Title: "Shadows of Winter" (1 of ?)

Author: Shawn

Rating: NC-17

Characters: A/P

Category: Drama/Romance/Angst

Summary: With six days to spend together celebrating their two year anniversary, Anakin and Padme travel separately to a remote planet in the Hoth system. Romance, passion, danger, and the possibility of their relationship being exposed to the entire galaxy unexpectedly awaits them.

Spoilers: This story follows "The Light and the Dark." Chapter 2 in the "Heart and Soul" series. (2/5) Obviously, knowledge of Star Wars: Episode 1 and 2 is needed. You must also read the story before this one "The Light and the Dark." This story takes place four months after that one, just days before Anakin and Padme's two year wedding anniversary. Check 'Authors Notes' for more information.

Disclaimer: I will make no money, zero dollars, absolutely nada from this story. And lord knows I could use some of that Epsiode 3 money, lol.

 

 

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R-Type Bavorian Shuttle

Currently navigating around the chaotic asteroid field surrounding the Hoth system

 

 

Such a breathtaking sight to behold.

Thousands upon thousands of dense, jagged asteroids spiraled, crashed into, and narrowly missed one another in a symphony of destruction all their own. Some were gargantuan in size, hurtling at speeds almost unimaginable, while others were no larger than a R-2 unit, floating aimlessly on their way. The sheer spectacle of the orbiting belt stretched as far as the eye could see, encompassing their entire field of vision.

Flying along the far side of the asteroid belt was a small shuttle craft with a somewhat rusted underbelly, and a blemished white surface. Those aboard the R-Type Bavorian shuttle could see the end of their journey in sight, as the world that bore the same name as the system, Hoth, was within visual range. Just beyond it was their destination.

"Ezcaban is the fourth planet in the remote system of Hoth. Surrounded by numerous moons, it is a world of mountains, wilderness, and some of the most brutally cold temperatures recorded anywhere in the galaxy. What separates Ezcaban from it's fellow Hoth worlds, who are all uninhabited, was it's people, the Ky'Dari Clans," Dorme read in her eloquently tempered voice from the illuminated data pad in her lap. She caste a glance Padme's way and found a litany of amused expressions on her face. One after the other until she began laughing for no real reason at all. Perhaps that was the purest essence of joy. She wore it well. "Being the only intelligent life inhabiting any of the worlds in the Hoth system, the Ky'Dari Clans are descendents of settlers who crashed on the planet when their own suffered a cataclysmic earthquake. They live in one of the most humble, untechnological societies in the known universe. Dysines, the one and only city on the entire planet is home to some twenty-five thousand Ky'Dari citizens. The city is protected by a solar energy shield that covers it completely, allowing for the people to move about in less than lethal temperatures. Remaining a far colder world than most, the city itself is more than comfortable enough to explore and enjoy."

Padme detected a sliver of mirth in Dorme's voice. Or was it sarcasm? "Okay, I admit that it sounds a bit rough at first."

Only on rare occasions had Dorme fixed such a wicked smirk her friends way. "A little rough would have been going on a Mythar blood hunt with a pack of Wookies on Kashyyyk. This planet sounds absolutely dreadful."

"Which is why it is perfect," Padme assured her as the asteroids began to thin out at long last. She engaged the shuttles engines at full power, all the while enjoying once again being at the controls of a starship. "The people of Ezcaban, outside of the protective energy shield and spaceport, shun technology. They live a very basic existence, and are well known to be kind to off-worlders. It's a simpler way of life, similar to how people live on Tatooine. They have little to no access to the Holonet, nor do they want any, and from what I've read they enjoy the mysterious allure that attracts travelers to their world. Anakin and I needed to go somewhere we wouldn't have to hide in the shadows or meet in secret. Dysines is having a huge outdoor festival in three days that we can attend during the day in public with no worries that we might be identified. We've never experienced anything like that before."

"Ezcaban is a floating chunk of ice in space."

Even with her complaint, Padme heard Dorme's lack of sincere annoyance. "The men there are very humanoid in appearance, you know. And quiet handsome, or so I've heard."

"Padme Naberrie Amidila Skywalker," Dorme affectionately quoted her full name in a playfully paternal sort

of way. "Do not make me call you a liar. You have looked up no such information."

Padme paid her no mind, concentrating her efforts on successfully navigating the outskirts of the asteroid

field. Flying through it was impossible according to C-3PO, who quoted the exact percentages, so it was going to take one whole day to fly around it. Luckily, that day was almost over and soon she will be reunited with her husband, who she missed dearly. She wondered even out here in the dark of space if he could sense her overwhelming joy as she throttled the shuttles engines at full power, rushing to him. "I would have loved for Anakin and I to have celebrated our two year anniversary on Naboo at the Lake Country. In a perfect setting I would love for my whole family to be there with us. But we're living in a time of war that unfortunately both of us are playing key roles in. This is the very best we can do to be alone. We're sick and tired of hiding and sneaking around and lying to everyone just to spend a few moments alone together. On Ezcaban, we can walk around amongst the people as complete strangers and blend in. We can be normal for a change. We've enjoyed so little of that thus far in our marriage."

