Summary: Fate is knowing that everything happens for a reason. Some things in life are just unavoidable, and whatever is meant to be will eventually come to pass, no matter how hard you might work to change it.

Or, five ways Anakin and Padmé never met, and the one way that they probably should have.

Disclaimer: I own nothing!

A/N: This is a new idea that I'm trying out – I've been working on it for a while. Basically, it's six short AU stories about how our favorite couple might have met. You decide which story is the one that should have been. =)

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This Free Fall

By: ibelieveintruelove

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Are you an angel?

What?

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I. "Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night."

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He couldn't stop staring. For the life of him he couldn't understand why, but the minute she had entered the room, his eyes had been locked on her, and he found it physically impossible to turn away.

Maybe it was because he had never seen a woman as beautiful as her before. Sure, he had met many attractive women over the years – you don't get to be the Chancellor's personal bodyguard and private ward without getting to meet a few pretty faces – but something about her was just so…different. Unique. Genuine. A quality that most of the ladies of Coruscant had given up long ago.

Maybe it was her reputation. He had been living on Coruscant with Palpatine for almost a year when she had first visited the planet, coming to plead her case to the Senate in order to free her people. He had wanted so badly to meet her, but Palpatine had refused, so he was forced to watch her speech on the holovid that night with his mother instead. He was immediately infatuated with her, and had followed her career closely ever since. A small part of him had been hoping that she would be here tonight, but to actually see her standing here…it was all a bit overwhelming.

For the first half of the party, he was ashamed to admit that he mostly sulked in corners and watched her. Obi-Wan tried to speak with him at one point, but then he noticed where his friend's attention truly lied.

"It seems your favorite politician has decided to join the ranks of the Coruscant elite," he commented. "You do remember what I told you about politicians, don't you?"

"Yes, I do, and I still say you're wrong," Anakin replied. "The Chancellor is plenty trustworthy – look at all that he has done for my mother and I! And she…well, I think you'd have to be insane to say that she isn't the most honorable, good-hearted, and dedicated politician in this room."

"Obviously," Obi-Wan muttered dryly.

After another few minutes of silently stalking her, Anakin finally worked up the courage to approach her. Only to be intercepted by his mentor.

"Anakin, my boy," Palpatine grinned, clapping him on the back. "I don't believe you've met our newest Senator. Allow me to introduce the former Queen and newly instated Senator of Naboo, Padmé Amidala."

Anakin felt his knees buckle as the woman he'd admired for the past ten years finally laid eyes on him. She smiled brightly and extended her hand – Anakin quickly brought it to his lips for a kiss.

"A pleasure to meet you, Milady," he said. Padmé blushed prettily, letting her hand linger in his.

"And this, my dear, is General Anakin Skywalker, my personal bodyguard," Palpatine finished.

"Ah, the infamous ward of the Chancellor," Padmé realized. "I'm honored, General. Rumor has it you're the most talented star fighter pilot in the galaxy."

"Anakin, please," he corrected. "But you flatter me, Senator. You mustn't believe everything you hear. Although I must say, the rumors about you were all terribly misleading."

"Really?" Padmé grinned. "How so?"

"Well, I had been lead to believe that you were a woman of great intelligence, strength, and beauty," Anakin began. Padmé raised one eyebrow curiously, and Anakin would have laughed at the appalled look on Palpatine's face if he weren't so focused on the woman in front of him.

"Now as for your beauty…well, there's no doubt that the rumors did not do it justice," Anakin smiled. "And as for your strength and intelligence…I look forward to discovering for myself how accurate those rumors are."

Padmé laughed warmly, her eyes sparkling in delight. "You are quite the charmer, aren't you Anakin?"

"I'm afraid you've caught me on a good day," Anakin said. "I'm usually terribly rude and have no manners whatsoever – at least, that's what I've been told. But seeing as I've made a good first impression, may I offer you a drink, Milady?"

