Chapter Twenty-One

Naboo

Anakin stifled a yawn as he sat with his in-laws and wife on the vast terrace of the estate. It was quite warm, which did nothing to alleviate his drowsiness. He watched Padmé as she interacted with her parents without a sign of a yawn. Must be all that training as a politician, he mused, allowing his eyes to focus on his wife. She's probably had lots of occasion when she wanted to yawn but has trained herself not to…that's a pretty good skill, wonder if she could teach me that…Padmé caught his eye for a moment, noticing his stare. She gave him a smile, and then returned her attention to what her father was saying. Once she'd looked away, Anakin allowed his eyes to travel down to his wife's bosom, noting how large her breasts were now that she was nursing. He liked that...a lot. Padmé's words popped into his mind as he admired her: I'll make it up to you later… He knew that certain activities were off limits for the time being, but he could think of at least one activity, one of his favourite activities as a matter of fact, that was definitely still permissible. Thinking of that right now would not be a good idea, he decided, and so he forced himself to look away and focus on what his mother-in-law was now saying. He was sure that whatever it was would serve as the perfect remedy for the sexual frustration he was now experiencing. He wasn't wrong.

"So we decided to go with a muted shade of grey," Jobal was saying. "It's a bit darker than I wanted, but I think once the trim is painted, it will look smashing."

"I think so too," Padmé said. She had noticed Anakin's wandering eyes, and knew that he was rapidly losing his ability to pay attention. Clearly he needed rescuing. "Ani, why don't you see if the babies are awake yet?" she asked. R2-D2 was posted in the nursery, and would give them notice as soon as one of the babies awoke. But Padmé's parents didn't need to know that.

"Sure," Ankain said, grateful to his wife for rescuing him before he dozed off.

R2-D2 greeted Anakin with a soft whistle as he entered the nursery. Anakin smiled at his long-time companion. "It's okay," he said. "Padmé's parents are driving me nuts," he confided in the little droid. R2 chuckled.

"Well hello there," Anakin said as he saw that Luke had woken up. The baby looked up at his father, recognizing his familiar face. "Did you have a nice nap?" He asked as he picked up Luke. Anakin kissed Luke's face as he brought him over to change his diaper. "Grandma and Grandpa are here to see you," Ankain told his son as he changed his diaper. "Why don't we go say hello?" He asked. Luke's response was a smile, and Anakin's heart melted at the sight of it. "Come on, champ," he said, picking up the boy. "Time for a visit."

"Padmé, he smiled!" Anakin said as he returned to the terrace. "Luke smiled at me!"

"Oh, it was probably just gas," Jobal said as she took Luke from Anakin. She looked down at him with a smile. "Isn't that right, Luke?"

Anakin didn't know enough about babies to argue the point, but he secretly decided not to believe it. "I'll check on Leia," he said, leaving once again.

Leia was indeed awake when Anakin returned to the nursey, and crying. It was almost as though she knew that her twin had left her, and was upset. Anakin picked up his daughter and gave her a kiss. "It's okay, princess," he said, doing his best to comfort her. "Let's get you a clean diaper."

"Here's our little princess," Ruwee said with a smile as Anakin appeared with Leia. Anakin handed her over to his father-in-law and then sat down with Padmé.

"Thanks Ani," Padmé said, giving him a kiss on the cheek.

"No trouble at all," Anakin said, watching his in-laws making a fuss over the babies. "You realize those kids are going to be spoiled rotten by your parents," he commented with a smile.

Padmé smiled. "Somehow I don't think they will be the only ones spoiling Luke and Leia," she replied.

Anakin laughed. "You may have a point," he replied.

En route to Dathomir

"I'm not sure I like this idea, Little Soka," Plo Koon said. "Maul is a dangerous beast."

Ahsoka smiled at her beloved friend's use of her old nickname. "I know that, Master Plo," she replied. "But this is the only way, can't you see? He knows me, remember? He will remember Mandalore. Ventress's plan is perfect."

Plo frowned, but only he knew it given the unusual eye gear he wore. "I don't entirely trust her, to tell you the truth," he said.

Ahsoka sighed. "I know you don't," she replied. "But I do," she said. "I'm confident that she will pull this off. Maul has no idea that Ventress has changed sides, and that she and I are allies now. So please, relax."

"I will try," he said. "But I don't make any promises, Soka."

Later

"Now promise me you'll be careful," Obi-Wan said as he walked Ahsoka and Ventress to the hangar. "You must shield your thoughts from him, he is very strong with the Force."

"Obi-Wan, you worry too much," Ventress said. "I know what I'm doing. You forget that I was apprentice to a Sith Lord for quite some time. I know how their minds work."

"I realize that," Obi-Wan said. "That doesn't mean I won't be worried while you two are down there in his lair."

Ventress smiled, and took Obi-Wan's face in her hands. "Why Obi-Wan, I didn't know you cared," she said, and planted a kiss on his mouth.

Obi-Wan was shocked by the gesture, and felt his face grow warm. This only made Ventress laugh.

"All set?" Ahsoka said as she emerged from the shuttle. She didn't know why Obi-Wan was blushing, but decided not to ask.

"All set," Ventress said. "We'll be in touch," she told Obi-Wan.

"May the Force be with you both," Obi-Wan said.

He watched as the two women disappeared into the shuttle, doing his best to master the anxiety welling up inside of him.

Naboo

Evening was falling when Jobal and Ruwee finally departed. Anakin was beginning to think that they were going to stay overnight, but luckily Ruwee worked in the morning and they had to leave.

"Looks like they like the water like their mother," Anakin said as they bathed the twins.

