A/N: Originally, all the exposition for this piece was included in the story- but it just wasn't working, so it's going here instead.

Takes place during sometime during the two years between AotC and RotS. Padme and Anakin have managed to organise a short secretive rendezvous, and the story opens with Padme waiting for Anakin to arrive at the Lake House on Naboo.

Despite the fact that I do beta in my spare time, I can't bare to edit and analyse my own writing- it really pains me- so hopefully this wont be too error ridden.

A/P mush is new dangerous new territory for me, so be warned. And seeing as how this is all rather experimental, feedback would be ever so greatly appreciated!

Affetuosamente

- tenderly, with feeling and emotion.

i

The peach sunlight sent twisted shadows skittering across the balcony, passing between the intricately carved balustrade before landing elongated and stretched on the flagstone patio. The sun momentarily seemed to balance perfectly in the cradle of the mountains far in the distance but slowly sank below the horizon, gradually darkening from peachy pink to a fiery orange red.

Vermillion tinting cast a warm glow over the woman's face as she squinted out over the too bright waters, eyes nearly watering as she stood watching the ripples that reflected the setting sun. She was of a diminutive stature, a fact emphasised by her posture- legs lightly crossed at the knees; weight on her forearms, which pressed into the stone; bent at the hips- as she leant against balustrade, the drape of soft material folding around her.

She looked, and felt, small in comparison to her surrounds. The wide lake and enclosing mountains made her acutely aware of her slight size. At sunset the world looked so much more enticing- felt so much bigger, broader than just herself- her own window of existence seemed incomparable to the grandeur and sheer enormity of the sight before her. Instead of being awed and disheartened by this awareness, she felt a degree of relief. The existence of sentient life, civilisations, the Republic itself would rise and fall, as those sorts of things do, but the natural beauty of this place would be far longer lived. After the masterfully crafted stonework that supported her weight had crumbled, reduced to no more than dust and fine grains of sand, the lake would still be there, reflecting the ginger red light from the sun just as it did now, with the same, if perhaps a little more weathered, mountains looking on.

She was tempted to fall into sentimentality, almost imagining that this place of such natural beauty would somehow retain some mark of her and lover's time here. That somehow their memory would leave an imprint in the very bedrock beneath her. But she hurriedly clamped down on such ridiculous notions.

One day, eventually, they would both be gone, as would the histories that might have remembered them, their descendants- if there were any- having moved one. The thought bothered her, irritated her consciousness slightly, and she consoled herself with the knowledge that even if their presence was wiped from the universe, an element of continuity remained in the roots of the mountains around her. Even if she couldn't go on indefinitely, they would.

She was still admiring the view when she heard soft footsteps behind her. They were so light she was sure that their owner was attempting to approach unnoticed; occasionally the scuff of a boot sole on stone, or the sound of a tiny pebble rolling away giving them away. It wasn't long before the very nearly silent path ended less than a metre behind her.

Knowing full well the identity of the figure at her rear she cast her eyes downwards at her hands and, seeing the ring that she was rarely able to wear freely, allowed a small smiled to creep across her features- she would let him think he had gone unheard.

He stepped up behind her, close but not quite touching, placing an arm on either side of her frame and rested his weight on his wrists. For a moment she permitted herself to be distracted by his hands resting on the balustrade- girlishly admiring their shape, and cataloguing the scars and calluses. Coquettishly she considered just how much she appreciated those hands before a soft voice at her ear brought her out of her thoughts.

'Afternoon, love.'

The greeting was spoken quietly, further muffled by her hair and it registered as only a whisper to her hearing, but nevertheless, she caught all of the meaning wrapped up in the two words. The protection offered, the care, the devotion, the happiness, the innuendo- all of it- and was intensely grateful. Wishing to reciprocate, she angled her chin sideways towards the origin of the voice, offering him a view of her profile, and directed her words behind her.

'I was wondering when you'd arrive.'

The slight movement against her back and the warm rush of air at her neck told her he evidently found something mildly humorous.

'Sorry to keep you waiting, milady'

This time she laughed softly, 'So you should be.'

His hands moved from the railing beside her, finding a more comfortable position resting against her sides, index fingers making small stroking motions in the concave dip just above her hip bones. Again she was reminded how much she valued them.

