"Happy Birthday, Padmé!"
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: The characters are George Lucas's. He can get his own ideas; THIS one is mine. Tiffany & Co. (http://www.tiffany.com/) belongs to itself.
"Ah, I am getting old, Sabé," Padmé said as they walked up the corridor together after their meeting with the newly elected governor. "She looked far too young to be Governor of Theed."
"She is older than you were when you were elected Queen," Sabé pointed out. Padmé made a face as she opened the door to her offices.
"I know, and that is why I feel old," the Queen said as they walked inside. "I feel ancient. Soon I will have to go with a stick like Master Yoda."
"What brought this on?" Sabé asked curiously. Padmé gave her friend a sidelong glance. In four days, Padmé would turn 21. Though she had been adamant about not wanting any sort of official celebration or commemoration, she found it difficult to believe that Sabé had forgotten her birthday, but perhaps she had. Padmé sighed.
"I don't know, Sabé. Perhaps it was seeing the new governor."
"Yes, that must be it," Sabé agreed, turning her attention to the stack of files and data cards that were piled in Padmé's inbox. "Now, let us see what we can make of this mess."
"Please, Master Yoda!" Anakin begged. He had been planning this for months, hoping against hope that Yoda would agree.
"Not ready are you," Yoda replied firmly, pacing the floor of the Jedi Council chambers.
"I AM ready, Master Yoda! I know it. Just give me a chance." Yoda stopped pacing, his ears perked up, and his eyes widened in surprise.
"Ooooohh, ready are you, Padawan Skywalker? My own counsel I will keep on who is ready!" Anakin bowed his head.
"I apologize for my impertinence," he said quietly. "Look, I'll do anything. I'll get on my knees and beg," he said, dropping to his knees. "I'll scrub the toilets with a toothbrush. I'll scrub every inch of floor in this building on my hands and knees. I'll… I'll… I'll kiss your feet!" he exclaimed, lifting the hem of Yoda's robes and moving to make good on his promise. Yoda snatched his robe out of Anakin's hand and moved away. Uh oh, I've gone too far, Anakin thought.
"Kiss my feet you will not do," Yoda told him. "Your other offers I will consider," he continued. Anakin was surprised to see the amusement in Yoda's eyes. Yoda sighed, shaking his head in resignation. "Determined you are. Always strong willed have you been. Very well, your way you will have in this." YESSS!! Anakin thought. "But," Yoda continued, holding up a finger in warning. "Promise you this I will: If fail you do, scrub all the toilets and floors with a toothbrush you really will!"
Padmé sat at her desk, trying hard to concentrate on the official documents before her. She found that she could only think of her upcoming birthday, and it filled her with dread. I will be 21 and unmarried! An old maid! She felt even worse when she recalled that during the years she had reigned, no less than six families from the aristocracy had made offers for her on behalf of their eligible, young, handsome sons. I turned them all down, because I had hoped that one day, Anakin and I would be together. Always, though, there is some reason we must wait. We must wait for him to come of age. We must wait for him to finish his training. We must wait for him to be made a Knight. She had not told him of her fear of ending up an old maid, knowing that such a notion was considered old-fashioned in most of the rest of the Republic; she feared he would laugh. She glanced over at Sabé, hard at work at the desk next to hers. Sabé is older than I, and SHE does not worry much about being an old maid. Or perhaps she simply does not speak of it. Padmé's stomach growled, breaking her train of thought. She stood.
"I am going to the kitchens to see if there is anything to snack on," she told Sabé. "Would you like me to bring you something?"
Obi-Wan stood before the assembled Jedi Council, his heart racing nervously. His Padawan knelt at his feet, head respectfully bowed. Obi-Wan's stomach was filled with butterflies, for he was certain that his Padawan had not been ready for testing. As Anakin's teacher, his failure would reflect badly on Obi-Wan. A failure with my very first Padawan. What will the Council think of me now? Damn Anakin and his impulsiveness…
"Tested your Padawan has been, Jedi Kenobi," Yoda intoned formally. Obi-Wan bit his lip, dreading the Jedi Master's next words. After what seemed an eternity, Yoda spoke.
Wishing to be alone with her thoughts, Padmé took a long, indirect route to the Palace kitchens. People she encountered in the corridors smiled at her, bobbing their heads in abbreviated bows as they hurried past on their own business. She returned their greetings with a good humor she did not really feel. No one mentioned her upcoming birthday. She was beginning to think everyone had forgotten. Well, if they have, it's just as well. Perhaps they will also forget that I am old and unmarried. Sighing, she rounded the corner and came face to face with Eirtaé, who had been hurrying up the corridor towards her.
"Your Majesty," the handmaiden said breathlessly, bowing. "I have been looking everywhere for you."
"Well, now you've found me," Padmé said amiably. "What is it?"