Padmé smiled. "They do," she said. "Well, they are natives of Naboo, after all," she pointed out.

"That's right," Anakin said as he carefully washed his son. "I guess I'm outnumbered," he said with a smile.

After dressing the twins, Anakin and Padmé each took a rocking chair to rock them to sleep.

"Mom told me that we shouldn't get them used to being rocked to sleep," Padmé said. "We should be letting them learn to fall asleep on their own."

Anakin frowned. "Wouldn't they just cry if we did that?" He asked.

"Probably," she said, looking down at Luke's face. "I suppose that they'd get used to it and stop after a while." She watched as Luke drifted off to sleep, the love she felt for the tiny boy overwhelming her. "To tell you the truth, I don't think I can do it," she said, looking up at Anakin. "I can't imagine just letting them cry."

Anakin was happy she said so, for he felt the very same way. "Then let's not," he said. "I don't know about you, but I love watching them fall asleep this way," he said.

Padmé smiled. "I know, I feel the same way," she said. She stood up and walked over to place Luke in his crib. "I guess my parents won't be the only ones spoiling them," she said.

Anakin nodded as he placed Leia in her crib. "No, I don't think so," he said. For a few moments they simply watched their babies as they slept. Each of them had discovered that being a parent was giving them a joy they'd never imagined before. It was as though they'd been incomplete before, and now, with Luke and Leia, they felt complete and fulfilled in a way they hadn't realized possible.

"So," Padmé said as they left the nursery, "are you tired? Or are you up for something naughty?"

Anakin stopped in his tracks and looked at her. "Do you really need to ask?" He asked.

Padmé smiled, and took him by the hand. "Well, I know your nap was interrupted earlier," she said. "Which made you very grumpy."

Anakin laughed. "I wasn't grumpy," he protested.

"Oh yes, you were," she said as they reached their room. "And I felt bad, because it was my parents that interrupted it," she said. "So take off your clothes, and lie on the bed," she said, closing the door behind them.

"I like where this is going," Anakin said as he started to disrobe.

Padmé watched him for a moment, and then started to help. "Yes, I can tell," she said, looking up at him with a smile. "Now, on the bed," she said.

"Yes Ma'am," Anakin said, getting up on the bed and lying on his back. He watched as Padmé crawled onto the end of the bed. Wordlessly she ran her hands over his long legs, moving slowly upward. A soft moan of pleasure escaped him as Padmé's hands moved over him. "Oh….baby," Anakin groaned. He closed his eyes and let her take control, knowing that she knew exactly what to do to bring him to the heights of ecstasy. And she did.

"That was amazing," Anakin said as Padmé cuddled up to him a little while later. He kissed the top of her head. "You're amazing," he said.

Padmé smiled and kissed his chest. "Goodnight, Ani," she said.

"Goodnight Angel," he said. Within minutes they were both fast asleep.

Dathomir

It was difficult for Ventress to set foot on her home planet again. Memories of the past, of Mother Talzin, of the slaughter of her sisters filled her mind as she and Ahsoka landed. Part of her had sympathy for Maul, for the way he'd been taken by Sidious and turned into a Sith beast. Stolen from his mother as a small boy, Maul hadn't really had a chance. But still, none of that excused the atrocities committed by Maul. His tragic beginnings could not justify taking the lives of so many innocents. His descent into madness had only added to his savagery, and Ventress knew that he needed to be stopped.

It didn't take Ventress long to track down Maul's lair. He had become something of a legend since his return to Dathomir, and had established himself as a crime lord. Ventress had already established herself as a bounty hunter, and so when she showed up at Maul's lair with the former Jedi padawan Ahsoka Tano as her prisoner, she was shown in immediately.

Ahsoka drew on the living Force to help her keep calm as she found herself in the presence of Maul once again. When he set eyes on her, he smiled.

"Well well well, what have we here?" Maul asked as looked at Ahsoka. "What a delight it is to see you again, Padawan Tano."

Ahsoka frowned. "I can't say I feel the same," she replied. "And I haven't been a padawan in years, Maul."

"Keep your mouth shut," Ventress snapped, giving Ahsoka a shove.

Maul smiled. "So tell me, Ventress, how did you manage to capture this?" He asked, looking at Ahsoka with undisguised loathing.

"Does it matter?" Ventress replied. "I've brought her here as a token of respect to you, Lord Maul," she said.

Maul nodded, doing his best to read her thoughts. She seemed genuine, and he knew of Ventress's history with the Jedi. "Go on," he said.

"I'm here on behalf of Nute Gunray," Ventress went on. "He has asked me to convey to you his wish to have a meeting to discuss an important matter."

Maul narrowed his eyes. "Cad Bane was here with a very similar message," he said. "And he didn't leave here alive."

Ventress smirked. "Bane was an idiot," she said. "And totally untrustworthy. But you know me," she went on. "We share the same roots, and we share our hatred for the Jedi," she went on, giving Ahsoka a dirty look.

Maul listened to what she said without a word, his yellow eyes staring at Ahsoka. Ventress had begun to grow alarmed by his silence, and began to worry that Maul didn't believe her.

"You're right," Maul said at last, looking back at Ventress. "We do share the same roots. But as for your hatred for the Jedi, I'm afraid you'll need to prove that to me, Ventress."

"How can I do that?" Ventress asked. "I've brought Tano to you," she said. "Isn't that proof enough?"

"Not quite," Maul said. "But there is something you can to do convince me."

"What?" Ventress asked.

Maul looked back at Ahsoka. "Kill the Jedi," he said. "Kill her now."