached for the pearl buttons of her dress once they were inside her apartment, so Padme pushed him away with two hands on his chest.
He stumbled backwards, shocked and confused. "Padme? What's the matter?"
She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Clovis. I shouldn't have done that."
His mint green eyes narrowed, making the yellow tattoos on his face shift as he crossed his arms over his chest. "Why not?"
It was time to be truthful, no matter how much it might hurt. This was the right thing to do… She just felt too awful for leading him on for so long. "Clovis… I'm so sorry… I just… I don't have feelings for you."
The hurt that flashed across his face lingered for a few moments before his arms slackened and fell from his chest. "Well, that's… Padme, I'm not asking you to marry me. This doesn't have to be something serious."
Her heart hurt. What had she done to this man? "The seriousness of this… It's not the point."
He came toward her and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Don't do this, Padme. Don't push me away, I know you. You're just afraid of what's happening between us."
She blinked, attempting to understand what he was talking about until indignation sprang up in her chest. How dare he tell her what she was feeling! He had no right! The former Jedi pushed the Senator's hands away and shook her head.
"You don't know me!"
"That's because you won't let me know you!"
She rubbed her head and took a few steps away. Somewhere behind her, Padme heard a vase shatter as her powers swelled up beneath her veins for the first time in forever. She'd almost forgotten what it felt like to use the Force, even accidentally. It felt like air in her lungs after holding her breath for years.
"Just get out, Clovis! I don't want to talk about this anymore."
She whipped around and felt the tingling feeling of her powers again, not as tightly controlled as they'd once been after being unused for so long. "Clovis, get out now!" Her voice was far louder than she'd meant and no doubt the neighbours had heard but Padme just couldn't bring herself to care. She needed him gone. She needed to clean up that vase and go to bed. Unwanted tears sprang to her eyes and she blinked furiously to keep them at bay.
Clovis didn't speak again, thankfully. He turned on his heel and stormed out the door, slamming it behind him so hard the apartment shook in his wake. Padme sighed and lowered herself down onto the small armchair near the fire. Force help her…
Within moments the tears were back again with a vengeance and there was nothing she could do to hold them back. She sniffled and covered her mouth with her palm to keep quiet. That was not at all how she'd wanted things to go. The very last thing Padme had ever wanted was to hurt Clovis… But she had. She had. She was a terrible person. The tears came harder as a knock came from the front door. Force, if that was one of the neighbours complaining about the noise, she couldn't be held responsible for her actions…
The knock resounded around the apartment again, but Padme ignored it, not in the mood to speak to anyone. To the woman's horror, the receiver beeped as though she'd pressed the enter button and the door slid open. But who…?
She all but leapt to her feet when she saw Anakin in her doorway, clutching the blue cloak she'd been looking for all day. He rubbed at the back of his neck sheepishly and winced. "I, uh… You left this at Obi-wan's and I thought I'd bring it back." He stepped further inside and let the door close itself again. "And I heard the yelling from the street and wanted to be sure you were alright."
"I'm fine." She whispered and felt her face crumple again so she stood and turned her back to him, facing the window instead. "Thank you for bringing the cloak back. You can just leave it on the table there."
Her palm covered her mouth again and it was quiet. For a moment she thought he'd left until the sound of boots against her floor caught her attention. Suddenly she felt his hand on her shoulder, not exactly gently but not rough either. Just there. "Hey… It's alright."
She shook her head. "No, it's not. I'm a terrible person, Anakin."
He came around her, releasing her shoulder and staring in her line of sight. "I don't believe that. Not for one second, Padme."
Despite his kind words, Padme smiled wryly. "You don't know what I've done."
Anakin nodded. "You're right… But we all make mistakes. I've made more than my fair share, believe me. They don't make you a bad person, though. That's what I've learned."
They were both quiet for a few moments before another tear spilt onto Padme's cheek. Anakin shook his head with a sigh and drew her into his arms. It was odd at first; being held by the Jedi's Chosen One, by a man she barely knew but the overwhelming sense of comfort that she felt overrode any awkwardness. Padme let herself sink into his chest and closed her eyes. His gloved hand stroked down her back three times before they pulled apart.
She nodded and swallowed. "Thank you, Anakin."
He gave her his effortless smile. "Hey, no problem. Glad I could help."
Padme lifted her hands to wipe away the remains of her tears from her cheeks and moved toward the kitchen. She opened a cupboard and brought out the broom. The broken shards of the vase weren't going to clean themselves up after all. She felt Anakin's gaze follow her as she moved and swept the glass from the floor.
"Why do you do that?" He asked quietly.
She blinked and looked up to meet his eyes. "What do you mean?"
He gestured toward the broom. "Do things the mundane way when you could use the Force to make it quicker, or easier."
Padme laughed without mirth. "Using the Force is how I ended up with this mess." She swept the last of the glass into the small shovel and took it to the garbage. "But honestly… Since I retired, I just never use it any more. I did at first, but it felt wrong… Like if I was still able and free to use my ability then I should still be in the temple. It made me feel guilty for leaving."
Anakin nodded and was quiet for a minute, digesting her words. "We fought in a war, Padme. We brought peace back to the Republic… People died so that today could exist… You don't have to feel guilty about walking away when it was done. I did it. Obi-wan did it. So many people did it."
The logical side of Padme understood this, had always understood this. It just sounded better when someone else said it. "You don't think we betrayed the Order by leaving?"
He shook his head. "I think for the first time in our lives, we were given a chance to live for ourselves and we took it. There's no shame in that."
She shut the cupboard and walked back into the living room, smiling more genuinely now. "Thank you, Anakin… I think I needed to hear that." She straightened and brushed her hands down her skirt suddenly. "Can I get you anything? I have some caff if you like?"
Anakin smiled and shook his head, crossing the room toward her. "No, thank you. I can't stay actually. I just came by to give you your cloak and…" He pressed his lips together. "And to tell you that I'm leaving. I don't know if I mentioned it before, but I run a garage where I live and the guy I left in charge needs to get back to his own life." He gave a small chuckle. "I wanted to say goodbye."
He was leaving? Her stomach sank in ways she'd never felt before and it was strange. She was going to miss him… Training with him that was. Obi-wan preferred to watch them go at it than join in these days. It wasn't going to be the same without Anakin there. She'd gotten used to the three of them spending time together.
"Oh." She rocked on her heels and avoided his eye. "That's too bad. Where is your garage?"
"Theed. On Naboo. I came to like it there after a few visits. They're good people and thankfully almost no one can work their engines or devices so there's plenty of work. If I could stay longer, I would."
Padme forced herself to meet his eyes. "Don't be ridiculous. You have to go home."
"Obi-wan comes to visit me every now and again…" He trailed off and hesitated for a moment. "I hope you will too."
"Of course." She nodded. "Dorme lives there with her husband so I go there anyway."
"Good." He sucked in a breath and nodded yet again. "That's good."
It looked like he was about to leave so Padme rushed forward. "Anakin?" She didn't give him time to answer and came closer, throwing her arms around his neck. After a moment, she felt his own come around her waist. "Thank you," she whispered, "for tonight. I needed this."
When they parted, he smiled coolly. "You don't have to thank me, Padme."
He was gone just a moment later and Padme sank down into her armchair once more. Maybe when her lease for the apartment was up in a month or two, she should look into paying Dorme and her husband a visit… She hadn't been since the baby was born. It was nothing to do with Anakin, he'd just… Put the idea into her head. That was it. She smiled and crossed the room to grab her datapad. There was no harm in booking transport to Naboo in advance, was there?