Someday, when I'm awfully low, when the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you, and the way you look tonight.
You're so lovely, with your smile so warm, and your cheek so soft,
There is nothing for me but to love you and the way you look tonight.
With each word your tenderness grows, tearing my fears apart.
And that laugh that wrinkles your nose touches my foolish heart.
Yes, you're lovely. Never, never change. Keep that breathless charm.
Won't you please arrange it, for I love you, just the way you look tonight.
"The Way You Look Tonight" - Frank Sinatra
A few days later, most of Obi-Wan's cuts had healed, although there were a few sore spots left. He looked in the mirror and prepared to shave, then wondered, Why? After more thought, the young Jedi did scrape the bristles from his chin and cheeks, but left the beginnings of a mustache on his upper lip. Newly-knighted, Obi-Wan was no longer bound by the traditional code with regard to padawans' appearances.
Obi-Wan saw himself wince in the mirror, eyes bright. Mustn't think of that now. Immediately before Qui-Gon's funeral, Master Yoda had taken the slain master's place at Obi-Wan's knighting ceremony. The tiny Jedi reached up and cut Obi-Wan's braid off, then placed it at Master Jinn's side as Palace Guards approached with torches. If a padawan's master was dead, then it was the responsibility of someone in that master's line – the one who had trained the knight-master, or that trainer's trainer – to perform the ceremony, when possible. Master Yoda was three such "generations" before Obi-Wan, and the only Jedi living in that line; Qui-Gon was gone, Count Dooku had left the Jedi Order, and Yoda's knight-master had been dead for the better part of a millennium.
Obi-Wan dragged his mind back to the present. A message from the queen had arrived that morning, stating that she was well. Young Kenobi felt awkward about dinner tonight, though socializing was part of what it was to be a Jedi. It's just that it was so soon, he was still so weary. He harrumphed at the grey hair that he'd first noticed a few days ago, then went to get dressed.
Obi-Wan approached the queen's suite. He gulped, then signaled for entrance. One of the handmaidens opened the door. "Master Kenobi, welcome." She ushered him to a sopha, smiling. The girl excused herself and left the room, then returned with Queen Amidala.
Obi-Wan stood as they entered. The bruise on the queen's face was gone; she looked as pretty as ever. She looked more like Padmé the handmaiden than Queen Amidala tonight. Her long-sleeved white dress and red embroidered overrobe whispered on the floor as she drew near. The young monarch wasn't wearing any of that heavy, ceremonial makeup, either. The Jedi bowed. "Your highness."
"Good evening, Master Kenobi." The queen smiled and held out her hand in greeting. Obi-Wan grasped it, then on impulse, raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. Queen Amidala's nose scrunched as her smile broadened, making him reconsider the mustache. She released his hand and led him to the dining area, where their first course was already set out.
Obi-Wan followed and held the young woman's chair as she sat, then seated himself to her right. "I have a question."
One brown-black eyebrow lifted. "Yes?"
"What is your real name?" He'd been wondering about that since the moment in the swamp, when she had stepped out from behind Sabé and laid bare her disguise to them all.
She tilted her head a little to the side, seeming to consider. Then she smiled. "Padmé Naberrie."
"Where does Amidala come from, then?" Obi-Wan asked.
Padm's smile broadened. "It's my grandmother's family name. It can be prudent, even useful, for a public official to have a more...flamboyant name. But a handmaiden should remain faceless and anonymous."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "That's something you never could be, your highness," he said. Padmé smiled and blushed, then busied herself with her soup. Fearing he had overstepped the boundaries of propriety, Obi-Wan turned his attention to the food, as well.
They discussed many subjects as they ate. But whenever Padmé asked Obi-Wan a question about himself, he would lob it right back at her, or make a joke, or just busy himself with his meal. The Jedi's wit was quick and intelligent. He made her laugh several times, so she didn't mind the way he manipulated the conversation.
But she didn't forget, either.
When dessert was finished, a servant poured tea for them. They moved to the sitting room. The Jedi seated himself on a sopha; Padmé chose a large chair across from him. She gazed across the few meters that separated them and frowned, for he still seemed a little ill at ease. Ever the diplomat, Padmé decided to jettison the formality that had reigned thus far this evening. The queen adjusted her seat, tucking her legs underneath her. "Master Kenobi, you can talk about him. You've been avoiding it all evening."
There was no sense in pretending that he didn't know who she was talking about. Obi-Wan glanced at the floor. Her shoes were there. The girl had a light heart, in spite of the heavy burdens she bore. This was a real person, maybe even a friend, not some figurehead.
He had no one else to talk to, and he knew she was trustworthy. "I don't remember my birth parents. Master Qui-Gon was the only father I've known." Obi-Wan fell silent as his eyes grieved grey. Padmé didn't hurry him. "He died only a few meters away from me. If I'd only been a little faster, I could have stopped it." The knight's face was contorted, disgust with himself threatening to surface. Kenobi exhaled, sorrow surfing out of his body on his breath. "The Sith knocked me off one of the walkways and lured Master Qui-Gon ahead before I could catch up. And he followed, alone. I was trapped in the last segment of the corridor when it happened. I couldn't do anything." The Jedi's breath caught in his throat, and he said no more.
Radiating compassion, Padmé got up from her sopha and moved to his side. She knelt next to him and took his hand. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know what happened after we left you two in the hangar."
"It's all right," he murmured absently, eyes on the floor.
She gazed at him, bewildered. How could he say such a thing? "How can it possibly be all right?"
Obi-Wan looked at her – really looked. Gold sparks echoed out of the depths of her coffee-colored eyes. Obi-Wan was struck again by the contradiction that was Queen Padmé Amidala. Naberrie. She couldn't be a day older than fifteen, yet she was so wise. He was grateful once more for her hospitality and kindness in taking him in, and for her concern. That she cared enough make sure he was looked after in this manner.
Thunder sounded outside. Padmé looked at the window, then got to her feet. "Oh," she groaned. "I was hoping that we could return to the labyrinth." She caught the puzzled look on his face. "It is not just a maze to be solved once and never returned to. It can be a refuge, to disregard the outside world and focus on the inner self." Padm's small hands gestured, echoing the essence of her words.
"That's what you were doing there the other night," Obi-Wan said.
"Yes," she replied. She glanced at the window once more. "But I have no wish to get sopping wet all over again." Padmé grinned at her guest. "Nor do I wish to wake up tomorrow in a healer's care."
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes and stood. "It's getting late; you must have a busy schedule. Will you show me the maze some other time, your highness?"
The queen also stood and held her hand out. "I'd love to. I have a function to attend at twenty-three hundred hours tomorrow, but I should be free after twenty-six. Will you meet me at the obelisk in the center at that time?" Obi-Wan shook her hand, and they moved to the door.
"I look forward to it. Good night, your highness." Obi-Wan left her quarters and retired to his suite to think.
Adelaide, Darling! Thanks so much for the review, the one, lone review this story has gotten so far. Thanks for the characterization compliment, characterization is my biggest worry in fan fiction. How do I know what Obi-Wan or Luke or Vader would do in a given situation? I'm just mousy, underachieving me, after all, not some cunning Jedi warrior, no matter how much daydreaming I do...
Darth Writer's Block has run into me and flattened me like such roadkill, partially due to his Sithly knight-master, Darth Real Life, who now has me working two jobs. But you already know about that...
In any case, "Sabbatical" is in progress, I am tenaciously hanging onto it, refusing to let it drift into oblivion. But dang, it's hard figuring out where I'm gonna go with it. I do promise my readers here and on the other site where the story is archived, I will never abandon this until it is finished. (Unless I get hit by a bus or something, of course...)