How much can happen in just one night? Padmé is about to find out in this ROTS AU.
by The Yellow Dart
(This story can also be found at the Pad-Ani Fanfic Archive (www (dot) padanifanfic (dot) com).)
Padmé stepped out of her senatorial robes, reached for the icy blue nightgown draped over the corner of her bed, and slipped it over her head. She smiled when she saw a familiar black sleep shirt set out next to the gown, and her mind drifted.
She pressed her face into the rough material, almost able to imagine it still smelled like him. Searching for comfort, she pulled his shirt over her shoulders and wrapped it around herself.
"M'lady, are you sure you don't need my help?"
"Can't I have a moment's peace?" she muttered.
She glanced at her soft, warm, inviting bed, but it was far too early to sleep. Instead, she stood up straight and walked out of her quarters.
"Senator, did you hear me?"
After stopping for a second to rub the area on her back that had been bothering her all day, she took a deep breath to gather her composure before she appeared in the sitting room.
"Padmé? Are you all right?"
Padmé rolled her eyes as she waddled to the settee.. "No, Dormé, I'm --" She plopped down onto the soft cushions and released a grateful sigh. "-- fine."
"You sound tired, M'lady."
"I am --" She took a deep, shuddering breath. "-- so tired; I wish I could sleep for days." She twisted until she could rest her head against one of the pillows.
Dormé rushed into the room. "You can't sit like that!" She rushed to help guide Padmé into a proper position.
"You don't have to move my feet for me. I can do it myself."
"Of course you can. So sorry, M'lady." Dormé folded her arms across her chest and raised her eyebrows.
"I can." She bit her lip, as she tried to move her left leg.
"Of course you can." Dormé grabbed Padmé's flailing leg and guided it onto the settee.
"At least I can remove my own shoes."
"Then why didn't you take them off when you were changing your clothes?"
"Because I like them."
"Of course you do."
"They are comfortable."
"Of course they are."
After struggling for a few moments, Padmé sighed and flopped back against the pillow. "All right. Maybe I can't."
"You can't do everything for yourself. That's why I'm here to help you. It's what you pay me for."
"Or what the government pays you for."
"Exactly. So you have to let me help you, or else you will be cheating the government." She looked at Padmé pointedly. "Do you really want to cheat our beloved Naboo?"
Padmé sighed, but offered no further argument. Instead, she turned her head and closed her eyes.
"And you have been on your feet all day."
"I had to --"
"-- All this rushing to meeting after meeting and participating in committee after committee cannot be good for --"
"-- Please, let's not start not this argument again." Padmé struggled to sit up, but the characteristic fire flashed in her eyes. "Someone has to work to end this war!"
"I know, but does it always have to be you?"
"Who would you have?"
"I don't know. Bail Organa?"
"He can't do it alone. Nor can Mon Mathma or anyone else."
"But you can?"
"I have to try. It is my responsibility to correct my mistakes."
Dormé put her hands on her hips. "How are you responsible?"
"I was the one who put Palpatine into power. He was my representative."
"That doesn't mean --"
"-- I was the one who called for the no-confidence vote for Chancellor Valorum. I am the one Viceroy Gunray and the rest of the Trade Federation wants to kill." She avoided eye contact and continued, "I am the reason for this war."
"You cannot say that!"
"None of this is your fault."
"Even if it is not my fault, I cannot sit by idly, no matter what." Padmé narrowed her eyes and raised her voice. "Someone has to protect peace and democracy while Palpatine takes more and more power, seemingly by the minute!"
"I know, but you have to relax."
"I cannot relax. Who would you have take my place? Jar Jar? We remember what happened the last time I left him in charge. I don't see how he could have thought . . . giving Palpatine more emergency powers . . . I would have never agreed with that. Now I am working to fix his -- and my own -- mistakes."
"I know, but there must be a better solution." The dutiful handmaiden sat on the settee next to Padmé.
"I have to work." Padmé leaned into Dormé's embrace. "I am the only one who will work to bring my husband home."
"I know, but --"
"-- I miss him." A few tears traced a crooked path down her cheeks, but she didn't bother to brush them away.
"I know you do."
Padmé's voice was almost inaudible. "I'm so scared after those reports last night . . ."
"The reports are wrong,"
"I . . . I know."
"When has Anakin ever really been in danger?"
Padmé forced herself to smile. "He'd say never. But his scars prove otherwise."
"We both know he's probably single-handedly destroying entire droid armies somewhere on the Outer Rim as we speak."
"You don't think he's . . . dead?"
"He's not dead."
"I would know. In my heart . . . I would know something was . . . missing."
"And do you feel like that now?"
"No, I don't think he's dead. But maybe he's hurt. What if he's hurt and I won't know?"
"Padmé, you can't spend all your time worrying."
"I can't help but worry. He's Anakin Skywalker, and he likes to believe he's indestructible."
"From what we've seen, maybe he is."
Padmé shook her head. "From what I saw on Geonosis, I know he isn't as indestructible as we all would like to believe."
"That was three years ago."
"I know, and I know his Jedi skills have increased exponentially since then, but what if they haven't increased enough? What if --"
"-- You worry too much, Senator. It's not good for the baby."
"The baby." She brought a hand up to her belly and took another deep breath. "What if he doesn't come home before I have this baby?"
"He will --"
"-- We don't know that!" Padmé choked a sob down. "This war might go on for years. And what will I do? What will happen when he comes home and I have a child?"
"He will be happy."
"What if he comes home and I have a child who might be walking or talking or even . . . an adult?"
"Padmé . . ."
"What will I tell him?"
"The him the --"
"-- Welcome home, Anakin, my love." The words strung closely together so they became almost unintelligible. "You've been gone so long. Surprise! I was pregnant while you were somewhere on the Outer Rim. And then I gave birth without you. Now our baby is a general in the army, too. And I'm going to lose you both."
"M'lady . . ."
She rubbed at her red eyes. "I need my husband. I need him now."
Dormé wrapped an arm around Padmé's back. "I know you do. He'll be home soon. Don't worry."
"Don't worry?" She sniffled. "It's just not fair! It's not fair to me that I have to have this baby by myself. It's not fair to my baby not to have a father who will be there when he is born. "
"He? You think it's a boy?"
Padmé glared at Dormé and pulled away. "This is a conversation I should be having with Anakin."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"We'd argue because I'm sure he'd think my son was a girl -- if for no other reason than because I know he's a boy." She brought a hand down to rest on her round belly. "It's not fair to my husband to have to be so far away and not even know about his baby."
"We were robbed of so many things. Now, we don't even get the chance to argue about baby names . . ." Padmé buried her face in her hands. "My baby is going to be born without a name. He will be Baby Boy Sky--" She looked up with eyes wide.. "-- I don't even know if I should give him Anakin's last name. If the Jedi . . ."
"Don't be silly." Dormé reached out to comfort her, but she squirmed away. "Of course Anakin would want your baby to have his name."
"It's just not fair."
"I know it isn't fair --"
"-- And I'm acting like a petulant child."
"It's the stress. Hiding can't be easy."
"It's not the hiding."
"Are you sure?"
"We've been hiding for three years. I'm used to it."
Dormé squeezed her arm, but didn't interrupt.
"I'm missing Anakin more than ever. And I'm seeing the injustice of it all first-hand." Padmé pulled away and wiped the tears from her cheeks. "That is why someone needs to find a diplomatic solution to this whole mess."
"And you're that someone?"
"You are almost at term. What are you planning to do? Lead a peacekeeping delegation?"
"Oh, really?" Dormé pointed at Padmé's large belly. "And how do you plan to hide that?"
"I know my pregnancy is becoming more difficult to hide, but I know we can do it until it's time for me to have this baby." She patted her belly for emphasis. "Or at least until I can tell Anakin."
"You can barely hide it for the nine hours a day you work. You've already cut back your schedule, and I wonder if people are starting to suspect something."
"Your entire body is changing."
"It is not."
"Even your face is fuller."
Padmé's hands came up to her cheeks. "How dare you! My face is the one part of me that has not changed."
"If you say so, M'lady."
"My colleagues do not know. Some of them might be suspicious, and I have been asked some insightful questions, but I have always been able to answer their questions at least semi-truthfully."
Dormé rolled her eyes. "Look how quickly I learned the truth."
"That's only because you help me dress every morning. After a certain point, you were bound to notice my growth. You were already suspicious about Anakin."
"I thought you liked him and I knew he came over at night, but I had no idea you were married."
Padmé stared at Dormé. "I would never have let him in my bed if we were not married."
"Sorry, M'lady. I should have known."
"And how did you know he was here? We were careful!"
"You were also loud." Dormé averted her eyes, but couldn't hide the teasing smile that had spread across her face.
"Loud? We were never loud. I'm a lady. I am very demure."