"The Governor is on the holophone for you. She said it's urgent."
"All right," Padmé sighed. "I will take it back in my offices." She turned to go, then hesitated. "Eirtaé, would you be kind enough to go to the kitchens and ask them to prepare a snack tray with coffee for Sabé and I?"
"Of course, Your Majesty," Eirtaé answered, bowing. "It would be my pleasure."
Padmé reached her offices and hurriedly punched in the entry code on a keypad beside the door. As the keypad beeped to itself, she heard Sabé's voice from within.
"I look forward to it," Sabé was saying. The door slid open, and Padmé caught a quick glimpse of a flare of light from the holophone as Sabé abruptly terminated the call from her end.
"Was that the governor?" Padmé asked. Sabé blinked.
"Uh… yes. Yes it was."
"I thought she wanted to talk to me," Padmé said, frowning.
"Ah, well… It was a minor thing, and I was able to handle it." Padmé nodded, prompting Sabé to continue. "She only wanted your opinion on some pending legislation, and I certainly know your opinions!" Padmé smiled.
"You certainly do. Who else listens to me moan and complain about everything?"
"I live only to serve my Queen," Sabé replied, dropping a humorous curtsey. Padmé laughed.
"Seriously, thank you for handling it. I do not think I could face another conversation with our young governor today."
"Hi, Sara," Anakin said as he barged into the Supreme Chancellor's office suite. Palpatine's personal assistant looked up at him and smiled.
"Hello, Anakin," Sara said warmly. "The Chancellor is on the 'phone," she told him, rising to escort Anakin through the reception area of the Supreme Chancellor's office. They halted at Palpatine's office door, which stood open. Sara tapped softly on it to get his attention. Palpatine looked up, saw them there and motioned for Anakin to come inside, all the while speaking rapidly in Nubian to the person on the other end of the voicephone. After a few moments, Palpatine concluded his conversation and hung up the phone.
"Supreme Chancellor Palpatine," Anakin said formally, giving him the deep bow that was his due as Chancellor. This was strange behavior for Anakin; usually, he burst in yelling "Hey Palpster!" or something equally informal. Palpatine's eyebrows went up.
"Padawan Skywalker," he said gravely, matching Anakin's formal tone. Anakin broke into a huge grin.
Sara sat at her desk, going over Palpatine's schedule for the week. Suddenly, her head jerked up in surprise as she heard shouting from the Chancellor's office next door.
"Who's the man? Who is THE MAN???" she heard Anakin yell.
"You are THE MAN!" Palpatine shouted back, followed by much gleeful whooping and yelling and slapping of hands in congratulatory high-fives. Sara's jaw dropped in amazement. Shaking her head, she made a mental note to switch the Chancellor to decaffeinated coffee.
Padmé woke on the morning of her twenty-first birthday to the sight of sunlight streaming in through the floor length windows and the sound of birds chirping merrily outside. The waterfall was distant white noise, soothing and comforting. She closed her eyes, seriously considering going back to sleep for a while longer. Well, and why not? she thought. It is my birthday, after all.
"Time to get up, Your Majesty," Sabé said cheerfully, walking into Padmé's bedroom. The Queen sighed. Not even a "happy birthday", she thought. Yes, I did say that I did not want a fuss made over me, but totally ignoring my birthday is not what I had in mind either! Could Sabé have truly forgotten? She turned her attention back to Sabé, who had been speaking.
"I'm sorry, Sabé. My mind wandered."
"I asked if you want breakfast before or after your bath," the handmaiden replied. Padmé sighed.
"I don't know," she replied, waving her hand. "Whatever is easier."
"Have it afterwards," Sabé suggested. "You can eat while I do your hair."
"As you wish," Padmé agreed, walking to the bathroom. From the other room, she could hear Sabé humming a happy little tune as she walked around the bedroom, straightening things out and making the bed. I wonder what's gotten into her… she's usually not a morning person, Padmé thought as she turned on the shower taps. As she stood waiting for the water to reach a comfortable temperature, her thoughts turned back to her birthday. I wonder if Anakin has forgotten my birthday as well. He did not send a present or even a holocard. Sighing, she pulled off her nightgown, stepped into the shower and yelled in surprise. The water had just turned icy cold. Happy birthday to me, she thought ironically as she fought to adjust the taps, all the while doing her best to avoid the freezing blast of water from the shower head. Sabé must be taking her shower now too, Padmé thought. This always happens when we both run our showers at the same time. The water system in the Palace is ancient. I should try to remember to talk to someone about getting the pipes redone. Padmé smiled, thinking of her short-tempered, acid-tongued handmaiden's unusually good mood. I wonder if she will keep her good mood after getting blasted by ice water. Finally, she was able to convince the taps to put out water that altered fitfully between icy cold and scalding hot. She hurried through her shower, knowing that the water temperature could change permanently in either direction at any time. At last, she was finished. As she toweled herself off and wrapped herself in a white terrycloth robe, Sabé appeared in the bathroom doorway.
