A Dangerous Situation
The situation is more dangerous than the Senator would admit.
– Captain Typho, Attcak of the Clones
It was the apprentice that returned later. Padmé listened gravely as he stammered an explanation of Master Kenobi needing to handle some other section of the apartment. She shrugged: he owed her no explanation; and returned to her work. After a pause during which she could feel him watching her, he turned away and continued where his Master had left off.
She was distracted almost immediately.
"No, not there. The far corner would be better."
It seemed that Anakin was not quite satisfied with the way Kenobi had positioned the observation cameras. The security officer setting them up gave a reply she was unable to hear.
"He did? But see here," Anakin said, pulling the man down from the stool and scaling it himself. "The light is going to hit the walls this way after sunset. If you fix the camera there, it's only going to see shadows. But here… see?"
Apparently the man did; he gave Anakin a grin as the latter jumped off the stool. Anakin looked up in time to catch her watching him. She looked away.
It was extremely distracting.
To start with, it was fascinating watching him work with people. While Kenobi had been a didactic supervisor, Anakin was more demonstrative. He carried the other men along, showing them by example what he wanted done, explaining whenever he had to modify any of Kenobi's improvisations and now and then even asking for their opinions. He moved as he worked, going from one corner of the room to the other, climbing up and jumping off stools with astonishing agility. The men relaxed around him and the sombreness of her room reduced in proportion. Padmé wondered if she had better ask Dormé anyway to help her move to the lounge.
"Okay, let's keep it down a bit," Anakin called out over the soft rumble. The volume went down at once. She looked up in surprise and he gave her a level gaze. "Sorry about that, Senator." He looked away at once but even she could see the effort it cost him.
That was the other distracting thing. Every now and then, Padmé would look up and it would be just in time to catch him looking away. It was getting harder and harder to sneak glances at him. Whenever she did, he would deliberately hold her gaze in a sort of silent challenge that she did not even want to try and understand. She was always the first to look away.
Just looking at him was distracting. There was something about the little boy attitude in a man's body that was extremely distracting.
Padmé glared at her console, immediately felt the hairs on the back of her neck prick and sighed loudly.
"Yes, my lady?"
She had his immediate attention. He had taken a few steps towards her and his blue eyes were almost jumping out of his face in eagerness. Startled, Padmé wondered what he could possibly have imagined she was calling him for.
He was still waiting. Padmé suddenly realized that she had no idea why she had called him like that.
"This is such a waste of time!" she snapped quickly to cover her confusion.
He was equally confused if the expression on his face was any indication. "You mean - "
She gained momentum. "You and Master Kenobi... All these extra security features. I mean," she added, shifting around on her bed so she could sit up a little as she spoke to him, "you said it - protection is for the local security not Jedi."
Anakin managed to look both embarrassed and pleased at the same time.
"I- I spoke out of line," he stammered. "I should not have contradicted my Master like that."
"Well, you were right," Padmé said bluntly. His eyes seemed to shine at her. Padmé was immediately wary. "Please don't listen to me," she said quickly, "I certainly am no expert on Jedi etiquette." She picked up her work again.
His eyes dimmed momentarily and then blazed back at once. "Master Obi-Wan just wants to follow the Council's instructions. And so do I," he added earnestly, taking a step closer to her. "Protection and investigation cannot be separated in our mandate. I'm sure of that."
"The Jedi Council believe that the criminals behind this attack are extremists from the Naboo Moon Mining union who are protesting the effect of the Refugee Relief Movement on their trade." Padmé said dourly. "There is no need for an investigation. You know this already, don't you?"
"I know what the Council thinks. I know that you don't agree."
Padmé smiled wryly, still not glancing up.
There was a pause. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see his feet shuffling nervously on the carpet. He cleared his throat. She heaved another sigh.
"How…" He choked on the sentence when she looked up and swallowed hard before he tried again. "How have you been, my lady?"
She was touched by the heartrending sincerity of his question.
"I've been fine, Ani," she said gently. "As well as can be expected as of recent," she added, more matter-of-factly. "And you, Ani? How've you been?"
"Well. Good." He shrugged and grinned a bit. His feet dragged on the carpet again and he came a bit nearer.
"Just well… good?" Padmé teased lightly, remembering his conversation with Kenobi. She had a feeling that what she had witnessed at the conference table and again just a few minutes ago were just a tip of the iceberg on a very stormy relationship.
"Better now," he blurted and immediately blushed.
His answer was an endearing mix of enthusiasm and shyness. It was disconcerting. Feeling awkward, Padmé turned back to her work.
This time, the silence dragged on between them. Anakin was standing quite close to her and she could feel his gaze burning down her neck. She wondered what the workmen were making of this scenario – she in bed in thin day clothes, all cosy and comfy with the teenage Jedi apprentice hovering above her and practically staring into her robe. She looked up sharply to firmly send him on his way and she was immediately frozen by his eyes. On their own alone, they were already quite remarkable, cut-glass blue, hard, warm and infinitely beautiful. Now, they were staring at her in a way that made her feel as if she was being branded with iron. She felt something very hot and strong rise up inside her and she looked down at once.
The little slave boy had been her dear friend. She had come into his life without knowing her hands were open, asking for help and he had saved her and her people. The Jedi had the sky-blue eyes of that boy and they gazed at her with the same old adoration and awe. There was something new now. It should not have disturbed her because she had seen it in men's eyes before, but it had always been unobtrusive, veiled out of custom and courtesy. The desire in the Jedi's eyes was frightening in its sincerity.
