Title: "The Ties That Bind"
Chapter 4/?
(2/2)
Written by: Shawn

Summary: With a deadly siege taking place at Theed Palace, Anakin is
in mortal danger while Padmé deals with the crisis, what he did to
her, and her mother's growing suspicions. An unexpected visitor
further complicates matters.

Category: Drama/Romance
Rated: M for all that it implies.
Ship: Anakin and Padmé Skywalker

Timeline: I've always believed the Clone Wars lasted about three and
a half years. This story takes place at the two and a half year mark.
So it's been two and a half years since PA were married. None of her
family know about the nuptials.

Disclaimer: GL owns everything.

Beta Read by: The Dark Lord of the pen, Master Anne *bows
respectfully*

Authors Notes 1: At the end of the day life is all about family.

Authors Notes 2: I'm no longer sure how many chapters it will take to
finish this story, but I doubt more than five. For now I shall leave
it as a question mark.

~~~~~~

"You can close your eyes to things you don't want to see, but you
can't close your heart to things you don't want to feel."
~~ unknown

"There's this place in me where your finger prints still rest... your
kisses still linger and your whispers softly echo... It's the place
where a part of you will forever be a part of me"
~~ unknown

"When you remember how hard it is to change yourself, you begin to
understand what little chance we have of changing others."
~~ unknown

~~~~~

******

******

"Varykino"
One of the Nabberie family's home located in Lake Country Retreat
Newly built private starship landing platform
Late night
Naboo

Lit by a gorgeous night sky, the long flight from Naboo's capital
city of Theed to the Naberrie villa had given Anakin time to not only
appreciate the grand visual splendor that was his wife's beautiful
home world but to consider his options in dealing with her as well.
Never mind the painful throbbing in his shoulder and lower back, he
felt infinitely worse over the hurt feelings he sensed his angel
enduring.

Hurt feelings he had caused her and now would have to answer to.

Navigating for the thrill of it through a winding dark mountainous
gorge, Anakin thought over what he learned in the last two hours he
interrogated the leaders of today's assault. Padmé and the Queen were
the primary targets, so his initial hunch was right, unfortunately.
From his recollection the Draconian Horseman were little more than
capable galactic thugs, they were known for their fearlessness in
taking on any assignment. The real culprit behind today's attacks was
still out there, lurking with cold hate in what passed for a heart.

Padmé's list of enemies included some of the most powerful, feared
beings in the galaxy. From Count Dooku and General Grievous to Nute
Gunray and Rune Haako those who would do her harm for no reason other
than she fought for justice and peace wanted her dead. But death
would visit them someday. All of them.

Anakin vowed to arrange the meeting.

The basics of the plot were simplistic and not well planned after the
initial siege began. How they got into the Palace was brilliant, but
the escape plan never materialized as the promised starship both
leaders spoke of never arrived. In fact, Naboo's Defense Radar Towers
didn't pick up any ships in the area or even the faint radioactive
signatures of a cloaking device.

The attack force was either a pack of bumbling fools or were pawns
left behind to be slaughtered once they accomplished their goal.
Either way the true mastermind behind the day's assassination
attempts was still out there. A cowardly faceless, foe who tried once
and would try again.

Anakin couldn't do anything about that now. For the time being Padmé
would be safe under his protection, and he would review her current
security protocols back on Coruscant to see if any revisions would
help. She was safe... for now.

But mercy of the Force, she was so angry with him. And so very
disappointed.

The private estate's landing platform came into view as he
accelerated his star fighter's engines, whipping the small ship into
position before gently descending with its landing gear in place.
R2's constant chirping was missed as he had rushed to leave for Theed
so fast he left the droid behind. Probably not the smartest move he'd
made today. That droid may have saved his life more times than Obi-
Wan.

He doubted the little droid was a match for his wife. In fact, no one
was.

Standing on a small observation deck ahead were his family, although
only one of them knew it. Yet again a proper reunion was denied him.
That was becoming the story of his life. Being denied what he wanted.
Even what he had earned.

The resentment was building.

Ruwee, Jobal, Padmé, and Sola looked on as the canopy of his ship
lifted. While heavily favoring his right shoulder, Anakin carefully
climbed out of the cockpit, his eyes focused solely on Padmé's
standing behind her relatives. Her feelings of immense relief and
love for him betrayed her momentarily, though she hid it well. She
was far better than him at that.

"Anakin, son, we saw what happened on the HoloNet. Once more your
bravery humbles us," Ruwee said while offering him a hand to walk
that was politely declined. He understood a man's pride. "We are so
proud of you and thankful that you are alright. Please let me know if
you are in need of anything?"

Facing Ruwee, Anakin shook his head, ever grateful for his respect
and kindness. "Two blaster shots hit my right shoulder, and my lower
back is bruised from a bad fall, but I'll be fine. My tolerance for
pain is, shall we say, higher than most. Thank you for your concern.
I think I need sleep more than anything else."