"Right. Demure. Of course, M'lady, I must have heard incorrectly. It might have been Anakin, but I never imagined him to have a high-pitched --"
"You might be a lady, but you really do not keep secrets well."
"What? Of course I do!"
"I sure hope you do not do that at work, or else everyone is bound to suspect."
Padmé followed Dormé's gaze down. When she realized what she was doing, she jerked her hand away from her belly. "Of course I don't." She took a deep breath. "I hope." She tilted her head down towards the growing baby inside her. "I don't want to think about my colleagues or the Queen. Not yet. I want to tell Anakin before I tell the rest of the galaxy."
"Speaking of Anakin . . ."
Padmé tilted her head up and her breath caught in her chest. "What about Anakin?"
"If he knew you were exerting yourself like this, he would not be happy."
She let go of her breath and sighed. "He knows I can take care of myself."
Dormé raised her eyebrows. "Oh, does he?"
Padmé laid her head against her hand. "He doesn't have time to worry about me."
"He does worry. You've said so yourself countless times. He probably worries more than either of us will ever know."
"I know. He does worry far too much for his own good." She shook her head. "For his own sanity."
"I'm sure Anakin would not be happy if he comes home and finds you exhausted --"
"-- Or what if he comes home and finds me pregnant?"
Before Dormé could respond, C-3PO announced, "Oh, Miss Padmé, I do hope I'm not interrupting."
"Of course not, Threepio."
C-3PO stopped just in front of the two women and cocked his head down at them. "You have several messages on the --"
"-- Messages?" She sat up as quickly as she could.
"Oh, yes. Your parents have left you four messages today on the Holo-Net. They seemed quite urgent, and --."
"-- My parents? Not again"
"Your parents are worried about you."
"I know." She looked down at her belly. "But they will be so disappointed."
Before Dormé could reply, Padmé's stomach growled.
"Are you hungry?"
"I'm always hungry." They both laughed, but Padmé quickly sobered. "I can't tell them."
"Even if you don't tell them about your husband or your baby, you need to talk to them."
"My mother will know immediately. I couldn't lie to her when I was a small child and I cannot lie now." She sighed. "We used to be so close, but now . . . I've done everything I could to distance myself from them. And, for some reason, I don't feel any remorse." She stared at her handmaiden. "Should I?"
Dormé laid her hand on her friend's back. "I don't --"
"-- I have to protect our secret. I have to protect Anakin."
"You haven't even talked to them in months. How long as it been since you've seen them?"
"Almost a year. With the war, and the extra sessions, and the recess appointments, and then the pregnancy, I haven't had the time or energy to travel home, and thankfully, they have never come to Coruscant."
"But, Miss Padmé --"
"-- You should check your messages. Let me help you to your office."
"I don't want to. I am too tired." She flopped into the spot Dormé had vacated. "So tired." A few more tears streamed down her cheeks, and she brushed them away.
"You can't just sleep here."
Padmé allowed Dormé to help her to her feet. She groaned, but was able to stand without much struggle. Then, her stomach growled again. "I sound like a Force-forsaken gundark." She scowled down at her stomach. "Threepio?"
"I have something important to tell you. Your parents left you messages, and Ma --"
"-- Do we have any shurra fruit?"
He tilted his small head. "Shurra fruit? Oh, yes. I made sure to get some this very morning. It would have been --"
"-- Can you please bring me some?"
She ran a hand along the outline of her swollen belly. "I've lost control of my own body. I am always hungry; I am always tired; even worse, I cannot control my emotions."
"And now I am ready to take off your head if you do not get me shurra fruit in the next ten seconds!"
Threepio brought his hands and backed away. "Anything but that."
"Yes, of course." He turned and headed into the kitchen.
"Padmé . . ." Dormé put her hand on Padmé's shoulder.
Padmé shrugged Dormé's hand away. "What?"
"You have to talk to them some time."
Padmé avoided eye contact. "I know."
"They have sent twelve transmissions in the last three days plus whatever they sent today."
"I can count."
"I know. I'm sorry."
Padmé folded her arms around her belly. "Can I ignore them for a few more months?"
"I think you might be surprised when you see how supportive they will be."
"I think you don't know my parents."
"I think you underestimate them."
Padmé shook her head. "I doubt it. They won't understand."
"Here is the shurra fruit you requested, Miss Padmé." C-3PO presented a tray of finely sliced fruit.
"Thank you, Threepio." She grabbed a piece of the sweet, yellow fruit and took a large bite. A bit of juice ran down from her lip, and she wiped it away.
"Miss Padmé, I am supposed to tell you that Mast --"
"-- Do we have any shaak steak?" She looked down at her belly and shook her head. "I'm . . . still hungry, and this will not be enough."
He stopped mid-stride and turned to face her. "Oh, heavens no! I went to the store you specified this morning, but you did not request any animal products."
She bit her lower lip. "Could you please go to the restaurant next to the market and get me a thick shaak steak done medium well, with a side of extra-spicy ahrisa?"
"Oh, bless my circuits. How will I ever carry that much?" He raised his hands in what could have been shock, and Padmé had to laugh.
Threepio muttered to himself, but he puttered towards the door to satisfy her request.
"Poor Threepio. Anakin should be the one doing this."
A soft, yet familiar voice wafted through the cool air. "Anakin should be doing what?"
Padmé felt like she was frozen in place. "Am I dreaming?"
Dormé just shook her head.
"Anakin?" Padmé breathed.
"I've missed you."
"Are you . . . real?"
He chuckled. "Are you an angel?"
Padmé spun towards her lover's voice. "It can't be. I am dreaming."
Yet there he was, just a few feet from her, leaning against the wall, arms folded across his bare chest. He stared her with a cocky grin plastered on his face, but his eyes betrayed his longing for her.
"Didn't Threepio tell you?" His eyes sparkled with amusement. "That droid --"
"-- N-no. He must have tried, but I interrupted him. That must have been why he was so flustered."
"I have been on the veranda waiting, but I had to see you." He took a few steps towards her.
"Anakin," she breathed. "I can't believe --"
"-- I felt you so near, and it was killing me that I couldn't touch you. I couldn't wait another moment." He took a few more steps towards her.
She wrapped his shirt more tightly around her. "I can't believe you're here." She stared at her trembling hands, but managed a small smile.
"I needed to see you." His husky voice shook with emotion.
Out of the corner of her eye, Padmé saw Dormé slip out of the room. She looked into Anakin's eyes and whispered, "Please tell me I'm not dreaming."
"You've been crying." She shivered at the sad intensity in his deep voice. "What's wrong? Tell me."
"I was so frightened."
"There were whispers . . . that you'd been killed."
"I'm here. I'm all right."
Suddenly able to move, she practically flew into her husband's waiting arms. "I'm so glad you're home."
"I told you, I will always return to you." He kissed her with a hunger compounded by their months of separation. "You are my life."
Attempting to reassure herself that he was real, she clung tightly to his bare shoulders. "Anakin," she moaned against his lips. "I had these horrible visions of what my life would be like if you died."
"I'm not going to die. Nothing can hurt me."
"Anakin, you know you're not invincible." She reached up to touch the scar just above his eye.
Instead of replying, he kissed her again, and this time let his hand roam through her soft curls and massage her shoulders. She wrapped her arms around his neck, closed her eyes.
Anakin pulled away. "I've missed you, Padmé. So. Much." He nuzzled his face against her cheek. "I don't ever want to leave again."
She took a deep breath and sighed. "I've missed you, too." She put both hands against his face and stared into his eyes before she brushed her lips against his again.
"That makes me so happy." He ran his flesh hand down her back. "You know, you look like a Jedi in my shirt."
Padmé batted her eyelashes. "Do you like it?" She stepped back and twirled around for him.
"I put the shirt on because it reminded me of you. I could imagine your arms wrapped around me . . . When I saw it on my bed, I thought Dormé had found it and laid it out for me."
He shook his head.
"But you were here. You were going to wear it."
"You were supposed to find it."
She sighed. "I should have known."
Anakin shrugged. "It looks better on you than it ever did on me."
"And you look better like this." She rested her hand against his bare chest. "You feel better like this."
He laughed. "I'm glad you approve."
"I'm not sure I approve or not."
He looked down at her with a sheepish smile. "Why wouldn't you approve, M'lady?"
She bit her lower lip and ran her hands around his shoulders. "I don't see any new scars . . . yet." Her fingers roamed across his chest and around to his back.
"I'm all right."
"You are a bad liar." Her finger stopped on a freshly scabbed wound just above his left hip. "Blaster?"
He shrugged. "I think so. I was a little . . ."
"No, of course not. I was going to say busy killing droids."
"All right, I was unconscious, but only for a very short time."
"What!" She looked down at the gaping wound and shook her head.
