Title: Instead of Hurting You
Author: Julie the Tall Terror
Category: AU Post TPM, character depth, action/adventure and some angst
Rated: PG for a little violence
Summary: Ani/Ami romance or at least a close facsimile thereof. Lots of action and evil Sith attempts to seduce Anakin to the darkside. Happy ending guaranteed! Ani is 18 and Padme is 23.
Sequel to "If I Don't Catch You", "I Won't Fail You", and "I'm Counting On You". You actually don't have read those stories to understand this one, but I'd really like you to!
Feedback: Yes! It always improves fanfic! email@example.com
Begun: June 13, 2001
Completed: July 7, 2001
Qui-gon and Obi-wan are only featured in flashbacks because I couldn't see how Ani could possibly court his lady with two masters looking over his shoulder. ;)
Part 1 of 3
Anakin Skywalker restrained himself from pacing - barely. Almost there.
There really wasn't room to pace anyway. Not unless he wanted to walk on the ceiling. He only half listened to his tiny droid, Kaely, chattering about how glad she'd be to get off of the ship. The com-terminal beeped quietly interrupting her.
"Padawan Skywalker," he announced to the air.
"Ah, Skywalker. I'd appreciate your company as we land," the Supreme Chancellor's voice softened. "I know how anxious you must be to see your mother, Anakin."
"Oh! I do apologize," Palpatine suddenly said. "May I call you Anakin?"
Anakin was grateful that the com was audio only. Palpatine didn't need to see how easily he had startled the young Jedi.
"Certainly you may, Supreme Chancellor. I will join you momentarily."
Anakin switched off the terminal wearily. Like anyone would have dared tell him no. But asking was polite of him.
Anakin collected his cloak and prepared himself for another dreary conversation. The pink droid swiftly zipped into one of his large pockets without being told. Kaely had been amazingly well behaved on this trip. However, the entire journey from Coruscant had been an exercise in patience for Anakin. I don't think I've had more than two full hours at a time to myself on any day cycle of this whole trip.
A great honor, they said. Almost like a vacation, they said. 'Serving as the escort for the Supreme Chancellor is an excellent first solo mission.' More like a vacation for my masters.
Anakin tried not to feel envious. Qui-gon's probably enjoying the peace and tranquility of his home world immensely. And Obi-wan's new girlfriend is undoubtedly delighted to have his undivided attention.
He repressed a sigh. Meanwhile, I have to listen politely while an old guy talks me to death, even during meals - all three of them!
It had seemed like such a great idea at first. Naboo's ruler, Queen Amidala, had chosen not to run in the next election. As Naboo was Palpatine's home world, it was natural that he'd want to attend the changing of power from the Queen to the newly elected leader. Supreme Chancellors rarely traveled farther than the Core, and so it was wise for him to want a Jedi to accompany him. That Palpatine specifically requested Anakin was not unexpected. After all, Anakin was famous on Naboo, and his mother, Shmi, lived there.
Anakin felt a little ashamed as he realized how petty his thoughts were. It's ludicrous to be annoyed with a man who is simply grateful that I helped save his home nine years ago. And is taking this opportunity to show it. Half the beings on Coruscant would give anything to have a friendly chat with the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic, even just for a few minutes.
He reached the doors to Palpatine's onboard office and nodded to the guards. Well, if he wants to call me Anakin, fine.
He just can't call me Ani. Only four people are allowed to call me that now and no one else. Supreme Chancellor or not.
Anakin hung back as Palpatine's entourage descended the ramp. Any threat to Palpatine's life was highly unlikely here, but Anakin had been sent to sense danger and protect. As the guards were focused mainly on the front, Anakin stayed alert for any threats from the rear and was pleased to sense none.
Turning to look forward, Anakin scanned between the guards to see the official planetary greeters and froze.
A full honor guard, the ever-present handmaidens, and what appeared to be the entire Naboo court stood ready to receive them. At the center was Queen Amidala.
Of course, she would be here to meet Palpatine. Anakin felt sheepish for not remembering that.