"That you shall have, uninterrupted, " Ruwee promised.

Jobal's concerned expression earned her a small smile as Anakin
didn't want her to worry. She half-hugged his left side, and then
brushed a paternal kiss over his cheek, caressing it softly. She
reminded him so much of his mother, and that only worsened his pain
despite her sincere compassion. "I assure you I have endured worse
than this. I'll recover. I always do."

Having fought in the war for over two years now, Jobal was sure of
that fact, sad as it was. Such a strong, powerful warrior and yet she
wanted to care for him as she would have a son had the Force blessed
her with one. Stepping aside, she squeezed his hand, a gentle smile
adorning her face. "I'm going to hold you to that."

Sola greeted him next, whispering in his ear, "Thank you... for so
many things."

Not sure how to respond, he gave a curt bow. When Sola stepped aside
he at last stood before Padmé, her lovely brown eyes filled with such
stark emotion he felt a shiver traverse his spine. But in an instant
all his worries dissolved when she walked into his arms, clutching
him beneath his robe, her face buried in his tunic. At once his
nagging pain faded away into nothingness. With his left arm he
embraced her tightly, tucking her head protectively beneath his chin.

Those who wanted to hurt her... they were going to die on their
knees, begging, and be shown no mercy at all.

Fighting to regain her composure as they were not alone, Padmé
carefully stepped away, already hating the loss of his body pressed
to hers. No matter what he'd done she would be forever shattered if
he had died. Each and every time he cheated death to return to her
was a blessing. Thankfully, her family at least understood the close
friendship they shared. Sola knew better, and she feared her mother
did as well. That would have to be dealt with at another time. "Do
you need to see a medic?"

With his back to her family, Anakin whispered a quiet "I love you,"
to which her lip trembled as she gave a small nod in reply. "No," he
assured her out loud, aware of the eyes upon them. "I'm all patched
up and I have pain meds to help me sleep tonight. I may forgo them to
meditate, but at least I have them. I'm alright."

Padmé sighed, unable to even take his hand for fear of the questions
such a gesture might raise. Reserved in all facets of her life, she
desperately longed for all that she couldn't have.

As the party made their way toward the retreat's entrance, Ruwee
caught up to Anakin. "What can you tell us of the siege?"

"I had feared that Padmé was the target, and I was right. She and the
Queen were to be assassinated by a group of off-world mercenaries
known as the Draconian Horseman." Jobal blanched at the mention of
another assassination attempt, as did Sola. Ruwee scowled angrily.
Padmé remained stoic, somehow used to the danger. She hated what it
did to her family far more than the threat itself. "Whoever hired
them is unknown, but the investigation continues. Republic
investigative officials will arrive tomorrow and work in conjunction
with the Naboo Royal Security. The culprit will be found and brought
to justice. That I promise. For now though I will ensure no harm
befalls Padmé."

"And for that we are eternally grateful," Sola added gratefully.

Entering the retreat, Jobal yawned softly, taking her husband's hand.
She knew what Anakin needed more than anything else and prying eyes
would not grant him that. After giving Sola a non-to-subtle nudge,
she said, "Anakin, if you need anything just let us know. For now you
might do well to try and get some sleep. It's been a busy day to say
the least. Goodnight."

With those parting words Jobal and Ruwee departed. Sola waved her
goodnight as well, leaving Anakin and Padmé alone.

Silence reigned upon slowly climbing the long staircase. At one point
Padmé had to take hold of his left arm to steady him, though she
offered no reaction to her unwavering care. He was grateful
nonetheless.

Upon reaching his bedroom she opened the door for him, and then
followed him inside, shutting it behind her. Her back now braced to
it, arms crossed her chest in a serious pose. She watched him
struggle to shrug off his Jedi robe, refusing the pangs in her belly
to assist him. His shoulder had to be painfully tender. Take him into
your loving arms and care for him, her heart pleaded. But her hurt
pride left her cold. There was another war brewing, only now it was
between them alone. One she feared she couldn't stop if she tried.

Anakin noted that Padmé hadn't vacated her place against the door
since they arrived in his room. She made to move to join him or aid
him in any way. Whatever goodwill he felt out on the observation deck
had vanished. "I don't suppose saying I'm sorry will be adequate this
time?"

"Even if you meant it the damage is done."

Her vocal expression was carefully frigid and hard. Humility would
serve him best here. Coming around to face her again, Anakin exhaled
deeply before offering her what she deserved. "I'm sorry, Padmé"

Having expected his apology, Padmé hated that she didn't truly
believe him. "Why did you do it?"

The answer to that was a far more complicated explanation than
this. "I feared for your safety."

