"So, my young padawan, you have finally been given your own assignment. Your patience has paid off."
Obi-Wan speaks to Anakin as they walk through the corridor leading to the Queen's private chambers. Anakin's astromech droid R2-D2 rolls along behind them.
Anakin defers, "Your guidance more than my patience."
"Yeah, well, just don't forget it. Don't do anything without first consulting either myself or a member of the Council."
"I'll be fine, Master. There's nothing to worry about."
"I'm not worried. I just--"
"--want to see me do my best, I know."
They turn a corner to find C-3P0 standing deactivated in front of the entrance to the Queen's chambers. Artoo rolls up to him and makes a series of beeping noises, and Threepio switches to life.
"What? Oh, goodness me, Master Obi-Wan! Master Anakin! And my little friend Artoo! What a pleasure to see you again!"
Artoo blips and beeps, the head of his canister body spinning happily.
"Hello, Threepio," smiles Obi-Wan.
"My sincere apologies for deactivating my external sensors. I was just catching up on the day's electronic communications. You know how they pile up."
"I'm here to guard Padme," Anakin says rather brusquely.
"Of course. Right this way."
Threepio leads them into the lounge area of the Queen's quarters. An array of very comfortable looking sofas and elegant chairs sits underneath a ceiling tiled with skylights. The verdant palace gardens are visible through the windows.
"Her Highness will be out momentarily," says Threepio, "I'm very grateful you're here, Master Anakin. The situation is more dangerous than Queen Amidala will admit."
"You should call him Padawan," Obi-Wan says as he flops onto a couch, "Master is a title he has yet to earn."
"My apologies," says Threepio, "I am programmed to acknowledge all sentient beings as Master, for I am merely a droid..."
"Don't you worry, Threepio," says Anakin, flushing, "I will find out who's trying to kill Padme, I promise."
Obi-Wan frowns. "You're here to guard the Queen, Anakin, not conduct an investigation. You will not exceed your mandate."
"I meant in the interests of protecting her, of course." Anakin stands at attention and attempts to offer a professional contrast as his teacher sinks into the cushions.
"We will not go through this exercise again," Obi-Wan scolds, "And you will pay attention to my lead."
Obi-Wan nearly leaps from his seat. "What!?"
"Why else do you think I was assigned to protect her, if not to assist in the investigation? Protection is a job for local security, not Jedi. It's overkill, Master. Investigation is implied in my mandate."
"You will do exactly as the Council has instructed, and you will learn your place, young one."
"Yes, Master," Anakin says coldly, letting his voice carry the further objections that he's not allowed to speak.
"Well, I know I'll feel a lot better having you here," says Threepio, his protocol algorithms scanning for ways to deflate the obvious tension in the room. "Perhaps while we wait, you could recount some of your adventures since we last met? I'm sure you've done a lot..."
Anakin whistles to his droid. Artoo rolls up to Threepio, extends a rod into a plug on his side and uploads a stream of data. Threepio's voice modulator lets forth a garbled mix of languages as he processes the flood of information.
"That should be the entire record of my accomplishments," says Anakin. "Well, the parts I'm allowed to make public, at least."
"My my my, that IS a lot!" Threepio says as Artoo withdraws.
Anakin smiles, and Obi-Wan chuckles.
"Your accomplishments are certainly great, my young padawan," Obi-Wan sighs, "It is only restraint you must learn. You're focusing on the negative again. Be mindful of your thoughts."
"My apologies, Master. I should not question your instruction; I am grateful for it."
Obi-Wan looks past his student to the bedroom door, and jumps to his feet.
"Master Kenobi!" Padme walks into the room and clasps Obi-Wan's hands. "It has been far too long! I'm so glad our paths have crossed again." She looks up at Anakin, and her eyes grow large in disbelief. "Ani? Little Ani?"
Anakin smiles wide and bows low. "At your service, M'Lady."
"My goodness you've grown!"
"So have you," says Anakin, "Grown more beautiful, I mean. For a Queen, I mean." He blushes.
She smiles tenderly. "Oh Ani, you'll always be that little boy I knew on Naboo."
Obi-Wan says, "Anakin will be near you at all times to protect you, and I will be heading up the investigation into the attack. Our presence will be invisible, Your Highness, I can assure you."
"Perhaps with merely your presence, the mysteries surrounding this threat will be revealed," Padme says solemnly.
"Now, if you will excuse me," says Obi-Wan, "I must go to the control center and review your security recordings. May the Force be with you. Anakin, good luck!"
He bows and leaves, with Threepio following to return to his post, and Anakin relaxes a bit.
"So...uh...how have you been, Padme?" He immediately wishes he hadn't said that, for how stupid it sounds.
"Really exhausted, actually," she replies. "Oh, Ani, it's so good to see you, and we have so much catching up to do, but could we do it in the morning? I've had a very long day."
"Uh, sure. I'll just--"
"Thank you for understanding. I knew you would. I'll sleep better knowing you're nearby. The other bedroom has been prepared for you, if...do Jedi sleep?"
"Well, yeah, usually. I mean, I don't have to, if..."
"Of course you sleep. Sorry. If you need anything, Threepio is stationed outside the door, and he can get it for you."
"Okay, well then. I'm off to bed then."
Abruptly, she retreats into her bedroom.
Once she's gone, Anakin groans and sits on the least plush chair in the room.
"She hardly even recognized me, Artoo. I've thought about her every day since we parted, and she's forgotten me completely."
Artoo emits beeps of comfort.
Anakin pats Artoo's dome. "Yeah, you're right. Tomorrow."
He crosses his legs, sits up straight and commences his meditative vigil. Eventually he falls asleep in this pose.
He dreams of his mother.