A smiling Padmé took Anakin's proffered arm and together the young couple made their way through the crowd. Lost in their own world, neither of them noticed the curious stares and excited smiles that followed them. Never before had the citizens of Coruscant seen such a happy, well-suited couple.

From his place on the far side of the room, Chancellor Palpatine watched the pair with narrowed eyes. And for a brief second, so quick that no one else noticed, his normally blue eyes turned a sickly yellow.

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II. "But sometimes I feel quite alone in the world."

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She was the last Naberrie.

She hated even thinking about that, was afraid of the truth of that statement, so she continued to squeeze her bleeding arm and burrowed further into the bushes. The Federation droids were long gone; she had been able to outrun them before collapsing from sheer exhaustion. But it still didn't stop her from jumping at every sudden noise. The Lianorm Swamp was dark and murky and she feared that there might be a creature in here even worse than those nasty droids.

She hid in the swamp for three days, eating whatever berries and leaves she could find, sipping water from Lake Paonga. She even tried to catch a goober fish, but her wounded arm made her slow and clumsy.

By the fourth day, the berries were gone, the goober fish had been scared away, and her arm was turning an ashen, green color. Padmé curled up at the base of a rather large tree and dreamt of her parents, of her sister, and let her tears clean her face.

Sudden movements behind her caused her to freeze, and she used the last of her strength to pull herself away from the trees and into a nearby brush. She heard voices and approaching footsteps, and watched in amazement as what looked like the Queen's party drew near. A sole Gungan split off from the crowd and headed towards the lake, while the rest of the group conversed with each other.

Two men in brown cloaks spoke quietly apart from everyone else, and Padmé's mouth dropped open when she saw the lightsabers attached to their hips. She was staring at the Jedi in awe when a small boy wandered over to them. He stood a distance away, trying not to interrupt, and looked around the forest curiously as he waited to be noticed.

His eyes found hers.

Padmé was torn between calling out to him and moving further into the bushes, so she simply sat still and waited as the boy bounded over to her. He couldn't have been older than ten, and with the rags he was wearing, she wondered how he had ever ended up with the Queen and her chamber.

"Hello," he said. "I'm Anakin."

His voice was soft and kind, it made Padmé feel at ease. He was a sweet little boy, with a round face, blonde hair, and friendly eyes. They were a deep blue, like the waters at Varykino, and made him seem much wiser than his years.

"He-hello," Padmé coughed. "My name is Padmé."

Anakin's eyes narrowed as he took in her appearance. Padmé felt herself flush under his gaze, but kept her chin raised. She was the last Naberrie, and she was damn proud of it.

"Are you hurt?" he asked.

"I'm alright," she lied, hoping to appear stronger than she looked. "My arm is a bit sore."

Anakin glanced to her injury and his eyes widened, but he said nothing. Padmé was glad that he didn't make a fuss about it; she didn't want all the attention.

"Come meet my friends," Anakin said. "They can help you."

He stretched out his hand to help her up, and Padmé stared at it. It was a small hand, but she could see the dirty fingernails and a calloused palm that proved how strong Anakin really was. His eyes were calm and reassuring, and the tentative smile on his face was both excited and hopeful. There was more to this farm boy than met the eye.

Padmé reached out and took Anakin's hand, and he helped pull her to her feet. As she started to walk forward, her vision blurred and she felt her legs wobble beneath her. But a small, strong arm wrapped around her waist, and when her vision cleared she saw Anakin smiling up at her.

"I've got you, don't worry," he said.

And, strangely enough, Padmé wasn't worried in the least.

Her angel was with her.

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III. "For who could ever learn to love a beast?"

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He knelt before the hologram, waiting for the image of his Master to appear. His officers had left him to converse in private with the Emperor, and the only sound that could be heard throughout the room was the steady, mechanized breathing of the most feared man in the galaxy.

Emperor Palpatine's image flickered to life before him, and Lord Vader bowed his head.

"What is your bidding, my master?"

"I am sending you to the planet of Naboo," Palpatine said. "As my home planet, they should set an example of the standard every other system in the galaxy should strive to meet. I need you to make certain they meet those standards, Lord Vader."

