The Jedi Change
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars characters. The plot, descriptives and dialogue of this alternate universe story are mine.
Chapter Forty-Two- Change
Anakin rechecked the power cord protruding from Artoo and attached to the outlet in the wall. He gave Artoo a reassuring pat on the dome.
"You're all-set, Artoo," he said quietly. "You will be back to your usual self in no time."
Anakin rolled his eyes and wiped his hands on a nearby towel. "I know, Artoo. I know. You downloaded too much. What did I tell you about that?"
Beep, whorl, whirl.
"Do not blame Master Yoda," he said amid the droid's protest. "I am certain he gave you only necessary codes and drives. It was your gluttony for information—and your nosiness—that has nearly caused you to short-circuit. You will not do that again. Even for me. Understood?"
He replaced his tools in their box. "I do not wish to be harsh with you, Artoo, but you must understand that I only tell you these things for your own good. You mustn't go around trusting every computer you come across. It is too dangerous."
Whirl, whorl, whorl, whorllll."
"And I am a grateful. Nevertheless, do not hack into computers that I have not scanned yet."
Anakin turned. Obi-Wan was leaning against the doorjamb to the guest chambers and smiling. "Fathering your droid now?"
Anakin closed the toolbox. "You mock me as though he were non-sentient. He knows more about what goes on around here than anyone. Don't you, buddy?"
Obi-Wan walked over to the table to pour some caf. "I meant no offense to you, Artoo. Forgive me."
Obi-Wan collapsed into the nearest chair. Anakin poured his own cup then sat down to join him.
"I'm sorry if we woke you, Master."
Obi-Wan waved him off. "You didn't. I'm awake by habit." He sipped the caf and groaned, making a sour face. "I see you still haven't quite mastered a percolator and measurement."
Anakin grinned. "I like my caf strong. It gets the blood flowing."
"It's sludge, Anakin," he despaired even as he took a gulp of it.
"Yet you drink it anyway. Another habit?"
"Yes, and one I will happily forsake. You are up early yourself. Everything all right?"
"Leia woke up, and I had a hard time getting her back to sleep. Then I couldn't get back to sleep. I guess I am a little anxious."
Obi-Wan glanced at him sharply from the rim of his cup. "Oh?"
Anakin missed his guilty look and said, "I feel…I don't know. I felt something last night."
"No, no. It was…nice. I don't know. Whatever it is, it's made me anxious."
Obi-Wan relaxed. "Why are you anxious? I am the one getting married…some time today. Should I COMM Temple?"
Anakin shook his head. "No. No, you're fine. Yoda will contact you. He'll let us know when all is ready."
"I am not used to…"
"You are nervous."
Obi-Wan laughed a little self-consciously. "Yes. I have dreamed about this day for a very long time and now it's here. I suppose I should be grateful I have not been struck down with nausea."
"You're doing just fine."
"Anakin…have you thought about what happens next?"
"For you and Siri? Yes. You'll be happy. She will be ecstatic. You will both be happy and ecstatic. Together."
"No, no. I meant…what's next for us? Kenobi and Skywalker, Skywalker and Kenobi. The Jedi Go-To team. We will be leading very different lives than we have until a few days ago. I have a wife. You have your family. The days of us gallivanting around the galaxy are over."
"Why, Master…you actually sound as though you are going to miss me shadowing you."
"Anakin, do not be flip. For the last thirteen years, you have been my only constant. As tragic as that is," Obi-Wan whined with mock disgust. "I have to admit…I do not know how I will adjust to not…being around you all the time."
"You are going to miss bossing me around. You know you will never be able to pull that off with Siri."
Obi-Wan felt his lips curve in spite of himself. "I am going to miss the missions. The purpose. Do you understand what I mean? I am going to miss that sense of accomplishment I get when we have saved some hapless soul from certain demise, or that wonderful sense of fulfillment at knowing that our actions—yours and mine—have given the promise of good living to countless people."
"We will still do those things, Obi-Wan. There are always going to be missions. We will always be the 'It' team. You are getting married and starting a family. Not retiring."
"It won't be the same, Anakin. You know that. You know that better than anyone. What about the liberty of knowing you are only responsible for yourself…?"
"Obi-Wan, you have never felt selfishness before in your life…"
"What of that sublime rush of adrenaline? What of that sense of danger…?"
"You were forever scolding me about that."
"What of the adventures?"
"Adventures? Is that what you're calling them now? Your memory is not faulty. It's selective."
"Do you recall our mission on Kegan?"
"Yes, those are certainly times to lament losing," Anakin said sardonically, leaning back and resting his feet on the chair beside him. "Mediating land disputes…"
Obi-Wan lost his smile as the memories he thought were so much fun spun into the reality that those missions had been. "People shooting at us."
"Navigating mine fields outside of the Noid System…"
"With people shooting at us."
"Smuggling slaves to freedom."
"Well that was gratifying," Obi-Wan beamed in memory. "Except, of course, for the people shooting at us."
Anakin chortled in reflection. "Remember that time you fell into that nest of gondarts?"
"When you perpetually remind me of it? Yes. Wild tentacles about me everywhere."
"And people shooting at us."
Anakin had made his point, and Obi-Wan volleyed with cheerful, if sarcastic, humor. "Good times."
They laughed for a bit before Anakin calmed enough to say, "I know what you're saying, Obi-Wan. There is a part of me that will miss the risk, too."
"We must remember Yoda's teachings, Anakin."
"Remembering them is easy," Anakin smirked. "It's keeping them in practice that has been lax."
Anakin impersonated the croaking tone of their master. "Adventure. Humph! Excitement. Humph! A Jedi craves not such things."
"I am a creature of habit."
"You'll make new ones." Anakin refilled his cup. "As for me, I am going to take my family on a much needed vacation."
"Yeah. I thought we would hang out here for a few days. You know. Let the babies get acclimated to their home…"
"Then promptly yank them from their newfound familiarity to go…where?"
"Luke and Leia have grandparents, Obi-Wan. I thought that, first, we would go to Naboo and spend time with Padmé's family. Then, after a few days, maybe we could…you know. Spend some time with mine."
There was pride in his voice when Obi-Wan declared, "You are taking them to Tatooine."
"Well, Owen and Buru are my family…sort of."
"He has—Owen—been trying to get me to visit for a while now. I have been putting him off. I should not have done that."
"You have not exactly had a lot of time to visit the Outer Rim, Anakin. You have been fighting a war. Owen understands that."
"That has not been why I have avoided him, Master, and you know it. Owen and Buru are good people. They deserve to have their kindness returned, not rebuffed. He accepted me as a brother having never met me before…Now that Lars is gone, I am pretty much all he has got to claim as family. Even if we are only step-brothers."
"I think it is wonderful that you have put the past behind you."
"Look, I still think Tatooine is a horrible, desolate…hole in the universe and the memories there…they are really bad. But I cannot avoid the place forever. Luke and Leia are going to want to see where I grew up, and I cannot continue to forget that Tatooine, for better or for worse, is where I was raised."
"Anakin, that your reasons for going there to begin with are unselfish is proof enough that you are doing extraordinarily well with them. And I am not fooled. You take responsibility for them, and you are relishing it."
"I love those kids, I do," Anakin smiled. "So when you ask me if I will miss continually placing myself in danger simply because I can, I must tell you that, no. I will not miss the adventure. I have them."
He put his cup down on the table. "But…I will miss you smothering me as you do."
Too groggy to think of a scathing retort, Obi-Wan smiled, "Well. That is something, I suppose."
"Luke and Leia are about all the adventure I am going to be able to handle from now on, Master. They created their own Force-induced theatre over their bassinets at Temple yesterday morning. Did I tell you?"
Obi-Wan grinned as Anakin sighed huffily. "They are three-days old, Obi-Wan, and they are already using the Force."
"Will you keep them here with you and Padmé?"
"That's probably wise…"
"I have explained to Yoda my reasons, Obi-Wan. He still…"
"I believe it wise, Anakin, because a few hours in the company of Force-wielding infants could very well cause Master Dralig to resign his post."
Anakin did not share his humor. He told him simply, "Tell me what you think, Master. I explained to Yoda that Padmé and I would raise them. Their formal Jedi education will not begin until they turn three. Do you think that is the right decision?"
"I cannot answer that, Anakin. I have no experience in such matters."
"Neither do I, Obi-Wan, but you were raised at Temple from birth. You fared…reasonably well. I want to know what you think."
"I think you want to do what you believe is best for your children, and you went with your first instincts. Those should not be dismissed. Do not allow your feelings for Master Yoda to sway you. If your gut proclaimed that Luke and Leia should remain with you, then it should be so."
Anakin toyed with his cup. "Do you think I would have turned out any different had Tahl…?"
Obi-Wan paused long enough to gain Anakin's visual attention. "I do not believe we would be sitting here now. I do not believe you would be married to Padmé. Your children would not exist. Anakin, I mean Tahl no disrespect for I thought her a lovely person. But she was not in a good place with herself when you were born. Her fear, her desperation…Her sadness. You would have felt those things, and you would have borne the brunt of its damages."
It was easy for Anakin to agree. His compassion for Tahl returned with his recognition that he really would not change what had happened. Even if he could. He would not trade his happiness now. Not even for the woman who had loved in spite of herself.
Anakin took a breath. "You're right."
"I may not be, but we will never know."
"One day I am going to be able to thank Tahl for what she did. I would really like that."
"You can communicate with Qui-Gon. Perhaps you will be able to speak with her as you do with him."
"I have not heard or seen Qui-Gon since the night I killed Sidious. I thought I heard him in the bunker, but I am not sure."
"Have you tried meditating?"
"That's what I was doing when you found me in your shower."
"Not even a whimper."
"I'm sorry, Anakin."
"No, no, no. Don't be sorry for anything. I am good. Everything is great. Today is your wedding day, man. I have had enough drama, and I have to get you ready."
Obi-Wan stood as Anakin did. He bounced back on his heels, chipper and with a surge of wakeful energy. "All right. What do we do?"
Anakin shrugged. "I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know? You have done this before."
Anakin's expression was questioning, silently begging what point Obi-Wan was trying to make. "You want to hear what my preparation entailed? It was land the ship, shower, shave, press my formal attire and say 'I do' whenever I was asked a question."
"That's helpful. I think I should COMM Temple."
"Listen. Would you feel better with the waiting if I brought Siri here?"
"The only reason she is not here now is because you pontificated last night the tradition of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding. I knew it! You made that up!"
"Shh! Keep your voice down. You'll wake Padmé, and I did not make that up. It is a tradition. I heard."
"I should go to Temple anyway. I have to clean my room and pack my meager belongings."
"We can do that when we get word from Master Yoda. Besides, you have got me all sentimental now. You want a last hurrah for Kenobi and Skywalker?"
Interested, Obi-Wan smiled. "What do you suggest?"
"Let's strike it up for old times' sake." Anakin made dexterous motions with his fingers.
Obi-Wan's smile broadened. "Where?"
"Up on the roof."
"I'll get my lightsaber."
"I'll meet you there."
They broke in opposite directions.
"This is Twila Vansh'tek reporting live from the front gates of Jedi Temple. As HoloNet was first to report, another Sith lord was killed by Commander Anakin Skywalker. Non-descript vessels have been shuttling into the alleys and garages of Temple at all hours of last night for what one can only assume is transport for the villainous deceased, including that of Asajj Ventress, captured and taken to Galactic City prison. Ventress was killed in a botched prison escape yesterday while under the guard of General Obi-Wan Kenobi.
When Chancellor Organa was called for comment last night, there was an unequivocal 'no comment'. The depth of the Senate's knowledge to all that has happened between the Jedi and the Sith yesterday is unknown. Commander Skywalker and his wife, Senator Padmé Amidala, flew home with their newborn infants late yesterday afternoon under heavy guard and accompanied by General Kenobi and former Jedi Master, Siri Tachi.
There has been no response from the Jedi to questions about the events of the last two days and given the amount of traffic we are seeing here this morning, the Republic would like to know what exactly is it the Jedi are trying so desperately to conceal that it requires an unusual amount of secrecy and the utter ignorance of the Senate.
HoloNet would like to assure all of our loyal viewers that we will not leave until the Jedi give us the answers we require.
Reporting live from Jedi Temple Coruscant, I am Twila Vansh'tek."
Han muted the screen and called out, "HoloNet is still camped in front of Temple."
Siri had heard the news. She walked downstairs, her expression subdued. "They will not get past the gates."
"They're not trying to get past the gates, Blondie," Han told her shrewdly. "They will wait, as they have for days, until someone talks. Your friends have been lucky so far."
She secured her robe tighter and sat beside him on the sofa. "Did they attack you?"
"Only that first night." Han smiled at the memory. "Then the gate master called for Master Windu and they hightailed it away from me. I'm tellin' ya…that man knows how to scare the hell…heck out of people."
Siri laughed, "Well, he is imposing."
Han let out a breath. "So…"
"What are we supposed to do?"
"Wait for Master Yoda to call, I guess."
Han rocked back and forth with impatience. "Is there something you need? Something I can do before you shackle yourself to the Jedi and Kenobi for all eternity?"
"You're doing it. I just want to hang out with you for a while." She patted his leg. "I thought you would be here when I came home last night."
"I thought you would be with Obi-Wan."
Siri turned her gaze but a smile touched her lips before she cleared her throat. "I tried to COMM you."
"I turned it off."
"I haven't had the chance to thank you for everything you have done for me and Obi-Wan. Han, you are…"
"Aw…you're not going to get all mushy on me now, are you?"
"I'm afraid so, kid."
"Aw, Siri! Ever since you managed to captivate the Jedi Council into trapping you with Kenobi, you have become disturbingly…girly."
"You're going to have to accept it, kid. I am changing. I am maturing, and unfortunately for you, you will be doing the same right along with me."
"What does that mean?"
"It means, my dear sweet boy, you are no longer the dirty street urchin I bullied into compliance under my wing three years ago. You are becoming a man. And you are a man I am exceedingly proud of…"
"Okay. Is this about the case?"
"Yeah…I know you, Blondie. I know how you operate. Is this sappy moment of gooey sentiment supposed to make me rethink accepting the job in Kessel?"