The thin pocket of air that separated her back from his front frustrated her, and she reached a foot behind her to tug his ankle with the tops of her bare toes, effectively closing the gap without ever having once glanced over her shoulder. He leant over her so that his chin lay against the wing of her collarbone, strands of blonde hair getting lost amongst her longer brunette waves. Without a conscious thought she turned to press her cheek to his and revelled in the closeness that had been withheld from her for months by the rest of the world.

'I've missed you, Anakin' she stated simply, her mood turning serious.

'As I have missed you,' came the equally simple answer.

She nodded slightly, silently acknowledging that neither would talk about troubles experienced away form each other's company. The short infrequent times they were able to escape together were always unsullied by talk and thoughts of the outside world and the reality they knew they would have to return to. This time was their time and their time alone, and nothing was permitted to intrude.

The hands at her sides pressed her hips reassuringly, reaffirming the physical closeness they shared. She turned to offer him an encouraging smile, feeling the resistance in her spine and hearing her back crack. Instead of being greeted by his own smile, she noted a quick frown cross his features. She shrugged off the discomfort in her back, her smile transforming into a wry grin.

'Sore back?'

'A little I guess… it's just stress.'

She would never let him know just how much stress the Senate caused her, or how she worried while he was gone, just as he would never tell her about his experiences at the front. They all fell into the category of subject matter not to be discussed in their time together. Sometimes it occurred to her that she and her husband neglected to communicate about the simplest things, and occasionally it bothered her.

When they were together, the first evening after his return from assignment would always play out the same- in the early hours of the morning they would lie awake in the semi-dark, not speaking, while she took note of every new scar gained during his absence. She would trace them with slowly dragging fingertips, ghost over any that were too fresh for such treatment and remain silent, never once asking how he had received any of them. Just as she knew he wouldn't waste time inquiring about the source of her stresses or stiff back. Such questioning went against the unwritten laws of their relationship.

The loss of contact between his hands and her hips pulled her out of her reverie, and she began to turn to face him. Her movement was met with opposition however, as he grasped her shoulders and set her facing squarely ahead. Confusion blurred her thoughts until the grip on her shoulders began to change, thumbs kneading in small circles across the tense muscle. Blissfully she leant back into the pressure on her back, too preoccupied to express her gratitude.

He worked his way down her back, thumbs pushing against the stiff muscles that ran the length of her spine; fingers pressed into her sides give him leverage. The closer he came to her lower back the more self defeating the process became, though. His touch sent light shivers through her, doing anything but relaxing her. She was aware that his efforts were probably not the most therapeutic for her sore back, but let him continue anyway, simply deriving more pleasure from the feel of his hands on her than anything else. She could always see a professional- one that didn't have quite the same effect on her as her husband did.

Her breathing gave her away to him first. The regular deep breathing pattern she had started with had given way to soft uneven inhalations that she held caught in her throat. She was no longer breathing through her nose; instead he could hear the air unsteadily flowing through a tiny gap between her lips and a sense of accomplishment and masculine egotistical pride briefly surfaced with the knowing smirk that settled on his lips. That same pride was probably the reason he felt the need rise up in him to see the ecstatic expression he was sure graced her features.

Gently, she felt herself being turned and inwardly lamented the ending of her husband's ministrations, before becoming aware of the fact she was being picked up and placed on the balustrade. She opened her eyes to find herself almost eye to eye with her considerably taller husband and enjoyed the more equal height she now held.

Her hands went up to his shoulders, fingers entwining themselves in the ends of his hair, while her knees seemed to spread of their own volition, allowing him to step up flush against her. She could clearly read the intention in his eyes and chose to take the initiative and lightly brushed her lips against his as her eyelids fluttered shut. Somewhat mischievously, she pulled back a little, before the kiss deepened, wondering if he would follow. The challenge was zealously taken up, as Anakin leaned into her and placed a more open-mouthed kiss against her bottom lip. She chose to continue her game, altering the angle of her head and instead placing her kisses at the corner of his mouth, never quite letting his reach their intended target.

'Padmé…' Her name was drawn out, murmured against her lower cheek, and she could here the edge of impatience it held.

