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Hello, all! Here’s another story from my archives of various Star Wars shorts. It’s just something I threw together because, well, it’s all too rare to see a story where Padme and Obi-Wan are interacting that doesn’t have them in a romantic relationship. I mean, SERIOUSLY?! That just weirds me out… There’s Satine and Siri, I’m honestly tired of the whole stupid set-up… and Obi-Wan and Padme might have been a great pair, but honestly, let’s stick with Padme and Anakin being married and not risk any love triangles, shall we?! Oh, and then there’s the small matter of Ventress…
Shut up, Erin, and just post the story. Oh, one last thing… this is an alternate universe story. I don’t think that it requires any more explanation…

We Don’t Have To Be Cinderella
It was the night of one of the less formal Senate balls; more exclusive than the annual formal, but still a Senate ball. Padme walked gracefully across the floor in her high heels and formal red dress, exchanging gracious greetings with everyone she met, whether she liked them or not. Diplomatic courtesy was such a burdensome thing sometimes.
As Padme made her way around the slightly crowded rooms, she found herself looking for one person in particular. Anakin Skywalker was offworld tonight; he wouldn’t be there. But his mentor and her confidante, Obi-Wan Kenobi, might be there. But if he was, he was probably in a corner somewhere, watching the hustle and bustle on the floor, the retiring scamp. He preferred to watch from where he couldn’t be seen, probably a result of being in all those battles. It was an instinct, of self-preservation. Padme remembered the haunted look in his eyes the last time they had met, and wondered what had happened, but she knew better than to ask, especially since she had been honor-bound to pay more attention to Anakin than to the older man. What a painful circle they made; Obi-Wan worried about all of them, but especially Anakin; Anakin worried about Padme and Ahsoka; and all of Padme’s instincts were screaming at her that something was wrong with Obi-Wan. Why Anakin couldn’t see it was beyond her; if he didn’t see it soon, she would have to give him a talking-to…
Without warning, a hand shot out of a curtained alcove and dragged her in behind the curtains. Padme fumbled instinctively for her blaster. The war had left her with survival reflexes as well, though not to the point it had forced them upon Anakin, or Obi-Wan. However, she desisted as a strong hand grasped her wrist, keeping her from injuring herself, and she looked up into a pair of very familiar, changeable, stormy eyes, now sparkling with amusement. Despite her awkward position, pinioned by both wrists, Padme grinned. “Obi-Wan. I was hoping I might see you this evening.” Obi-Wan smiled back, like sunlight breaking out from behind clouds, and released her.
“Stop thinking so loud,” he said quietly. “You’re deafening me.” Padme scowled at him, not too happy with this reminder of his ability to read her mind. Obi-Wan winced. “Can I help it?” he asked.
“I guess not,” Padme said, still frowning. Obi-Wan sighed.
“Do you think I like living my life with other people’s thoughts in my mind, other people’s lives running through my head?” he asked. Padme flinched at the graphic description.
“No, I guess not,” she repeated, more gently this time. “What are you doing in the alcove?” she asked, though she already knew. Obi-Wan sighed.
“Hiding,” he replied truthfully. “Some of your colleagues don’t seem to understand the fact that I’m not eligible.”
“Oh, they know that,” Padme said lightly.
“They certainly don’t act on it.” Obi-Wan muttered.
“You know, I’m starting to agree with Senator Rabanna. You are uptight.” Obi-Wan winced at the name of his most determined… admirer.
“I simply don’t see the point of flirting, especially when it leads to nowhere,” he said. Padme sighed dramatically, fluttering her eyelashes in comic imitation of the determined Rabanna.
“It can’t do any harm, can it, Master Jedi?” she drawled. Obi-Wan started and instinctively jumped away from her. Regaining his control, he held himself still, though not without stiffness. Padme laughed and returned to her own mannerisms. “I’ll never understand how you can be so naive and innocent, and clever and brave and street smart at the same time.” Obi-Wan slowly began to relax.
“I’m just not one to fence around what I mean,” he said softly. “I’ve been plagued with the gift of clairvoyance. A step further and I’d have Mace’s shatterpoint ability as well.”
“You know,” Padme said, regarding him thoughtfully, “you’re like a riddle. Unbelievably complex and incomprehensible on one side, and absurdly simple on the other.”