"No, it is not."
"All right! Fine. I will admit that I have a motive for bringing it up now, but I mean every word I say when I tell you that you are smart. You are talented. You are infinitely gifted with great instincts and sharp wit and cunning, and absolutely no woman in the galaxy could be more proud of your accomplishments than I am of you."
"Siri, thank you. Now, your motive?"
"Kessel is violent."
"I can handle Kessel. I can handle anything that comes at me. You have taught me well, Siri."
"Han, the Hutts are not a forgiving sort. And your client is the worst of them. Jabba is totally devoid of feeling. Greed is all that courses through his clogging veins. He likes lording over people. He enjoys the misery of others. Do not cross him."
"Siri, it is a two-day assignment. I am not going in blind. I know what I am getting into and I know what I am doing. We've been over this. Trust me."
"I do trust you, Han. It is him I do not trust. I know I cannot stop you from doing this, but you and I have always been honest with each other. I know you said you would give me your itinerary and you would keep in contact with me. But I also want your word, that—no matter what he says—you will not accept another one of his 'job' offers. You complete this task, and you return to Coruscant."
"Is that an order?"
"It's a request…a request delivered with the promise that if you are not back here in four days, I will come after you."
"I think Kenobi may object to an interrupted honeymoon, Blondie."
"You don't know him yet, kid. You saved his neck. He knows it, and he feels indebted to you. Gladly so, but you are important to me. That makes you important to him. I said four days. Were such a decision to be left to Obi-Wan, we would be tracking you in three, not four."
"I see your mothering me is not something changing for you."
"No such luck for you. You don't like it, you should have tried picking someone else's pocket that night in the bar."
"I don't regret that. I'll do as you say. Four days, Siri. I promise."
"Thank you. Now. Where were you last night?"
"I had some things to tie up before I leave tomorrow. I gotta make sure you have a business to get back to. It doesn't run itself, you know."
Siri sprang to her feet. "About that…"
Han watched her walk over to her desk in the corner, open it, and pull out a large envelope.
Her hair was loose and down her back but fell like honeyed waves over her shoulders. She turned around to return to the sofa, and Han saw the way her eyes sparkled like emeralds and the way her mouth curved in that secret smile of hers that never failed to enchant his young heart.
Siri Tachi, his friend and mentor, the only real family he had ever known in his short life, was leaving him. He knew he had no hold on her. He knew she would always be a part of his life, but the means would be different. As happy as he was for her and for his new friend Obi-Wan, there was a part of him that would be sad at the knowledge—solidified and concrete—that his boyhood dream of becoming a man she could fall in love with was utterly demolished. His crush on her…crushed.
He would continue to be known as her boy, her 'dear sweet friend' that was more her little brother. It was not what his adolescent ego wanted, but he would take it. And he would keep the memories of these three years with her very close to his heart forever.
Maybe she was right when she had told him that one day he would understand what real romantic love was like, but this morning he would allow himself his fantasy for a few more hours until Kenobi would call her his.
She dropped the envelope into his lap and plopped back down on the sofa, facing him.
Han used his thumb to open the tab and reached inside to pull out a stack of papers. He scanned the front page of the thick manuscript and looked at her curiously. "I don't understand."
"I didn't either at first, and I know what it is. It's the legal jargon throwing you. It's the ownership and operating license to the agency as well as the deed to the office, the ship and the banking accounts."
Frowning, Han read the first page. When he reached the end of it, his eyes widened. "This says the ownership belongs to…Han Solo of Corellia."
Siri wet her lips and said, "Actually, it reads that ownership shall belong solely to Han Solo of Corellia upon the turn of his eighteenth standard year."
Speechless, Han stared at her. She cleared her throat and continued, "You have some years yet to get used to it. My name is on the dotted line for now, in trust until your eighteenth birthday."
"You're giving me the business?"
"I cannot maintain it as well as you have, and now I will not be able to oversee everything since I will be working primarily in Temple. As you said, someone has to keep it going. It should be you. You do most of the work anyway."
"That's not true."
"Yes, it is. Look at you! Han, you're not getting mushy on me, are you?"
Han sat straighter, looking horrified. "No! I'm just…I don't know what to say."
"Say you'll accept it, dummy."
"I…Are you sure you want to do this? What if…?"
"No. No, 'what if'. I am getting exactly what I want and giving you exactly what you deserve. Consider it my investment in your future."
Han saw a smaller envelope protruding from the larger. He tipped the package down and it spilled into his hand. His easy-going grin showed as he glanced back at her, "There's more?"
Soberly, she sat back. "Yes."
"Ew…you look so serious now. This must be prominent."
"I hope you think so."
"Let's find out."
Han tore the paper open. His fingers closed on the corners of a check, and he read the words aloud.
"Pay to the Order of Han Solo…One-Hundred thousand Republic…"
Stunned furious, he whirled on her. "You're giving me money?"
Siri had expected this reaction so her calm was effortless. "Han…"
He jumped to his feet. "Listen, Blondie. I don't need your charity. I can take care of myself!"
"It is not charity."
"I don't want your money!"
"It's not my money, Han. It's yours."
"That is not my money." She sighed. "Do you remember the last case we took before Grievous invaded Coruscant and kidnapped Palpatine?"
How could he forget? It was the first and, thankfully, the only time he had ever encountered Count Dooku. He looked at her, breathing hard with temper. "That real estate contract on Alderaan. You discovered that Count Dooku was the anonymous buyer. Lady Duraine…"
"There is no Lady Duraine, Han. That property belonged…that property belonged to…it's irrelevant. Anyway, we shorted the contract to sever the deal. Dooku would have been thwarted anyway, since he was called back to Coruscant by Sidious, but nonetheless. The commission on that was…larger than I had negotiated or anticipated. Since you did the paperwork and most of the footwork after I was…sidetracked by fear for Anakin's safety, your side of the commission is, well, one-hundred thousand Republic credits."
His mind raced along with his heart. The things he could with that much money!
"You're serious about this."
Siri stood to face him. "It is yours. You earned it, and you may do with it whatever you wish."
She pulled him to her and hugged his waist. He was so tall, taller than even Anakin now. Her head rested at the center of his chest.
Overcome with fondness for this boy, she squeezed him and cried, "I don't want you to have to worry about me, or money, or anything else ever again. And I don't want to worry about what will become of you on your own. I've grown very attached to you, brat. Indulge me, will you?"
Han, never used to displays of affection, found his arms winding around her. He didn't like emotions like this, but he would indulge her. She was the only one that could move him to such…junk.
"Thank you, Siri."
"You're welcome." She pulled back and beamed at him. "There is one more thing."
Han groaned. "Really? Siri, I don't think I can take any more…"
She waved him off. "Padmé told me last night that the bride's father usually gives the bride to the groom at the altar for a wedding. It's a tradition. She could not have her father at hers because of…you know."
"Sure. She and Commander Skywalker married in secret. So?"
"Well, I am not close to my father. My parents never called on Temple for reports on my progress, and since you're the closest thing I have to family…"
Han frowned, oblivious. "You want me to give you away? What does that involve exactly? Is it like a gift? Am I supposed to put a bow on the top of your head or something?"
"No, silly," she chided playfully but thought, At least I don't think so. I hope not.
She shook her head. "Look, Padmé will explain it to you at Temple. We'll just follow her instruction."
"Yeah. Follow her instruction. Because we do that kind of thing so well."
"Will you do it? Will you give me away?"
No! He wanted to shout. Instead, he answered, "You know I will."
He rolled his eyes when she hugged him once more, but his attention was drawn to something on the holoscreen. His gaze narrowed.
"Look." He turned her around and reached on the table for the remote.
Siri watched HoloNet and saw…
"That's 500 Republica," she breathed soberly. "Han, turn on the volume."
A masculine voice gave the account of the visual. "It appears there was a skirmish between two men believed to be Jedi on the rooftop of 500 Republica. I allege that they are Jedi as the glare of lightsabers were said to be seen locked in conflict by several eyewitnesses from neighboring buildings. As you know, 500 Republica is the housing complex to several Galactic Senators of the Republic as well as the home of Chancellor Organa, who resides in the penthouse just below the roof.
Again, it is only speculation at this point that there was a battle. It is difficult to prove. 500 Republica rests in a no-fly zone and is heavily secured. Very few people have access to the roof for obvious reasons, so if there were two men fighting…with lightsabers…They would have had to have authentic means of entry.
It is worthy to note, however, that Commander Anakin Skywalker does live in the building now that it is public knowledge he is Senator Amidala's husband. If it was Commander Skywalker, and there was a battle of lightsabers, it could very well mean that our woes of the Sith have not quite ended yet…"
Han looked at her with concern. "Do you sense anything wrong?"
Siri glared at the screen. She did not look pleased, but she also did not look worried.
"Yes," she told him. "I sense something wrong. My juvenile friend and my idiot fiancé have been caught playing out of school."
The reporter was not finished. "There have been several complaints of loud booms and crashing noises from the roof. As a precaution, HoloNet has been told that Chancellor Organa has been evacuated as Senate security teams lock-down the building."
Siri moaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. Han knew it as a tell of her irritation.
"What's going on?" Han asked.
She glanced once more at HoloNet as they closed the satellite location and returned to the vapid twit they had covering Temple.
She shut off the holoscreen.
"Oh, nothing," she finally answered, derisively. "Anakin and Obi-Wan have drawn more attention to the Jedi at a time when we really don't need it."
"You worried HoloNet is going to storm Temple?"
"I'm not worried that they will storm Temple. Han, sweetheart, they have locked down 500 Republica."
Understanding dawned and Han's expression was sympathetic. "Oh."
She picked up her COMM link from the table. "They have locked-down the building so that no one can come in. And –more importantly-- no one can get out."
Han tried to calm her. "Siri, I'm sure it won't last long. The security teams will hear what Anakin and Obi-Wan have to say and…"
"Leak it to HoloNet, who will pay through the nose to hear that they're precious heroes, Skywalker and Kenobi, were venting their anxieties by beating the tar out of one another for sheer amusement…on my wedding day."
Siri stalked across the carpet and began stomping up the stairs.
"Shouldn't we go try to help them?"
"Ha!" she scoffed and turned on the landing to look at him. "They're clever. They'll figure it out. They had better. And if they cannot, Padmé will make them aware."
"So we should just keep waiting here?"
She stopped at the door to her bedroom. "I have a list to check. Padmé advised me of the many things I have to do this morning."
"Well, after I shower—naturally—I am to…" She pulled a folded slip of paper from the pocket of her robe and read, "Wash my hair but leave it unbraided and air-dried, don a shirt that buttons down the front and not one to pull over my head, eat a light breakfast and…"
She scowled and read the last, "Go out for a manicure and pedicure."
Flummoxed, Han said, "A 'who' and a 'what'?"
Siri sighed and groaned, "She wants me to have my nails done."
"Done to what?"
"Painted, kid. Painted."
"You don't do that."
"Yeah, well…" she began, defeated by her own vanity for the moment. "I do today. Listen, I don't get this stuff any more than you do, but she knows what she is talking about and if you would have had to listen to her like I did last night, you would understand. I'm only going to marry…" Her teeth grit. "Kenobi once. This is my best shot at doing something grotesquely feminine and she was so excited, Han…I couldn't say no."
"I could go over there you know," Han offered. "See what I can do."
Siri thought about that. He could remain here, bored out of his skull while she got dressed and prepared for primping, or he could leave like he clearly wanted to and fetch her groom.
"Go," she nodded. "I will COMM you when I hear from Temple."
"All right. I'll let you know if there is any problem."
Siri leaned on the rail. "Han?"
He stopped at the door. "Yeah?"
"I love you."
He winked and gave her the response he always had at the declaration. "I know."
"No," Yoda called to a padawan on a ladder. "Move it more to the left, please."
He studied the picture in the book and frowned.
Liam pushed the garden torch deeper into the earth along the marble walk. "Yes, Master?"
"Come you here and look at this."
Liam rubbed his hands along his pants legs and trotted to Yoda's side. Yoda's craggy finger pointed to the page. "Look you at this then at the arbor. Something missing there is. What think you, hmm?"
Liam looked at the photo then to the makeshift, floral elevation before the large fountain.
The Jedi currently in Temple had worked half the night and all morning to decorate the enormous hall for the premiere Jedi wedding ceremony. Having never experienced anything remotely like it, Master Yoda had called for the lead librarian of the Archives to supply a book on the matter. Firm with the belief he held all the knowledge required on the subject, he had become a true task-master…of flowers, candles, floor runners, bunting and all things nuptial celebration-oriented.
As he had pursued everything else in his life and that of the Jedi, Yoda was vibrant with energy to see his gift designed to perfection.
Liam took a deep breath and observed, "There are not enough flowers."
Yoda's lips pursed as he stared ahead. "Yes."
Liam looked at him and said, "Master, we are still expecting one more shipment of orchids. Perhaps we could move the calla lilies to the altar and keep the orchids in the marble pots…"
Are these words really coming out of my mouth? Liam thought to himself.
"No," Yoda said and stepped over the curved bower. "Orchids. It must be orchids."
"Yes, Master," Liam sighed.
The sound of running footsteps made Liam turn. Knight Gurgeas stopped and bowed toward Yoda. "I have news, Master."
Unperturbed, Yoda kept his gaze around the arbor and altar. "Where your charge is, Jacen?"
Gurgeas turned to Corcoran.
"He has been this way all morning," Liam mouthed silently.
Gurgeas cleared his throat. "Master, I have the orchids." He looked pained. "They are being unloaded now."
"Good." Yoda walked over to direct the padawan on the ladder. "Uneven that is, Finley. Correct it, please."
The pretty redhead nodded. "Yes, Master."
Yoda set his gimmer stick aside a marble pot and began adjusting stems of calla lilies. "Your news, Knight Gurgeas?"
Jacen stepped closer and announced, "Masters Kenobi and Skywalker are being detained at 500 Republica."
Liam's brow knit and his eyes grew alert. "What has happened?"
