Han didn’t have many friends outside their family, though, and none of them female, and he himself had no family at all. Nonetheless, Leia’s bedroom that evening was crowded with everyone her mother had been able to gather up. Padmé herself was there, of course, as was Leia’s cousin Pooja, half a dozen of her childhood friends from Yavin, a pair of female Masters, as well as Khaleen Vos and Mirax Horn, who weren’t Jedi themselves but were married to them, Luke’s latest girlfriend, Winter Retrac, and even Padmé’s four surviving handmaidens.
By the time they’d bathed and dressed Leia, and Pooja had set to work on her hair, Winter was making both her boyfriend’s mother and sister blush with a tale so raucous most of the twins’ agemates were accusing her of exaggeration. “If Luke really did that,” young Twi’lek Jedi Cerni Olanga insisted, “then it would be entirely your fault, Winter.”
“Oh, don’t go blaming her,” laughed Kirana Ti. “Blame his last girlfriend.” And all eyes fell on Enmi-Ola-Mundi.
The Cerean spent several seconds glancing about looking for an ally, before sputtering, “I didn’t-you don’t think-well, look at his father!”
“You’re right about that,” noted Master Bultar Swan. “Anakin is about as reckless as they come.”
“About as reckless as Jedi come,” Mirax corrected her.
“It suffices, either way,” observed Dama Vallis.
“And if you want reckless,” added Sabé, “you can always take a look at that stunt with the Trade Federation control ship he pulled at the tender age of nine, landing himself a place in Naboo’s pilot corps. And just how many times was he reprimanded for reckless piloting his first year, Ené?”
Ené, who apart from the two Masters was the oldest present, shook her head. “Why would I be expected to have kept count when nobody could, let alone remember now?”
“Oh, fathers, fathers!” laughed Sheldi Vos. “How did your husband court you anyway, Padmé?”
“I’d like to hear about that myself,” said Yané, and Pooja chimed in with a, “Yes, please, do tell us how it happened, Padmé.”
“Well,” protested Padmé, “there’s really not much to tell...”
“Oh come, this is Anakin we’re talking about,” said Sabé, “there’s got to be some thrilling tale.”
“If you want thrills, Sabé,” said Briné, “she should tell everyone that story she told on your first wedding night, remember?”
“Oh yes,” said Yané, “that’s a good one!”
Padmé stole a glance at the chronometer, but Han was sure to be some time yet. “Okay, I’ll tell you the story if you want.”
“First of all, if you want to know just how long Anakin wanted to marry me, well, he says he did from the time we met on Tatooine, though I don’t think he was completely serious. He was serious about it, though, by the time I stepped down from my position as Queen and took over Naboo’s Senate seat. As soon as we were on Coruscant together he started courting. He surprised me by initiating a traditional courtship. It’s a thing that wasn’t done often on Naboo anymore, if only because it means only a short amount of time before being just friends with someone-if you knew them at all, and in a really traditional courtship you weren’t supposed to-and marrying them.”
“The whole thing’s usually a bottle of nonsense,” Sabé cut in. “My first husband did it. He was about the most pretentious piece of poodoo you ever met. He was related to the Emperor too.”
“I don’t know; I think it can work if you’re flexible enough,” said Yané. “I sometimes think it’s what Crix and I did, in a way.”
“I thought you two had sex before you got married,” said Briné. “Isn’t it a basic requirement of the Naboo Traditional Courtship that you wait until the wedding night? I mean, I know Padmé and Anakin did. In fact, as I recall, you informed us at both Sabé’s and my wedding night that Anakin came to your bedchamber completely a virgin.”
“Mother,” Leia interrupted at this point, “I know your mother described her wedding night in graphic detail, but we don’t really need that, do we?”
“No we don’t,” Padmé assured her. “And while what Briné says is true, Anakin definitely wasn’t going to be traditional in all ways. For instance, he used far fewer words than you’re supposed to. Mostly because he noticed my handmaidens kept rolling their eyes. He’s good at many things, but sweet talk isn’t amoung them.
Taking your lady on a ride through a picturesque setting, on the other hand, does have precedent in a courtship, but I’m afraid Anakin was...unorthodox. He had to be, to get my attention during my first three or four months as Senator. In fact, looking back, there are some things he really shouldn’t have done, and this may have been one of them. Though I think all three of Cordé, Dormé, and Versé would disagree. At least, they supported him at the time.