“And you’re one of the few people who has ever found the answer to the riddle,” Obi-Wan replied, lifting a water glass from the table and eyeing her over the edge of the rim. “Go to most other people, especially other politicians, and they’ll only see what they want to see about me. They won’t see what I am deep down.” Blue gray eyes stared deep into her, seeming to see the very depths of her soul, just like they always did. It was never unpleasant, though; she didn’t have to worry about hiding things from her friend. That was part of what she liked about Obi-Wan—he understood her boundaries, when to stop. He was trustworthy and honorable, and loyal on top of it all. Not like Anakin—sometimes she felt uncomfortable under Anakin’s gaze. Never under Obi-Wan’s. Still, those complex blue eyes staring deep into her always gave her a bit of a turn, at first. Now, though, she noticed with a start that something was different. The eyes she looked into held a slightly haunted look, shadowed, wary black depths that she had never seen there before. There was also a veiled, predatory gleam, though its interest was to something else, not her; still, it was faintly disturbing. Padme gave an inward huff. As if he wasn’t disturbing enough already, at the same time as he was extremely reassuring. She didn’t like what she was seeing.
“Bad mission lately?” she asked. Obi-Wan sighed.
“Maybe, a little.” he said quietly, sipping at the water again. The thought sprang into Padme’s mind, unbidden. He’s glad I wasn’t there to see the horrors he’s witnessed. Padme swallowed hard.
“You seem… disturbed. And disturbing.” Obi-Wan sighed, suddenly vulnerable.
“It was Anakin’s victory, not mine.” Padme suddenly became painfully aware of the hitch in his breath, the slight twitch of his fingers toward his side. She reached for it, but Obi-Wan caught her wrist before she could reach it. She glared at him through the tears in her eyes.
“You’re injured!”
“I was sent back here to recuperate,” Obi-Wan said. “It’s mostly healed now, so I have no excuse for not attending the ball…” He dropped his eyes quickly, not wanting, seemingly, to meet Padme’s soft brown ones. “It’s not a pretty sight,” he confessed. “And… I’m just not healing properly like I used to. Promise me you won’t tell anyone what I’m about to say, it’s basic Jedi nonsense, but the Dark Side is stronger than it was ten years ago, and getting stronger still. I have an unusually deep connection to the Force, and… well, let’s just say that healing is connected to the Light, and the Dark Side feeds off of pain and hate and anger and loss of life, so naturally it would interfere with my healing properly.” Padme caught in her breath.
“Is there any way to… fix that?” Obi-Wan sighed.
“Not unless I could go to some place where the Light was completely unhindered and went into a very deep meditation, and I hardly know of any such place.” Padme reached again for his side.
“Let me see,” she urged. Obi-Wan pulled away again.
“It’s hardly the time or the place,” he protested.
“Then…” Padme drew in a deep breath, hoping with all her heart that he would answer favorably, “at least… come and dance with me?”
“I would like that, Senator,” he said quietly, with perfect honesty. Padme smiled. At least he wasn’t fighting her over that. She rested her fingers on his black-gloved arm—he had lost the gauntlets, at least for now—and they left the alcove.

As they crossed the floor, they were flagged down by the head of defense, a tall, angry man named General Stalgard. Padme knew his flawless reputation as a stalwart soldier and a solid tactician, but personally she disapproved of his totalitarian air. “General Kenobi,” Stalgard snapped. Obi-Wan paused, his diplomatic presence flawless, and bowed, giving no sign of what he was thinking.
“General Stalgard,” he said deferentially. Padme, who knew diplomacy well, could see that every element of Obi-Wan’s stance and words and tone was carefully designed to avoid offense, to assuage and sooth upset tempers, to sidestep affront, avoid a confrontation. However, Stalgard, as always, was spoiling for a fight.
“General Kenobi, what do you mean by attending a formal event out of uniform?” Obi-Wan drew himself up to his full height; he was still smaller than Stalgard, by several inches.
“I have been active in the field as a Jedi for twenty-four years as a Padawan, Knight, and Jedi Master, and my attire has never been a cause for offense before,” Obi-Wan said, switching tactics. “Is there a problem, General Stalgard?”
“There is a problem when you’re out of uniform, General Kenobi,” Stalgard grated. Obi-Wan retained his calm mask, though Padme thought he must be inwardly seething. There was no apparent reason for Stalgard’s sudden attack.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand. My Jedi robes have always been good enough before—”
“This isn’t before, General Kenobi. And I am not speaking to you as a Jedi, I am speaking to you as a general of the Grand Army of the Republic. This breach in regulations is disgraceful, especially for someone as high-ranked as you.”
“Yes, Sir.” Obi-Wan said quietly.
“Salute and stand at attention when you speak to your superior officer!” Stalgard barked. Silently, Obi-Wan obeyed. Padme stiffened behind him. “That’s better,” Stalgard snapped. “Now, as long as you are standing on the bridge of your own cruiser, I don’t give a nexu’s rear what you’re wearing, but while you’re here on Coruscant, you wear your uniform.”
“Yes, Sir.” Obi-Wan said again. He saluted and walked away. Padme quickly reclaimed his arm.
