The Jedi’s hair was pale, radiation-bleached and his eyes were a color rarely found on Naboo. She watched him covertly from across the room, trying as she had been taught, to read his mind from the language of his body.
Even Jedi betrayed themselves, Father had taught her. Sometimes in their very stillness.
So Padmé wasn’t in the least surprised when he broke out of his stern pose by the door and walked to the wall-window beside her. Up close, his eyes were even bluer than she had realized.
“Finished?” he asked curtly.
She read the lines of tension around those remarkable eyes, set in an almost expressionless face and smiled. “My apologies, Master Jedi. I was bored. There is nothing here as new as you.”
He stared at her, his cheeks reddening. “I’m not a Master.”
“Oh? I’m sorry. I don’t know the distinctions of your rank…”
Now it was her turn to be surprised – not that he knew she was lying, but the fact he confronted her with it.
She recovered quickly enough, schooling her emotions into a state of cynical serenity, raising one indolent eyebrow. “That’s rather rude for a Jedi.”
He shifted his feet and shrugged at the same time. “I’m not a Jedi yet,” he said softly, not quite meeting her eyes.
She resisted the urge to smile. Of that he was certainly right. A proper Jedi shouldn’t have been easier to read than the youngest political aide that worked in the lower floors of the Senate dome.
“A Padawan then? We are somewhat alike then. I’m in training myself.”
“Yes, I heard.” He raised his eyes, obviously relieved that the topic was shifting away from him. “They say you will run as Senator after the serving Senator’s first term.”
This time it was harder to suppress the spike of emotion that jumped inside her. “It is unlikely I will qualify. The Parliament will consider it a conflict of interest for two elected officials to come from the same family.” It wasn’t easy but she managed to bite back the bitterness from her tongue.
The sympathy pouring out of the Jedi helped a little. “That’s rather unfair,” he said. “Palpatine isn’t even really your father.”
She started, surprised – even offended at his statement. “He’s my father in all the ways that matter,” she said seriously. “It was through his efforts that I was found after the Gungans murdered my family. He’s raised me, provided me with education, support and all the opportunities I could wish for. My own family could not have done better.”
“Still,” he insisted. “They’re your family. Your blood…”
She laughed to hide her anger. “That is an odd thing for a Jedi to say. Your people teach us to regard bonds of shared values, purpose and vision as much and if not higher than the ones of common race or family ties. Or is this a case of ‘do-as-I-say-or-not-as-I-do’?”
He didn’t back down, as she had half-expected him to. Instead, he stared at her with eyes that seemed to see too much. “Like I said, I’m not a Jedi yet.”
He was a little bit taller than her. She only just realized that.
“I hope we are not interrupting.”
For the second time that day, she was caught of guard. The tall doors to her Father’s inner chamber had opened. His audience with the Jedi had ended and the three figures now regarded her and the Jedi Padawan.
There were few men who could make Father look small in Padmé’s eyes and Master Dooku was one of them. But not even a diminishing of height could stop the rush of affection that she felt when she regarded him, his hands folded behind a figure that got chubbier every day – she’d have to look into the caterer’s schedule – his gaze that endearing mix of amusement and concern that it was always was when it rested on her.
She gave him a special smile before she approached the second Jedi, and bowed low enough that her head was almost level to the diminutive figure.
“Master Yoda, it is an honor to meet you at last.”
The old Jedi regarded her thoughtfully.
Later, she and Father stood side by side at the wall-glass, watching the Jedi embark on their transport.
As usual, she waited for him to speak and taking his cue, paid attention to the Jedi as they folded themselves into their vehicle. Master Yoda was gracefully helped in by Dooku, then the other Master followed and the Padawan served as chauffeur, jumping behind the wheel a little too exuberantly.
“What did you think of Master Yoda, child?” Father asked thoughtfully.
“He doesn’t like me,” Padmé said at once. There was no sadness or anger in her voice, just concern.
“Indeed? You’ll have to do something about that then.”
She sighed. “Yes, Father.”
“What did you think of his Padawan?”
The blue exhaust flames of the speeder ignited. Her eyes were trained on the Padawan so she did not miss the sudden sharp turn his head made, the way his eyes seemed to leap across the distance and find hers. And hold them.
Then she blinked and the speeder was gone.
“I think Anakin Skywalker is a very talented Padawan, perceptive and physically adept. He hasn’t mastered their serenity and he’s not very skilled at hiding his emotions. He’s also too aware of his talents for a proper Jedi. He still has a lot of training to do before he becomes one.”
Father was silent. Padmé tried to gather her thoughts together. They seemed to have scattered before a pair of startling blue eyes.
“I also think Anakin Skywalker is not very sure he wants to be a Jedi.”
Palpatine smiled. He turned to her and one of the yellow twinkles she loved were sparking in his eyes.
“You’ll have to do something about that then.”