Absence Makes The Heart.
" There were whispers . . . that you'd been killed."
Padmé Amidala, Revenge of the Sith.
It was early evening when the Temple received the news. Obi-Wan was in the comm room at the time, where all intelligence and communication necessary to the Jedi, the Clone Army and the Republic arrived and thus was one of the first to have the Intel. From the moment he had it, disbelief and doubt of its being true assailed his mind, but as the hours grew without anything being heard, so did the truth of the report grow in strength.
Reluctantly he left the comm room and headed for the tower to report the matter to the Council. Their reaction was the same as it would have been had it been any other Jedi who was reported missing in action. It would be unwise to act in any other way, yet Obi-Wan felt that he could detect a certain degree of scepticism within the chamber concerning the Council's treatment of the report. After all it was not just any Jedi, it was Anakin Skywalker, he had a reputation for achieving the impossible.
Yet the hours continued to grow. And Obi-Wan could not sense him. That was not unusual, the strength of the dark side being what it was, the growing limitations of the Order's ability as a whole to sense something of that nature occurring beyond Coruscant, let alone the Outer Rim. However he felt the significance of it in this case, given Anakin's power, which he could not underestimate.
After returning to the intelligence and communications room for a brief time, but without hearing that which he most desired, Obi-Wan left the Temple in order to take the news to the one other being he knew should be told.
C-3PO was there to greet him, but was soon dismissed by his mistress, who emerged from her bedroom as soon as the sound of his voice reached her. She was wearing a white nightgown and dark purple weave sleeved cloak, which she fastened about her waist as she crossed the living area to welcome him.
"Obi-Wan, what brings you here?" she queried in a warm tone. When he hesitated to reply, uncertain as to how best he should break the news, her manner changed to admit concern. "What's wrong?"
"I think we should both sit down," he advised softly.
She took a seat upon one of the sofas and he tentatively sat beside her. "There is a battle being fought in the Outer Rim," he continued, choosing to state what the report contained as simply as possible. "Anakin was due to check in with the temple and report on the situation. However there has been an explosion near his last known position, since which his battalion has received nothing from him, forcing them to report him missing."
When he finished speaking Obi-Wan turned to watch her reaction. A tear slipped from her now glistening eyes to journey down her cheek and her voice was touched with anxiety, along with the breath required to keep such emotional suffering in check. "Why did you come to tell me?"
"Though neither of you has said a word to me, I am not unaware of what took placed on Naboo," he replied, choosing his words with care. "Nor am I upset or angry that both of you decided not to confide in me. After what happened between you and me before he took you back to your homeworld, and me and him on Geonosis, it is understandable. But despite our difference of opinion over those actions, I know that there is one thing which none of us can deny and that is how much we care about Anakin. This news may yet prove to be false, but until it does, I felt you had a right to know and a right to grieve in private, before it becomes necessary to make the report to the Chancellor and the Senate."
She had been listening to his words with a stillness that was full of shock, denial and worry, yet when he finished speaking, she let her composure drop and sought his proffered embrace. Obi-wan stroked and softly kissed her dark brown hair as she cried in his arms, her breath shallow and indistinct with fear and grief which he discreetly soothed into calmness with the Force.
Assuaged she drew back, suddenly conscious of their closeness to one another. He withdrew one arm from her back, but not the other, silently showing her that he did not feel her nearness to be an intrusion, nor was there need to conceal her concern or suffering from him, yet giving her the freedom to withdraw if she wished. After a brief hesitation she adjusted her seat and leant against him, accepting his comfort and compassion.
"Do you wish to know?" She asked him when she had gained the strength to speak.
"Only if you wish to tell me," he replied gently.
"We kissed on Naboo," she began simply, her voice warm with the memory. "At the time I told him it was a mistake and denied how it made me feel. But he persisted, telling me one night that he was in love with me. He begged to know if I was suffering as much as him. I told him that it was impossible, given my position in the Senate and his within the Jedi Order. He suggested we could keep it a secret. I said no at first, that I could not live with such a lie and he agreed that it would destroy us, but nor could we ignore what either of us felt.
"On Tatooine I comforted him over the death of his mother, and the act he had committed due to his overwhelming grief at her loss. Then as we stood waiting to be taken into the arena on Geonosis, I could not conceal the truth of my feelings any longer. I felt we were going to die, so I told him that loved him.
"Later, after the battle I comforted him over his wounds and he asked if we could have a relationship. I told him that I would think about it. Then you and I had a difference of opinion after our return here, in which I resolved to ask him to marry me and prove you and the Code wrong. We wed on Naboo after he took me back.
