The Touch of her Hand.
Anakin pulled hard on the makeshift reins, causing the Reek beneath them to halt, allowing for Obi-Wan, who was running toward them, to leap up from the ground and land behind her. As Padmé felt him settle on the beast, she could not resist touching his thigh to reassure herself that he was safe. As soon as she did so however, her emotions became alive once more to the power that touching him had over her.
She had held feelings for Obi-Wan ever since she first met him on Naboo, though she had been far too young for him to notice her, not to mention a Queen of a hostage realm, captive of the Trade Federation. She would never forget watching him leave Qui-Gon's side to free the pilots, his confident 'I'll take care of that,' followed by the quick striding swagger over to where they were held by the droids. He timed his intervention to coincide with his Master's move to take her yacht, his actions swift and sure.
By the time they landed on Tatooine, she knew that she had to get away from him before she made a complete fool of herself. It was for this reason that she persuaded Captain Panaka to let her leave the ship with Qui-Gon, Artoo and Jar Jar, for Mos Espa, though had she known where it would lead to, she would have reconsidered. If she had not left the ship, she and Anakin would not have met as they did but in a more formal capacity, which might have prevented him from coming to care for her so much that he was prepared to flout the Jedi Code by having a relationship with her.
His feelings for her had caused Padmé to contemplate sacrificing herself in order to try and save him from what happened on Tatooine. She had lied to Anakin before they entered the arena. She cared for him, but she did not love him, not in the way he loved her. The only reason she pretended that she did, was the thought that his feelings for her might be one of the things which was preventing him from falling to dark side. He had come so close to doing so, in massacring the Sand People on Tatooine, after the death of his mother. She had been so afraid for him when he confessed to her what he had done, not to mention what Obi-Wan would feel if he came to know of the matter.
Since Anakin's confession, there had not been a moment for her to pause and reflect properly over everything, leading to what she now believed might be an unwise decision to allow Anakin to believe that she returned his feelings. When she touched Obi-Wan's thigh, it had awakened within her the feelings for him which she had been struggling to fight ever since Palpatine suggested him as a bodyguard. Feelings that were always more powerful than those she held for Anakin.
Suddenly Anakin pulled on the Reek's reins again, causing her to come away from her thoughts and return to the arena, where their temporary escape from Count Dooku was about to be curtailed again, as she caught sight of the Droidekas rolling into the area, surrounding them with their shields up and blasters at the ready.
She looked up, along with Anakin and Obi-Wan to the arch ducal box where Count Dooku and his allies were watching the arena, expecting to see the former Jedi's smug smile before ordering the droidekas to kill them. Except there was a flash of a violet bladed lightsaber, as Master Windu abruptly appeared behind him, pointing his weapon at Dooku's throat.
The silence which followed was broken by the hiss of other lightsaber blades igniting, as more Jedi made their presence known within the arena. There was a pause, then the battle droids which she and Anakin had seen being built during their arrival on Geonosis came to join in the ensuing melee.
What followed never allowed Padmé a moment to return to her thoughts and feelings, as the Jedi tossed sabers to Anakin and Obi-Wan, securing their freedom from the shackles which bound their wrists, along with the chance to fight using a weapon they had been trained defend themselves with. When the Reek reared high enough to dislodge them from their perch on his back, she was able to grab a discarded pistol too.
After firing at the droids and Geonosians, Padmé saw the opportunity to grab another beast, namely the Orray which carried the tumbrel that brought her and Anakin to the arena. She leapt on its back, riding the animal across the ground as she continued to shoot at the droids and Geonosians, its height giving her an advantage.
When a blaster shot killed the beast, she was forced to join Anakin in the upturned tumbrel, which gave them a shield as they continued to fight.
"Call this a diplomatic solution?" Anakin taunted her during a brief pause in their firing.
"No, I call this aggressive negotiations," she replied before resuming her shooting.
All too soon the droidekas and the battle droids overwhelmed the Jedi, surrounding them in the centre of the arena. Padmé watched Obi-Wan put an end to the Acklay, flicking his saber in his wrist to alter the direction of the blade in a motion which was somehow rendered elegant by the swiftness of his movements and the confident manner in which he wielded the weapon. She saw him turn to one of his fallen comrades then, kneeling before the slain Jedi as if to say a prayer at their passing, before rising to his feet and preparing to face the enemy once more.
At a signal from Count Dooku the battle droids and droidekas ceased firing, the sudden silence from the blasters startling after so much noise.
"Master Windu!" He called out. "You have fought gallantly. Worthy of recognition in the history archives of the Jedi Order. Now it is finished. Surrender - and your lives will be spared."
"We will not be hostages for you to barter with, Dooku," Master Windu replied.
"Then, I'm sorry, old friend," the Count said. "You will have to be destroyed."
The battle droids and droidekas raised their blasters. Around her the Jedi followed suit with their lightsabers. Padmé reluctantly raised her own weapon, as she silently wished that there was another way to resolve this.
