Anakin's Rose

Rated PG

Summary: Takes place just before Episode II. After years apart,
Anakin and Amidala try to come to terms with their deepening
feelings for each other as well as address their fears of possible
rejection and unrequited love. Angst~romance

Author's note: Amidala is twenty-two, Anakin is eighteen.

Her skin was softer than anything he'd ever felt before. The gentle
curve of her cheek was warm and yielding beneath his fingertips like
the petals of a wild desert rose.

He leaned forward and kissed her then, faintly touching his lips to
her face. Her complexion warmed to a creamy pinkish hue as he
gathered her into his arms. Her body felt luxurious and he held her
tightly, delighting in her exquisite beauty and delicate feminine grace.

"I've always loved you," he confessed and surprised himself with this
revelation. She had always been the center of his heart, but he never
allowed himself to acknowledge it in this way before. The whole
idea of being in love was unnerving. Thoughts of her occupied his
mind to the point of distraction. His need to be near her was getting
intolerable. The uncertainty he felt made him emotional and

But none of that mattered to him the way he knew it should. He still
longed to have her as his own. He believed if he could have her
love in return, the negativity would gradually lessen in the light of
the positive.

Being in love, his life seemed to have new meaning and purpose.
The way he perceived his surroundings had changed. He noticed
more: minor details of insignificant things like the way a leaf floated
lazily in a pool of water in the garden, the infectious sound of the
children laughing, or a certain color of a person's eyes. In a way it
made him feel like a small boy again, seeing everything for the first
time with wide and wondrous eyes.

"Please, tell me you love me," he urged her gently. "I need to

'Anakin,' she whispered. 'Let go. I'm hurting you.' Her voice
sounded distant and surreal.

She started to slip away from him. Her image became transparent
and then dissolved into nothingness.

"Wait! Please don't go," he pleaded. "Stay with me." But she
was already gone. "Padme', I love you."


Anakin could still hear her small sighs in the breeze that ruffled
his hair. He could still smell her sweet perfume. He inhaled deeply,
breathing in its heady fragrance. It was all he had left of her. It
was all he would ever have.



The young Jedi abruptly opened his eyes and saw his master,
Obi-Wan Kenobi kneeling in front of him with an alarmed
expression of concern on his face.

Where was Padme'? He had been holding her only a moment ago.
He glanced around quickly. He felt frightfully disoriented all of
a sudden and struggled to pull his conscious mind up and out
of the subconscious depths in which he had plummeted.

Obi-Wan took his hand. Anakin was only vaguely aware of what
his master was doing.

"Let go."

"I can't let her go. I need her. I love her," Anakin lamented. He
looked into his master's eyes. "She wouldn't hurt me. Not if she
loves me." His tone was unsure and questioning, as if he was
hoping his master would confirm what he was saying.

"Let go, Anakin," Obi-Wan told him. "Open your hand, you're
hurting yourself." He began forcibly prying Anakin's fingers open.

Confused, Anakin relaxed his grip, unaware that he had even been
holding anything. Pain suddenly seized his hand and he looked down.

"What?" he gasped, seeing blood trickling in thin streams down
his wrists. He was holding the mangled remains of what once had
been a rose blossum.

Obi-Wan carefully peeled the thorny stem from his padawan's grasp
and tossed it aside. He examined Anakin's hand with a critical
eye and began picking bits of thorns from his fingers.

"Ow!" Anakin winced and tried to pull his hand away. Obi-Wan
glared up at him and pulled it back.

"You've cut yourself badly," Obi-Wan told him. "You're going to
have to go to the clinic and get this cleaned up."

Anakin looked dazed. "She hurt me," he muttered.



Obi-Wan glanced up. "The rose hurt you, Anakin," he countered.
He lifted the hem of Anakin's cloak and pressed it gently into his
palm to stop the bleeding. "And it wouldn't have hurt you if you
hadn't crushed it so brutally."

A chilling awareness suddenly came over Anakin. He looked
down at the mangled blossum on the ground. Just like Padme',
he had suffocated the rose by his overwhelming need to possess
it. He had taken away its beauty by holding it too tightly. He had
killed everything about it that made it so attractive to him in the
first place: its color, texture, fragrance, and form. He had
loved it because it was wild and beautiful and alive. "It was a
warning. If I love her, she'll die." He shivered slightly.

Obi-Wan rose, pulling Anakin to his feet. "What are you talking
about? You're not making any sense at all."

Anakin closed his eyes and sighed heavily. "It makes perfect sense."

"Only to you, Padawan," Obi-Wan said quietly. He took Anakin's
head in his hands and looked into his eyes.

Annoyed, Anakin shook him off. "What...what are you doing?"

"I was checking to see if your pupils were dilated," he informed.
"It's possible you may have a concussion. I heard all about your
little altercation this morning in the training room. I was approached
by Master Yoda as soon as I walked in the Temple this afternoon."

"I don't have a concussion," Anakin told Obi-Wan and frowned.
The morning's events were beginning to come back to him.

Obi-Wan released him and stepped back with an exasperated sigh.

"Well, that's a relief. Maybe you would care to explain yourself
if what you've been spouting isn't the irrational thought processes of
someone who was recently brained with a chair, hmm?"

Anakin rolled his eyes. "I was meditating. Just like Master Yoda told
me to do and I had a vision. It was a little disturbing. That's all."

Obi-Wan took a deep breath. "Are you all right, really?"

Anakin swallowed his anger and nodded slowly. "I was going to go
to the clinic but I came here instead to cool off a little. I began
meditating. At first on my failure to maintain control this morning.
But that was only fueling my anger. Then I started thinking of
Padme'. Thinking of her always soothes me, it seems. She's my
shelter, my sanctuary." He closed his eyes wearily for a second.
"I'm all right. Well, except for my hand."

Obi-Wan gestured at the garden path. "Come on. Let's get you to
the clinic." He lead Anakin past the treeline and down the path to
the lower level of the garden.

Anakin followed in silence. A heavy sadness settled over his heart.

Obi-Wan looked over at his apprentice. He was the portrait of

"I'd like to hear from you what happened this morning," he began
cautiously. "It's not like you to react in anger the way you did today.
I know the others bait you, but before you seemed to be able to
handle it. Lately, you have been letting your temper get the best
of you."

