"I'm taking an extended leave of absence," Padme says, calling upon all her diplomatic skill to keep from cringing, "It will be your responsibility to take my place in these negotiations, Senator Binks."
Jar-Jar falls back onto the couch in Padme's sitting room, nearly fainting.
Padme sits next to him, taking his hand.
"Jar-Jar, I've seen you grow so much over the years. You've become a leader and a representative of our whole planet to the galaxy at large."
"Ya, wib you holding meesa hand!"
She self-consciously sets his hand back in his lap.
"Besides," she says, swallowing her own concerns, "You're next in line. You are who the others will expect. We really have no other choice."
This does not encourage him; his face droops.
"Can I count on you, Senator Binks?"
With a pompous flourish of his arms, Jar-Jar leaps to his feet and bows low.
"Meesa HONNAHED to be takin on dissa heavy birdun."
"Good," says Padme nervously.
"Meesa accept dis with MUY MUY humiwity and--"
"I don't wish to hold you up," Padme interjects, knowing the lengths to which Jar-Jar enjoys taking such formalities, "I'm sure you have a great deal to do."
"Of course, Your Highness," says Jar-Jar, using his most practiced phrase.
Threepio leads the Gungan out, and Padme retires to her bedroom to start packing. Threepio shuffles back in a moment later.
"Excuse me, Your Highness," he says.
"Two things, actually," he says awkwardly, "First, I don't mean to be improper. I know it is not my place to ask. But I was talking to Artoo and I found myself, um, wondering--if you can forgive the boldness of a droid claiming to wonder--"
"What is it, Threepio?" Padme asks wearily.
"Well, I just wanted to know...am I to be left behind with Master Jar-Jar?"
Padme gives a small smile.
"I think it would be good for me to have a familiar face around," she says, "Would you like to come along with me?"
"Yes! Oh, thank you, Your Highness!" Threepio says, clapping his hands together, "How delightful! I mean no offense to Master Jar-Jar, but to see the Jedi Academy Planet of Dantooine--oh, what a rare opportunity! It is said that the Jedi Order maintains the most complete databanks in the galaxy. Do you think I might be allowed access?"
"I'll see if it can be arranged," says Padme, "though we must not press the good will of the sanctuary being offered to us by the Jedi Order. What else did you want to talk to me about?"
"Yes, of course," says Threepio, slipping with relief back into his usual protocol algorithms, "Padawan Skywalker is here to see you, Your Highness."
Padme smiles wide.
"Please, show him in."
Padme rushes to seal her undergarment bag, and Anakin appears at her door.
"Hi," he says.
"Hi," she replies.
He smiles when he sees that she is smiling, just as she frowns to see him frowning, before each resorts to a neutral look of professional diplomacy.
"Everything has been prepared," he says, holding out a pile of rags, "You're to dress in these...disguised as a nerf herder. I'm sorry."
"It's alright," she says, "I don't mind dressing like a peasant. I've done it before."
"No, I mean, I'm sorry I couldn't protect you well enough. That now you have to leave and go into hiding, when you've worked so hard to broker peace amongst the Galactic Hundred. It's my fault."
"Oh, Ani! Don't think that!" She touches him on the shoulder so that he'll look her in the eyes. "My leaving has nothing to do with you. You've protected me so well, my brave Jedi guardian. I would be dead twice over without you, and our world ruled by the Federation. I do wish I could stay here with you, but my duty is to Naboo and I must do as my sisters Amidala ask. I mean, we have decided this is for the best. But we wouldn't have made it this far without you. You have become a great Jedi."
"Yeah, well, Master Obi-Wan manages not to see it," he says, shaking loose from her touch.
"Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults than we would like," she says, "It's the only way we grow."
"Don't get me wrong," says Anakin, looking out the window and far away into his thoughts, "Obi-Wan is a great mentor, as wise as Master Yoda and as powerful as Master Windu. He was the only one willing to train me, and I am truly thankful to be his apprentice. Only, in some ways...a lot of ways...I'm ahead of him. I'm ready to be a Jedi Knight, and it's entirely within his authority to make me one. But he's holding me back. He's jealous of my abilities."
"That must be frustrating," Padme says hesitantly.
"There is one silver lining, though," says Anakin, turning to face her, "I have never been to the Jedi Academy. I've been trained in the old padawan style, following my master wherever he goes, and I think I've been better off for it. But now Obi-Wan says I need a classroom to complete my training. I am to accompany you to Dantooine."
He waits to gauge her reaction, and is relieved to see her grin.
"I think that's the best news I've heard in weeks!" she declares.
"I wasn't sure how you'd take it," he laughs.
They're both surprised to find themselves hugging.
"Hey," he says, pulling away from the embrace before his body betrays him, "Why don't we take one more stroll through the garden before we leave?"
"I still need to pack," she says regretfully, "We suspect spies among the staff, so I have to do it myself."
"No problem, I can help," says Anakin. Shutting his eyes and extending his hand, he manipulates the Force to send Padme's garments flying out of their closets and into their suitcases, which then stack themselves neatly by the door.
"Ani, that's amazing!" Padme gasps.
"Master Windu says I've got the finest touch in the galaxy, but let me know if you see a wrinkle." He offers her his arm. "Shall we?"
"Um," she says, looking at the stack of rags, "I still need to change into my disguise."
"Right," says Anakin, "I'll, uh, just meet you out there." He leaves.
As she begins to undress, Padme notices how fast her heart is beating. She sickens for a moment, realizing that perhaps her sisters are right about her. But she pushes the thought from her mind. She's got a good feeling about this.