Taking a cautious step forward, Padmé swallowed deeply, hating they
were even having this conversation. "My life has been in danger since
I was twelve years old. I learned how to pilot a spacecraft and fire
a blaster by the time I was thirteen. I have known how to take care
of myself even when I was Queen and protected by guards. I am as
capable a person under those situations as anyone you know, and this
is not news to you."

She continued, "I don't fear those cowards. I don't fear what they
want to do to me. I want them to see my face and hear my voice and
know they do not scare me. Furthermore, I want the people of Naboo to
take heed of that fact so that they themselves would not fear those
cowards. You, of all people showed me such disrespect by simply
dismissing my wishes and putting me to sleep as if I were a child.
That is unacceptable behavior I will not ever tolerate again."

Venomous best described the fire in her eyes, as her feelings held
the immense weight of her sense of betrayal. Anakin drew upon his
patience and love for her to try and explain his motives. "I couldn't
go after the Queen and protect you at the same time, Padme. And while
you are very capable of protecting yourself you are not a soldier.
What if the attack force wasn't some wombat crew like the Draconian
Horseman but a full on galactic hit squad like the Zulk Guard or the
Vanine Marauders? They are far more experienced than anything you
have come up against. And you would have been in infinitely more
danger. While I admire your courage there are still elements you are
not prepared for."

Padmé took a step closer, practically snarling at her husband. "There
are far greater ways of making the point you just made than using
your powers against me and forcing your will upon me," she declared
with a steady, unblinking stare. "You took my choice away from me.
ME! Your wife and the woman you claim to love more than your own
life."

"I do!" Anakin shouted in defense, then breathed a moment later to
calm himself. "But you don't seem to understand, Padmé Those people
were trying to kill you."

"Don't you dare say that to me. I know very well that there are
people who want me dead. My issue isn't with that knowledge but your
complete disregard of my opinion. I am no flunky or Padawan who can
simply be told to go stand in the corner. I am no domestic wallflower
who sits around and waits for her big strong husband to fix all her
problems. I tackle things head on, and even if I'm wrong you need to
talk to me about it and not simply decide for me what is best."

"I have the utmost respect for you as a woman and my wife, but you
need to understand how I feel as a man and a husband." Grazing his
left hand over his face as his own frustration mounted, Anakin
addressed her. "While I respect women to the fullest degree and
always have as I was raised by an incredible woman, I am your
husband. I feel like I am your protector even though you can protect
yourself. I want to be your champion and stand in front of anything
that might hurt you. When you speak of those who want to hurt you I
want to hunt them down and annihilate them all."

Turning his back on her, Anakin's fists clenched at his sides, his
heart pounding. "I am off fighting this Force-forsaken war hundreds
of thousands of miles way from you. I'm never home to take care of
you. To look after you and make sure you're alright. I'm never around
when I hear new threats reported by the HoloNet or when people are
arrested attempting to break into your apartment. I am never around
to deal with those people. So for once I wanted to go after them and
make them know what fear I live with each and every day of my life.
The fear that I'll lose my life if I lost you."

His eyes found hers once more, his voice softer now. "You are my
life, Padmé. As flawed as I am, maybe even more so than you realized,
I only wanted to make sure you would be safe."

"Your primary reasoning is beautiful, but your motives are without
thought," Padmé conveyed as she felt the gulf between them widening.
Before, their differences made them stronger. But now she felt they
were sending a warning she never expected. "I demand your complete
respect."

"Respect?!" Anakin hissed, his eyes narrowed as if she had the nerve
to think she didn't already have it along with his very soul. "Need I
remind you of how I am denied the simple luxury of sleeping next to
my wife while in this house? How is that for respect? That I have to
sit by while men are paraded in front of you to garner your romantic
attention, and I can't even speak up as your husband. How is that for
respect? I can't even hold your hand in public. Please don't talk to
me about respect. I am denied it daily," he sneered at her.

"I am denied just as much as you are, Anakin." She was well aware the
effect of her using his first name that way would have. He looked as
if he had been slapped. "I didn't ask my parents to invite men to
this dinner party nor do I enjoy being away from you at night."

"You still allow it," he countered angrily. "You talk of respect
while ignoring my apology yet where is the apology I am due for going
along with your lies as I would have no part of them if it were up to
me. Damn the consequences! But I go along with all of this because
you asked me to. I would like to be respected by your family as your
husband, but I am denied that. I would love to hear your true name
spoken out loud, but I am denied that too. All because you want to
protect my place in the Jedi Order and your position as Senator."

Taken aback, Padmé felt crushed by his assumption. She prayed for
their sake she was wrong. "Are you trying to say I place our careers
over our marriage?"

"I have told you many times I do not care about the Jedi Order or
attaining mastery as much as I love you. I have offered to walk away
from all of this madness numerous time. You haven't... not even
once."

