what started in beautiful rooms / ends with meetings in parking lots
Padmé rushes through her office to the elevator. Anakin is back only for a short time and she’s already late for dinner on his second day back. As the elevator door slides closed, she checks her reflection in the glass. She straightens her bodice, pulls her sleeves into place, and pats down her hair. When the door slides open again on the ground floor, she steps out onto the landing looking as put-together as ever.
Her stomach curls with more than just excitement at her husband’s return as the ship speeds to their – technically, her – home.
Anakin is in the kitchen when she steps inside. Even though they have droids to do everything, he still likes to cook for them when he’s home. Padmé opens the door softly and watches him for a moment – he sits on the counter beside the stove, pot lid in one hand and spoon in the other.
“Smells good,” she says quietly.
She knows he’s probably sensed her presence, but he certainly doesn’t show it, the way he turns around with a grin. He hops off the counter and gracefully picks her up in a twirling hug.
Padmé laughs, holding him tighter than she needs to. He would never let her get hurt.
If only it were the same the other way around.
She ignores the thought and continues to hold him tight when he puts her down. He buries his face in her neck and the feeling reminds her of the lips that touched that very spot not half an hour ago. And a whole lot of other spots.
As if trying to prove that his are the only lips on her mind, she presses her lips to his. His hands hold her face in a way that is both delicate and desperate. And she tries to sink into that feeling.
“Sorry I’m late,” she breathes when they break apart.
“Busy day at work” He turns back to the stew.
You could say that. “Yeah.” She laughs lightly. “Always.”
“Maybe,” he says, turning back to her. One hand on either side of her on the counter island, he steps in close. “You could tell them you’re not feeling well tomorrow. Stay home.”
Padmé smiles up at him, keeping her breathing even. It only feels like she’s trapped right now. “You know I can’t do that.”
He leans in until they are only a breath apart. “And technically, I can’t kiss you.” He presses a soft kiss to the corner of her mouth. “But we all break the rules sometimes.”
The next day, after lunch, when Padmé tells the staff she isn’t feeling well and is going home, it’s not Anakin to whom she whispers, Not here, when he grabs her waist in the elevator. It is not Anakin who she leads to an empty office on a mostly-unused floor. And it is certainly not Anakin who pushes her up against the closed door, mouthing at her collarbone while she tugs at the belt of his robes.
Being with Obi-Wan in secret is very different from being with Anakin in secret. With Anakin, it is exhilarating in a giggly sort of way. It’s like she is getting the experiences of the normal teenagehood that she missed, a time she spent in government meetings.
With Obi-Wan it’s different. Maybe because he’s older. Maybe because he touches her with more assuredness than he should have in their situation.
But mostly because the forbiddenness of their encounters runs much deeper than the Jedi rules. It’s not just rebellion; it’s betrayal of the one they loved most.
So they don’t speak much.
Sated and breathless, they sit beside each other on the floor, leaning against a desk. Now that the initial rush has passed, they don’t touch.
“Anakin wants me to come over for dinner tomorrow,” says Obi-Wan, breaking the two most important rules at once.
“Oh,” is all Padmé can manage.
“I’ve tried to refuse the invitation but –”
“He won’t take no for an answer,” she finishes. Even now his stubbornness nearly makes her smile.
Padmé sighs. “It’ll be fine.” She doesn’t want to look at Obi-Wan but does anyway. If only to make it seem like she believes it.
And oh, does she hate the way he is looking at her. The way he never has – the way she appreciated he never did. That she’s too young and naïve to understand what they’re doing here, but he does and blames himself for putting her in this position. As though this wasn’t her decision as well.
“It will be,” she insists, trying not to get angry with him. “The three of us are together all the time.” She begins to button up her top.
“Of course,” Obi-Wan says, decisively nonchalant. He stands up and begins to rescue his robes from their tangled pile on the floor.
“Stop that,” Padmé says.