Anakin refused to meet Obi-Wan's eyes. "Somehow, they found
out about my plans for this evening and made some off-colored
remarks. I reacted foolishly. One thing led to another. Before
long I had a full scale war on my hands." He peered up at his
master expectantly but Obi-Wan remained silent with a pensive
expression. Anakin sighed. "I'm sorry. Next time, I'll try harder
to just walk away from their taunts. Just like I've walked away
from them a thousand times before." He stopped and focused
his attention on another rose. He reached out and tenderly
caressed its white petals.

Obi-Wan gazed at his padawan searchingly. "Don't you realize that
the only reason they bait you is to get you to react in anger? It is
a way for them to confirm their jaded opinions of you. And you
play right into their schemes, Anakin. You should know that by

Anakin shrugged. "I know. What else do you want me to say,

Obi-Wan lowered his eyes. He could feel Anakin's sadness. His
sense of rejection went beyond his peers here at the Temple. He
felt a rejection tinged with a fear of loss. At first he thought it may
be Anakin's fear of not fulfilling his dream of becoming a Jedi, but
it ran even deeper than that. It was closer to his heart. It was a fear
of losing something his very soul fed off of.

Anakin seemed entranced by the rose. His expression was passive,
but slightly dispirited. His eyes were unseeing and he seemed to
be brooding.

It occurred to Obi-Wan then. Anakin had fallen in love. And
Obi-Wan had a pretty good idea of who it was that Anakin was
in love with. Over the years, his boyhood crush had evolved into
something deeper and more complex. Obi-Wan wondered if
Anakin was aware how his feelings had changed regarding her.

Obi-Wan turned and started back down the path. "So, tell me about
your vision. You mentioned Padme'..."

Anakin looked over at Obi-Wan and blinked in surprise at the
sudden change in topic. He started after him with a heavy sigh.

"I'd really rather not."

Obi-Wan frowned. "Perhaps I could help you interpret it."

Anakin shook his head. "No, I know what it meant. I don't want
to talk about it. It was somewhat personal."

Obi-Wan raised his brow. "Personal in what way?"

Anakin narrowed his eyes in irritation. "Never mind."

"But maybe it's something we need to address," Obi-Wan pressed.

Anakin stopped walking again and put his hands on his hips.
"You just don't give up do you? All right, it was about Padme'.
I was thinking about her--fantasizing, if you will, about her.
Metaphorically as a rose."

Obi-Wan found himself momentarily at a loss for words. He
stopped and faced Anakin. "Why should that upset you--"

"Because she's my friend!" Anakin snapped. "Can we drop the
subject please?" He turned and strode past his master. Obi-Wan
jogged after him.

"You said she hurt you. How?" he continued, his expression growing
solemn with concern.

Anakin slowed his pace and glanced over at Obi-Wan. He held
up his hand and flexed his stiff fingers. "As a rose, she did hurt me."
He shook his head and sighed. "I don't know. My vision was very
ethereal and romantic at first. It was as if the rose I had been holding
became her. She was becoming more beautiful as I loved her. Like
a rose opening to the sun." He paused and took a deep breath.
"But she wouldn't say she loved me. Then she disappeared.
Everything had been beautiful until I admitted I loved her. I was left
with nothing...but a bruised rose and a bloody hand." He shrugged
it off suddenly. "All nonsense, really. She wouldn't hurt me. She's
a friend. She's just a good friend." He cleared his throat and
offered Obi-Wan an unconvincing smile.

Obi-Wan stroked his beard thoughtfully. "You didn't believe it was
nonsense before. It doesn't sound like nonsense to me. I think
your subconscious was trying to tell you something, but I think your
interpretation of this vision is a little fatalistic. Something about
loving her frightens you. That much is clear. Maybe you really
didn't want to hear her say she loved you. It may be that you
are afraid her love will make you vulnerable. But you have to
realize that is what loving someone is. Love is learning to trust
each other enough to rise above your fear of being vulnerable. It
may be a difficult thing to do at first, but in time, you'll come to
find that being vulnerable doesn't matter as much as your feelings
for each other. The real question is why is this surfacing now?
Maybe your date with Her Highness tonight has brought your true
hidden feelings to light."

Much to Obi-Wan's surprise, Anakin laughed scoffingly.

"Hidden feelings? Are you serious?"

Obi-Wan furrowed his brow in irritation. "Yes I'm serious. Perhaps
you truly believed what you felt for Padme' was mere friendship,
but locked away deep in your heart was something more."

Anakin shook his head. "I love her as a friend," he persisted. "My
feelings for her haven't changed just because she and I are older."

"You're lying to yourself," Obi-Wan shot back. "If you won't even
acknowledge what you're feeling, how are you proposing to deal
with it?"

Anakin was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. His hand was
throbbing along with his head and Obi-Wan was trying what little
remained of his patience. Right now, he just wanted to get to the
clinic and away from his master's tenacious inquisition.

"There's nothing to acknowledge," Anakin replied.

Obi-Wan sighed heavily. He placed his hand reassuringly on his
apprentice's shoulder. "Are you nervous about tonight? Is that
why you're so sensitive?"

Anakin licked his lips apprehensively. "I wouldn't say I'm nervous.
I'm looking forward to seeing her again. It's been four years. And
it's not a 'date'. I am just accompanying her to dinner."

"Her Highness just might be expecting a little more than that from
you tonight. Like you said, it's been four years. You two have
alot of catching up to do," Obi-Wan pointed out.

"Maybe," Anakin admitted. Obi-Wan was getting very close to
the truth now.

"And what are your expectations of this evening?" the older Jedi
continued. "Have you considered the possibility that she won't live
up to your fantasy images?" Anakin remained silent. "She may be
flawed and feebly human, just like you. Can you love someone like

Anakin's blue eyes flashed menacingly. Obi-Wan leaned towards
him and shook his head.

"You may discover that despite your feelings for her, she may only
be able to give you a token amount of affection in return. What if
you find out she met someone? It's been four years, Anakin. What
if she only accepted your invitation out of obligation? She and her
people are indebted to you. How could she refuse you? These are
very real possibilities. How will you handle such revelations?" He
paused and looked hard at his apprentice. "That's why I think you
need to come to terms with your feelings before you see her tonight."