"Really, it wasn't as bad as it looks . . . or sounds. It was just a blaster, and the wound was only superficial. A little bacta, and it was completely sealed. I didn't even lose that much blood."
Padmé tugged his pants down a little so she could follow his wound down his hip. "This is not superficial."
He grabbed her hand and pulled it up to his mouth for a soft kiss. "Really, Padmé, you worry too much. I'm fine."
She huffed and put her hands on her hips. "As long as you don't have any new prosthetic limbs . . ."
"No . . ." He placed a soft kiss on her forehead, but she pulled away before their lips met again.
She glanced down at his bare feet and smiled. "I suppose I don't have to worry."
"You don't have to worry about me. I'm always careful."
"You are never careful!" She put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "Every time you come home, you have a new injury."
"But I always heal." He laughed, but quickly sobered. "You are so beautiful." He tucked a bunch of curls behind her ear. "Even when you're angry with me."
"You're not so bad yourself, Master Jedi." She punctuated her words with a kiss on his cheek. "Even with all your cuts and scars."
He stroked her check with the back of his flesh hand. "You feel so soft and smooth . . ." His voice trailed off, and his hands ran along the rough fabric that covered her arms and back. "Take it off," he breathed. "Please?"
"I'm cold." She shivered under his heated gaze.
"Why don't you want me to see you?"
"I do, Anakin, but . . ."
"I want to touch you." He tried to work his hand under the rough fabric. "Please, Padmé, I am desperate for you."
"I know you are, but --"
"-- I have been dreaming of this moment since we parted. You are torturing me." His voice quivered with pure emotion, and she shivered at the raw passion his simple words. He sighed. "I dreamed about you every night." He pulled her close and brushed his cheek against hers. "And now you are even more beautiful than you were in my most vivid dream."
She averted her eyes. "You flatter me."
"What's wrong? You're shaking." He strengthened his grip around her, but she struggled to free herself.
"No-nothing." She stared up into his eyes and could only imagine what he had to be thinking. "Nothing's wrong. It's --" She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "-- wonderful. Ani, something wonderful has happened."
"What is it, my love?" He stared down at her, his eyes clouded by desperation. "Tell me."
She slipped his shirt off and took a step back. "Do I really look like you remembered me in your dreams?" She brought her hand up to her belly and traced the outline of her new form.
His mouth dropped open as his eyes followed her hand. "I don't believe it."
She took a few steps toward him. "Ani? Are you all right?"
He closed the distance between them and pulled her close. "You're . . . You're --"
"-- Pregnant." She looked into his bright blue eyes. "Ani, I'm pregnant."
His face went through the gamut of emotions from shock to fear to elation. "That's --" He kissed the top of her head. "-- That's wonderful."
"Are you sure?" She gazed into his eyes, begging for the truth.
"Pre-pregnant?" After a moment, he laughed and swept her into his arms, a wide, almost giddy, grin spread across his face, and his eyes shone with joy. "You're pregnant?"
She nodded, and tears streamed down her face.
He moved both of his hands to her cheeks and leaned down to kiss her hard on the lips. When he pulled away, he said, "I can't believe it."
"I know this is a shock, and I'm sorry --"
"-- Sorry?" He pulled back and looked into her eyes. "Why are you sorry?"
"I don't know. Sorry for doubting you. I was worried . . ."
"Worried? About what?"
"This baby will change our lives, Ani."
"I know that."
She avoided his eyes. "And I would understand if you aren't ready to tell the Council . . . If you don't want to be a part of this baby's life."
"I don't understand."
"If you don't want this baby, I will understand."
"What?" His eyes clouded with darkness. "Why wouldn't I want this baby?"
"I . . . I don't know," she stammered. "If --"
His normally loving voice became a deep, dark growl. "-- This is my baby, right?"
She shivered under his gaze. "Of course. How could you think it wasn't?"
He blinked several times and shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe . . . How could you think I wouldn't want my baby?"
"I . . . I don't know. Ani, please believe me, this baby is yours." She ran her index finger down his jaw line. "You know you're the first -- the only -- man I've ever been with."
The corners of his lips turned up into a half-smile. "I know," he said softly, the darkness gone from his voice. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean --"
"-- How could you think I would do something like that? That I would . . . cheat on you?"
"How could you think I wouldn't want to be a part of my baby's life?" He looked down at her belly, and his voice softened. "A part of your life?"
"I'm sorry, Anakin. I don't know what I was thinking."
Anakin rubbed her back. "I'm sorry for upsetting you."
"It's not your fault. I'm . . . I'm so confused."
He pulled her close, and she rested her head against his chest. "I'll never leave you"
"Unless you . . . don't want me."
"No!" She flashed a tentative smile.
"I don't know what I'd do if --"
"-- I love you so much; you have to believe me." She laid her head against his chest.
"If I didn't have you, I think I would go insane."
"I never meant to hurt you." She ran her hands up and down his sides and placed a series of kisses across his chest. "Of course I want you to be a part of our baby's life . . . and you know I will always want you to be a part of my life. I feel like a part of me dies each day we're apart."
"I feel the same way."
She looked up at him and tried to show him a shaky smile. "I just thought . . . this is all so sudden. And if you decided you weren't ready, I would understand."
"I'm ready; I've always been ready. Ever since the day I first saw you, I knew you would be the mother of my children."
"But did you expect it to be so soon?"
He shook his head. "But that doesn't mean I'm not ready."
"I love that you are all right with this, but I wonder if you've really thought about the consequences. I've had months to adjust to the thought of a baby, and it's not fair for me to expect you to accept this baby so suddenly. It's a big change."
"It's a big change for both of us."
"For you more so than for me. On Naboo, it is expected for me to have a family by now. I could easily resign from the Senate and go home to raise our baby."
"Not without me." He put his hands on her shoulders and didn't let her squirm away. "You shouldn't have worried about me. I want this baby, Padmé, more than I've ever wanted anything in my life."
"You would come with me?" She stared at him, dumbfounded.
"Absolutely. And I will do anything to make you believe that." He smiled in a way he reserved for only her. "Anything."
"I believe you." After a moment's pause, she added, "I am so sorry. I don't know why . . . I shouldn't have doubted you."
He ran the back of his hand across her cheek, brushing away tears she hadn't realized were falling. "Don't cry. This should be a happy moment."
"A happy moment." She rested her head against his chest, unable to look into his eyes. "This isn't how I planned --"
"-- Shh. Don't cry." He put his artificial hand on her shoulder and tilted her chin up with his flesh hand until their eyes met. "This is the happiest moment of my life. Please don't cry." He kissed her cheeks. "I'm here now and I am not leaving again."
"Everything will be all right." She was sure her words sounded hollow.
"I can't believe you've gone through this alone. I should have been here. You must have been so afraid."
"I should be the one to get your food."
"No." She grabbed both of his hands and placed them against her bulge. "You're here now. And I'm not letting you leave me . . . not for a second."
A wide grin spread across his face. "Your wish is my --" Suddenly, he pulled his hands away from her belly with a start. "-- What was that?"
"That was your baby." She took his hand and sank onto the settee.
"The baby must know its father is home," he declared with a goofy, self-satisfied grin.
"I think it must," she agreed amicably. She didn't have the heart to tell him the baby had been active all day.
She almost laughed at the prideful grin that spread across his face. He sank onto the settee and rested his head on Padmé's lap. "I love you," he whispered reverently. He kissed her stomach through her nightgown, and the baby responded with another hard kick. "Did that hurt?" He looked up, concern spread across his face.
"No, don't worry. It didn't hurt. I'm used to it." She laced her fingers through his soft hair. "Sometimes it's a bit surprising." Padmé leaned back, took a deep breath, and let her eyes drift closed.
Their moment was ruined when her stomach growled so loudly that she was sure even Dormé heard it in her quarters.
Anakin looked up at her with a cocky grin, obviously trying to hold back laughter. "Was that you? It sounded like a --"
"-- I know, I know, a wild nexu's mating call."
He howled with laughter. "That's exactly what it sounded like! I was trying to place it."
"When have you ever heard a wild nexu's mating call?"
"You don't want to know." His eyes twinkled with amusement.
"You're probably right." She rubbed her belly. "Where is Threepio? I'm starving!"
He flicked his wrist, and a piece of shurra fruit from the abandoned tray flew into his hand. "Here." He held the fruit up to her mouth.
"My fruit!" She grabbed it from him and took a bite. "You're my hero."
He brought two more pieces of fruit to him using the Force. After she finished the first piece, he gave her the other two.
"Thank you," she mumbled, her mouth full of fruit. "I knew I missed you for a reason."
He watched her as she ate, seemingly lost in thought. "You are more beautiful than I could have imagined."