Jacen's lips quirked. "Master Windu said that Masters Anakin and Obi-Wan were…exercising on the roof and got a little… overzealous. Senate security was called by some residents, and they found the Masters and brought them inside. But only after the building was locked down and Chancellor Organa was tucked away to safety."
"Where?" Yoda asked, his fingers gently stroking a delicate petal.
"Not far from home." Gurgeas grinned then. "He and Queen Breha have taken shelter with the senator from Naboo."
Liam frowned. "Senate security's idea of protecting the chancellor is placing him with the Masters?"
"In no danger the chancellor is," Yoda called. He stepped over to the next pot. "Know that, his staff does."
"Then why is the building still under lock-down?"
Gurgeas bowed respectfully to Yoda's back. "May I try answering that, Master Yoda?"
Yoda grunted his consent as he rearranged another bloom.
"It's a stall tactic," Gurgeas declared.
Liam appeared to accept that. He crossed his arms over his chest and pensively said, "A stall tactic. To what purpose?"
Gurgeas looked at Yoda. "Master?"
Yoda leaned on his gimmer stick, returning to his manual. He grunted again and waved his permission, flipping pages.
Gurgeas continued. "Naturally, Anakin and Obi-Wan wished to start their morning with saber training."
"Naturally," Liam acquiesced.
"Their choice of location was ill-advised…"
"And, of course, their time would have been better spent meditating the events of the day."
"But once they had realized the disturbance they'd caused, they nobly finished their exertions to return home. But the alarms had already been sounded, disaster plans had been put into execution and HoloNet had arrived fast on the scene."
"Ah, yes," Liam nodded. "So to keep the press out, the chancellor ordered all doors and exits barred and secured."
"You're quick. So a stall tactic has been applied by our esteemed chancellor to afford the necessary time to think of how…"
"To safely and quietly abscond with Master Kenobi and the Skywalkers here without anyone inside or outside being the wiser."
"Yes," Gurgeas replied, wistfully stroking his goatee. "It's a problem."
He exchanged a hard, conspiring look with Knight Corcoran. "With HoloNet surrounding both Temple and 500, well…Who knows when Master Kenobi will be free…"
Liam, pleased with the what his friend silently plotted, supplied, "Yes. It may be hours." He turned toward Yoda. "Several hours, Master. And your efforts will go underappreciated."
"That's right, Master," Gurgeas told him. "Anakin and Obi-Wan may require aid. I think Liam and I should go…"
Yoda did not turn to face them, seemingly enthralled by something he was reading in the book. But it did not stop him from declaring, "Here, you will remain. Your aid, I need."
Liam sighed in easy resignation, but Gurgeas was not so ready to concede defeat. "But, Master…"
Yoda sighed and replied, "Of no matter, their detainment is. For their mischief, they will pay in lecture by Senator Skywalker, I am certain. Time, this gives us to make this room…"
"Ripe for farming?" Gurgeas petulantly completed.
"Jacen!" Liam hissed in warning.
Yoda slowly turned his head to finally look at Gurgeas. His composure was reserved and his tone quiet. "Feel what you do here is unimportant?"
Gurgeas sighed. "Of course not, but—with respect, Master—we are Jedi, not event planners."
He glanced around at the numerous plants and copious stations of pale, unlit candles in the room. Flowers of all varieties seemed to have exploded throughout the once serene and water-misting space in the short amount of time Yoda had overseen it done.
"Marks a significant transition this occasion will for the Jedi, Knight Gurgeas," Yoda said kindly. "Includes you, that does. Not so impatient and smug will you be, if decide to join your life with someone else some day you do."
Though he understood the reasoning, Gurgeas did not agree. "I have already joined my life, Master, to the codes of the Jedi Order."
"The codes are being rewritten, Jacen," Liam came back. "Master Yoda only wishes to see it done properly. These modifications to the codes are being made for not only Masters Kenobi and Tachi but for us as well."
"No offense, Knight Corcoran, but I have spent the last four hours flying rabidly through outer space for twenty dozen orchids. Do these changes include the Jedi mastering horticulture?"
This time, Yoda's gaze narrowed at the sarcasm. "Too much speech with Anakin you have had. Think like him, you do."
Gurgeas smiled again. "Thank you, Master. I'll take that as a compliment."
"His insouciance, you need not. Humph." Yoda turned back to his book. "Married first, he did. If like him you wish to be, keep that in mind, you should."
Liam grinned at that and the wild look that entered Gurgeas' eyes. He could swear his friend blushed.
Gurgeas gave up. "You're right, Master. What would you have me do?"
"The orchids bring inside. Twine them into the arbor you and Knight Corcoran shall."
Yoda indicated the page in the book with his gimmer stick. "Just like this, I wish it to look. Help him bring them in you will, Liam."
"Of course, Master."
They bowed and walked briskly from the room.
Liam looked at his friend's sullen profile. "Are you truly angry, Jacen?"
"No." The response was on a weary sigh. "I simply do not understand why we must suffer such extravagance."
"It is just for today. Tomorrow, Temple will return to normal."
"No, it will not."
"You are right. It will be better. I look forward to the changes, Jacen. I think these new enlightenments will serve to make us stronger."
"You have no way of knowing that with any certainty, Liam."
"And you have no way of knowing that your fears will come to end result."
"That is a textbook response."
"I am a Jedi. I know better than to concentrate on fear. So should you."
They walked out onto the landing platform and over to a stack of boxed orchids.
They each heaved a box onto their shoulders and began the trek back to the Room of a Thousand Fountains.
They walked in silence for a few moments before Gurgeas asked, "They are happy? Master Kenobi and Anakin?"
"It is my observation that they are very happy, yes."
"You think you will ever marry, Liam?"
His answer was quick. "I hope so."
"I can think of worse predicaments, my friend. I think I understand the kind of attachment it is. The feelings I perceive when Master Skywalker addresses the senator and the look that Master Kenobi gets when Mis…Master Tachi enters the room are…nice. Solid. Peaceful. I must say, I find myself almost impatient for the possibilities before me now."
Gurgeas' smile was kind instead of filled with disdain. "You have a soft heart, Liam."
"And yours is as stubborn as your head."
They gently placed the boxes on the floor of the altar once they returned to ground-zero. Gurgeas released a breath gustily as he measured the work ahead of him.
"Twine the orchids?"
"Like the picture it must be!" Yoda commanded from his perch several feet away.
Liam bent to remove the lids, and Gurgeas called back with a groan, "Yes, Master."
Liam grinned up at him. "Twine the orchids."
Bail Organa, Supreme Chancellor of the Grand Republic, Prince Consort of Aldaraan and veteran of World Affairs stared at the two Jedi, listening intently to their tale with a mixture of shock and sympathy.
This last set of weeks had supplied him with more drama, intrigue, and all the filthy amount of violence than he could stomach. And that was after three years of the galaxy embroiled in devastating war.
It was natural that the Jedi had methods of which to alleviate stress. It was automatic that they would perform their rituals of training as a means to calm and center themselves. Looking at the pair sitting so solemnly on the sofa, he no longer had to wonder how they got through the things they had seen and done.
The Republic was permanently indebted to the Jedi. After all Anakin and Obi-Wan had been through, he would not question anything they did to soothe themselves. But he had believed until this moment there could be no more news that could surprise him, yet they had managed to do so.
His handsome face showed his happiness and he said, "Master Kenobi…That is wonderful news. Congratulations."
Obi-Wan moved the bacta poultice away from his mouth to reply, "Thank you, Chancellor."
Moteé saw his grimace as he replaced the pack to his face and said for the tenth time in as many minutes, "I am so sorry, General Kenobi."
There was comedy in this situation, but Obi-Wan refrained from dwelling on it. Not while his hostess continued to glare at him as she nursed her husband's rapidly swelling eye.
"I am fine, Motee. Do not fret so. You were doing what you had been trained to do."
Anakin sought to assure Padmé's handmaiden as well. "You thought the building was under attack, and you were protecting your mistress. You did the right thing. I thank you."
Padmé tenderly rubbed the cube of ice along his left eye though the tone of her voice indicated the true extent of her displeasure. "Your mistake was not striking him before they left for the roof, Moteé."
It had begun so innocently to Obi-Wan's mind. He and his friend had simply wanted to fill the time before they were called to Temple doing something they knew so well—sparring. It had been a good match, too. Anakin had learned a lot in his travels, and Obi-Wan found himself no longer giving way for him. He could not afford to give Anakin any advantage if he had wanted to keep his head on his neck. The man had obviously been studying saber techniques behind his master's back.
The lightsaber duel had been the most obvious metaphor for unswerving paths in their respective lives. They knew each other's every move, could counter the other's actions before the marks were made. The fluidity of their movements, the synchronization of their routine had comforted Obi-Wan and showed him that, though many things were changing for him and for Anakin, their camaraderie would not. Their bond was unbreakable.
They had been laughing, sweating profusely from their exertion and truly enjoying themselves when they heard the distant sounds of the alarms. They had reacted on instinct, Force-racing across the pavement, through the door and down the stairs. They had run so fast, they flew past the chancellor's security teams in their rush to get back to the apartment.
Anakin had waved the door opened and as Obi-Wan crossed the threshold, he was promptly struck in the face with something viciously hard. The hit had propelled him back, his feet swept off the floor and his elbow connecting with the bone above Anakin's eye. They had collapsed upon the floor in the hall. The guards had stared down at them with surprise, and Padmé's handmaiden dropped the Nubian sculpture on the floor with a horrified gasp.
Returning to the present, Obi-Wan pressed the poultice tighter to his lips and marveled that she had not managed to break his jaw or knock out his teeth.
He doubted Siri would appreciate that. She would not be amused by this at all. He would be swamped in explanation when he saw her later.
Perhaps the roof was not the best idea he and Anakin had ever had.
Obi-Wan glanced up at Padmé. She appeared as serene as ever, but he knew she was furious with him. How were they supposed to know the army would be called over such a non-incident as two Jedi training?
He noticed the chancellor watching him. "I am sorry for this inconvenience, Chancellor Organa."
"Nonsense, Obi-Wan." Bail took a seat in the chair across them. "It gives me and my wife a chance to escape the tedium of paperwork upstairs. Tell me, when is the wedding?"
Padmé finished her tending and glared at Obi-Wan as she answered, "Today."
"Today?" Bail sat up straight. "I did not think it would be so soon."
"You would not think it soon if you knew how long he has wanted this, Bail," Anakin smiled.
"Master Kenobi, my wife and I consider both you and Mistress Tachi…"
Bail looked at Padmé. "Master Tachi?"
Padmé grinned at the look of stunned pleasure on his face. "The Order reinstated her."
"Well," Bail breathed. "It appears it has been eventful two days for you, Obi-Wan."
"Yes, sir. You were saying that you consider she and I…?"
"We consider you and Siri friends of ours. If it is not an imposition, I feel free to speak for the queen when I say that we would like to attend the service."
"I am sure, Chancellor, that Master Yoda has you on whatever guest list he has compiled. For Siri and I, you and Queen Breha are most welcome to attend."
"Thank you. Master Yoda?"
Padmé sat on the arm of the couch next to Anakin. "Master Yoda is overseeing the preparations at Temple. He plans an evening wedding."
Anakin and Obi-Wan faced her. "He is?"
Padmé replied, "Yes. A candlelight wedding."
Anakin was aghast. Not by the details, but by her knowledge of them. "You know what he is doing?"
"I received a flimsiplast from him shortly before we left Temple yesterday."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
Obi-Wan's stupefaction forced him to utter, "A flimsiplast?"
She sighed, "He wants it to be surprise, so you will get no more from me than it is an evening wedding."
"His 'details' are so significant they fill a flimsiplast?" Obi-Wan asked, wide-eyed. "Padmé…Love, how grand of an affair is this going to be?"
"Not grand at all," she said, her chin defiantly in the air.
Anakin knew that look. She may not be lying but she was shortening the truth. "By whose standards, Padmé? The Jedi or yours?"
Bail, confused, looked from one to another. "You mean you do not know what is going on with your own wedding, Master Kenobi?"
Obi-Wan leaned back against the sofa with a groan. "Siri left the planning up to Master Yoda in a moment of weakness. I did not disagree. I should have known better."
Bail actually chuckled. "You make it sound terrible, Obi-Wan. Yoda would not do anything to make you uncomfortable, and he is the last person to utilize pretension or lavishness in any thing."
Obi-Wan would not explain the reason for his concern. It would take too long. "You are right, Chancellor. I am certain that Siri and I will have a lovely, plain and small ceremony."
"So Siri is as in the dark as you?"
"Is she, Padmé?"
Padmé remembered Siri's total ignorance to bridal rituals as she had explained them to her the night before and the constant puzzlement she had displayed with each item.
She could imagine the horror Siri would have displayed if she knew everything Yoda plotted.
Padmé shook her head. "No. No, she does not."
She was reminded that there was a very special garment she was bringing to her friend and her agitation with Anakin and Obi-Wan was renewed.
She looked at Bail. "Chancellor, how long will be remanded here?"
Bail let out a breath. "This is where there is a impasse."
"What do you mean?" Obi-Wan asked with puckered brow.
Bail held out his hands. "I would have reported 500's troops to stand down and at ease sooner but…HoloNet is waiting below on the streets."
"Perfect," Anakin groaned.
"The alarms were sounded, gentlemen, because someone, somewhere reported your antics on the roof. You are a celebrity, Anakin, and HoloNet won't turn loose of you any more than a hungry dog would a meaty bone."
Obi-Wan glared at his friend beside him. "That's a vivid analogy."
"We can't sit here all day."
"No need to state the obvious, Anakin."
"We have to get you to Temple, Obi-Wan."
"They are loitering outside Temple as well," Bail told them. "Therefore, the impasse. You cannot leave here without HoloNet following you. You cannot go to Temple without being recognized and your entrance hindered. Either way, you alert the press to something important and news-worthy happening with the Jedi. We have to think of a plan to get you there quietly without being noticed."
Obi-Wan was not listening. He was giving his brain a work-out trying to come up with his own plan.
"Perhaps we can sneak out," he heard Anakin start. "What of your private exits, Bail?"
"That is an option, but you still risk being seen."
Padmé added, "And we will be too large a group to be missed."
