Disclaimer: Star Wars is the property of George Lucas and Lucasfilm. I mean no infringement and make no profit.

A/N: This is the last chapter. One last thanks to Alicia and to my reviewers! I got the marriage ceremony by combining a little bit of Vedic marriage texts with a lot of Joseph Campbell. The language: Yes, I am a big huge dork. Why do you ask?

Chapter Five: Varykino

Anakin Skywalker stared out across the lake from the balcony of the house where he and Padmé had, not long ago, shared their very first kiss. It was here, too, that he and Padmé would very soon be married. Standing several meters to one side, seemingly lost in meditation, was a Naboo holy man. Close by on Anakin's other side was R2-D2 who, from the way he was fidgeting around, appeared to be nearly as nervous as Anakin was.

They had landed in Theed in the late morning hours and had gone directly into a meeting with Queen Jamillia and the Royal Council. This had gone fairly quickly; Padmé had brought the Queen up to speed on any details she may not have known, and then informed her that she would be spending the next few days in secluded place where the media wouldn't find her. Queen Jamillia respected this decision and, though a curious look indicated that she had noticed the way the Senator's eyes kept straying to her Jedi protector, and his to her, she made no comment.

Padmé had then taken him by the hand and led him through what seemed to Anakin like a labyrinth of white marble corridors, but which was apparently as familiar to Padmé as the Jedi Temple was to him. They ended up in a suite which Padmé explained was her official residence in the Palace. After a half hour of going through trunks and boxes Padmé had appeared, smiling radiantly and carrying a box which contained a wedding dress that had once belonged to her grandmother.

An hour was spent obtaining an official license of marriage, and a few seconds spent explaining to the clerk, with a little help from the Force, that Anakin was not a Jedi, Padmé was certainly not a famous Senator, and all records of the transaction would be given to them.

Padmé had assured him that no such measures would be necessary with this holy man. Even if he hadn't been a trusted family friend, he had taken vows of secrecy. Anakin and the priest had summed one another up and decided to err to the side of trust. Neither had so far mentioned anything about the Jedi, although Anakin had little doubt that the holy man knew that he was one and that the ceremony he was to perform would violate their Code.

Didn't he?

Anakin was startled from his reverie when Artoo let out a short flurry of impatient beeps. The padawan's prosthetic hand flexed reflexively as his eyes strayed once again to the door Padmé had entered what seemed like hours ago.

"I don't think it'll be much longer, Artoo," he answered, although he, too, was wondering how long it could possibly take to put on a dress.

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the dignified old holy man chuckling to himself. He turned to him curiously.

"Why did you agree to help us?" he asked.

The old man smiled kindly. For a moment, Anakin thought, he looked not too unlike Qui-Gon Jinn. "I am not bound by your Code," he said. "The gods I serve believe in love. I've known her family," he nodded toward the door, "for a long time. She loves you. You love her."

And that was all that needed to be said.

Padmé Naberrie Amidala stared at her reflection in the mirror before her. Threepio was hovering somewhere in the background babbling about something, but she paid him little mind. She was wearing the wedding dress which had belonged to her grandmother, Winama Naberrie, and which now belonged to her. The dress was old but beautiful, following a traditional Naboo design, and it fitted her almost perfectly. She had taken great care in putting it on, with Threepio's help. Now she was seeing, for the first time, the full effect of the complete ensemble.

All at once the solemnity of the occasion hit her. She was in her wedding dress. She was about to be married. And her family wasn't there; they didn't even know.

She and Anakin had agreed it would be simpler that way, although he had at first insisted that he couldn't ask her not to have them come. Both of them knew it was for the best, though—no attention, less risk of anyone finding out. They would have to get used to secrets now, although she was still not sure if this was one they could keep. The droids would be their witnesses, and they would have each other. That was enough.

And yet… and yet she missed them. She loved her family dearly, and they loved her, and they would want to be here—would, in fact, probably be very upset when they found she'd done this without them. Before today, whenever she'd imagined her wedding, she'd always seen her family there. Of course, none of this was the way little girls typically imagined their weddings. The laws that they were breaking leant an air of darkness and gravity to a day which would otherwise have been one of purity and celebration. Had the Naberries been there, they probably would currently have been trying to talk her out of going through with it.

She wouldn't have listened. She was nervous—her hands, she noted, were cold and trembling, and her reflection was pale—but she had no doubt that in a few moments she would step out onto the balcony and take Anakin Skywalker's hand. She still didn't know if doing so would be right or wrong. By the standards of most of the galaxy, of course, what they were doing today was strictly forbidden. But she was beginning to think that what the galaxy thought was wrong couldn't always be wrong, or was right in this case, or maybe right and wrong were so muddled and confused that they didn't even exist anymore. Maybe the only thing that was really clear to her was that she loved Anakin, and all that mattered was that she wanted to be his wife.

