Disclaimer: Star Wars is the property of George Lucas and Lucasfilm. I mean no infringement and make no profit.
A/N: This is a (more light-hearted) follow-up to my story "Surrender," but you don't have to have read that one to understand this. It's about breaking the news of the wedding to the Naberries. Have I mentioned that my lovely beta is prompt? Thanks, Alicia!
"Home again, home again, to go to rest
By hearth and heart, house and nest."
-Attack of the Clones novel
Chapter One: Secrets
"Are you nervous?" Padmé Naberrie Skywalker, Senator Amidala of Naboo, raised an eyebrow at her new husband, who was fidgeting with his Jedi robes as they walked side by side down the streets of Theed.
"Not at all," Anakin replied, unable to mask the tremor in his voice. Padmé giggled. "Well," he snapped back, "aren't you? They're your family."
"I'm terrified," she admitted. This did not make the Jedi at her side appear any more comfortable. "They won't hate you," she was quick to reassure him. "I promise. They already like you. You're my Jedi protector."
"But that's not all I am this time."
"They're just concerned. They love me. They don't like to think of me doing things which might be dangerous. And that," she concluded, "is why we have the Mom version of events."
"Which leaves out most of the things which would make them concerned."
"Exactly. Such as…"
Anakin groaned. "Again?" But Padmé gave him a pleading look, and he sighed in resignation. "Such as the incident in the droid factory."
"That you were in it."
"The nexu." He sighed again. "And then there's the whole wedding thing."
"Only until I find the right time to tell them. I promise." Looking around to make sure no one was watching, she slipped her hand into his. They had been married only three days ago at Padmé's family's lake retreat in the southern region of Naboo. There they had spent two wonderful, blissful days forgetting all about the galaxy outside. On the morning of the third day, however, Padmé had been awakened by a transmission from her mother, wondering exactly why it was taking her so long to pack the few things she'd left at Varykino the last time she'd been there. They had departed that afternoon, having granted Padmé a few hours to actually pack, and were now strolling through the suburbs of Theed, the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO following behind.
Padmé was reflecting on the fact that in the past few weeks she had survived two assassination attempts, one near-execution, and one full-scale battle, and yet none of that mattered, because her mother would kill her if she found out that she had been involved in any of these things. Mom and Dad were always telling her to be more careful, stop putting herself in danger—in truth, they would have preferred that she retire from active political life altogether. To keep them from worrying, she downplayed the risk and made light of serious situations. In a small way, she was able to protect them. But it was unimaginable to her that she not let her family know about her marriage, the one good thing that had come from all of this, and Anakin had agreed. They had reached an arrangement wherein he would tell his step-family on Tatooine, and she would tell the Naberries. No one else could know. No one. This, along with the knowledge that they would be parted all too soon by war, hovered like a cloud over their otherwise perfect happiness. Sometimes moments of somber silence set in, and over and over they drove the sadness away with levity and kisses.
"It amazes me," Anakin said now, "that someone who claims to hate lying as much as you do would reinvent the truth like this for your parents."
"I'm only concealing the truth of certain events," Padmé corrected him. "That's not lying." He eyed her doubtfully. "Besides, I'm a politician. The fact that I don't like lying doesn't mean I'm not good at it."
He laughed. "Oh, now I see. Just wait till I give that information to Master Obi-Wan."
"It was information given in the strictest confidence," she told him, shaking her head. "I'm afraid it cannot be released to the public."
Smiling together, they reached the walkway leading up to the Naberrie house and paused.
"Everybody ready?" Padmé asked.
Artoo beeped cheerfully, and Threepio said, "I am fully operational Miss Padmé, and sufficiently prepared for any eventuality. Provided violence is not involved, of course."
Anakin just nodded. "Let's go."
The minute they rounded the garden wall and came in sight of the house, two small, giggling figures burst out the door and catapulted themselves into Padmé's open arms.
"Aunt Padmé! Aunt Padmé!" the little girls shouted.
"Ryoo! Pooja!" Padmé held her nieces at arm's length. "Did you miss me?"
"Yeah!" they both answered.
"I got a new dress because I got a hole in one," Pooja declared, before racing forward and wrapping her arms around Anakin's legs. "Hi, Anakin!"
"Hi, Pooja." The Jedi looked down at the four-year-old, surprised. She'd been shy around him the last time he'd been here.