"The kitchen is on the 'phone," she told Padmé. "They want to know if you want bacon or sausage this morning." Padmé frowned.
"I thought you were in the shower," she said.
"No," Sabé said, shaking her head. "I took one earlier, before I got you up. Now, bacon or sausage?"
Padmé sat at her dressing table, combing out her long, damp hair. She had checked the holophone several times, but its message lights indicated that no one had called while she was in the shower. Pulling the last tangles out of her hair, she stood and went to the holophone. Feeling every bit the desperate old maid, she swiftly punched in a number. After a few moments, a hologram of Anakin appeared.
"Hello," it said.
"Oh Anakin – " she began.
"Hello? We must have a bad connection."
"Hello?" Padmé asked.
"Hello? I can't hear you," Anakin said. Padmé pushed the tuning button, searching for a better frequency. "Hello? I still can't hear you. Oh, wait a minute, that's because I'm not here!" Padmé groaned. It was a recording. Smiling brightly, Anakin's hologram continued. "But if you want to leave a message, just wait for the beep. Oh, and I really got you that time, didn't I?" Sighing, Padmé cut the connection without leaving a message. He is always in his room at this time, she thought. I wonder where he is. She considered calling Obi-Wan, but dismissed the notion as too grasping and clingy. I will not become one of those desperate girlfriends who call their boyfriends' friends checking up on them. She glanced at the holophone again. I will not, she thought firmly, returning to her dressing table. If Anakin wants to call me, he will.
The door opened, and Sabé walked in from the other room, followed by a footman pushing a hovercart carrying breakfast and coffee for both women. Padmé watched as Sabé showed the footman where to put the cart, again struck by her handmaiden's obvious good humor. Amazing, Padmé thought as Sabé laughed at something the footman said to her. She is usually particularly short-tempered in the morning. One would think it is her birthday instead of mine. I wonder what has sweetened her disposition this morning. The footman left.
"Now, how shall we do your hair today, Padmé?" Sabé asked, walking over with plates of food and cups of coffee for both of them. Padmé shrugged.
"I don't suppose it has to be anything special," she told her handmaiden. "I have nothing on my agenda, and today is no more special than any other day." She looked into the mirror, trying to catch Sabé's eye so she could gauge whether the other woman had caught the clue. Sabé, busy dividing Padmé's damp hair into sections with a comb, seemed oblivious.
"How about a simple braid wrapped around your head?" she suggested.
"Fine with me," Padmé said, sighing. So it's true, she thought as Sabé began working. She has forgotten my birthday – and worse, so has Anakin. She felt tears threatening, and she bit her lip, squeezing her eyelids shut to stop the tears from falling. I will not cry, she thought resolutely. Even if everyone in the whole Republic has forgotten my birthday, I will not cry.
Just as Padmé finished dressing, her door chime sounded.
"I will get it," Sabé offered, walking out of the bedroom. Padmé smoothed her rust-colored velvet shirt and critically appraised her reflection in the mirror. Not bad for a forgotten old maid, she thought with more than a touch of bitterness. Well, I suppose you'll have to do, Birthday Girl. She walked out into the living area of her apartments to see who had come to pay her a visit so early in the morning.
"Good morning, Your Majesty," Eirtaé said, bowing. "I've come to tell you that you have a visitor."
"Oh?" Padmé asked, perking up a bit. Perhaps Anakin was here to surprise her…
"Yes. I am afraid that the new governor is here asking to see you," Eirtaé continued. Padmé was indeed surprised, but it wasn't the sort of surprise she'd been hoping for. She sighed.
"What, so early?" The Queen got a sudden sinking feeling in her stomach. "Is there some sort of emergency?" Eirtaé shook her head.
"No, Your Majesty. There is no emergency. She only said that she needed to speak to you as soon as possible. She is waiting for you in the formal dining room. I took the liberty of having the kitchens serve her breakfast while she waits." Padmé nodded.
"You have done well, Eirtaé," she told the handmaiden. "Thank you. And now I suppose I must go and see what our young governor wants."
"Tickets to see the Backstreet Boys, perhaps?" Sabé suggested acidly, sounding a bit more like herself. Padmé smiled.
"Perhaps, Sabé. But then, don't we all?" Laughing, the three women left the Queen's apartments and headed up the corridor. "Did the governor say anything to hint at what this impromptu meeting might be about?" the Queen asked as they approached the dining room.
"Nothing, Your Majesty. Simply that it was important that she speak to you right away."
"Ah, the impulsiveness of youth," Sabé murmured. Padmé shot her a look as she opened the double doors of the formal dining room.
"I do not think – " the Queen began. She never got to finish the sentence.