Exhaling a compassionate sigh, Dorme understood that all to well. Going on this trip with Padme was a small sacrifice made in honor of a woman who sacrificed daily for the good of others, and had done so most of

her life. The Senator was a proud, strong woman whose face never betrayed an emotion she didn't want you to see she was feeling. But deep down Padme was simply a woman who missed the man she loved with the fullness of her being. Padme's time as Queen might have prepared her for a life of public service, and being a Senator was the greater fulfillment of that on a grander scale. But nothing compared to being in love with Anakin Skywalker.

Nothing at all.

And so with a great resolve Dorme accepted that even if she had to sleep on a slab of ice and interact with some of the galaxies most unattractive men, she would do so with pride because she was doing it for her very best friend. "Well, at least we packed for the cold weather."

"It won't be so bad, I promise you," Padme reassured her. "From what I hear the Shyzra Festival is amazing, and there are plenty of things to see and do. The cabins I acquired will be more than comfortable."

"With all due respect, milady. I won't even see you." Followed by a bold glare that dared Padme to deny what she was inferring. "If you and your Ani leave the bed chambers at all I will be shocked."

"There'll be no milady talk on this trip. We are Holonet photographers here to document a society whose ancestry and ways of life aren't known to many. We are equals. Partners."

"You're still going to spend the greater amount of your time in the bed chambers with Anakin, and we both

know it." Padme's suddenly flushed cheeks was all the evidence Dorme needed on the subject. "While you are indulging in your absolute favorite 'aggressive negotiation,'" Dorme mercilessly teased her friend with the phrase she accidentally overheard one day after Anakin left Padme's private office at the Senate Hall wearing a grin far to wide to be expressed from a Jedi. "I'll be stuck with the ever insightful and oh so personable C-3PO as he rattles on and on about such exciting topics as the unpredictable change in guard duty at the Galatic Apartment Complex, or that female citizens of Muidia eat their male life mates after they reach a certain age."

"Dorme, I owe you a huge favor someday."

"Trust me, I will collect."

"Whatever you want, it's yours."

"And if I want a night with a certain handsome, moody, and oh so sexy Jedi Master?"

Padme smiled when she glanced her way. "Then I shall put in a very good word for you with Master Kenobi?"

Dorme couldn't help but to smile. "At least you didn't mention Master Ki-Adi-Mundi. While I adore his classical manner of speech the size of his head would distract me a great deal."

"You're becoming such a shallow wench in your older years."

Such language from Padme was few and far between, which only marked the moment more special. "I am barely ten years your senior, thank you very much." Banter on equal footing for once came with laughter they've both needed in recent days.

When Padme was Queen of Naboo, Dorme served as one of her handmaidens and bodyguards in secret. Now as the years have passed and the roles changed with the roles played, Dorme served as chief assistant and bodyguard to Senator Amidala. As Padme entered adulthood their relationship grew from that of Queen and servant to employer and employee, and now as the very best, most trusted friends. A relationship neither one of them took for granted.

Having had her fill of the facts, Dorme shut off the data pad in her lap, choosing to relax the rest of the way to Ezcaban. "How long before we arrive?"

"Not long at all," Padme replied with a sigh. Anakin... If only the strength of her sheer will alone could propel this shuttle faster. It's been six weeks since she last saw her husband, and even then only for a few short hours. Hardly enough time to erase the misery and longing they felt for each other. Savoring the longest of passionate kisses, they pledged themselves body and soul, committed for all time. And now with the Senate in recess as a new, and thankfully hopeful round of peace talks began again, she's been granted eight days leave. Anakin and Obi Wan had spent so much time on the front lines of the war that when Anakin asked for time away, not only did Obi Wan grant it, but admitted he needed time some as well, if only for a few days.

Small miracles indeed.

And now there's a anniversary to be planned. Padme could barely contain the sweetness within her heart every time she thought of the love she shared with her husband. The little boy who saw her as an angel turned into the young man who stole her heart, and now she shared this indescribably beautiful love with this charismatic, commanding Jedi. True, the last two years have been viciously hard on them both, and the galaxy at large. But without a shadow of a doubt Padme knew she would not trade a thing for what she shared with Anakin. She had such immense wealth when she was Queen, and her years in the Galatic Senate have afforded her prestige, power, and position. But she was rich beyond measure not because of any single or multiple material items she owned or title she held, but because she possessed Anakin’s undying love.

Six days...

Her heart hasn't stopped beating so fast since they left Coruscant a twenty-four hours ago. She'll have six whole days to spend with Anakin and for once be able to enjoy him in public. Will be able to walk down the street with him. She will be able to hold his hand, and kiss him if she pleases out in the plain view of everyone. For six glorious days the galaxy and it's problems be damned. The war, the Senate, the Separatists, and the Jedi will all have to leave a message. They will take this time for themselves, and selfish though it might be, they will revel in it.