"So I don't love you enough, is that it?" she questioned with fresh
tears in her eyes, and ice penetrating her heart. "Do you truly feel
that way?"

"We're here, aren't we, Ms. Naberrie."

Padmé's face became frozen in a mask of appalled horror. Her dear
love for him was indistinguishable from her breathing, so integral to
her life. To have it doubted caused her chest to tighten painfully,
her eyes darkened with raw pain. Tears fell that he made no move to
wipe away. The gesture wouldn't have been appreciated anyway.

Fixing him with a steady, unblinking stare, her tone was as sharp as
a blade. "I'm sorry that duty means so little to you. And I am so
sorry that serving the people who cannot help themselves doesn't
compare to running off together as if life is some fairy tale.
Perhaps you need to wake up and see that sometimes sacrifice is
required to perform our sworn duty, and that reason alone is why I
have not walked away from my post."

The hard expression Anakin wore matched her own as Padmé held his
gaze. "You have hurt me today... more than anyone ever has before."
Suddenly his face emotionally broke before her, expression and soul,
pained as if she had tore his heart out. She knew the feeling. "Go
ahead, Anakin. Insult me with your defense."

"I won't defend anything I said or did today," Anakin stated in an
anger-sparked tone of voice. "If you are unable to see any point of
view other than your own then that speaks volumes. My error in
dismissing you as you put it was only because I wanted to protect
you. You're everything to me. Damn my duty and your post as Senator.
Damn it all. After almost three years haven't we earned anything that
is truly ours? Haven't I earned the respect due a husband?"

"What about the respect I am due as your wife?"

"Ask me to put you first," he began circling her slowly. "Ask me to
throw away this so called title 'Chosen One'. Ask me to leave the
Jedi Order behind and all the lies and deceit. Go ahead and ask me
what in the universe means more to me than you." Coming around before
her again, he leaned in close. "You can't."

Padmé swallowed deeply. "Ignoring my reasons why I won't run away
with you doesn't devalue their meaning. Perhaps if you absorbed the
true meaning of being a Jedi, the dedicated selfless duty to the
Republic, you might understand why the lies and deceit that hurts us
both must remain in place."

"Selfless dedicated duty as you call it is why I have fought on the
front lines of a war for nearly three years while you and the other
Senators point fingers at each other and the Chancellor. You see the
death on the HoloNet, but I see it in real time. So don't preach to
me about duty. I perform it in whatever way is called for and have
risked my life more times than I can count. I respect duty, but only
if that duty yields results that actually stop people from dying.
Anything else is only talk."

Dipping her head momentarily, Padmé's throat constricted hard as she
barely found the voice to ask, "So you truly feel I don't love you as
much as I love my career?"

"Do you truly feel I don't respect you at all?"

Standing face to face, they were at an impossible impasse. Both were
hurting badly and unable to convey that at the heart of this they
only wanted to belong to each other. Pride, self-righteousness and
the ability to excuse actions for what is perceived as the greater
good left them broken.

So much was said that couldn't be taken back.

"I need some space," Padmé told him, looking away as she backed
toward the door, brushing her tears away. "I've had my things moved
to a guest room on the first floor. Right now I need... I just need
time to think."

Anakin longed to take her into his arms, wipe away her tears and
profess his love to her endlessly. But this argument had been a long
time coming, and even when he apologized she seemed unfazed by his
motives. In the back of his mind he feared he handled this all wrong,
but for the life of him how could she not see any fault of her own?
His heart did not win out this time. "I'll see you in the morning."

There really wasn't anything left to say.

Padmé was out the door the moment his eyes rose to catch it shutting
behind her.

The silence was deafening.

******

Three Hours Later

******

A restful, soothing sleep, much like everything else in Anakin
Skywalker's chaotic life, seemed just out of his reach.

Entering the kitchen area on a weary sigh, he flicked his wrist to
use the Force to brighten the ceiling's lights. Alone, as the staff
had taken their leave for the night, he reached for a chair at the
small table, wincing as the pain in his right shoulder flared. It
seemed everything hurt tonight, both body and soul.

What was worse, the muted sense of nothingness that was once an
emotionally shared connection with Padmé underscored how truly
fractured they were. It was as if she'd coldly cut him off from her,
boldly making her point that he'd hurt her terribly.

There was a desperate war waging within Anakin's heart. Prideful to
the last, he was unable to bring himself to go to her. All the while
wishing that, just for once, she would seek him out with a
compassionate tone of apology.

Hadn't he suffered too?

Well, at the very least he could sate life's most basic need. Lifting
his left arm, he opened the refrigeration unit and began removing
thin slices of Valerian meat, cheese, crusty Wrye bread, and sandwich
toppings. Upon catching sight of that last slice of frosted Braddle
cake in the back, he knew he'd be making acquaintances with that as
well before the night was done.