“That was uncalled-for,” she hissed in his ear. Obi-Wan murmured softly in reply.
“Indeed.” he said, his voice still neutral, emotionless. “There’s only one problem, I fear.”
“What is that?”
“I don’t have a full-dress uniform.” he whispered conspiratorially. Padme giggled in spite of herself.
“Why didn’t you tell him that?”
“What good would it have done?” Obi-Wan said inscrutably. Padme scowled at him. Obi-Wan smiled regretfully at her. “Unless we’re in the middle of an emergency, I think this will be the last time for the duration of the war that you see me wearing my Jedi robes.”

It was months before Padme saw Obi-Wan again. This time, it was not an official Senate ball, but one that Padme was personally hosting.
As she mingled with the crowd, fulfilling the duty of the hostess, Padme stepped away from an overweight man in a military uniform and almost collided with another man. He was not above average height, but in much better shape than his fellows, and, setting him apart even further, rather than being some gaudy color such as burgundy, the uniform was stark, bleached white, with gold epaulettes. Padme took all this in at a glance, her political training kicking in. She had to remember everyone she met; it was a prerequisite of public life. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said politely, evenly, stepping away from the man. He turned suddenly.
“Padme?” he asked. Padme gasped. It was Obi-Wan, but he definitely didn’t look like himself in the starched uniform coat, the ironed trousers tucked into smart black boots, polished to a shine per regulations. Quickly glancing around to be sure they weren’t being observed, she grabbed his sleeve and pulled him quickly into the same curtained alcove they had hidden in at the last ball.
“Obi! I didn’t recognize you dressed like that!” she hissed through her teeth. Obi-Wan smiled sadly.
“I told you, didn’t I, that that was going to be the last time I came to a formal occasion dressed in my plain Jedi robes?” he said softly. Padme let out a string of curses, sotto voce, that did not sound in the least ladylike.
“That snob! He’s taken the life out of you!” she hissed angrily, looking at Obi-Wan again, from the boots up. The uniform was as plain as possible, under the circumstances, but still unbelievably… fancy… for the Jedi Master. Along with the epaulettes, there was gold braid on the sleeves, a gold cord laced across the front of the coat, and a small colored bar pin, denoting his rank. Perfectly spotless white gloves covered his hands. Certainly, Obi-Wan was presentable, even smart, in the uniform, but it did not suit him. It was cut to be flattering, showcasing his slender, muscular, lithe form, but Padme was overwhelmingly aware that it could not conceivably be a comfortable outfit. The white did not offset the healthy color in his cheeks like the light beige of his Jedi tunic did. The uniform made him look pale, unwell, and for a moment Padme wondered if he had been wounded again. The only sign that Obi-Wan was really a Jedi was the lightsaber that hung by his side. Obi-Wan shrugged, uncomfortably.
“Better that I make a smart turn-out and be uncomfortable than make a public scandal in clothes that are my own,” he said awkwardly.
“But it isn’t you,” Padme said in a choked voice. “I don’t like this. Something is wrong with the Republic when they make you dress up like… this… and make you hide who you really are.” Obi-Wan looked down.
“I can’t tell you how much I hate being General Kenobi. I know my family has been dedicated to military service for generations, time out of mind in fact, but that was under different circumstances. Dressed like this, I wonder if I’ve suddenly traded places with Hadrian. I thought I came to terms with that years ago… I’m not Hadrian, and I could never be.”
“Who is Hadrian?” Padme asked softly. Obi-Wan reached into a pocket in the uniform coat, and pulled out, not a holopic, but an unusually detailed and beautifully done sketch, colored with inks and watercolors, displaying a wealth of untapped genius on the artist’s part. He handed it to Padme.
“That’s the way I remember him,” he said softly. Padme studied the sketch closely. It was of a young man, bearing a remarkable resemblance to Obi-Wan, but with hazel-gray eyes, instead of blue-gray-green ones. “He was my half-brother, fifteen years older than me. My father married my mother after his first wife, Hadrian’s mother, died. Hadrian was a cadet at Hale Gray. He died in a training mishap when I was five.” Obi-Wan swallowed, looking down at the spotless gloves. Padme handed the sketch back, thinking that Obi-Wan had probably done it himself, but not wanting to ask.
“Were you there when he died?” she asked suddenly. Inwardly, she groaned. What in the galaxy had prompted her to say that? Obi-Wan glanced at her, not noticing her discomfort. His eyes had dimmed to a lusterless black.
“Yes,” he said, a deep ache that he couldn’t hide in his voice. “He was the first person I had ever seen die. He was encouraging, he was my idol…” Obi-Wan swallowed and took a deep breath. “I’m not the prince in the fairy tale.” he said softly. “I’m the stepmother’s son. Hadrian was special, though, he was…” Padme watched as he sought to fight off the thirty-two-year-old grief. She stood up slowly.