"Obi-Wan and I could leave separately and meet you at Temple."
Bail shook his head. "Then they will swarm her and the children as they leave here. She has a security contingency but since you are both so well-favored, Typho may not be able to hold them off and our guards do not compare to what you could do in such a situation."
Padmé glared at her husband. "See what you have done?"
Anakin sighed and turned toward Obi-Wan. "I'm sorry, Master. This is my fault. I should not have suggested we go up on the roof."
"Stop it, Anakin," Obi-Wan reproved mildly, rubbing the unhurt side of his chin. "Suggesting it did not make me follow you up there, did it? Be at peace, young one. We will figure this out."
Anakin could feel the weighty swell of his left eye as he looked at the red puffiness of the left side of his master's mouth. "Wow. Siri is going to kill us."
Staring at the ceiling, Obi-Wan whispered, "We could teleport to Temple."
Padmé asked, "Teleport?"
Bail stared at him with incredulous fascination. "You can do that?"
"No." Anakin said shortly but turned to Obi-Wan and murmured with interest, "Can you?"
Obi-Wan glanced his way, "You are the not the only one with an unpublished arsenal of skills, Anakin."
Anakin glared at him sullenly. "I have never tried it."
Ceaselessly fascinated by everything the Jedi knew how to do by mere concentration, Bail asked, "How is it done? Do you do this often? What is it like?"
"Few Jedi know how to accomplish it, Chancellor. It is an expert weapon that, to my understanding, only certain Masters who are exceptionally strong with the Force can use. My working knowledge of it has only come recently."
Padmé's voice took on one of caution as she called his name, "Obi-Wan…"
Anakin glimpsed from the look on her face back to Obi-Wan, who settled his head back and closed his eyes, an awkward smile making the good corner of his lips curve.
"What?" Anakin addressed them, his suspicious nature raised.
Padmé tried to change the subject. "If you were to teleport to Temple, we would still require a means to get me, the children, Bail and her Highness there."
Anakin did not hear her. He continued to stare at Obi-Wan. He could sense something being hidden from him, and he did not like it. Padmé was trying to protect his master, and he wanted to know why.
He was aware of no more than three Jedi Masters who knew how to meditate themselves to other locations—Yoda, Mace, and the late Kit Fisto. It was certainly a useful tool. Was it possible that Obi-Wan had reached that level of tranquility that he could mystically remove himself from one environment to another and if so, when?
Then another thought occurred to him. Anakin knew Obi-Wan had not been pleased with the notion of staying the night with he and Padmé. He had wanted to remain with Siri. The pair had spoken briefly in private before her exit last night. The result of that seemingly above misgivings and then readily agreeable. Obi-Wan's protestations finished and his good cheer returned.
With the disclosure of teleporting now, Anakin was not so sure his master had not devised a scheme to break his word that he would remain with him and spend the night exactly where he had wanted, returning before the sun had come up and before Anakin could miss him.
But surely Anakin would have sensed such a thing. He had been awake with his little girl. He would have known if Obi-Wan's essence was gone but on the contrary, Obi-Wan's presence had been strong within the walls of the apartment last night. Very strong.
Anakin wanted his wariness to fade. "Teleporting, Obi-Wan…"
"When was the last time you did it?"
"Why do you need to know?"
"You promised me you would not seek Siri last night. You have never broken your word, Obi-Wan. Now is not the time to start."
No, Obi-Wan would never break his word. Least of all to Anakin. But as he remembered Siri suddenly appearing in his guest suite in the middle of the night and the way she had come to him, the way she had climbed over him—her gorgeous body riding him to bliss—he could not be sorry for his dishonesty. But to Anakin's question, he could answer with the truth.
"Anakin, on my life, I did not leave your guest room. I swear it."
Mollification was incomplete. Anakin faced his face, his expression stern, "Padmé?"
She looked at him brightly. "Yes, darling?"
"Did he leave here?"
"I slept throughout the night, Anakin. I cannot say, but I believe him."
Bail watched the three of them with a smile and said, "Maybe I should check on Breha with the children."
"I'll show you to the nursery, Bail."
They stood, and Padmé told Anakin and Obi-Wan, "You two get cleaned up. Obi-Wan, COMM Siri to assure her all is well."
"Is all well?" Anakin added with feigned surprise. "We are barricaded here. We could be twiddling our thumbs and staring at other for hours."
He glared at Obi-Wan once more. "And wouldn't that blow your wedding night."
"Who is smothering who now, Anakin?"
Bail looked back at them as Padmé ushered him through the dining room.
"This is probably not what Master Kenobi envisioned for a start to his wedding day, is it, Padmé?"
She sighed. "I presume he has not thought much about it. He never believed it could happen. At least that is what I tell myself to explain his buffoonery this morning."
"And Master Yoda has sanctioned this union?"
"Master Yoda is full of surprises, Bail. You'll see what I mean if we ever get away from here."
"This is going to be a great day for the Republic, Padmé. It is cause for great celebration."
"Let's see it finished first, Chancellor," she grinned, stopping in front of the closed door to the nursery. "Come. Meet the future Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic."
Bail beamed, "Which one, milady?"
"Time will tell, won't it? Come on."
In the grand room, Obi-Wan stepped out onto the veranda that also served as landing space to Padmé's apartment. He scanned the sunlit distance from 500 Republica to the tallest spire of Jedi Temple.
Anakin walked out to stand beside him. They both measured the perimeter, contemplating a variety of means to exit.
"If we could get a ship up here…"
"HoloNet is undoubtedly watching from below, Obi-Wan. As Bail pointed out, we would be followed."
Obi-Wan snapped a manual COMM from his belt and raised it to his lips. "Siri?"
Siri glared at her receptor on the table next to her hand.
"Come in, darling."
She swallowed the fruit in her mouth and picked up her COMM. "Yes?"
Obi-Wan cringed at the tone. "How are you?"
"Bored and wondering how long I am supposed to sit here. I noticed you found ways of wasting your time. How is your voluntary incarceration going?"
He flinched. "I can explain all of it, love."
"Obi-Wan," Siri called softly. "Master Yoda could contact us any moment now. What happens if you are stuck there? Honestly? What were you two thinking?"
"That will not be the case, Siri. I promise you."
"You are damn right it won't. Han is on his way over there."
As if on cue, Anakin's own COMM link buzzed and he brought his wrist up to his face. He stepped away from Obi-Wan. "Skywalker."
Han appeared to be sitting in the cockpit of his ship. "Hi, Ani. Siri and I saw what was happening on HoloNet. Need help?"
Anakin shook his head. "We appreciate the offer, Han, but you cannot breach the airspace right now. We need HoloNet's attention away from here."
"Anakin, Senator Skywalker gave me specific instructions yesterday to take her to Siri today. Blondie ain't waiting patiently, sir."
"Padmé gave you instructions?"
"Yes, sir. She's supposed to help Siri get ready for the ceremony. Siri should be half way to getting her nails done now."
"Your lady gave Siri a list of things to do. Siri is happily following it, but I gotta tell you, she is not so happy with you and Obi-Wan."
"Yeah," Anakin muttered, glancing back at Obi-Wan speaking animatedly into his mike. "I got that. How bad does it look on the news?"
"Like you're all teetering on the brink of a galactic incident." Han grinned. "You've really put your feet in it now. What can I do?"
"Hold off, Han. I'll get back to you in a minute."
"You got it."
Anakin left Obi-Wan alone to speak with Padmé.
"Do you understand what I have just explained?"
Obi-Wan glowered at his COMM. "Yes. It will be done. I will talk to Anakin."
She was not angry, but her tone bespoke of her radical impatience with him. Obi-Wan vowed never to motivate her to such a state again. She was downright mean when she was tense.
"Good. Thank you."
"I am sorry, you know."
"I know. We should have eloped."
"There is still time."
"It would break their hearts and you know it. Yoda and Padmé are working at something very special for us. It's just one day, baby. We shall endeavor for more patience."
"Very well. I will see you at Temple. I will be the besotted looking one in the formal robes."
"And, apparently, I'll be the unkempt one dressed shabbily unless we can get Padmé here."
"We'll take care of it."
"Fix this, Kenobi."
"Yes, yes. I will. I love you."
"Me, too. Tachi out."
Just like that, the signal was gone. Obi-Wan sighed and walked back inside the apartment. Anakin and Padmé returned to the grand room.
"We have an idea," Anakin declared.
"I'm all ears."
"We can bring the shield down over the veranda and allow Han to land," Padmé explained. "The children, Moteé and I can fly with him to Siri's."
Anakin added, "You and I can catch a ride with Bail and her Highness to Temple…"
"We will still be followed," Obi-Wan repeated.
"Yes, but we can take a convoluted route and maybe throw HoloNet off a bit."
"You can arrive at Temple by way of the third spire. Master Windu has undoubtedly put the shields up over Temple."
"HoloNet has Temple covered as well, milady. Do you remember the morning after the twins were born, Anakin?"
"What did you have in mind?"
Padmé rolled her eyes. "I think you two have had enough brilliant 'ideas' for the day."
"This is Siri's idea."
"Oh. Well, then. What is it?"
Obi-Wan refused to be insulted by Padmé's distinct assurance that his bride would be the one to rescue them not himself. "Anakin and I can provide a mild diversion."
Padmé pressed herself against Anakin's arm. "Like what?"
"Han can take you out. The Chancellor and the Queen can leave from their private platform, but Anakin and I…"
Obi-Wan made a smooth wiping motion across his eyes and down his cheek. It was a hand-signal Anakin recognized well, and he grinned his acknowledgement.
"Ah," he laughed. "That is freaking brilliant, Master."
Obi-Wan grunted, "Yes. A shame we were not the ones to think of it."
"What?" Padmé demanded. "He touched his face. What's that supposed to be?"
Anakin cupped her cheek. "It means, angel, that while you and the others evade the press, Master and I are going to step out to greet them."
Obi-Wan shrugged playfully, the smile coming back. "You have to give the people what they want."
"Are you serious?" Padmé goggled. "You are going to hold a press conference?"
"Of sorts, love," Obi-Wan chuckled. "With just the appropriate amount of trickery."
"And more than a little spiteful," Anakin laughed.
"No one will be harmed, Anakin."
"Least of all us."
"A critical objective."
"What are you talking about?"
"Milady," Obi-Wan bowed. "Trust us to repair our own damage."
"Yes, angel. We're good at it."
"You've had plenty of practice."
Anakin spoke into the link on his wrist. "Han."
The broken holographic image of the boy raised. "Yes, sir?"
"What is your E.T.A.?"
"I'll have the shield down, but be ready to move."
"Yes, sir. Solo out."
"I have to get the children ready!" Padmé protested.
Anakin kissed her. "I'll put all the necessary things in their bags. You gather what you need. Obi-Wan can manipulate the shield for Han."
"Then we can meditate on what we shall do next," Obi-Wan told him.
"After we wash up," Anakin replied to quell the dictate to do so before it could leave Padmé's lips.
"Come on, everyone!" Obi-Wan grinned. "We have a wedding for which to prepare!"
"All together, children!" Master Dralig exclaimed from altar. "On my signal…"
He brought his hand up high in the air. The padawan younglings, in rows of two at a time, began stepping solemnly up the aisle. Their little hands imitated the sprinkling of imaginary flowers upon the floor as they made their slow ascent.
"Good!" Cin beamed with pride. "Very good, younglings. You are doing wonderfully."
Yoda watched their progress and was pleased. "Well you have done with their training, Cin."
"They are very excited about this, Master," Cin explained. "They may not comprehend the magnitude of the event, but they desperately wish to please Masters Kenobi and Tachi."
"Appreciate this, they will," Yoda assured him. "Lovely idea it was, Master Dralig, to do this for them. The like of it in the book I read."
"It is not a done deed yet, sir. How well they will do once it is truly time remains to be seen. The silk runner will be down on the floor and all the Order will be watching them. I hope they don't get stage fright."
"Superbly they will do. Dare to mock them, no one shall."
"Of course not, Master, but they are still children. And they really do wish to please."
"Then a certainty it is that succeed in their task flawlessly they will."
"What do you think, Master Windu?"
Mace kept his rigid stance, feet spread, and hands behind his back. His stony visage was impassive. "I think we now know more about silk, flora, fauna, and lace than we ever believed we would ever have to use."
The one thing left to do was tuck the aisle runner in place. The setting was complete for Obi-Wan and Siri's vows and to Cin, the Room of a Thousand Fountains had never looked more magnificent. He did not know if he had a romantic heart, but he knew he approved of the myriad stanchions of candles. The floral arrangements were breathtaking. The drapes of deep Jedi-blue bunting beginning from the upper gallery gradually thinned as it reached the four-points to the tops of the room, and there were swags of emerald-green veiling material curved and hung to connect to those points. The altar itself of engulfed with fragrant orchids and would be back lit with more groups of ivory candles.
"Master Yoda, it is splendid. You and our Jedi have done an excellent job," Cin told him. "No one on Coruscant could have done better."
Yoda nodded. "What I wanted, it is just."
Mace raised a brow." What you wanted, Master?"
Yoda ignored that. "All ready it is. Contact Master Kenobi and Master Tachi. Begin in an hour, we will."
Mace bowed. "I will let the Council know as well. Cin, prepare the children and address Temple residents to dress in full Jedi regalia."
"Yes, Master Windu."
Mace walked away, his stride casual. Cin shook his head at his departing back. "I do not believe he approves of this, Master."
"Approve he does," Yoda opposed with confidence. "Moved by the sentiment and unwilling to show it is all. Happy, he will be once he watches them take their vows."
"And you are happy, sir?"
Yoda's eyes were liquid. "Indeed."
Cin patted his shoulder. "The Jedi transition into the mores of present-day Republic will begin poignantly."
"Begin they did with the birth of the Skywalker twins," Yoda corrected. "Display our affirmations of welcoming the changes this will."
"Masters Kenobi and Tachi will be overwhelmed by what you've done, Master, and Temple will be alive with many a joyous and emotional displays this evening."
"Embrace it tonight with pleasure I will."
Yoda began to leave the room for his own personal arrangements and added to no one in particular, "One does not know what calamity we may have to face tomorrow."
