"For the same reason that men do it -
the economics of the arrangement.
It's intimacy without intricacy."
About two standard days after Padmé Amidala married Anakin Skywalker in a secret ceremony upon the balcony of the lake country retreat in Varykino, she, along with the rest of the Republic Senate, were summoned back to Coruscant, for an unexpected and ultimately surprising meeting. The newlyweds were disappointed; though they had been prepared to have only a brief time to celebrate their union, they had not thought that they would be parted so soon. Nevertheless, they were well aware of their responsibilities, and obeyed the summons, risking that the orders of escort given from the Jedi Council to the Padawan would prove a reasonable explanation for their return together.
Fortunately for them, their joint arrival went unnoticed, in favour of the special Senate meeting, which called the two bodies of authority that they served into the large domed arena for the surprising news which the Supreme Chancellor was to announce.
"Senators, Masters," Chancellor Palpatine began as soon as everyone was assembled, causing the former to realise that a selection of Jedi Council members had been called to attend the session as well, making the meeting highly significant, "I come before you today to tell you of the extraordinary message I received from the Separatists." He paused deliberately to allow time for such news to reach all of the beings assembled, and for them to silently speculate what such a message might contain. A master at manipulating his audience, he waited for the theories to be voiced in the form of muttered murmuring between one delegate to another in their assigned pods, before raising his hand and silently calling for silence so he could continue.
"The Separatists have no desire to continue with the bloodshed that began on Geonosis," he revealed. "In their message they declared a longing for a peaceful treaty to be created between themselves and the Republic."
Another pause here, as he digested this troubling piece of information once more, along with his inferior colleagues. He had not been pleased to receive this news, along with the other piece of disturbing intelligence that came to him on the heels of this proposal.
"Count Dooku, as leader of the Separatists, also sought to suggest Pais, as the neutral planet where selected members of the Senate might go to discuss the formation of this treaty, as well as a number of esteemed Jedi negotiators."
Palpatine's gaze rested on the booth belonging to the members of that Order as he spoke, noting their reaction. It was rather fascinating to see their vaunted Jedi serenity flicker briefly from their faces as their true reactions to what their former colleague proposed appeared. Evidently he was not the only one who failed to find his now former apprentice's offer acceptable. Perhaps his plans for the future did not require a complete overhaul after all, if the Order were given reasons to continue to distrust Dooku's new image.
"I come before you to put this offer to your judgement, consideration and possible approval," he added in conclusion. "I now await to hear your opinions."
That the Supreme Chancellor took note of their reactions was no surprise to the Jedi Masters who bore witness to the above special meeting in the Senate. Relations between his office and theirs was gradually developing a distinctively sour taste of late, ever since he accepted the recently passed act of executive powers. It was often said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, a saying more and more members of the Order applied to the Supreme Chancellor's office. Many had come to see a different side recently to the previously confident, compassionate representative of Naboo, and it was a side few could admit to liking.
Other than such growing suspicion, they had no reason to suspect Palpatine was doing anything more than taking notice of their facial reactions to the news he just delivered. A classic politician's manoeuvre, habitually ingrained within them it seemed from the moment they entered office, if not before. Some beings acquired the talent during life, to others the dubious ability was granted from birth.
Besides, their thoughts were focused on more immediate matters, such as the motive behind their former colleague's sudden desire for peace. Dooku's departure from the Order, right on the heels of his Padawan's death, had been a deep and personal blow for many Jedi, particularly those who sat on the Council.
He was a greatly respected Master, considered worthy to join that august body of beings, an offer which he refused out of what they believed at the time was misplaced, yet entirely characteristic modesty. They respected his desire to leave the Order, and the reasons he gave for such a departure, finding them sound and logical, even, dare they say it, agreeing with some of them.
All that did not change when Geonosis arrived. Those of the Order who not only fought on that sinkhole ridden desert planet, but survived, did not doubt that Dooku had crossed to the dark side of the Force, but there were few who believed that such a sithly transformation was not irrevocable.
