"I didn't think you were real," he admitted quietly after she'd fallen asleep, then shut his own eyes for a final time. It didn't last.
Anakin pushed himself to a sitting position, leaning heavily against the backboard. His palm cupped his forehead for a moment before he could speak again.
"I'd never seen anything like you," he said. "Not your beauty, that wasn't something I appreciated until later. It was the way you carried yourself, in every move you made. You didn't have a care in the world.
"I'd never seen an Outlander girl before, and you were so… you had something the other girls – the other people I knew would never have. Tatooine takes something from you. It takes everything if you let it," he added bitterly. "But you had it, and you held your head high, like you'd always know what it was to live without shame… without fear."
He sighed, and brushed a stray curl behind his sleeping wife's ear. He allowed his hand to linger there for a moment.
"And when you said you didn't understand…" he squeezed his eyes shut, breathing heavily. "You still don't understand, love. I don't want you to. I'll never be able to shake those early memories. I'll never stop thinking in this screwed-up mash of Huttese and Tal before translating it to something you can understand. I won't – no one lay a hand on you when you were a kid. Your mom didn't have to – "
Anakin broke off. The room was still, almost static, and there was no one to hear him say the things he'd never dare confide to anyone but his wife's unconscious. Not a sound broke the stillness but the incessant stream of her pointed breath.
"If you're lucky enough to not have to know, you should stay as far away from it as you can," he said steadily. "You're my angel, Mé. You don't belong to that world, and I'm so thankful for that. But sometimes… sometimes I wish there was a way you could understand, even a little.
"Sometimes – " he hesitated once again, but there was no one to hear. "It's stupid, but sometimes I think you forget that the kid you met and the man you married are the same person. But that was me, and you didn't even see what my life was like then."
Agitated, he rubbed his thumb against the knuckle of his forefinger, the one that was bulky and ached from time to time and was made of grinded bone that had fused awkwardly back together.
"It's not a war wound," he said quietly, but he can't go down that road. "Maybe it is. Injustice is the war you fight, isn't it? You fight for morality and I fight for… what, freedom? But it's not good enough, because our battles are too vague. They're not actually helping anyone, and I promised… I haven't kept my promises."
The silence falls again, and it's begun to rain.
"I always knew I was a slave," he said, his voice wavering only a little. "It was a fact of life growing up. There were masters and there were slaves and that was just what I was. But I never knew – I didn't get it until this one time this Rodian kid challenged me to a race and we both ended up crashing. The kid looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if he was going to get in trouble. His parents were just worried about him. Watto was more concerned about the racer and when we got back to the shop he beat me. It wasn't the first time, but… a piece of machinery was worth more than I was. That's when I started to look around and that maybe this wasn't the only way things worked. There were masters and there were slaves and then there were people who had a right to themselves and were good enough not to abuse that right. I had the bad luck of being owned, but I didn't – it didn't have to be that way. That's a big thing for a six-year-old to realize. That's when I started making promises."
Anakin had been asleep, or at least fallen quiet, for more than fifteen minutes before Padmé finally opened her eyes and allowed the built-up tears to run.