Disclaimer: It's George's sandbox; I'm simply destroying the sandcastles
Genre: a "What If" - Drama, Romance
Timeframe: TPM - AU
Summary: What if Anakin had been older than Padmé at the time of their first meeting on Tatooine? (Anakin is 16, Padmé is 14)
Padmé stepped into the small junk shop with a slight wrinkle of distaste marring the bridge of her nose. It was clean, she gave it that, but crowded. Piles of junk, half-repaired robots, bits and pieces of every ship system she knew about and those she didn't littered every nook and cranny. The floor was covered in a fine layer of sand - but then, everything she'd seen thus far on Tatooine was.
Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn was speaking with the shop owner and she paid him little mind, instead turned to look at the flickering image of a pod racer with the silhouette of a young man standing beside it that was mounted above the main desk. A bent head behind the desk caught her gaze. Curly dark hair spilling low over forehead and cheek, hid their features from view and she stepped forward curiously. Whoever it was seemed to be completely absorbed in what they were doing.
Padmé's breath caught as the owner of those curls looked up and was snared immediately by the clearest crystal blue eyes she'd ever seen. It took her a minute to realize that the boy, who looked about her age, hadn't responded; he was staring at her the way she was staring at him. Heat suffused her cheeks and she tore her gaze away from his. "Sorry, I didn't mean to bother you."
Padmé's breath caught. His voice was mellow, caught somewhere between adult-hood and that of a child. It didn't crack, but it held the hint of deeper tones to come. She dared another look at him and took a half-step back. He'd stood up. He was well on his way to being six feet tall, if she didn't miss her guess. She darted a look back towards where Qui-Gon had disappeared with the shop owner.
"If we have what you're looking for, they might haggle over price all afternoon. I wouldn't hold your breath," the boy told her, hesitance evident in each of the syllables.
Padmé's shoulders dropped. "Oh." She turned back to the boy, curiously drawn to him, feeling safe in his presence the way she did in Master Jinn's. She struggled for something to say, but the boy's intent gaze was flustering her, making her brain act like mush. What was wrong with her?
"I'm Anakin," he finally ventured.
She exhaled, feeling both relieved and chagrined he'd had to be the one to rescue her. "I'm pleased to meet you, Anakin. I'm Padmé."
Anakin smiled, his lips tilting into a grin that revealed even white teeth. "Padmé." He repeated her name, taking another look at her. "Are you in disguise?"
She jerked as if struck. What did he just say? "P-pardon?"
He stepped closer, around the desk, looking at her carefully. "I asked if you were in disguise. It must be hard to hide your wings."
"My wings?" Padmé echoed, feeling at a complete loss. What was he talking about?
Anakin nodded, solemnly, but his eyes sparkled. "Must be hard to walk around mortals for an angel. Want to tell me what it's like?"
Padmé blinked, the words sinking in slowly, as she took in the seriousness of his expression coupled with the sparkle in his gaze. "You're making fun of me."
"Never." His expression turned contrite and he backed away, hitting the desk with his hip and almost stumbling. He looked away, embarrassed "I'm sorry if you think so. I just... you're the prettiest girl I've ever seen."
"Thank you." The response was automatic, a warmth spreading through her chest. "That's nice of you to say so." Padmé followed him, not quite certain why, as he rounded the desk and bent back to what he was doing. "What do you do here, Anakin?"
He didn't look up again as he picked up several tools, discarding one and the another before he found the one he was looking for. He set to work on a piece of machinery that was sitting in pieces behind the desk. "My Master," and Padmé could hear the hatred in his voice, "keeps me busy."
She fell back, shocked. "You're a slave?"
His head came up, his blue eyes blazing fire. "I'm a person. Like you or that Jedi you're with. I have thoughts and feelings and I have a name."
Padmé blanched. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't..."
He ducked his head, going back to the part he was fixing. "Forget it."
Qui-Gon returned at that moment, his face a shuttered mask. "We're leaving."
Padmé looked after the Jedi Master and back to Anakin, torn. She didn't want to leave him like that, in such a foul mood. They may have just met, but she had this need to-
Padmé met Anakin's gaze as his head snapped up. She met it. "I'm sorry, Anakin, I didn't mean to make you angry. It was nice meeting you."
Anakin's lips kicked into a half-smile, the anger disappearing, either buried or forgotten. "I'll see you again, Padmé. Sooner than you think."
She darted from the junk shop, Anakin's gaze on her fleeing form. He smiled then and began to whistle, going back to his repairs. If he finished shortly, Watto would send him home early - and he'd run into the Jedi and Padmé again. He was looking forward to their next encounter.