"Tell me about it, Ani," she encouraged him as she threaded her arm through his to walk along the cliffside path behind the hangar.
He told her of the Mandalorian problem and the possible ramifications of war with them. Upon reaching the part about his strange experience with the Chancellor, he hesitated.
"Ani, what is it?"
"Am, I... I think you might be right about the Chancellor. There's something odd..." He shook his head. "I don't want to think about it. He's given his blessing and support to our marriage. We shouldn't question his motives."
She gave him an appraising look and then her shoulders slumped. "I suppose you're right. Sometimes I'm so tired of these problems... these worries. I just wish I had someone to help me make the right decisions." With a wave of her hand, she forestalled his answer. "Oh, I know I have Sio Bibble and the others to advise me. But I'm still the one has to make the final call."
Anakin stopped her, taking her shoulders to make her look into his eyes. "I'm here... You know I'll help you. Whatever you need, I'll try to give it to you," he promised.
"Ani..." she murmured, her love for him shining from her eyes. Her knight, her friend... her lover.
He pulled her into his arms, savoring the feel of her closeness, the pulsing heartbeat of Naboo matching his own. "Don't make me wait, Am. Marry me soon. I want the galaxy to know you're mine...I want to be with you again...forever."
With a swift move, he lifted her higher until she reached his eye level. The motion slid her against his body. She did not doubt his words and could not deny she felt the same. Memories of the heated embrace in the Jedi garden replayed in her mind.
Yes, Am... Like that.
He carried her away from prying eyes to a secluded alcove along the path. There he found the architects had provided a bench for walkers to pause and enjoy the view of the Naboo plain. Convenient, he thought with a wry smile.
With her still in his arms, he sat, pulling her legs to either side of his hips. He thanked whatever had prompted her to wear a simple dress instead of one of her more complex regalia. The moist Naboo air swirled around them as they kissed and caressed each other into breathlessness.
Amidala broke away first, gasping for air. "Ani, we can't... not here."
He paused, then dropped his head to her shoulder. "I know... Sorry..."
"Stop apologizing, Anakin Skywalker. I want you terribly, too. But we must wait until after the wedding."
It's not like we haven't... Force, Am, I want you again!
"Oh, Ani, I know it's difficult, but soon... soon," she soothed. "Now, dear, it's best if you let me up or I may not have the strength to stop this again."
He took a shuddering breath and rose, savoring the feel of her sliding down his body before he stepped away. With a pained look, he adjusted himself beneath his tunics and held out his arm.
"Back to the palace, Your Majesty," he said, his face set in rigid lines.
She sighed. "Yes, back to the palace. I have to make the arrangements for the wedding."
His mask cracked and he grinned at her.
It won't be any too soon, love.
The whole scene brought back memories of the first time he'd visited Naboo. Except this time he approached the palace beside Obi-Wan as Amidala awaited them near the top of the palace stairs. Amidala's parents flanked her, as well as her handmaidens, the palace guards and her advisors. As much as he wanted this, he couldn't help feeling the cold sweat break out over his face and palms. He quelled the need to wipe his hands on his dark pants and his face on his best tunic's sleeve and commanded his stomach to stop alternately knotting and fluttering.
All around them, the people of Naboo, including the Gungans, cheered and threw flower petals until the ground in the square appeared carpeted with many colors. Anakin finally got the courage to meet Amidala's eyes. Force, she absolutely glowed! She had chosen the same exquisite gown she'd worn the day she presented the peace globe to Boss Nass so many years ago, but she had added a fine transparent veil to it.
Anakin's gaze flicked nervously to either side of his bride, fearing if he continued to stare at her, he would lose his nerve completely. On the stair above Amidala, Sio Bibble, barely able to walk any more, stood with the aid of two of the handmaidens. The completely white-haired governor would perform the civil portion of the wedding ceremony. Master Gallia had agreed to give the Jedi blessing to the union and had placed herself to Bibble's right.
Somehow, Anakin managed to make his way up the steps without tripping and took Amidala's outstretched hand. They faced each other for a moment before turning to Sio Bibble. The crowd hushed as they waited for him to speak. Despite his frail appearance, the old man's voice rang out through the square as he spoke the words to seal the marriage of Anakin Skywalker and Padm?midala Naberrie. Master Gallia nodded to him once he finished and moved to stand before the couple.