She was smiling brightly at the Supreme Chancellor as he walked to her. Anakin strained to see more than her elaborate headdress when the crowd obscured his view. Trying not to look too eager, Anakin eased his way around to one side. Finally finding a gap between a couple of attendants he got a good look.
Amidala was arrayed in every pastel shade imaginable. Sea pearls and tiny shells dripped between ringlets of brunette curls and gathered at a single bun on the top of her head. More ropes of pearls and larger shells of many sizes and colors adorned her gown. She was still lovely, and looked much smaller than he remembered. In the few holo messages she'd managed to send him, she was always dressed as Padme and only her head and shoulders had been visible.
Anakin sucked in air greedily when he realized he had been holding his breath for several minutes. The people in front of him frowned briefly at him. Anakin ignored them and he watched for any sign that the Queen had heard him embarrass himself.
It appeared she hadn't. Amidala had finished her speech and was briefly hidden from view as a darkly clothed man with a feathered headdress stepped forward to greet Palpatine. She never turned in Anakin's direction, but began leading the entourage away to the bridge and transports.
He began to wish that her decoy, Sabe, was playing the Queen today. Anakin's eyes grew unfocused as he imagined how Padme would have conveniently placing herself in the last row of handmaidens. He could have walk closer to them and she could have lagged a little behind the group. No one would have noticed or cared when a Jedi went up to talk to a handmaiden. No, Anakin halted his fantasy. It wouldn't have worked.
Anakin sighed dismally as the crowd streamed past him. Palpatine had graciously suggested that he go see Shmi as soon as the official meeting was done. He insisted that he would be safe in the palace and spent nearly a quarter of an hour sympathizing with how hard it must be for Anakin to be unable to visit his mother for so many years. Anakin didn't like discussing his mother with strangers. If it had been anyone else, Anakin, with the help of Kaely, would have conjured up a convenient distraction and changed the subject. But you couldn't do that to Supreme Chancellors.
Turning away from the garishly clothed courtesans, Anakin began to wander through Theed. Kaely quickly flew out of his Jedi robe. Fortunately, she only needed a warning look from Anakin in order to prevent her from playing with the glittering banners. He ignored the shop venders and stores and simply watched the people as he passed. Anakin had memorized the route to Shmi Skywalker's house years ago, on the hope that a mission might happen to send him to or near Naboo. Everything around him felt peaceful and content. It almost seemed cruel to hire a transport, so despite his eagerness, Anakin walked. Obi-wan and Qui- gon would have been proud.
Who was that man that was standing with Padme?
The thought caught him unawares and he nearly stumbled on the road. Anakin frowned and felt a swell of jealousy well up inside of him.
"I know you are excited that you will see Padme again, but please remember that she does not tell you everything about her life."
"Obi-wan, you don't know that. We tell each other a lot of things."
His friend and master sighed, "Don't assume that everything will be the way you want it to."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Anakin asked in confusion.
But Obi-wan just shook his head, "Don't rush things. And don't expect her to run into your arms."
"Speaking from experience?"
Obi-wan looked at him sternly, "This is serious, Ani."
"I'm being serious! You've been courting for only two months and now you suddenly decide you're an authority on all women," Anakin teased.
The conversation had deteriorated quickly after that resulting in a few dents in the ceiling, a scuffed floor and a rather irate Obi-wan when he realized he was going to be late meeting his girlfriend in the gardens. Anakin had laughed, but had still felt baffled at Obi-wan cryptic warnings. I've told Padme about the girls who've tried to flirt with me and that their silliness didn't interest me. Padme said she understood and agreed. I was sure that Padme would have told me if she'd - "
Anakin tried to reduce his panic and calm himself. He knew his mother deserved his undivided attention and arriving angry and upset would only hurt her.
The house sat back from the roadway a good distance, tucked under a stand of large trees. The effect made the building seem small and unobtrusive in order to give the beautiful landscape precedence. It was rather typical of this region of Naboo.