"SURPRISE!" Padmé stood frozen to the spot, stunned. The formal dining room had been decorated with streamers and balloons. The dining table had been set with birthday-themed paper plates and plastic cutlery, and a huge birthday cake sat in the middle. All of her handmaidens were there, along with Captain Panaka, Chancellor Palpatine, Obi-Wan, and –
"ANAKIN!" she cried, throwing herself into his arms, tears running down her cheeks. He picked her up and spun her around, laughing.
"Happy birthday, my angel," he said, still holding her in a crushing embrace. "Are you surprised?"
"You have no idea," she said, laughing as she wiped tears from her cheeks. Sabé and Palpatine were lighting the candles on the cake.
"Shall we sing?" the Chancellor asked. Anakin made a face.
"Please don't," he pleaded. "I've heard you sing before." Palpatine gave him a dirty look.
"Come and make a wish," Sabé instructed. Smiling, Padmé took Anakin's hand and walked over to the table. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and blew. Everyone cheered. She opened her eyes to see that she'd successfully blown out all the candles.
"What did you wish for, Your Majesty?" Panaka asked. Before Padmé could answer, Sabé spoke.
"She can't tell," the handmaiden said. "If she tells, it won't come true." It matters not, Padmé thought, glancing up at Anakin. I doubt it will come true whether I tell it or not. She felt Anakin give her hand a little squeeze. Ah, how selfish I am, she suddenly thought. He has done so much for me, and instead of being happy, I only want more. She watched as Sabé cut a slice from the birthday cake, expertly turning it over onto the plate Palpatine held out for her. He turned to Padmé and offered it, smiling.
"For you, Your Majesty," he said, his eyes twinkling. "The first piece goes to the birthday girl."
"Thank you, Chancellor," she said smiling. She looked around the room at her friends. "Thank you all for making my birthday very happy indeed."
It was several hours before the party broke up. Though it was still early in the morning, vast quantities of cake, ice cream, and champagne were enjoyed by all. Padmé had opened and exclaimed over her gifts, truly touched that her friends had gone to such trouble for her. Finally, high on sugar and half-drunk on champagne, the partygoers had left one by one. Obi-Wan had expressed a desire to meditate, though Anakin and Padmé strongly suspected that he simply wanted to go to his guestroom and pass out. He hardly seemed sober enough to walk straight, let alone coherent enough to meditate. They escorted him to his quarters, and then walked hand in hand through the confusing corridors of the Palace until they reached the wing that housed the Royal apartments and the apartments of the handmaidens. Sabé's apartments were next door to Padmé's, and the Queen was surprised to see Palpatine leaning against the wall next to Sabé's door, his arms around the handmaiden. They kissed passionately, eyes shut, utterly oblivious to the new arrivals. Now I know why Sabé was in such a good mood this morning, and why my shower ran hot and cold.
"Hey, you two, get a room!" Anakin called out. Giggling, Padmé punched in the lock code, and they entered her apartments. As the door slid shut behind them, Anakin caught Padmé in an embrace.
"I've missed you," he whispered.
"I've missed you too," she replied. He bent to kiss her. As they kissed, she opened her eyes to look at him, and noticed –
"Hey," she said, breaking the kiss. "What happened to your braid?"
"What braid?" he asked innocently. She touched the side of his head where his Padawan braid had been.
"You know what braid," she said. "What happened to it?"
"Oh, THAT braid! Well, I got tired of it and cut it off," he told her. She frowned at him.
"You got tired of it and cut it off?" she repeated, incredulous. "Won't you get in trouble for that??"
"Nah," he said, shaking his head. "Oh, that reminds me, I didn't give you your birthday present yet."
"Oh Anakin, you didn't have to get me anything," she said. "Just being here is enough of a gift!"
"Well, I got you something anyway." Pulling away from her, he dug around in the deep pockets of his Jedi robes until he found what he was looking for. To her surprise, he backed away a few steps and fell to his knees, holding his hand out to her. Resting on his open palm was a small green box that Padmé recognized as having come from Tiffany's. She gasped, wondering how he'd ever afforded whatever was in that box.
"I…" she began. Smiling, Anakin used the Force to float the small green box over to her. Her mind reeling in shock, Padmé reached out and plucked the box from the air.
"Open it," he told her softly. Slowly, she untied the white silk ribbon. Carefully, she opened the box. Swallowing hard, she removed the small, velvet covered ring box and opened it. She gasped aloud in shock.
"Oh Anakin…" she breathed. His Padawan braid was in the box, twined around a diamond engagement ring.
"Will you marry me, Padmé Amidala?" he asked. Tears ran down her cheeks.
"Oh yes…" she whispered. "Yes!" He stood and removed the ring from the box, unwrapped the braid from it, and slipped the ring onto her finger. He took her in his arms.
"Happy birthday, Angel," he whispered.