Even Master Yoda, who had trained him and who was the last to face him in battle, held some doubts on that score. Doubts which only grew when his colleague, Obi-Wan Kenobi, told him of a certain remark Dooku made regarding a old friend now one with the Force, while the Count held him in solitary before sending him into the Geonosian arena. A remark that Obi-Wan had often wondered about when all the fighting was over, as he lay recovering from his injuries.
It was that remark which caused him to be summoned to attend this meeting of the Senate, along with two senior members of the Council. The wisest and most gifted of that august body, they turned to him when the Supreme Chancellor ceased to speak, letting the voices of the Senators reign, waiting for his judgement concerning what they had just heard.
"Whether we believe Count Dooku's intentions to be peaceful or not, does not matter," he murmured at last. "For the safety of the Republic we have to agree to this meeting." His hand came up to stroke the short reddish blond hairs of his beard thoughtfully. "Two things we can be certain of."
"And they are?" Mace Windu asked.
"Count Dooku knows more than we do about the true origins of this setup," Obi-Wan replied. "And we need him to tell us what he knows."
For Padmé Amidala, the news of this peace was as welcome as the victory parade on Naboo ten years ago. She had fought for this since the first planet broke from the Republic while she was in the midst of her second term as Queen. Her fight only deepened when she entered the Senate, as her new role provided her with more authority and opportunity for her voice to be heard across the galaxy.
There was no ambition behind it, no ego, only a stubborn desire for the same peace and harmony which reigned across her native planet to become sovereign over the whole Republic. An impossible dream perhaps, indeed her faith was shaken when she lost Cordé, and then further on Geonosis as she and the Jedi fought for their lives in that force forsaken arena.
But never yet had it died. And she felt a smile briefly settle on her face as she heard the Chancellor relate Count Dooku's proposal. For barely a second it governed, the satisfaction permeating through her mind and soul, gladdening them both, then she concealed the emotion in favour of summoning the strength and resolve to argue the case for peace amongst her colleagues.
Glancing around the arena, she took in the expressions of each and every person present, in a speed almost akin to the reflexes of a Jedi. Noting who was shocked, who was pleased, who was in doubt, who was disappointed. She was not ignorant that some of her less than noble associates were hungry for war.
Profit and ambition were their motives for desiring such chaos, they cared not a jot for the lives of the beings who elected them to their office, if indeed those beings had a choice, for some elections were rigged. Quietly she weighed up which ones who belonged to this corruption that she would need to persuade to cross the aisle. A substantial majority would have to be achieved if the motion was to pass.
When she reached the pod which belonged to the Jedi, she was surprised and pleased to identify Master Kenobi standing with Masters Windu and Yoda. When she last saw him, it was a bittersweet encounter; as he tried to dissuade her from marrying his Padawan. A grave mistake, and obviously an order from someone on the Council, for she could see in him doubts that his words would succeed where all others had failed.
In the end it had only strengthened her resolve, which she regretted, for she respected Obi-Wan and had no desire to lose his friendship, founded in the aftermath of the blockade on Naboo. Now as she looked at him, watching as his mouth drew to a close, evidently concluding whatever view he had conveyed to his superiors, she saw awareness of her observation slowly dawn across his handsome face.
His eyes met hers across the crowded room, and a hush seemed to fall over the Senate, drowning out the canopy of noise from the politicians. For a moment they were aware of no one else but each other. There was an eloquence in their brown and sea eyed gaze, that would never be matched in spoken words. Queries and assurances were conveyed in a matter of minutes that appeared timeless. Was he forgiven for coming to her with what he was ordered to do? Yes, of course. Could he excuse her for what she decided to do afterwards? Yes, absolutely, he could even understand and sympathise. This would not affect their friendship, would it? No, never. Is she happy? Very. Then everything worked out for the best.
Reality swamped around them once more with a rush. Both blinked as their souls and minds worked to recollect their surroundings and the conversations they were previously witnessing. In unison they turned to face their companions, as if the sudden gazing encounter never took place. The remembrance of the meeting would come later, accompanied by a great deal of thought and speculation.
And some regret that more had not occurred.