"Those men had better be handsome."

Dorme's first words spoken in some time came with the lighthearted flair Padme's come to know and adore. She always good company. "Even if they aren't, at the very least you'll have six days away from bureaucrats, the endless arguing, and Coruscant's atrocious sky traffic."

"What I need is a younger man bursting with vigor and charm." Dorme felt Padme's curious gaze fall upon her. "Hey, I learned that from you."

"Excuse me?"

"Going for the younger man. One who can be trained to fulfill your every wish and desire."

"Trust me. I did not train Anakin."

"Still, you married him. You seduced a Jedi with your wicked ways."

A description of her she's never heard before. "I do not have wicked ways."

"A galactic cradle robber, you are."

"I should have left you on Coruscant."

"I'd be warmer there. And at least I know there are some handsome men around. Now if only that Obi-Wan was as much of a rebel as your Ani. I'd sure love to..."

"Oh give it a rest," Padme laughed until the comm-link beacon sounded. A raspy voice that spoke slowly filtered through the shuttles cockpit.

"This is the Ezcaban Home world Security Station. Please identify yourself."

Padme pressed the comm-link beacon. "This is the Javelin-1. My name is Bella Sorsi and I am traveling with my partner Calis. We are holo-photographers for Holonet. Our clearance code is 779-ZX2-20000. If you check your records you should see our arrival as having been planned ahead." Silence for a few moments until the raspy voice returned.

"Your clearance has been confirmed. Please do not deviate from your present course, Fighter escort will arrive shortly. Welcome to Ezcaban."

Padme exhaled softly. It was an effort to curb her enthusiasm. "Thank you."

 

 

******

 

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The Forest of Lycria Falls

One mile due East of the City of Dysines

The world of Ezcaban, located in the Hoth System

 

 

The genuine surprise Padme felt upon finding the ARC-170 fighter partially hidden in the back of Ezcaban Home world Security Station's starship landing bay was quickly forgotten as the euphoric joy of seeing Anakin again sooner than she had expected swept over her. According to C-3PO, he was supposed to arrive nearly five to ten hours after they did due to him having to circle the Hoth asteroid belt from it's far side. Alas, none of that mattered now.

He was so close, and now she wouldn't have to dream of him anymore. Soon, she will hold him again.

If you wanted to describe Padme Amidala Naberrie Skywalker as Force-sensitive, clairvoyant, or simply a woman madly in love with her husband, you only needed to know that she could 'feel' Anakin's presence nearby... she could touch his immense impatient energy to see her again... she sensed his desire and his need and could all but picture him in her minds eye him pacing back and forth in anticipation. The image caused her to smile as her anticipation was equally as great. She had little doubt that he knew she had arrived. If she felt him, then he no doubt felt her presence as well. There's was a connection that defied time and space. They shared a love that was as romantic as it was forbidden. Epic, Anakin once said to her in a way that had any other man she would have laughed in his face. But never his.

Anakin Skywalker belonged to Padme first, last, and always before... he was simply, hers.

Padme, Dorme and C-3PO were seated comfortably in the back of a Ky'Dari touring carriage, suspended by chain-linked harnesses attached to four powerful Garcian Eagles from above. Their strong wings easily sustained the carriages weight and at a brisk pace of speed.

Having visited numerous worlds in her lifetime, Padme felt truly humbled as she took in the astounding world around her, made all the more beautiful by the man awaiting her arrival.

The long, winding snow-layered road that led through the lush forest of Lycria Falls presented a majesty of visual wonders. Vibrantly colorful flowers and plants she never knew existed somehow thrived in the frigid temperatures. The ragged, majestic peaks of Gramorum Mountain that encompassed the city of Dysines invited exploration and gave way westward to a vast tundra. The solar shield covering ten thousand square miles was invisible to the naked eye, and kept temperatures around 20 degrees or so. When a rustle of bushy Buque trees caught Padme's attention she followed a pack of three-legged Senta Argon deer’s that traveled in herds deeper into the forest. Their long, graceful necks, dark fur, and proud strides gave them an almost regal appearance. C-3PO detailed each and every animal and bird they saw along the road, pointing out the Fenna Swans who slept on beds of ice, and the hulking forms of the Lemanes boars who lived peaceful, quiet lives in the caves on the outskirts of the forest.

Such wonders of a world the absolute opposite of her home, and yet no less magical.

Padme gazed out just over the horizon as a glacier-carved valley revealed the city of Dysines before her. A culture of silver and pale blue illuminated the temples, buildings, domes, and simplistic housing structures as the carriage drew closer. With a beautiful, partially iced over lake on the far right side, the city itself stretched as wide as the valley, surprising Padme with it's size and the smooth grace of the architecture used in designing a city that literally was built against the side of a gigantic mountain.

"Pretty amazing, isn't it?"

