"You first, then," said Anakin, two cheeky eyebrows and a dimpled smile later. "What made you give up the life of ambition and politics?"
"Who said I gave up ambition?" she replied smoothly. "The world of fashion's not an easy ride."
He accepted this in stride. "So you gave up political ambition for another kind. Why?"
Padmé sighed, staring for a moment at a fry as she twirled it in her fingers.
"I never had any political ambition," she finally admitted. "I went into politics… this is difficult to explain. I went into politics because it was… expected. Politics on Naboo are sort of a family affair. Unofficial dynasties, I guess. My father's an ambassador, my great-grandmother was Princess of Doroda, my aunt's an advisor to the Queen… you get the idea."
"So you did it because your parents told you to."
"No!" she said, then quickly amended, "Well, not exactly. Like I said, it was just expected. Especially after Sola was so passionate about architecture – I didn't have a passion like that, or at least I didn't think I did, because we all just assumed I'd be the one to go into politics."
Anakin nodded, thinking about this. He didn't look upset, but his smile had certainly gone missing. She ignored this – he'd asked, after all.
"So I did. I did everything that was expected of me. We moved to Theed, I did my elementary at Hanoré, and then I got the pass to skip my superior. That's where things started to go wrong, I guess."
"Isn't that a good thing?"
"I said I got the pass to skip it, not that I actually did. It scared my parents a bit, I think, and like I said, I wasn't passionate about it enough to really have an opinion."
"Back up," he said. "I thought your parents wanted you to be a politician. Wouldn't they be pleased if you started apprenticeship early?"
Padmé sighed. This was certainly not something she'd thought she'd be dragging up again today after all these years.
She twisted her mouth. "Yes and no. They were pleased, sure – there were only two in my class that year. But… they were worried about me. Those few that get the pass are automatically political opponents. They know that they'll be the elite, that they'll be in competition with each other."
"For the throne."
There was silence for a moment as Anakin digested this. Because suddenly it all made perfect sense.
"The other student who got the pass – it was Sabé, wasn't it?"
Padmé nodded. "My best friend. My parents weren't so ambitious for me that they were going to encourage their eleven year-old daughter to destroy her closest friendship."
"But you didn't even go back to school. You became her handmaiden. Didn't that bother you at all?"
"Ani, I told you, I didn't care enough either way," she said laughing, though he didn't find it terribly funny. "When she found out I wasn't going to take the pass, she asked me to stay with her. It's not a path most politicians would choose, but I was eleven. I just wanted to be with my friend.
"Then she became Princess of Theed, and we both had work to do. A handmaiden's job is… unorthodox, to say the least. For all intents and purposes, I was head of her security force, but I also served as a decoy, usually when it seemed there was a dangerous situation, sometimes just for fun. Then she won the election and became Queen, and my job was that much more important. Suddenly I was protecting my planet's monarch and my best friend. Kind of a tall order."
"Hold on," said Anakin, "You served as her decoy in dangerous situations?"
"But the Trade Federation crisis… when we met. Why didn't you switch places then?"
"We did at first," said Padmé. "When Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan arrived, I was the one who greeted them. I escaped dressed as Queen, Sabé in my entourage. But when we landed on Tatooine and Sabé wanted to go explore, I had to put my foot down. We didn't know anything about the planet other than that Captain Panaka said it was ruled by gangsters, so I offered to go sniff around for her. You know what happens next."
Anakin smiled, the memory of their first meeting rushing back to him. "I thought you were an angel the first time I saw you."
"I know. You told me."
"Oh, Force. I did, didn't I?"
"I thought it was adorable. I still do."
Padmé leaned over the table and kissed his forehead. She immediately regretted it when he turned bright red, then decided she didn't regret it at all. They had always been affectionate with each other. What was ten years when that small part of her mind still couldn't let go of the concept of my Ani. So she smiled at his blush and ruffled his hair, though there was much less of it than the last time she'd done so.
"Alright, alright, enough," he said, flattening his hair and grinning. Finally. "So you left. Why?"
She smiled and looked out the diner window for a moment, taking it all in for a moment before replying, "This city."
"After we returned to Theed, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was so big, so alive, you know? It felt like there were a million and five things for me to discover here, and for the first time in my life I really wanted something for me."
"Like your own life?"
"Don't be rude."
"Anyways," she said pointedly, though there was a hint of a smile, "I couldn't just pack my bags and leave, of course. There were a few things I had to sort out."
"No, Sabé understood. But I wasn't going to leave before her term was up. I didn't know what I'd do if she was reelected, but it turns out I didn't even have to worry about that. Greejatus was a horrible senator and everyone knew it, and she wanted to give it a go. That's when I packed my bags and left."
"Weren't your parents disappointed?"
"No," she said, going for a fry and realizing there were none left. She stole one off Anakin's plate. "They were relieved. I think by that point we all knew it wasn't working for me. And I was seventeen by then – I'd developed a rather keen interest in fashion, so it was either U of A or FIC, and I already knew I wanted to get back to Coruscant. Aldera's a lovely city, but it doesn't have the same umph, you know?"
"And that's that."
"That's that," she agreed. "The rest is history. Your turn."
"Not so fast," he said, "We've still got what – six years to cover?"
"I've been here. Not much to tell."
"School for four years, two internships, got hired by Alaira Venet yesterday. Hence the hangover food."
"I was wondering," he said, smiling. He hesitated a moment, then leaned in and hugged her warmly. "Congratulations, Padmé. Your first job?"
"First real job. Alaira's the editor-in-chief of Galactica. Six months with her – a year tops – and I could have my own studio, my own line if I play my cards right."
"That's – wow. That's incredible, Padmé. I'm so excited for you."
"It doesn't seem quite real," she admitted.
He smiled at her. She smiled back. Silence lingered for a moment, and then it stretched on, but it was a comfortable one. There was something right about this, and something in Padmé words echoed in the pause between them. No, this is just about as real as it gets.
When Anakin looked up, Padmé's was fiddling with her empty mug of caf, and the large chrono that hung in nearby Meerk Square was sounding eleven-thirty.
"E chu ta," he muttered. She frowned. "Sorry, Padmé," he said, "I'm supposed to be at the Temple for – "
"Oh, go, go!"
"You don't – "
"No, if you're late – "
"I'm really sorry about – "
"Go on, Ani, really."
"When will I see you again?"
She stopped for a moment, the words she had been about to say caught in her throat, then she breathed and smiled.
"Yes," she laughed, "soon. Give me your datapad address, I'll message you."
He quickly wrote down the series of numbers and pushed it along the counter. "Don't let it be another ten years, alright?" he asked, only half a joke. Padmé rolled her eyes and pushed him off his stool.
"Of course, flyboy," she said, kissing him on the cheek. "After all, you still need to hold up your end of the deal."