She raised her eyes to the sky, about to send a quiet prayer towards the heavens, when something in the blue and white caught her eye. Countless shafts of silver, coalescing into ships as they flew closer and closer towards the arena. "Look," she called out to the Jedi as they came nearer.
Six of the ships landed before the surviving Jedi, their bay doors opening to reveal soldiers clad in white armour. Master Yoda was standing in one of them, ordering their rescue with his gimer stick. Under the protection of the soldiers the Jedi ran to the ships, which once secure of them returned to the skies.
Padmé joined Obi-Wan and Anakin on of the vessels, grabbing hold of the straps attached to the ceiling of the bay in an effort to stay aboard the ship. She glanced through the open bay doors, watching as the vessel gained altitude until it was free of the arena, whereupon the gunship changed direction, heading for the Trade Federation ships she and Anakin had seen on their arrival.
"Aim right about the fuel cells!" Anakin ordered the gunners, who promptly obliged, firing at one of the enemy vessels, causing it to be destroyed.
"Good call my young padawan," Obi-Wan complimented.
Padmé stretched to keep hold of the support straps as she watched him focus on something which was set apart from the Trade Federation ships.
"Look over there." He called out.
"Its Dooku!" Anakin cried. "Shoot him down!" he ordered the gunners.
"We're out of ordinance, sir," one of the soldiers informed them.
"Follow him!" Anakin directed.
Padmé took a quick look at how many were on the ship. "We're going to need some help," she said, not liking the size of their support, not to mention that they had just fought an exhausting battle in the arena. She knew that the Jedi possessed energy greater than non-force sensitives beings, but even they had their limits.
Obi-Wan shook his head. "There's no time. Anakin and I can handle this."
She did not doubt his confidence, but she was worried about his safety. Staring at him, Padmé watched as he turned to face her once more, almost as if he could sense her concern within the Force.
Just before his eyes met hers however, the ship tilted sharply. Unprepared for the sudden swerve, her hands lost hold of the support strap and she fell from the ship. The last thing she was aware of was hitting the sand, before everything turned black.
It was not until afterwards, when they were all safe on a ship taking them back to Coruscant, that Padmé found the time to return to her thoughts and feelings over Anakin and Obi-Wan.
Their escape from Geonosis had ended in injuries for both of them, resulting from a fight with Count Dooku that had ended only after Master Yoda's timely intervention. Anakin's wounds were more severe than Obi-Wan's. Where the Jedi Master had earned only cuts and bruises, his padawan lost an arm. Padmé recalled running to his side, when she all she wanted to do was go to Obi-Wan, but feeling Master Yoda's gaze on all of them, decided supporting the padawan would better conceal her emotions for his master.
Only when they made it to the medic ship which they were now aboard, did she leave his side, allowing her own wounds to be attended to. The slashes to the back made by the Nexu had hurt at the time, but they were not as serious as the pain led her to believe.
Ignoring the itch caused by the bacta healing strips which now covered them, she moved from the bed to stand before the view port, from which the sight of stars passing at lightspeed served to soothe her unsettled mind.
Seeing Anakin in such pain from the loss of his arm, was another sight which gave her cause to doubt her earlier intentions. While she cared for Anakin enough to desire to save him, trying to do so by pretending to love him would not be wise, she realised now. There would always be the possibility that he might sense her deception, causing him even more heartache than he suffered at present, from the loss of a limb and the death of his mother. It might also cause him to return to the darkness he had felt on Tatooine, perhaps forever.
She had to tell Anakin the truth about her feelings for him, but first she must tell Obi-Wan what had happened on Naboo and Tatooine, there was no other choice. He was Anakin's master, he had a right to know if his padawan was in danger from falling to the dark side of the Force. She did not believe that Anakin would tell him, from fear it would disappoint Obi-Wan, or prevent his transition from padawan to knight.
Padmé went to grab her poncho from the pile of things she had retrieved from her yacht before boarding the medic ship, leaving the sleek silver craft to be docked in the large bay belonging to this vessel by a couple of members of the clone army. She was just about to put the cloth over her head and chest when the door to her quarters opened, and Obi-Wan entered.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you, milady," he began after the door closed behind him. "I came to see how you were faring."
Padmé put aside the cloth, glad that he had decided to seek her out. "My wounds are healing," she informed him. "They were not as serious as they looked. Or when compared to yours and Anakin's."
"Yes," Obi-Wan murmured as he advanced further into the room. "It was actually him who I came to speak to you about. I am curious as to what happened on Naboo for the two of you to end up on Tatooine."
"Anakin was having dreams of his mother," Padmé replied, relieved that he provided her with the perfect opening with which to relay what she must. "He couldn't ignore them any longer, so we went to Tatooine to find out what had happened to her. We discovered that Watto had sold her to a moisture farmer named Cliegg Lars. Lars freed Shmi and married her.
"We journeyed to the farmstead, where we found out that Shmi had been taken by the Sand People. Anakin left me with the Lars to try and rescue her. Only he was too late. Shmi died in his arms."
