No Going Back

Chapter One

She was a tower of strength. A formidable opponent - as the Trade Federation had discovered firsthand. And she was only 18 years of age.

Obi-Wan stood amidst the celebration occurring on the steps of the Theed palace, admiring the young and powerful Queen of Naboo as she addressed the Gungan leader. It was due to her determination that Naboo and its inhabitants were safe. Even after years of Jedi training and he himself only being 24 years of age, Obi-Wan felt his own strength was not much greater than this young queen's.

There she sat, appearing rigid and uncomfortable in her velvet gown and heavily adorned face and hair. Her eyes passed to and fro around the long marble dining table, taking in various conversations and glances from the numerous celebration guests she had graciously invited for dinner. Obi-Wan was one of them. He could not take his eyes off of her. He found himself drawn to her -- her composure, her strength, her beauty -- all of it wrapped up in layers of dark green velvet.

Queen Amidala could not help but feel a little uncomfortable under the steady stare of the young Jedi seated far down the table on her right. She motioned to her handmaiden Sabe to approach.

"No, nothing, mi'lady. There's nothing there." Sabe assured her.

Padme had asked her to make sure that she did not have food on her face or dress to cause the Jedi to stare at her so. Padme had been raised to look people in the eye and not to back down to a threat, but for some reason, she could not look this young Jedi in the face, and her eyes immediately fell down to her plate, a pale pink blush rushing into her heavily painted face.

"What is it mi'lady? What's bothering you?" Corde approached the young queen as she sat in front of her dressing table, removing her makeup.

"Nothing, Corde. She sat contemplating the evening and then turned to the young handmaiden. "That young Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Did you notice him staring at me all evening?"

"I'm sorry mi'lady, I did not."

"Well, he was. What do you think offended him?"

"I do not think offence was the reason he was staring, mi'lady." Corde grinned as she began to put away the queen's clothing.

"What do you mean?"

"Perhaps the young Jedi is smitten."

"Be serious."

"I am, mi'lady. And if you will remember, you barely ate a bite all evening."

Padme recalled being ravenous before the meal, but suddenly realized that she hadn't touched a thing on her plate. The eyes of the Jedi upon her had distracted her enough for her to completely forget about her appetite. A sudden gnawing sensation in her empty stomach was a quick reminder that she hadn't eaten anything all day.

"Corde, I'm going to the kitchen to get a bite to eat."

"Do you wish for me to accompany you mi'lady?"

"No, that won't be necessary. I'll be back in a few minutes."

Padme made her way through the shadowy halls of the palace, occasionally meeting a security guard who assumed her to be a handmaiden and thought nothing of the young lady wandering the palace alone. She exited the large dining area heading toward the kitchen, when she noticed a lone figure on the balcony beyond the open glass doors. It was the young Jedi himself. Padme approached the doorway for a better look. He stood close to the balcony edge, his feet spread shoulder width apart, his hands clasped behind his back. She could not see his face, but it was obvious that he was deep in thought and did not sense her presence, or so she thought. He suddenly turned and she felt his eyes upon her once more.

"Excuse me. I didn't mean to disturb you."

"It's okay your Highness. If you wouldn't mind, I would prefer some company right now."

Padme could not help but notice something different about his eyes. He was in obvious pain due to the recent loss of his mentor, Master Qui-Gon. There had been so much occurring in the past few days, that she had not stopped to consider the effect the death of the older Jedi would have on him. She was desperately thinking of something to say in order to comfort him.

"I hope you find your quarters here in the palace comfortable." was all she could think of.

"Yes, quite. Thank you." He replied courteously as he approached her. "Would you care to have a seat?" He motioned to a long intricately carved stone bench.

The silence between them lasted for a brief period before Padme broke it. "I'm...I'm so sorry about Master Qui-Gon. He and I did not quite see eye to eye, but he will be missed."

The young Jedi bowed his head for a moment. Her perception had been correct. He was indeed mourning the loss.

"He was more than just a Master, your Highness. He was my mentor and my friend. I've known him all my life. In a way, he was like my father."

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize you two were that close. You seemed to often be at odds with one another."

"It might have appeared that way, but during the course of Jedi training, a mentor has a responsibility of exposing and correcting any fault in their padawan. It may come across as being overly critical but Qui-Gon was a wise Master and a powerful Jedi. I was fortunate to have been trained by him."

"As long as you remember him, he is not gone. Not really."

Obi-Wan trembled at the unexpected touch of the queen's hand on his knee.

"I..." he stammered. "I want to apologize for my behavior during dinner. It was not right for me to stare at you the way I did. But you have this aura of strength about you. I was trying to figure it out."

"I'm not so strong."

"Oh, but you're wrong Padme. I've been all over the universe and have met and dealt with leaders and royalty of all ages and races. I have never met anyone with the strength and wisdom you possess at your age."

Padme turned to face him, surprised at hearing him say her name. She didn't consider it disrespectful, but found herself pleased that he felt comfortable enough with her to see past her position and view her as a friend.

"You don't realize how hard it's been Obi-Wan. When I decided to return to Naboo to fight for its freedom, I was scared to death. But I just couldn't let the Trade Federation win. As the elected queen, it was my duty to make sure my people were safe. I had no choice. And it did help knowing that I had the assistance of two very brave Jedi Knights."

"You'll always have my assistance, whenever you need it. I want you to know that." Padme shuddered as his strong hand clasped over hers.

For the rest of the evening, the couple either sat or strolled along the balcony and besides one interruption from Corde who was concerned with the queen's whereabouts, their evening was spent in conversation. Obi-Wan shared with her his fears and hopes and Padme spoke of her past, future aspirations, and own fears. As the morning sun peeked through the distant hills of Theed, Padme felt a void in her life being filled, which she had previously not realized even existed.