She sent Threepio out ahead of her, and took a moment to examine herself once more in the mirror, tuck a loose strand of hair into place, and take a deep breath.

When she stepped out onto the balcony, that breath came out in a gasp of awe. The sun was just beginning to sink toward the horizon. Anakin was standing near the railing, waiting for her, bathed in golden light. And this was the way a little girl could imagine her wedding. It was beautiful.

She was beautiful. The moment she stepped onto the balcony, Anakin dissolved into unabashed wonder. Floating as she moved from the shadows into the light, she was luminous. He remembered as a boy thinking she might be one of the legendary Angels—good and kind, and so beautiful they make even the most hardened space pirates cry. Her eyes briefly met his, and then she cast them down again. You must be one. Maybe you just don't know it. This was worth the risk they were taking. She was worth giving up the Jedi Order for. He inhaled suddenly, realizing that he had forgotten to breathe.

She approached Anakin and the holy man timidly, suddenly shy. Her eyes were fixed on her feet as, step by step, they carried her forward to the balcony rail. Time seemed to have slowed, prolonging the seconds it took her to bridge the small space into an eternity.

When she at last reached her place, she raised her eyes to meet Anakin's. She could see that he thought she was beautiful, but he wasn't smiling, and nor was she. They were each meditating on what had brought them so far, to this point in time. They were utterly serious, wrapped in the atmosphere of sacred mystery that now permeated this place.

The holy man raised his hands to the heavens and began to speak in the ancient language of the Naboo, translating for Anakin's benefit.

"Almathienn sé den anrelanten den nisemaaé. Marriage is the reunion of the separated." His gaze fell on Padmé, and then Anakin, before continuing. "Anolenni, ta senyd en. Ta sen sha lin a den unab, na yal tiratué, dei habir den sila, ta sen rasanyd unien d'mirtué é amia bai den unien sé birajyd coratué. Originally, you were one. You are now two in the world, but through your eyes, from across the stars, you have recognized your other self, and love for the other has conquered your heart."

Padmé bowed her head, letting the words wash over her, thinking that she had never really understood them before this day.

"Disu ta aiomen ular a den lansu amiaé, en vali do fona den cor a den mirié, tithypamié sirilas sen-yal-amiaé, jomiri ené é keiri ené, lua é lei bydajinen. Today you celebrate life in the experience of love as a force which opens the heart to the sad, bittersweet melody of being through love, one's anguish and one's joy, the light and dark interacting."

Light and dark… they were describing the way of the Force, Anakin thought, though maybe the people who had crafted these vows hadn't known it. They were talking about a union which brought balance to the Force. How could such a thing be seen by the Jedi as wrong? To celebrate life…

He wished, so much, that his mother could have been there.

The holy man was now saying that marriage was a spiritual experience of love confirmed through sacred physical union. It was a sacrifice of the visible self for the unity which could not be seen. "You live in loyalty; through whatever trials or suffering, you remain true."

The Jedi, too, demanded loyalty. In pledging his loyalty to Padmé, Anakin was breaking that pledge to the Jedi Knights. The thought gave his conscience a momentary twinge. Obi-Wan would be so disappointed, if he knew. He put such effort into training his padawan in the best way he knew how, and now Anakin was failing him. He would make up for it in other ways, he thought. He would become the greatest Jedi the Order had ever known. And he would never fail Padmé as he was failing the Jedi, not ever. Nor could he imagine her ever failing him.

"A almathienn, jeida dasu tu ama é jeida dasu tu baden."

In marriage, every day you love, and every day you forgive, Padmé translated mentally as the priest spoke. And she would, always. She would always be holding that little boy, that handsome Jedi warrior, and loving him, and forgiving him. They balanced that way. She was not afraid of "always" as she had once been. Standing here with Anakin, "always" did not seem like long at all.

"You have given yourself to something greater than yourself."

The will of the Force again. That didn't frighten her either, now. She was almost starting to believe it, though why the Force should take an interest in her she had no idea. Where was it leading them—to peace? Or… It would destroy us, she'd said. But surely there she was still able to decide—if she loved him enough, forgave him enough, fought hard enough… maybe it would be all right.

"Anakin, the gods free you from your duties as a son. You may take Padmé's hand as a symbol of the unity which you share."

The holy man had taught him this part, while Padmé was getting ready. He mentally groped for the words, then found them, desperately hoping he was saying them right.

"I will accept your hand so that you will grow old as my wife. The gods have given me to you as your husband. I take you in health or sickness, in wealth or poverty, in good times and in bad. But I take you as my center, and you are my bliss, not the wealth you might bring me, not the social prestige, but you."

The surreal sound of Anakin's voice reciting the Naboo vows of marriage almost brought tears to Padmé's eyes. Oh, Force, what are we doing?

"Padmé the gods free you from your duties as a daughter. You may take Anakin's hand as a symbol of the unity which you share."