"Did you mean what you said?"
Padmé had not even planned on saying those words. She had not even been consciously thinking about the earlier meeting with the two Jedi and Anakin's impassioned but apparently inappropriate vow to hunt down her assassin.
"What you said -"
"I know what you mean." He had come a lot closer than she had realized, he was near enough to whisper. "And I meant what I said."
She glanced over his shoulder as he turned around to face the security man that had just come up to him. "It's like this," Anakin said before the man even began to explain the problem he was having with the tool in his hand. Anakin placed the man's fingers around the instrument and gave him a quick demonstration. The man did it at once and got it right. "See? Easy." The man walked away, grinning. Anakin barely waited for him to walk out of earshot before turning back to Padmé.
She was still staring over his shoulder. "If you meant what you said-" she ignored his protest and continued firmly. "Then I have an idea you could help me with."
Vaguely, Padmé mused that Anakin's grin, as blindingly attractive as it was, was quite inappropriate for the situation.
She beckoned him nearer. He bent awkwardly and sat down at the edge of her bed. If he sat any closer to the edge, he would fall off.
In hushed tones, they plotted. Anakin gave Padmé an overview of the new security arrangements. Sentinel droids were being installed at every aperture in her apartment. They would deflect away any unauthorized intruder that approached her apartment within the range of 50m, effectively protecting her from any attack and preventing the Jedi from laying hands on any would-be assassin. She suggested carefully that if at least one sentinel droid near her sleeping chamber was shut down, then an intruder would be able to approach the apartment near enough to be apprehended. She phrased this very diplomatically. She was more or less asking Anakin to use her as bait for a murderer and she knew without any doubt that if he fully understood that, he would not help her in anyway.
"It could work, could it not?" Padmé asked finally.
Anakin nodded his agreement. "As long as Master Obi-Wan doesn't read my mind first and spoil all our plans."
"Oh." She had not thought of that. "Well then, perhaps-"
Anakin laughed softly. A few of the men looked over, but Padmé barely noticed them. It was the first time she had heard Anakin Skywalker laugh in ten years and the sound was just as compelling as it had been when he was a small boy.
Or perhaps, it was even more so.
She did not even know how delightedly she was smiling at him until he caught his breath.
"That's the second time I've made you smile today," he said quietly. He shifted nearer. She watched his hand reach over her console and towards hers on the bed. She pulled her hand back at once and looked at him sharply. He just smiled at her with his eyes. Padmé could feel her heart slamming against her ribs.
"Really?" she said breathlessly, trying and failing to sound aloof. His hand had not stopped its journey towards hers. "And when was the first time?" She fisted the hand closer to his.
"This afternoon." Anakin's knuckles were near enough to touch hers. If she pulled in her hand any further, she would be touching her own body and she was not sure whether that would hinder or encourage him. "When you told me I was still that little boy you knew."
This time, Padmé's smile was more of a smirk. This was familiar ground. "You still are that little boy to me, Ani. You always will be younger. No amount of Jedi powers can change that." His hand stopped moving at once and he looked down, crushed. She grinned even more widely with relief.
Anakin drew his hands into fists and sighed loudly. Then he looked up at her with his heart in his eyes. "You still are that angel to me, Padmé. You always will be. And no amount of carefully chosen barbs can change that either."
Padmé stopped smiling at once.
Whatever had this boy seen in the fourteen year old Queen of an Outer Rim world that had made him hold onto his steadfast devotion for over a decade? Naboo and beyond had revered Queen Amidala as the doll-warrior of justice and integrity, passion and ideals. They thought that Senator Amidala was that same girl. But how could innocence survive in any ruler that had resorted to war and bloodshed in order for her world to survive the corruption of its supposed guardians? How could she ever have regained her innocence after weighing human life on a scale like the Maker and choosing to sacrifice the lives of others for those of her own and her world? For as she watched the pyres burn for the casualties of the battle and the victims of the concentration camps, she had come to realize that in order to beat oppression, one had to utilize its weapon- corruption; and in order to use corruption, one had to become a part of it.
Anakin's angel of long ago was no more; she had probably never been. He was just looking at the memory of a dream. Padmé wanted to tell him that. She had to give him a reason to stop looking at her like that. She needed herself an equally good reason to look away from those impossible eyes.
The rest of the room seemed to shrink away and disappear.
Padmé glanced up in relief. Dormé was bearing down on her with a pile of clothes in her arms and a suspicious look on her face.
Padmé turned to Anakin. "Thank you for your time, Jedi Skywalker." She tried to smile into his eyes.
He stood, bowed and hid his eyes from her. "We serve." He turned away and walked back to the men.
Dormé was too well trained to express her curiosity in more than a fractionally raised eyebrow and for that, Padmé was grateful.
"I think I'd better move to the lounge, after all. Dormé, can you help me?"
With remarkable self-control, she managed to prevent herself from looking once at Anakin as she gathered her documents together. It was not so easy to ignore the fact that he was equally succeeding in not glancing once at her, but Dormé's alert presence made it necessarily tolerable.
As she passed the workers to exit the room, all the men paused momentarily and gave her a smart salute. "Good evening, Senator."
She paused fractionally at the door, waiting.
"Good evening, my lady."
She felt Anakin's eyes touch her just before Dormé shut the door.
Author Notes: Thanks so much to all my reviewers. And please if you read this story to the end and would like me to continue in this genre (romance/dramatic), please don't hesitate to let me know. Ialwaysvalue and consider reader's feedback.
May the Force be with you all.