Padmé grinned. "Once Pooja's met you, you're her new best friend," she explained.
"I don't make friends with strangers," Pooja supplied. "I got a new dress, Anakin."
"Oh." Anakin nodded. "Good. It's pretty."
"Artoo! Artoo!" Pooja began to run circles around the little astromech, who whistled joyfully in response.
Ryoo tugged at Padmé's skirt.
"Aunt Padmé, ama tu sur?"
"Ka, pami?" Padmé asked the girl.
"Mamimé fethyd, do tu ama sur." My mommy said that you love him. Padmé rolled her eyes.
"What's she saying?" Anakin was looking at them curiously.
"She's starting to learn Nubaé, our old language. She's practicing." In Ryoo's ear, she whispered, "Your mommy likes to talk too much." The girl giggled. "Ryoo, are you going to say hi to Anakin?"
"Hi, Anakin," Ryoo said shyly.
Behind them, Pooja had noticed Threepio. "What's that?" she asked, pointing.
"That's my droid, C-3PO," Anakin answered. "Threepio, this is Pooja and Ryoo."
"A pleasure to meet you both," the droid said, causing the girls to dissolve into renewed fits of giggles. Ryoo joined her sister in chasing the droids up the front walk, and Anakin and Padmé followed. Sola met them at the door and embraced Padmé tightly. She was glad that the wounds on her back from the nexu had healed enough that the hug only caused her to wince, an effect that went unnoticed.
Sola was just saying, "Welcome back, Anakin," when Pooja tapped Anakin's leg and pointed.
"What happened to your hand?"
"Pooja, don't—" Padmé started to say, but Anakin flashed her a look that said it was all right and knelt down beside the girls.
"A bad man cut it off," he told them. Ryoo's eyes went wide with horror, but Pooja only appeared curious.
"Because…" Anakin glanced up at Padmé, who shrugged. "He… doesn't like Jedi."
Anakin thought about this. Because he's a Sith lord would mean nothing to them, nor would Because he's the leader of the Separatists. These explanations did not really answer the question in any case. "I don't know," he admitted finally.
"Did it get cut off when you were protecting Aunt Padmé?" Ryoo asked softly.
Padmé was quick to cut in, saying, "He was protecting lots of people."
"But they gave me this new arm that works just like the old one," Anakin told them. "It just looks a little scary, but it won't hurt you. Do you want to touch it?"
Pooja immediately ran her tiny hands over the long metal fingers, and Ryoo did too once her mother nudged her forward. The six-year-old seemed to be more interested in exactly how the appendage worked than Pooja, who just liked the feel and the look of the metal.
"Gently," Sola warned.
Ryoo looked at Anakin with solemn brown eyes that reminded him of Padmé's. "Does it hurt?" she asked.
"It did at first, but not as much anymore."
"Did they catch the bad man and put him in jail?"
"Not yet," the Jedi told her. "But they will."
"Come inside," Sola instructed. "Everybody. I have food that might be burning."
The little group filed into the Naberrie house, and Sola immediately ran back to the kitchen, calling "Padmé, introduce him to Darred," over her shoulder.
Standing in the living room was a well-built man with light, curly hair and a kind face. "Anakin, this is Sola's husband, Darred Janren."
"He's my daddy!" Pooja called out as she and Ryoo exited with the droids.
"Darred's an architect; he was building in Taseed the last time you were here. Darred," Padmé addressed the man, "this is Jedi padawan Anakin Skywalker… but I'm sure Sola's already told you all about him."
"You know Sola." Darred smiled and extended a hand, which Anakin shook. "Good to meet you in person, Anakin."
Jobal darted out of the kitchen then, first hugging her daughter, then hugging Anakin, then scolding Padmé for taking so long to come home. In a show of motherly affection, she made much of Anakin's arm and offered her condolences for his mother's death so sincerely that he could almost have hugged her again. Then she called to her husband, who came down the stairs, grinning widely. More greetings were exchanged, and Jobal rushed back to the kitchen asking Sola if she had set the timer correctly.
"You're making too much, Mom!" came the voice from the kitchen.
"I'd better go help." Padmé started to follow her mother, but Ruwee stopped her.
"You're supposed to comm Sabé, or I've been told that heads will roll."