Even standing upright came with no small amount of pain as he turned
to set his supplies down on the table. Groaning to himself, his right
shoulder simply was not complying with any movement at all.
Meditation during the war often helped him drive pain away, but
tonight he simply couldn't will it
to happen. Nothing seemed to be going his way tonight.

"Might I join you?"

Lifting his gaze, Anakin found Jobal watching him carefully, a
sympathetic note carried in her lovely brown eyes. "Of course,
Milady. I... I couldn't sleep and felt hungry, so..." Feeling a bit
bashful, he lost his train of thought.

"I hope I didn't startle you," she began, and then added, "If you
would prefer to be alone I would understand. It's been a trying day
to say the least."

"No... no," he bowed graciously. "Your presence wouldn't disturb me
at all. In fact, I've found the quiet to be a terrible
conversationalist, " he managed a small bit of humor.

The poor dear, Jobal thought to herself as she approached him. He
looked absolutely exhausted, hurt, and heartbroken. Shadows haunted
his clear blue eyes. The kind that spoke volumes about the distress
weighing on a man's soul. "Anakin, you are injured. Please sit. I can
prepare you something to eat."

"Milady, I couldn't trouble you at such a late hour. I assure you I
am quite capa..."

"Sit."

How did an order sound so affectionate? Truly Padmé was her daughter
as she often had the same effect on him. Doing as he was told, Anakin
sat down at the oval table while Jobal retrieved the things she
needed. Without acknowledging a request for anything in particular,
she removed far more items than he had and began making sandwiches
that she cut in half. "Thank you."

"You're most welcome, Anakin. But I am only making sandwiches," she
chided him gently, offering a dear smile. "I have done this countless
times for every member of my family, so doing it for you feels
natural."

As normal and every day as this was, Anakin couldn't help but feel
better because someone was caring for him, no matter how simple the
gesture. Dark times of war made moments like these all the more
special.

Especially when one wasn't certain if he'd live long enough to be
made to feel that way again.

Remembering something most important that she had wanted to say to
him since he arrived unexpectedly, Jobal's gaze swept over him
tenderly. "Anakin, I never got the chance to tell you how truly sorry
I was to hear of your mother's passing. From that Padmé has shared
with me she was a strong, wonderful, caring woman. I regret having
never met her and, I grieve for your loss."

Motionless at the table, Anakin's head bowed slowly, once more
reminded of his beloved mother and of how she was no longer with
him. "Thank you, Mrs. Naberrie."

Jobal considered the stark contrast between the powerful, brash Jedi
the HoloNet christened "The Hero Without Fear" and the weary,
saddened young man before her. He was spoken of across the galaxy
with awe of his abilities. The Chosen One of the Force, a war hero
before he was even twenty-five standard years old. A man who would
someday become the most powerful Jedi the universe had ever seen, but
here tonight he looked like he needed a hug far more than a legacy.

"We're you having trouble sleeping?" she asked, reaching into the
cabinet above the sink. "I could make us some Bewersq Tea? That
always helps me when I'm restless. Or when Ruwee is snoring too
loudly."

"Milady, you're too kind," Anakin said. "If it wouldn't be to much
trouble..."

"Say no more, Anakin."

Jobal was as sweet a woman as Padmé had always told him. She gave
freely, offering kindness and compassion to everyone she met. She was
a beautiful light in the darkness that was the current state of the
universe. She reminded him of his own mother. So much so her caring
hurt as much as it healed. "Were you restless tonight as well?"

While preparing the tea, Jobal shook her head, "No, not especially.
But I've always been keen on checking on my loved ones after a trying
experience." Wearing a loving expression, she graced him and
added, "You are one of my daughter's dearest friends, a hero to the
people of Naboo now twice over, and a young man I happen to admire
and like a great deal. I love you, Anakin. And I just wanted to check
on you and make sure you were alright."

With a half smile curving his mouth, Anakin felt such a warming
radiance coming from Jobal. And this was a time he sorely needed
that. "You humble me."

"You deserve it."

At least someone felt he deserved something, Anakin thought to
himself. And then Jobal sat down before him a plate of double-stacked
sandwiches that looked so delicious his stomach growled happily,
albeit a bit embarrassingly. "Excuse me," he offered apologetically.

Jobal chuckled, resting a comforting hand on his left
shoulder. "Think nothing of it. That sound shows appreciation of a
cook's efforts. I take it as a compliment." She poured him a cup of
the amber colored tea and then one for herself.

Taking the seat across from him, Jobal watched him devour the
sandwiches as if they might get up and run from him. The amusing
sight was comical to say the least, and all too domestic. If the
Force had ever blessed her with a son she would have wanted one like
Anakin. He was charming in his modest lack of table manners. Handsome
and daring and... even a bit innocent, something she was sure her
daughter found enthralling. This amazing young man had captured her
daughter's heart, a fact that pleased the mother in her.