Once he reached the building's drive, Anakin could see that it was much larger than he'd first estimated. A five-member family could live comfortably in it. All that empty space must make Mom feel so lonely. Anakin realized.
Four long years of only holo-messages had taken its toll and a wave of homesickness hit him as he sensed his mother's presence in the Force.
Someday, I'm going to take you back with me to Coruscant, Mom. I know this is a wonderful place to live, but I want to see you whenever I like and always know that you are safe and happy. I can't do that on the other side of the galaxy.
Anakin broke into a run and all his thoughts fled when he saw his mother's small figure burst out of the door with open arms.
Anakin settled into the chair his mother had offered him and relaxed. The room was serene and saturated with his mother's happiness. The last remnants of Anakin's worries faded. Mom is really happy here.
"It is a pleasure to see you again, Master Anakin," The golden droid carried a tray of refreshments into the room and placed them on a low table.
"Mom has told me what a great teacher's aid you are and how you've even served as an interpreter for Queen Amidala a few times."
Droids can't blush, but Threepio could certainly give the impression of it. "Its really nothing, sir, I am only fluent in seven hundred thousand languages."
"Nonsense," Shmi gently disagreed and turned to Anakin. "Threepio is so good with the children, he nearly teaches the lessons for me. I feel like I only grade papers!"
"The Naboo children are such good students and much nicer than any I've ever meet," Threepio declared.
Anakin refrained from pointing out that Threepio's only other experience with kids were the poor slaves and starving thieves of Tatooine. Anakin shook his head. He still didn't like that Shmi had a job, even if it was only teaching a few classes of galactic languages.
The Naboo government provided the house and all her necessities. However, the little luxuries, like sending expensive holo-messages to her son halfway across the galaxy, meant she needed to earn money. Mom has had to work far more than she ever should have in her life. But she does seem to enjoy teaching kids and she'd be bored with nothing to do.
Anakin turned to speak to his mother but stopped short when he caught sight of his other droid. Kaely sat in silence and fumed. Oops, Threepio didn't greet her. Did he forget or is it deliberate? Even Mom never forgets to say hello. Anakin decided not to worry about it, he had other concerns on his mind.
"So, how do you feel about this new ruler of Naboo?"
Shmi clasped a cup in her hands, "I feel it will be well, though at first the people took the Queen's decision to not run again very badly."
"I didn't know that," Anakin murmured. Padme never mentioned that. A sinking feeling began to nag at him.
"Things have calmed considerably in the last year and I think that they will learn to appreciate the man they've elected as much as they did Amidala."
A man... that guy standing with Padme! Anakin felt both relieved and a little foolish.
Shmi continued, "I hope that the people don't persist in comparing everything he does to Amidala."
"I think I saw Padme introduce him to the Supreme Chancellor," Anakin commented idly. "Average height, dark hair, and a feather fetish?"
His mother attempted to look disapproving, but failed. "Yes, so far the robes he has worn all have feathers instead of the embroidered ornaments that Amidala wears."
"What's his name going to be?"
"They won't announce it until the changing of power ceremony. And the public cannot know his true name, naturally."
Anakin nodded quietly. A comfortable silence filled the room, he could faintly hear the birds outside and even Threepio had left with the tray earlier. Belatedly, Anakin noticed that Kaely was nowhere to be seen, but that didn't worry him. She'd finally learned to not go looking for trouble when exploring and he knew she wouldn't leave the house.
Perhaps now would be a good time to tell Mom about my visions?
"Mom," he leaned forward. "There is something important," he paused nervously.
"Seeing a man with the Queen shook you badly, didn't it?"
Anakin gaped at her.
"You may be a Jedi, but I am still your mother," Shmi reminded him.
Trust Mom to see through my lame façade.
"Yes, it did," Anakin admitted. "As you've probably already guessed, I came here to do three things - to escort the Supreme Chancellor, to see you again," he sighed, "and to tell Padme that I love her."
Anakin waited for a response, but Shmi only smiled indulgently. Mom doesn't really need to hear about how I've been plagued by visions about the Sith anyway. We have better things to talk about.