Obi-Wan jumped on his COMM. "Yes, Master Windu."
"Temple is ready. The ceremony will begin in fifty-six minutes. You may begin your journey to Temple."
"If you can. Windu out."
Obi-Wan pulled the sleeves of his robes down and turned to Anakin. "We must leave now."
Anakin grinned watching his master take a deep breath and slowly release it. He put his hand on his shoulder. "You ready?"
"More than ready." Obi-Wan closed his eyes.
Anakin copied him and their collected breathing evened out, their meditations uniting and an eerie silence came over the room.
Downstairs and just outside the main entrance to 500 Republica, facing the parked shuttles to the far left, Captain Typho put a finger to his ear and listened to the cue from upstairs to begin his proceedings. He addressed the relentless crowd of reporters that the Jedi would exit the building and answer all the questions they had to ask in a few moments.
A grim-faced Anakin and a weary-looking Obi-Wan stepped out the doors and were immediately set upon by the avaricious vultures. Once word had gone out that the public's two favorite Jedi were giving a press conference, drawing HoloNet from Temple and corralling the press already at 500 had been almost embarrassingly easy. HoloVids were pointed in their faces while the lights of bulbs made them flinch. The questions were shouted in rapid and salacious succession.
Captain Typho stepped in front of them and told the crowd to settle down, that the masters would take their questions one-at-a-time. There was no rush. Commander Skywalker and General Kenobi would remain as long as it was necessary to satisfy their curiosity. This interview would be seen all over the galaxy, and Anakin and Obi-Wan settled themselves into waiting chairs placed strategically on the walkway.
Typho pointed to a woman in front and the interrogation began.
Threepio peered through the view finder of the binoculars and exclaimed, "Oh dear!"
"What, Threepio?" the real Anakin asked, afraid their plan was failing.
"Everyone looks so close by," Threepio said in awe. He brought his hand out and waved it around as if expecting to touch a reporter.
"Threepio, focus," Anakin told him. "Please! What is going on?"
"They appear to be accepting your projection, sir."
"Anakin, we must go," Obi-Wan urged. "We do not know how much longer we can hold the Force downstairs. Bail is waiting on his platform."
"Let's run. Thanks, Threepio."
"You are most welcome, Master Ani. Good…!"
A burst of air swept the droid back against the railing as they Force-fled out of the apartment. Threepio pulled himself upright and sighed, "Luck to you, General Kenobi."
He stepped back into the safety of the apartment and looked around at the litter of dishes and miscellany proof of many guests and sighed, "Goodness."
Threepio began the process of restoring the home to rights.
Siri sat in a chair in Obi-Wan's chambers. It was something she knew how to do. Every question Padmé had put to her was answered with uncertainty and helplessness. When her friend began issuing orders, Siri feebly followed. Padmé was clearly running this show, and all Siri could do was marvel at her.
Han had not left them at her apartment when he brought Padmé and the kids. He authoritatively explained that they would be safer if they simply went on to Temple. He had assured the women that Anakin and Obi-Wan would take care of HoloNet, but he was not going to take any chances with them.
So they had taken over Obi-Wan's living space and turned it into a staging area for the bride. Her friends at Temple had come by to wish her luck, but Padmé promptly shooed them away. She was kind and diplomatic about it, but she left no doubt that they must go away and stay away. She said something about not wanting anything to distort their vision of the bride before she was completely made ready. Siri was as confused as they but wisely kept her mouth shut.
Moteé was curling the ends of her hair with a hot iron, and she sat as still as possible afraid the rod would burn the fragile material of her slip. It was part of a set of silky underthings that were obviously created for visual effect than actual service. It was in the first box she had opened upon Padmé's command when they arrived. She had been made to strip down and put them on—a strapless brassiere and matching panties made of a lace so thin, Siri was nervous she would puncture the items with a newly-shaped and polished fingernail.
Padmé finished applying the blush to her cheeks and stepped back, sweeping the cloth off from Siri's neck and shoulders.
Pleased with her work, Padmé beamed, "Makeup's done!"
Siri's smile was a pasted one. Yes. The cosmetics. When Padmé had tossed the miniscule trunk upon the sleeping couch and declared what the contents were, Siri had nearly bolted from the room. She had never worn makeup in her life and knowing what Padmé and Moteé were capable with foundation, powder, mascara and lipstick, she was more than a little anxious. Padmé assured her that the dramatic artistry she had used as the Queen of Naboo would not be required.
That was true. Padmé's look had subdued considerably once she had become a senator.
"May I look now?" Siri asked shyly.
"Not yet, dear." Padmé walked around the chair and addressed Moteé kneeling on the floor and expertly twining Siri's blond locks around the iron.
"It looks marvelous, Moteé. How much more?"
"One more part, Mistress."
The twins sat in their matching hand carriages watching the proceedings with happy nonsensical gibberish. Padmé walked over to them and cooed for a moment before stepping over to peer in the full-reflecting glass she had made Anakin lug onto Han's ship. She had known there would not be an adequate mirror to be found in Temple.
Honestly, the Jedi's utter lack of vanity was inconvenient sometimes.
"You look lovely, Padmé," Siri told her.
Padmé frowned. She was unsure of her choice in gowns, but the color would disguise the twins' spit-up if it were to happen and could be wiped clean from the material.
"Her hair is finished, milady."
Padmé turned to pull the lid off the second box. "Stand up, Siri. It's time to put your dress on."
Siri stood. "My what?"
"Your bridal dress."
"I do not have a bridal dress," Siri replied, stepping over to the sleep couch. "I have my formal robes…"
Padmé moved aside the tissue and carefully lifted a silk and organza confection from the interior of the box. "You are not wearing Jedi robes. You'll be donning those horribly drab clothes for the rest of your life. You are getting married. You are wearing a proper wedding gown."
She shook it out and the skirt skimmed the floor.
Siri stared at it in wonder.
It was beautiful.
Siri wet her lips, tasted lipstick. "You brought me a dress?"
Padmé turned to face her, holding the gown up against her. She smiled with hope. "Do you like it?"
Siri's fingers reached for the it, her fingertips smoothing over the delicate fabric. She had seen this dress in her meditation yesterday. She had not known then why such a vision came to her, but now she did. Padmé had been thinking about her, about it. Her friend had wanted to help give her a dream wedding and had thought about what kind of dress Siri would consent to wearing, what kind of design she would like.
She let out a giggle. "This is why Moteé was following me with measuring tape."
Padmé had the grace to look a little guilty. "Yes. But it was for a good cause. Please don't be angry for my lying to you."
"I am not angry," Siri whispered, tears springing to her mascara-lashed eyes. "I am grateful."
Padmé let out a breath. "So you like it."
"It's gorgeous. I am overwhelmed, Padmé. Thank you."
"Do not cry!" Padmé screeched. "You'll ruin your makeup."
Startled into sobriety by the vehement cry, Siri checked herself. "Yes, ma'am."
"Moteé, put the drape over her head so that her makeup won't get on the dress when we pull it over."
"Aren't you worried about ruining my hair?"
"Put your arms straight up," Padmé told her, then answered, "No. We can touch up your hair, but if we had waited to do your hair until after you were wearing the dress, we would have risked wrinkling the dress while you sat."
Siri's voice was muffled by both the cloth over her face and fabric of the dress. "And we certainly could not have that."
"No, we could not."
Siri put her arms down once they had pulled the dress down and over her. The drape was pulled from her face. Moteé kneeled again to pull the skirt to the floor.
"It's the perfect length, Mistress," Moteé smiled with pride. "Once we get the heels on her, it will just skim the carpet."
Padmé adjusted the thin straps of the dress on Siri's shoulders and finger-combed the curled tresses of Siri's loose hair down her back. "Good, Moteé. Get the shoes."
"Yes, love. You could not very well your boots with this dress. Don't you agree?"
Heels, Siri thought with something akin to panic. "Padmé, I have never worn high-heeled shoes before."
Padmé stared at her in amazement. "Never?"
Siri had a sudden vision of teetering toward Obi-Wan and tripping over her gown, falling gracelessly face-first to the floor.
She groaned, "Oh, no…"
Padmé thought for a moment. "This is not a problem."
"I can assure you it is, Padmé. What if I fall?"
Padmé threw her shoulders back. "Listen to me carefully. You will not fall. You just pick your feet all the way from the floor. Do not shuffle. Focus on getting to Obi-Wan. Keep your gaze forward and your steps slow. Han is escorting you, right?"
"Then if you feel yourself start to slip, you keep your grip on him. Han will help you. He will hold you upright. Once you are at the altar, Obi-Wan will be there to keep you stationary."
"Altar?" Siri croaked. "As in sacrificial altar?"
A giggle escaped from Moteé as she reapplied the iron to her hair. "Some people do view it that way."
Padmé merely smiled and held the shoes out. "Put these on."
"How do you know my size?"
Padmé bent to place the shoes on the floor. "I measured your boots outside the door of my guest suite last night."
Siri grimaced. "Oh."
Padmé straightened. "You should really be more careful of how you get about. It could have been Anakin to notice them instead of Moteé."
Moteé hid her laughter discreetly behind her hand. Padmé walked around her to pull on the back of the bodice.
"How did you know I would sneak in there?"
"I didn't at first." Padmé tugged then reached inside the bodice to lift Siri's breasts, ignoring her involuntary gasp of protest. "I went to bed with my husband, not at all pleased with the amount of time we have to wait to resume our marital relations, and I remembered what it was like to touch him and…I thought about when we were first married."
Padmé stepped around front again, and Siri noticed the wistful smile on her friend's face that always made her radiant. "Making love was all we ever did when we had time alone."
Siri glanced down to spy Moteé's reaction to such a personal subject and the handmaiden said nothing. She had no reaction at all. She just continued to lift the hem at the bottom of the dress.
"I could not keep my hands off him," Padmé revealed fondly, closing her eyes with memory. "He's so beautiful."
Siri smiled at her glowing face. "And you never have to hide your romantic worship of him again. Obi-Wan and I have you just as much as Anakin to thank for today, Padmé."
Padmé moaned with dreamy appreciation. "He's an incredible lover…"
Instead of appalling her, the statement made Siri laugh out loud. "Padmé, may I please, please, tell him you told me that?"
Sheepishly, Padmé demurred, "You mustn't embarrass him with it."
"I should think he'd be ecstatic over such a glorious compliment, milady."
"You don't understand, Moteé," Siri replied. "He has an infuriating streak of propriety that would stun you."
"Yes, Master Ani. This is priceless."
"Siri, hush and put on the shoes."
Siri used Padmé's shoulder for something solid to hold. Her feet slid into the dainty shoes with ease. She was instantly three inches taller. She bounced up and down. "Huh. This isn't so bad."
"The heels are wide so you will not stagger. You just have to get used to them," Padmé told her, tapping a finger to her chin. "Walk some. Walk to the door and back."
Her first step was tentative, and Padmé repeated, "Focus your gaze ahead and be confident."
"I am not confident about this, Padmé."
Siri straightened her posture and noticed that the shoes actually forced her to do so. She was so much more aware of herself than she'd ever been before, aware of her body and its movements.
"Hey! I'm doing pretty well."
"Yes, and you look lovely. Only…"
"Maybe we should pin your hair up. You could show everyone the back of the dress…"
This was the one thing Siri had been adamant about—her hair. "Padmé, Obi-Wan likes my hair down. I am wearing it down."
"Very well. Come back now."
Siri turned around, grinning, and began to walk back to Padmé but caught her reflection in the full-length mirror.
Siri gasped. Her hand flew instinctively to her stomach. "Stars…"
Stunned, she stepped closer to the glass. She stared at herself. The creamy-white dress hugged her curves perfectly. Her hair billowed down her back and shoulders with sweet curls at the tips.
It was her face that made her marvel. Padmé had kept her word and had not overdone it. Her eyelids were lightly shaded with a pale shimmering powder that along with the soft coat of mascara on her long lashes complimented the green of her eyes, making their color appear richer. The blush on her cheeks was natural looking, as if she had been out in cold weather for a few minutes. Her lips were glossy, but the shade of lipstick was a subtle rose.
She turned a little to get a look at the back of her dress. The elegant gown flowed perfectly down her legs to puddle at her heels.
Padmé moved to stand behind her. "What do you think?"
Siri was speechless. She had never known she could look this way. She had never felt more feminine. And powerful. She felt strangely powerful.
"I look like a woman," she reflected quietly. "I look like a normal woman."
"There is nothing 'normal' about you, sweetheart. But you have always been a woman—a stunningly beautiful woman—who happens to be a Jedi."
She turned to face Padmé and remembering the warning about the makeup, she cleared her throat against the rise of emotion. "Thank you."
She looked at her reflection again. "You think Obi-Wan will like the way I look?"
"General Kenobi will be very proud to call you his wife, Master Tachi."
"Thank you, Moteé."
"You are breathtaking, Siri. He will be humbled by you."
She found herself grinning. "Yes. I think he will."
There was an abrupt knock on the door.
"Who is it?" Padmé called.
"It's Han, milady. Obi-Wan and Anakin have arrived."
"Oh!" Siri exclaimed excitedly and smoothed her dress again.
Padmé stilled her movements with her hands. "Han, are they with you?"
"Then you may come in."
Padmé stepped over, deactivated the lock and the door slid open.
Han smiled, "Everyone is ready if you are."
"They are just in time," Padmé told him and stepped back to let him through, but he stared ahead of him.
Siri saw the surprised expression on his face from the reflection in the mirror. She flashed her mega-watt grin. "What do you think, kid?"
Han slowly looked her up and down. "You…You're wearing a dress."
He stepped further inside so that Padmé could shut the door. His throat visibly worked as he kept staring at her.
"Padmé brought it for me," Siri told him. "Isn't it beautiful?"
"You're wearing makeup."
She laughed. "You make it sound like it's a crime. Women wear makeup on occasion, Han."
"You're not a woman." It sounded stupid to even his ears, but he did not know what to say. Her appearance had startled him. He had always thought her beautiful but dressed this way, her face radiant with joy and her posture commanding his attention, she was striking.
