I love watching her sleep.
I know that I will never tire of this. Earlier in the night she threw her arm across the pillow towards me, and now it supports her head. The faint luminescence from the window is enough to let me see this; though in truth I don't need light to see her. She is the only woman for whom I can believe this is possible. Padm?, my wife.
The first time I saw her, I knew I would someday marry her. I was only a slave boy of nine, then. Until then I'd noticed girls only as silly little things, far inferior to myself and my friends. But she changed that. The instant she walked into the shop, I knew that I loved her, and that she would love me. She, whom I thought an angel . . .
And still do.
I told her I was going to marry her almost as soon as I realised it. She laughed, but not unkindly. To her I was just a little boy - a funny little boy. But I became the boy whose skill at podracing saved her life by allowing her to leave Tatooine. And leave me? No. For the first time outside my dreams I met with a Jedi. And to my amazement, Qui-Gon Jinn told me I could be trained in the ways of the Force on the distant capital, Coruscant.
He took me away from my mother and my home, but he also rescued me from slavery. I travelled with Padm? to Coruscant. While her Queen pleaded with the Senate to rescue her beleaguered planet, I stood before the Jedi Council. Qui-Gon had argued that they accept me as a Padawan, and they wanted to test my abilities. I succeeded in their tasks, I am sure of that.
But they refused.
Queen Amidala's hope of aid also foundered. The Senate debated long over their response - too long. Naboo fought for its existence, and she returned to fight alongside her people. Qui-Gon's mandate and that of his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, had been to protect the Queen. When I first heard the Council had renewed the mandate, I despaired that I would be abandoned on this strange world of metal and noise. But my melancholy lifted when I realised I was free to follow Padm? wherever she went. And follow her I did, to the swamplands on the far side of Naboo.
There in the stifling mists I discovered that Padm? and Queen Amidala were one and the same person. Did she love me then, as she turned her brown eyes on me and silently begged me to understand? I don't think so. But whether she wore a peasant's tunic, a handmaiden's robe or a Queen's gown, I loved her.
Destiny is often cruel. In the lower levels of Theed's palace, Obi-Wan watched helplessly as a Sith Lord cut down his Master. Although Obi-Wan avenged Qui-Gon Jinn by killing the creature, no amount of shed blood can bring back a life.
I have learnt this many times since then.
After the Council received news of Qui-Gon's sacrifice, and of the part I played in the liberation of Naboo, they conceded to accept me into their Order. Obi-Wan Kenobi, now Knighted, became my Master. I do not believe I was a submissive Padawan - I chafed against the boundaries of my austere life, and never failed to make my discontentment known. Yet despite the hardships of my apprenticeship, I had found contentment. Obi-Wan, though frequently critical, was never cruel, and I truly loved him. Even so, I would have turned my back on all this at one word from Padm?.
That word never came.
She grew with me in my dreams. The only woman I have ever loved, I loved before my peers became interested in such things. When Obi-Wan lectured me on the dangers of attachment I nodded assent, but my mind filled with thoughts of her as soon as his voice faded away.
She is beautiful.
Looking at her now, at the lashes kissing her face and the wisps of hair tracing the curve of her cheek, it's strange to think that, apart from me, the only person to see her like this is her mother.
Well . . . not quite like this. Because this is not the girl that Jobal Naberrie sent into the world to become a Queen. Nor is she even the woman who has returned home many times since to visit her. No, this Padm? is a woman only I know truly.
This is the woman for whom I am breaking the Code.
My love endured through my decade-long Jedi training when not once did we meet. For I, Anakin Skywalker, am the Chosen One; destined to bring balance to the Force.
After ten long years we met again. Sometimes I think I knew immediately that if the Jedi Code did indeed forbid love, I would break it. Yes, despite my master's admonishing and the ancient conventions of the Order, I was willing to break the cornerstone of Jedi doctrine for this woman. And I did.
My mission then was to protect her. How well I succeeded at that is debatable. Together we travelled across half the galaxy - and, as we did so, her feelings for me changed. What began for her as a fascination with this adoring young man grew into something far deeper. She tried to resist it, and it hurt. To love someone this much and have them try to suppress their returned feelings was painful beyond any wound I had yet received.
On Geonosis we faced death together and survived. We had fought monsters and men - but could no longer fight against something so good; so right.
En route to Naboo I asked her to marry me.
It was not the romantic occasion she had no doubt dreamed her first proposal would be. She had been willing to be my mistress for a short time on Naboo - but I didn't want to be her lover. I wanted to be her husband.
We exchanged vows at the same island lodge where we had shared our first kiss. And in the darkness of the Naboo night we were joined by a bond stronger than the Jedi Code, and stronger than the constraints of Padm?'s public life.
I am not the first Jedi to love in this way.
The Council may deny it, but it is true; neither am I the only Jedi to be married. Even so, I am content.
Because what I love most about Padm? is not that my relationship with her is unique.
What I love most about her is her.
I will face anything the Order or the Republic throws at me. Because, lying here, watching her sleep, I am happy.
I am happy.
Original cover by rhonderoo. HTML formatting copyright 2005 TheForce.Net LLC.