“Dance with me again?” she asked quietly. “We don’t have to be Cinderella.” Obi-Wan was silent as he followed her out to the empty hall. Quietly, Padme put her hand on his shoulder. They began to dance.
“Is Satine here?” Obi-Wan asked softly.
“No, she’s still on Mandalore,” Padme said quietly. “Busy, as usual.” Obi-Wan gave a deep sigh.
“It’s as well. I wouldn’t want her to see me dressed like this.” Padme sighed and rested her head against his shoulder. There was something between Obi-Wan and Satine, she could tell, though exactly what it was was harder to determine. Suddenly, Padme spoke up again.
“Have you ever… have you ever been in love, Obi-Wan?”
“How did you guess?” he asked, his voice quiet, almost wistful.
“I don’t know. I guess, maybe the way you act, maybe… I don’t know.” She hesitated again. “Is it Satine?”
“Yes.” Obi-Wan replied, even more quietly than before. “I’ve tried to hide the way I feel, lock it away, but it doesn’t seem to work. I have to accept it and move on, I suppose, however much I’ll regret it. Sometimes… sometimes I wish I didn’t have emotions, or… that they wouldn’t play tricks like this on me. I’ve loved other women as well… when I was maybe fourteen, there was a girl who died on Melida/Daan, but everyone loved her… and then there was Siri… but I love her more like my own sister now… I can’t seem to come to terms with this, though. With Cerasi and Siri, I always felt more like myself around them. But, with Satine, even though there’s that, I just get so confused. I don’t understand it, and it is the nature of humans to dislike what we don’t understand… but I couldn’t go against this if I wanted to.”
“I know how you feel,” Padme said quietly. “How did it happen?”
“We were around each other for a full year. Things tend to happen in three hundred sixty-five days, and I didn’t know as much about life as I do now. If I had, I might have nipped it in the bud, but as it is, I didn’t know how to. Neither of us ever crossed the line, but…” Obi-Wan fell silent. “It was almost as bad as if we had pushed the boundaries.” There was a short pause. “Facing death every day, these philosophical arguments we got into… they always wound up making us, and my master, laugh… our choice of subject matter to argue over varied from the public schools to when warfare could be called justifiable… It partly helped me to get back on my feet after a particularly rough assignment, but when I left, it felt like I was leaving behind part of myself. I guess… I guess Satine was just everything I would ever hope to be. She was always the brave one, not me. I was the survivor; she was the warrior. I know it sounds funny to say that, but… it’s true.” They fell silent, moving to the music.
“I’m glad you told me,” Padme said quietly. “It just makes you seem more human, I guess, and maybe… maybe I was thinking of you as being some kind of higher being that didn’t understand human emotion.”
“Oh, I have emotions, all right,” Obi-Wan snorted mirthlessly. “I just never show them, and I never let them control me.”
“I think I like you best when you’re vulnerable,” Padme said. These nights are all that’s keeping me alive right now, she thought. She was almost startled when Obi-Wan replied in kind, without even using words, directly into her mind. Padme just relaxed into the strong shoulder that was a constant support, and they danced until dawn, long after everyone else had gone home, completely oblivious to the fact that their hostess had, summarily abandoning her duties, vanished into a secret place to dance with a Jedi. The sunrise was something to remember, though she was so tired; Padme barely recalled Obi-Wan carrying her to her own bed before he vanished into the dawn.

It was not until the next spring that Obi-Wan came back to Coruscant again, somewhat out of persona still after his escapade as Rako Hardeen. Given his confession, Padme had privately wondered how he had apologized to Satine for the deception, but knew better than to probe into his business by asking. This time, the ball was the full formal, and Padme knew with some regret that there would be no vanishing into a side room to dance, this time. However, she did have Obi-Wan to herself for some time, as Anakin arrived characteristically late.
“I was afraid you weren’t going to come,” Padme said softly as he walked into the room.
“I wasn’t,” Obi-Wan said in reply.
“Do you ever decide to make the decision to come back on your own?” she teased gently. However, her companion was in no mood to tease. His heart-stopping eyes were gray with fatigue, almost black. There didn’t seem to be any of the gentle, bright blue left in them, Padme thought. Her heart wrenched at the thought. The change in him was becoming more evident. The war was changing him. He was older, sadder. Almost, part of her was screaming, What have they done to him? She dearly missed the young man she had once known.
“Qui-Gon and I are going to start operating as a team again,” he said without inflection. “He’s worried about me.”
For good reason, the nagging part of Padme’s mind whispered. Instead of saying it aloud, she asked, “What happened?”