Dorme's comment pulled her back a bit. "Yes, it is," Padme replied in a soft tone of voice, her emotions building to such a crescendo as the carriage now moved through the city itself. Apart from patches of frozen dirt, snow and ice made up the various roads and side-walking areas. The torch lit streets were alive with activity, as were all the shops, eating areas, and temples. She noted that the Ky'Dari people's humanoid forms were almost lost in the voluminous emerald cloaks they wore for warmth as well as a echo of their culture. They all possessed a almond complexion and emerald-green eyes. It wasn't easy to make out the men from the women because everyone walked the streets with their hoods over their heads. If you lived in Dysines you had to wear thick boots with powerful traction underfoot. Padme herself, as well as Dorme wore attire that was indicative of their surroundings. Thick antique white robes with hoods kept them warm and casual amongst the typical dress of the people.

The sounds of children's laughter erupted in the streets when a small group chased a floating red ball of some kind across a street and into a open field covered in snow. Their joyful noise rang in beautifully in Padme's ear. Such sounds could not be heard from her apartment on Coruscant, and certainly no where Anakin had been stationed in the last two years. Hopefully those sounds would come to drown out the memory of raging Galatic Senate arguments and the war... at least for a time.

The torch lit staging area for the coming Shyzra Festival resided in the center of the city near it's biggest temple of worship. As their carriage passed, Dorme and Padme marveled at the huge, impressively detailed ice carved statues surrounding the stage, as well as the numerous stands being built and arranged. Having read of the all-night dancing and feasting that came with the annual Shyzra Festival, Padme could barely contain her enthusiasm over being able to enjoy such a event out in public with her husband by her side. The unthinkable on Coruscant and Naboo would be paradise here, no matter the cold or snow or anything else at all.

The Ky’Dari people were as kind and humble as the reports Padme read spoke of. When they exited the shuttle they were immediately met by a small welcoming party for any off-worlders who visited their world, she was overcome by the raspy eloquence of the way they spoke, as well as the dark raised markings on their faces that crawled all the way down their necks. There was a poetry to their skin, as if the Light of the Force chose their bodies as the canvas for celestial arts. The curves and blade-like slopes of the markings were beautifully natural, and only added to the mystique of their people.

"Okay, I shall apologize to you," Dorme began with a whisper in her best friends ear. "There are some very handsome men here."

"If I were a lesser woman I would say that I told you so." They exchanged wry grins during the hour long journey as the busy city around them gave way to a set of winding roads that led farther into the mountainous area. Excitement bubbled just under Padme's skin as their carriage driver angled the birds toward the broad middle passage, taking them just out of the city and onto a road that led to a number of smaller roads belonging to the private off-worlders cabins. No off-worlder was allowed to stay in the city while visiting Dysines, so the cabins were built for private use only, set apart from each other.

A left turn took the carriage around a bend and into a clearing that revealed a modest two-story Krysian wood and brick cabin, with a small coach dwelling just behind it. The size and shape of the cabin were lost to Padme the moment she caught sight of the tall man standing on the second floor balcony. Although his body was shrouded within a thick dark cloak, his soul was known to her. Padme's face was dominated by a luminous smile, and she seemed full of vitality as the carriage navigated a small cluster of rocks. She watched Anakin lift his palm towards the left side of the road, and then the right, and as if gentle gusts of wind plucked each and every one, hundreds upon hundreds of Lavender Blush petals descended from the tree tops in unison, laid before the carriage as if to signify a Queens arrival. The sky absolutely filled with them, and the carriages driver had to steady the birds so that they would calm down. Dorme smiled at the sight and the romance of it all.

Lavender Blush Petals covered the ground completely the rest of the way to the cabin, as well as rained down from the above. A bushel of the scented petals were given to her and Dorme when they stepped off their shuttle as a welcoming gift. This grand spectacle her husband effortlessly displayed only provided further evidence that he was the purest, most beautiful joy in her life. She imagined with no small amount of ego on her part that he ached to hold her again. For the next six days she pledged to drown herself in his every carnal desire, as they were her own. She will bathe in his affections and take all of him into her mind, body, and soul because the sum of all that Anakin Skywalker was, is, and always will be belonged to her as surely as it was the other way around.

Having reached their final destination some 15 feet from the cabin, the carriage came to a slowing halt as the birds lowered themselves, allowing the weight they bore to settle onto the snow covered ground. Padme didn't wait for the driver to assist her in exiting the carriage. She opened the side door and sank into the snow the second her feet landed. The birds overhead squawked, perched on the carriages top ledges. She just didn't care. She watched with bated breath as Anakin slowly pulled back his hood, revealing that all to handsome, sexy smile of his. A smile that she saw was wild and carefree and it made her heart soar.

Forward flipping off the balcony onto the walking area leading to the road, Anakin could wait no longer. He obliterated that last few steps between them, but was shocked to suddenly find himself knocked off his feet and now lying flat on his back the moment Padme rushed him at a slightly awkward angle that sent him slipping on a particularly dense patch of snow that caused him to fall backward. Nonetheless his arms wrapped tight around her and they kissed before saying a first word.