"Stop," Anakin growled. He glared at his master, his heart
pounding forcefully inside him. He couldn't bear to hear anymore.

Obi-Wan sighed. "Anakin, I can feel your fear."

Anakin held up his hand to silence him. He took a deep steadying

"I am not afraid of possibilities," he whispered, his voice void
of emotion."Even if what you said has come to pass, than what
business is it of mine? I have no claim to her."

Obi-Wan knew when to back down. He raised his hands in a
gesture of capitulation. "Fine," he said tersely. "It's your life,
Anakin. I'll leave you to it."

"Thank you," Anakin quipped. He spied the lift which led to the upper
levels of the Temple and quickened his pace. Reaching it, he jabbed
the door release and quickly punched the level number for the clinic.

Obi-Wan turned to leave him, feeling the need to meditate in the
gardens himself now.

The door to the lift opened and Anakin stepped inside. He watched
Obi-Wan's eager retreat and felt unexpectedly alienated. He knew the
only reason Obi-Wan irritated him so much was because Obi-Wan
was usually right, and more importantly, he freely dispensed his worldly
wisdom to Anakin because he cared about him.


Obi-Wan turned slowly. "Yes?"

Anakin sighed heavily. "Don't worry so much. I'll be all right.
No matter what happens tonight. I can handle it."

Obi-Wan felt terribly old suddenly. He dragged his hand through
his long hair and summoned a reassuring smile. Anakin was right.
His padawan was all grown up now. He had to remember it was
time to let him experience life for himself and learn from it. He
couldn't always be there to protect him anymore; just like this
morning. And now tonight too. At times Obi-Wan missed the
cherubic, hopeful child Anakin once was. Problems had seemed so
much easier to remedy then. He gazed at the tall, handsome young
man in the elevator and was suddenly filled with pride. Anakin was
strong and wise and not easily deterred. He would be all right.

"Well, go take care of yourself," Obi-Wan said quietly. "And have
a good evening, Padawan. I'll see you when you get back."

"Thanks, Master. You too." Anakin nodded and released the


"Your Majesty, time grows short," Eirtae' gently reminded her
queen as Amidala rejected yet another gown.

The queen of Naboo sat, wrapped in a bathrobe, watching with
growing disinterest as her handmaiden sorted through her wardrobe.
Sabe' stood behind her, struggling to subdue and style Amidala's
lengthy and unruly locks.

"Your Highness, you must choose a gown soon," Sabe' urged.
"You are not only running out of time, you are running out of
options as well."

Amidala made a face. She fought the urge to gnaw her nails. Her
insides fluttered everytime she thought about what she proposed to
do tonight. She thought of Anakin. What was he doing right now?
What was he thinking? Her stomach sank and she felt her courage
wane. Maybe it was too soon to tell him. Maybe she would end
up making a complete fool of herself. What if he had a girlfriend?
Another Jedi perhaps; some pretty young thing from the Temple
whom he would have alot more in common with than some prissy
blue-blood half a galaxy away. He had never mentioned anybody
to her in his correspondence, but then why would he? She had no
right to oversee his private, personal life.

"I don't think I can go through with this tonight," Amidala admitted.
Sabe' and Eirtae' exchanged concerned looks.

"You're not ill, are you, Your Majesty?" Eirtae' asked.

Amidala shook her head.

"Shall we contact the Jedi Temple and have them tell Anakin
Skywalker that you aren't up to going out this evening?" Sabe'
offered. "Eirtae' can call the Chancellor's secretaries."

"No, no. You don't understand," Amidala stated. How could
she explain it to them? She gestured at the assortment of formal
gowns and hair accessories. "I can't do 'that'. It won't feel right."

Sabe' and Eirtae' exchanged endearingly confused looks.

Amidala smiled. "Look, I need to speak with Anakin about
something very personal and important. If I package myself behind
layers of face paint and a towering headdress, it won't come across
the way I need it to." She looked up at Sabe'. "I'm going out as a
handmaiden tonight. You get dressed as the queen. The yellow
gown. Hurry."

Sabe' looked at her as if she had lost her senses. "Your Highness,
do you really believe that's wise? Anakin Skywalker is expecting to
escort you, not me as you. It would be...impolite to say the least."

"How can I make you understand? I can't spend tonight
at some stuffy diplomatic dinner at the Chancellor's castle with me
all coifed and corsetted as Her Royal Highness and bind Anakin's
conversations to a code of propriety and etiquette. If I'm Padme'
I can be free to be with him as myself and not the queen of Naboo."

Sabe' shrugged. "If that's what you wish, Your Highness, of course
I will abide by it, but may I point out, it will be somewhat awkward
at the banquet to have the queen's escort keeping company with
her handmaiden."

Amidala shook her head. "No, Anakin must not know who I am.
Not at first anyway. Not until I know how he feels about me. I'm
not about to proclaim my innermost feelings if he still thinks of me as
his childhood pal."

Eirtae' studied the yellow gown Amidala had chosen and frowned.
"Your Majesty, you are taking a considerable risk."

"I'm merely being cautious," Amidala replied.

Sabe' came around the chair and into Amidala's line of vision. "Your
Highness, surely Anakin will know it is me."

Amidala shook her head. "Not necessarily. We haven't seen each
other in four years. I'm sure any subtle changes in my appearance he
notices, he'll put down to the passing of time. We'll overdo your
makeup and hair. You'll be unrecognizable. The Chancellor won't
even realize you're not me. I'll keep my face hidden under the hood
of my cloak as your handmaiden. It will work. It has to."

Sabe' looked skeptical. Amidala pulled off her robe and grabbed
the bright orange handmaiden's gown that Sabe' was going to wear.
Eirtae' reluctantly helped her into it. She tucked her long hair inside
the cloak and adjusted the hood. Then she faced Sabe'.

"Your Highness," Sabe' said with a resigned sigh, "Regardless of
how Anakin feels about you, he will no doubt be somewhat 'vexed'
to say the least, when he learns of our deception."

Amidala took a deep steadying breath. "Oh, no doubt. 'Vexed' to
say the least. But I'm hoping his wounded pride won't deafen him
to what I have to say."