“There was an incident. We lost… a group of… children. So many…” he sighed, putting his head in his hands, leaning what looked like his full weight on the railing of the balcony where they stood, waiting for Anakin to appear. He was just waiting, Padme realized, for a reason to slip away discreetly… Wasn’t that just like him? To run away when she wanted to help him, hide from her when all she wanted was to talk? Padme decided to use the time she had left wisely.
“How are you coping?” she asked gently.
“Badly,” he replied with a deep sigh. “Thank goodness they weren’t Force-sensitive. That would have destroyed me completely. As it is, I can still hear their screams. The Defoliator that surfaced early in the war has come back into use. And the Separatists… I just can’t believe that they’d sink to… burning… children. Alive.” He sank to his knees by the side of the railing. Padme gripped his shoulder, wishing she could do more. “I understand why Satine wants war abolished completely,” he said bitterly. “And I feel just as guilty as the man who ordered those children’s deaths. I should have been the one to die.” As she looked at him, Padme wondered how old he was. She racked her memory. Thirty-seven—thirty-eight, maybe, at most. And yet he looked at least fifty, easily twice his age, even. It wasn’t in his face or his stance, but in his eyes. Obi-Wan suddenly stood, self-consciously, dusting off the uniform jacket. “Here comes Anakin,” he remarked, trying to sound unconcerned. “Late, as usual.” Padme looked over the railing at her secret husband. She leaned back, blinking with surprise.
“He’s still dressed in his Jedi robes.” she commented. It wasn’t lost on her companion.
“He’s the Prince Charming of the galaxy, the Republic’s darling. He can do whatever he wants; no one cares if the Hero With No Fear is out of uniform. In fact, our favorite scoundrel is expected to bend the rules. Unlike boring Master Kenobi.”
“And what do they call you?” Padme teased. “The Negotiator. That doesn’t sound so bad to me.”
“Well, it seems that General Stalgard’s wrath was assuaged by jumping at me,” Obi-Wan commented. “The old hypocrite. Still, maybe he thought I was… how did you put it? ‘Too uptight’?”
“I believe I just said ‘uptight,’” Padme commented.
“He may have had my reputation in mind when our dear friend so kindly suggested that I come to all official functions dressed in this ridiculous foppery.” Obi-Wan backed away and bowed. “And now I’ll bid you good night, so you may fly down to your preferred escort, milady.” Padme could tell from his eyes that he was teasing and not offended in the least, but she still felt disturbed when he vanished. She should have done more to help him…

Months passed once again. Obi-Wan Kenobi came back from Mandalore with some new sorrow which he carefully kept secret, and a report of Darth Maul’s activities in the system, which the Senate duly ignored, adding just one more item to his list of troubles. More missions went by, and time dragged heavy on Padme’s hands when she wasn’t kept busy. Occasionally, Qui-Gon would send her a report on Obi-Wan’s well-being, for which she was grateful, but it just wasn’t the same. She wanted to see her friend herself. At times like these, she wasn’t sure who she missed more; Anakin, or Obi-Wan. She needed them both, she felt; she needed Anakin’s love, but she needed Obi-Wan’s support. Feeling more than a little jealous of Anakin, and annoyed with him that he wasn’t pressing his advantage in having Obi-Wan around all the time to the fullest even though she encouraged him to do so, Padme let work take control of her time, slipped into its oblivion. Punctually, at least once a month, and often more often than that, she received a letter from Obi-Wan, all of them closed with some variation on “Anakin says hello, and he will write when he has time (which is never, apparently.) Give my regards to all those at home. Your faithful servant, Obi-Wan Kenobi.” in his neat, elegant, old-fashioned hand, and occasionally a post script, such as: “P.S. Jar Jar turned up at our base today. Why, I don’t know. He sends ‘all meesa lovin for yousa and a big gooberfish kiss.’ N.B., I quote him directly.” “P.S. Anakin has upset a jar of paint on his head somehow. Just thought you might like to know. A holopic is enclosed, so you have something to blackmail him with.” “P.S. Anakin got into the kitchen today. You don’t want to know. I wish I was there so I could mind-trick you, but… he’s coming back home. Oh, he didn’t give himself food poisoning, but this is almost as bad… Forget I said anything.” And once, “P.S. Obi-Wan got sick and I’m supposed to post this stupid letter for him. Wish I could read his handwriting so I know what he’s been saying about me… Anyway, love you lots, and see you soon, I hope. Anakin.” Padme always hesitated before writing back. She knew it wouldn’t bother the Jedi Master if she didn’t, and she always felt awkward writing letters.
And then, late one night, Captain Typho walked into her room and said, “Milady, you should come downstairs. There’s someone there… I didn’t know what to do with them, so I came to you.” With some surprise, Padme came along, slipping on her robe as she did so. There could not be any danger, or Typho would never have let her near it, but that only raised more questions. Who could have come to visit in the middle of the night?