"Died?" Obi-Wan echoed, his shock at the news causing him to seek a seat on the bed. he put his hand to his beard, stroking the hairs in an effort to calm himself. "I should have listen to him earlier, before we returned to Coruscant from Ansion. He was suffering from nightmares about his mother then. Perhaps all of this might have been prevented."
"You must not blame yourself," Padmé protested, making him look towards her. "You weren't to know that she was in danger, neither was Anakin. I think she was only holding on, trying survive her capture for the possibility of seeing her son again. Even if you had been there, I don't think you would have been able to prevent what happened next."
His hand stilled as he turned to her in concern. "And what happened next?"
"I only learnt of this later, after Anakin returned and we had buried his mother. He was trying to fix something when I came to give him some food. He broke down and confessed that after his mother died, he let his anger get the better of him." Padmé paused, taking a breath before she delivered the next blow. "I do not know what really happened, only what he told me. I shall never forget how he said it. 'I killed them, I killed them all, every single one of them. Not just the men, but the women and children too. They're like animals and I slaughtered them like animals.'"
Obi-Wan looked at her in horror. "He actually claimed to have committed such an act of genocide?"
Padmé nodded, shamefaced, feeling responsible for her own part in the tragedy, by agreeing to travel to Tatooine. "He did add that he knows that he should be better than this, not that such is any consolation. I'm not sure if he would talk to you about this, so I decided to do so, just before you came in."
Obi-Wan inclined his head in acknowledgement, before seeking the comfort of his hand stroking his beard once more. "The Council will have to be told, I have no choice in the matter. This is too grave an act to keep from them." He looked up at her. "Is there anything else I should know?"
Padmé hesitated for a moment, then realised that it was probably a good idea that she let him know the rest of it as well. "Yes, there is. While we were on Naboo, Anakin told me of his feelings for me. And for a time, I let him believe that I returned them."
It was difficult to read Obi-Wan's reaction as she told him about this. A cascade of different expressions passed over his face as he took in her words and, for what seemed like a long time, he withheld from saying anything.
Finally he spoke. "Let him believe? You mean you don't love him?"
She shook her head. "No, I don't. I care for him, I worry about him, but I don't love him. I'm sorry that I gave you that impression."
"Not just me," Obi-Wan remarked. "Master Yoda has asked me to counsel you and Anakin against having such feelings."
"I did think Master Yoda might sense what I was feeling," she said, "it was why I..." she broke off, realising what she about to confess.
"It was why you what?" Obi-Wan asked her.
"Nothing," she uttered hurriedly, turning away to gaze out of the view port in an effort to compose herself. This conversation had been bad enough already, she did not want to make it worse by confessing to feelings which she was sure he did not return.
Obi-Wan was not put off so easily however, for the next thing she knew, he had risen from his seat to join her before the view port, his hands reaching towards her, touching her waist in order to make her turn and face him.
"Padmé," he murmured softly when she finally found the courage to look at him. "Tell me," he gently urged.
"I can't," she replied, unable to meet his steadfast gaze. "Its forbidden and unrequited."
His fingers began to softly stroke her waist. "How do you know if it is unless you give voice to it?" he asked her.
"You," she whispered, her resistance surrendering under the onslaught of his gentleness.
"What about me?" he queried.
"Do I have to spell it out?" she asked him, slightly irritated by his continued incomprehension.
Abruptly his fingers ceased stroking her as he wrapped his arms around her, pressing his forehead against her own. She felt him take a deep breath before he spoke. "Do you really mean that?"
"Yes," she answered him, her voice choked by her emotions and by the sudden hope of what his actions were possibly telling her.
"Oh, Padmé," he said. "Why have you not told me before?"
"I didn't think you felt the same," she confessed, powerless to conceal anything from him now that he held her. "And it is forbidden."
He smiled at her. "No, it is not. For knights and Masters, such feelings are allowed, provided we seek blessing from a Council member."
"Truly?" She asked him. "Is it really possible that you love me?"
"I realised what I felt for you almost from the moment you shook my hand on Coruscant, when we came to see you," he revealed. "But I refrained from telling you, knowing of Anakin's feelings, thinking perhaps you returned them."
She shook her head, smiling as uncontrollable happiness took hold of her. "I had feelings for you before I ever laid eyes on him. Almost from the moment I saw you when you and Qui-Gon came to rescue me on Naboo. It was why I went with him to Mos Espa. I was worried that if I stayed on the ship, I would have made a complete fool of myself around you."
"I would have probably done the same, without such emotions," he confessed. "I was too headstrong and impetuous back then."
"Not in my eyes," she said, causing him to grin at her. "And what do you mean by 'back then?' Who jumped through the window of my bedroom to catch an assassin's probe?"
He laughed at the reminder, before sobering. "There will be dangerous days ahead of us. It is a dark time for Republic, and for the Jedi. Not the best circumstance for beginning a relationship. But I can't imagine ignoring what we feel, not anymore. Nor do I want to."
"I can't either," she agreed.
"Then we tell Yoda and Anakin, in the morning," he proposed, and she managed to nod her assent before he kissed her.