Eirtae' brought the yellow gown over to Sabe' and she and
Amidala helped her into it.

Sabe' busied herself applying the thick white makeup as Amidala
and Eirtae' began wrapping and braiding her hair around the
elaborate headpiece that matched the gown.

"Remember," Amidala was saying, "I'll need your help to get
Anakin to open up a little. Ask him questions. Try to get him
to talk about things we have in common."

"Your Highness, I don't know what you two have in common.
What kind of things should I ask him?" Sabe' inquired. "I hardly
know Anakin. I know his master better. At least I've spent time
with him."

Amidala frowned. "Certainly you can think of something Anakin
and I have in common." She closed her eyes and sighed heavily.
Eirtae' was right. She was taking an awful risk but hopefully
the ends would justify the means.

Amidala thought back to the last holographic transmission
Anakin had sent her a month ago. He had bowed and then began
reciting a limerick about a Gungan waterfowl. He was unwittingly
charming and adorably coy. He had become the heartbreaker
she always knew he would be. Maybe the one who would break
her own heart.


Anakin followed the golden protocol droid to the fifth level of the
senatorial guest quarters where Amidala and her entourage were
staying while on Coruscant.

He waited outside the royal apartments while the guard informed
the queen that her escort had arrived. He smoothed down the front
of his dress shirt and adjusted the formal black cloak draped over
his shoulders with an impatient sigh.

The guard came out and told him to wait inside. Anakin's heart
began racing and he took several deep calming breaths before
opening the door. He tried to summon the Force to maintain
his emotions, but it evaded him. He couldn't concentrate knowing
she was on the other side of the door.

Once inside, Anakin found himself alone in an entryway. He
cleared his throat and looked around hopefully.

One of Amidala's handmaidens suddenly appeared. She stood
looking at him for a long time before saying anything.

Disguised as a handmaiden, Amidala was trying hard not to stare,
but she could hardly believe Anakin was actually standing in front
of her. He wasn't a hologram. Tonight, he was real. It took
everything she had to keep from running to him and throwing her
arms around him. He looked even better in person: tall and athletic
and dashingly handsome. She took a deep steadying breath and
cleared her throat.

"Good evening, Anakin," she greeted, in a slightly accented voice.
"Her Majesty will be with you shortly. Please make yourself
comfortable." She gestured at a chair inside the parlor.

Anakin shook his head. "If it's all the same to you, I'd really
rather stand," he said and forced a smile. He thought he heard
the young woman sigh softly. He stepped closer to her and
tried to get a good look at her but the cowl and hood of her
cloak were shadowing her features too heavily. He thought she
looked familiar but he couldn't recall her name even though he
had met all of Amidala's handmaidens at one time or another.
They were so similar in appearance it was hard to tell them apart.

"Very well," she said. "Her Highness is aware that you are waiting.
It shouldn't be much longer. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll offer her
my assistance."

The handmaiden scurried off into one of the back rooms and

Anakin frowned and fidgeted slightly, tugging at the collar of his
shirt. The queen obviously was in no hurry to renew their

Minutes passed and Anakin began pacing. Finally he sought out
the chair in the parlor and sat on the edge. He waited a little
longer, his eyes fixed on the closed door. After awhile, he settled
back and closed his eyes, trying to get some semblance of
control over his nerves.

"Forgive me, Anakin, for keeping you waiting like this," Her
Highness said as she suddenly glided into the room followed
by two of her handmaidens. They bustled around her adjusting
her gown and hair until Her Highness shooed them away. She
gazed down at the restless figure in the chair.

Anakin's heart skipped a beat upon hearing her voice. He slowly
sat forward and looked up.

A vision of stunning beauty more dazzling than the twin suns of
Tatooine stood before him. Her gown was the color of a golden
sunset with pale pink and lavender hues. Her long hair was plaited
around a spray of yellow and white flowers in a golden headband
that looked like the rippling rays of solar flares. She didn't seem
real, almost. The way she looked reminded Anakin of an art
scuplture; if one ever decided to come to life as a woman. The
effort she and her handmaidens had put into this evening's regalia
had definitely been time consuming and he sincerely hoped they
hadn't gone to so much trouble because of him. He thought she
looked even more beautiful when she was Padme'.

"How nice to see you again," Her Highness continued.

Anakin shot to his feet, suddenly remembering his manners,
and bowed.

"Your Highness, the pleasure is mine," he breathed. Cautiously he
looked up into her eyes, straightened and waited. He wasn't exactly
sure what to do next. He didn't know if it was proper for him to
address her without first being spoken to or even continue looking
at her the way he was.

She seemed reluctant to approach him as well. They stood
staring at each other across the expanse of an invisible barrier,
neither one willing to make the first move.

Finally, one of the handmaiden's stepped forward. "Your Majesty,
we need to leave now if we are to arrive at the banquet in a timely
manner. The transport is waiting."

Her Highness momentarily turned away from Anakin and looked
over at her handmaiden. "Yes, of course, Eirtae'." She faced the
young Jedi again and extended her hand.

Anakin's heart began thudding heavily inside his chest. He
courteously stepped towards her and offered her his arm. He
would have rather held her hand, but decided that would be too
informal. At least they would be touching.

She swept up the skirts of her gown in one hand and casually
slipped the other around his elbow. He expected her touch to
be raw electricity to him. He drew in a sharp breath of
anticipation, but strangely he could only feel the heat of her hand
through his sleeve.

"If I may say, you look lovely this evening, Your Highness," Anakin

"Why thank you, Anakin," she replied graciously.

Concealed beneath the hood of her cloak, Amidala, the handmaiden,
frowned. Anakin was being the perfect gentleman, she thought, but
he was also being distant and overly formal. That wasn't a good sign.
Maybe he already suspected something. Then again, maybe he
was just nervous.

"Anakin, you look very nice this evening as well," the unfamiliar
handmaiden, the one who had greeted him in the entryway,
said unexpectedly.

Anakin turned to look at her and smiled. Her simple compliment
made him feel pleasantly warm inside and he wondered if he was

"Thank you, Milady," Anakin told her. He gazed at her, unable to
take his eyes off her for the longest time. Though her face was
shadowed, Anakin could feel the weight of her stare.