And nothing existed in all the galaxy...

As they kissed passionately right there in the snow, Padme heard herself making a half-moan, half satisfied sigh of relief as she laid sprawled over his chest, her hands caressing his face as their lips merged in never-ending bliss.

After a long moment Padme broke away first, her smile as wide as the darkening skies above her. "Do I even want to know how you arrived here before me?"

Anakin managed not to stutter, and even stole another quick kiss in hopes of changing the subject. "As long as I'm here, that's all that matters."

His attempt at another kiss was thwarted, though only for now. She knew she was on to something. "Answer me, Ani?"

"You're here two seconds and already you're bossing me around." Anakin playfully rolled his eyes, laid his head back in the snow and began mocking her. "Anakin, please fix your hair and robe properly when you leave my office. Anakin after we've..." He made a 'interesting' hand gesture. Oh yes, Padme was not pleased at all with

that tone. "Anakin, our 'aggressive negotiations' do not take place on the veranda for all of Coruscant to see. Anakin, stop projecting naughty images into my mind when I'm giving speeches. Anakin, do not undress me with the Force again. It makes me feel uncomfortable."

With a defiant smirk adorning her lovely face, Padme reached for a hand full of snow and smushed it in his face. She rose from his lap when he yelled from the cold sensations, turned around, and began walking back to the carriage. Dorme stuck her head out of the carriage, grinning wildly. C-3PO just shook his head, muttering something about never understanding those two.

Suddenly, Padme found herself whisked off her feet from behind. Anakin spun her around in his arms, laughing like a mad man... and the man who loved her beyond reason. "I don't take lightly to mocking, Ani. You know that."

Unresisting, Anakin brought his face to within inches of hers, a infuriatingly amused light shining in his eyes. Their mutual breaths lifted about between them. He buried the fingers of his left hand into the tangle of thick, luscious hair at her temple. "I sincerely apologize, milady," he began while gazing into her lovely brown eyes. "However shall I be forced to make it up to you?"

Padme looked at him and suddenly felt an erotic thrill of control surge through her. "I shall require a lot of convincing, Master Jedi."

"Then I pledge to you every day of my life as proof of my sincerity."

How is it that he's even more handsome than he was the last time she saw him? "I graciously accept that, as well as hereby sentence you to spend the next six days at your perfect wife's," he smirked so wide, tongue firmly in cheek, "every whim."

"Such a punishment does not nearly fit the crime." Her touch... her scent... the taste of her on his lips had stripped away the galaxy and the raging war down to nothing at all. There was only his angel and whatever made her happy. "How does forever sound?"

"It's a start," Padme declared softly, her voice so husky it sounded like a purr. Slowly she pulled on the collar of his cloak, bringing him closer. "I missed you, Ani."

Such desire that he simply had to kiss her that very second, and did so. "I love you so much, Padme," he confessed light onto her lips, plundering her mouth with his own. Her tongue met his greedily as her fingers dug into his shoulders.

"Uhm, excuse me," Dorme interrupted from the carriage. "As sweet as all this is, can we kindly take it inside to a more warmer setting?" She climbed out into the snow. Hands on her hips, she fixed the duo before her with a most whimsical smirk. "You'll have plenty of time for all that later."

"Hello, Calis," Anakin nodded towards to Dorme. "It's nice to see you again." Ever mindful of the roles they will be playing on this trip, he acknowledged the driver as well, who walked from the carriage cab and extended

his hand. "Greetings. My name is Syain. I am their bodyguard, as well as Bella's husband."

The driver shook his hand in return. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am called Alar. Welcome to Dysines. Now come, allow me give you a guided tour of the cabin you will be staying in. I think you will be most pleased with your accommodations."

Having released his wife from his arms, Anakin took Padme's hand in his, twining their fingers as they approached the cabin. R2 ducked out of the door for a moment, then back inside. Padme noticed two small, odd dents on the dome of his head, and thought to ask Anakin about them later on. Dorme made small talk with the all to handsome driver. C-3PO complained the whole way, but as usual, he was ignored.

 

 

******

90 Minutes Later

******

 

Some nights truly seemed magical.

The moons of Ezcaban provided a beautifully lit sky as Padme and Anakin rode through the lush forest of Lycria Falls on a Norian Boar. Covered in the purest white fur either of them had ever seen before, the hulking six-legged beast with the gentle heart as they were told reacted instinctively to Anakin's every command, be it physical or through the Force. Padme held tight onto her husband as the brisk, but not entirely cold winds rustled the tree branches, flowers, and bushes along the elaborate trail leading into the heart of the forest and beyond.

