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Anakin says, "I thought about you every single day."

Her eyes are clear blue. They haven't left Padmé since Anakin and Kenobi arrived. Padmé is used to being watched -- by crowds, security, political rivals, men in every corner of the galaxy, and now apparently by assassins -- but this feels different in a way she can't quite name.

Anakin is tall now, taller than Padmé, almost taller than Kenobi. Weedy limbs poke out from the padawan's voluminous garb. Her braid is frizzing; Padmé's gaze keeps catching on the gold-lit strands escaping from it.

"You'll always be that sweet little girl I met on Tatooine," says Padmé.

Anakin's mouth twists, her eyebrows going down. Padmé joins the rest of the room in pretending not to notice, and they blessedly move on to other topics.

--

It shouldn't disturb her, what with everything else going on. Padmé has been the target of many teenage crushes and the bearer of more than a few herself. They've all burned off into more appropriate forms of regard: the sisterly affection she feels for Sabé, the warmth and iron loyalty between her and Dormé. Anakin will accept that Padmé isn't the "angel" she remembers, and her interest will fade. And then, when this is over, perhaps they can even be friends.

(If only Anakin would stop staring...)

--

"You don't like it when I watch you," says Anakin over the comm.

Padmé pulls the coverlet a little higher around herself. "I don't think anyone especially likes being watched."

"You know we have to," says Anakin. "For the mission."

The mission is to keep Padmé safe.

"Can you just turn the cam off?" Padmé tries. "I'll leave the comm on. You can still hear me."

"I can hear you even if I can't hear you. I can feel everything about you."

"So turn the cam off."

"Yes, Senator Amidala," says Anakin.

Padmé slips into a sleep that doesn't last.

--

On the transport to Naboo, Anakin sits stiff and quiet. Her hand rests on the handle of her lightsaber, fingers tracing the grooves, and she grips the handle tightly whenever anyone passes by.

"You'll like the lake country," Padmé offers. "Nice and quiet, lots of water. It's green everywhere. It's beautiful. Chancellor Palpatine --"

"Chancellor Palpatine says I'm the most promising Jedi he's ever known," Anakin interrupts.

"Oh?" Padmé tries to keep the surprise out of her voice. She knows that Palpatine likes to mentor young people, herself included, and he seems to harbor a certain fondness for Anakin, but he hasn't been in the habit of making such sweeping statements as far as she's known him.

"I didn't know the Chancellor was an expert on Jedi."

Anakin bristles. "I am strong."

"I don't doubt it," Padmé placates. "I only meant --"

"You don't believe me." It seems Padmé has struck a nerve. "No one believes me. I may be young, but someday I'll be stronger than any of them. I'll be the greatest Jedi who ever lived!"

"Ani," says Padmé gently. Anakin is seething, muttering something under her breath about Kenobi. "I know you're strong. That's why you're here to protect me."

It's true. Even Padmé, Force-insensitive as she is, felt the raw power crackling off Anakin when she swept in to slice up the kouhuns in her chamber. Padmé has worked with Jedi on and off practically since she was a child, and she's never met one quite like Anakin. But Anakin is...unstable, and so clearly immature, caught between her potential and the insecurity that restrains her.

It must be lonely, Padmé thinks suddenly. Padmé is lonely sometimes -- more often that she'd like to admit, in fact -- but she always has peers around her, people she can relate to. It must be terribly, terribly lonely, to be different even among Jedi. She feels a flash of pity for Anakin alongside her discomfort.

--

Once they arrive at Padmé's home, things change. Away from Coruscant, the Jedi Council, and her master, the absence of immediate danger knocks Anakin off-balance. Padmé suspects she's had little experience with unstructured time before.

They have dinner with Padmé's family. Anakin is virtually silent for the first half of the meal, answering questions with a terse "yes" or "no" and picking at her food. At first Padme thinks she's still in a sulk. Then Padmé's father asks a question that leads into a story, and Anakin starts talking, and Padmé realizes that Anakin is terrified. She seems torn between maintaining wooden good manners (to impress them? to keep from making a mistake?) and really getting into her story, and she can't make up her mind. Padmé watches Anakin dart quick glances between Pooja, Padmé's parents, and Padmé, trying to read their reactions behind the stonily polite masks, and feels amusement that flickers into sympathy.

"Are you still a pilot, Ani?" she interjects, once Ani (Anakin. Anakin) has trailed off into vague platitudes about the sanctity of the Republic and the boredom in the room has become all but palpable. Anakin nods, caught off guard, and Padmé launches into recounting the Boonta Eve podrace before she can give a verbal answer. It's been a long time since she's told the story; her family listens with mild interest. She doesn't remember everything, and makes sure to ask Anakin to fill in the details.

She asks questions that generate other questions, details of past podraces and life on Tatooine that lead into stories about Anakin and Kenobi's work around the galaxy. The stories are colorful, most of them funny, and Anakin isn't a bad storyteller once she gets excited enough to forget about impressing anyone. The atmosphere lightens. There is a decent amount of laughter around the table. Anakin even manages to eat a little.

It's not enough to rescue dinner, but it is something, and Anakin is smiling when they take leave of Padmé's family for the evening.

"I didn't know you remembered that much," she says, after they've departed for Padmé's chambers.

"Of course I remember," says Padmé. She's not sure why she says it.

"Well, I'm glad." Anakin...blushes. She looks at her own feet when Padmé notices. It's at unsettlingly at odds with her previous boasts and fits of rage. When she raises her head again, flushed cheeks and wide eyes, it's even more disturbing. Padmé is suddenly aware of how close they're standing. Of, again, how Anakin almost but does not quite tower over her.

"Good night," says Padmé, and turns away.