He felt horribly tasteless in his own clothes. He had donned his best pair of pants and had pressed his best shirt and vest for this occasion. He had even polished his boots for her. He saw his reflection and noticed his rebellious hair still would not lay flat, and he automatically reached up to try smoothing it down.
Padmé noticed his expression and went to try to relax him. "You look very handsome, Han."
"I'm sorry I don't have a suit, Siri."
"Don't be." Siri turned around and pat his chest. "You look wonderful."
"So do you," he finally ground out. "You look…amazing."
"You ready to give me away?"
"Absolutely," he told her.
Siri took a deep breath. "Okay! Let's go."
Moteé took Leia's hand-carriage and handed Luke's to Padmé.
"Han, please check the hall."
"There is no one out there, milady. I promise. Everyone is waiting downstairs. There are a couple of knights—Corcoran and Gurgeas, I think their names are—guiding people to their seats."
His boyish smile returned. He could not wait for Siri to see what the Jedi had done for her. He was only sorry he would miss Obi-Wan's initial response to it. "You should see the place, blondie. It's incredible."
Siri did not believe there much they could do to truss-up Council chambers, but she smiled, "I'm sure it is, honey. Let's go."
Padmé led the group out of the room and down the hall. She pressed the button for the lift. "When we get down there, Moteé and I will go ahead to the…I'll get Moteé settled in her seat with the children. Han, you and Siri don't move from the elevator bank until you see my signal."
"Yes, milady." He leaned to whisper to Siri, "A tiny dictator, isn't she?"
"You should have been me for the last few hours."
Padmé ignored them. The doors to the lift opened and they filed inside. She pressed the button for which floor destination.
"Remember, Han. When you and Siri get my signal and reach the doors, she slides her arm through yours on your left side. Your steps should be in synch, and left then right and again."
Siri was amused. "We're just going to chambers, Padmé. Our steps are not going to require precision."
She looked at the call panel and frowned, "Council chambers are not on the ground level."
Padmé thought about how to tell her where the ceremony would be conducted. She regretted not already having done so. This would be tricky, knowing what she did about Siri's aversion to the room.
Well, Padmé thought, bringing Luke closer. Better now than at the door.
"The ceremony will not be in Council chambers, Siri."
Not really caring about the location, Siri was cool. "All right. Where?"
Padmé told her as Han braced himself for Siri's reaction.
Siri did not yell. She did not curse. She did not lose her temper at all. She was too…frightened to say anything. It was foolish, she knew, to be frightened of a blasted room, especially one she frequented in Temple. It was the only place large enough to meet discreetly with Yoda about her missions without too many people noticing them. It was silly that her heart pounded in her chest at the notion of meeting Yoda in there again. It was ridiculous, really. It was just a room.
She closed her eyes and tried to center herself. She could feel her hand on Han's forearm shaking, and she felt him kindly place his over it to conceal the tremors from Padmé.
The last time she had met Yoda and Obi-Wan in that room had ended miserably. It was stupid to think on that now, considering she was absolutely going there to marry the man, but the tension would not ease. It was a residual response to the terrible memory of the worst moment in her life.
She remembered all the times Obi-Wan had asked her to go in there with him over the years, just to talk, to just be his friend, and she had refused him every time. His motives had been innocent. He had not been thinking of the room. He had only thought that it was a quiet and peaceful place. He didn't harbor the resentment toward it that she had. After a while of her constantly denying him, Obi-Wan had given up on trying to rebuild their friendship, assuming she was not interested. She had let him. Being alone with him would have been painful enough but to be alone with him in the Room of a Thousand fountains? The site where her heart had been ripped from her chest? It was unthinkable.
Padmé continued to wait for a response with mounting concern. "Siri, are you all right?"
A bell chimed to indicate they had reached the ground floor and the elevator doors opened.
"Siri." Padmé handed Luke's carriage to Moteé. "Moteé, go on ahead. Tell Anakin we'll be there in a moment."
She stepped out of the lift and walked away. The doors closed again, and Padmé said, "Siri, listen to me. This is your wedding day. Look at me."
Siri opened her eyes and noticed the look of stark distress on Padmé's face. "This is not twenty years ago. Yoda has gone to a lot of trouble to make up to you and Obi-Wan for what he dealt you that day. He has worked so hard, both last night and today. You will be so happy when you see it. Honey…he wants to make you happy. He chose that room to make his amends in the place he offended you. Can you understand that? You. Are. Marrying. Obi-Wan."
Down the hall and in the scene of Siri's anxiety, Anakin spotted Moteé and the twins from the door of the alcove and quickly walked over to the front row to assist her with the babies.
"Moteé, where is Siri?"
"The senator asked me to tell you they will be here in a moment, Master Ani."
Her voice was so glum, Anakin asked, "What's the matter?"
"Master Tachi seems a little reluctant to get out of the elevator, Ani. Milady told her where we were going, or I should say to what room, and Master Tachi sort of, well, stopped. I do not know what is the matter."
Anakin groaned as he belted Leia's hand carriage to the chair. "I was afraid of that."
"Milady and Mr. Solo are talking to her now. Will she be all right, sir? Is there something we should do?"
"No, Moteé. It will be fine. Siri has dreamed of these moments for most of her life. She'll be here." He secured Luke. "Padmé may have to prod her to this place, but she'll be here."
Luke squealed with pleasure at looking on his father. The sound echoed through the room, making the crowd of Jedi titter with humor. Anakin made a face for him, and he squealed louder.
"I'll play with you later, son, okay?" He kissed the boy's forehead and straightened. "I have to get back to Obi-Wan."
"How is General Kenobi?"
"Impatient. Keep your fingers crossed, Moteé."
Padmé grabbed Siri's other trembling hand solidly in hers. "Siri, Obi-Wan is waiting for you."
Siri snapped out of her state and took a deep breath. "I know. I know. I'm fine. Really. I'm ready to go. I want to get married."
She still shook, and Han told her tenderly. "I have been in there already tonight, Siri. Whatever nightmare you just had, you will not find it once you walk through those doors. I guarantee it."
"It's just a room," she muttered to herself. "And my love is waiting for me. Let's go."
Han pressed the door release and they walked out hurriedly. Padmé rushed ahead of them. Siri kept her gaze ahead, as she had been told, and concentrated on her steps—anything but her childish nerves.
She saw Master Dralig with the padawan younglings class waiting for them as well. All were dressed in their Jedi finery. This must be a very special occasion to them, too, as they wore there small lightsabers on their belts. Siri found her smile. They all looked so sweet and serious though they radiated excitement.
Padmé grinned at them. "Are all of you ready?"
Master Dralig spoke before they did, "Inside voices, children."
Their responses were quiet. "Yes, Madam Skywalker."
Han and Siri reached them, and Siri bent down. "And what is all this?"
The twenty children nearly imploded with enthusiasm at the sight of her. "Hi, Master Tachi!"
"Shh," Cin groaned. "Inside voices. Inside voices."
Siri chuckled, "Hello."
"You look pretty, Master."
"Thank you, Sylvestro. What are you doing standing out here, younglings? Don't you want to watch me and Master Kenobi?"
"They are on very special assignment, Master Tachi," Cin informed her. "Master Yoda has asked that the padawans litter your ascent up the aisle with flower petals. It is a very important task."
She nodded in understanding though she was clueless as to why Master Yoda would ask such a thing of them. "Yes, it is. Thank you, children."
Sylvestro held his basket up for her inspection. "See, Master? We're ready."
"You'll do splendidly."
"Wait!" A sprite-like little girl walked around her classmates to hand Siri and Padmé each a bouquet of orchids and calla lilies. Precious ribbons held the stems together. "These are yours, Master."
Siri took the bouquet with a murmur of gratitude, glancing at Padmé.
"You just hold them while you go up the aisle. I'll take them from you when it's time for the ring exchange," Padmé clarified.
"Ring exchange? I don't have any rings."
"It's taken care of." Padmé turned to the children. "I am going to open the doors now so all of you be very, very quiet, okay?"
They nodded in silence, and Padmé was proud. "Everybody line up."
Siri watched them form two lines and muttered to Han, "Why do I need a ring?"
"Because when people of a non-Jedi persuasion get hitched they wear rings to signify that they're off the market," Han told her, simply. "It's a tradition that apparently your brethren would like to adopt."
Cin fell in line behind the children and called quietly, "Remember, Mayam Kai—do not run."
Han led her to stand behind Cin as Padmé opened the doors. She waved to a knight in the back corner, who in turn waved to someone in one of the upper galleries and music began to play.
Siri's eyes widened. She had the feeling that the limited-sized and intimate wedding she had thought of was…not.
"Han?" she whispered nervously.
"What am I about to walk into?"
His grin was mischievous. "Your wedding, blondie. Brace yourself."
"How many Jedi are in there?"
Han snickered as Padmé stepped into place before them.
"All of them," Han answered and laughed at the look on her face.
In the alcove, Mace straightened his posture and adjusted his collar when he heard the music start.
"It is time."
Obi-Wan reached to rip the door open, but Anakin snagged him. "Let Master Windu out first."
Anakin pulled on Obi-Wan's sleeves and picked lint off his master's robes.
Obi-Wan fidgeted as Mace left the room. He felt Anakin pull on the lapel of his tunic and looked down to watch him pinning a flower on it. "Anakin?"
"What, in the name of the Force, are you doing?"
"You are supposed to wear this."
Obi-Wan saw the flower Anakin had pinned on himself. "Why?"
"It's tradition," Obi-Wan finished, rolling his eyes. "Of course. How provincial of me."
Anakin pulled back and gave him another once-over. "You look nice. Oh, wait."
Anakin brushed off his shoulders and started plucking and pulling on him again until Obi-Wan couldn't stand it anymore. He knocked the hands away and spat, "Get off me!"
Anakin threw his hands up. "I'm sorry! I just wanted…"
"Anakin, I need to get out there. Now."
Anakin nodded and let out a breath. "Yes." He smiled. "You ready for this?"
Obi-Wan swallowed. "Yes."
Anakin stepped over to the door.
Obi-Wan called, "Anakin?"
"In case I forget later, thank you. For everything."
"My pleasure, Obi-Wan. Come on. Let's get you married."
Obi-Wan followed Anakin out of the alcove and rounded the corner into the Room of a Thousand Fountains. He stopped, surprised, when he got full view of the space.
It was nothing short of glorious. Thousands of lit candles illuminated the place, casting a rich golden hue to what looked to be the faces of every single Jedi of the Republic. The folding chairs were packed with them.
He noticed the intricate placements and arrangements of dozens of flowers, their sweet scents filling his nostrils as water lightly misted his face. He saw Anakin walk up a ramp leading to a newly-erected altar where he would stand under an orchid-bedecked arbor. Yoda stood on a raised platform to bring him level with the bride and groom.
Anakin realized that Obi-Wan was not behind him. He glanced at the younglings as they turned the corner from the back of the room to go up the aisle.
"Obi-Wan!" he hissed as casually as possible. "Get up here."
Obi-Wan walked up the ramp, and Anakin directed him to his cue. He looked at Master Yoda, who watched the children sprinkling the aisle with petals as they were instructed, with pride.
Touched beyond anything words could describe, Obi-Wan whispered, "This is extraordinary, Master. Thank you."
Yoda did not look at him but kept his gaze ahead. "You are welcome, Master Kenobi."
The congregation stood as the melody of the music changed. The guests turned to see Padmé take the corner.
Anakin smiled. She carried her bouquet high against her chest, her expression serene and focused. Her steps were long but in slow measure as she moved toward them. He knew this would be Siri's day but for Anakin, no woman would ever equal the beauty of his wife. Her features were cast in candlelight and she looked so much like she had to him on the day they had met and he had thought her otherworldly. She was a woman now, but he would forever be awash with tenderness at the mere sight of her face. His heart would continue to beat, and he would bow in praise to his existence only for her part in it.
A collective sigh from the people attending the service echoed in the room when Siri came into view. Obi-Wan followed their gazes, riveted on the sight of his love walking toward him, her arm looped through Han's and her features sedate.
"By the Force…" His whisper was a benediction.
She had decided against her Jedi robes and wore a slim column of sweet heaven that clung to her. She wore her hair down—undoubtedly because she knew he preferred it that way—and it curled in waves about her. But, by the stars, it was her face that struck him like a blow to his chest. She was moving closer to the altar, but he could see the way her eyes shined as she watched him. His utter adoration must have been evident for her lips curved in a smile—that smile—that secretive, mysterious smile that never ceased to make him ache for her.
Obi-Wan would get to see that face, that smile every morning and every night from here on out. Everything that had ever happened to them before this moment –all the tragedy and muck— melted away and left him with such enthusiasm for what the future would bring he nearly leaped at her to get her to him faster.
He stepped down from the altar to wait in the aisle.
Padmé smiled at him as she stepped to his right, the left of the altar. Han stopped just short of him and wondered if he'd worn a similar expression when he had first seen Siri looking this way.
He glanced down at her, but she was totally focused on Obi-Wan. Her eyes narrowed some as she looked at her groom.
Siri whispered, "What happened to your mouth?"
Obi-Wan realized she was speaking to him and still captivated, he said, "It's nothing. I'll tell you after."
Siri saw Anakin grinning at her from over Obi-Wan's shoulder, his left eye slightly discolored and a bit swollen. Frowning, she let Han lead her up the three steps under the arbor and before Yoda. Obi-Wan would not let Han stand between them, turning in such a way that he faced his bride and kept his back to the Jedi Master.
Yoda raised his hands then slowly lowered them, signaling the guests to take their seats.
"Dear Jedi and Friends, gathered we are here tonight under the grace of the Force and with this company to witness the joining of this man and this woman in the bonds of holy matrimony.
Give this woman away does who?"
Not sure if that was cue to answer, Han looked down at Siri for verification. She continued to stare unblinkingly into Obi-Wan's eyes, the couple in their own world at present.
He took a shot in the dark and said with false confidence, "I do."
Padmé leaned close enough to whisper to him, "Remove her hand from your arm and place it in Obi-Wan's."
Han nodded. "Right. Thanks."
