Body Title: Not a Boy Anymore

Author: valsolo

Genre/Rating: Romance--- PG

Disclaimer: I am, of course, not doing this for money but for the pure joy it brings. :) No infringement is intended.

Chapter 1---

"Please slow down, your highness! You may trip if you're not careful," the handmaiden pleaded after her queen as they trotted quickly down the hall. Finally, the young noble stopped.

"You're right, Sabe. I'm being perfectly juvenile, aren't I?" The queen and her maiden both fidgeted with the awkward royal dress. Sabe smiled and chuckled to herself at the irony of the queen's actions. She and Queen Amidala, or Padme, as she knew her, was a study in contradictions. She had been elected ruler of this kingdom at the tender age of only fourteen due to her keen intelligence and wisdom beyond her years. She had proven very early on in her reign that she was no child when it came to ruling Naboo. After orchestrating a treaty with the Gungans, she successfully warded off an invasion by the Trade Federation nine years earlier. Amidala had continued to rule wisely and was admired and respected by people all over the galaxy.

Yet despite her outwardly confident persona, Sabe knew that Padme was like any other young woman. They had talked many times about their dreams and found they were quite similar. Both wanted a family with a bit of romance and adventure thrown in. Well, they had definitely had enough adventure and now Sabe knew that Padme was ready for the rest.

"I'm so ridiculous! I just can't believe I'm acting like this, Sabe. If you ever told all you know about me, they'd kick me out of this palace, for sure."

Amidala smiled and tried to push the oversized headdress back up on her head. Sabe giggled again as she watched her friend and thought of how much she cared for her. Standing up, she looked into the eyes of her queen and said, " I would never betray your trust, Padme."

Padme looked back and knew she could trust her friend and bodyguard.

"I know," she said simply. Sabe helped with the headdress, then stepped back to survey her handy work.

"There. Beautiful as always." Amidala grinned graciously.

"You know, sometimes I think these royal clothes are a bit much. I'd be much more comfortable in your outfit." The queen tried to pat down her huge billowy skirt.

"Come on," the handmaiden said, playfully pushing the queen forward. "They're going to wonder where you are."

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"Wow! This place still amazes me after all these years," Anakin Skywalker commented as he stared in awe at the ornate throne room. "Can you believe people actually live here, Master?"

"Don't let yourself be so impressed with material possessions, Anakin. They fade away just as easily as a shadow at twilight." Obi-Wan Kenobi turned to face his apprentice and grinned. "But yes it is an amazingly beautiful place, as you said."

Anakin strode over to one of the high-backed chairs and plopped down.

"It's going to be great to have a few days rest after this last mission. Those Rylars and Serndals really drained me." He continued to gaze around the large room. "I'm kind of looking forward to seeing Padme, I mean the queen again, too. It's been quite some time since our last visit and I'd like to fill her in on all I've done since then."

Obi-wan chuckled at his padawan's youthfulness. Anakin was still a boy in so many ways, but was becoming a very capable Jedi. The past several years and millions of people across the galaxy could attest to that. Obi-wan was quite proud of all of Anakin's accomplishments and knew the boy wanted to impress Queen Amidala.

"I'm sure she will be quite impressed, Anakin," the Jedi master confirmed. Anakin blushed at his own revelation.

"Am I that easy to read, Master?" Anakin asked guiltily.

"For me, yes," the older man responded.

Just then the doors to the throne room swished open allowing the queen and handmaiden to enter. Anakin quickly jumped to his feet to stand by his master. Amidala stopped when she saw the two hooded figures standing before her. She was looking forward to seeing this pair of old friends. Obi-wan Kenobi lowered his hood to greet the young queen.

"Your highness. It is so good to see you again. We would like to thank you for allowing us to rest here on Naboo for a few days."

"Obi-wan," she said as she grabbed his hand. "You know that you are always welcome here. You are a hero to my people." She had of course put on her 'royal' face and voice as formality demanded, but she felt very comfortable around the Jedi.

"Ahem," came the voice from the other hooded figure. It stood nearly a head taller than Obi-wan, Amidala noticed. Slowly, the figure lowered his hood to reveal a strange, yet familiar face.

