It was traditional to exchange gifts when one got married on Naboo. It was even still normal among the circles Padme and her family moved in. But Padme and Anakin’s marriage had never going to be normal. The closest they’d gotten to a present exchange was that Artoo was now living and working with Anakin, and Threepio with Padme. But they were hardly possessions.
The two of them didn’t even live together.
The war was everywhere, and it was eating up so much of both their time. It wasn’t that Padme regretted their marriage- she absolutely didn’t- but it was hard. She went weeks, sometimes months without talking to her husband. And she couldn’t talk to anyone. None of the very few people who knew about her marriage, that she could in theory in talk to, understood.
Every time he walked out of her life, everything sort of seemed to ping back into place, and the only one who could even tell there was an immense hole was her. She’d seen him barely a dozen times since Naboo, and never for longer than a day. It was the war.
So when Anakin showed up at her apartment, braid no longer hanging in his hair, but instead in his hand, Padme couldn’t help but be surprised. Especially when he placed it in her open palm, out on the terrace where she’d rushed out to greet him. He gently closed her fingers around it, then brought her closed palm up towards his mouth, never looking away from her eyes.
First he kissed her fingers, lips lingering just a moment longer than they had to. Then he pressed his lips to her wrist. The fabric tickled.
Anakin’s nose twitched.
Padme brought down her hand with a slight laugh, as she reached out and grabbed his other hand, leading Anakin inside.
He sat down on one of the sofas. Padme looked at him, then back at the braid she was still holding. “Well,” She smiled, “I’m guessing you were knighted?”
He’d said he was leaving when he was knighted. But then he’d said he wasn’t leaving until after the war.
“It’s for you.” Anakin said, grinning as widely as he ever had.
“Are you-“ Padme started to ask. Was he sure? Was he home for good? Was this endless background nag of a worry finally going to let up?
“I’m sure.” Anakin stood up. “It’s for you.”
“I-“ Padme swallowed her hesitations, and brief disappointment, and instead said softly: “Thank-you.”
The braid was soft and thin, the beads within shimmering slightly in the light. It seemed so much less like hair once it was severed. Almost delicate, and certainly precious, Padme almost didn’t like to keep holding it.
“So what traditionally happens with this?” She asked.
“Traditionally I’d keep it, or give it to my Master.” Anakin said, not looking in the least bit worried about the clear break from the usual. Well, he wouldn’t.
“Well then,” Padme sat down on the sofa by his side, and put the braid on the coffee table in front of them. “How long have I got you for?”
“Forever.” Anakin replied simply, then, catching her look, added. “I ship out in three days.”
“Three days huh?”
Anakin leant in and kissed her gently. “Love you.”
“I love you too.” Padme said, leaning forward so her head rested on his shoulder. She let out a deep breath. “Oh, it’s good you’re home.”
“I missed you too Angel,” Anakin kissed the crown of her head. “I missed you too.”
No noise could be heard except their breathing. The soft huff that Padme made against his robes, the small sighs as Anakin finally relaxed. Eventually he asked “How are you doing? Is the senate as bad as usual?”
Padme looked up and gave a little laugh. “Oh, you have no idea. Worse. I didn’t think they could get worse. Sometimes it seems like it’s me and Bail against the rest of them.”
“Yes.” Padme sighed. “It’s not of course, we have our allies, even our friends. But with this climate- there’s only so much we can do.”
Anakin honestly didn’t understand politics. He should do. He was married to the best senator of the lot, and was personal friends with the Chancellor, but he honestly, honestly had not got the faintest clue about what the point of half the posturing was about. “Do you want some tea?”
Padme thought about it for a moment. “That would be lovely. I should finish these reports really, but I can probably put them off for a day or so- “
“Finish them.” Anakin told her. “I’ll give Threepio a tune up if he wants one.”
“Are you sure?” Padme really, really needed to finish these reports. But it was much more important to spent time with her husband right now. He was home.
“I’m sure.” Anakin squeezed her hand for a moment, then got up and headed to the kitchen.
Leaving Padme staring at the Braid.
She was no less happy the next morning, trapped in bed, her husband’s arms wrapped around her stomach. He wasn’t home for long. Three days. Three stupid small days. But for now, at least for those few measly days, he was indeed home.
What was she going to do with the braid though? It was- Padme was utterly lost by it. It was a part of him. In a way it represented so many years of memory, so many years of life that she hadn’t been a part of. But in a way-
It was another four days before Padme had an idea. It seemed even lonelier than usual with Anakin there so long- and it had felt normal. But now? Now the Senate was up to its usually trick of burying them all in too much work for them to get anything done. The sessions were even worse than usual, and still debating the terms of the same points on the same traffic laws.
The Anakin’s severed braid had hence been the subject of some thought. She didn’t really want to keep it in the box it was currently in. It was hardly like every time someone saw a braid they immediately jumped to Padawan Braid, but at the same time- She didn’t want to leave it lying around.
She wanted to celebrate it.
She wanted to put it in a box, frame it, to point it out to everyone who came into her apartment and say: “Look, my husband gave me this, isn’t he wonderful. He’s out there saving all your useless selves right now”.
But it’s hardly like she could frame a braid. Not without then hiding it anyway. Not without a lot of questions being asked. Not on its own anyway.
Not on its own.
It took Padme a long time to track down an artist of the right style and quality who wouldn’t ask the important question. She had to trust them. The Braid was irreplaceable, and if this went badly, she couldn’t undo it.
But eventually she found one. An up and coming Kriffar who specialised in dyed rope work, and had just moved to Coruscant. Born, fortunately for secrecy, with very limited psychometric abilities.
Two weeks later Padme received the finished work.
It was a lovely, if unconventional piece. The braid itself was not dyed, but was coiled around thinner bits of beaded rope in the centre, as the strings got thinner and thinner until the border. The colours of the original beads had been echoed in the rest of the work, and, as Padme asked Threepio to hang it in prime place in the living room, she finally had something to look at, and smile.
No-one would know. But she would. Anakin would. And that would be more than enough.
She smiled, sitting down and gazing at it for a while, it was more than enough. It would have to be.
Over the next few months Padme glowed each time the piece was complemented. The artist she’d hired had gone on to become a real hit in society circles, and to have one of her early works was considered a real coup. She couldn’t help but be appreciative of the way it made the piece’s position completely normal.
It was beautifully safe. The politicians, and the society beings came in and out all the time. But the Jedi? If Padme was completely honest, she didn’t expect to see another Jedi in her home other than Anakin for the rest of her life. And if it became necessary? If her life was threatened? It was hardly like she wouldn’t have a warning. She would be able to move the piece.
And in the meantime, she had a reminder. She had their relationship. She didn’t need to shout it to the world. And so Padme smiled, sitting alone on her couch, drink in hand, looking at the one reminder she had of her relationship. The one, single reminder.
It was worth it.
As long as Anakin survived, as long as he came back, it was worth it.