Because Anakin Skywalker was a good man. Flawed as they all were, but
good nonetheless.

"Anakin, forgive me if I'm prying, but Padmé has never spoken about
your father." She watched him pause suddenly, and then rake his flesh
hand through his thick hair as if searching for some elusive answer.
She suddenly hoped she hadn't offended him.

"I wouldn't know where to begin explaining that, Mrs. Naberrie. But
in all honesty I never knew him in any way. That answer carries
mysteries I'm not sure I will ever solve or that I truly even want
too."

Anakin looked so bereft as Jobal studied him over a cup of steaming
tea. Perhaps some questions didn't require answers as the end result
was the man before her. "Your mother did an incredible job raising
you under overwhelmingly harsh circumstances. " She shook her head in
respect. "A toast to her. May she rest in peace." Raising her glass,
she found Anakin motionless, staring straight ahead.

"I failed her," was all he said, spoken softly, tinged in the most
bitter regret.

Jobal looked him straight in the eyes, and then reached and clasped
his flesh hand in hers. "No, you exalt her with your every good deed
and action. You honor her whenever you protect or save someone's
life. The galaxy praises Shmi Skywalker's love as it made you who you
are today."

Having not asked why he responded the way he did, Anakin was sure
Padmé shared with Jobal the events of his mother's death. But
certainly not afterward. His chest tightened with anguish over the
uncontrollable rage that he unleashed on the sand people. His voice
trembled as the emotions fell over him in waves of fresh grief. "I...
I have shamed her with my actions as well."

Jobal squeezed his hand, offering what Shmi couldn't. "Perfection
does not exist in this galaxy, Anakin. But forgiveness. .. it is the
absolute most powerful thing we can offer another person and
ourselves. No one misdeed or mistake damns your soul for all
eternity. Rise above it. Regret it. And then move on for the better
of yourself and others. And when your day comes to be one with the
Force see that the tally for the good you've done far outweighs your
failures."

Sighing, Anakin was sure Jobal had no clue the dear gift she was
giving him tonight. The paternal balm to his tortured soul. He
exhaled softly, brushing crumbs from his chin. "The sandwiches were
delicious. Thank you."

"You are most welcome," Jobal accepted, releasing his hand. "It's not
often I entertain a Jedi Knight in my kitchen," she smiled at him
before turning serious as he seemed open enough to talk now. "I
couldn't help but to notice that my daughter had her personal things
moved to another guest room." He gave a slow, careful nod, No doubt
attempting to hide how that made him feel. If only he knew that he
wasn't hiding his love for Padmé at all. "Is there anything you would
like to talk about?"

It wasn't her business, and yet who had he ever to talk to about
Padmé in any way, shape or form? Artoo just didn't count and that
wasn't even a funny thought. "We had a severe disagreement this
evening over something I did earlier, and she needs a bit of space
from my presence at this time."

A very calculated, cautious answer. She'd almost applaud his
performance if she didn't recognize how hurt he was. "I see."

"I just..." Anakin started to say before reminding himself of who he
was speaking too. But the feelings erupted anyway. "I only wanted to
protect her, not disrespect her," he breathed. "I never wanted to
hurt her in any way. But I may have acted rash and without thought."

A lovers' spat for certain. Jobal nodded accordingly, listening and
watching as he opened like a flower blooming, unaware of all that he
revealed without saying. "She knows you as you know her, faults and
all. These things pass in time. Apologies can pave the way for
reconciliation. "

"I don't believe I'm the only one at fault."

"I never thought that you were," she replied. "Anakin, Padmé can be
as stubborn as they come, and at times will only listen to herself. I
love my child endlessly, but I am not oblivious to her, shall we say,
imperfections. "

His attempt not to smile failed miserably, further spurred on by
Jobal's infectious smirk. "I never wanted to hurt her."

"And I am sure she never wanted to hurt you either."

Jobal's compassion and understanding left Anakin in awe of her. He
sensed her caring was sincere... loving even. That meant the world to
him. "Perhaps a short time of space will do us good."

"Perhaps," she nodded. "But not too long. Fights come and go, but
hurt feelings can turn into bitterness. Take whatever time you two
need and then work it out. Trust me, everything will be fine."

Genuinely feeling better, and a bit sleepy, Anakin spoke before he
realized it. "I love her," whispered at the end, but not taken back.
When his eyes rose he found neither shock nor worry on Jobal's face.
Only acceptance.

"As she loves you," was her only reply.

Anakin knew not to say more. With a gentle wave of his hand the dish
and both cups lifted from the table into the sink. Jobal watched with
fascination.

"Now that would be quite helpful around here," she smiled, standing
when Anakin yawned. "You need your sleep, dear."

Rising to his feet, he towered over her as she stood before him,
giving him the once over much the same way his mother did when he
were a child. "I cannot repay you for your kindness and compassion
tonight, milady. I was in dire need, I'm afraid."

