Anakin Skywalker lay stretched out on a bed situated in the center of a room filled with delicately-scented plants. A small fountain bubbled in a corner and soothing pipe music played through hidden speakers. The padawan's eyes were closed and a series of stones-each of a different size and color-were placed upon his forehead, his chest, shoulders, torso, and legs. The young man was breathing steadily, almost as though he was asleep. Yet the Ithorian tending to him was puzzled. Chakral Kunda was one of the most skilled in the Jedi healing arts. His specialty was emotional and psychological healing. Over the years he had seen many different cases, beings who had endured all kinds of trauma. His former apprentices were working hard now on those who survived Geonosis, those who had lost masters, padawans, and friends. The plants in the healing chamber were renowned for their aromatherapeutic success with humans. The gentle music was chosen for its optimal effect on human males in Anakin's age group. The stones were arranged to align with the Force-channelling centers in his body. The therapy calmed him somewhat but Chakral knew there still brewed a storm within the padawan's spirit, locked away somewhere no one could reach.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, the padawan's master, told Chakral the trauma was more than the loss of an arm; he had lost his mother as well. The pain of such a loss was an unknown quantity to Chakral. A Jedi since infancy, he had never known his herdmates. Intellectually, he knew losing one's mother prematurely or in violent circumstances could be devastating. This was perhaps the wisdom behind taking Jedi away from one's family and discouraging attachments. But Anakin had known his mother; she had raised him until he was nine. He'd known the powerful bonds of maternal love.

Chakral was treating Anakin at the Council's behest. Ever since the young man recuperated from surgery attaching his prosthetic arm, he had become withdrawn and listless. Obi-Wan was a practical man who did not completely appreciate the benefits of Chakral's techniques, but was concerned enough to go to the Council with the idea.

The door chimed and an apprentice healer, Lyria, entered the room and whispered close to Chakral's ear hole, "Master Obi-Wan is here to see you."

"Wait here with the patient," Chakral said. "I shall return presently."

Anakin was vaguely aware of the apprentice healer tending to him, of the master healer in the next room with Obi-Wan. He drifted in a place between consciousness and the unconscious, keeping the mix of emotions protected in a shielded part of his heart. So much had happened in a short amount of time. The pain of losing his mother still weighed upon his heart. The hatred he felt for the Tuskens stilll raged, tempered only by guilt. He still felt the humiliation at the hands of Count Dooku.

But more than anything at that moment, he missed Padmé.

He had not seen her since he underwent surgery aboard the medical frigate taking the wounded away from Geonosis. His last memory of her was catching her eye briefly, and mouthing "I love you" as he was wheeled into the operating room. As she mouthed, "I love you too," he gave her the bravest smile he could muster. He knew she had her own injuries that needed attention and he wished he could be there for her.

Since returning to Coruscant, he had been coalescing in the Temple. He had been able to see or speak to his love; he didn't even have the privacy to send her a holomessage. If she'd been trying to send some communication to him, he doubted the Temple would permit it to go through. For years he wondered if they'd withheld communications from his mother.

Obi-Wan must know of his feelings for Padmé. Their confrontation on the gunship all but confirmed them. Master Yoda must have seen Padmé rushing forward to embrace him in the hangar after Dooku escaped. What he feared most was the Jedi would do all they could to keep him from ever seeing Padmé again. It would be a fate worse than death.

The healing chamber's door slid open and Anakin sensed Obi-Wan and the healer Chakral entering the room. "Awaken, Anakin," Chakral said in his stereophonic voice. "Your Master has news for you." The apprentice healer removed the stones from Anakin's body as he blinked his eyes open.

"Yes, Master?"

"The Council has agreed to permit Pad...Senator Amidala to come visit you here at the Temple. She will be here within the hour," Obi-Wan said.

Fully-dressed, Anakin sat on a bench within the small courtyard garden reserved for visitors, the rare few who are ever permitted to enter the Temple. He felt as anxious as he did the day he rode the turbolift up to Padmé's penthouse, a day that now seemed ages ago. She hadn't seen the new droid-like prosthetic arm yet. Would she still find him attractive? Would she still love him? He was still adjusting to it himself.

Then he felt a familiar, brilliant presence in the Force, a unique signature that shone like a beacon. Breathlessly he turned to see his beloved Padmé enter the courtyard with a Jedi escort. It took all of his control to keep from running to her and seizing her into his arms. He could sense her own struggle to keep herself in check. Instead, he rose to his feet and bowed. "Senator Amidala, it's good to see you again."

Dressed in a gown of royal purple velvet, she nodded in return. "I'm glad to see you're recovering well."

The Jedi escort smiled and said, "I will leaveyou both to catch up. Senator, Master Kenobi wishes you to notify him when you plan to depart."

"I shall do so. Thank you, Master Jedi."

As soon as they were alone in the courtyard, the young lovers sat on a bench behind a very tall shrub and embraced. "Ani," Padmé said, her voice cracking with emotion. "I've..." Anakin's heart sank as he realized he was holding her with his mechanical arm.

"I'm sorry," he said, pulling the artificial arm away.

"Don't be sorry," Padmé said, shaking her head. "I should apologize. This is nothing to be ashamed of. My feelings for you have not changed." She leaned over and whispered, "Are we being watched?"

Anakin shook his head. "We're not like that here," he whispered back.

"Good." Putting her arms around Anakin's neck, she pulled him into a deep passionate kiss. His heart beat wildly, not only from the excitement of the kiss but also from the thrill of sharing it deep within the sanctum of the Temple. Then, she slipped her soft tongue into his mouth. He could barely control his arousal at the sensation. He moaned and met her tongue with his own, eliciting a soft purr of pleasure from her.

Their lips finally parted and they exchanged a small, guilty smile. "What now?" he asked her, stroking her cheek with his natural hand.

"I've requested that you accompany me home to Naboo," she said. "I'll have the Supreme Chancellor intervene if that's what it takes."

Anakin grinned crookedly. "I think the Council has met its match."

"Actually, I asked Obi-Wan directly."

Chakral contemplated the message he received from Obi-Wan. They both agreed Anakin's emotional well-being seemed to improve with the presence of his friend Senator Amidala. The Senator had persuaded a reluctant Obi-Wan to permit Anakin to travel home with her. Chakral advised him that the journey may benefit Anakin further but Obi-Wan was worried his padawan was developing a romantic attachment to the Senator. Some of his actions at Geonosis bore out those concerns.

"We are at war now. The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen upon us," Chakral had said. "In the grand scheme of things, should a romantic attachment be the greatest of our concerns?"

Obi-Wan had been shocked. "That's heresy," he'd whispered. "You know attachment is forbidden. Besides, you don't know Anakin..."

"My apologies, Obi-Wan. I spoke out of turn."

Obi-Wan had nonetheless decided the only way for Anakin to grow was to show that he trusted his padawan. "I certainly hope that the Senator will do the sensible thing."