All four of them were very taken with Coruscant. It is a fascinating place if you’ve grown up somewhere like Naboo, if you’ve never seen one of the galaxy’s big multi-level cities, Coruscant being the biggest of them all. So they kept urging me to take a day or an afternoon off and go exploring, the way they did during almost all of their off-time. But I kept saying not today, not this week, not this month, and so on.
Finally, one night, Cordé came in with a bottle of wine, and told me it was a gift from Senator Javerbaum from Hatawa. He’d been trying to win me as a political ally for some piece of nerf-barrel legislation, so I believed her. I drunk a glass at the urging off all four of them and Anakin and noticed it tasted funny. Then I felt tired, put my head down to rest for a minute...next thing I knew I was waking up in the passenger seat of Anakin’s personal speeder, flying over a district I didn’t recognize.”
“He kidnaped you?” demanded a shocked Cerni.
“And your handmaidens let him? Helped him?” gasped Lianne Rostu, Enmi-Ola-Mundi’s apprentice and the youngest present.
“Actually, abduction during courtship is very well precedented on Naboo,” said Sabé disdainfully. “Typically servants had to be bribed, or occasionally they’d be too noble for that and they’d have to be drugged or even murdered.”
“Anakin actually didn’t know that,” Padmé continued. “He thought he was doing something very original.”
“‘Original’ isn’t the word for it!” exclaimed Dama.
“Well, I know this may sound weird, but in truth, I was grateful that he and the handmaidens arranged everything for when the Senate wasn’t in session, and even provided time for me to sleep.”
“I believe it.”
“Yes, thank you, Khaleen. Anyway, since he knew I had missed seeing any signs of terrain, he was taking us to the Western Sea. It’s this small ocean they created when they stored the real ones where they wouldn’t impede building more structures. It's filled with artificial islands, most of them with grass on them. He wanted to spend the night taking me around to see all of them. There were twenty-two of them, all named for aurabesh letters. He’d even made reservations for breakfast on Krill Island, which he’d calculated as the last we’d come to.”
“The thing about the Western Islands is they move around in what is supposed to be a circular path, but really is not very predictable. Anakin didn’t know that. He thought they were in a perfectly orderly ring. Also, there’d been a thunderstorm over the sea the day before, and no matter how much they try to control the weather, there are always slip-ups. Some of the lightening had gotten into the island-conveyance system, and they were all thrown off track.
We were supposed to get to Leth first, at which time Anakin would wake me up from my nap. Since he let me sleep for some time, I only know what he told me happened. First, it took him longer to get to the islands than he thought, and he landed on Jenth instead. But he thought it would be easy to get to Leth from there by following the ring past Krill, so without asking anyone on Jenth to confirm that this was true, he set off in what he thought was the direction the ring rotated.
So he passed one island, and then, after a very long time, landed on Esk instead. Esk wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near Jenth, Krill, or Leth, so at this point he woke me up, and asked me if I happened to know anything about the Western Sea. Of course I didn’t, and Esk’s a tiny island without any establishments on it, and at that hour, we were the only tourists. It was about 0030 there then, with the time zone difference from the Senate district.
We got out and looked around Esk, but neither of us could enjoy it much because we knew we were lost. But then Anakin decided he must have miscalculated the size of the circle of islands, made some calculation which he thought would get us to Nern, since he didn’t think there was time to see Leth or Mern. After too short a ride we came to Herf. This was a big island, and since by now it was obvious that something was very wrong with the island layout, we asked a stall-owner about the islands, and learned that there was not much charting them at the best of times, and no charting them now.”
I think I really wanted to go home by then, but Anakin talked me into trying to get somewhere near Krill so we could make our reservation. So after some time resting on Herf we flew off in a completely random direction, with me telling him that if we reached the shore first we were going home. But we didn’t. We reached Senth first.”
“I’ve been to Senth,” said Pooja. “It’s considered the most beautiful of the islands. When cultivating it, they went all over the galaxy for all sorts of rare flora, and out of it they created a two level garden with a pair of fountains and Alderaan-style walkways.”
“It was the island Ani knew I’d love the most, and that lifted our spirits for a bit. Oh, we spent over an hour there, just skipping about like we were both five years younger.” She paused for a moment to savor one of her happiest courtship memories. She also remembered how she and Anakin had curled up in a malla patch and kissed and kissed for ages, but figured there were some things she didn’t really need to mention.