"Padawan Skywalker, the Jedi Council has given me the duty of giving their blessing to this union. Though these are troubled times, we bestow upon you a leave of absence for a period of three months. Knight Kenobi and I will travel to Alderaan from here. Always be mindful, Padawan, of the Force and all those connected through it." The Jedi Master turned to Amidala. "Your Majesty... Queen Amidala... the Jedi welcome you to the company of our own. Your spirited courage and fair rule of Naboo have brought honor to both your home and the Republic."
She bestowed a kind smile on them both, then held out her hands for theirs. Anakin and Amidala placed their free hands in hers.
Be strong, young ones. Great travails await us in the future. Together you can face them. Let the Force guide you in your actions and thoughts.
"The Jedi Council, the Republic, and the People of Naboo hereby recognize the lawful marriage of Queen Amidala to Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Padawan. May the Force be with you both as well as your children." She gave a squeeze to their hands, then released them and dipped her head to Anakin. "You may kiss your bride, Anakin."
His hand trembled slightly as he lifted the fragile veil from Amidala's face, then he pulled her closer and bent near to give her a gentle kiss. Her eyes shone as she studied his face for a moment.
"I love you, Ani... Always."
"And I you, Am. No matter what."
"Now we must give our people our attention," she reminded him, as she turned to the waiting crowd. "People of Naboo, I hereby declare this day a holiday!"
Once again the mass of Naboo and Gungans cheered wildly, bringing a grin to the newlyweds' faces. They raised their joined hands, then waved with their free ones. Then, the officials parted to allow the couple to enter the palace, Obi-Wan, Adi Gallia and the handmaidens following.
Once inside, Amidala linked her arm through Anakin's and leaned closer to him. "I must go to my quarters with my handmaidens and let them ready me. Obi-Wan has said he will help keep you occupied until then."
"I can wait. I've waited ten years... what's an hour or so more?" he replied with a dry mouth. Thoughts of what she would look like and what he wanted to do with her made his knees feel like water.
She gave his arm a gentle pressure, turning to move off toward her quarters. Anakin stood watching her walk away, entranced at the sight of her grace and forcing himself not to make a fool of himself.
Hurry, love. I know I said I can wait, but I want you so.
Only a little while longer, dearest. Patience...
Obi-Wan touched Anakin's arm. "Come on, Ani. I have something I think will take your mind off your bride for a short time."
Anakin shook his head and followed his master back to the quarters they had been assigned. He couldn't imagine anything that could possibly distract him. He was wrong.
A sky blue and white tunic and pants lay across the bed he'd used since they had arrived. Someone had embroidered the Skywalker emblem across the left breast and on the ends of the sash.
"I received a package before we left Coruscant. It bore no name, but the postmark came from Tattooine," Obi-Wan told him.
"Mom..." It could have only been her. But why had she sent it? She knew he wore only Jedi robes.
"Your mother must have had some Force abilities. Perhaps she had a feeling you'd need this in the future. Whatever the reason, I believe she'd want you to wear it on your wedding night."
Anakin could only nod; his eyes stinging with unshed tears. The loss was still fresh and though marrying Amidala had fulfilled one of his dreams, the pain sliced through the joy he'd experienced earlier. Three months the council had given him... three months to enjoy married life before he must return to his duties as a Padawan. He turned over the possibilities. Perhaps he could avail himself of the time with a search for his mother's killers.
"Such dark thoughts, Ani, for such a joyful time. I had not thought to cast a cloud over what should be a happy period in your life," Obi-Wan remarked. "I am sorry. Would you prefer I pack these away and return them to Coruscant for storage?"
"No... I'll wear them to honor my mother's memory. I just feel it's wrong that her murderers have escaped justice."
"I, too, Ani. I, too," Obi-Wan replied. "But tonight you should not dwell on such painful things. Take joy in your bride and new beginnings. I believe it would be what your mother would have wanted."
Vengeance is not the way, Ani. Let me live on in your love...
His mother's last words came back him, yet the anger still burned in his heart. He pushed it down, knowing Obi-Wan's advice was good though he resented the Council's inaction. Carefully, he shielded his anger and pain and proceeded to change into the new outfit.
Once dressed, he stood before Obi-Wan for his appraisal. He still wore his boots, but the clothes fit perfectly. Strange... for his mother hadn't seen him in years.
A rap sounded on the door. Obi-Wan opened it and found Master Gallia outside.
