Author's Notes: No beard, no ranch, no huge bank account... yep, not George Lucas. I'm just playing with his toys!

Special thanks to Rilla for beta reading!

Harder Than Expected

By WendyNat


"We cannot pander to the selfish requests of the Corellians!"

Padmé tightened her hands on the arms of the chair as the Senator from Jabiim spoke. The meeting had gone on for far too long, and she had already stated her stance. Naboo's stance. She hoped it would end soon. Her expression was set in what Anakin teasingly called her 'political face'.

Anakin.

A wave of longing crashed over her. If only… if only he was here, home, not in some unknown star system. She would have something to look forward to after this meeting, someone to vent her frustrations with… or just someone to hold her while she remained quiet, safe in warm arms. Her eyes scanned the assembled Senators and leaders.

Someone who wouldn't expect her to sublimate her own needs for the better of others. Someone, in fact, who became angry with her when he saw she was overworking herself, giving too much – though he did the same, in his role as a Jedi. After all, to be a Jedi was to give of yourself.

The meeting dragged on. Her face looked interested, her head nodded at the appropriate moments, and her mind wandered as the others continued to rehash discussions that had been talked over and decided long ago.

She needed him, the joyful counterpoint to her serious public life. She needed his light smile, that mischievous expression, his teasing. It calmed her, let her relax and be peaceful. Within that private circle of his love, she could be free. She could be herself, in his presence. She could smile and laugh and be silly and not be judged… and, even more importantly, she could speak her love, guide his still-unsure hands over her body, hear his own words of love in return…

With a wrench, she dragged her mind back to the meeting, wishing something would happen to keep her attention away from… from that. It was difficult, though – his tentative touch was so alluring to her…

"Then I think we're agreed. Meeting adjourned."

Good.

She nodded politely to the other Senators as she stood, exchanging pleasantries as the others filed out of the meeting chamber. The words were formal, but the smiles genuine, and she felt a momentary pang for her impolite thoughts.

All of a sudden, she was reluctant to leave, to return to her quiet rooms. Granted, Threepio would be there, offering to bring her a drink or a datapad or something to eat. The HoloNet would be there, offering news from around the galaxy or even a recorded communication from her family on Naboo.

But Anakin wouldn't be there.

His presence – it was palpable. She could feel him when he was there, somehow. Even when he sat in meditation, when he made not a whisper of sound, she knew he was near. It was a comfort. He had mentioned a bond, something about the Force, but she didn't quite understand it.

Your presence is soothing.

She remembered when he'd told her that, so long ago… before their marriage. A time when she was still trying to deny her own growing feelings, even though he was certain of his. Those words returned to her now, and she knew the truth of them.

"My lady?"

She snapped out of her reverie and smiled when she saw Bail Organa standing beside her. "I'm sorry, Senator. I was… just lost in thought."

"It happens to the best of us," he commented with a polite smile. "May I walk you to your transport?"

"Thank you, Senator Organa."

"Bail, please," he corrected.

She raised an eyebrow, a mischievous smile on her lips as she looked at her old friend. "But Senator, we're still in the formal meeting chamber."

With a small bow of his head, he said, "Then we should go to where we can speak freely, Senator Amidala." In equable silence, they left the meeting chamber and headed for the landing pad.

"How is your wife, Bail? I heard of her illness." She was concerned. Her regard for the Queen of Alderaan had grown during recent diplomatic trips. To her relief, his face immediately melted into a wide smile.

"Very well, thank you, Padmé. She asks about you often. In fact," he said, his smile widening, "she will be here later in the week for a visit. Perhaps we'll meet with you?"

"Of course! I'll clear my schedule." She smiled, a trifle sadly. "You must be excited. How long since you've seen her?"

"Almost two weeks, now. It doesn't sound like long, but when we're apart-" He stopped with a small laugh. "Well, I doubt you want to hear my romantic ramblings."

She swallowed, envy rolling over her. Two weeks. It had been four months, now, since she'd seen Anakin. "No, not at all. I think it's lovely, really." Bail seemed to pick up on the odd tone in her voice, though he likely ascribed it to the patient politeness of someone who didn't quite understand but didn't want to offend. But… she did understand.

She understood all too well.

--

Four months.

It was hard to believe it had been four months since he had been on Coruscant. Four months since she'd kissed him, his lips warm and soft against hers; four months since she'd held him, barely controlling her tears as they said their farewells.