“But eventually we decided we needed to try to get closer to Krill and set out again. This time we came to Aurek. It’s the biggest of the islands, but it’s mostly rented houses, so we didn’t stay there long. Next we came to Mern, which is an interesting place. Craggiest of the islands, with a tower from the top of which it’s said you can see miles at the right time of the day. But with the sun still on the other side of the planet, we couldn’t see far at all, though we tried. Anakin even saw what he thought was Leth, and headed towards it.”
“It wasn’t Leth, was it?” said Winter.
“No, it was Cresh. Which drove home that we really were flying blind. I don’t remember what was on that island anymore; I think it was mostly commercial. Then we tried to reach Krill again, flew over open water for a very long time, and with less than half an hour until our reservation found ourselves on Onith.”
“Isn’t that the one with all the memorials?” asked Sheldi.
“Yes, but we didn’t have much time to look at them. We were panicking by then. But Onith also hosted one of the islands’ power generators, and we found Master Plo Koon repairing it.”
“Why would he be the one doing that?” asked Master T’ra Saa incredulously.
“To this day, I have no idea. But we recognized him, and Anakin insisted on saying hi. He noted that he sensed ‘hysteria’ in us, and Anakin blurted out, ‘How do we get to Krill?’”
“How would he have an answer?” Mirax interjected.
“Ah, but he did,” replied Padmé, smiling. “‘Use the Force.’” There were several mutters of “Of course” and “He would say that.”
“Since Anakin hadn’t been trained, we were skeptical about our chances, but we couldn’t think of a better idea. So with about fifteen minutes to go, we got onto the speeder, he set the speed gauge to the highest setting, went into what he thought was a meditative state, and drove us on around and around in this silly series of loops, by which I think we passed Cherek, drove straight past Krill and kept going until I shook him out of it. After which we flew back to Krill, arriving only about five minutes late. And then he asked me to marry him.”
There was of course no better way for a courtship story to end, but several jaws dropped nonetheless. “What did you say?” asked Leia.
“Yes, of course. Though we weren’t married for nearly half a year more, so there was plenty of time for further courtship.”
Just then Lianne leapt up and ran to the window. “He’s here!” she yelled.
“What?” Everyone piled in front of the window. Padmé couldn’t see what was going on, but she could hear “It is him!”, “Wasn’t he supposed to be another hour?”, “Where are the Skywalkers?”, and “There they are!”
Then there was a commotion outside that sound like a lot of men yelling things along the lines of “Come back here!” It died down, and the ladies drifted away from the window just as a similar-sounding commotion rouse up in the direction of the bedroom door.
Pooja quickly tied Leia’s hair up into a high ponytail and sat her down on the edge of the bed, ignoring her perturbed look, and a moment later the doors slid open barely quickly enough for Han to burst through and stumble to the edge of the bed trying to catch his breath. “Leia,” he gasped, “could you....possibly have a word....with your father...about...”
“He ran!” Anakin and Luke stormed together into the room. “He’s not supposed to run!” Anakin continued. Behind them Chewbacca growled his agreement.
“I’ll be having a word with you myself, Chewie!” Han yelled at the Wookie.
“You’ll have to do so tomorrow,” Padmé told him. “You’re in your bride’s bedchamber now, and once you cross that threshold, you’re not allowed out again until dawn tomorrow, and noone’s allowed to stay with you two. Everybody out!”
Anakin and Luke both looked indignant. Out in the corridor, several male Jedi also raised protests. But one of Han’s other friends, Lando, even as he ran up to the scene, said, “You heard her. Back off from the door so the girls can get out.”
Still grumbling, they retreated. The ladies followed, several of them cracking up, and several more tossing off comments such as “Have fun” and “Think we’ll see them before noon?”
Both of them were well away from the others before Anakin calmed. Then he sighed, “I suppose it’s back to Coruscant tomorrow?”
“I’m afraid so. Though you know, we were recalling a time when you couldn’t get enough of Coruscant in there.”
“You didn’t tell them that story,” Anakin insisted.
“Of course I did!” grinned Padmé. “Though, at least, you know, I didn’t get around to talking about how we got lost again on the way back to the Senate District.”