The queen gently cleared her throat. "We must be going," she said
carefully and smiled.

Anakin faced the queen, hoping she would say more, but
she fixed her eyes forward and remained silent all the way to the
transport. He was disheartened further when he realized she was
taking her two handmaidens with her to the banquet.

Once inside the transport, the queen seated herself across from
Anakin flanked by her handmaidens. Anakin forced a smile.

"Your Highness," he began, "I beg your pardon, but certainly you
won't require these ladies to accompany us to the banquet this
evening? You are being escorted by a Jedi, after all." He hoped
that sounded tactful.

Her Highness smiled benevolently. "I'm sorry to have to require
their company even on a night of festivity such as this, but I do.
Certainly you don't object?"

Anakin swallowed uncomfortably. He spoke directly to the two
handmaidens. "Not at all. I meant no offense, to you, Eirtae' or...."

"None taken," said the unfamiliar handmaiden.

Anakin peered over at her. There was something peculiar about her.
Something he couldn't quite put his finger on. It was more of a
sensation than anything else. A tremor in the Force. A gentle tingle.
It seemed to occur whenever she addressed him. Whenever he
knew she was looking at him. Experimenting, he purposefully
addressed Eirtae'.

"Milady, I hope you were not insulted?"

Eirtae' grinned. "Of course not, Anakin. And don't worry. The
deciding factor for our presence here tonight was not based on
whether or not you would behave like a gentleman. Or a Jedi."

Her Highness fought a smile. She glanced at Eirtae, sharing some
private inside humor with her.

Embarrassed and caught off guard, Anakin sunk deeper into his
seat and lowered his eyes.

He suddenly recalled the whole purpose of speaking to Eirtae and
sat up again, intrigued by the lack of sensation he felt. It wasn't
anything like what he felt towards Her Highness' other handmaiden.
Even Her Highness wasn't provoking the intense feelings in him he had
anticipated. He gazed up at the queen.

Beautiful beyond words, but empty, he suddenly realized. She was
void of any intimate feelings for him. He concentrated hard, but he
couldn't feel anything more than a slight physical attraction. He
couldn't even feel friendly affection, yet he knew without a doubt
they were the best of friends. They had been for years.

"Please tell me, how is Obi-Wan these days?" Her Highness asked.
"I miss him."

Anakin felt an inexplicable jolt of jealousy sizzle through him. Now
he felt something stir in her. He felt her sudden enthusiasm and her
sincere curiosity. He struggled to keep his voice neutral.

"Obi-Wan is....just fine," he began in a quietly measured tone. "I'll
be sure to tell him you asked about him."

She smiled brightly. "That's very kind of you. I'm pleased to hear
he is doing well. It's unfortunate he couldn't come tonight."

"Other obligations," Anakin said, stressing the latter word, almost
hoping to insult her. Anakin took a deep calming breath. He had to
keep his emotions in check. He couldn't be so thin-skinned around
her. When she asked about Obi-Wan, she was more than likely
just being polite. He knew she and Obi-Wan were friends as well,
but that didn't explain why the mere mention of his master's name
caused more of an emotional reaction in her than seeing him after
four years.

Anakin felt thoroughly miserable. Sometime during the past four
years, he had lost her. He had lost her so entirely, his heart seemed
to know it before his head. Despite the lack of feeling he sensed
from her, he had clung to the remote possibility that she was just
being respectably royal. He thought maybe if they could be alone
sometime together, she would open up to him and not worry so
much about appearances and propriety. But now, he realized, by
agreeing to go out with him tonight, she was probably only being
polite to him--tolerating him out of some distorted sense of
obligation, just like Obi-Wan had said.

Anakin reached up and dragged his hand through his hair in

The handmaiden sitting across from him gasped sharply, startling
him. She boldly seized his hand and cradled it between both of

"Gracious, what have you done to your hand?" she demanded,
examining the bandages closely.

Anakin was momentarily at a loss for words. "It's nothing," he
managed. "It will be healed by morning."

"Mmm, it does looks a little swollen," the queen noted. "And
badly bruised."

Anakin nodded, too confused by what he was feeling to
acknowledge her any further. He stared, fascinated, at the figure
of the little handmaiden holding his hand. She caressed his sore
fingers with delicate care. The alarm and concern he felt from
her was beyond reason.

"How did you injure it?" she asked. "Was it on a mission? Or
training perhaps?"

Anakin focused all his attention on her. He wished he could see
her face. If he could look into her eyes....

"No, nothing as dramatic as that," he told her softly. "It was a
rose, actually. I pulled a blossom from the bushes in the Temple
gardens this morning." Anakin could see her smile pierce through
the shadows of her hood.

"That wasn't exactly smart was it? Don't you know for all their
beauty, roses have thorns?" she teased.

"They are deceptively beautiful, thus all the more beguiling," he
told her in a low voice. "And I wasn't feeling very smart at
the time. I was feeling lonely and romantic." He squeezed her
hand slightly. Her smile abruptly disappeared and she quickly
released him.

His hand felt cold and empty without her warm grasp. He tucked
it into the folds of his cape. He was more confused by what HE was
feeling now. This handmaiden was stirring his heart more than Her
Highness had all night. He had heard of falling in love on a
rebound, but this was ridiculous. Unfortunately, he couldn't deny
what he was feeling.

Impulsively, he reached towards her and cupped her chin in his other
hand. He wanted to see her face in the light. Her skin felt like the
petals of the rose. He couldn't resist the urge to touch her more
intimately. He brushed his thumb over the curve of her cheek and

"What is your name?" he asked, but before she could say anything,
the queen took ahold of his wrist and all but pulled his hand away.

"Anakin, we've arrived," she announced. "Please assist me out of
the transport."

Anakin looked over at her curiously. The urgency of her tone hinted
displeasure. He wondered if the extra attention he had given her
handmaiden had disturbed her. Did she think he had been flirting
with her? It seemed no matter what he did or said tonight it was
wrong. He cleared his throat and shot the queen an apologetic
expression. "Of course, Your Highness."

The transport came to a stop in front of the Chancellor's opulent
palace. The doors were opened by robot footmen who reached in
to help the handmaidens exit. Anakin climbed out next. He took
the queen's hand and guided her out. They followed the robots up
to the enormous double-doors which opened to the palace vestibule.
They made their way down the receiving line and then into the lesser
hall for cocktails and appetizers.