"Got any advice about girls?"
Supreme Chancellor Palpatine looked at Anakin's reflection in the mirror an attendant was holding. The young man stood behind him by the wall out of the servants' way. Palpatine was scheduled to attend a royal banquet and a swarm of attendants were preparing his hair and making sure his official robes were perfect.
To make the irritating process go quicker, Anakin had stayed to talk with him. However, he had ended up mostly listening to Palpatine.
"And so," Palpatine concluded cheerfully. "As you can see, I have great hopes that the Senate will pass these policies."
Anakin could indeed. The man was brimming with praise for the designers of the new policies, but his words were tinged with desperation. Anakin was left wondering why the Supreme Chancellor had explained so much of the details to him.
As the last attendant left the room Palpatine turned to face Anakin, "I would appreciate your opinion, Anakin."
Anakin was stunned. "It is not my place..."
Palpatine raised a hand. "Yes," he explained. "Normally I would agree, but you are a Jedi and have seen much more of the galaxy then I or any of my advisors. Your perspective is valuable."
Anakin was still very uncertain. If he'd asked Obi-wan or Qui-gon, I'd understand. But me?
"Anakin," Palpatine began to explain. "Everyone else I could speak with are politicians trying to gain something. As a Jedi, I know you will be honest about what is truly good for the galaxy."
The Supreme Chancellor gave a long-suffering sigh, "I can speak freely with you and not worry that you might use my words against me someday."
"I don't know much about the bureaucracy's methods of funding things, but I do know that most of the worlds I've been to do lack the necessary security."
Palpatine nodded for him to continue.
"It would also help to take the some of the load off of us."
"Yes," Palpatine answered. "I wasn't sure if it would really help the Jedi or if you'd feel hindered or worse," he paused nervously. "Slighted."
Anakin was quite astonished, "No, sir. Not at all. We have been unable to keep the peace alone, so it is only practical to increase the military where needed to protect the helpless worlds from those who want to wage war on them."
"Good, good. I am very glad to hear you say that, Anakin."
Anakin smiled faintly despite how uncomfortable he felt about this conversation.
"On another matter," Palpatine began. "I have thought a great deal about Amidala and her career. Her talents and compassion for the Republic, not to mention her skill in diplomacy, should not be wasted.
"Therefore, I intend to offer Amidala a position on my staff."
Anakin raised one eyebrow in surprise, but waited for him to continue.
Palpatine's expression took on a scheming look, "I'd like her to be the next Supreme Chancellor after I have retired."
"That's wonderful!" Anakin was delighted. Padme would be perfect. All of this rotten squabbling would cease with her in charge.
"I'm very glad you approve," Palpatine grew serious again. "She has such great potential. It would be a terrible pity if it should be wasted. The Republic needs more people like her."
Palpatine is already working to prepare a good and fitting person to lead the galaxy when he is gone. "I agree, Amidala is an excellent choice."
Palpatine smiled, "Thank you, my friend."
The com beeped abruptly. Palpatine glanced at the terminal's screen. "Anakin, please inform my guards that I am ready. I will join you in a moment."
Anakin left politely and once alone, Palpatine activated the audio only message.
"I ordered you never to contact me in this fashion," he growled before the caller could speak.
"My Master, I apologize, but I need-"
"If you are unable to complete your mission then I will find someone else who can," Palpatine said coldly.
"I will succeed, Master. It is just that this -"
He flicked off the com without waiting for a reply. "Incompetent fool," Palpatine glared at the silent com terminal. He waited for a moment to compose himself before leaving the chamber.
"Oh Ani! You said you'd grown tall, but..." Padme trailed off leaving her sentence unfinished.
Anakin beamed unabashed. "I've missed you."
A silence came over them as they looked each other over. Padme was dressed simply, but not in her typical handmaiden robes. The handmaidens had been un-characteristically left in the outer room. Anakin had been delighted when they didn't follow as Padme lead him to a cozier, but still large sitting room. The massive doors remained open giving them full view of Padme, yet also out of earshot.
