As usual, it's been forever since I updated this fic so here's a quickie summary so you won't have to go read the story from the start.
In Chapter One, the Naberries are murdered by Palpatine and three-month-old Padmé is adopted by Palpatine. In Chapter Two, eighteen year old Padmé and her 'father' discuss Anakin Skywalker's potential as a Jedi. And in Chapter 3, Obi-Wan Kenobi arrives on Coruscant and he and Padmé obliquely discuss their shared past.
(18 years … continued from previous chapter)
Anakin arrived at the Inauguration, still smarting from Master Unduli's rebuke.
The incident at flight practice wasn't even his fault. Tru Veld had issued the challenge.
Anakin made his way past the colourful, semi-inebriated dignitaries and stepped into the Grand Hall. The bright lights and even brighter celebrities almost blinded him. Doing his best to master his emotions – particularly the one that complained loudly about being here in the first place – he located Master Dooku's aura and made his way to him.
Dooku was in conversation with Sifo-Dyas and the two paused to stare down at the Padawan.
"Skywalker, so glad you could make it."
Sifo-Dyas' sarcastic remark was indulgent but Anakin only heard the sarcasm. He flushed and stuttered in reply to Dooku's curt questions about his Intergalactic Marine Cultures Exam.
He usually escaped outside at the first opportunity and today was no exception. The first balcony he stepped into was occupied by a very affectionate couple. More than a little alarmed, Anakin retreated into another one.
She was wearing all the colours of the rainbow. Or at least that's how it seemed to him. In the half-light from the room within, her gown glowed pinks and oranges and blues. Beneath the thin material of the gown, her skin glowed even brighter.
Looking at her made his chest hurt.
She turned to smile at him and he looked away at once.
"I thought you won't come."
She was standing right next to him. He dared a quick glance and looked away before he fainted. "I – ah – why would you think that?"
"I don't know. You Jedi seem to disdain things like this." He could hear her smile.
"No, we don't," he retorted loyally.
He squirmed beside her palpable disbelief. "I guess we think the money thrown on things like this would be better spent elsewhere," he conceded.
"Instead of fancy parties for the legislators."
"I didn't say that."
"You didn’t have to." He risked a glance and saw that she was smiling easily. It intimidated him and bolstered him at the same time.
"And what if I did? It's true. There are so many problems in the Republic," he muttered.
"Such strong opinions! Are you sure you don't want to be a politician?" She laughed softly as she spoke. The sound made him a little lighthearted.
"I'm having enough problems just being a Jedi." He bit his lip as he said it, worried at what she would think, wanting to see what she would think.
He turned his head and this time, their eyes met. Hers were encouraging, sympathetic. He could feel himself blushing but he didn't look away again. "I'm here late because I got into a competition with one of my mates. Which I wasn't supposed to. But the Masters tell me to play to my strengths then they scold me when I do. It's confusing."
She didn't reply at once. Her eyes drifted away, looking thoughtful. He followed her gaze to the view he had barely noticed himself … the glass house containing the Grand Hall’s artificially cultivated gardens, and beyond that, the steep slope of bright lights leading to the levels beneath.
"Anakin, I don't know much about being a Jedi but I think being a politician is a little easier."
"I guess so…" Silence. It was nice, peaceful. Sometimes their silences felt heavy as if they were still talking. This one was real silence and he liked it.
In the silence, he picked up on her sadness.
"What is it?"
"Tell me," he asked softly.
"Today is the anniversary of my parents' death."
"Oh. I am so sorry."
"Why should you be? It wasn't your fault."
"I know. I meant…"
She shivered beside him and his attention went back, almost as if he had forgotten, to her thin peacock dress and the soft skin beneath. It was very pale, the colour of pearls or beach sand in the moonlight. But he didn’t believe her skin would feel like sand to touch…
Soft laughter jolted him from his trance. Blood rushed into his head, pooled in his ears.
"Enjoy your evening, Jedi Skywalker."
And with a whisper of silk, she had gone.
As always, feedback is very much appreciated!