The parades last nearly until dusk-how could they not? Naboo is finally free, and its citizens flock to the streets of Theed, and Solleu, Kaadara, and the Lake Country to gather and revel in their liberation. And Queen Amidala stays for nearly all of it-which Sabé wouldn’t complain about, except that her nerves are shot from days of battle and stress and embodying Amidala, and she can only just stop herself from grabbing her blaster when someone steps too close to the Queen.
But now the day is over, and the tension falls from Sabé’s shoulders once she and Padmé are back inside the relative safety of the palace. (Not completely, though. Her neck still aches from days of wearing Amidala’s heavy gowns and headdresses.)
“Rabé, Eirtaé, Sabé,” Padmé says. She’s dropped the Amidala voice, and even in her makeup, she looks much younger. But her voice still rings with command. “You can go back to the celebrations, if you wish. I’ll be fine on my own.”
The three of them exchange glances, wordlessly communicating in a matter of seconds. The press of Sabé’s mouth says I will not leave her alone. Eirtaé’s pale eyes say She is safe here, you know that. And the squeeze of Rabé’s fingers around Eirtaé’s hand say Let her be.
“Thank you, my lady,” Eirtaé says after a moment, Rabé echoing her. They curtsy, and leave the room, while Padmé regards Sabé with careful eyes.
“You did not leave,” she notes. Sabé shakes her head.
“No, my lady, I did not.”
Padmé falls quiet again when Sabé moves behind her, working the countless pins from her hair, letting it fall in hairsprayed clumps about her shoulders. Her delicate, jewelled, diadem comes next, and the gem-encrusted fan at her back.
When Padmé wear nothing but her shift, the rest of her wardrobe carefully packed away, Sabé turns to her makeup.
“I’m sorry,” Padmé says as Sabé passes a cloth over her cheek for the third time. Her hand stills-she can count the number of times Padmé has apologized for something on one hand -and she lets the cloth drop, sitting next to her on the bed.
“Whatever for, my lady?” Sabé asks, and Padmé snorts.
“Oh, don’t call me that,” she says, and softens. “I’m sorry for this. For the Invasion. For not being able to protect you.”
And that is just like Padmé, Sabé thinks. When she apologizes, it is for things she had no hand in. “Padmé,” she says. “The Invasion was not your fault. And I am your handmaiden. I should be worrying about your safety, not the other way around.”
“Dear Sabé,” Padmé says, and Sabé tries not to think of how those two words sets her heart aflutter. “When have you ever known me to do what I should?”
“Never,” Sabé confesses. She can’t keep her head on straight like this-in a nearly-dark bedroom, Padmé bare inches away from her. There is no etiquette or propriety or duty between them now, she feels. Only fabric and skin. “But, Padmé-”
“Yes?” Padmé murmurs. She’s not sure when they became so close-so close Sabé can feel Padmé’s breath dancing across her cheek-but she doesn’t care.
“Do you-” Sabé almost hesitates, biting her lip, but she is a handmaiden of the royal house of Naboo. She never hesitates. “Do you really worry about me?”
“Always,” Padmé says. Her hand reaches for Sabé’s, fingers intertwining, and Padmé’s thumb strokes a comforting pattern across Sabé’s palm. “How could I not? You’re my best friend.”
She bites her lip, red ceremonial makeup smearing across her teeth. “Sometimes,” she says. “Sometimes I look at you, and it’s like looking at myself. But a better version of myself. The version of myself I want to be.”
Sabé can scarcely imagine that. Padmé is Padmé. Brilliant, beautiful, clever Padmé. A bright burning star. Sabé is only caught in her orbit, hopelessly entranced.
She tells her as much, and Padmé’s mouth widens into a smile. “Sabé,” she says. “Do you truly not see yourself as I do?”
“How do you see me?” Sabé asks, but she never gets an answer. Because Padmé leans forward, and then Padmé kisses her.
Padmé is kissing her.
It is something Sabé has never entertained before, even as she brushed paint across Padmé’s cheeks, traced the pattern of her spine with her eyes as she laced up another elaborate court gown. She thought of Padmé’s lips. Never Padmé’s lips on hers.
Sabé is sure she’s blushing when they break apart. Her hand goes to her mouth, smearing the lipstick there across her fingers. Her head spins.
“Was that-” Padmé starts, looking as unsure as Sabé has ever seen her. She doesn’t get a chance to finish, before Sabé is kissing her back. Her fingers tangle in Padmé’s hair, desperately surging forward; seeking what, she doesn’t know, but she seeks it all the same.
When they stop, Padmé’s hair is mussed, her makeup streaked across her face. Sabé doesn’t doubt she looks no better herself. But Padmé is smiling, and so is she.
“Sabé,” Padmé breathes, like the word itself is worthy of reverence. “Do you know how much I love you?”
“As much as I love you, I imagine,” Sabé says, like the very words don’t send a thrill through her. “How long have you been waiting to do that?”
“Since the Invasion,” Padmé says. “Seeing you as Amidala, risking your life for mine. You were glorious.”
“It was when I met you, for me,” Sabé confesses. “At training, when you first revealed yourself as the Queen.”
“I remember,” Padmé says.
“I had never once imagined that you would be my sister just as much as the other handmaidens,” Sabé says. “But you were. You were with us every day, side by side. After that, I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t help but love you.”
Padmé smiles, a soft, slow smile that makes Sabé lean in and kiss her again. She loses herself in Padmé-in her soft lips, in the millaflower fragrance of her hair. She kisses her, and kisses her, and kisses her. At that moment, there is absolutely nothing else she wants.