"You look very handsome, Anakin," she told him. "Are you ready for your bride?"
"Then I am here to tell you she is ready for you." She gestured toward the door, where three handmaidens waited outside to escort him to the Queen's chambers.
Anakin swallowed what felt like a huge lump in his throat and joined the group in the hall as they proceeded toward an area of the palace he had never been in before. Though he'd been Amidala's friend and lover, he felt as awkward as the nine-year-old he'd been when he first met her.
The walk passed in a haze, which he only awoke from as they arrived at the Queen's door. With respectful bows, the handmaidens left him alone. He raised his hand to knock, but before he could touch the ornately carved wood, the door opened.
His breath left him. She stood in the doorway, silhouetted by firelight in a nearly transparent nightgown. Myriad sensations poured over him... desire, fear, reverence.
"Force, Am... You're incredible," he whispered.
"Come in, Ani. This is your room as much as mine now."
He moved toward her, closing the door behind him and drinking in the sight of her like a man lost in the Jundland wastes of Tattooine would the sight of water. She took his hands and guided him to the low couch that sat before the fire. With shaking knees, he sank onto the soft cushions, uncertain whether he wanted to ravish her or worship her.
"Just love me, Ani. That's all I ask. Just love me," she murmured as she joined him.
Ani felt in the sleeve of his tunic for the present he'd managed to grab from his Jedi robes before he left Obi-Wan's room. At first he feared he'd lost it somehow, but then he relaxed at the reassuring weight against his hand.
"Give me your hand for a moment, Am."
She extended her right arm toward him and he grasped her hand between his. Before he placed his present on her wrist, he studied her hand as if he had never seen it before. He turned it over slowly, memorizing the shape of her fingers, the fine bones and veins beneath the skin, the neat, well-kept nails, and the lines on her palm.
"Are you going to read my palm, Ani?" she asked with a half-laugh.
"No," he said, then brought her hand to his lips. He pressed kisses on the palm, and then laid it against his face, delighting in the feel of her skin against his for a moment. With a deep breath, he inhaled her scent; closing his eyes to contemplate the fact his angel had really married him.
"I love you so, Am. Can't believe this is real... that you're real," he admitted as he held her hand tightly.
Amidala scooted closer until she leaned against his side and rested her head on his shoulder. "I'm real, Ani. And I'll always be here for you."
"I... I have something for you," he managed, then drew the bracelet out and shook it free of knots. Taking care not to drop it, he encircled her wrist with it and latched the clasp.
"Oh, Ani! It's lovely," she exclaimed, holding her hand in the firelight to catch the light. Entwined in a fine net of gold, beads of Naboo amber and Tattooine *japoor* nestled together to catch the flame's fire.
"Something from both our worlds, Am. To symbolize us..."
She hugged him, pressing a kiss on his neck and then his face. He turned his head and met her lips with his own. *How soft...how sweet,* he thought as he tasted her mouth, then all rational thought left as she ran her hand up his chest.
His own hands found the indentation of her waist and slid up to cup her breasts. No fire burned so brightly as the one that grew between them. They moved from the couch to the thick, soft rug before the fireplace. No longer tentative, they explored each other's bodies with wonder and growing excitement.
And when neither felt they could take the tension any longer, Ani put them both out of their misery, completely joining them... body, soul and mind until neither truly knew where one began and the other ended. Melded in such a way, no words were necessary.
Ani, love, I will always be yours. Never leave me.
I won't, Am. No matter how far this body is from you, I'll always be with you.
Then coherent thought faded away in physical sensation until they both cried out in completion. Ani collapsed beside her, tucking her against his side as he tried to regain his breathing. She lay trembling in his arms and he feared he might have hurt her.
"No, Ani. I'm not that fragile. It's just..." She paused and looked up at him, her eyes heavy-lidded and sated. "What we shared this time seemed almost..."
"Perhaps it's just because we've waited so long." She gave a sleepy smile and snuggled closer, one leg thrown over his, her breasts pressed against his side.
"Am..." he managed.
She giggled as she felt him stir against her leg. "Again?"
He groaned. "I'm sorry, Am."
With a playful swat, she retorted, "Don't you say you're sorry for wanting me, Anakin Skywalker! I'm your wife... Besides," she purred. "I feel exactly the same."
"Three months may not be enough," he said with a moan as she proceeded to do sweet torture to him.
"Indeed," she agreed with a mischievous grin, then returned to her task.