Part 18: This Sceptered Isle.
(Richard II, act. 2, sc. 1, l. 40)
Padmé had never been so relieved to see someone alive and well in all of her life. Watching and listening to the surveillance of the audio and holo feeds had been one thing, seeing Obi-Wan return, battle-worn but unscathed from the encounter was quite another. Before she was aware of even half her actions, she had ran from the security room in the villa to the side entrance, reaching the edge of short path just as he emerged from the forest that separated the Convergence estate from her family's villa.
Within moments of his appearance she had rushed into his arms, holding on to him as if her life depended on it. That he was returning the hug just as fiercely escaped her notice, for as she drew back alittle to take in the look upon his face, assuring herself that he was real, the urge to do something arose and took hold of her. Only a few days ago she had been wondering what it would have been like to fall in love with Obi-Wan, now she was kissing him as if she had done so. At first he held back, unable to believe what she was doing, then he surrendered to the emotions he had so carefully restrained until now so that when they parted they were both breathless.
"What was that about?" he asked her quietly, his hand stroking her cheek, though how it had arrived there from where it had clutched at her waist upon their initial embrace was unknown to him.
"Curiosity," she replied in the same tone.
"And now?" he queried.
"I'm intrigued," she answered.
They turned round and headed back to the villa in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. He was re-evaluating everything regarding her feelings for him and for others that he had previously reached a conclusion over, she was still adjusting to what she had just done, and how incredible it had felt. Had she been so concerned with saving Anakin and the Republic that she had failed to realise how she felt about Obi-Wan? Such a revelation had not occurred to her until now and the answer was still marred by incredulity. Her feelings were confused, a natural state, neglected as they had been until this moment. She wanted to indulge in the newly awakened pleasurable sensations caused by their kiss, but she was nervous and hesitant to do so, worried that she might hurt Obi-Wan's feelings by surrendering to what was just curiosity and could not become anything else until she had the time and the rationale to realise the emotions she was experiencing for what they might be, or could become.
Inside, they fell into the routine that had occupied them since they left the capital to stay here, preparing to confront Palpatine at Convergence. Obi-Wan excused himself for his rooms and the refresher, intending to meditate and shed his battle-worn clothes, rejuvenate himself after what had been an exhausting day. Padmé busied herself about the kitchen, making a dinner for the both of them, a task they had shared over the stay, as she had not wished to bring either of the handmaidens who usually looked after her during the vacations at Varykino. Although they could be trusted to be discreet, she had not wished to put them in potential danger, or draw the attention of Palpatine, who was likely to learn of her and Obi-Wan's presence here if she used them.
Despite the familiarity of the meal preparations, she could not allow herself to analyse her emotions concerning Obi-Wan, for her confusion was such that it would render her unable to concentrate on even the most routine motions.
When Obi-Wan emerged from his rooms in fresh Jedi robes, disguise newly shed, his reddish blond hair still glistening with moisture from the shower, he found the dining table set for dinner and Padmé in her usual place, nervously sipping from a glass of Nubian water. Their meal was under heating covers to keep its temperature, and her hesitant silence allowed him to observe her properly for the first time since his return from Convergence. Clearly her impulsive kiss had been prompted by the relief of seeing him alive, and now she was worried that she might have damaged their friendship. What else she might or might not feel, could wait until she had time to become accustomed to it, as clearly she needed to do so.
"Padmé, you have nothing to worry about," he began as he took his seat beside her, reaching across the table to take her free hand in his own. "Our kiss did not damage our friendship. I'm quite flattered by it, and humbled by your trust in me." He took a breath before voicing the resolution he had formed during his meditation. "If you wish to explore your desires further, I will not stop you."
She was quite startled by his assurances, and it took some time before she could form a proper response. "But that would be taking advantage of your good nature and feelings," she protested. "I know how much you care, more than I know my own feelings at present. I spent so long focused on Palpatine and everything else that I ignored myself. I don't wish to disappoint you, Obi-Wan."