She sighed, staring out at the city from her private balcony. She missed him even more after hearing Bail speak of his wife, after observing the way his face lit up at the very thought of seeing her again. Leaning on the balcony rail, she watched the speeders and ships fly by, faceless passengers unaware and uncaring of her need.

Need.

Her eyes closed and she filled her mind with the memory of his face. Young, beautiful, handsome. Such a resolve in that set of his jaw! She saw the devotion in his eyes. It was the kind of utter, absolute devotion a young child gives his mother… it scared her, sometimes. Scared her to be the mature one, the adult. Scared her to hold his heart in her hands. But at the same time, she loved it. Loved his childlike smile, the way his eyes shone with delight when he saw new things or figured out a difficult bit of machinery.

And yet, that dearth of maturity concerned her. Was it just a childish infatuation, this devotion he felt for her? As he grew older, as the years added lines to his face that stayed even after his smile dimmed, would he realize that love was more than just this youthful infatuation? Would he still feel the same devotion? And if not, where would that leave her?

At the very thought, a pool of ice formed in the pit of her stomach. Because she knew that, along the way, her feelings had changed. What had begun as an adolescent attraction, a love of being loved, had become so much more for her.

Along the way, she had truly fallen in love with him.

C-3PO came onto the balcony, then, holding a datapad. "Excuse me, my lady. I am very sorry to disturb you, but the HoloNet has just released some news concerning the Jedi attack in the Outer Rim."

She stood and grabbed the datapad from him, belatedly murmuring, "Thank you, Threepio," as he moved off, giving her privacy. She scanned the information quickly – it wasn't very detailed. Some of the Jedi in the attack were lost. It was breaking news, nothing else was mentioned. No names. Nothing.

She put the datapad down and looked up at the stars, her eyes blinking back tears. She didn't even know where he was. It could have been him. And she couldn't query the Temple in the middle of the evening without it seeming suspicious.

Frustration filled her. She thought she knew, going into this, what it meant to be secretly married to a Jedi. But this was harder, so much harder than she'd suspected.

Bowing her head, she wept.

--

She didn't know how long she stood there, staring at the stars, wondering which of them he might be close to. Which system he might be in. Somewhere close? Or the Outer Rim? Her mind shied away from that thought. She thought she would know if something had happened to him. Somehow, she would know. Just like she knew when he was near…

…near! She gasped and turned, almost bumping into the man who was quietly coming up behind her. She stood still for a moment, just drinking him in, that mischievous twinkle of his eye, that teasing smile.

"And just what is a beautiful woman like you doing, standing all alone on a bal-"

He didn't get the last word out; she imagined it must be difficult to speak, with urgent lips covering your own. Finally she broke the kiss and clung to him, pressing her face into that hollow between his neck and shoulder, her hands tracing down his back. It felt different; he felt different. Harder, and not just the line of muscles along his back. She pulled back to look at him, seeing him now without the memory of months ago superimposed on his features. He was harder.

"Padmé. I missed you." His hand cupped her cheek and she leaned into his touch. She wanted to close her eyes and just feel, but she didn't want to lose the sight of him for even a second.

"I missed you, Anakin… so much. I was so worried – they just had a report of some Jedi killed…" She trailed off, concerned by the tightening of his jaw. His entire stance was different somehow. Confident. Not the youthful arrogance that masqueraded as confidence, but a man's self-assurance.

How could he have changed so much, in just four months? Or had he changed before and she'd just never truly looked at him? Had it required a long absence for her to really see him as he was?

"I know. Many Jedi have died." His eyes, always intense, seemed tempered by a new maturity. And she knew, then, what had brought this new depth to his gaze. He had seen things, in the war. The devotion was still there, thankfully, but… different. Her heart broke at the realization that he was forever changed, even while it leapt at the newfound power in his gaze.

He had grown up, truly grown up… when had it happened? Had it been gradual, as he watched one ally after another fall in the war? Or was it sudden, as sudden as the appearance of that small scar beside his eye?

Her hand lifted to trace that angry red line, fingertips just brushing his skin. She was shocked, at first, to see her hand trembling faintly. And then, not – this man, or at least her perception of him, was different from the boy who had left. Suddenly she very much looked forward to learning more about this man, whether his touch would still have the note of tentative longing that she so adored, whether she could still make him gasp with a simple brush of lips on his chest. Her private rooms were just beyond that door…

He brought his ungloved hand to her cheek, the light caress setting off a shock of desire through her. Those warm, strong fingers swept across the line of her jaw, the thumb brushing her lips before his hand slowly trailed down the curve of her throat. His eyes, intent on hers, changed slightly. Pure devotion became slightly more predatory, and as his heated touch traced the pulse point of her neck and then lower, she let out a shaky breath.