He picked up her hand, dropped his arm, and moved awkwardly between them to do his duty. Silently, without breaking his stare, Obi-Wan reached out his hand, palm-up. Han placed her hand on Obi-Wan's and watched the Jedi's fingers clasp it.
"Thank you, Han."
"Sure. Go on, guys. Face Yoda."
"Before begin I do, share with you what I know of these two, whom I have known since they were brought here, infants rich with the Force."
Anakin and Padmé shared looks of wonder over the heads of the bride and groom. Surely, Yoda was not about to drudge the reasons for the delay to this event twenty years overdue.
"Siri Tachi, a woman who knows her own mind, she has been always. With her as your bride, Master Kenobi, shall never want, will you. Even as a child, she was the padawan to proclaim loudly and proudly that a Jedi must do or do not. There is no try. Once set her mind on something she did, obtain it she would. Her mind no stronger than her heart. And her heart, always you have had. As her husband, Master Kenobi, trust you I do to nurture her faith in miracles, for making the impossible happen. Evidence of that here with us tonight. It is Siri's strength."
Obi-Wan nodded solemnly, and Master Yoda continued, "Master Tachi, in Obi-wan you have a solid basis for your future, an unwavering pillar of hope and of loyalty. His unshakable faith in the Force and his belief in the Light, his most admirable traits. Never touched by the Dark will you be with him at your side, Siri. Apply the privilege I do of building on his strong foundation, encouraging his hope and optimism for future generations of Jedi to come. His spirit is free, and with you I place the responsibility of ensuring it remain so."
Siri felt a tear slide down her cheek, but she smiled anyway. She squeezed Obi-Wan's hand and nodded to Yoda.
"Matrimony an honorable estate it is, instituted by the Force and therefore should not be entered into unadvisedly or lightly but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and without fear…"
Gurgeas nudged Liam in the chair next to him and whispered, "Fear leads to the Dark Side of the Force…"
"Shh," Liam hissed. "I cannot hear Master Yoda."
"He lost me at 'discreetly'. Look around you. Does anything about this smack of discretion to you?"
"Be quiet, Jacen. I want to listen."
"Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If anyone there is here who can show just cause as to why they may not be lawfully joined together, let them now speak or forever shall they hold their peace."
Anakin and Padmé both turned from their stations and glared at their respective sides of the congregation as if daring anyone to object. Satisfied when everyone remained silent, they resumed their positions next to the bride and groom facing Yoda.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi, will you have this woman to be your wedded wife? To live together after Force ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love her, honor her, comfort and keep her in sickness and in health and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her for as long as you both shall live?"
"I will," he pledged, his voice hoarse with emotion and his eyes moist.
Yoda smiled and turned his face toward the bride. "Siri Tachi, have this man to be your wedded husband, will you? After Force ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony live together? Will you love him, honor him, comfort and keep him in sickness and health and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him for as long as you both shall live?"
Siri could barely contain her joy and nearly choked on her tears. She made sure her voice carried in the enormous room as she vowed, "I will."
"The rings, please, may I have?"
Startled, the couple looked from Master Yoda to the best man. Anakin shrugged his shoulders, as confused as they were.
The Supreme Chancellor of the Republic took the small flat velvet box from his wife and stood from his seat.
"I have the rings, Master Yoda."
Padmé grinned as her husband, the groom and the bride turned to face Bail questioningly.
Bail bowed respectfully. "Gifts from Her Highness, Queen Breha of Alderaan." He grinned as he straightened and met Siri and Obi-Wan's wide-eyed stares. "And from me."
"Thank you, my lord," Obi-Wan bowed.
Padmé stepped down, Anakin following, to pluck the rings from their silky nest and return to the altar. They each placed them on the Journal of Whills under Yoda's hands.
"These rings signify, they shall, the unity of their spirits and that of the unbreakable bonds they share not only between themselves, but of their allegiance to the Force, their dedication of service to the Grand Republic and their fealty to the Supreme Codes of Law as Knights of the Jedi Order." Yoda handed one ring to Obi-Wan and the larger to Siri.
"On the fourth finger of the left hand place these rings on the each other."
They pushed the elegantly plain platinum bands over each other's fingers. Obi-Wan grasped her hands in his and turned to Yoda expectantly. Siri held her breath and waited.
Yoda looked from one to the other, pride softening his features, and said in as loud as he could. "Pronounce you, I do, husband and wife. May the Force be with us all."
Obi-Wan grinned widely as Siri burst with helpless joy, bouncing in place.
"Kiss your bride, Master Kenobi, you may," Yoda smiled.
Obi-Wan nodded. "Thank you, Master."
Crying, Siri cupped her cheeks in her hands. "It's done, baby. We made it."
"I love you," Obi-Wan whispered and leaned down to kiss her.
Siri, always thinking of him, avoided the sore spot on his lips and zeroed-in on the opposite side, her lips on his firm but tender.
The applause began softly at first. The lone claps were produced by the solitary man standing from his seat in the front row. Anakin turned to see who it was, and his grin widened more as he joined Master Windu in the start of a raucous ovation from the gathered Jedi that spread and grew deafening in the cavernous Room of a Thousand Fountains.
The kiss continued for several more seconds before they were forced apart to accept their congratulations and well wishes.
"Padawans!" Yoda exclaimed over the din of the crowd, "Move the seating and prepare the banquet tables!"
Obi-Wan chuckled and asked, "Banquet tables, Master?"
"For your reception, hmm? Eat, we must, do we not?"
"Whatever you say, Master."
Obi-Wan did not release Siri's hand as she bent to whisper in Yoda's face. "This was quite a show you've put on, Master."
"Happy are you with the results?"
"I've never been happier in all my days, Yoda."
"Perfect for you I wanted it, Siri. Your memories here, fond."
She kissed his wrinkled brow, her eyes alight with unshed tears. "Thank you for meddling this time, Master."
"Go," he told her, blushing. "Greet your guests."
They stepped down from the altar and were instantly surrounded. Obi-Wan's grin never left his face as he shook hands with his friends. After several minutes passed, he searched the group for the one he had yet to embrace. He turned back and saw Anakin standing off to the side, his eyes narrowed and scanning the room.
Obi-Wan could not break away from his guests to go to him. He wondered what Anakin was thinking as he watched his friend shoulder politely through the crowd, trying to cross the room.
Anakin had sensed him first, the essence unmistakable. He had remained at the altar for the vantage point when the ceremony had concluded and looked over the crowd.
His father was here. Anakin knew it. It was while everyone had converged on the happy couple that Anakin finally spotted Qui-Gon, partially concealed in the back of the room and next to a cluster of meditation fountains.
Anakin pushed through his friends as gently as he could, muttering for pardon as he did so. He could see the top of Qui-Gon's head over that of a topiary Jedi figure and several potted plants. He was pacing, not leaving.
Qui-Gon was waiting for him.
Anakin managed to get past the remaining revelers and within twenty-five paces of him. Qui-Gon stepped out the doors and into the Grand Hall. Anakin followed, waving the doors closed behind him.
Alone in the Grand Hall, Anakin faced him and the profundity of joy atop his already overwhelming exhilaration was immense.
Qui-Gon continued to pace, his arms crossed and his hands hidden in his sleeves. He looked nervous.
"It was a beautiful ceremony."
Anakin nodded slowly. He was not nearly as restless as the ghost before him. "I am glad you could see it. Obi-Wan will rejoice in knowing you were here."
"He is very happy. That is good. He and Siri have earned their happiness."
"I would think you would be more excited about these changes occurring for the Jedi."
"What makes you think I am not?"
"You look like you have been hit by a speeder."
Qui-Gon stopped pacing to look at him. "I am pleased. Of course, I am. It is time, Anakin."
"It is past time, Master."
"Agreed." Qui-Gon's stance relaxed, his shoulders slightly slumped. "I would not have missed this day for all the stars in the galaxy, Anakin. Please…Please say as much to Obi-Wan."
"I will." Anakin stepped closer. "I am glad to see you. I thought I heard you the other day but…"
"Anakin." Qui-Gon stared at him with intense gravity. "I swear to you. I was not aware of the depth of our attachment until after I had…"
Anakin waved off the forthcoming apology. Shaking his head, he replied, "I know. It's all right. You don't have to…"
"I would never have kept it from you," Qui-Gon persisted.
"I know that…"
Qui-Gon took a step forward. "And I would have never allowed you to be taken from me, Anakin…"
"You do not have to explain yourself, Qui-Gon…"
"I would have never permitted the Council or Tahl or anyone to take you away…"
Qui-Gon abruptly shut his mouth and stared.
"It is all right," Anakin cried brokenly. "It is all right now. You…We cannot go back and change it. We have it now. You have me now."
For the first time, Anakin saw Qui-Gon's tranquil composure slip. His voice was gruff. "I never got to hold my son."
Qui-Gon choked and raised a shaking hand from the folds of his robes. "What I would give to be able to do that now."
Anakin grit his teeth and took a deep breath, tears leaking from his eyes. "One day, Father. The time will come."
"Your life is worth more than and is infinitely the best thing I could have ever accomplished, Anakin. I am so proud of you."
"I know. You did have a large part in my upbringing, Father. Whether you knew it or not. And your grandchildren will know it, too."
The smile that touched Qui-Gon's lips was brilliant. "My grandchildren."
"There is a question I must ask you."
Anakin wiped his cheeks and said, "My mother. Where is Tahl?"
Qui-Gon looked away, but Anakin pressed, "Father, I must know."
"I cannot explain the reasons for her absence, Anakin. Perhaps because of what she did, she is afraid to meet you."
"You have not seen her?" Anakin asked, incredulous. "After everything the two of you went through…?"
"I did not leave her, Anakin. She left me. She has chosen to avoid me. Even in death."
"Father, you must forgive her."
"I forgave her long ago. But understand her motivations or her reasoning, I do not." Qui-Gon met his gaze again. "I loved her, Anakin. I do not comprehend what I did to make her so afraid of me."
"Find her. Find her, Father, and ask her. Maybe it was your compassion for her that she knew so well that did it. Perhaps she was afraid you could change her mind. She would not risk the wrath of the Council on you…"
"I would have rather had my wife and child, Anakin. I did choose the Jedi Path, but I would not have done so knowing you existed."
"I think you just answered your own question about her fear of you."
Anakin felt sorrow for his parents. So much had come between them that the depth of their love had become grossly distorted.
"Tahl deserves peace, Father. Give it to her."
Boisterous cheering from inside caught Anakin's attention. Qui-Gon sighed. "You should return to the celebration."
Anakin looked at him with contrition. "I have to go back. Obi-Wan and Padmé are probably wondering where I am."
Qui-Gon nodded acceptingly. "We will speak again soon."
"Think about what I said. Please."
"It is too late for your mother and I, Anakin."
To Qui-Gon's pleasant surprise, his son grinned at him.
"You can say that after what you have just witnessed inside, Father?" Anakin asked. His brow furrowed with mock reproof. "It is never too late for anything. We are all proof of that."
Anakin pulled the door open.
Qui-Gon cleared his throat and confessed quietly, "You mean more than anything else to me."
Anakin felt the weight of that comment seep into the marrow of his bones and sighed with consideration. "I love you, too. I'll see you."
Anakin walked back into the room and wound his way back to Obi-Wan. He tapped his shoulder.
Obi-Wan turned and asked, "Where did you go?"
"I had to step out into the hall for a moment."
"Everything all right?"
Anakin clasped his shoulder and squeezed. "It is perfect. Congratulations, Master."
Obi-Wan pulled him into his embrace. "Thank you, Anakin. I could not have done it without you."
Anakin clapped his back and squeezed. "Listen."
He pulled back. "I have a message for you."
Anakin glanced around at everyone standing so close and within earshot. All he said was, "An old friend sends his regards and…his hearty congratulations."
Obi-Wan's brow raised. "Who?"
Anakin whispered into his ear, and Obi-Wan reared back. "He was here?"
"He said to tell you he would not have missed it for all the stars in the galaxy."
Obi-Wan swallowed, accepting it as best wedding gift he received after the act of marriage itself. He looked at Anakin again. "And all is well with you?"
Anakin nodded. "Yeah. It's good."
Siri fell against Obi-Wan's back and wrapped her arms around his waist. She rested her chin atop his shoulder and grinned at Anakin. "Hey, Ani. Aren't you going to kiss the bride?"
Anakin laughed as Obi-Wan settled back against her and said, "Why not? Everyone else here has."
Anakin took her hand and danced her around her husband to take her into his arms. "Congratulations, Master."
"Thank you, sweetheart" She twined her arms around his neck. "I seem to recall you holding me like this once before."
"I remember," Anakin chuckled. "A fond memory it is, too."
Anakin tilted his head and was leaning down to her chastely kiss her smiling lips when she was abruptly yanked from his embrace. Obi-Wan held her to him as she laughed.
"I remember it, too, now," Obi-Wan sneered, and Siri laughed harder.
"I was one kiss a long time ago, Obi-Wan."
"You keep your lips on your own wife."
"With pleasure." Anakin bowed with flourish. "I am good at it, as Padmé will attest."
"She does attest to it," Siri leered. "And everything else you do to her…So she tells me."
Anakin stared at her, a blush heating his cheeks. Obi-Wan laughed, "Interesting!"
Without another word, Anakin went to find his wife.
Dinner was a sumptuously long affair. The Jedi cooks had outdone themselves with a preparation of a six-course meal that was by far the most edible and savory of anything else they had ever prepared. It seemed cooking for formal dining was more enriching for the chefs than their standard fare of oatmeal and other mundane foods.
A tall, eight-tiered cake was wheeled out after dinner was finished. Padmé graciously explained to the party that the cutting of it was another tradition for the bride and groom. When at first the knife could not be found to do it, youngling Sylvestro had selfishly volunteered his lightsaber to the task, but alas, Padmé produced the knife. The children were the first served the confection as sweets were normally forbidden them. As with everything tonight, they would have their indulgence.
Champagne flowed generously. The best man had toasted the couple. Anakin had been followed by his wife in doing so, who was proceeded by a very long, very sober speech from Master Yoda on the subject of attachment and Jedi Code. The Masters Kenobi finally toasted and thanked their guests for a multitude of things. All the while, champagne continued to be poured and sipped.