"At times I have regretted how I asked him in such a fit of pique, but he has never given up on our relationship. I think he finds it a source of strength."
"And you?" Obi-Wan asked her softly.
"I find it both a strength and a weakness," she confessed. "But then I worry about the consequences of discovery, whereas he does not."
He smiled wryly. "I can understand why, I did threaten the both of you with the possibility of his expulsion from the Jedi Order. In truth however, I do not know what the Council would do if the union came to light. Exceptions have been made, though before, not after the ceremonies have taken place."
"Then why does the Code forbid it?" Padmé asked him, astonished by the information.
"The Code forbids attachment," Obi-Wan corrected. "It does not forbid love. There is a distinction that lies between attachment and love. If there is not a balance between the two, then attachment can turn into possession, which will lead to the darkside. If you can still cling to each other but be prepared to sacrifice that closeness for the benefit of either, then such a union is and should be accepted within the Code."
He paused before adding, "My objection was that I believed Anakin could not make such a distinction. However, I let my temper get the better of me when I spoke to the both of you about your feelings for each other, and as a result, I failed to make that anxiety clear to either of you."
There was a silence between them as Padmé absorbed the information, then she remarked, "I can understand your objection, for there are moments when I fear he cannot make that distinction either. The last time I saw him, I told him it might be good for the both of us to spend some time apart, because he was finding it hard to cope with the dangers of our positions within the Republic and the effect which it has upon our relationship."
"I can sympathise with his inability to make the distinction," Obi-Wan said. "It is difficult to his upbringing as a slave and his power within the Force. Perhaps he is too powerful to learn how to rein in his impetuosity and belief that he can achieve the impossible without detriment to himself."
Padmé looked at him when he finished. "I see you cannot believe he is dead either. You still speak of him in the present tense. What of your training bond?"
"That is severed when a padawan becomes a knight," Obi-Wan replied. "Usually in a ceremony held at the Temple," he added quietly.
"Usually?" In the hushed apartment Padmé caught and echoed his word curiously.
"Mine was severed when Qui-Gon became one with the Force," Obi-Wan explained. "Anakin had his broken when he was given his knighthood. If it was not for the sith, we might be able to sense him, but even so, I doubt it. He is too far away."
"So you won't know if he's alive unless he checks in," Padmé concluded to which he nodded to confirm.
"When you told him you wanted to take a break, how did he take it?" he asked her.
"Not well, but then I expected that," Padmé informed him. "Not badly enough to behave even more recklessly than usual though," she added wryly.
"That reassures me a little," he returned as his free hand retrieved a communicator from his pocket and showed it to her. "I asked the Intel operators to contact me as soon as they have any news."
Padmé nodded. "I have neglected my duties as a host. would you like some refreshment?"
"Tea would be nice," Obi-Wan replied, knowing if he refused so would she and hoping it would provide her with some comfort.
Padmé left his embrace to go to the sideboard where the tea things were waiting. Obi-Wan felt the loss more keenly than he should. Even though he had always been aware of Anakin's feelings for Padmé - it had been impossible to be otherwise, for the boy had never learned to conceal them despite his best attempts to do so - he had also come to feel an affection for Padmé which he knew bordered beyond friendship. Yet he was always careful to conceal such emotion from Anakin, though he found it difficult to do so with Padmé. She was such a warm and affectionate being, kind and tender in her manner to everyone that it was impossible for him not to return the favour, the result leaving him unsure as to whether there were moments when he crossed the line between friendship and love. He did not resent or blame her for his missteps, he loved her too much to do so.
She returned to his embrace after setting the tea service on the low table before their sofa. Carefully she handed him his tea, then took her own.
Obi-Wan inhaled the soothing aroma, took a sip and then turned to her in surprise. "How is it you have my favourite blend?"
Padmé smiled at him, replying, "I have my sources."
"And my thanks," Obi-Wan said, knowing the trouble she must have gone to, for it was a rare blend from Stewjohn that few knew he liked, including Anakin. A typical display of her thoughtful nature, he had to remind himself, now that he knew for certain she was married. Yet he could not deny how touched he was by the gesture, tempered as it was by his new knowledge about her.
Raising his eyes from his tea to her, he found himself the subject of her studious gaze. Startled by such scrutiny, he did not immediately remove his eyes from hers, allowing a certain intimacy to descend over them.
"Is there anyone in your life, Obi-Wan?" she inquired softly.
"How do you mean?" he asked her, attempting to stall what he knew was likely to come next, concerned that there had been something in his look and manner which betrayed his feelings.
"Someone that you care for?" Padmé clarified.
