Chapter Five

The next morning the same creature of darkness that created the co-Chancellor's second shadow handed her into her transport. And, standing stoically as if he expected it, caught her to him tightly for a brief moment as – for no apparent reason – the transport suddenly pitched just as his fingers waved subtly at his side.

Inside his dark world he was beaming. Touching Padmé. Entirely innocently.

Of course! Entirely innocent! his mind laughed in glee.

Before last night he had lived with the misery of not being able to kiss her whenever he wanted. Or at all. Now she had reminded him of all the other ways he could demonstrate to her he loved her. She had reminded him that though his limbs were metallic, his lungs non-existent and his head to the outside world forever encased in plastic, there were still many parts of his body that enjoyed her contact. Even through the thick padding. And he had a wicked plan that intended to incite her arousal all day long until they could return home.

At her office he preceded her off the craft, turning most of his attention to possible threats as she followed behind him. Strode purposefully across the platform as he always did. In the turbolift down to her office, he appeared to stand in his customary position in front of her, unfeeling as always. But subtly, hidden from the view of the security cameras, the hands weren't clasped behind his back. One of them subtly reached behind a little further, and with the most minute of movements stroked his thumb very softly over her stomach until they came to a halt and the doors flung open.

Her face remained the picture of dedication, as she moved into her workspace as normal but he could feel how different she was today. How much his subtle touch excited her. And he let his own love for her wash over her as she talked to her assistants, causing her to break out in a smile mid-sentence.

"Stop that," she murmured to him as she moved into her office and the doors closed fast behind them.

"M'lady?" he pretended to be innocent.

It didn't come out that way though. It came out hard and unfeeling once more and inside Anakin wanted to scream. He'd almost forgotten. This morning they'd woken up in the new room. They'd talked and kissed, and laughed and made love again, then she'd left to have a shower before the day started and he hadn't had the need to speak since.

The way he had flustered her by suggesting naughty intimate things into her ear was the last chance he'd had to use his voice. And now it was back to that of the aggressive monster Darth Sidious had created to intimidate dissenters.

He felt Padmé notice the difference immediately, just as he had. But he also felt how she pushed it aside and let pleasant feelings replace the space. She was trying to reconcile the voice of the monster with the husband who she had re-learnt last night.

He reached out with his mind and momentarily dulled the capabilities of the sensors that kept her safe from intruders in her office.

---

Oh don't pretend you didn't just put those thoughts in my mind she turned to smile at him.

"You're teasing me," she noted and gave him a sly look.

Just then her desk assistant's hologram appeared on the desk.

"The refugee committee are here m'lady," he informed.

"One moment," she delayed, pressing a button so he disappeared and turning back to Anakin.

"You pitched the ship on purpose."

"I did not," he modulator voice answered.

"Oh yes you did. You were balanced perfectly to catch me."

He had no reply.

"Why now?" she queried him thoughtfully. "Why have you chosen now to start tormenting me?"

"Because now I know when we get home I can do something about it. I can be with you," he growled.

She would have almost thought to be frightened if he didn't send more loving feelings into her heart.

The committee chose that moment to start walking into her office.

"And I will be waiting until then," she informed him under her breath just before she turned to greet the senators.

---

Anakin once more lit up behind the mask. They couldn't see him. None of them were Jedi, none of them could feel his emotions. So he basked in them. Oh sure, he stood stock still and straight to cut the intimidating figure of her protector, but beneath the physical layers he was a being filled with nothing but love and giddy anticipation.

Throughout their meeting he remained unmoving, knowing that a few of the entourages were unnerved by his inhuman ability to stand still for so long. None knew he was a Jedi. Let alone the Hero with No Fear, whose sudden unexplained disappearance still puzzled many.

As the meeting passed slowly he allowed his mind the luxury of pondering ways to tease Padmé for the rest of the day.

---

Padmé watched the party finally leave and then hit a button on her desk. Her mind had been carefully paying attention to two completely different tasks while the committee had been here. One half of her awareness was intent on their cause, listening to their requests and ideas as they outlined their goals. The other was firmly pondering how best to restore Anakin to full health.

Though Palpatine had retrieved him from Mustafar and taken it upon himself to keep Anakin alive, the chosen one's subsequent destruction of the Emperor had left Anakin's physical fate in the hands of the Jedi, technically. However the few remaining Jedi, as she well knew, would totally shy away from the idea of the very substantial costs involved in restoring Anakin. Let alone the notion that perhaps some within the temple would rebuke the idea of helping him at all. She had a feeling Obi-Wan was one of only a few friends he had left there.

She, however, as co-Chancellor, had the outrageously over-allocated salary the Emperor had allotted himself, at her disposal. It was way beyond her capability to spend. Though she had asked the Senator for Naboo to introduce a bill to cut it significantly, the two months she'd already been in office had given her more credit chips than she knew what to do with. Or had known what to do with.

"Yes m'lady?" her appointments assistant asked.

"Could you arrange for the good doctor to meet with me at some point today?"

"Wasn't he here just yesterday afternoon?" came the confused reply.

"Yes, I need to speak with him once more."

The assistant nodded his compliance and turned to leave.

"Thank you."

Padmé sat at her desk and picked up a data pad as the door shut behind the assistant.

"We have to do something about your lungs," she explained to Anakin, albeit unnecessarily.

No doubt he knew exactly why she'd asked.

"Maybe I'll leave you to have that discussion without me," came the disembodied voice.

She looked up in surprise.

"Why?"

"The conversation you must have had with him yesterday. I'm embarrassed."

She returned her eyes to her work but continued their conversation.

"That's regrettable but the conversation was necessary. Did it not work out for your benefit?"

Because she couldn't see him smirk in embarrassed remembrance he forced out a "yes."

It was the one time he was glad for the distortion of his voice, it masked the un-masculine squeak which had just yelped out of his lips.

"I am hoping this conversation will be just as productive," she told him with a bureaucratic tone that implied lack of feeling.

But he could sense her trepidation, fear, and hope and remained silent in the background as her next appointment shuffled in.