Padmé returned to her Senatorial apartment only after a lengthy floor vote had taken place, the end result in the favour of agreeing to the Separatists offer of peace talks. She was relieved and pleased that such an outcome ended the meeting, but exhausted by the amount of time it had taken, and the amount of strength she used up in speaking, cajoling, arguing and persuading.
Several hours were spent in such a manner in order to render the substantial majority required for the vote to fall in Count Dooku's favour, followed by more hours of careful tact and diplomacy as the Chancellor nominated which Senators were to be granted the privilege of attending these peace talks.
Palpatine had made sure to put forward a balanced team of pacifists and warmongers, most of whom would be willing to put their private motives aside in view of achieving the best for all concerned. She, along with Bail Organa, Mon Mothma and Garm Bel Iblis and Finis Valorum were just a few of the Senators permitted to join the delegation; allies she respected and whose opinions she valued.
The Jedi had yet to announce who would be coming from their ranks, choosing to remain in the Senate until the vote had been decided before summoning their own Council, but Padmé assumed that they would include a fair number of negotiators.
She wondered if Obi-Wan and his Padawan would be included in that group, having been the last of the Jedi to speak with Count Dooku, aside from Master Yoda. It would be for the best if they were not, for while Padmé knew that she could conceal her feelings for Anakin, she had doubts that Anakin would be able to do the same. He did nothing to hide his feelings from the moment they were reunited.
Yet she had seen Obi-Wan with Master Yoda and Master Windu in the Senate. Padmé let herself dwell on that long eloquent look which had passed between them. Had she imagined his answers to the questions she desired and feared to ask?
At the time she had felt so sure that he understood her, almost as if she had been gifted with the ability to speak to him via the innate sense which actually belonged to him, not her. Then he turned away, as did she, as if nothing had ever occurred. Yet a certain kind of peace existed within her mind, as though her guilt concerning the secrets she now concealed was assuaged.
A strange emotion to possess, as she had little idea what his reaction would be if she or Anakin told him what they had done. She remembered what Anakin had told her of his confrontation with Obi-Wan when she fell out of the ship during the chase for Dooku on Geonosis. The anger his Master had shown convinced his Padawan that he would be expelled if they told him about their union.
But Padmé could not help but feel that anger would not be the emotion Obi-Wan would display. Disappointment, regret, but not anger. For that emotion had already passed between them when he begged her to leave Anakin alone. There was no need to revisit the old arguments again, for they had accomplished nothing.
A beeping sound disturbed her ruminations then, and she frowned as she struggled to locate the source. Glancing around the Senatorial residence, she could see none of the communication devices activated, and she had left Artoo with her husband. Then something vibrated close to her skin, causing her to slip a hand into her pocket. Catching sight of the small device now in her hand, she froze as recognition came to her.
She had forgotten that she was carrying it, in the midst of all that occurred between their first meeting here, in her apartment, and the secret ceremony on Naboo. A part of her felt guilty for ever being tempted in the first place, especially considering what Anakin told her during their wedding night. Picking up the device, she thumbed the reply button, already knowing what her answer would be.
The query came in the usual disembodied voice that belonged to mechanical toners, designed to convey complete and utter anonymity. While depriving the voice of feeling and sex, it did nothing to conceal the significance behind the question, not to those who had long ago learned the full nature of the innuendo with which it was laced.
"Are you free tonight?"
"No," Padmé replied, "Infact, I've left."
"Oh," the voice uttered, startled, for her response was hardly typical. Nevertheless, after a pause, there followed a perfectly civil farewell of, "forgive me for bothering you," before the caller ended the communication
For a moment the Senator studied the device after she switched off, remembering the first time she had been introduced to it, and all the other occasions she had used it since then. It felt odd to be giving it up. But she wasn't saddened by the sacrifice, for it was nothing more than a past time, one she would still have now, though of a different kind.
Slipping it into her pocket, she went deeper into the apartment to find a suitable hiding place for the device. A married man and a Jedi her husband may be, but he was still too young to understand her motives in belonging to this particular clique.