Oh well, can't have everything. Anakin thought.
Padme openly admired him and looked like she wanted to give him a hug. Anakin felt mildly irritated that because he wasn't a boy anymore that it wouldn't be proper for her to hug him. However, he was also glad that since she hadn't hugged him, she definitely wasn't thinking of him as the little child he had been. It was a bittersweet feeling.
"I'm so glad you could come to see me, Ani."
"Well, I couldn't miss the chance. For years I've tried every trick and excuse I could think of to come back to Naboo, but it never worked. I hardly believed it when the Supreme Chancellor asked me to escort him!"
"Anakin," Padme suddenly became serious, "I didn't get a chance to ask in my last message to you, but I'd like to know how you feel that I refused re-election?"
"That depends," he answered, "Will your fashion sense change?"
Anakin tensed when he realized that he'd said it aloud. He waited for disaster to strike.
But Padme laughed, "Definitely, I'll have no need for elaborate garments or a decoy again until I return to politics."
Anakin relaxed and hoped his smile didn't look like one of relief. In their holo-messages to each other over the years, he had never worked up the courage to tease her. This will be fun.
"My handmaidens are looking forward to the time off as well," Padme strolled to the open windows over looking the terrace.
"So, what will you do now?"
Padme returned to the window, "I'll relax with my family, perhaps for a year before taking up my new duties. I worry that I won't have that long with the civil unrest in the galaxy growing. But let's not talk about that," Padme decided. "How is your mother? I haven't seen her lately."
Anakin smiled, "Just fine, as always. She's very happy here."
"And yet, you'd rather have her with you at the Jedi Temple."
"Yes, I would," Anakin gazed at Padme with open wonder and delight. Only she would understand me like that. No one else, not even the Jedi, know how I think and feel like Padme does.
"Would you like to walk in the garden?" Padme tactfully diverted his attention away from his train of thought.
She gestured to the massive glass doors ahead of them. As they walked towards them, a debate began to rage inside of Anakin's head. Do I simply pull the door open or use the Force? Would it look dramatic or like I'm showing off?
Anakin had a feeling that Force tricks would not impress Padme in the slightest. But I want her to see what a necessity and constant the Force is in my life. She needs to be comfortable with what I can do.
It took only a second to think about how his masters would react if they were to see him use the Force for this. Obi-wan would have indulged him, because it was Padme. However, Qui-gon would not have been amused. Choosing not to risk overdoing things, Anakin merely walked to the handles. Padme had already stopped walking several paces behind to stay out of the large door's range.
For a moment, Padme began emitting an attitude of smugness and Anakin could sense that she was trying to hide it. He could feel that the door's mechanism was unlocked. Nervously, he wrapped one hand around the elaborately curved handle and half expected it to be deliberately jammed in some way he had not detected.
Anakin sensed the projectiles moving a mere second before they were actually airborne. Spreading his perception with the Force, he halted their flight a safe distance from Padme and himself. He spun around to face her.
Padme wrinkled her nose cutely, "They were supposed to hit you."
Anakin flatly regarded the two innocent chair cushions he was suspending in the air and returned them to their proper places on the furniture.
"Padme, you can't pull pranks on a Jedi."
"Are you sure?" she challenged.
Anakin turned and walked outside so she couldn't see him roll his eyes. "It just can't be done. I'll always know what you are trying to do or sense the trap you've set."
"Ridiculous," Padme argued. "I thought that the Force only alerted you to danger?"
"And being brained in the head with two pillows isn't?"
Anakin wisely did not answer.
"I am going to get you back for insinuating that I have bad fashion sense," Padme threatened in a mild tone.
Anakin smirked and continued walking. I got to use the Force anyway. And I didn't look like I was showing off either. He thought happily. Even though it was only a simple trick.
Or did she throw the cushions just to see me use the Force? Anakin glanced at Padme curiously, but didn't ask. He knew she'd never answer that question.