She stared at him incredulously after looking at the two pieces of fruit in her hand, then at the small spot on her nightgown where some of the juice had dripped, and finally down at her very large belly. "You cannot be serious."
"You are glowing."
She rolled her eyes. "It's only because I am so happy."
He chuckled. "No, it's not. You are beautiful."
"You don't have to do this, Ani."
"It might be because you're carrying my baby, but I think you are more beautiful now than the moment I first saw you."
"You're such a bad liar. I am thirteen years older and quite a bit heavier." She shook her head, but felt a grin spread across her face.
"And now you are my wife." He ran his flesh hand through her long, curly hair. Ignoring her objection, he continued, "Do you remember? I thought you were an angel then."
"And I thought you were crazy."
"I haven't changed my mind."
"You flatter me." She reached out and squeezed his hand. "And that is why I love you."
He brought her hand to his mouth and planted a soft kiss on her palm. "No matter what you believe, I know you are the most beautiful woman on any world. And you are mine."
"I am yours."
"You'll always be mine."
"Always." She grinned and he kissed her again. When her lips pressed against his, she closed her eyes and tried to forget all of her fears, at least for the moment. His artificial hand slid between them to rest against their baby. She pulled back and put her hand on top of his.
He looked down at their joined hands with a smile. Before he brushed his lips against hers, he breathed, "Thank you. I've never had anything that was truly mine."
"Now you have a baby. And you've always had me."
"It's more than I've ever hoped for."
Even after three years of marriage, she was still shocked that someone so powerful could be so vulnerable. "I love you."
"I love you, too." He stroked her belly and whispered, "And you, too, my youngling." Then he looked into her eyes. "You've made me so happy."
"Not possibly as happy as you have made me." She felt a fresh set of tears tumble down her cheeks, and Anakin brushed them away with his thumb as quickly as they fell.
"Padmé?" His blue eye filled with concern.
"I don't know what's wrong with me." She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to stop the flood of tears.
"Oh, my love, please don't cry."
"I'm so happy. Please believe me."
He tilted his head down and closed his eyes. "Are you sure you're all right? Is the baby hurting you?"
She shook her head.
"Are you sure?"
His hand trailed down her cheek brushing away her tears. "Then why are you crying?"
"I don't know." She took a deep breath. "While you were gone, whenever I felt the baby move, it made me think of you. I felt better because, no matter where you were, I knew a part of you would always be with me." She laughed through her tears. "Even when I was at work. And I know how interesting you find my work."
"You're right. The debates of the wise senators are always captivating."
She decided to change the subject before they reached another impasse. "I am so glad you're home."
He narrowed his eyes. "Are you sure?"
"Positive. I was so scared you wouldn't return in time and I wouldn't be able to tell you about the baby. But now that you're home, I feel this amazing relief. And I am so happy, Ani. So happy."
He placed a soft kiss on each of her cheeks. "Please don't cry. I'm here now."
She shook her head. "I don't know why I am crying so much. It is making me crazy. I have been like this for months. I can't understand it. Before, I never cried, and now I am a mess."
"I am so sorry . . . I'm never leaving you again. I promise you."
"-- How long have you known about the baby?"
She sighed at his abrupt change of subject. Instead of arguing, she answered his question. "You've been gone for almost nine months."
"Nine months." He shook his head. "Nine months. Isn't that the normal gestation period for a human pregnancy?"
"That's why I was so afraid you wouldn't return before the baby was born. We only have about three more weeks."
"I've missed nine months." He shook his head in disbelief. "I want to know everything that happened while I was gone."
She shook her head. "Believe me, you don't."
He stared at her defiantly. "Why not?"
"Because I do not want to re-live it." She tapped her fingers on her belly. "The morning sickness was practically all-day sickness for the first three months."
"What do you mean?" He cringed. "You were sick?"
She caressed his cheek. "They don't teach you about human pregnancy at the Temple, do they?"
"Not really. I did know some women on Tatooine . . . but I was only a child."
"Don't worry, the sickness is normal. My body had to adjust to the baby being there."
"Oh, I see." He kissed her palm. "What was it like?"
She smiled at his innocent ignorance. "I was very nauseous. I had to run to the 'fresher during the middle of some important committee meetings and senate debates. It's a wonder they did not censure me for my absences."
He screwed up his face into a frown. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't be sorry," she whispered. Then she traced a line of kisses around his face and neck. "It's not your fault."
"I should have been with you."
"I don't know if you could have done anything. It wasn't more than a passing illness. One moment, I was sick, and the next I felt fine."
"Still . . ."
"I love that you are so concerned. But, really, you couldn't have helped me." After a short pause, she added, "I did need you desperately after the sickness passed, though." One of her hands trailed down his chest and rested on the edge of his sleep pants.
He raised his eyebrows. "What do you mean?"
"I was a little . . . amorous."
"You've always been --" He wiggled his eyebrows. "-- amorous."
She sighed. "I know. I think that's how Dormé figured out our secret. She said I was . . . loud."
Anakin laughed. "I thought you were a lady."
"I am very demure!"
"Of course. Very demure." Anakin's eyes twinkled.
She huffed, making her irritation clear, but her expression softened when she ran her index finger down his cheek. "I needed you. More than ever before."
A heated expression spread across his face as the realization of what she meant seemed to dawn on him. He shook his head and laughed loudly. "Do you still --"
"-- Yes. Always."
Anakin leaned down and pressed his lips against hers, and his hands roamed up and down her back.
She closed her eyes and spread her lips, allowing his hungry tongue to enter. She moaned as she surrendered to the feelings that had been buried for far too long.
He tilted his head and whispered, "I need you, Padmé."
"I need you, too." She tried to press herself against him, but their bodies didn't seem to fit together in the way they once did. She grunted in frustration. "I'm so big now. I think it would be uncomfortable for both of us."
"We can think of a way to make it work."
She took a deep breath and tried to pull away. "I'm afraid."
Anakin's hand laced through her hair. "Afraid of me?"
She shook her head vigorously. "Of course not." She looked down at her swollen belly. "Afraid of what you will think of me. That you won't like . . . I look different, Ani. And I can't take that kind of rejection. Not now."
"-- Anakin, I . . . I just don't know what to think any more."
Anakin dropped do his knees and rested her head against her swollen belly. "What do I have to do to convince you? I know you can feel how much I want you."
"I know you do. I just don't want you to be disappointed."
With his cheek still pressed against her belly, he turned his head so their eyes met. "Disappointed?"
"I don't know. I know I want you so badly, but I'm afraid I'm so big, it will be uncomfortable for both of us." She ran her hand down his cheek lovingly. Suddenly, she changed the subject, "Did you feel that?"
He smiled widely. "Was that an arm?"
She patted her swollen belly lovingly with one hand, and ran her other hand through his hair. "I think your baby is already practicing saber techniques."
He narrowed his eyes. "Really?"
"This baby is already full of your boundless energy."
"Well, it is my baby." His crooked smile did nothing to disguise his immense pride.
She rolled her eyes. "It's already just like you."
He planted a soft kiss on the spot he felt the baby moving. Then, he pulled back and stared at her belly reverently. "My baby."
After a moment's pause, he looked up at her. "We could . . . try."
"Try?" She scrunched her face in confusion. "Oh! Try."
"Please? It's been so long." His pleading was almost pathetic.
"I know." His mouth crashed down onto hers, and she felt his desperation. She wanted him just as badly, but . . .
"I need you."
Her heart broke when she saw the need displayed on his face. "I need you, too," she breathed.
His expression brightened. "Are you sure?"
"Positive." Just when he brought his head down to kiss her again, her stomach growled loudly. "Not again."
"Are you all right?"
She nodded, biting her lip.
He rubbed her belly. "Do you still --?"
"-- Later, I promise."
"I will hold you to that." He took both of her hands in his. His somber gaze left no doubt he'd abandoned any pretense of joking. "I am sorry I missed this, Padmé. You have to know that."
"I know. We both knew from the beginning that our lives would be like this. We made that choice."
"You could have contacted me."
She narrowed her eyes. "How?"
He shrugged. "I --"
"-- I had no idea where you were or how I could reach you."
He folded his arms across his chest. "You could have sent a message through Artoo."
She ran a hand down his cheek. "And what if someone else got Artoo? Or what if someone was with you when you played the transmission?"
"I wanted to. Believe me." She let her hand linger on his cheek, still thrilled to feel his skin against hers again. "There were so many times I almost tried to contact you through Artoo, but then I caught myself. We cannot act rashly." She brought her hand down to her belly. "We have to protect our baby at all costs."
He closed his eyes. "This damned war has taken me away from the person -- people -- I love for too long." He brushed his hand against her stomach and then trailed his fingers down her cheek. "I'm not leaving our family again."
"Anakin . . ." Instead of finishing her sentence, she surrendered to his demanding lips when they crashed against hers.