Anakin watched Her Highness from a short distance away as she and
her handmaidens mingled with the other dinner guests.

What was wrong with him? Why was he so confused? Maybe he
did have a concussion after all. This was the same woman who
had been his friend for eight years. She was the same one who
sent him poetry and music in her correspondences. She was the
same one who asked his opinion of new gowns she'd acquired
and went into a rapturous soliloquy describing the sunset over the
waterfalls. She was the woman he loved. How could he not feel
the love he knew he had for her?

She was the epitome of grace and exceptional beauty. She was
poised to perfection. She was everything someone of her stature
should be. Anakin could see why as a child he had fallen head over
heels for her. He had never met a girl like her before. She was
so elegant and regal. Even as Padme'.

It hit him then, an unexpected occurance so fast and hard, it
reminded him of how he had felt when the chair collided with his
head this morning. His eyes sought out the handmaidens. Eirtae was
easy to recognize despite the hooded cloak shadowing her face.
She stayed quietly off to the side of the queen, no more remarkable
or noticeable than one of the rooms fixtures. But the other woman.
She was right by the queen's side, looking around and taking stock
of her surroundings. She seemed to stand a little straighter, move
more fluidly. She had presence. Just as much presence as the
queen, if not more. Suddenly Anakin could not take his eyes off
her. She had intrigued him all evening and now he knew why.

They had switched. Amidala was disguised as Padme'. Sabe' was
disguised as the queen. This wasn't really anything unusual for them
to do. He knew it was a defensive measure. Amidala and Sabe'
had the routine down to perfection. Almost.

Anakin felt a surge of emotions surface and quickly grabbed a
cocktail drink off a passing service tray. He downed it in one gulp.

Why would she want to deceive him like this? And tonight, one
of the few times they could truly be together? If everything Anakin
had sensed in Amidala was true, it didn't make sense for her to hide
from him in this way.

Anakin's mind raced. He started towards Amidala but stopped.
No, he didn't want to confront her until he understood her motives.
He would talk to Sabe' first.

Sabe' was talking to Amidala but Anakin was too far away to hear
what they were saying. He stalked over to where
they stood, bringing their conversation to an abrupt halt upon his

"Ladies, if you'll excuse us," he began, "I need to talk to Her
Highness in private." He took ahold of Sabe' 's arm and ushered her
out of the as the 'handmaidens' stood gaping after them.

He knew this castle well. He'd spent alot of time here as a guest
of the Chancellor's and was familiar with its more secluded passages.
He led Sabe' down towards the back of the castle almost to the
opposite side, to one of his favorite rooms, well away from the
other guests in the great and lesser halls.

"Anakin Skywalker, would you please explain this impromptu tour
of the Chancellor's palace?" Sabe' demanded breathlessly, once
they had stopped. She glanced around and took in the affluent
furnishings and the big stone fireplace with the polished antique
mantle that dominated the large room.

Anakin walked slowly over to her. "Don't toy with me anymore,"
he began. He locked his eyes on hers in a piercing gaze.

"W-What are you talking about?" the 'queen' asked and involuntarily
took a step back. Anakin looked so formidable, she kept backing
up until she bumped into a wall.

Anakin followed her right up to the wall and then stood towering
over her. He stared down at her but she was having a hard time
meeting his gaze. Anakin decided to do a little deceiving of his
own to teach them a lesson.

"Don't you realize I can feel what you feel?" Anakin asked, his voice
low and intimidating. "I know you're deceiving yourself right along
with me. But I'm not going to fall for it anymore."

"Anakin, let me explain," Sabe' pleaded. She tried to slip around
him, but he caged her in with his arms and leaned closer to her.
The blazing fire reflected in his eyes and gave him a feral look that
Sabe' found thoroughly disconcerting.

"Just admit it," he whispered and began languidly stroking the
side of her face. Sabe' pushed him back.

"How dare you?" she screeched. Obviously he knew. But
what the hell was he doing? He was looking at her as if he wanted
to devour her. But Sabe' was ready to resort to violence if he
didn't release her in two seconds.

"We're finally alone," he breathed reassuringly into her ear. "You
don't haveto pretend anymore, not with me. I love you, Padme',
and I know you love me too. So tell me..." He paused and placed
his hands on her shoulders, then drew her up against him.
"Show me...."

Sabe' 's eyes grew wide. Her heart clenched in her chest. Anakin
didn't know after all! He still thought she was Amidala! She had
to go along with it; she knew the real Amidala loved Anakin.
Sabe' realized she couldn't fight him off now. She couldn't even
reject him. It would destroy Amidala's chances with him. Maybe
she should just tell him that she was not the queen. But then
Amidala's words echoed in her head. Under no circumstances,
she had said. Damn and blast! Where was Amidala?

She looked up into his eyes and tried to calm herself. "Anakin, I...I
love you too," she said shakily.


Amidala and Eirtae' raced down one passage after another. Anakin
had all but disappeared with Sabe'.

"This spider's nest of a castle has more twists and turns in it than a
maze!" Amidala muttered as they turned down another empty

"Come, this way, Your Highness," Eirtae urged. "I think I hear

Instead of following her, Amidala stopped and leaned heavily
against the stone wall.

"I just don't understand," Amidala sighed, dejectedly. "Anakin
knows who I am, so why did he go off with Sabe'? Why hasn't
he said anything to me yet? He knows, but he hasn't really reacted
at all. It's as if he really doesn't care."

Eirtae' doubled back to Amidala. "He can't possibly know, Your
Majesty. You said it yourself, if he did he would have confronted
you with this knowledge by this time. We must hurry. I can only think
of one reason for him to seek out privacy and seclusion,Your Highness."

Amidala shook her head emphatically. "No, he has to know. He's
been more attentive to me than he has been to Sabe'. If he really
doesn't know who he's got with him right now, than he's a cad. You
could almost say he's been flirting with me. Very subtly, but still.
He touched me and spoke so tenderly to me tonight, he must know..."
She paused as something heartstopping suddenly occurred to her.
"Oh. Oh, Eirtae. He must have feelings for me then. He must
have been trying to tell me. I should have acknowledged him.
He must think I'm trying to hide from him. He's going to leave
tonight either believing I don't care about him anymore, or I am a
wicked, thorny rose, beguiling but deceptive."