As they entered the lobby, Padme bit back a gasp. Her midnight visitor was none other than Obi-Wan. He was dressed in his normal Jedi robes, but they were practically in rags, both ripped and burned. He was missing his outer cloak, and the leather of one boot was scorched; the other had been slashed and scraped badly in several places, scoring it badly. His hands were bare, half-hidden by the tattered sleeves that partially covered them. Padme stared at those brown, scarred hands, wondering when was the last time she had seen him ungloved. It was probably when the war began, she concluded. Obi-Wan was sitting lightly on the very verge of the sofa, and seemed uncharacteristically edgy, reacting almost imperceptibly to every noise, every sudden movement. As Padme entered, he rose formally to greet her. “Senator Amidala—I’m sorry to intrude—” Padme sucked in a gasp as he swayed and almost fell, catching himself on a mantel. His knuckles whitened as he gripped it, trying to hold himself upright. He swayed again. Padme leaped across the room and grabbed his arm, pulling him back to the couch.
“Sit down, man!” she cried, finding her voice. “You’re not well!” Obi-Wan collapsed weakly onto the sofa, breathing hard. Padme felt his forehead, wondering if his current mental state had induced some sort of nervous breakdown. He was feverish, no doubt of that. Probably somatoform, she decided. “What happened, Master Kenobi?” she asked, motioning anxiously to her handmaidens to bring a glass of water and other various necessities.
“Bomb… in my quarters. Thank goodness Ben and Nasriel weren’t there. Ben’s on assignment… and Nasriel’s spending the night with Zaina Daemes. Council… sent me here… said… assassin would never suspect… I didn’t agree. I don’t want you in danger… all over again.”
“It seems to me you didn’t have a choice,” Padme said sternly, helping him swallow. “And you know I would always be willing to help.” Obi-Wan smiled weakly.
“They… said so too. I… was… no condition to argue.”
“I should say not! What happened to you?”
“I’m… just bruised. Nothing more. Just tired…” Long ginger lashes fluttered closed. Padme looked up at Captain Typho.
“We’ll put him in the guest bedroom,” she said decisively. “Reset the security system. Code red.”
“As you wish, my lady,” Typho said. He nodded and went out. Teckla Minnau hurried across to Padme, beckoning hurriedly to Dorme.
“We’ll help you get him there, my lady,” Teckla said. Padme smiled at her in relief.
“Have Yane get the medical supplies,” she said. “From the fever he’s running, I’d guess that he’s probably dehydrated. We’ll need to establish an IV line. Yane? Yane! Get Shai Ledon up here now and tell him we need him. And…” she paused for a moment, “his patient may have a concussion.”
“Yes, milady,” Yane said, hurrying off. A hum of activity surrounded the apartment for a while. Padme stayed close to Obi-Wan the whole time, not wanting to leave; she wanted him to at least have a familiar face nearby when he awoke. She caught Yane moving to remove the lightsaber from his belt.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded with unwarranted harshness. Padme winced inwardly. “I’m sorry for snapping, Yane. Leave his lightsaber where it is. He’ll panic if it’s not there when he wakes up. The last thing he needs is more stress at the moment.”
“I’m sorry, milady,” Yane said. “I wasn’t thinking.” Padme touched the handmaiden’s shoulder.
“I’m afraid it’s going to be a long night. For all of us.”
It wasn’t until the IV was established and Shai Ledon had come and gone, stating that the Jedi Master’s collapse was due to exhaustion, and not any serious injury, and taking care of a bloody bandage that had missed the cursory inspection, that Obi-Wan awoke. He blinked, his eyes flickering open, a heady swirl of confused color before settling into a semi-distrusting jade color. Padme leaned over him. “Awake, sleepyhead?” she teased. Obi-Wan swallowed before speaking.
“Hello, there,” he croaked.
“Hello,” Padme said, smiling. She took a glass from the bedside table. “Here. Drink.” She guided his shaky hand and was gratified to see the glass half-drained. Obi-Wan swallowed and pressed it back into her hand. Padme set it back. “You gave us quite a scare, there, Obi-Wan,” she said teasingly. Obi-Wan swallowed again and spoke, more clearly this time.
“I scared the Jedi Council worse,” he replied lightly, in kind, wincing as his injured arm twinged. Padme frowned.
“That bad?” she asked, instantly wanting to slap herself. “Well, of course it’s that bad,” she continued. “Someone planted a bomb in your quarters… but to do that they’d have to get inside the Jedi Temple… and that’s supposed to be impossible… isn’t it?”
