This fan fiction is in response to the "First Kiss" challenge.
Anakin sprinted between twin colonnades. His boots slapped against the marble terrace, the staccato cracks echoing ahead of him. He had to find her. Fast. He couldn't believe this. They hurried from the spaceport, straight to the throne room, to find Sab?, the queen's decoy, in royal costume, and the queen who knows where. With an assassin on the loose. Sab? had suggested checking the conservatory or the gardens, so Master Obi-Wan had said to split up.
The gardens flashed in the corner of his eye. Anakin swung left between two columns. A robot wheeled into his path. Anakin flipped through the air, landing in a crouch. He popped to his feet and did a quick double-take.
"Artoo? Is that you?" Anakin nodded tersely at the affirmative whistle, then jerked his head. "Anyone in the gardens?"
The astromech droid tooted its version of 'yes'. Anakin wheeled and bounded down the stairs, onto a graveled path. He stretched out with his senses as he ran, searching through the Force.
Deep within a maze of two-meter high hedgerows, Anakin halted. He could sense someone on the other side of the solid wall of greenery. Seizing the Force, he jumped up and over the obstacle, his Jedi cloak billowing around him. Amidala lurched up from the bench she'd been sitting on. Anakin's mouth dropped open. He snapped it shut and bowed.
"Your majesty," Anakin said. "You're in grave danger. I must ask you to come with me."
Silence greeted his statement. Anakin straightened to see a quizzical expression painting Amidala's features. His gaze was pulled to the smile playing over her lips. "Why is it, that every time a Jedi appears before me, it is to make just such a statement?"
Anakin stepped forward, his gaze scanning her achingly lovely face. He scowled and refocused his thoughts. "But it's true, your majesty. The governor asked us to investigate a series of threats you've ..."
"I told him that was nonsense. He never should have contacted you."
"But we've traced the threats to someone inside the palace. The last message said they'd strike on Theed's millennial anniversary. That's today. Please come with me."
Amidala looked away, her hand fluttering to her throat. She drew a leather thong from under her handmaiden robe and clasped it, her gaze distant. "I'll be fine, now that the Jedi are here to protect me."
Moving closer still,Anakin stared at her fingers as they worried whatever was attached to the thong. His breathing grew shallow. He reached out and gently took her hand, ignoring the little gasp. He uncurled her fingers and blinked back unwelcome moisture. She had kept it? The little japor snippet he'd carved for her all those years ago? He fingered the shell, its carvings almost erased from wear, and searched her puzzled gaze.
"You still have it," Anakin whispered.
"Still?" Amidala's reply was hushed. Her eyes grew round. "Ani? Li-little Ani?"
Anakin gave her a lop-sided smile.
"I always think of you as the little boy I knew," Amidala said. "You've grown up. You're so ..."
Her face flushed an enticing pink. Anakin's smile widened. "Ten years can do that, Padm?." He squeezed his eyes shut. "I'm sorry. I mean, your majesty."
Her small hands wrapped around his, enclosing the snippet in his palm. "Please. I'd prefer Padme, even Amidala. I can't stand the thought of such formality ... between us. I still think of you as a friend, Anakin, even though we haven't seen each other all these years."
Anakin looked into her eyes. He could drown in that gaze. Happily. She was so incredibly beautiful. More beautiful than an angel.
"Not really," Amidala said.
Startled, Anakin struggled not to flush. He hadn't meant to say that aloud. His gaze dropped to their entwined hands. Electricity spread out from her touch and skittered up his arm. He cupped his free hand over both of Amidala's and leaned toward her, brushing his fingertips over her knuckles. Gold flecks shot through her eyes.
"But it is true." Anakin's voice lowered. "Padme."
Anakin watched her moisten her lips. Amidala tried to tug her hands free, then stilled. Her voice was barely audible. "You are far too bold."
"You only say that because you're surrounded by fawning, insufferably nice men." Anakin captured her gaze. His face drifted closer to hers, like a ship caught in a star's gravity field.
"I happen to like nice men."
"I'm a nice man."
Their noses glanced softly.
"No, you're not. You ..."
Their lips touched. Amidala's breath caught. Anakin's hand snaked up and caressed the back of her neck as his lips became firmer, searching for a response. Her lips softened. She released his hand, pressing her palms to his chest, searing him. One hand skimmed upwards, finding his Padawan braid and twisting it around her fingers. Anakin groaned and pulled her against him.
A tapping on his shoulder made Anakin freeze. He pulled back from the kiss, taking in Amidala's surprised, vulnerable expression. He pivoted to face his protocol droid. Annoyance welled up within him.
"Master Anakin," Threepio intoned. "I'm so glad I found you. R2-D2 told me where you'd gone. I've informed Master Obi-Wan that you found the queen. Shall I inform him that you'll be returning her to the palace?"
Anakin glared at the droid. He'd built the thing for his mother; why hadn't she kept it? "Threepio ... go breathe vacuum."
"But, Master Anakin. I don't breathe ..."
"Leave." Anakin stood, arm extended, until the sputtering droid shuffled away. He observed Amidala's amusement. The shell around his heart softened. "It brought me good fortune."
"The japor snippet. It brought me back to you."
Her eyes grew moist. "Oh, Ani ..."
A glint. Anakin wheeled, lightsaber sizzling, and deflected two laser bolts from a high tower. He pulled Amidala into a crouch.
Anakin squeezed her hand. "Let's get you somewhere safe."
Amidala whispered, "I am safe. I'm with you."
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