"One of the members of the welcoming party that met me when I landed refused to allow me to take a speeder to the cabin. He told me the noise it made it might scare the wildlife and draw the ire of the Ky'Dari citizens," Anakin said as he held the reigns tighter around a sharp curve of the trail. "Also, the Ky'Dari are so anti-technological that they don't even use refresher units. They have a traditional water piping system that's connected to every structure in the city, as well as under the forest itself leading to all of the cabins. I can honestly say I have finally found a world far harsher than even Tatooine. At least there we had some comfortable amenities. Here, I'm going to have to cut us some wood for the fire place just to keep warm tonight."

With her head resting on the back of his shoulder and her arms secured around his waist, Padme shut her eyes to the soothing allure of his voice. She held on tight to him with the sureness of confidence in his abilities. The strong, opinionated Senator Amidala vanished the moment she arrived on Ezcaban, and in her wake left a woman deeply in love with not a care in the world. She was no less strong or opinionated. Only softer. Quieter. Sensual.

"Are you even listening to me?"

"Your complaints have been duly noted, my love. Now kindly insure we do not go flying off a cliff."

"Rest assured I would never, ever allow anything bad to happen to you."

The Norian Boar grunted when it skidded a few feet on a particularly hard patch of ice in the middle of the trail, then quickly regained it's footing as it ascended a rugged hill top. Anakin enjoyed the rush that he knew probably annoyed his beloved wife. "My driver told me legends about these woods and the first Ky'Dari settlers, but I have forgotten them already."

"Your attention span has always left something to be desired."

"Forgive me for not concentrating fully on the mythical tale of this forest," he replied sarcastically. "My mind was solely focused on the thorough ravishing I intend to give you this evening. So, in a round about way, it was all your fault."

A thorough ravishing... As comfortable as she was in her heavy pale blue cloak, gloves, and boots, nothing could warm her from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet like Anakin. "We'll see who gets a thorough ravishing this evening."

"So we shall."

Upon reaching the apex the hill, Padme and Anakin were treated to a most magnificent sight. The sweeping vista of Malakar River. All one hundred and two frozen miles of it running through a glacier-carved valley. The majesty stretched as far as the eyes could see. A visual set on a grand scale, untouched by any culture. Or by war.

"My driver told me we could skate on it. He even told me where to buy the blades in town." Padme pressed her face against his neck, loving the closeness of being able to touch him whenever she wanted. "What do you think about that?"

"I'm from a planet of rock, sand and intense heat. Skating across a frozen river is simply not a part of my destiny."

Whenever he complained, she pushed harder to get her way. "It would be fun," she spoke softly, pressing a kiss against his ear. They began a slow pace along the snowy hill top, nearing the path of another trail up ahead. "I've never skated before and I know you haven't either. We could learn together."

Exploring the countryside and perhaps hiking up Gramorum Mountain sounded like fun to him. The prospect of falling every five seconds while his wife laughed her head off wasn't. "I could sit by the edge of the river and watch you skate, but that's as close as you're getting me out there."

A challenge for sure. As if she ever lost even one with him. "Shall I remind you of another time we learned and later mastered an activity neither of us had done before?"

Padme's whispery voice warmed the shell of his ear, but the sheer surprise of her right hand ghosting over his trousers, up his inner thigh towards his... With the confidence of a woman who knew she owned him, she grasped him firmly in her hand and he came to life instantly. The smirk that lifted her lips taunted him. "Are you sure you're not the Sith Lord Obi-Wan and I have been searching for?"

"Of course not," she laughed. "I am in favor of the Jedi, and madly in love with one in particular."

"I assure you Master Yoda does not share your feelings."

"Perhaps that is a good thing. Our difference in height would cause certain logistical problems." Even as she is older than he, she felt even older than that when they were alone together and she could transform into the daring woman that's been trapped inside the stoic Senator for far to long. Her smiles are without end by his side. Her sense of humor was uninhibited. She longed for his every happiness and that everything satisfying to him could be found within her. And it was.

Anakin's heavy boots dug in the stirrups. He gave the boar a little kick with his heels and leaned forward, bringing the animal into a charging gallop as Padme held on tighter. The forest began to blur by as they sped through it, riding hard into the night. A flock of wild Garcian Eagles flew in unison above them, weaving in and around the highest treetops as if star fighters evading cruisers. The sight was invigorating to say the least.

The snow seemed deeper in this part of the trail as traction became an issue. The vibrant colors of the flowers and plant life seemed overwhelmed by white frost, eclipsed by nature itself.

Padme and Anakin rode for another half a mile until the point where the trail ended in a broad clearing overlooking Gramorum Mountain. The plateau seemed a perfect resting place.

The scenery was magnificent. Everywhere consisted of white and shades of blue, as if made by an artist with a limited palette, and with so much reflection around, there were no real dark shadows. Lycria Falls was a forest bursting with color that seemed to somehow co-exist with Ezcaban's natural cold climate, but not Gramorum Mountain. The cold dominated it with gigantic iced-over loose rocks and steep slopes so deadly in appearance that they fell away into nothingness. There were seven distinct high points along the way, the third peak on the southeast side being the highest.