His hands were unsure no longer.

Then all thought was swept away as this man, her husband, lifted her in his arms and carried her off of the balcony, and through the door, kicking it firmly shut behind them.

Rather than carry her to the bed as she'd expected, he set her on her feet and kissed her slowly, his hands cupping her face, fingers threading into her hair. Then he pulled back and looked at her, his gaze serious and so concentrated it took her breath away. He'd always had that single-minded intensity in his eyes when he looked at her, but now there was something more, something that made her stomach flutter deliciously.

Suddenly, she wanted very much for this man to touch her, to show her what else had changed while he grew up, so far from her. The silence between them was heavy and thick, almost uncomfortable if not for the pure devotion and need that bound them together. And love.

Her clothes slid from her skin, a puddle of bluest water lying at her feet. She hadn't worn anything underneath, loving the smooth silk against her flesh, enjoying the reprieve from the layers upon layers of cloth that she normally wore. She had felt the need to be light and free that night, though she hadn't known he'd return to her, and she'd never been so happy for a coincidence as she was when she looked into his eyes and saw the pure devotion become pure, possessive want.

She gasped when his hands slid over her belly, gliding up her sides, the gloved hand just as gentle as the one of flesh, though cooler. Lifting her arms, she drew her hands to his chest to work at the fastenings of his tunic, desperate to feel warm skin under her fingers, wanting to see all of his battle-hardened body, to feel

When her fingers brushed smooth skin, he gasped. She smiled, delighted and relieved that he had not grown out of that, at least. Her hands smoothed over his chest even while his slid around her back and down her hips, his touch sure and steady, firm. The touch of a man.

With a gasp, she pushed the tunic off completely, admiring the hard muscle, then worked at his trousers, her hands trembling in her haste. His gaze on her was almost a physical weight, his eyes staring so deeply at her that it was an effort to not look away, to not hide her face behind her unbound hair. His lips parted in a silent gasp, head falling back as her hands finally loosened his trousers and pushed them down. She was glad he'd already taken his boots off before coming onto the balcony; he kicked off the pants easily, staring down at her with so much heat that she flushed, slightly off-balance. Then, with a wicked smile, she drew her hand along the length of him… there was the shudder she so loved… the convulsive swallow that made his throat jump… she could still make him-

She gasped in surprise as he lifted her by the waist and spun her around, pushing her backwards onto the bed. Her stomach sparking with desire, her arousal spiraling, she moved back on the soft coverlet as she watched him approach. He paused before joining her, his eyes trailing over her skin, every curve and hollow warming under his gaze. It was amazing, how he could make her feel as if he were touching her with just the intensity of his stare.

Unable to bear it any longer, she held out her arms to him, a silent request that he quickly answered. Breath left her in a long rush as hands and mouth trailed up her body, lingering on her thighs, and then higher… his tongue and lips and fingers making her cry out… so good, so… her hands twisted in the coverlet, crushing the lace overlay… and then he was moving up her body, lips and hands leaving a hot trail of desire until he was over her, his body settling on hers, the delicious hard weight of him fitting against her.

In the dim light, the pattern of shadows across his face was mesmerizing, and also chilling. He looked somehow at home there, in the darkness, with the shadow and dark framing his face and obscuring his features. But his eyes shone brightly, clear blue catching even a whisper of light and drawing her in so that she forgot about her misgivings.

"I'm only whole when I'm with you, Padmé," he whispered, staring at her with a gaze that was almost worship. She, too, was mesmerized – he was beautiful, god-like, a man who had seen both horror and beauty, and knew the value of each. "I'm only half a man without you."

"Half a woman, without you…. Make us whole," she breathed, bringing her lips to his neck, gasping against his skin as he followed her command. She moved with him, their bodies flowing together without thought, without effort.

She was overwhelmed by this man, her husband, owner of her heart… heat and love and desire… she threw her head back, neck arching… felt his hot mouth on the column of her throat… heard his growl, a possessive noise that would have been frightening had she not been so far under the surface of her own possessive greed… "Anakin, Anakin, oh… please… I need… oh, Ana-"… her voice went out, leaving a low moan that turned to a cry of release… her body tightened around him, and through the haze of her own pleasure she heard him shout her name, again and again and… oh!

Sweating, they clung together, racing hearts and ragged breathing.

Whole. Loved. She was just half a woman without him, he was just half a man without her. Together, they were complete.

The End