Padme sits on her bed, receiving her daily communication from Dorme through a small holographic projector held by Threepio. In these weeks at the Academy, this has been her only connection to the outside galaxy.
"How many systems have joined Count Dooku and the Separatists?" Padme asks.
"Thousands," says her counterpart on Naboo, "And more are leaving the Republic every day. Every system that leaves is one less vote against creating an army, and if the Senate votes to create an army, it will surely push us into civil war."
"It's unthinkable!" gasps Threepio, "There hasn't been a full scale war since the formation of the Republic!"
"The Separatists are building an alliance between the Trade Federation and the Commerce Guilds," Dorme continues. "Even if the Republic were to call upon all remaining armies in the galaxy, the Separatists would now have the larger force. Many of our own people believe the time has come to accept the inevitability of war and prepare for our defense. There are even those who believe we would be safer in the hands of the Separatists."
"We must keep our faith in the Republic," Padme says, "The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it."
"And thus is whispered in the heart of every child of Naboo," Dorme says defensively, "for as long as we remain on our throne."
"Thank you, Dorme. I'm sorry...I know this is a difficult time for us, and I wish I were with my sisters."
"So long as you are safe, we are safe."
"Perhaps I am not so helpless here as I've thought. Master Windu shows great loyalty to the Republic, and Count Dooku is still a Jedi Knight even if he's not on the Council. You tend to our people; I will do what I can from here to salvage negotiations."
The transmission ends, and Threepio stands quietly while Padme loses herself in her thoughts. Then the door opens.
"Ani! Come in!"
Anakin smiles shyly and steps inside, with Artoo rolling in behind him.
"I've hardly seen you. How have you been?" Padme asks. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in class?"
"Hi, I just saw, and thought, um...look out your window."
She smiles skeptically and does as he requests. Beneath sparse tufts of cloud stretch green rolling meadows with blue ribbons of rivers reaching to the horizon.
Anakin continues, "Doesn't it remind you of..."
"...home?" Padme finishes his sentence wistfully. "Yes, yes it does."
"So I saw this and I was wondering," says Anakin, looking her in the eyes, "do you like picnics?"
"I don't know if we should have left Artoo alone with Threepio," Padme says, plucking a stem of grass nervously as she sits under the bright midday sun talking to Anakin. "Threepio has been acting so strange since they got together. I think Artoo has been altering his programming."
"Artoo can be a troublemaker," chuckles Anakin, "But you're just changing the topic to evade my question!"
Padme blushes, "Oh, I don't know..."
"Sure you do, you just don't want to tell me."
They have sat in this field beside their parked landspeeder all morning, playing a coy and flirtatious game of question and answer with unspoken acknowledgement that this is safer than reaching into one another's minds.
"Okay," sighs Padme, "I was twelve. His name was Palo. We were both in the same school together. He was a few years older than I. Very cute...dark curly hair...dreamy eyes..."
"Alright, I get the picture," groans Anakin. "Whatever happened to him?"
"I...I had to leave him behind when I became Queen. But I watched over him until he died; he went on to become a great artist."
"Maybe he was the smart one."
"You really don't like politicians, do you?"
"I like two or three," Anakin smirks, "But I'm not really sure about one of them..."
Padme returns the smile and looks out at the beauty surrounding them.
"This reminds me of a place we would visit on school retreat," she says. "We'd swim in a pond like that one over there. I loved the water. We used to lie on the shore and let the sun dry us, feed each other paya fruit and try to guess the names of the birds singing..."
Anakin waves his fingers through the air, and out of their basket floats a paya fruit. Padme laughs as it drifts towards her; it peels itself, and a bite sized chunk breaks off and flies gently into her mouth.
"I bet Palo couldn't do that!" Anakin grins.
Padme raises her hand to her mouth to keep from losing the food in laughter.
"If Master Obi-Wan caught me doing this, he'd be very grumpy," Anakin says. He impersonates his master. "Don't be a show-off, Anakin!"
"I won't tell," Padme smiles. "So, what else can you do, show-off?"
Within minutes, Anakin is perched upon a charging reek, keeping his balance despite the raging beast's attempts to buck him. A herd of grazing shaaks scatter out of their path. A safe distance away, Padme stands on a bluff, clapping and cheering. Her smile becomes a gasp when the massive creature catches Anakin with its three large horns and sends his body flying. He lands face down and does not move.
As the reek gallops away, Padme runs down the hill, calling Anakin's name. She flips over his limp body and flings herself onto him, feeling for life. She's about to break into tears when he breaks out into laughter. She smiles and curses and beats his chest angrily with her fist, and they kiss.
He wraps his arms around her and their boundaries collapse. They flow into a single mind and body. They avoid their dark memories and reach for the light they find in one another. The troubles of the galaxy melt away and only they exist, Queen and King...
"No!" says Padme, pulling away. She hurriedly stands and walks several paces away before stopping. "I shouldn't have done that."
"I'm...sorry?" says Anakin, baffled and disarmed.
"No, I'm sorry, it's just...I can't. We can't. It's just not possible."
"Anything's possible! Padme, listen to me..." He stands and approaches her, but does not attempt to touch. "From the moment I met you, all those years ago, a day hasn't gone by when I haven't thought of you. And now that I'm with you again, the thought of not being with you...it's agony. You are in my very soul. What can I do? I will do anything you ask..."
Padme meets his eye, then looks away.
"If you don't feel the same way, tell me," Anakin says icily.
"It's not that, it's..."
"Then you do feel something!"
"Anakin, listen to yourself. You're studying to become a Jedi Knight, you're not allowed to marry. And I'm the Eternal Queen. I have more important things to do than fall in love!"
"Your clones can carry on without you!"
"No, I--I will not let you give up your future for this!"
"It wouldn't have to be that way. We could keep it a secret."
"Then we'd be living a lie, one we couldn't keep up even if we wanted to. I couldn't do that. Could you, Anakin? Could you live like that?"
There is a long silence. Anakin looks away.
"No, you're right. It would destroy us."
That's all that needs to be said.
"I think we should head back to the Academy now," says Padme.
"Yeah, we'll have to cut through the mountains to catch up with them, we'd better get started to be there by nightfall."
They pack up their belongings in silence.