"You won't," he promised her, "whatever you decide. I care for you far too much for that to happen. And at the risk of offending you, its not like I wouldn't be gaining something from this experiment. Something I dream about, often."
"I'm not offended," Padmé replied, blushing alittle. "Its quite a compliment, from a certain point of view. Trouble is, I'm too used to focusing on what impact my actions might have in the future, that I tend to over think them."
Obi-Wan smiled at her. "My master used to reprimand my own tendency to focus on the future at the expense of the present. I quite understand the need to do so and I can't deny that this will change our relationship. But it will not damage it, not if we don't let it."
"As that is the case, I would like to explore it," Padmé uttered softly.
He brought her hand to his lips, bestowing upon it a gentle, tender kiss. "Then let us eat and look to doing so after dinner."
The meal was a welcome sight to Obi-Wan after the rigours of a day spent fighting a sith lord. It was also something with which to distract them from becoming too nervous over what might follow now they had agreed to explore Padmé's curiosity. His master's advice of focusing on the moment was well worth taking, but it was also difficult to apply oneself to.
When they had eaten their fill they retired to the sitting room. It was a warm summer's night, a fact which Padmé was grateful for, because the temperate weather dealt away any reminders of an evening spent in this room with another Jedi, who told her that love was a haunting tormenting scar upon his soul, yet begged for her to be suffering with it just as much as he. There was rarely an evening when she did not look back upon that night and wonder if she had made the right choice, or if she had remained true to her convictions that things might have been different. She was living this life now, repeating a past she had changed so the future and he, along with everyone else she had ever known might be spared. And now she was about to plunge into an unknown future with another Jedi who loved her. She feared that it might produce the same darkness she had been sent back in time to erase, yet she knew that Obi-Wan was utterly different from Anakin, that his love for her was equally so.
He followed her into the sitting room, pausing behind her as she came to the sofas, but before she could sit down, he had swept his arms around her, drawing her against him. His hand came up to cup her face, turning her towards his so that their lips touched. As he had hoped the suddenness of the move caught Padmé by surprise, sweeping away her nerves in favour of a return to those pleasurable sensations she had felt through her impulsiveness earlier. Soon she was kissing him back, her hands reaching behind to cradle his head.
Now he was secure of her, his own caressed her face, while the other moved from her waist up her body, until it was tracing the outline of her breasts. His fingers rubbed her nipples through the silk of her dress until they were pebble hard, then moved down to where her gown flowed out at her hips. There he slipped under where the seam line of the dress dipped low at her back, exploring her belly until he reached the sensitive skin which lay between her thighs. Easing them apart, his fingers ventured towards her core, massaging her in a circular motion, causing her to gasp through their kiss from the sensations produced.
It was a bold move, one that she would never had expected from him, yet the tenderness with which he kissed, explored and caressed her was utterly true of the friend she had come to know through her two lives. Padmé found herself swept away by the sensations and feelings which he was awakening within her. Nothing but the touch of his lips and the rubbing of his fingers existed for her.
When the latter abruptly ceased she mewled her objections through their kiss. She felt him grin in return, then she was gasping for a different reason as his fingers swept upwards, caressing the skin of her breasts once more. She felt invisible hands unfasten the clasp holding her dress up about her neck, sensation of air upon her skin as the silk fell to rest at her waist. His lips slipped from hers to trace the edge of her chin then underneath to her neck, as his hands also closed over chest, pressing her against him as they fondled the soft mounds of flesh there.
Her hands grew inquisitive, leaving his head where they had been playing with strands of his hair to gleam the limits of his Jedi robes. She arched her back to allow herself the space to slip between them, finding the fastenings so she could feel his flesh just as he was feeling hers. He moved with her, letting her rid him of the belt and then the layers beneath, his hands briefly leaving her body so they could be freed from the sleeves of his clothes. Then his fingers resumed their previous motions, angling himself against her in such a way as to allow her the chance to explore him also.