Drawing him into her arms, she hugged him tightly. Her final words
for the evening were meant to convey everything he need know about
her, the Naberrie family, and Padmé.

"You are home, Anakin. Goodnight. Sleep well."

He watched her walk away and smiled despite the days events. Hope
helped a man sleep at night. He now had a little of that to work with.

******

******

"Varykino"
One of the Nabberie family home located in Lake Country Retreat
Just after sunrise
Naboo

At last the lonely darkness of night faded, giving way to the light
of a brand new day.

Walking across the shaded balcony in the far west corner of Varykino,
Padmé breathed deeply Naboo's clean, fresh air. Enjoying the gentle
lake breeze, the warm permacrete beneath her bare feet reminded her
of so many fond childhood memories. Chasing and being chased by her
sister and their pets for hours without end as it seemed as though
their energy, innocence, and jubilation were boundless.

But all of that paled in comparison to the dearest, sweetest memory
this gorgeous shaded balcony held.

Padmé was married here.

The alluring grandeur of the sparkling lake waters and rising sun
above the mountainous vista in the distance only complimented the
serenity of the day she took Anakin as her husband. Upon closing her
eyes, she fondly recalled that warm evening when they exchanged their
forbidden vows, the most momentous event of her entire life. Being
crowned the Queen of Naboo in the Theed's Royal Public Square, in
front of tens of thousands of people, seemed so painfully small when
matched against becoming Anakin Skywalker's wife.

Which only made the dire assumptions he said to her last night cut so
sharply into her heart.

Padmé hugged her arms around herself, gazing out over the lake as she
struggled to make sense of the one area of her life she couldn't live
without. Unfortunately, Anakin felt otherwise, asserting that perhaps
she held something as secondary as her career above her marriage to
him. That her love for him didn't measure up to his for her because
she wouldn't walk away from her duty to be with him.

He felt disrespected as a man and a husband.

Logically speaking, she had him dead to rights in terms of his
mistakes yesterday. But the feeling of failing him as a wife crippled
something inside her as he had the ability to hurt her worse than
anyone ever could. Her education, political fearlessness, and thick
skin when dealing with the overbearing bastards who sometimes talked
down to her in the Senate were her sword and shield in that arena.
She understood the insanity of that battleground and its combatants.

But there were no relationship schools or classes to take. Padmé had
such little experience with men it bordered on nothing, and in the
way of adult relationships Anakin was her first in every respect. She
had to consider mistakes would be made on both their parts. That was
to be expected.

Undeniably, Padmé missed him so much last night. Their time together
was precious as they enjoyed so little of it. And yet last night
Anakin was physically hurt and saddened by the thought that she
didn't love him enough, and all she could do was rail on him about
her own anger and feelings of betrayal. They were both to blame for a
host of things and last night was an argument that was inevitable had
Anakin did what he did or not.

Wasted time wasn't something she accepted in her professional life or
personal, especially when she had so little of the latter. The
problem was she knew what he wanted, and she knew what she felt was
best. What compromise could they reach if neither were willing to
give an inch?

"Excuse me, Milady."

Anakin's familiar voice surprised her. Upon turning around Padmé
found him standing at the balcony's entrance. He looked far better
than he did last night, but still too haggard and worn to have gained
a good nights sleep. She immediately wanted to take care of him. "You
did not disturb me."

Sans shoes Padmé appeared even smaller than she already was, and
almost too beautiful to look at by sunrise. Deciding to give her what
she asked for last night, he set about his way. Offering a respectful
nod, Anakin walked past her toward a small clearing up ahead.

"Ani, wait," Padmé called out, and then watched him stop, his back
still to her. No doubt he was going to meditate, but he could have
done that in his room or anywhere else on the large estate. Some part
of her felt he was drawn here the same way she was. To a place that
meant the world to both of them.

And then her voice fell silent, still as the calm waters below. She
hated feeling uncertain about how to fix things between them.

Giving her ample time to say something, Anakin nevertheless accepted
her request as a small opening. "How did you sleep last night?"

"I didn't," she answered quickly. "I read a book and then... I was
restless. Our argument... I couldn't sleep."

Having no choice but to go to her, Anakin found himself by her side a
moment later. All alone he ached to draw her in his arms and soothe
any frustration that claimed her. But the gulf between them was still
there. "Neither could I. But thanks to your mother I was able to
relax and at least meditate for a while."

"My mother?"

He nodded. "I went to the kitchen for something to eat late last
night, and she discovered me. She was very kind when we talked. She
said a lot of things I needed to hear."

The words were spoken before she could temper them properly. "What
did you tell her?"