"Of course, my Master," Vader replied.

"Rise, my friend," the Emperor ordered. "There is…someone who wishes to speak with you. Senator Amidala is the representative from Naboo, and she wishes to be…involved with her planet's restructuring."

Vader smirked behind his mask. He didn't have to be Force-sensitive to know that his Master was not pleased about this development. He would enjoy putting the Senator in her place.

The hologram flickered momentarily, until a new face shone before Lord Vader. Proud and beautiful, the face of Padmé Amidala looked upon Vader with disdain and contempt.

"Lord Vader," she greeted. "I wanted to formally introduce myself before you arrive in Theed. I am sure that we both have many ideas concerning the future of Naboo, and that together we can come to an arrangement that is mutually satisfying. I look forward to working with you over the next few months."

"As do I, Senator," Vader replied. "However, I must warn you that I was never much for negotiation or collaboration. While your input is appreciated, I promise you, it will not be needed."

The Senator's shocked face was the last image he saw, before he silently ended the communication using the Force. Smiling to himself, Vader turned and headed for the hangar bay. Naboo was less than an hour away, and he was looking forward to his arrival. Padmé Amidala had just made this his most interesting assignment yet.

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IV. "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…"

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Padmé stumbled into the cold, dark cell as the door shut silently behind her. She listened to the footsteps of the retreating storm troopers, waiting until the sound died away, before finally allowing the tears to fall. Soon her chest was heaving painfully, her cries resounding through her head as she frantically gasped for air between heart-wrenching sobs. And all she could see was Naboo, exploding into oblivion, over and over again in her head.

Hours later, or maybe it was days, or perhaps it was only mere minutes, Padmé sat quietly, curled up in the corner of her cell. In an effort to try and get the image of a dying Naboo out of her head, she simply remembered. Remembered the beauty of the Theed Royal Palace, and the serenity of Varykino, her family's lake retreat. She remembered her mother, humming to herself while she cooked dinner, she remembered her sister, holding her hand as she walked with her on the first day of school, and she remembered her father, reading her bedtime stories about princes and princesses, about villains and heroes, and how they always, always, had a happy ending.

She wished that were true.

Eventually, her legs became sore and her arms went stiff, so she stretched out across the cold bench, pulling her thin dress down around her bare ankles. She was surprised that Governor Tarkin hadn't ordered her execution yet – they had to have figured out by now that Dantooine wasn't actually the rebel base. She only hoped that the rebellion was safe, that Artoo had some how gotten the plans to someone who could help, and that Bail and Mon would continue on in her absence.

But mostly, she hoped that the loss of Naboo would not be in vain.

Padmé was startled from her thoughts when she heard a commotion outside. Footsteps and blaster fire and… was that a lightsaber? Suddenly, she heard a loud blast from outside her door, and it slid open, revealing a storm trooper. A very awkward looking storm trooper, who seemed to be content standing there, staring stupidly at her, while who-knows what sort of chaos was going on behind him.

"Aren't you a little tall for a storm trooper?" she asked. A muffled voice responded to her as the soldier reached up and pulled off his helmet. Padmé couldn't stop the small gasp that escaped her lips.

"I'm Anakin Skywalker," he said. "I'm here to rescue you."

Towering over her in a too tight storm trooper uniform, blonde hair mussed and curling around the edges, bright blue eyes blazing into hers, Padmé was sure she had never met a man like this before. Her eyes roamed his frame, taking in the blaster in his hand, and the lightsaber hanging from his utility belt. She met his gaze again, and she was strangely reminded of the heroes from her father's fairy tales.

"You're who?" she asked again.

"I'm Anakin Skywalker," he smiled, and Padmé's heart skipped a beat. "And you're… well, you're an angel."