Trotting in the brisk coolness, Anakin and Padme felt the slight sting of chilled air, and it was a elixir. A cure for their longing spirits. They were as alive here as they had ever been before, as if bursting with enough energy to break out into a sprint at any moment.

Coming to a halt near a huge Buque tree with thick branches so wide they shadowed the ground, Anakin dismounted the Norian Boar first, then lifted his arms to help Padme down. She sunk into the snow, smiling because he was. He looked into her lovely brown eyes as they were softly open. She's the light at the end of the very dark tunnel that was his life. Whatsoever was good within him came from her. Moments like this reminded him that her joy, and not the Chosen One's destiny, was his life's work. All else was an illusion.

Padme lifted her gloved hand and caressed his cheek with her fingertips. He kissed those fingertips, grinning for her utter amusement. She could breath again. She could sleep through the night and enjoy her food and find the will to dance when music inspired her. All because he was alive and with her again.

Anakin pulled Padme against him and kissed her on the temple. "Your nose is pink."

"So is yours," she noticed. "We make quite a pair."

"That we do, angel. That we do." As always, they met half way. Their kiss was slow, sweet and sensuous. Innocent as their first and as carnal as every one since. Padme reached up and grabbed the collar of his cloak, deepening the kiss and opening her mouth to invite in his tongue. His strong arms slid around her waist, closing any distance between them. She shivered with pleasure as his body pressed hard against her. Seconds into his kiss and she's simply lost in him. He had the power to be able to turn her into a submissive, hungry creature. What was even more shocking to the woman who barely knew how to kiss before she met her husband was that she could render him tame under her skillful ways. He was hers as surely as any certainty in all the galaxy.

Pulling away after a all too brief moment, cool breaths of air lifted about their mouths between them. Anakin squeezed her fiercely. Affectionately. "You're shorter than I remember," he teased, smiling.

"I was never that tall to begin with," she replied with an equal smile. "These boots do little to enhance my stature."

"Padme, you are beautiful beyond words and I have seen nothing in all the galaxy that compares to you."

From any other man those words wouldn't carry an ounce of the sincerity his did. Senator Amidala had humbled many Senators in her illustrious career, but Anakin could humble Padme to a degree she never thought was possible. He meant what he said, over dramatic as it was at times because that was his nature, and she loved him endlessly. "You're kinda handsome too."

Anakin arched a brow, then nodded in response to her slight dig. Sparing a glance the Boar's way, he focused through the Force a gentle request for privacy, but that the animal should stay near by. Slowly it walked off, roaming through a cluster of bushes for frozen berries. He faced his wife again. "Now, about that kinda handsome line."

"Oh, Ani. You know you are the most handsome Jedi," he cleared his throat with his arms crossed over his

chest, "Man on Coruscant," she alluded to and received another clearing, "Being in all the universe. Your good looks and charming ways are without measure. You are the scale by which all male beings should be judged," she now teased unmercilessly, causing him to blush. "You are the sun, the moon, and all the stars in the galaxy. The Outer Rim should be jewelry worn around your glorious neck." He's laughing now as she mocked his usual over the top wordplay. "Your beauty blinds me, and yet I cannot look away for if I do..."

"Enough, Mrs. Skywalker!" Anakin playful warned her, capturing her in his embrace once more. Her giggles warmed his heart. Levity. Lightheartedness. Sweetness. Playfulness. Romance. Things denied them for far to long, but no more. Not tonight. The titles they wore were left behind. No Senator or Jedi were here. Only a husband and

a wife. "Do you love me?"

Padme nodded, her heart swelling.

"Then stop mocking me, alright?"

His displeasure with her never lasted longer than a few moments and then he'd smile. "I shall refrain, Mr. Skywalker." Calling one another in private the names they couldn't in public became another symbol of shared intimacy for them. A truly personal one. Padme took her husbands left hand, twining their gloved fingers as they walked along a winding stone path. "Ani, how did you arrive here before me? And why does R2 have those dents on his outer dome?"

She knew how to block his Jedi mind tricks because not only did he show her how, but also how to sense when someone was trying to use them. His answer to her question came in the attempt of another kiss. That only alerted her to the fact that she was on to something, much to his dismay. "You know me," he began with a roguish grin. "I cut a few corners here and there."

It took Padme no longer than ten minutes to put two and two together after inspecting R2 closer. Her anger at her husband settled into a numb annoyance at best, though she still required her pound of flesh, in a manner of speaking. "Why don't you give me the specifics."

Lying to her was something he never did. Now that didn't mean he was above bending the truth a little. But outright lying wasn't something he could do where his Padme was concerned. He turned to her, smiling extra wide in hopes of setting the proper mood. "Well, I... uhm..."

"Flew your Jedi fighter through the Hoth asteroid field despite C3PO's three thousand, seven hundred, and twenty to one odds of successfully doing it without dying, correct?"