"Your Highness, I think I hear them in this room," Eirtae' whispered,
her ear against one of the metal doors. She frowned.

Amidala pulled herself off the wall and joined Eirtae' at the door.
They heard a crash as if something had been knocked over.
They exchanged wary glances.

Eirtae' didn't wait for her queen's command. She hit the door
release and burst inside. The sight that greeted her eyes stopped
her cold.

Anakin had Sabe' bent back provocatively over a sturdy-looking
table, their arms wrapped around each other, their lips mere
inches apart. They both froze, then simultaneously turned and
faced the door.

"Anakin!" Amidala shouted. She quickly pushed back her hood
and stepped forward.

Sabe' breathed a deep sigh of relief and pushed Anakin off
her with a forceful shove.

"What wonderful timing," Sabe' proclaimed and put as much
distance between herself and the amorous Jedi as she could manage.

Anakin didn't bother to pretend to be surprised. He merely sighed
and crossed his arms over his chest, leaning his hips on the edge of
the table.

"Padme', what a surprise," he said tonelessly.

Amidala looked mortified. Sabe' went over to her and threw her
arm over her shoulders and turned her back towards the door.

"Your Highness, before you say or do anything rash, there's
something I need to tell you!" Sabe' whispered loudly.

"What...Just what do you think you were doing over there?!"
Amidala whispered back.

"Anakin, will you kindly excuse us," Eirtae' addressed him. "We
really need to speak with Her Majesty in private for a few moments."

Anakin straightened and started for the door. He shouldered his
way through their midst and exited without looking at any of them.

Sabe' turned to Amidala. "Your Highness, Anakin brought me in
here to proclaim his love for me...for YOU! I thought he
was going to beat a confession out of me at first, but then he
started whispering in my ear and telling me not to pretend anymore.
What could I do? I had to let him think I was you."

Amidala shook her head. "But I'm telling you he knew long before
now. You saw the way he looked when he saw me. He wasn't
startled in the least."

Eirtae' sighed heavily. "Regardless, you will need to talk to him
now, Your Majesty. You will need to explain if you want to
salvage any of this evening."

"Salvage my life and future would be more like it," Amidala
grumbled. She gestured at the door. "Please send him back in
and you," she gestured at Sabe', "go back to the dining hall and
be the Queen of Naboo. I'm Padme' for the rest of the night.
With or without, Anakin."

Eirtae' and Sabe' left. Amidala belatedly tried to hastily comb
through her wild hair with her fingers. She licked her lips and
wiped her watering eyes, then took a deep breath.

She turned around at the sound of the door. Anakin walked in
slowly and sat down without waiting for her to say anything. He
refused to look at her and fixed his eyes on the crackling fire blazing
in the cavernous fireplace across the room. Amidala came towards

"I know you knew Sabe' was not me when you brought her
here. What were you trying to do...going after her like that?"

Anakin snorted in disdain. "I was trying to get a confession out
of her," he growled. "I wanted answers, damnit! Something to
help me comprehend what could possibly have motivated you to
do something like this tonight. Her loyalty is rather commendable.
She wouldn't tell me anything. She knew I was about to make
love to her on that table and yet she still maintained her role as
you, emitting the occasional sigh and moan for good
measure. Well, she was either being loyal to Your Majesty, or
treacherous. You'll have to sort that out with her later."

Amidala looked incensed. She glared at the closed door through
which her handmaiden had exited. She took a deep calming breath.
She knew Sabe' would never betray her in that way. Besides, Sabe'
had a crush on Obi-Wan. She always had. Amidala turned and
faced Anakin again. "And just how far would you have gone to
obtain your confession?"

"To the very end if I had to," he snapped. "I'll have to sharpen
my interrogation skills so I won't have to go so far next time."

Amidala stared hard at him. She wished he would look at her.
She wanted to see the truth in his eyes. "Would you have, really?"

Anakin slowly shook his head. "No. It pains me to think you
believe that I would actually do such a thing."

Amidala swallowed down the lump forming in her throat.

"So when did you realize Sabe' was acting as me?" she asked
him, quietly.

Anakin sighed. "Shortly after we arrived at the palace." He
kept his eyes resolutely off of her. He could do this if he didn't
look into her eyes. He could proclaim his indignation and walk
out of her life forever. He would never have to worry about
his love destroying her. She would be safe from him. She would
live on, beautiful and free, just like a wild rose. And he would go
on too. He would learn to live without her. He would have to.

Amidala frowned. "Anakin, you knew who I was back in
the transport, didn't you? The way you looked at me. And the
way you touched me. You squeezed my hand."

"No," he persisted, his voice growing softer. "I only squeezed
your hand because you had been kind to me. You showed
concern for me. I could feel something peculiar about you.
I sensed the emotions you were projecting. I didn't understand
why. Here I didn't even know your name, but I could feel how
much you seemed to care for me. I didn't sense anything like that
from 'the queen'. I couldn't understand why my best friend
hadn't maintained a shred of affection for me after only four years.
But what was even more disturbing was that I didn't feel anything
for her either. Yet I knew I loved you with all my heart."

Amidala's heart lept. She placed her hand over it to make sure it
was still beating.

She stood directly in front of him now and Anakin longed to gaze up
at her and drink in her beauty. Her presence called to him like a
sirensong. He turned his eyes on her then and slowly stood up. She
was even more beautiful than he had ever imagined. Her large brown
eyes were like pools of warmth and light, beckoning him to come
and drown himself in their depths. When he looked at her, he still
saw the same face he had mistaken for an angel from the moons of
Iego eight years ago. His heart twisted inside him with pain and
he steeled himself against the spell her beauty was casting over him.

"Actually, I really must thank you for what you and your friends
have done tonight. You have made what I'm about to do much
easier," Anakin pronounced.

Amidala looked startled. "What is it that are you about to do?"

