—Collected Wisdom of the Ka'andesi Peoples, as told to Inalia Kenobi, Chronicler of the Ch'lliear
The shrouded body of Qui-Gon Jinn lay in the great hall at the palace in Theed. He was alone now, except for the single, hooded figure of his Padawan who stood sentry over him, as still and utterly silent as a stone. They were bathed in moonlight from the room's high windows, but beyond them, there was only darkness. Padme shivered as she and Anakin slipped inside, unsure what, if anything, she might be able to do for Obi-Wan.
Anakin, who had been clinging to her hand, released it and moved to the Jedi's right side while Padme quietly glided over to his left. She threaded her arm with his and laced their fingers together, and he didn't resist, but he stiffened when she reached up with her other hand and tried to guide his head onto her shoulder.
"Don't," his voice was distant and passionless.
"Obi-Wan," she said slowly. "Letting go of Qui-Gon doesn't mean that you don't grieve."
"I gave him my word, Padme," he said flatly.
"I know that," she nodded, though her chest tightened at the words. "But you still need to grieve."
"I will train Anakin. With or without the Council's approval," he said, seeming for all the world as if her statement had no meaning to him. Perhaps it didn't. Perhaps he simply didn't know how to grieve for his friend and mentor.
"And, if the Council doesn't agree?" she asked hesitantly. "Where will you go?"
"I don't know yet. We'll decide that when the time comes," he replied.
"You could stay here on Naboo," she offered with a hopeful glance up at his coldly dispassionate expression.
The word was spoken with such finality that she bowed her head. She didn't cry, though. After all, she was the Queen of Naboo. She had learned well how to keep her feelings behind a mask of impassivity.
"I cannot teach him the Jedi Way, foregoing attachment in favor of service and seeking oneness with the Force if I can't let go myself," he went on.
There was no answer to that. None but a simple promise.
"I won't let go, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Even if you do."
"Why are we doing this?" asked Anakin, running his palm over the top of his recently cut hair.
He and Obi-Wan sat in the forward compartment of a Republic transport, which was slowly rising from its resting place on the landing platform in Theed. Several other Jedi who had journeyed to Naboo for Qui-Gon's funeral were also aboard, but for the moment, they were all in their own seats, absorbed in private conversations. This left the newly knighted Obi-Wan and his young apprentice largely to themselves.
"Doing what?" Obi-Wan asked, carefully keeping his eyes off the disappearing city of Theed.
"Leaving," Anakin replied.
"We are going to Coruscant," Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. The boy knew that.
"I know where we're going," sighed Anakin impatiently. "Why are we going to Coruscant?"
"Because that's where the Temple is, among other things," Obi-Wan said.
"You want to stay here," Anakin observed.
Obi-Wan knew better than to deny it. "It doesn't matter what I want."
"Because," Obi-Wan rubbed his eyes wearily.
"Because, I gave my word to Qui-Gon and your mother," sighed Obi-Wan.
"Well, why did you give your word if you didn't want to?"
"I did want to."
"No you didn't, you wanted to stay here," Anakin shook his head.
"It is possible to want more than one thing at the same time."
Anakin's brow furrowed. "Oh."
He fell silent for a minute or two, and Obi-Wan closed his eyes gratefully. He assumed that the discussion was over, and he was more than glad of that fact. He didn't think that he would be truly at ease until they were back at the Temple, but at the very least, he wanted to close the door on his feelings for Padme Amidala, and he couldn't do that with his apprentice asking such uncomfortable questions.
He opened his eyes, faintly startled. He still wasn't used to being addressed in that manner, and it was even stranger coming from Anakin. The boy's arms were crossed in front of him and he looked back at Obi-Wan with an air of challenge.
"You're picking the wrong one."
Obi-Wan raised his eyebrow in rebuke. "Is that so, young one?"
"Yes," nodded Anakin firmly.
"Anakin," Obi-Wan closed his eyes again, massaging his temple with the tips of two fingers to forestall an oncoming headache. He was tempted to issue a stronger reprimand, but suddenly the heart to do so drained out of him. He felt weak, bone-weary, conscious of very little beyond the burning double loss that left a cavernous hole in his chest, and with Anakin against him now as well, he was utterly alone. "I don't want to hear any more of this nonsense."
"That's because you know I'm right," Anakin muttered. "And if being a Jedi means hurting Padme, then I don't want to be one anymore."
Padme dismissed her handmaidens and broke her fast alone on the terrace outside her private chambers in the palace. She was dressed in a simple shift, her hair down around her shoulders, though soon enough she would have to return to her dressing room and don the elaborate attire of Queen Amidala. In the three months since the Jedi had left for Coruscant, she had begun to feel as if her life would never return to normal, despite the return to familiarity in her role as queen.
Sighing, she pushed back her chair and rose from the table, leaving the food before her largely untouched. The sun had recently risen, and the terrace was bathed in a red-gold morning glow that made the young queen's throat ache with longing for another place, a time which was, she supposed, as fragile and insubstantial as the story she had told to Anakin Skywalker.
She'd been right not to give the prince a name, she decided as the warmly lit terrace began to glisten with her unshed tears. Then she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Her arms prickled, and she sucked in a startled breath. To her credit, however, she did not whirl about in surprise but turned with the slow, poised, practiced grace of a queen.
"Obi-Wan," she said softly.
He and Anakin stood in the entryway, Captain Panaka positioned behind them and peering over the Knight's shoulder. She inclined her head slightly, and the security officer withdrew. Obi-Wan didn't move or speak. Anakin reached up, planting a hand on his Master's back, and gave the elder a rather pointed shove forward.
He stumbled a bit but managed not to fall, then turned to reprimand his apprentice. Anakin, however, had already vanished. Padme suspected that he and Panaka had not gone far. Raising his hand to his eyes, Obi-Wan shook his head and turned again, approaching her with painful caution.
"Good morning, Your Highness," he said, offering a formal bow.
She nodded, stomach muscles tightening. Was this an official visit then? The way Anakin had acted made her assume otherwise, but now she wasn't sure. He was nervous, contrite, hopeful…but none of those things meant that he had come with the intent to stay.
"Master Jedi," she said, electing to take the higher course.
He closed the distance between them and stood in silence, seemingly uncertain, not at all the Jedi she expected. "I—was wrong to leave the way I did."
"You…?" her voice quavered a little, and she let the question hang unfinished.
"Will you forgive me?" he whispered.
She could only nod, swallowing convulsively as she attempted to loosen her constricting throat. Obi-Wan reached out, clasping her hand in both of his as if he feared that she might change her mind if he did not. Then his right hand slid upward, caressing the back of her hand, smoothing over her wrist and forearm, and finally moving slowly back down again to rest on the beaded bracelet she still wore. He drew in a ragged breath, and then, as her eyes widened, he sank down on one knee and lifted her wrist to his lips.
"Padme, I don't know about happy endings. I'm not even sure what's going to happen tomorrow. All I know is that I love you, and I don't want to give that up. Will you marry me?"
"Yes," she whispered, nodding vigorously as the tears she had been holding back began to stream down her cheeks. "Yes, Obi-Wan, I will!"
If this was not clear from the extensive author's notes posted on my profile, I apologize. I thought I had stated that Episode I: Happy Endings takes place during the events of The Phantom Menace. Its direct sequel covers the time period between TPM and AotC. Story alerts aren't going to infom readers of when the sequel comes out. However, please feel free to add me to your author alert subscriptions.
Also, I don't know what's going on with the site, but I just noticed that the dashes I've been using for scene divisions and note sections appear to be vanishing. Sorry about that. If anyone knows how to fix the problem, could they let me know?