“No, actually. It’s been done before.” Obi-Wan half-whispered. “At least three times in my memory, and I was kidnapped out of my own bed one of those times. So no, it’s not impossible.” Obi-Wan suddenly leaned back and groaned. “And there I go, giving out information you’re not even supposed to know!” he whispered. Padme took in a deep breath.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell anyone,” she whispered back. Obi-Wan made a move to sit up. Out of habit, Padme pushed him back down.
“I have to get back to my duties,” Obi-Wan said, determination steeling in his eyes.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Padme replied adamantly.
They stared into each other’s eyes, at an impasse. Padme was amazed that she was able to look at him this long without blinking; she was finding his constant gaze slightly hypnotic. Finally, Obi-Wan gave in. “All right, I suppose I’ll rest.” He leaned back onto the pillows, looking annoyed. Padme began to quirk a smile.
“It’s a good thing you decided to give in when you did. I was beginning to be afraid you were going to mind-trick me, or something.”
“I doubt it would work,” Obi-Wan grumbled. Padme giggled.
“You’re sounding much better now,” she said, then grew solemn again. “Something’s wrong when you aren’t safe at the Temple anymore,” she said.
“I’m not safe anywhere anymore,” Obi-Wan corrected. “And that’s wrong.” Padme frowned.
“I wish this would just be over,” she whispered. “And we could go back to being…” she paused. “Well, there wasn’t really a time when we were like family… I mean together, that sort of thing.”
“So, we’re talking about a someday dream, or just a nice thought that would never really happen?” Obi-Wan cut in.
“I hope it’s a someday dream,” Padme said softly, half to herself. “But it’s really not that realistic… I guess I was just hoping that someday, you… and Anakin… and Ahsoka… and I… and Qui-Gon of course,” she added as an afterthought, “we might… we might actually get to be… be… a family.” Obi-Wan smiled at her.
“We already are, Padme,” he said quietly.
“How?” Padme asked, feeling tears rise in her eyes.
“The deepest sense.” Obi-Wan said. He looked at the window, its shutters closed. “I used to look ahead to the future too much. I had anxiety to an extreme, bordering on being a mental disorder, partly as a result. I think one of the most important things my master ever taught me was how to live my life the only way I can.” Obi-Wan took a deep breath. “One day at a time.” Padme stood up.
“Sometimes, you look so… so vulnerable, so young,” she said quietly. Obi-Wan looked quietly up at her, but at that moment, Shai Ledon came in to remove the IV line. After he was gone, Padme continued. “So innocent. And yet, other times, you look like you’re aging so fast, you’re burning your life out far quicker than it should be burning. I guess it all comes down to living your life one day at a time, after all.” She looked down, then up at him again. “Dance with me?” she asked.
“Aren’t you afraid I’ll hurt myself, or something?” he asked quietly.
“It’s not that easy to get overtired in a bedroom this size,” Padme said solicitously. Obi-Wan shot her a quick glance, his eyes laughing.
“You’d be surprised.” he said.
Padme put a disk in the radio. “I made this song up,” she said quietly. “I was… just bored, and lonely, one day, and I suddenly remembered the day we danced in the garden, all those years ago… The night you were crying for Qui-Gon, because his life was hanging by a thread, remember?” Obi-Wan nodded. “And then, all those nights we would put in old country or folk music and dance alone in the ballroom of the palace? Well, I was thinking of that when I wrote the song.” She played the song. It was a recording of herself, singing.
Sometimes I feel like dancing
Across an empty floor
It’s getting late and the party’s over
But I just want one more
Even alone where the candles grow dim
Midnight’s tolled long since
Yet it’s here in the silence, it’s here in the dim light
It’s here that a friendship begins:

The first time we did this
You seemed so alone
Abandoned on the dance floor
Lost, forgotten, on your own
Your hand was so cold then
But now it’s gotten warm
And the light that was frozen over
Has taken a charming form:

Let’s dance, dance, dance
The whole night through
Alone in the ballroom
Just me and you
Let’s dance, dance, dance
The night away
For here in the shadows,
A light is at play
We don’t have to be Cinderella
No one’s asking to fit on a slipper
And expecting all those dreams to come true
But let’s dance together,
Just me… and you.

Obi-Wan reached down and set the player to record. Without any further planning, he continued the song.
I saw you dancing
The moonlight within
And all of me wondered,
Where did you find the strength to win?
But then you asked me
To come dance with you
And the loneliness of one
Became friendship of two

Each day the weak dream
In dancing grew stronger
And each hope that brought daylight
Steadily grew longer.