Taking a steadying breath, Anakin reached over and pushed
Amidala's long hair from her shoulder. "To tell you that you are
no longer my friend and you will never be my lover." He drew her
closer to him and she seemed to melt in his arms. She gazed up
at him, her lips parted invitingly, willing him to capture her mouth
with his, and ready to surrender herself trustingly to him if he asked.
He looked down at her, his resolve weakening with every passing
second. He suddenly released her and stepped back, summoning
his dissipating anger to the forefront of his mind to support his

"Anakin, don't push me away. I love you too," Amidala stated.

"How strangely you choose to demonstrate that love, my angel,"
Anakin replied coldly. "How could you mistreat me like that?
I was so confused and hurt and actually jealous when I believed you
had inquired about Obi-Wan. All this time, I had been hoping--
clinging to my adoration for you as the only constant in my rather
tumultuous existence. If you would have told me you loved me
before...there would have been no end to my happiness. All the
dreams I ever dreamed would have become a reality tonight."
Anakin paused and lowered his eyes again. "I was watching you
from across the hall. There you were, dressed as a handmaiden,
but you carried yourself with such stature and poise. It made me
think of Padme'. And then I knew." Anakin struggled to keep
from looking at her again, but he longed to hold her just one more
time. She felt so perfect in his arms and when he looked at her face,
everything else around him dissolved away.

Anakin sighed. He had to do this. He had to be strong. He cleared
his mind of all thoughts and concentrated on his intent. Once he had
managed to block his weakness for her from his mind, he continued.

"Now, if you'll pardon me, I'm very weary of all this. I'm certain
your handmaidens will see you safely to your apartments.
I'm going back to the Temple now. Goodnight...Padme'."

"No, Anakin, wait!" Amidala begged. She grabbed his arm before
he got past her. "I didn't do this tonight to hurt you! I wanted
to be Padme' for you."

Anakin glared at her. "Don't tell me you did this for my benefit,
Your Highness."

"I did! I knew as Padme' I could come and go tonight as I pleased.
I knew we could go off together and...leave the rest of the world
behind. I wouldn't have been able to do that if I was queen!"

Anakin pulled from her grasp. His face was like a storm cloud.
"And just when were you planning to unveil yourself? Certainly
not until after I had made a complete and utter fool of myself."

Amidala shook her head, her long dark hair dancing around her
face. "I was afraid," she told him. "I was trying to spare my
feelings. I knew how I felt towards you, that I was in love,
but I couldn't allow myself to tell you until I knew how you felt
about me." She paused and took a deep breath. "Sabe' was
supposed to ask you things. About your feelings. I guess it was
wrong of me to expect her to ask you personal things."

Anakin still glowered at Amidala but asked, "When did you know
you were in love with me?"

Amidala smiled sadly. "A few years ago." She reached up
tentatively and touched his face. "But you never said anything
in your correspondence that even hinted at your true feelings.
I didn't want to get my hopes up."

"True feelings,"Anakin murmured and took her hand in his. He tenderly
kissed her fingertips. "Don't you remember," he whispered. "I told
you I wanted to marry you the day I met you."

Amidala laughed. "Well, you were just ten. You hadn't met a
whole lot of girls then if I recall."

Anakin smiled. "But I knew. Even then, I knew," he informed her.
"There would never be anyone else for me." Anakin reached for
her and she drifted to him, wrapping her arms around him in a tight
hug. He hugged her back, burying his face in her luxurious hair.
He couldn't do it. He couldn't let her go. His love for her was too
powerful and he knew his heart was hers.

"Anakin, forgive me! I never, never wanted to hurt you. You must
believe me," Amidala whispered. "I'm nothing but a coward. It
was an ignorant thing to do."

Anakin pulled back from her far enough to look into her eyes. He
cradled her head in his hands and tilted her face up. The light from
the fireplace blazed over her flawless skin turning it an ethereal white.
It reminded him again of his vision and he recalled the bruised white
petals of the rose he had crushed.

"I know you didn't mean to hurt me," he sighed. "I can feel the
emotions in your heart. You really are in love with me, aren't

Amidala nodded slowly. "Very much so."

"I'm a coward as well. I had a vision today," Anakin began,
his voice sad and distant. "It was something clearly ominous.
It told me my love for you would only destroy you. You tried
to save yourself by not loving me in return. You purposefully
hurt me to try to live, but in the end, I had overpowered you."
Anakin closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I was afraid
to love you after that. I was afraid to let you love me."

Amidala reached for his hands and lifted them to her face, kissing
each one in turn.

"It was the rose, wasn't it? The rose you picked?"

Anakin nodded. "I shouldn't be so weak. I should go off and
leave you for both our sakes. But I don't think I can now. Not
since you told me you loved me too. Oh, Padme', I wanted you
to love me more than anything I have ever wanted before. How
can I turn away from my heart's dream when I have it finally
within my grasp?"

"Your love was my dream too," Amidala replied. "Don't give in
to your fear, Anakin."

"Fear," Anakin repeated tonelessly. "Fear leads to hate. Hate
leads to suffering." He shook his head and sighed heavily. "It
consumes me sometimes. I should be able to control it by now,
but there is so much for me to be afraid of. Even love."

Amidala leaned into him and held him. "I'm not afraid," she stated.

"You never are," Anakin said and smiled. "You're either the bravest
woman I have ever known or the most foolhardy. You plunge right
into anything regardless of the consequences. You always choose to
sort them out later. I wish I could be like that. Always ready to
seize the moment."

Amidala smiled up at him. "Well, one of us has to be sensible. We'll
bring balance to each other. It will be a perfect match." She gestured
at the door and tugged at his hand on her way to the exit. "Come on.
We don't have to stay here. We have all of Coruscant laid out
before us tonight. We can go anywhere. We can do anything."

"Whatever you desire. I am here to escort you, Your Highness,"
Anakin said and bowed over her hand. "But first...." He straightened
and dragged her back into his arms. "I've been wanting to do
this...forever." He crossed his arms over her back, supporting her
head with his hands. He bent her back slowly and captured her
mouth with his in a devouring kiss. He felt her pulse race and
her breath quicken and kissed her harder, moving his mouth
sensuously over hers, increasing the pressure on her lips until she
was laying back in his arms.

He held her body to him, marveling at her total lack of resistance.
She yielded completely to the power of his love and unlike the
rose, she did not wither and die, she became more alive as he
loved her because she loved him too.