He stops his disentangling and looks at her. “Stop what?”
“Indulging me.” She stands up. “Treating me like a child.”
“Well, if this is how I treat children, that would –” He stops as her gaze grows murderous. “What do you want me to say, Padmé?”
“What you think!” she bursts out, stepping towards him, letting her still unbuttoned skirt pool around her feet. “Instead of looking at me like I’m some poor naïve victim.”
“You want to know what I think?”
“I think we’re both terrible people, hurting the person we care most about besides each other,” he says, and Padmé’s heart starts to sink. “I’m afraid that if Anakin finds out, he’ll hate us both, but I’m even more afraid that he would give us his blessing because he wants us both to be happy.” He pauses as though Padmé needs that for the words to sink in properly. “Something we couldn’t even afford him ourselves.”
They are standing far too close to each other to be speaking but Padmé cannot tear herself away. Because while she’s stopped trying to quantify her feelings for him – because that would force her to compare it to what she feels for Anakin – it looks like he has taken that leap.
Because he does not hope that she would leave Anakin to be with him. He assumes she would.
And he thinks she stays with Anakin… why? Out of a sense of loyalty? Not wanting to hurt him? Because of a childhood crush?
She’s not sure if she should pity him or be angry with him.
She stays with Anakin because she loves him.
Though clearly not enough.
Padmé steps back from Obi-Wan, back into her skirt, which she pulls up her legs and fastens at her waist. She grabs her heavy cloak from a chair and when she turns back, he is still looking at her.
“What should I tell Anakin?” he asks finally as she steps into her shoes.
“Whatever you want.” The words come out harsher than she means. “I mean, it’s up to you whether you want to come over for dinner.” She fastens the cloak at her throat and does not look back at him as she leaves the room.
“I’ve asked Obi-Wan to come over for dinner tomorrow night,” Anakin says that evening as they sit in the living room.
Padmé looks up from her book and smiles. “Oh, that’s a great idea.” A prepared answer.
“I feel kinda bad for him, in his quarters all alone,” he says. “Sometimes I think he should just move in with us.”
A light laugh to hide the flash of panic in her eyes. “I doubt he’d ever agree to that.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” He smiles. “But if anyone could convince him…”
She laughs again as she tries not to imagine laying next to Anakin in bed with Obi-Wan just down the hall.
Padmé has no idea how Obi-Wan does it, spending every day with Anakin without going mad. When Anakin is gone, she can pretend everything is fine.
But now, he is very much here, happily cooking what smells like her and Obi-Wan’s favourite foods, and everything is very much not fine. He bustles around the kitchen while Padmé, curled up in a chair in the living room, pretends to read. He’ll be here soon, and then they’ll have to spend several hours acting normally without the distraction of other people.
The three have attended functions together, especially since Palpatine’s interest in Anakin. But at those dinners and galas, there are always other people to talk to, who act as a buffer – between her and Anakin with their secret marriage, between her and Obi-Wan with their affair, between all three of them with this extremely messed up situation. One they made happen.
It isn’t like it was intentional, at least not in the beginning. An accidental touch here, a too-long glance there and all it took was one moment of weakness.
Her niece Ryoo was sick and Sola was worried out of her mind. Padmé wanted to go and visit but was swamped at work with a wave of new legislation. She didn’t want to burden Anakin because he had an even more difficult job on top of the fact that he was still mourning his mother.
Which is how Obi-Wan found her crying in her office one evening, long after everyone else had gone home.
He rushed to her side. “Padmé! What’s wrong?”
“Obi-Wan, no, it’s –” she tried to wipe the tears from her cheeks, smearing makeup. “I’m alright.”
He knelt beside her chair and put a hand on her arm. “Well, clearly you’re not alright.”
She sniffled a little and wiped her nose on her sleeve.
“What is it?” His tone was gentle and warm.
