Counselling

Chapter 1, Visitors to the Island Temple

''

It had been pointless suggesting that he wait behind. Of course, he had nodded meekly enough when she asked him to. But when Padmé reached the harbour, the barge was already afloat and Anakin was seated in its middle, an oar in each hand.

Once again, he got his way.

At first, as he paddled away from Varykino, the peaceful silence between them was interrupted only by the occasional cry from a seabird and the far-off braying of the herd animals on the island. The sweet perfume of the water lilies in the cold night air wafted between them, imprisoning them in its poignancy. Then at first tentatively and more excitedly later, Padmé broke their quiet to point out an old sight or memory she wanted to share with him. He listened with silent attentiveness, his eyes fixed on her every gesture, and her heart twisted inside her at how much she wanted to share with him, how little time they had together now and how impossible it was that they should be together at all.

They approached the small island; the dome of the stone-hewn structure in its centre loomed over them like a large cloud.

"I came here almost every day with Winama, the summer before I was made Princess of Theed." Padmé's voice rose and fell as Anakin took hold of her hand and then her waist to help her out of the boat. She broke contact with him as quickly as possible and stepped on ahead of him. "It was a second home to me after Varykino."

If he read any significance into her actions, he chose to ignore it.

''

They walked side by side on the beach. Soon, the soft sand underneath their feet tapered out into a sandy path that ran through low shrubbery. The sweet smell of grass and fruit filled the air. The braying of the herd animals sounded increasingly louder and Anakin's eyes followed her pointing hand to see the sleek, white animals pacing against the far horizon. A thin old man in white robes appeared to be herding them. Padmé stopped and waved at him and he looked up and returned the gesture. The motion of his hand seemed to cut like an arc through the strong Force-signature of his aura. He was a trained Force-sensitive but not Jedi. Anakin stopped and stared. But Padmé was already moving along, walking ahead of him and he stifled his curiosity and hastened to catch up with her.

They reached the stone-hewn Temple and at Padmé's unspoken request, Anakin waited outside the open doors while she went in. He watched her count her prayers as her steps took her around the perimeter of the circular interior. Her song-prayer echoed between the bones of his ribcage and his hands shook with hers as she lit her candles, white and black. His own eyes smarted when she blew them out softly, one after the other, still singing her prayer.

She was walking back to him as the edge of the second moon glinted against the horizon, its blue glow outlining the blades of grass in sharp blue relief and the woman in ghostly beauty. It made Anakin want to reach out and touch her, to ascertain that she was real and not just something that came and went with the moonlight and the wind.

Instead, she was the one who reached for him, and enfolded herself in his embrace.

Are you really here? Are you real?

She did not ask the words out loud. They seemed to cry out from her heart into his.

"Padmé," he murmured aloud. He tried to pull back in order to see her face but she clung to him fiercely and refused it. "What's the matter?"

She shook her head silently against his chest, then suddenly pulled away from him. She was walking ahead of him so quickly, he wondered if they had been holding at all.

tbc