"Yes," he replied, not wanting to lie to her, but hoping that she would refrain from further inquiry.
"I hope the both of you are very happy together," she said wistfully, which prompted him to be a little more forthcoming.
"Circumstances force us to be apart," he confessed, not wishing to lie to her, but unable to tell the complete truth either.
"Why?" She asked curiously.
"She's married," Obi-Wan replied simply, hoping Padmé could not detect anything implicit in his tone.
"Oh," Padmé uttered. She reached out and touched his knee, squeezing the cloth covered flesh in sympathy.
He recalled another moment when she had touched his thigh, on Geonosis after he had landed behind her on the Reek, fleeing from the wounded Acklay before the Droidekas had surrounded them. Then as now the gesture was one of friendship, but Obi-Wan could not deny how his body reacted in response. Nor the relief and regret he felt in it going unnoticed.
Except this time Padmé's hand lingered, her touch turning into a caress as she moved her fingers further up his thigh. He shifted his eyes from his tea to her face, to find her returning his look, as she watched his reaction.
Obi-Wan waited to see how far her caress went before he returned the cup and saucer to the table. Then he tilted his head, leaned forward and kissed his lips. Her hand turned over as she reached the juncture of thighs, while their lips continued to touch.
Her intent was clear. Obi-Wan broke from her mouth to voice the only barrier that prevented them from going any further. "You're married."
"To the wrong Jedi," Padmé replied. "I care for Anakin, enough to have believed that marrying him might help him maintain his balance in the Force, but I don't love him."
"And that justifies betraying those vows?" Obi-Wan countered.
"I told him we needed a break." Padmé reminded him. "And I planned on ending the union when he returns from the Outer Rim. If he returns."
Obi-Wan made no reply to that. He felt out of his depth. He had come here intending to offer Padmé comfort, allowing her the chance to grieve in private before the Order was forced to go public with news of Anakin's possible death. He had not expected to learn that Padmé returned his feelings and was prepare to dissolve her previously secret union with Anakin to have a relationship with him. It was always a dream he had desired yet never expected to come true. He wanted to surrender to the moment, yet he knew that he could not, not until it was proved that Anakin had been killed, or the union was legally dissolved upon his return from the Outer Rim. If Anakin had not been his padawan, he might have ignored these barriers for the moment and surrendered to the temptations offered. But while the uncertainty still existed, he could not afford to be so reckless.
"There's an old tradition amongst my people," Padmé remarked, bringing him out of his thoughts. "If we wish to dissolve a secret union we just have to recite a series of lines." She took a breath before continuing. "The vow I once made I now choose to break, and end the union, in favour of a new bond which I wish to make.'"
With that she pulled him to her once more, and pressed her lips to his. Obi-Wan withstood for as long as he could, but there were only so many assaults on his feelings that he could resist. He let her take the lead, returning what she bestowed upon him in equal measure.
When she pulled him to his feet and led him to her room, he let her, pushing his previous pangs of conscience aside and focusing only on pleasing her.
His clothes were shed first, he wearing more layers than she. His cloak fell to the floor, followed by his tunic and trousers. Each piece revealed a facet of his skin, which Padmé kissed in greeting, turning the undressing into an exercise of control, as Obi-Wan made a effort to restrain himself so he was not too carried away by the pleasurable sensations which each kiss produced, even when it seemed she was lingering in places deliberately in order to provoke a reaction.
When he was completely bare and no longer able to withstand the pleasurable sensations produced by her fingers and her lips, he pulled her to her feet and into his arms, dealing a kiss to her mouth before he began to undress her. He dropped to his knees as her purple weave robe fell to the floor, so his hands could lift her nightgown up from where it rested at her feet, pausing each time a new part of her was revealed to him, so he could return the reverence which she had bestowed upon him. He lingered in his worship of her, learning what she liked and what gave her the most pleasure. Then he rose to meet her gaze with his own as he lifted the garment away from her utterly, letting it fall from his fingers to land upon the floor behind her.
Taking her hands in his, he let his concerns reign for one final query. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
"Yes," she replied, before taking a step backwards, then another, until she could sit upon the bed, whereupon she lay down, pulling him to rest over her. He dealt a series of kisses to her hands before letting them go, starting with the back of her palms, then the fingers, before he seeking her mouth once more.
When her hands were loosened from his embrace, Padmé let them roam about him, her fingers lingering wherever provoked a response, as he roused within her a steady stream of pleasure, culminating in a climax.
Within the Intelligence and Communications Room of the Jedi Temple, a beeping sound cut across the steady murmur of holo and comm traffic, waiting for someone to notice and turn their attention to the signal.