He held her in his strong arms as they lay in the darkness, their limbs intertwined, tangled about until she no longer knew where her own body ended and his began. Her head resting against his chest, she listened to the rapid staccato of his heartbeat, certain she could remain here forever.
How different she felt now. Gloriously content, alive. As if she was privy to some beautiful secret.
Her gaze wandered to the flowing white gown, still draped across the back of a chair where he had placed it after slowly slipping it from her shoulders. She bit her lip shyly, her face growing warm as she remembered the way his fingertips had trembled, growing tangled in the delicate lace as they fumbled with the gown's fastenings in nervousness and anticipation. She remembered the way the fabric had felt, caressing her skin as it finally fell in a puddle at her feet. She recalled the shiver that had overcome her as she had stood there before him. But it hadn't been from the chill of the night air.
"Padmé Skywalker..." she whispered slowly against his skin, languishing in the feel of the words as they passed her lips.
Beneath her, Anakin chuckled softly, the sound reverberating against her cheek. "It sounds perfect," he said, reaching up his hand, his fingertips becoming tangled about her dark curls as he slowly stroked her hair. "My wife..." he whispered as his hand grew still, his voice filled with awe and disbelief, as if somehow unable to believe that now, after all his years of longing, she finally belonged to him.
Resting her forearms against his chest, Padmé turned to look up at him. "Husband..." she whispered in reply as she met his eyes, her voice filled with equal wonder.
Leaning down, she kissed the tender flesh at his throat, sighing contentedly as she nuzzled against his shoulder and settled beside him once more.
Their lives would never be the same now...
It was a thought that filled her with both apprehension and exhilaration, her emotions racing, twisted and tangled about within her as she contemplated what they had done and what it now meant; the façade that would now be necessary for their survival.
Her lips curled into a mischievous smile as she imagined them at a state reception, Anakin dressed in his finest robes and she in her most beautiful gown. His manner would be most professional as he made his way about the room performing his duties, his senses alert for any signs of danger. As he grew close to her, he would nod courteously, offering only a formal "Good evening, Milady," as he passed by her. She would, of course, nod politely in reply, but her attentions would quickly return to the discussions of the senators surrounding her.
But only she would hear the need in his voice, hidden behind those innocent words. Only she would notice the way his eyes roved over her hungrily as their gazes met for that briefest of moments.
And only he would see the promise in her eyes as she answered his unspoken question. Only he would notice her body shudder slightly in anticipation of what lay ahead at evening's end.
To everyone else, they were a senator and a Jedi. Nothing more. Two beings, worlds apart, kept separate by their stations and duties in life. No one else would suspect the truth. No one else would know that, even though their gazes would never meet again that evening, they were always aware of each other's presence, able always to find each other, even amidst the crowds that filled the ornate ballroom.
And no one else would know that later, that same Jedi would come to his senator under the cover of darkness, taking her in his arms as he lovingly carried her up the staircase to their bedchamber, both aching with their hunger for one another.
No one would know the truth.
Or would they?
The smile slipped from Padmé's lips. Obi-Wan knew his Padawan well. How long would it be before he noticed a glance that lingered too long between them? When would he grow suspicious of the nights Anakin mysteriously did not return to the Temple?
How long would it be before they became hopelessly tangled and trapped in their own web of lies and deception?
And when that moment arrived, what would happen to them? Would Anakin somehow be taken from her, banished to some distant wasteland of a planet as punishment by the Jedi Council, all under the guise of his duties to the war that would soon lay claim to the galaxy?
The very thought of it filled her with panic, and she instinctively burrowed her face even closer to him, needing to reassure herself that he was really here, that they were together.
She loved him. And she knew that no matter how much they wanted to believe otherwise, the existence they had created together hung now on that same tangled web. A web that was fragile, held together by the thinnest of threads. And when even a single thread broke, it would all unravel, the web beginning to untangle.
And then it would all come crashing down around them.
Stifling back a frightened sob, Padmé lifted herself on her forearms once again, needing to look into his eyes.
"Promise me it will stay like this. Forever," she whispered urgently, suddenly feeling as if she had stepped off a precipice and needing to know that he would be there to catch her, to somehow catch them both. "Promise me you will never leave me."
She watched as his brows furrowed with concern, his eyes searching hers for a reason for her sudden outburst. Then the confusion cleared, first understanding and then sadness passing over his eyes as he, too, realized the truth.
But he smiled bravely, rolling her body beneath him as he cradled her head gently within his hands. He stared deeply into her eyes, capturing her gaze and demanding its attention. "I promise," he whispered huskily, his voice betraying the sudden need and hunger he felt for her.
Padmé touched his face tenderly...but said nothing.
It was a lie, of course, his promise. But a lie told out of love, out of a need to offer her reassurance. She knew the truth.
And as Anakin pressed his lips tenderly against hers, Padmé responded with her own urgency, her own need to love him, to reassure herself that for now, nothing could come between them. That no matter what their future brought, they at least had this one perfect moment.
His kisses became more urgent, and her hands traced a lover's path along his back, his body shuddering against her fingertips as she tried to memorize the landscape of him, reveling in the feel of his warm flesh against her own. Then she wound her hands hungrily through his hair, finding comfort in the weight of his body as it pressed against her, her breath quickening as the silken sheets became hopelessly twisted and tangled about their entwined limbs.
They both knew the truth...
But just for tonight, they could imagine that they were the only two beings in the galaxy.
Just for tonight, it was a lie they would pretend to believe.
Original cover by Gina. HTML formatting copyright 2009 TheForce.Net LLC.