Soaker hose, check.
Droid to take the blame, che- okay maybe not.
Anakin crept along the top of the archway's ledge. He cleared his mind, disguised himself with the Force and waited for his prey to come within range. And then nearly fell when a hand landed on his shoulder.
"Ani!" Qui-gon whispered sternly.
Anakin jerked in surprise. One of these days I'm going to figure out how Qui-gon always manages to sneak up on me!
Anakin groaned and gave his master a very irritated glare. He began to get up, but Qui-gon motioned for him to remain still. Below, Obi-wan strolled into view with a very serious and demure looking lady. Anakin watched balefully as his targets leisurely walked under the archway without incident. For a second he wished that they'd managed to trigger the trap and get soaked anyway. After all, he was already caught.
However, the couple safely moved out of range. My one chance of catching Obi-wan while he is too distracted to sense me, wasted!
"Obi-wan does not need you embarrassing him."
Anakin sighed as the lecture began. He's going to tell Obi-wan and after that Obi-wan won't let his guard down again. He'll always be too alert for pranks.
Qui-gon began to wind down and Anakin realized it was his cue, "Yes, sir. I won't bother Obi-wan and his girlfriend again. When they're together that is," he added quickly. "I can't promise not to bother Obi-wan when she's not with him."
"I agree, you are not capable of that feat."
Anakin glanced at the hose hidden below and wondered if he could squirt Qui-gon with it at that angle. Nah, he'd dodge and then dump me in the pond.
Reluctantly, Anakin slide off the ledge and began collecting up his water contraption. In the distance now, he could still see the couple. "It might have actually helped them," Anakin mumbled weakly. "A little."
Qui-gon was not amused, "That's a poor excuse, Ani."
Anakin sighed, "Startling her might have made her loosen up a little. Teiuq is just so quiet!"
"An excellent trait for a Jedi, something you could learn from her."
"She doesn't seem like Obi-wan's type."
"That's for him to decide," Qui-gon's tone of voice made it clear that he would not tolerate any more critiquing from Anakin.
The two of them walked in silence for a while until Anakin decided since he was in trouble anyway, he might as well make it worth it.
"Why haven't you ever married?"
Qui-gon stopped in mid-stride. Though Anakin's bold question did surprise him, he didn't seem offended. Qui-gon looked intently at the 18 year old Padawan beside him.
"That is a good question," Qui-gon answered. "Jedi do not seek out mates. Most of us feel that if we are intended to marry and possibly have children, then we will. If not, we won't. Some Jedi know clearly that they shall never marry, while a few others know that they will."
Anakin raised one eyebrow, "But what about Obi-wan and Teiuq? How are they both not seeking the other out?"
"They are good friends and have both sensed that a relationship might be possible," Qui-gon elaborated.
"They are going awfully slow about it."
"On the contrary, Anakin, they are being unusually hasty," Qui-gon shook his head. "It is detrimental to the spouse and children to always be away on dangerous trips serving the galaxy. Therefore, we do not even consider romance until after years of focusing on missions and training Padawans. Obi-wan is younger than the typical age for this, but no one will begrudge him for it."
"Happiness is fleeting. It is best to enjoy it while you can."
It was only later that Anakin realized that Qui-gon had never answered his question.
Anakin snapped out of his memories as the trumpets behind him blared loudly in his ears. He fought to keep his face stolid. The newly pronounced King Yugwen was bowing to Amidala and she curtsied in return. The entire changing of power ceremony had been long and frequently boring.
Standing on the platform one step down from the Supreme Chancellor guaranteed that people watching this ceremony all over the galaxy would see him. Palpatine had personally asked Anakin to be at his side. None of his advisors or the politicians who had come to Naboo had received such an invitation and Anakin could feel their envy. It was a great honor.
Anakin watched Amidala move to one side as the new ruler began his speech. Qui-gon's right, I've got to hurry while I have the chance or else I might lose Padme. Even if it's unusual, I'm not a typical Jedi anyway.
End part 1 of 3