He was finely sculpted, but not to the point of each muscle being defined. She could feel the strength he used in his life as a Jedi, yet like every other aspect of him, it was not a facet of boastful prowess, just humble modesty with a finely balanced confidence. She strained her own muscles to let her hands explore and caress as far as the confines of their embrace allowed her, managing to dip beneath his hips to caress him, rousing a groan from the lips that were still about her neck. She wanted to linger but it was impossible to do so as he pressed her against him once more, so she moved on to his back as his fingers moved down from her breasts in a caressingly slow and tender journey towards the juncture of her thighs again.
She parted for him, letting him stroke her the way she could not stroke him, though she could feel the promise of that delight to come through his caress and their kiss. A rhythm began, slowly coursing through her until she felt upon the brink of a pleasure that would consume her, only for the motion to fade away, as he suddenly pulled back from her. Taking her hand in his, he led her out of the living area into the bedroom.
There she could face him as he took off his boots then drew her hands about his waist. She moved them to free him from what was left of his clothes, letting the garments fall to the floor. He groaned as she touched him, his hands moving to her waist so he could finish undressing her. As they descended on to the bed, he sensed her nerves return so he caught her in his arms again for another kiss. His hands entangled themselves in her hair, freeing the dark wavy tresses from their fastenings. She moved against him in response to his touch and their kiss, her hesitation fading as each motion increased her pleasure.
And then suddenly he was no longer pressing against her belly but instead deep inside her, their joining unexpected but welcome. He broke from their kiss in time to see her smile as she reached this realisation, a grin which he just as eagerly returned. His sea shaded eyes never leaving her own, they found and fell into a rhythm that took them to the height of ecstasy.
In the sated afterglow, he gathered her upon him as they reclined against the pillows. "Padmé, that was..." he broke off, struggling to find a word that was not somehow inadequate to describe what he was feeling.
"It was," she agreed, her emotions matching his. "I never imagined how much I would come to care for you, Obi-Wan." In both life times, she added silently.
"I thought I knew how much I care for you," he replied. "But I realise now, that what I knew barely scratches the surface of what I feel."
"There are things I haven't told you," Padmé began, "things I feel its only right that you should know before we go any further. That is if you wish to." she was suddenly struck by an uncertain thought that she might have misread his feelings.
Divining some of her worry through the Force and from the way it flew across her face, Obi-Wan cupped her chin with his hand, his look at its most tender as he assured her of his feelings for her.
"Padmé, I have known for a long time now that there is a sadness which you carry with you, one which you have yet to confide in anyone. I will wait until you are ready to tell me, if at all. As for our relationship, I am ready for such a commitment, if you are also. I know that there are things which you need to sort out, perhaps more than you realise I do, and I will wait until you have. I have waited for you almost from the moment we met, it is nothing to do so for a little while longer."
"You are too understanding," Padmé mused softly. "I do not think I deserve you."
"Quite the opposite, I assure you, my love," Obi-Wan returned. "As for my compassion, I am a Jedi," he added, causing her to laugh.
"In all seriousness, when we go back to Theed, I cannot openly declare our relationship," Padmé said. "I do not wish to give my people the idea that I'm contemplating starting a dynasty. However, when my term as Queen comes to an end, then the time for discretion will be over. I also need to talk to my Council."
"And I to mine," Obi-Wan added. "Jedi may be allowed relationships, but there is still the tradition of asking the Council for its blessing. A formality, but one which is observed nonetheless. I was thinking about taking a padawan on before this mission came about, is that something you would be content with?"
"You would make a wonderful Master, Obi-Wan," Padmé replied, for she knew that he had, it was Anakin who had made the mistake in not following his example. "But you don't need to ask for my permission or my blessing."
"I do," Obi-Wan countered. "My padawan would be by my side for a great many years, effectively sharing our lives together, however long that may be. I do not mean to be presumptuous, but I have wished for us to spend the rest of our lives together."
"Having a family is what I have sacrificed until now," Padmé confessed. "It is something I no longer wish to do."