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V. "There was a boy…a very strange, enchanted boy…"

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Anakin followed the scantily clad woman down a long, dark hallway. The air was smoky, filled with the scent of women's perfume, which was masking the smell of what he thought to be death sticks. If it had been up to Anakin, he wouldn't be here, but after the incident with Ferus yesterday, and the snide remarks he'd had to put up with from every other young male Padawan in the Temple since then, he'd decided to just suck it up and get it over with.

The woman stopped suddenly and turned to a door on her left. Smiling flirtatiously, she reached forward and opened the door for him.

"Have fun," she whispered.

Anakin stepped inside as the door closed behind him. The room was even darker than the hallway, lit by only a few sparse candles. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could make out a bed in the center of the room, draped with pillows and blankets of all sorts. But what was appealing about the bed wasn't the covers, but the woman on top of them.

She was…well, she was beautiful. Intoxicating. And in the position she was in now…incredibly seductive. With her dark brown eyes; silky, flowing curls; and curves that he had never even seen on a woman before, Anakin was immediately captivated by her. Never mind that she was wearing a top that barely passed as a shirt and a skirt that didn't hide anything – this woman was gorgeous. She had a sort of elegant beauty to her, a refinement that just didn't belong in this room. It lead him to wonder how such a graceful creature had ended up here.

"Hello there, Master Jedi," she purred. "How can I help you?"

Anakin gulped nervously. He took a step forward, and for the rest of the evening, and well into the next morning, he was at the mercy of Lady Amidala, Mistress of the Night.

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VI. "If you change even the smallest of life's details, you completely change its outcome."

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"Stop!"

Padmé ran into the shop and pulled the small, blonde-haired boy out of the Toydarian's grasp. Ripping her own shirt, she started to dab at the cuts on the boy's back, soaking up the blood within seconds.

"And just who do you think you are!" the Toydarian shouted, flapping his wings and throwing his whip around in frustration. "That boy is my property to treat how I wish!"

Padmé glared at him angrily, completely ignoring Master Jinn's warning look. "He is a boy. A person. And I will not just stand by and watch you abuse him!"

The Toydarian glared at her and raised his arm threateningly, when Qui-Gon intervened. The whip flew from his hand into Qui-Gon's, and the Toydarian began ranting and swearing in a mixture of Huttese and Basic, angrily flying around the room.

"I understand that you are upset," Qui-Gon called over the din, "but I have a business proposition for you."

The Toydarian stopped his tirade and glared at him, but with a bit of convincing, he eventually led Qui-Gon and Artoo out into the junkyard. As the Jedi Master walked past Padmé and the young boy, he stopped to hand her a bacta patch.

"We'll discuss this later," he said.

Padmé merely snorted and continued to clean the boy's back. Qui-Gon shook his head and beckoned to Jar Jar, who followed him outside.

"You didn't have to do that," the boy said, his voice soft and unsure.

"I know," Padmé replied. "But I couldn't just let him treat you that way. I don't care if he thinks he owns you – "

"But he does," he interrupted.

Padmé froze for a moment as the cruel reality of the situation hit her.

"Either way," she continued. "No one deserves to be treated like that. Ever."

The boy was quiet as Padmé continued her ministrations. As soon as his back was clean, Padmé placed the bacta patch over the most injured area, gently smoothing the patch across his back.

"There," she said.

"Thank you," the boy replied. He quietly adjusted his torn shirt, and finally turned to face her. His cheeks and nose were smudged with dirt, and his hair was full of sand, but he had not let a single tear fall. He was a strong kid, she could tell. Padmé suddenly felt a rush of admiration for this boy, who had probably dealt with the most horrible types of brutality imaginable throughout his young life, and yet could still stand tall and proud before her now. And here she was, a stranded, disguised, teenage Queen, who had no clue how to even get off this planet, let alone save her people.

"I'm Padmé," she offered, extending her hand. "Padmé Naberrie."

"My name is Anakin," he said, shaking her hand. "Anakin Skywalker."

And as Anakin grinned back at her, his blue eyes full of so much hope and anticipation, she couldn't help but feel that this was the first good decision she had made in a long, long time.

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