At first I was afraid I was dreaming,
But then the music started to play,
And I walked to the empty floor
And we danced the night away:

Let’s dance, dance, dance
The whole night through
Alone in the ballroom
Just me and you
Let’s dance, dance, dance
The night away
For here in the shadows,
A light is at play
We don’t have to be Cinderella
No one’s asking to fit on a slipper
And expecting all those dreams to come true
But let’s dance together,
Just me… and you.

Together, they sang the chorus again. Then Padme played the completed song.
And they danced.

Obi-Wan walked along the long hallways of the safe house on Taabar. Padme watched him from a curtained alcove, where she was sitting with Siri, hiding from the twins. Padme suspected that Ahsoka and Shaniel must have their hands full with the growing twins, but she wasn’t about to feel guilty about relinquishing the claims of her rambunctious children to the Padawans for just a short time. Siri peeped out through the curtains. “Here comes the Chosen One,” she remarked. “Head in the clouds, pondering some great moral mystery as usual. How he survived all those battles in the Clone Wars I’ll never guess.” Padme peeped out, giggling at her friend’s description.
“It probably had something to do with the glowering master who is currently following him around, trying to talk him into eating or getting some rest while he has the chance to do so.” she laughed. “What a team they make. Have you ever heard the insults that get bandied back and forth between the two of them once Master Jinn has worn Obi-Wan’s cool exterior away?”
“They’re men, what do you expect?” Siri drawled lazily. Padme giggled again. True, she had heard worse, between Obi-Wan and Anakin.
No, I won’t! she told herself fiercely. I won’t start feeling guilty about what happened to Anakin! I won’t let it spoil my happy moment! Padme curled her fists into the soft cushions of the couch. She willed herself to get back to thinking about Obi-Wan instead. Even though something about him always made her heart flutter, she had never felt romantically attracted to him. Instead, she felt protective of him, as she would feel protective of her brother, if she actually had a brother. But she did, sort of. Obi-Wan was an orphan, and though she had not known it at the time, she had adopted him, almost unconsciously.
Padme felt comfortable around Siri. Siri and Obi-Wan had loved each other deeply for years, and it had matured more into a fraternal affection, as passion died away. They could live without each other, just what Padme had been unable to do with Anakin. There was complete trust between them; they were more like brother and sister than lovers now. But at least Siri could understand what she was going through. There was a caring side to the Jedi Master, under her bluff façade. She and Siri and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon and Ahsoka, along with a lucky few others, had become like a family. Their common factor? Obi-Wan. Whether people were just naturally attracted to him, or whether he just bonded with subconscious ease, she wasn’t sure, but he was the heart, soul, and backbone of the group, and they were there for him when he was tired or lonely.
Padme studied Obi-Wan as he walked the corridor. He looked completely exhausted, and this time, it was more than just his eyes; it was in the slump of his shoulders and the way he dragged slightly as he walked. There was a smudge of dirt on his left cheek, and a suspiciously reddish-brown smear along with it. Siri shook her head sorrowfully. “Most Shendi tend to be slightly longer-lived than other humans, but Obi-Wan… He’s tired, and you can tell. He always did take things rather too seriously.” She smiled sadly.
“I have an idea,” Padme said, moving to slip out of the alcove, but a movement spotted out of the corner of her eye stopped her. Asajj Ventress had appeared out of a side corridor and greeted the two Jedi Masters cordially. Padme watched with some amusement the fatherly way in which Obi-Wan acted towards the former Separatist. Asajj had been a fierce enemy—to an extent—of Obi-Wan’s in the Clone Wars, and had displayed a confusing sort of attraction to him, an obsession in some strange form; now that Obi-Wan and she were on the same side, she seemed to regard him with the same reverence that Obi-Wan showed to his own master. For now, all was right, or at least, as right as it could possibly be with one of their own number gone.
Ventress passed on down the hallway, and Padme decided to leap out and accost Obi-Wan before anyone else could turn up. She slipped out from the curtain and into Obi-Wan’s path, barring the way. He looked at her as if he hadn’t noticed her before, half-tired, half-challenging. It was good to see that the familiar spark was still alive in those changeable stormy eyes. “Obi-Wan Kenobi!” Padme snapped, mock-sternly. “Good to see you haven’t gotten yourself killed somehow.” Obi-Wan merely gave her a tired look and moved to slip past her. However, she moved along with him. Obi-Wan froze, echoing his Jedi training. Padme suddenly smiled. “We haven’t danced in a while,” she said softly. Obi-Wan sighed.
“Padme, that’s true, but I’m in no mood for…”
“Remember, we don’t need the glass slippers.” Padme said. “We don’t need the orchestra or the ballroom floor. All we need is the music and the star-spangled sky.”
“Very poetic,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “But, not now. I’m exhausted, Padme.”
“Obi-Wan, please dance.” Padme said quietly. “Remember, we don’t have to be Cinderella.” Then the music took hold.