He pulled away, and she groaned in protest. He put his hand against her cheek. "I want to make you comfortable."
"What do you mean?"
"Here --" He swept her into his arms, and she couldn't help but squeal. "-- let me make up for all the time I was gone."
"Ani! You'll hurt yourself!"
"Don't worry. I'm a Jedi." When she frowned, he added, "You're not heavy." All doubt flew from her mind when his lips captured hers. He eased them back onto the settee without breaking contact.
"You shouldn't have to worry about anything. You're carrying my baby." He rested his chin against her shoulder and whispered into her ear, "Are you all right?"
"It feels wonderful." His hard chest made a good cushion for her aching back. "But why are --?"
"-- You're in pain." He touched the spot on her lower back that had been bothering her for days.
"How did you know?"
"I saw the way you were rubbing your back."
"Was I? So many parts of my body hurt . . . I don't even realize . . ."
"I . . . felt it."
"I can always feel your pain. The Force screams so loudly in my head. It takes over my conscious thoughts, and I can't think of anything else until I help you."
"Our connection is that strong?" She smiled at the thought.
"Let me help you." His flesh hand kneaded her tense muscles through her nightgown.
She tilted her head back against his chest and let out an involuntary moan.
"Are you sure you're all right?" She felt his prosthetic hand come to rest on her belly.
Eyes closed, reveling in the feel of her husband's soft ministrations, she managed to say, "I am so happy you're home."
He laughed. "You just want me to rub your back."
"Oh, but it feels so good."
"I'm glad," he declared. He kissed her on the cheek, and ran his hands around her hips and down her legs, tugging her nightgown further up in the process.
With a start, she grabbed for his hand to make him stop "Ani," she started, but couldn't really bring herself to finish her objection.
"I can make it feel even better."
"I know you can, but --"
She could tell he was trying to restrain his desire, but he was failing miserably.
Rejecting him was painful because she needed him, too, but she was afraid . . . She shook her head, resolute in her decision. "Not here."
"Yes, here." His voice shook with desire. "You wanted me before."
"Oh, Ani, I still want you, but we can't." She let a hand trail down his inner thigh. "What if Dormé were to come out of her room."
He closed his eyes. "She's asleep."
"I do not feel comfortable here." She tried to shift away from his persistent hands.
"Please? It's been so long. I just want to touch you."
"I don't --"
"-- What's wrong?" She shivered when his hot breath brushed against her cheek. "Please tell me."
"I want you so badly." Her gaze turned down to her large belly. "But I'm not sure you'll like what you see."
"I know I will." His hand covered hers. "You're perfect."
"Perfect? No. I look --" She struggled to find the right word. "-- different."
"I don't care." He took a deep breath. "Please? I need you."
"I know, Ani," she whispered. She squeezed his hand tightly. "You won't like the way my body has changed."
He chuckled. "I'll always like your body, no matter what it looks like."
"I have grown."
"I know that." He looked down at her stomach.
"I don't look like the woman you married or the woman you left."
"But you're still the woman I love." His prosthetic hand trailed down her cheek. "I love everything about you. I could never be disappointed. Just being around you again is . . . intoxicating."
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "All right," she relented, and moved his hand to the hem of her gown. "But I warned you."
He turned his head and kissed her. "Thank you."
Wasting no time, he eased the gown up her legs and over her swollen belly. The first few moments were incredibly tense as she waited for his ultimate rejection. She was surprised when he finally did speak.
"Wow," he breathed. His hands roamed around her belly so that it seemed like he was exploring every bit of taut skin.
She let a woeful smile spread across her face. "I know; it's huge."
"That's . . . not what I meant." A goofy grin spread across his face. "It's . . . amazing. I've longed touch you for so many months . . ."
"I've missed your touch."
"I almost forgot how soft and smooth your skin feels."
She laughed. "But I look like I swallowed a bantha."
"No, you don't." After a short pause, he added, "Well, maybe a baby bantha."
"You're lucky I love you."
"I know." He placed a soft kiss on her cheek and whispered, "I am so lucky you love me."
"No, Ani, I'm the lucky one. You risk your life for me every day."
He shrugged. "I would die if I didn't have you." Anakin took a shuddering deep breath. "Your beauty takes my breath away."
"Liar," she breathed. She closed her eyes, and felt his hands slowly discovering her new body.
"I can't believe --" He took a deep breath, seemingly unable to find the right words. "-- This is our baby inside of you. I just . . ."
"It's amazing." She only opened her eyes when he slipped out from behind her and sank to the floor. "What are you doing?
"I want to see you from this angle." He put his head against her belly and smiled.
She could sense his mood change. "Ani? What's wrong?"
"Who hurt you, Padmé?" His jaw clenched, and his words were almost a growl. "Tell me."
"What are you talking about? No one hurt me."
His hand traced one of the oddly-shaped pink marks on her belly. "I will find whoever hurt you --"
"-- No, Ani --" She put her hand on top of his, stalling his movement. "-- no one hurt me."
"What do you mean? With scars like these --"
"-- They are not scars."
"Then what are they?"
She turned her head down. "This is why I did not want you to see me."
"No, you --"
"-- I am . . . embarrassed." She took a deep breath. "I was so thin before, and our baby has grown so quickly. My skin couldn't stretch, so now I have these marks all over my body."
"Are you telling me the truth?" She could see the fear and confusion played out over his handsome face.
"Of course I am. I've never lied to you."
"They aren't scars?" He gently ran a hand up one of the more pronounced marks that ran from her hip to her chest
"No, I promise. They're normal." She grabbed Anakin's prosthetic hand and held it against the spot where she felt the baby moving.
"They're . . . normal?" His voice was wary, but the fire in his eyes began to smolder.
"Completely. Just wait. In a few more weeks, I will be huge. Even you won't be able to carry me."
"Don't be so sure." He puffed out his chest. "You're lucky I'm a Jedi."
"Anakin! That was mean!" She huffed indignantly. "You're supposed to say, 'No, you won't be heavy at all.'"
"But you wouldn't believe me anyway." He laughed, but turned his attention back to her stretch marks. "Do they hurt?"
"Not really. They're just ugly."
"No, they're not ugly." His hands traced the crooked lines up her belly and around her breasts. "They're beautiful."
She laughed. "You have been away for too long. You might think anything is beautiful."
"They are beautiful." Before she could retort, he continued, "If you have them because you're carrying our baby, then I think it's beautiful." His hand lingered on her breast. "And I think your new body suits you."
She raised an eyebrow. "You just like that they're so much bigger."
"It's a pleasant surprise."
As he continued to explore her body, Padmé let her eyes drift shut, surrendering to her forgotten exhaustion.
She felt his lips brush against her belly. His hot breath against her skin made her shiver as he whispered, "I can't believe how much I love you already."
Before she realized what was happening, his hungry lips crashed against hers, and she surrendered to the sensations his roaming hand was evoking throughout her body. She wrapped her arms around him tightly and moaned against his lips.
The sound of C-3PO's clanking footsteps caused Padmé to groan and push Anakin away. "My food!"
He rolled his eyes, clearly disgruntled over being rejected in favor of a shaak steak.
"I'm sorry, Ani, but I am starving."
Anakin shrugged. "After you eat --"
"-- Right after I eat." Padmé stuck her lower lip out in a pout. "If you're really mad, I'll let you share some of my ahrisa." She ran her hand down his chest and kissed him.
"All right. But you better have gotten extra-spicy."
"Of course. It's almost like I knew you were here."
He leaned down again and pressed his lips against hers. She closed her eyes and momentarily forgot her hunger. Padmé wrapped her arms around Anakin's shoulders and deepened the kiss.
C-3PO chirped, "Here is your shaak steak, Miss Padmé, and I do hope you enjoy this ahrisa. They did not have extra-spicy. I am terribly sorry."
Padmé felt Anakin pull away; so she reluctantly opened her eyes. "Thank you, Threepio. Please, set it on the table."
"They didn't have extra-spicy?" Anakin whined.
While C-3PO worked to set the packages on the table, Padmé put her hand on Anakin's thigh. "I'm sorry."
Before Anakin could say anything else, C-3PO said, "Oh, Master Anakin. I am most delighted that Miss Padmé found you."
"He found me."
"I got tired of waiting."
She laced her fingers through his hair and kissed the top of his head. "I'm glad you --"
"-- What is that?" He stiffened and pulled away from her.
"What?" She watched Anakin use the Force to call his lightsaber to his hand, and she clutched his shoulder fearfully. "What is it?"
"Someone is here." He fumbled to make sure her nightgown covered her correctly and handed her his shirt. "Threepio?"
At the same time, Padmé struggled to sit and pulled the shirt around her shoulders. "What do you mean?"