Suddenly Anakin's jaw tightened, as if he couldn't believe what she
was insinuating. "Are you worried I told her the truth about us?"
Padmé bowed her head, and then shook it, her eyes glistening as she
seemed so uncertain of herself this morning. He knew the feeling
well. "We talked; that's all. Trust me; your secrets are in still
intact."

"Our secrets."

"Not ours, yours," he fiercely amended, and then lowered his tone to
one befitting who she was. He could be angry with her, but never
raise his voice to her. "Padmé, I have only wanted two things in my
entire life. To free my mother from a life of slavery and spend my
life with you. It seems I'm denied both."

Reaching out to him, Padmé laid her open palm over his heart, moving
in closer. "I only wish to spend my life with you as well. The dream
of that is almost the only thing that gets me through the harsh days
without you."

"It doesn't have to be a dream, Padmé." Part of him felt annoyed he
even had to remind her of that. "We make our own reality."

"But we do have a duty to the Republic, Ani. The jobs we perform
matter to so many people." She saw his gaze waver, and so she
caressed his cheek with her other hand, gently bringing him back to
her. "I am so sorry that I offended you and made you feel I value
anything above you. Trust in your heart that I do not. You are my
beloved, and I am forever yours." His expression softened that
instant, a small smile gently curling his lips. She hoped what she
said next wouldn't erase that bit of progress. "Even though those are
the truths of my life, selfless service gives me, and I think anyone
who performs it, such a wealth of character and compassion for others
who need us to perform our sworn duties. It is fulfilling work to my
soul."

Covering the hand over his heart with his own, Anakin stared into her
lovely brown eyes and accepted once more this was the woman he loved
and married. Not the one he wished saw the galaxy the way he did, but
this one. This complicated, spectacular woman. She was who she was,
like he was who he is was.

His right arm snaked around her slender waist, drawing her body flush
against his. He bent towards her ear, nudging her thick, curly hair
aside and whispered something so silly and yet so sexy her knees
trembled.

"I heard somewhere that vigorous love making did wonders for aiding
the healing process of a bruised shoulder."

Tipping his chin playfully, Padmé arched a brow, titling her
head. "For the man who once told me he was haunted by the kiss I
should have never given him, and that his heart was beating, hoping
my kiss would not become a scar... well, I expected something a bit
more dramatic."

"I swear I'll regain my legendary poetic stature once I've had some
sleep, angel." Cupping the back of her head in a tender gesture, he
drew her to him, and then his lips gently grazed hers. "How about we
forget yesterday, accept we're both at fault, and go back to my room
for a morning filled with aggressive negotiations? "

Boldly not caring if anyone saw them, Padmé kissed him hard and
passionate. "What's left to negotiate?"

"Oh, I have a couple of key positions I want to debate," he danced
over her lips, capturing them once more. He loved how after nearly
three years of marriage and all they had done intimately, he could
still make her blush. "Woman, do not make me hoist you over my
shoulder and carry you to my bed."

"You wouldn't!" His eyes told her he would.

"Don't tempt me, milady."

All at once their attention was drawn to four Republic Transport
ships flying overhead flanking "The Republic Blade," the Supreme
Chancellors personal starship. Then the unmistakable sound of C-3PO's
approaching caught their notice.

"Sir, milady. Pardon me for interrupting, but we have just received a
transmission that the Supreme Chancellor was visiting secretly on
Naboo and wished to check on Anakin personally after hearing about
the attack at Theed Palace," the golden droid reported in his usual
nervous tone. Padmé's scowl at the mere mention of that man was yet
another issue she had with her husband. One that might never be
resolved fully. "In addition, milady. Three gentleman invited to the
dinner in your honor two days from now have arrived by boat. Your
father wishes your presence to greet them."

Yet again Anakin felt waves of disrespect fall over him. "Thank you,
3PO." Clasping Padmé's hand, he gave it a squeeze. "Angel, tell your
parents about us and end this farce at once."

"Is that an order?"

"No, no, I didn't meant it that way. But surely you must see that
there is no reason for us to continue to lie to them. Yes, we should
continue our duty until the war ends, but we are here on Naboo with
your whole family and this is the perfect time to tell them."

"Ani, listen." Saying those words alone caused him to loosen his
grasp, releasing her hand as she was disappointed yet again. She
suddenly felt hollow inside. "There is a time and a place for telling
my parents, and we shall. But right now may not be the time."
Sighing, she offered, "Can we please discuss this later?"

"No" Anakin replied quietly, backing away. "You'll always find some
excuse."

"I just want to talk about this some more."

"And I'm tired of listening," he bowed before her. "Good day,
milady."

Padmé watched him walk away, hurt by her yet again. Her voice failed
her to stop him.

The silence was deafening.

*******

The End of Chapter 4

Chapter 5: Parental guidance comes in differing forms from Palpatine
and Jobal, while dinner party turns into a night neither Anakin nor
Padmé will ever forget.