Well, he knew when he married her she was brilliant and had a keen mind as sharp as any he'd ever known. "We haven't seen each other in so long and I was beside myself wanting to get to you."

"And the lure of doing the impossible never factored in, or am I wrong?" He wouldn't lie to her and she knew that, but he would try to avoid the question. He was a man, after all.

"I... I brought you presents," he offered with a hope of turning the tide.

Anakin even had the nerve to smile. He's such a typical man at times. But only at times. "No smart man would ever not bring presents when an anniversary was on the horizon. So you'll have to try a little harder than that."

Anakin led her beneath a huge Buque tree. He settled at the snowy trunk of it's base and gently pulled her into his lap, nestling her sideways with his arms secured around her waist. His attempt at romance was met with her most serious expression. One that clearly stated he was not nearly off the hook and she demanded an answer. "Yes, I flew through the asteroid field." Her eyes narrowed and her jaw clenched. He never thought much of risking his life, but she did and had told him so on many occasions. He's worried her and for that he's instantly remorseful. "I was running late when I left Obi-Wan and the fleet. I just wanted to get to you as fast as I could. I'm not going to lie to you, Padme. The thrill of successfully navigating that asteroid field did play a part in deciding to do it. I know it wasn't the smartest move I could have made and I'm sorry."

"I am so angry with you. I am appalled by your reckless attitude and your blatant disregard for my feelings."

He lowered his head and sighed. "I am truly sorry."

"Don't you fear anything?"

"I fear nothing because I feel that nothing is out of my ability to change."

Anakin Skywalker had the uncanny ability to thrill her. To captivate her. To seduce her. To inspire her. To love her so deeply and truly that she could barely believe it was possible. And he had the ability to scare her. "I love you, but when you do things like that it terrifies me."

He was supposed to be her fears enemy, and here he found himself responsible for her fear. "It won't happen again, Padme. I swear."

A promise he won't be able to keep it. Padme knew that as surely as she knew him and how he lived his life. But in relationships there were settlements they needed to be made, faults overlooked within reason, and weighed properly against the love shared. His need to push the envelope was her greatest cause of concern for him, just as her absolute insistence no one know of their marriage deeply hurt him at times. He would walk away from his life to be with her every day, and that kind of devotion she did not take lightly. "Ani, you're not just living for one person anymore."

"I know," he conceded as he took her hand in his and brought it to his lips, pressing a kiss on the inside of her palm. His most sincere expression was on display. "No more asteroid fields for me, okay."

"And we will be ice skating tomorrow," Padme insisted with the utmost confidence. "Isn't that right, Master Jedi?"

"Yes," Anakin reluctantly agreed. "You drive a hard bargain, milady."

"It's only because I love you so much." Anakin reached over and caressed her cheek. She leaned into his loving touch and rested in his arms. Tonight, after they've properly celebrated being reunited a few times, she'll sleep beside him and all of the loneliness she's lived with over the last four months will fade away. "Six whole days, Ani. I can barely believe it."

"Neither can I. When word came of the new peace talks I was as shocked as anyone. And now we can be alone together on a world where we don't have to hide from people or sneak around as if our love was something that needed to be hidden."

There was a note of bitterness to his words, but she took it in stride. "We've never been able to do anything in public before. I can't wait to tour the city and go shopping tomorrow. We'll be able to do something normal for a change."

"Ryoo and Pooja birthdays are next month, aren't they?" Padme nodded. "Your nieces are growing up so fast."

"I miss them terribly, as I do all of my family."

"When the war is over..."

"No," she pressed two fingers to his lips. "No talk of war or duty or the Senate or the Jedi. Not on this trip. The next few days are all about us and nothing else. I feel the need to be selfish, if only for a week."

"You'll hear no arguments from me, that's for sure."

"Good." All of a sudden Padme noticed her husbands fidgeting. "What is it?"

"My backside seems to have gone numb on me."

Padme's laughter filled the air. "Well, you are sitting on frozen snow." She took pity on him, rising from his lap, and then pulling him up with her. She within his arms again, lost in those beautiful blue eyes that stole her heart long ago. "Can I possibly get a hint as to what my present is for our two year anniversary?"

Never let it be said Anakin couldn't recognize a humorous opportunity knocking. "Well, it's gold, talks to much, and I made it myself."

Sometimes she wanted to kick him really, really hard. "If C-3PO is my gift then I'm giving you R2 for yours."

"That's a horrible gift."

"And that's better than a opinionated, fussy protocol droid?"

"That's it. I'm going to make you sleep on the couch tonight."

"If you are going to tease me at least use something that is even remotely possible."

"Whoever do you think you are?"

"I'm your angel," she declared softly, holding his heart in the palm of her small hand. His soul twined with

her own. "And I'm getting cold, Ani," she shivered just a bit, leading him away. "Let's go back to our cabin. I'd like to aggressively negotiate your punishment for flying through that asteroid field."

Anakin couldn't do anything but smile after that.

 

******

The End of Chapter 1