Disclaimer: George Lucas owns Star Wars. I am not making a profit from this work of fanfiction.

Fierce in Denial

There's no point in telling him that he can't have me. He knows he can't have me, just as he knew he couldn't have his freedom.

Not the way he knew inside that he could win a Podrace, and so he did.

It is pointless to try and hide my feelings from him, a gifted young Jedi, but I make the effort anyway, and then I try and shore up my own resolve, ruthlessly obliterating my longings with the blunt force of the knowledge that it could never, ever work.

Politicians on Naboo don't have personal lives. They don't have relationships. Giving yourself to public service, among my people, is an all-or-nothing proposition. That's why most of our public servants are so young, myself among them: we give of ourselves, pay our dues to society, and then we move on to have our lives and give of ourselves and pay our dues in another way, what my mother calls "paying for your raising." We go on to build families of our own - and that, too, is a service.

But not for me. Never for me. I've stayed in public service long after I'd hoped to have a child of my own, long after my family thinks I really should have settled down. Part of that is because the Queen and Sio Bibble and others like them - my people - keep asking me to stay, to serve them just a little longer, to give of my time and my talents and my seemingly tireless energy, because they trust me, and there are so few people of whom anyone can say that any more. But also because ... until now, I've never really been tempted toward the personal.

There was Palo, of course. I wasn't kidding when I told Anakin of his dark good looks, although I'll admit that maybe I was teasing him a little, playing on his obvious - and ill-placed - jealousy. At the time it had been a game. But even with Palo, it was never serious. I would never have turned from public service from him, never have considered giving up my chance to be Queen. I wouldn't have turned down my successor's request that I serve in the Senate, either. I don't think he would have wanted me to; he liked me well enough, but it was no more than that.

But if it had been Anakin ... if it had been Anakin, all those years ago - which would have been impossible, of course, because he is five years younger than me - or even last year, or even now, and if Anakin had not been a Jedi ... I would have given it all up, with hardly a moment's hesitation.

I'd give it up tonight, except for one thing.

Anakin is a Jedi. I have some small inkling of what that means to him, to the brilliant, determined slave boy I met on Tatooine. I don't really know him anymore - I know the little he has told me of himself since we left Coruscant, but that's mostly lighthearted banter, stories of his childhood as a Padawan, of the scrapes he's gotten into and the pranks he's pulled in the years we've been apart. They are meant to entertain, not to give me insight into his soul. He's just trying to keep my mind off the danger, any way he can. It's one of the many things I love him for. But tonight is the first time he's spoken of his hopes, his dreams, what he really wants. He seems to think it's me, but I can't quite believe that he's changed so much that being a Jedi isn't still the most important thing in his life, the thing he has "always dreamed of doing."

And that means that I can never, ever say yes. I can't let him make this bargain, everything else he cares about in exchange for my love. It wouldn't be fair. It wouldn't be right. How could I ever live up to such a burden? I couldn't. Even if the tension of the choice did not destroy us, the pressure of keeping that bargain would. It would destroy me, at least, and then he'd have nothing - not the life he gave up nor the woman he lost it for.

"Padmé, listen to me," he pleads, but if I do that then I'll never make it through this night.

I blink back tears and swallow everything I've felt and everything I've been on the verge of feeling for days and whirl on him now. "No, you listen," I demand, putting all the energy of my desperation into my voice, and he flinches.

I want to stop and comfort him, but that would give him entirely the wrong idea. I fight on, a controlled rant, the passion in my voice so heavy it sounds almost like anger, but I yield no ground. In this fight I am more determined than I have ever been, fierce because it's not me I'm fighting for, not even my people.

It's him.