Before Anakin could answer, C-3PO announced, "Oh, I am terribly sorry. I have neglected to tell you about our two very important visitors."
Padmé could sense the tension in Anakin's voice and saw him clutch his weapon tightly. She put her hand on his arm, trying to hold him back. "Who would be here this late?"
"I know it's not Obi-Wan."
She clutched at his arm. "Why would Obi-Wan --"
"-- There are two people here, but their Force signatures are unfamiliar." His voice was calm, but the tension in his arm muscles was unmistakable.
"Miss Padmé, I met your parents in the lift. Such lovely people--"
"-- My parents? They're -- They're here?" Her mouth was almost too dry to speak.
Anakin put his hand on her shoulder. "Padmé?" he exclaimed with a hint of nervous tension in his voice. "Are you all right? Your face --"
"-- No, no, no," she repeated. "I . . . I have to . . . I don't know . . . My parents --"
"-- Padmé," her mother exclaimed as she burst into the room, almost on cue.
The dark-haired, middle-aged woman ran into the room.. "We were so worried. We must have left you twenty messages in the last few days."
"Twenty-seven," she muttered. "Dormé was right. I should have listened to them."
Anakin grabbed her shaking hand and pulled it to his lap.
"You had to know we were coming," her father declared in the same soft voice that had been so calming when she was a child.
She bit her lower lip. "Mom. Dad." She glanced at her parents and then at Anakin, unsure of what she could possibly say. "I'm so happy to see you both."
"We've been trying to contact you for weeks! And when you didn't answer, we were so frightened! We thought something had happened to you."
"I'm . . . I'm fine." Her hand flew to her mouth in an attempt to keep herself from vomiting. Anakin's hand came to her stomach, and she breathed a silent note of thanks.
"Don't ever do this again, Padmé."
She closed her eyes and hoped that when she opened them, her nightmare would be over. "I . . . I've been working."
Jobal took a few steps toward her daughter. "You will make yourself sick working so much."
Her father stared at Anakin and growled, "Who are you and why are you in my daughter's apartment and . . . touching her like that?"
In his best powerful Jedi voice, Anakin declared, "Anakin --"
"-- Skywalker?" Ruwee's voice went up an octave. "Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker? The one the Holo-Net reports call the Hero with No Fear? The one who protected our daughter after those assassination attempts? The little boy who helped save our planet from the Trade Federation? That Anakin Skywalker?"
Padmé looked at Anakin, who nodded, so she said, merely, "Yes."
"Then you lied to us when you told us he was just your Jedi protector."
"No, of course not! At the time, he was just my friend, and nothing more."
Her mother jumped into the conversation, repeating Ruwee's initial question. "What is he doing here now?"
"With no shirt," her father added.
"She's wearing his shirt," her mother declared. "And look at the way he's touching her. Maybe we . . . came at a bad time."
"We raised you better than this, Padmé. Now you're letting a Jedi into your home at night and allowing him to touch you so intimately."
"It's not what you think, Dad." Padmé buried her face in her hands, not knowing what else to say.
Anakin put his arm around Padmé's shoulders and helped her to her feet. "I am her husband," he declared in a strong, almost menacing, voice.
"Her what?" Ruwee's face was now a shade of red Padmé had never seen before.
Once she realized that he had willfully shared their secret, Padmé took a deep breath and felt free to speak. "My husband." She wrapped her arms around Anakin's lean waist, and he pulled her close. "So he has every right to be here."
"But he's a Jedi."
Padmé sighed and laid her head against Anakin's chest. She felt like her legs would collapse without his support.
"But I thought . . Aren't you forbidden to marry?" Jobal ran her hand across her forehead.
"Yes." Padmé's voice was barely louder than a whisper.
"Violating the Jedi Code . . . What were you thinking?"
"They weren't thinking," Ruwee paced behind his wife, not even looking at the young couple.
"I love her, sir. I've always loved her."
"And I love him." She smiled up at Anakin.
"Every day, I wake up and realize just how blessed I am to have her." He looked at the floor and then turned up to look at his in-laws.
"And love is more important than something you've sworn your life to?"
"If loving her means I have to give up my life as a Jedi, then so be it."
Her father narrowed his eyes. "You would leave the Jedi for my daughter?"
"I don't --"
"-- Dad, he's already tried, but I wouldn't let him. He has a duty to the galaxy to help end this war. And I won't let him give up his life for me." She took a deep breath. "Anakin loves being a Jedi, and I won't take that away from him."
"I would gladly leave the Jedi for you." He brushed his cheek against her forehead.
She ran a hand down his chest. "I know you would."
"When did this happen?" A combination of hurt and anger played on Jobal's face. "I see the way you look at each other, and I know you love one another."
Padmé looked up at Anakin and felt a smile cross her lips. "Three years ago."
"Three years!" Her mother seemed hurt rather than angry, and Padmé's heart fell.
"We were married just after I lost my arm --"
"-- Shortly after the Battle of Geonosis," Padmé added.
"After Geonosis?" her mother exclaimed. "That was --"
"-- You have to understand . . . I almost lost him . . . right when I realized how much I loved him. We needed to be together, and this was the only way we could."
"Three years," Ruwee muttered.
"I'm sorry, Daddy." Her lower lip quivered, and she bit it to make it stop.
"And you never felt the need to tell your family. I thought we raised you better than that. I thought you were mature beyond your years, but maybe I was mistaken. Maybe we let you enter public service too young. Maybe --"
"-- No . . ." Her voice trailed off because she wasn't sure what to say to defend herself.
She could see Anakin's jaw clench and she knew he was trying to control himself. "I don't --"
"-- Who else knows of your illicit union?"
"Illicit?" Padmé stared at her father. "Our marriage is far from illicit."
"Marriage." Jobal shook her head, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. "You've been married for three years. And you didn't tell us. We're your parents, Padmé. We love you. We would have supported you."
"I can't believe you've done this."
"If you don't support your daughter, then you should leave," Anakin snarled.
Ruwee took a step toward Anakin, and Anakin brought his hand to his light saber.
"I will not let you talk to my wife like that in her own home." He stepped in front of her. "She shouldn't have to defend herself to you."
"Thank you," Padmé whispered. She leaned against his shoulder and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, Anakin had pulled his saber out and stood poised to ignite it. "Ani! Don't."
Her mom's face turned red. "If you feel that way --" Jobal abruptly turned on her heel and stomped towards the door. "-- Ruwee, our daughter obviously --"
"-- Wait! Please . . . please don't leave. I --" She stepped out from behind Anakin and took a few steps toward her mother. In the process, she lost her tight grip on Anakin's shirt. "-- I'm sorry, mom, dad. I am sorry I deceived you, sorry I hurt you. But I am not sorry for following my heart. We had to keep our love a secret for so many reasons."
Anakin added, "If it wasn't for this war --"
Her mother stared at Padmé, and her expression turned to one of shock. She interrupted, "-- Padmé, is there something else you're not telling us?"
"No, of course not."
"I'm your mother! Don't take that political tone with me."
"I'm not blind --"
"-- We're not stupid," her father added.
"I don't know what you are talking about."
Anakin came up behind her and put his hand on her back. "I'm sick of all this deception. They know we're married. We have to tell --"
"-- Are you . . . Padmé, are we going to have another grandchild?"
She looked down at her belly, and knew she couldn't try to hide any longer. In the nightgown she was wearing, any concealment was impossible. "Yes. I'm pregnant."
"Then the reports were right." Ruwee shook his head.
Anakin spoke before Padmé could find her voice. "Reports?"
Jobal looked at her feet and wiped the tears from her cheeks. "The pictures on the Holo-Net."
"Just pictures of you on the senate floor. But the less reputable news has been hypothesizing . . . bigger clothes, fuller face . . . And they were right." Ruwee shook his head. "This is the first time I can remember that those gossip mongers were right."
"We didn't believe them," Jobal sobbed. "Surely you would have told us if you were in trouble --"
"-- In trouble?"
"It's all right, Ani." Padmé put a hand against his chest, and he wrapped his arms around her.
"She is not in trouble."
Padmé leaned against him. "He's right. I'm certainly not in trouble. I'm -- we're -- happy about this baby."
Ruwee looked from Anakin to Padmé, his face bright red. "What about your reputation? Your planet?"
"I have done enough for Naboo that every being there should be happy for me. I have devoted my life to my Planet. Now, I want to devote my life to my family. I deserve this."
"What about all the beings who trust you? You've deceived us all."
"How have I deceived them, mom?" Jobal opened her mouth to speak, but Padmé cut her off. "I deceived them because I kept my marriage a secret out of the public eye? Just because I wanted a private life?" She closed her eyes and bit her lip against the pain that was shooting through her back.
"Padmé? Are you all right?"