"Hello, Padme," Anakin said with a grin that sent a tingle up Amidala's spine. Standing there was not the gangly teenager she had last seen, but a handsome, much more grown up Anakin Skywalker. Her eyes took inventory from head to toe. He was now perhaps as tall as Qui-gon had been, she estimated, and even through his loose-fitting Jedi tunic, she could tell his shoulders had broadened to accompany a strong chest and arms. His sandy blond hair was still spiked fairly short, but showed off his deeply tanned face and bright blue eyes in contrast.

"Anakin?" she asked unsure, trying to keep her jaw off of the floor.

"Have I changed so much?" he asked, quietly pleased with her reaction.

"You just look so... different since we last saw one another," she responded. "You're grown up."

Anakin couldn't help but smile from ear to ear. Sure many women all over the galaxy had taken notice of him over the past few years, but here in front of him was the only woman he wanted to impress. She had filled his thoughts and dreams since first they met. He knew even after their first meeting as children that someday she would be his. Only now did he feel as if it was actually within his grasp. He wanted to reach out to her, to pull her to him, but he knew that it would not be proper etiquette to do so here and now. His heart beat faster at the mere sight and scent of her so close.

"Well, I'm almost officially a Jedi knight now," he stated proudly. "That must be why I look so different." He flashed her a cocky lopsided grin, and she chuckled in response.

"That must be it," she said grinning at Obi-wan.

"You are both welcome to stay here on Naboo for as long as you like," she announced. "I'll send someone in to show you to your chambers. Right now I must go to a council meeting, but I do hope you will join me tonight for dinner." With that she bowed to the two Jedi and left the room with her handmaiden following close behind.

As Queen Amidala walked toward the council chamber, she became lost in her thoughts.

"He sure has changed, hasn't he?" Sabe questioned, knowing what, or who, was on the queen's mind.

"What?" Amidala blurted as she stopped in her tracks to look at her friend.

"Anakin Skywalker. He has grown to be quite handsome, don't you agree?"

Amidala felt her face begin to blush as she looked away. "Yes, he has. But he is still a boy, Sabe, so don't even--- Stop that grinning right now," Amidala demanded of her smiling aide. Amidala tried to retain a straight face, but felt her own mouth betray her and begin smiling too.

"He is quite dashing, isn't he?" Amidala admitted as she turned around to enter the council chamber.

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Amidala sat down at the council table and got down to business. She was never one to let her personal life interfere with the matter at hand.

"Ladies and gentlemen," she began. "It has come to my attention that there exists a threat to our peace on the other side of the planet. Please share with me what you have learned."

Governor Sio Bibble began speaking and explained the situation to all those in the council. Amidala's heart tightened at the thought of another possibility of war. When they had won against the Trade Federation, she had hoped to never be involved in another war. Yet as she listened to the governor, a feeling of dark worry washed over her.

"In closing, I believe there may be a link between this threat and the dangerous Sith lord from the great invasion of nine years ago," he concluded. All eyes then turned to the young queen in anticipation of her response. After a few moments, she stood to address her council.

"Thank you, Governor. It appears that we have no choice but to take some kind of action in this situation. Since I trust Governor Bibble's judgment, I believe that I must also inform the Jedi of the possibility of the Sith involvement. After that, we will meet again and decide on our next move. For now, you are dismissed."

The council members exited the room leaving Amidala alone with Sabe.

"Not again, Sabe. I don't know if I could go through another war that would kill my people." The handmaiden could tell by the look on Amidala's face that worry had already set in.

"And the thought of another Sith lord... Remember what happened last time a Sith was here? I still remember the looks on the faces of Obi-wan and Anakin at Qui-gon's funeral. His death cut deep into both their hearts."

Sabe watched helplessly as her dear friend agonized over sorrowful memories.

"But, if there is a Sith on Naboo, then it is good that the Jedi are here now. Perhaps it is destiny that brought them here at this time," Sabe suggested.

Amidala looked sorrowfully at her handmaiden.

"That's what I'm afraid of," she solemnly replied.

More to come...