“Ryoo is sick,” she said finally, voice scratchy. “My parents say she’ll be fine, it’s just a childhood illness, but Sola is out of her mind with worry. And I –” She hiccupped. “I’ve been away from her so much because of my work, I’ve missed so much of her life. I just wish I could be there for her with things like this.”
He didn’t say anything, just let her ramble on.
“And it’s not just about Ryoo being sick. I was two weeks late for her birth, and I guess I just thought that going there now would at least start to make up for it.”
“I’m sure she doesn’t blame you for any of that. Your family is proud of what you do,” Obi-Wan said. He took her hand, thumb gently stroking it. “There are sacrifices you had to make – sacrifices everyone has to make, depending on what they decide to do with their lives – and your family understands that I’m sure.”
She nodded, finally looking at him. His light eyes were full of empathy and understanding, and something else she couldn’t quite name in that moment. She pulled her hand gently out of Obi-Wan’s so she could wipe her face again. When she saw the traces of makeup on her fingers, she laughed a little. “I must look like a disaster!”
Obi-Wan just smiled gently. “Not at all.” There it was again, that something that softened his tone, that sent a strange shudder down through Padmé’s chest and stomach.
He rose and held out his hand to her. “You look as lovely as ever,” he said as she took it and stood.
She did not let go of his hand, because it made her feel so steady and sure. She wasn’t sure what to say to him. She always put on such a strong face, that he was now on the very short list of people who had seen her cry since the beginning of her term as queen so long ago. She just squeezed his hand tightly and said, “Thank you.”
“Anytime you need someone to confide in,” he said. “You can come to me.”
She pulled him into a hug, standing on her toes to wrap her arms around his neck. His arms were firm and strong around her.
It was nice.
It was more than nice, much more than she cared to admit.
Neither pulled out of the hug all the way, lingering inches apart. With hitching breaths and searching eyes they each waited for the other to make a move – either closing the distance or pulling away. She still isn’t sure who leaned in first, just that before she knew it, his mouth was on hers.
Of course they pulled away quickly, because Anakin, stumbling away from each other, because Anakin, shocked stares turning to guilty fixations with the carpet, because oh my god, Anakin.
“I’m sorry,” Obi-Wan said. Maybe he had leaned in first.
Or maybe she had. “No, I shouldn’t have –” She pressed a hand to her mouth and looked back at Obi-Wan as the weight of it all bore down on her. “What have we done?”
“Nothing,” he said quickly. “If we don’t talk about it, we can…”
“Pretend it didn’t happen?” She was doubtful but the way Obi-Wan nodded, she wanted to believe it.
And, true to their word, they didn’t talk about it. In fact, they very rarely spoke at all when they were together, in empty offices and Coruscanti hotel rooms under fake names.
A knock on the door makes Padmé jump.
“Can you get it, babe?” Anakin calls.
“Of course.” Padmé closes her book, rises and walks to the door, all at a normal speed.
Obi-Wan, dressed down from his full robes, holds a bottle and smiles congenially. “Padmé!” he says.
“Obi-Wan!” she matches his tone. “Come in, come in!”
They are the epitome of hostess and guest. Obi-Wan offers her the wine and she tells him he shouldn’t have. He says it was no trouble and she accepts it with a laugh.
Then she offers to take over stirring for Anakin so he and Obi-Wan can sit down, but he won’t hear it.
“You know what happens when you come near a stove, Padmé.” He shoos them into the living room. “It’ll be done in a few minutes.”
They sit on the long couch, a person-sized space between them. Obi-Wan asks what’s been keeping her busy at work lately and they manage to fill the long minutes discussing the lunar proxy wars in the Outer Rim.
When Anakin calls them to the table, he stands behind Padmé’s chair, hand on her shoulder, as he describes the meal. “Geng Zhi with Tanlan Sauce for Obi-Wan and Krucurant Stuffed Bread for you, my dear.”
Padmé smiles with surprise. “Krucurant?” She looks up at him.
