The plushly carpeted hallway was not wide enough to admit the noon-hour throng; Sabe, practicable as always, forged a steady path through the swelter of brocade and chambray and heavy velvetar gowns, her determined mistress pressing forward in her wake. Padme had fought in battles, even faced down death in the Geonosian execution arena alongside several score of Jedi. Surely she could manage to carve her way through a stampede of legislative aides intent on their lunch.
They made it out intact, except for Padme's headdress.
"Oh dear, milday, here let me –"
"No, don't bother." Exasperated with the morning's plenary session, the Senator for Naboo pulled the cumbersome ornament from its place and shook her hair free, smiling a little at the scandalous violation of sartorial custom. The only people who could walk into Coruscant's upper caste public arena with hair uncoiffed were, of course, Jedi. Her thoughts flew, unbidden, to Anakin. Was he home? On his way home? Thinking of home? Of her?
"Milady – there's Senator Organa!"
He was too far away to reach without battling through another raging tide of sentients. "What's he wearing, Sabe?"
Surely Bail would have the innate chivalry to set her mind at ease via their secret code.
The trusty handmaiden strained her neck over the jostling crowd. "Oh dear," she smiled. "That horrid starched ruff thing."
But that was a relief. "All's well," Padme breathed, sagging into the backseat of the aircar assigned to ferry her between home and the capitol rotunda. "They're home, the troops can be cured, the person responsible has been apprehended." A moment in which she indulged herself in the silencing feature, blotting out the skyways' interminable pandemonium and closing her eyes. "I'll comm him later and get all the details."
"Are you attending the afternoon session?" Sabe inquired.
"No. It's subcommittee reports again. I've got that referendum to look over and we have to draft a proposal to the internal affairs bursar, and – oh, I don't know. Threepio has the agenda planned out down to the last detail. He only forgot to leave me time for sleep."
They laughed a little together, frayed spirits soothed by the momentary respite from duty. Their pilot zipped recklessly through the airlanes, eager to deposit his passenger and get on to luncheon himself. Within minutes, they had disembarked upon the wide outside balcony to Padme's private apartment.
"I'll get it," she murmured, pressing her hand to the recognition plate. The transparisteel doors slid open, opening the solarium to a traffic-fretted sky. Warm, pollution laden air wafted about them, playing among Padme's unbound tresses. She tossed the headdress and her outer robe upon the curved chaise and kicked her constricting shoes under a delicate glass table.
But she had no appetite, after the morning's frustrating proceedings in the Senate. Dropping onto the opposite couch, she tucked her feet up and let her head loll against the pillows. "No… thank you… I just need to shut my eyes a few moments. You should take the afternoon off, Sabe. I have Threepio if I need anything, and we've that dreadful Policy review committee all day tomorrow."
Her servant and confidante made a very gargoylish face and bobbed a short curtsey. "I'll not think about that until later, then. If you're sure…"
"I'm sure. "
She barely heard the soft click of the magneto lock as Sabe took her leave.
Moments, or hours, or an eternity later , she woke with the cold fire of instinctual alarm flooding in her veins.
"Threepio?" She stood, peering into a darkened room, shivering in the cool evening breeze.
"He's on shut down," a deep voice informed her, from the shadows by the door.
Cold fire turned to a hot flood and then melting joy. "Anakin! Oh, Anakin…"
He was over the obstacle posed by the couch and sweeping her into a crushing embrace before she could find words to express her delight. And after that, words were not needed. The night's breeze lifted, withdrawing its indelicate fingers from the sanctified sphere of their reunion.
At length, they slid back onto the settee together, Padme's head resting upon her husband's broad shoulder, the rough stretch of Jedi tunic and worn synthleather a coarse but welcome pillow. Anakin's breath played in her hair, his fingers twisting about hers.
"It was bad this time, hatari."
She nestled closer, reveling in the now. "But you're safe… and Bail… and Obi-Wan?"
"He's good. Well, you know. Good for an old codger."
Padme playfully slapped his thigh. "Anakin!"
Sometimes she thought that nine year old boy was still buried inside him, as though he were one of those nesting dolls they made on Chandrila, the ones which opened to reveal another smaller doll inside, and then another and another, the outer layers obscuring but containing all those hidden inside. Anakin the slave boy, the champion podracer, the uncertain padawan, the grieving son, the Knight, the warrior, the general, the lover…. They were all there. She only wondered what façade would eclipse these all, what final outer casing smother those she loved beneath its all-encompassing form.
"You're cold," he complained, summoning a priceless silk throw from across the room and tenderly wrapping her in its soft folds.
"I missed you." Why wonder? Why worry? There was only the now, these stolen moments they shared – at the dictate and whim of war. Prisoners of destiny had not the luxury of fretting over the what-may-come.
"I missed you too."
And soon enough, the cold premonition was banished in the kindling warmth between them, one that far outshone the stars above, the limpid pools of pale hope in onrushing night. They fell, entwined about their mutual center, surrendering to the dictates of a supernal power, one sufficient to declare a fleeting but total armistice on their behalf.
And darkness fell about them.