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm fine." After taking a deep breath, she continued, "I have worked my whole life for my planet. Why can't a part of my life be private?"
Jobal shook her head. "You've violated a sacred code. Did you consider the ramifications?"
Padmé felt tears stream down her cheeks and she didn't bother to brush them away. "I don't . . . I don't know."
"That's because you didn't think! This is so unlike you, Padmé."
"Mom, we're in love. And love trumps rational behavior. We've both learned that over the last three years."
Anakin nodded, but didn't say anything.
Jobal looked from Anakin to Padmé and shook her head. "I never thought I could be so disappointed. I never expected--"
"-- I'm so happy, Mom," Padmé sobbed. Anakin brushed his thumbs against her cheeks, futilely trying to stop the flow of tears. "Please, can't you be happy for me? Like we all were for Sola?"
"That was different. She was married."
"I am married."
"She was ready --"
"-- Mom, Anakin and I are ready, too. We both want this baby so much." Her hand came to rest against her belly, and Anakin's larger hand covered hers.
"Sola's marriage is legal!"
Ruwee added, "And we were invited to her wedding!"
"We didn't mean to hurt you." She looked down at their entwined hands and smiled. "But I love Anakin, and he loves me, and we made a baby together." She took a deep breath and shook her head. "You always wanted me to settle down."
"Not like this! Not while you're still involved in public service."
"Not while you're on Coruscant," Ruwee added. "You should have your family back home on Naboo."
"And not with someone who is forbidden to form attachments."
"Can't you see, Mom, Dad, my life might be different than the one you imagined for me, but this is the life I've chosen?"
"The life you've chosen is illegal!"
Her mother added, "We never wanted you to live a lie."
Anakin tightened his grip on Padmé, looked from Jobal to Ruwee. "How can you treat your daughter this way?"
"Now, son --"
"-- Dad, don't talk to my husband like that!"
"Have you thought this through? Either of you? Even forgetting the fact that your marriage is impractical, is this a good time to bring a baby into the galaxy?"
Padmé sighed. "This baby was not planned, and it certainly isn't under the best circumstances, but I'm so happy."
"We're both happy," Anakin added.
"This might not be an ideal time or situation to have a baby, but we can't change what happened."
Anakin squeezed her hand. "I just wish I could have been here sooner to help her. Then she wouldn't have faced this alone."
"I've been stationed on the Outer Rim for months. I didn't think they would ever bring us home." He reached back and touched the wound on his hip. "If I hadn't gotten hurt . . ."
"Ani! You said it wasn't that bad!" Padmé narrowed her eye as she watched his expression instantly reflect his guilt. "I knew it! That is not just a surface wound. Did you escape from the healers' ward again?"
"Of course not. It really wasn't that bad, but it was an excuse to come home." He brought his hand back around to rest on Padmé's belly. "I'm glad I'm home now."
"I'm glad you're home, too."
Ruwee looked from Anakin to Padmé and then down at her belly. "How far along are you?"
Padmé shrugged. "Almost nine months. This baby was conceived just before Anakin left."
"Nine months." Jobal closed her eyes and shook her head. "Nine months."
"And I was just able to tell my husband less than an hour ago."
Anakin added, "I wish she had told me sooner, but I understand why she couldn't. It was too risky."
Padmé looked up at Anakin gratefully. She knew he was upset that he had missed so much of her pregnancy, but he was masking his feelings well.
"If you have been pregnant for nine months, you are awfully close to the end of your pregnancy. Were you planning to give birth here on Coruscant?"
"I . . . I don't know. I hadn't thought about it."
"You haven't thought about it? Padmé, you don't have much time left. Ruwee, she hasn't even thought about where she wants to give birth."
"I guess I planned to go home to Naboo to have the baby, but I didn't want to do anything before I could tell Anakin." She sighed. "It didn't seem real before. And now . . ."
Her father looked down at her large belly and shook his head. "It didn't seem real?"
"I was hiding it from everyone else, why not from myself, too? All I knew was that I wanted this baby desperately, but I also wanted Anakin to come home." She took a deep breath. "This is all happening so quickly."
"We're sorry, Padmé. This is just . . . such a shock."
"I know it is, sir." Anakin looked from Ruwee to Jobal with a somber expression. "I'm sorry we kept this all a secret from your family." He looked down at Padmé and smiled. "But I love your daughter. I will do anything to protect her and our child."
Jobal looked from Anakin to Padmé. "I know. We're just . . . it was a long trip."
Ruwee added, "And we were so worried."
Padmé closed her eyes for a moment. "I'm sorry."
Jobal took a few steps towards her daughter. "We know you are." She turned to Anakin and smiled. "We can see that you love each other."
"We just want you to be happy, Padmé."
"I am." She clutched Anakin's arm. "I've never been this happy in my life."
"Welcome to our family, Anakin, son."
Anakin nodded. "Thank you, sir."
Ruwee looked at Padmé and then at Anakin with a wide smile on his face that made his eyes sparkle. "Call me dad."
"Thank you, sir -- dad. I promise, you, I will always love Padmé, no matter what."
"I know you will. I knew it when I first met you." He looked at Jobal and smiled. "I saw the same look in your eyes when you looked at Padmé as I still get when I look at Jobal."
Jobal looked up at Anakin. "I can see Anakin makes you happy -- happier than I've ever seen you."
Padmé leaned against Anakin and smiled at her mother. "He does."
"After the baby is born, your father and I will throw you the biggest wedding Naboo has ever seen. Of course the Queen --"
"-- Mom! I never wanted a big wedding, and I certainly don't want an extravagant public affair."
"Yes, you do, Padmé," Anakin said softly as he ran his hand across her cheek.
"What?" She looked at him with wide eyes.
"Before we were married, you told me about your dream wedding with your family there -- your nieces throwing flowers we picked together from the meadow by the Lake -- and it killed me that I couldn't give it to you."
"Our wedding was beautiful, Anakin. All I ever needed was your love."
"You don't have to protect me anymore. I want to marry you in front of the entire Galaxy."
"If it's what you want . . ." She looked at her mother and continued, "I don't want a huge affair. Maybe we could have a small ceremony in the Lake Country --"
"-- Anything you want. I'm sure Sola will be crushed."
"She's never going to forgive me, is she?"
"She'll get over it quickly -- especially the first time she holds your baby."
All Padmé could do was nod because, before she knew what was happening, Jobal crushed both Anakin and Padmé in a joyful embrace and kissed them both.
Jobal leaned down and touched Padmé's belly. "Ruwee, we're going to have another grandchild."
Ruwee smiled at his daughter. "Do you know if the baby's a boy or a girl?"
"We . . . don't know yet. I think it's a boy."
The baby kicked at that moment, and Anakin laughed. "With a kick that strong, it has to be a girl."
"I knew you'd think it was a girl," Padmé declared as she ran a finger down his cheek.
"Have you even been to a healer, Padmé?"
Padmé turned away from Anakin, but was unable to look her mother in the eye. She stared at the floor and chewed on her lower lip. "No, but --"
"-- You haven't been to a healer?" Anakin exclaimed. "Why not?"
At the same time, Jobal said, "No buts! You need to see a healer. If not for you, then for your baby, just to make sure everything is progressing normally."
"I know." Padmé sighed and averted her eyes from her family's accusing stares.
Jobal pointed at her daughter's protruding belly. "You're carrying fairly large."
"I know I am. It's getting almost impossible to hide."
"Sola and I both carried small . . . I don't want to alarm you --"
"-- Then don't." She shook her head.
"Padmé, you need to see a healer."
"I'm fine. I didn't want to see a healer in case they asked for too much personal information."
"Forget the secret, Padmé. I'm sick of all this deception. And if your health -- or our baby's heath -- is in question . . . I don't want anything to happen to you."
"Nothing's going to happen to me, Anakin . . . I'm fine."
He leaned down and brushed his lips against her temple. "Please, Padmé, I can't lose you."
"You're not going to lose me." She covered his hand with her own. "We're both very healthy."
"How do you know that if you haven't been to a healer?"
Ruwee added, "No secret is more important than your child."
"But what if my secret is my child?"
Anakin turned her around so she looked into his eyes. "Our child will not be a secret."
"Anakin . . ."
"Padmé!" her mother exclaimed. "You can't hide a child."
"I know," she said, her voice barely a whisper.
"I mean it, Padmé. I will not let our child think she was a mistake."
"I . . . I know."
"Never, Padmé. She will know she is ours and that we love her."
Before Padmé could answer, Ruwee spoke. "I cannot believe you would think of hiding your child."
Padmé shrugged away from Anakin and sank onto the settee. Her knees felt weak, and she wasn't sure how much longer she could stand. "I wasn't thinking." A trail of warm tears fell down her cheeks. "I don't . . . I can't . . ." Finally, she admitted, "I am so scared."