“I may or may not have been secretly in contact with your mother to learn how to make that.” And he kisses her, briefly, sweetly, because he’s happy. He’s happy that he’s made her happy. And because they don’t have to hide with Obi-Wan.
“The first few attempts didn’t smell this good,” Obi-Wan says with a smile. “Believe me.” They look at each other for a moment and an image of Obi-Wan watching Anakin work hard to learn to cook one of her favourite childhood dishes flashes across her mind. It makes her want to break into pieces and crumble to the floor.
“Well, dig in guys!” Anakin sits down and begins to dish out the food.
Padmé lets them carry the conversation a time, telling stories of their various escapades. She gasps and laughs at all the right spots. And she can tell when Anakin alters stories slightly, making them sound less dangerous than what really happened, always making sure she’s not too worried about him.
“So, of course, we checked in with the locals before we went out to the volcanic region,” Anakin says. “To make sure we didn’t go anywhere with active volcanoes.”
Padmé smiles and reaches out to squeeze his hand. “I’m sure you did.” It’s not sarcastic, of course, because she does not begrudge him this consideration. Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Obi-Wan watching them, and then looking down at his plate. She tries to ignore him because if he wasn’t here, this would almost be a perfect moment.
“Anakin is always very careful,” says Obi-Wan, with a slight uncharacteristic edge to his voice. “So that he can make it back in one piece to you.”
Padmé’s head snaps over to look at him, but he merely smiles at them. Like a friend who is happy about their wedded bliss. She wants to scream.
Anakin squeezes her hand in turn, looking at the dark glove covering his robot hand. “Well, maybe not as careful as I should be.”
“As long as you come back, I’m happy,” she says, with a smile that she tries to soften, despite the way she can feel Obi-Wan’s eyes bore into her.
Sometimes she wonders how Anakin cannot see what is happening right in front of him. Late at night, she sometimes looks at him, his sleeping form beside her, and thinks that maybe he does know. And if he does, she is afraid that he doesn’t say anything about it because he is afraid to lose them. She wants to tell him that he could never lose her. That this thing with Obi-Wan doesn’t mean anything and she could end it at any time.
Except that would be a lie, because if she does love Anakin and could end things with Obi-Wan easily, why hasn’t she yet?
Anakin takes her hand and kisses it lightly and she feels herself blush a little, as though this small act of intimacy suddenly embarrasses her. The way he looks up at her, eyes so soft and full of love, cuts her to the core. Because why the hell is she risking losing this? Why would she ever do something she knows would push him away, make him hate her?
“As much as I cannot formally approve,” Obi-Wan says. “I will unofficially note that Anakin is happier since he was reunited with you.” He looks at her. “I am glad for you both.”
It’s an apology, she thinks. For how much, she isn’t sure.
Anakin grins at him and then back at her. “I’m happy for us too.”
And she is resolved on her course of action. She had always known this thing with Obi-Wan would end, whether by Anakin finding out and them falling apart out of guilt, or like this. She will tell him, the next time they rendezvous. He will understand. Of course he will.
But then, as Obi-Wan is leaving, he hugs her goodbye, and his lips take a tug of her earlobe, just out of Anakin’s sight. She inhales sharply and nearly shivers under Obi-Wan’s satisfied look when he steps away.
That night, she curls up beside Anakin in bed, only half-listening what he is saying.
“We should invite him over more often, at least once whenever we’re back here,” he says. “Maybe if he’s over often enough, we can convince him to move in.”
The words wash over her as she stares into the middle distance. Because she knows that tomorrow, she will tell him that she has an evening meeting. She will change into something tight and so unlike her normal style that no one would ever recognize her. She will go to a bar with dim lighting and questionably clean washrooms where her husband’s best friend will touch her in all the ways she shouldn’t let him.
And then she will come back home and lay beside him like she is doing now, as though everything is as it should be.
And no matter how guilty she feels, she will not tell him.
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