And there was the answer—merely formalizing a connection which was already there, had always been there. What they were doing now was an act of hope; hope that this war wouldn't last forever, that they would be reunited, that there would be light at the end of this darkness. She had hope for Anakin, and for now, hope was all she needed.

She did not hesitate. Her voice was soft, but sure. "I will accept your hand so that you will grow old as my husband. The gods have given me to you as your wife." She looked up at him, hoping that he could see all that she was feeling at that instant, how much she meant what she was saying. "But I take you as my center, and you are my bliss, not the wealth that you might bring me, not the social prestige, but you."

As nervous as they'd been about meeting each other's gazes before, they could not take their eyes off of one another now. Through the Force, Anakin could feel Padmé's emotions matching his own. It was almost as if their presences in the Force were merging and forming one, as together they listened to the priest's words.

"Lo su sé, é lo si sé, é lo dy sen. U Mayavala, lachsonaa tumar a'tué vali é mebaa tumar cai talé. Here he is, and here she is, and here they are. O gods, illuminate us with your might and bring us good fortune. Mebaa samatyu é anlinsi a di par benari, é mellaa dyr a nitisen erath é akau. Bring balance to this new family and help them to resist fear and evil."

New family. He had a family now, one of his own, for the first time since leaving his mother a decade ago. And no one, not even the Jedi, would take this away from him.

"Anakin and Padmé, your life is now here, where your love is. You are no longer one alone. You and the other are now one, as you were one to begin with."

They had done it. No matter what happened now, Padmé thought, she would have had this at least. They had said their vows. No one could take that away from her, from them.

"Though you may be separated by worlds, across the stars you are joined forever by a bond which cannot be broken by any evil, not even death."

No evil, not even death… forever. The words rang in Anakin's head and in his heart. They had forever, an eternity laid out before them filled with endless possibilities. He would not lose her, not ever.

"May you know compassion and kindness, may your children be heroes, may you have the blessing of the gods and live in peace."

May the Force be with us, Padmé prayed. Let us live in peace.

"May the gods protect you and your children from suffering and fear. May they lead you from here, hand in hand, into your new home."

May the Force protect us, Anakin thought. Let us build a home that, out of all the stars and worlds of the galaxy, can be ours.

"Ka sé laninsenyd sama a di maivalé almathienn sé en é ni-ben sé nisamenyd."

Padmé was looking at the holy man as he spoke those final words. He was smiling at the two of them.

"What is joined together in this sacred marriage is one and cannot be parted."

Anakin looked from the holy man back to Padmé, just as she turned to face him. Slowly, he reached out his left hand to take her right-- small, delicate, and soft-- and hold it.

Slowly, Padmé reached out her hand and placed it in Anakin's, finalizing their union with one another, their acceptance of each other, right or wrong, always. There was nothing more they could do. Padmé Naberrie Amidala watched their hands clasp as she willingly became Padmé Skywalker. All the fear, all the uncertainty she had known was in the past. She would never know that doubt again. Her eyes locked again with Anakin's; his face was all she could see. No more looking back. This was her life now, from this day on. Forever.

Anakin's eyes were drinking in every detail of Padmé's face in that moment. Their hands still held each other tightly, and the feeling that passed between them seemed to say, It is done. The woman he had first known as a girl called Padmé Naberrie was at last his, and he had never been more certain that it was right.

Suddenly she was compelled to reach out her left hand and wrap it around his cold, mechanical one. Yes, she thought. Even that. I accept that, too.

He felt her hand take hold of his metal prosthetic, and the simple gesture moved him more than words could express. She'd said she loved all of him. For the first time, now, he knew that it was true.

Their lips met, and she lost herself in a kiss like none she had ever known, their first as husband and wife. The thought, when it came, was gloriously clear: This is right. Of course, this is right.

They kissed so passionately, as though all of their emotions yearned to be expressed that way. It felt to Anakin like they were trying to melt into each other and become one person.

For an instant as they broke apart, Padmé was dizzy, not sure where she was standing or from whose perspective she was seeing. She felt as though somewhere in that kiss they had blurred together and a part of her had stayed with Anakin, and that part of him was now inside her. She felt that she could see him more completely, knew him more intimately, that in a fundamental way they had become one person. Their hearts beat together.

Through the spectrum of the Force, Anakin could see his and Padmé's Force signatures become one blazing beacon of light. The light did not diminish when, to the sound of the droids cheering, they parted. It surrounded them and transcended them. He sensed that, almost imperceptibly, each presence in the Force had been forever altered. He saw the look of wonder on Padmé's face and smiled at her, knowing that she sensed it, too.

Anakin and Padmé Skywalker stood on the balcony of Varykino, their hands, sprits, and lives now and forever joined. As one they turned, their shadows stretching out and merging behind them, and together they faced the rapidly approaching future and the slowly setting sun.

The End