'Yes, love?' The two words were spoken innocently, separated by the chaste kisses designed specifically to get such a reaction from him. She tried to keep the laughter out of her voice as she silently congratulated herself.

'Fine- you want to play it that way?' She couldn't quite place the tone of his voice- somewhere between frustration and playfulness- and wondered what exactly he had in mind.

She received an answer as he diverted his attentions down, avoiding her mouth and instead focusing them on her neck. Her game plan flew from her mind the moment he found the hollow under her jaw line, just where it met her neck. Any hope she might have had of continuing her teasing was reduced to the sensation of his light sucking and the graze of teeth every so often against her skin. The last coherent thought she managed to string together was that she would need to wear a high collared dress when she returned to Coruscant.

Her hands dropped from his shoulders, relocating themselves underneath the heavy robes he wore. Basic instinct informed her that she ought to be touching skin, not layers of clothing and her fingers wormed their way through to what skin she could by undoing his collar. Not satisfied, she worked haphazardly to untie, unbutton and unzip her way through multiple layers to his belt, until what she deemed a sufficient amount of skin was available to her. Her fingertips delicately brushed across the bottom of his ribcage, catching him by surprise- stomach muscles suddenly tightening enticingly. The movement of his mouth against her jaw suddenly ceased, a fact which disappointed her greatly, and he straightened to look her in the eye.

What she saw overwhelmed her, as it always did.

His eyes captured her attention at first. They were intently focused on her, though whether out of admiration, love, or sheer physical appreciation she wasn't sure. There was a time when she had felt like a butterfly specimen pinned to a board under that gaze, but now all she knew was that she was wanted and she loved that he could stir up reactions in her with merely a look.

She dragged her vision downwards to his chest, determined to resume her previous activities, but the sight of his mouth momentarily put a stop to coherent thought. His lips were slightly swollen from his labours, a little redder than usual, and she wondered flippantly what her neck looked like. Captivated, she leaned into to him, intending to finally oblige him with a proper kiss, only to be thwarted as he turned his cheek to her. She drew back with narrowed eyes, annoyed that he had turned her own game against her.

At the sight of her expression, he laughed quietly, the low rumble starting beneath her fingers pressed against his chest and finishing with the soft rush of air on her face.

'I love you, ' he spoke, the words tinged with suppressed amusement.

'I don't,' she replied with mock seriousness, almost pouting.

The only answer she received was the small sceptical quirk of an eyebrow.

He moved to brush his lips across her forehead and lent over her shoulder to see how her dress undid. It had become a diversion to both of them to see how successfully he could remove her complicated gowns, but he was relieved to find that this time he was only faced with a row of fine seed buttons. Her nose pressed into the crook of his neck, breath fanning lightly on his skin, as he quietly went to work.

Peering over his shoulder, she could see their combined shadow cast across the flagstone paving, his silhouette almost completely obscuring her own. Her mind caught on all the metaphoric implications, her thoughts finding a million meanings in the insignificant imagery. For a moment she tensed, an indescribable and unjustified apprehension creeping at the edge of her awareness, but the feeling of fingers trailing across the top of her now bare back wiped her consciousness. She shut her eyes against the dark shadows and blood-red glow of the setting sun and concentrated solely on the sensations being stirred on her skin.

Her back was fully exposed by now, the dress only held up tentatively by the sleeves that were slowly being slid down her arms. A cool night breeze drifted past, reminding her of her surroundings- she was semi-undressed sitting on an open balcony, with other similarly open balconies facing across the lake. Her hand went up to hold the dress to her chest and she shivered involuntarily.

Concerned her husband looked up, 'Cold?'

'Well, we are outside-'

Taking the hint he pushed her sleeves back to their rightful place, while she hurriedly crossed his robe over him. She smiled and slid down from the balustrade; causing friction enough between them to make Anakin consider putting her straight back up on her perch and continue on regardless. With one hand pressed to her chest to ensure her dress wouldn't slide, she caught his wrist with the other, leisurely walking backwards into the house.

There is more written, but I'm not decided yet whether or not to go the whole nine yards and make this a M-rated story. Should I continue?

Feedback would be fantastic. Thanks.