Padmé started to reach out to Anakin—to kiss him or touch him, he didn't know—but she stopped herself before Ruwee noticed and, with an apologetic look, hurried upstairs.
Anakin gazed after her in the awkward silence that followed her exit. "Could I help with something?" he asked at last.
Ruwee and Darred exchanged a look. "You can help the same way we're helping," the older man answered. "By staying out of the way."
Sola stuck her head out the door to the kitchen. "Actually, everything's almost ready. Anakin, you can help set the table if you'd like."
"Sure." Anakin nodded and took a dish form Sola's hands. This place was so warm, so loving. It was the way he'd always dreamed his home would be, when he and his mother were both free. The way it never would be, now. He wished he could have brought his mother here. She would have loved these people, this family, just as he did. His family.
The realization swept away almost all of his sadness. Ruwee and Jobal were his wife's parents and so, unlike the last time he'd visited, they were his family. Sola and Darred were his brother- and sister-in-law. He'd never had brothers and sisters before. Or a father, for that matter. The little girls playing outside were his nieces. Anakin suddenly found himself grinning like an idiot. He had a family and he loved them.
The new feeling of love and home only grew stronger when Padmé came back downstairs and started teasing him for not knowing where to set things on the table.
"Some Jedi." She gave an exaggerated sigh. "Do you need to have the poor, defenseless Senator show you how to handle table settings?"
"Defenseless?" Anakin snorted. "Hardly."
"Do you want me to show you or not?"
"If it's not too much trouble, m'lady."
Padmé laughed until she noticed the way Sola and Jobal were looking at them. She cleared her throat and proceeded to show Anakin where the silverware went, careful to keep a professional distance between them. Every time they touched, each would pull back quickly, not noticing that doing so only drew more curious glances from whoever was in the room at the time.
Finally, as Anakin was walking back to the kitchen after setting the plates on the table, a hand reached out and pulled him into an empty room, shutting the door behind him. Padmé let herself fall into his arms, and he kissed her.
"I love you," she sighed into his chest.
"Really? Even though I can't set a table?" She laughed a little, and he stroked her hair. "I hate that we have to do this."
"We knew it would be this way." She kissed him again. "I hate it, too."
"When are we going to tell them?"
"I don't know. I wish it didn't have to be so hard."
"I know." They kissed more deeply this time, losing themselves, forgetting about everything else, until a sound at the door made them jump apart and turn.
Standing in the doorway were two wide-eyed little girls.
"Aunt Padmé?" Ryoo asked. "Why were you kissing the Jedi?"
Anakin and Padmé could only stare, open-mouthed. Ryoo and Pooja stared back.
"Did you know Jedi aren't supposed to kiss people?" the older girl continued. "Mom said so."
To Anakin's amazement, Padmé managed to find her voice. "Yes, Ryoo. We know that. But… we…" Her deceptively calm demeanor faltered.
"Do you love him?" Pooja piped up. "'Cause Mommy said you did."
Padmé looked at Anakin, who looked helplessly back at her. She drew a deep breath.
"Yes," she said simply. "I do."
Ryoo stepped forward and crossed her arms, surveying Anakin with the grave air of a parent meeting the person a child intends to date.
"Do you love our Aunt Padmé, Anakin?" she asked severely.
"Yes," Anakin managed, following his wife's lead. "Very much."
The girls broke into smiles.
"Okay," Ryoo said, and for some reason Anakin breathed a small sigh of relief as she granted her permission.
"Are you going to marry her?" Pooja asked.
He looked to Padmé, who was at a loss again. "Well…" A tense moment of indecision passed, then Padmé smiled. "Maybe."
"But Mom said that is forbidden," Ryoo pointed out. Padmé knelt down beside them.
"That is why this has to be our special secret, and you can't tell anybody you saw us kissing. Okay?"
"Not even Mommy and Daddy?" asked Pooja, her eyes going wide.
"Not for a little while. For right now it will be just us who know. It's very important that you don't tell."
"Wow!" Ryoo grinned and hugged Padmé, proud at being taken into her aunt's confidence. "It's okay, Aunt Padmé. You can count on us."
"We won't tell," Pooja concluded.
The girls left the room, whispering to each other, and Anakin raised an eyebrow at his wife.
"Is there any way that's going to work?"
Padmé sighed. "Not for long." She gave him one more quick kiss before going upstairs to change for dinner.