Gurgeas leaned forward to pour another glass.
"More of us should get married," he smiled. "It provides such wonderful beverages."
"Remember your disciplines, Jace," Liam said. "Champagne dulls the senses."
"If the Kenobis can have their 'marital' relations, I am allowed to imbibe as much of this bubbly that I like."
"Point taken." Liam poured himself another glass.
The orchestra had kept the music lively, and the Jedi used their finely tuned culture skills to dance and dance and dance. Even Master Windu appeared to relish the experience as he had yet to leave the makeshift dance floor since the tables had been cleared and moved. Siri was currently being swung energetically between Knights Gurgeas and Corcoran while Obi-Wan placidly waltzed with Moteé.
The Skywalkers each held one of their children, swaying to the music, and talking to Han in a relatively quiet corner.
"I see you have made some new friends tonight," Anakin teased and pointed to the group of female padawan learners staring at them and giggling behind their hands. "I think you have acquired a few admirers."
Always one to give as good as he got, Han retorted, "How do you know they are not ogling you, Commander? You know how HoloNet refers to you, don't you?"
Padmé turned her face away to hide her laughter as she supplied diplomatically, "'The Hero With No Fear'?"
Han shook his head and grinned at Anakin's visible unease. "The Hero With the Handsome Face."
Padmé laughed out loud then, but Han was not finished. "Your husband made quite a scene when he arrived at the Senate the other day, milady. Women were swooning and dropping like flies when he stepped out of his ship. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes."
"All right, Han. That will be all," Anakin pleaded, adjusting Luke's sleepy head against his shoulder.
Siri breezed over to them. Winded, she collapsed into the chair next to Padmé and rested her head on Padmé's free shoulder. "I am exhausted."
"Well, you look incredible," Padmé said, leaning close to her so Siri could coo to Leia.
"Thanks to you." Siri kissed her cheek. "You're a good friend."
Obi-Wan sauntered back with Moteé on his arm. She curtsied. "Thank you for a lovely dance, General."
Ever the gentleman, Obi-Wan bowed. "My pleasure, miss."
He walked over to stand before his bride and stroked her hair. "What about you, darling? You ready for another go-round?"
Siri brought his hand to her cheek and kissed his palm. "I can't. My feet are killing me."
"Take the stilts off," Han suggested.
"I did, boy," she whined. "Just before Jacen spun me out of control. Let me catch my breath, baby. Then I'll go right back out there with you."
Obi-Wan bent to kiss her. "All right." He straightened, filled with more energy than he ever thought to expend, and inquired, "Milady Skywalker. We have yet to trip that light fantastic together. May I have the honor of this dance?"
Padmé had danced with Anakin several times earlier, but those were slow and romantic. It was beautiful, she was not complaining. But the spirit of the evening will all the ramped celebration going on made her want to join in on the highly-charged jigs and quadrilles.
Enthusiastic, she kissed Leia's cheek, and asked Siri, "Honey, would you mind…?"
"Oh, I would love to!" Siri took Leia's tiny form into the crook of her arms. "Hello, pretty girl."
Anakin grinned as Padmé nearly dragged Obi-Wan back onto to the dance floor. "Have fun!"
Siri adjusted the baby's frilly pink dress and turned her to face the crowd. "Look, pumpkin. There's your mommy and Uncle Obi-Wan."
The child's big brown eyes were not looking ahead, but at the tall young man standing next to her father.
Han had never been around babies. Everything he had ever heard about them led him to believe they were noisy pests, but the Skywalker twins behaved with all the calm and serenity expected of fully-aged Jedi. They were exceptionally well-kept. The boy, Luke, had yet to make a sound other than a laugh. And the little girl, well, she was…
Staring at him.
"What's the matter, kid?"
Siri frowned and looked down at the baby. "What? Did she spit up?"
Anakin knelt at Siri's feet to peer at his daughter. "What is it, princess?"
Leia gurgled so playfully her little rosebud lips formed a bubble, but her eyes never left Han.
Anakin straightened and nudged him. "Oh, look. You have a new member of your fan club."
"Commander," Han groaned, and Siri watched them and asked, "What's going on?"
Anakin nodded to his right. "Those padawans over there have a crush on Han."
Siri looked to her left and laughed as the girls caught her expression and quickly dispersed. "Hah! That's great, Han. Why don't you go ask one of them to dance?"
He looked pained and answered with the arrogance of youth, "They're not my type."
Anakin scoffed, "How is that?"
"And what is wrong with that?"
"Siri says I'm a scoundrel. Jedi don't dance with scoundrels."
"I have danced with you twice tonight, young man."
"That's different. You're, like, my sister."
Anakin was still grinning over the title of 'scoundrel'. "And a scoundrel is bad, right?"
Siri sighed. "I explained to Han that he cannot juggle girls like he would rubber balls. There was a week, very recently, where the Casanova here had two rather…determined…young ladies—and I use the word loosely—in hot pursuit of him. I told him that he would never expect to find a decent, kind woman if he stays on the path he is."
Han and Anakin shared a look of kinship. "I told her that since I'm never getting married, I hardly have to censor my behavior now in the hopes of roping in a wife."
"Why do you think you will not get married, Han?"
"It's simple, Ani. I enjoy being a scoundrel."
Anakin bent to place the sleeping Luke in his hand carriage and let Moteé strap him in it. "Scoundrels wed too, Han."
Han scowled with disbelief. "No, they don't. Name one."
Anakin turned back to him and replied, "Me."
"Oh, please," Siri mocked. "You are hardly a scoundrel, Ani."
All innocence and wealth of knowledge, Anakin put his hands behind his back and took a serious posture. "I actively, willfully pursued a woman when I knew romantic attachment was adamantly forbidden to me at the time. I did not care. I went after her any way."
Siri thought about that for a moment and conceded, "Okay. You may have a point on that. But you are still good and kind and…"
"Nevertheless," he continued. "There was a bit of scoundrel there."
"Please don't encourage him, Ani," she begged.
Anakin clapped Han's back once with affection. "Do not let her sucker you, Han. There are plenty of good and decent women in the galaxy who love a good scoundrel. Just ask my wife."
Han was listening to him but was still fascinated by the way Anakin's daughter was looking at him. Leia was just a baby, but her avid stare made him feel like she could see into and comprehend the depths of his polluted soul.
"So you see, Han. Scoundrel? A plus."
Tentatively, Han wiggled his fingers in a small wave to the infant. Leia immediately giggled and flailed about so excitedly in Siri's lap that he had to reach for her to still her tiny legs and keep her from sliding.
Siri caught her instinctively, but as her hand brushed Han's against the baby's jerking limbs, she was assailed by a vision so strong and potent, she gasped.
Misunderstanding the reason for the sound, Anakin said softly, "She's fine, Siri."
Siri, floored by the image of this child and her boy in the future, smiled with graceful pleasure.
"She's okay, Siri," Han muttered and stepped back. He looked bewildered, keeping his eyes on Leia.
Siri looked from him back to Anakin. She could not resist. "A scoundrel is a plus, eh?"
Anakin grinned. "Patently."
"So you have think Han should make no changes in his lifestyle when it comes to courting?"
"Aw, for stars' sake, Siri…"
"I got this one, Han. No. He's young. Let him do what he wants as long as he takes the necessary precautions and doesn't seek to deliberately hurt anyone else." Anakin spared him a glance. "Yeah, that's important."
"I understand, Commander."
Siri glared at Anakin with just a tinge of gloating. "A day may come, old friend, when I, reserving the right to do so now, will remind you of everything you have just said to him."
"Be my guest," Anakin challenged.
Siri chuckled with her secret and bounced Leia on her lip.
An hour later, the bride and groom were getting more than a little impatient to exit the party. They swayed together to a soft melody. Obi-Wan gently rubbed his hand up and down her back, and she pat his chest with her hand in rhythm with the dreamy tune.
"This, I have to say, has been the best night of my life," he told her, his lips against her temple.
Siri burrowed closer. "Easily, but, Obi-Wan?"
He closed his eyes and rested his cheek against her head. "Yes, love?"
"I'm exhausted," she cried, tilting her head to press her lips against his neck. "I'm ready to go home."
He reared his head back and looked around the room. All their friends were still there though the party had calmed. The sounds of laughter could still be heard, and everyone looked so happy that Obi-Wan did not know how to broach the topic of their exit.
He spotted Anakin and Padmé dancing close by, looking as tired as he and Siri.
"Come, darling." He held her hand and led her to their best friends.
Obi-Wan tapped Padmé on the shoulder. "Milady."
"Padmé, Siri is tired. When can we leave?"
Padmé looked taken aback. "Obi-Wan, we have all been waiting for you to leave so that we can go home."
Siri frowned. "What do you mean?"
Anakin explained, "The guests must remain until the bride and groom leave. It's a trad…"
"Tradition," the Kenobis groaned.
"Wonderful, Anakin. With all your spouting of traditions for the last twenty-four hours, this one you fail to mention. Why didn't you say anything sooner?"
"Because if he had, you would have escaped with Siri home as soon as you were pronounced husband and wife," Padmé replied knowingly.
"I would not!"
Siri gave him a look, and Obi-Wan muttered, "All right. Perhaps I would have."
"Padmé, is there anything else, any other tradition we must complete before we go?"
Padmé nodded and took her hand. "Come on. You're going to toss the bouquet."
"Toss the bouquet?"
"Just wait here with Anakin, Obi-Wan. This won't take long."
Padmé and Siri stepped up to the altar. Siri picked up her abandoned arrangement of flowers as Padmé spoke out.
"Everyone! If I may have your attention." Padmé waited with a gracious smile as guests turned to face her. "There is one last tradition to be carried out before Siri and Obi-Wan begin their new life together—the tossing of the bouquet.
Siri will stand up here, with her back to all of you, and throw her bouquet back. Whomever catches it is, symbolically, the next person to wed. So without further fanfare, if we could just get all the single…"
Padmé remembered the audience she was addressing and corrected herself. "If we could just get all the women to stand in a group, right down there in front of the altar, we can end this evening on the high-note for which it began."
Siri chuckled watching Bant and Shaak-Ti forcefully pulling Aayla front and center with them. Women approached from all four corners of the room, navigating around the myriad of fountains more from curiosity than interest. Their expressions ranged from quizzical to total befuddlement.
Padmé sighed. Poor things.
"Okay, ladies," Siri breathed, holding her flowers aloft. "Who wants it?"
"On the count of three!" Padmé proclaimed.
Anakin and Obi-Wan were joined by Master Windu just feet from the commotion.
"Has this bridal theory been proven?"
Anakin laughed. "You're asking us?"
Mace grunted and resumed his usual stance. He swayed a little against Obi-Wan.
"Are you all right, Master?"
"I am well, Obi-Wan. The champagne…I may have had a bit more than I thought."
"It's almost over, Master," Anakin said. "Then you can go straight upstairs to bed and sleep it off."
"Yes. Yes, that may be a good idea."
Siri turned her back to the room. "One, two…three!"
Her arm shot up and the clamor of the women only then rose. Hands grasped high over their heads as the bouquet sailed fast through the air, swooping into an arc and…
Hitting Master Windu square in the head. There was a gasp, and Siri turned to see the recipient. She burst out laughing and put her hand over her mouth. Padmé was more discreet and simply turned away from the scene to chuckle.
Anakin and Obi-Wan looked from their master to the flowers on the floor then at each other. Obi-Wan pressed his face into Anakin's shoulder to hide his laughter, and Anakin was forced to look at Mace without breaking into fits of humor. "Congratulations, Master."
Mace quirked a brow, unfazed by the floral heap at his feet.
Obi-Wan stroked his chin thoughtfully as he composed himself. "Perhaps this means you may choose your bride tonight."
Mace did not share his amusement. He bent to retrieve the cluster, but it was Force-pulled out of his reach.
And into Aayla Secura's hands.
"Oh!" Anakin chortled. He and Obi-Wan leaned on each other, laughing till they were snorting with it.
Mace slowly straightened, his gaze fixed on the Master standing six feet away from him, an unusual smile on her face.
Mace suddenly felt like a bantha caught in a steel-trap.
"Yes, well…" He cleared his throat. He turned around and adjusted his robes, missing Aayla's crestfallen look. "Goodnight, gentlemen."
He stalked away quickly, and Anakin called, "Aw, come back, Master!"
Siri grinned and exclaimed, "That's it, everybody! Thank all of you for coming and putting this together for my husband and I. Thank you so much!"
Obi-Wan walked over to assist her down the steps. Padmé stepped past him and into Anakin's arms.
He hugged her. "Let's go home."
"I'll go get Moteé and the babies."
Yoda, who had spent most of the reception at the Masters' table, made his way to the foursome leaning wearily on his gimmer stick.
"A photo of the wedding party we must have," he told them.
"I think that would be heavenly. Siri?"
"Before you go, Yoda wants a picture of all of us."
"Okay. Where would you like us to stand, Master?"
"Up, at the altar. Anakin, bring the twins over please."
"Of course, Master."
Obi-Wan took the place he had earlier. Siri stood at his side, facing him, as Padmé thrust her matron-of-honor bouquet into her hands.
"Stand between the bride and groom, I will. Madam Skywalker, take this chair and set it here to Siri's right. Hold your babies in your lap, you should."
Once she was settled, Anakin brought Leia up for her, and Han brought Luke.
"Anakin, stand beside Siri and behind your wife you will."
Anakin positioned himself there and placed his hands on his wife's shoulders.
"Young Solo. You will stand next to Obi-Wan."
"Would you like me to snap the picture for you, Master?"
"Wonderful that would be, Bant. Thank you."
Their diminutive leader pushed himself up the shallow steps and righted himself into place. As Bant brought the HoloCam up to her eye level, Anakin's focus found the ghostly image of his father in the watchful crowd.
Qui-Gon smirked righteously as a dark-haired woman stepped into view beside him.
His parents looked at the couples and Yoda on the altar, their faces expressing their joy and reverence. Anakin did not require the prompt from Bant to do so when she said, "Smile, everybody."
The image of the motley but contented group was then forever captured for posterity and for recording in the Archives with the simple caption to headline, 'The Jedi Change'.