Anakin sat next to her. He wrapped his arms around her, and she sank into his embrace. "Shhh, please don't cry."
She sobbed into his shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"No." He kissed her cheek. "You have nothing to be sorry about. You only did what you thought was right."
Jobal interrupted, "-- Please promise us you will see a healer. You have to take care of yourself for the baby's sake."
Padmé nodded her assent, resigned to do anything they asked. "I know."
"Tomorrow," he declared; his tone left no room for debate.
She was helpless to do anything but nod.
"Are you all right?" Anakin ran his hand down her cheek.
Her father echoed Anakin. "Padmé, you're so pale."
Anakin reached out to grab her long-abandoned food. "Are you still hungry?"
She shook her head. "I don't think I can eat now." Her hand covered her mouth. "That smell . . . I don't feel well."
Anakin frowned. "What's wrong, Padmé?"
"You can have it. I feel . . . oh, no . . ." A wave of nausea washed over her, and she struggled to stand. Anakin helped her to her feet, and she broke away from him. "Excuse me." She dashed toward the refresher.
As she sat on the cool ground, not sure if she could keep the shurra fruit down, she heard Anakin pad down the hallway and felt him slide to the ground behind her.
"Are you're all right?"
"I'm fine. I don't think I will ever eat shaak again."
He pulled her hair back, and then kissed her on the neck. "Was it out on the table for too long?"
"No, no." She leaned back against his chest, and he pulled her into a tight hug. "It's the stress, I think. My parents . . . I can't believe they would show up on the same day you finally came home. They have never traveled to Coruscant in all the years I've been here. Why now?"
"They're worried about you."
"Why today? I played the image of telling you about the baby over and over in my head, but it was never like this."
She rubbed her belly in soothing circles, trying to urge her stomach to calm down. "I'm sorry, Anakin."
He covered her hand with his and mimicked her small circles. "Don't be sorry. You've given me such a wonderful gift."
"I know it was not what you expected, but I am so glad you're happy."
"I can't believe we're going to be a family. I'm even thankful for your parents."
He shook his head. "I'm serious!"
She traced a crooked path down his cheek. "You really were in that tiny starfighter for way too long."
He laughed. "You're right. That fighter was small." He rubbed her belly. "I don't think the two of us could fit into it together now."
He grabbed her hand before she could slap his chest and kissed it. "Sorry, M'lady."
She leaned back so she could rest against his warm chest. "You didn't really escape from the healer's ward, did you?"
His face screwed up into a distasteful expression. "Well . . ."
"I just left before Obi-Wan could tell me I needed to go to the healer."
He shrugged. "We have some bacta, so I'll be fine."
She folded her arms across her chest defiantly. "How can you be upset with me for not going to a healer if you don't go yourself?"
"My injury is just a cut. You're carrying my baby."
She reached back and touched his wound. "Tomorrow, when I see the healer, I am going to make them examine you, too."
"You worry too much." He nuzzled his head against her cheek and brushed his lips against her face.
"I have to. I know you don't worry at all."
"Touché." Anakin laughed.
Padmé rolled her eyes. "I guess I don't blame you for avoiding the healer. After so long, I bet you're excited to sleep in a real bed."
"To sleep with you." His hand trailed down her cheek and around her jaw.
She turned her head to give him a proper kiss. "I want you so badly, but . . ."
He put a finger on her lips. "Shhh. I meant I wanted to sleep with you in my arms."
"You are not a good liar." She reached behind her and stroked his chest lovingly. "I missed you, too, you know."
Another pang of nausea jolted through her, and she lurched forward.
"Are you sure you're all right?" He leaned forward and pulled her hair out of her face. "Do you need to a healer now?"
"Just hold me." Her eyelids fluttered down, and her head fell back against his chest.
He wrapped his strong arms around her belly. She had a feeling he was using the Force to calm her stomach, and she was already feeling its effects.
"Don't worry," he whispered. "I'm home now." He placed a series of soft kisses along her bare shoulder and across her collarbone
She turned her head and gave him a quick kiss. "I know."
"Doesn't it feel better now that someone else knows about us?"
She nodded, but said, "I am so tired."
"Do you feel all right to move?"
She managed to smile. "I'll be fine if you can help me up."
He kissed the top of her head and stood. "Here --" He swept her into his arms. "-- let carry you. It's been a long night."
She buried her head into his chest. "And a long day. I don't know how I managed without you."
His eyes fluttered closed. "You'll never have to again."
"Ani . . ."
He silenced her protest with a kiss and then carried her into their private quarters.
Anakin set Padmé on their bed and sat next to her. His breath was warm against her cheek. "Are you sure you're all right?"
Padmé stroked his thigh. "I'm fine now. Don't worry."
He laughed, but his features were still clouded with fear. "I have to worry. Isn't that what new fathers are supposed to do?"
"I suppose. . ." She leaned against her husband's bare chest. His arms wrapped around her and rested against her swollen belly. She closed her eyes and sighed. "No, we're both supposed to be happy."
"I am happy." He flashed a crooked grin. "But I always worry about you."
She ran a hand up his cheek. "That's sweet, Ani."
"Especially when you're sick."
"I'm not sick," she whined in a very un-dignified tone. "I'm fine."
"You didn't look fine before."
She turned her head and planted a soft kiss on his shoulder. "I think I was shocked."
"I was shocked, too."
"I'm so sorry. I had no idea they --"
"-- It's not your fault." He cupped her cheek in his hand.
She shifted against his chest and wrapped her arms around him, trying to get as close as she could.
"It is my fault. I've been ignoring their messages." She tilted her head towards the com unit in her office.
"You never played any of their messages?"
"I know; it was stupid."
She shook her head and put a finger against his lips. "-- It was. I didn't want to talk to them, or even see them, because I was sure I'd say too much. I thought I knew how they would react." She sighed deeply. "Who knew they would come to Coruscant? I'm surprised Sola's not with them. She'll be even worse."
Anakin kissed her finger. "You didn't have to keep the secret from them."
"-- You didn't have to hide from your family." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "You know, they love you. They were worried."
He brought their hands down to her belly. "I think we'd do the same thing for this little bantha."
Padmé giggled. "So, our baby's a bantha?" She felt a hard kick on her right side and grimaced. "Maybe he's more like a nexu."
"I think she will be a happy, healthy . . . gundark." Then they felt another kick, this time from her left side.
"Always on the move. I just wish this baby would pick one side and stay there. He's impatient just like his daddy."
Anakin laughed. "She's stubborn just like her mother." He leaned down so his head was just inches from her belly. "I know you're happy Daddy's home, but you have to give your Mommy a break." In response, the baby kicked again.
"He listens to you already." She leaned back until she was propped against the pillows.
Anakin shook his head and moved up until his lips met hers, mumbling something nearly unintelligible.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and stared into his eyes. "You know, we're finally alone."
"Are you sure you're all right?" He placed a chaste kiss on both of her cheeks and then a longer one on her waiting lips.
"Absolutely," she breathed. She shrugged off his shirt and let it fall to the floor.
He draped a leg across hers and looked into her eyes. "Doesn't it feel better now that someone else knows?"
"I . . . I guess it does," she admitted. "I was so worried about so many things . . ."
Anakin ran a finger down her cheek. "What were you worried about?"
She shook her head, averted her eyes, but didn't say anything.
He put his finger under her chin and tilted her head up until their eyes met. "Tell me."
She could never resist that look in his deep, blue eyes, the one that made her want to bare her soul to him. "I was worried about you." Anakin moved to speak, but she cut him off. "I was worried something would happen to you. I was scared I'd never get to tell you about our baby. I was scared you would never come home. I was terrified about telling you when you did --"
"-- You shouldn't have worried about me." He buried his face in her mass of long, curly hair and kissed a very sensitive spot on her neck, causing her to shiver.
"I know." She ran her hand along his bare back.
"And you should have known I'd be happy." He left a trail of kisses around her neck and along her collarbone.
"I . . . I remember how terrified I was when I found out." She sighed when his lips broke contact with her skin. "And I'm still terrified."
"Let's not worry about that now. We have so much to celebrate"
"-- But you're not happy unless you're worried."
"What are you talking about?" Padmé pulled away and stared at him with her hands on her hips. "I can be happy."
"Of course you can." The corners of his lips turned up into a teasing smile
She swatted at his chest. "I have waited so long to be happy again. You are the only person in the universe who makes me truly happy."
He grabbed the bottom of her nightgown, but this time she didn't fight him. "I have never been this happy."
She ran her hands through his hair as he stared at the miracle they had created. "I can't believe how full my heart is."
He brought his head down to her bare belly. "Tonight, I just want to be in love with my wife and dream about our baby."
"Our baby . . ."
"When will the baby be born? Your mother said --"
"-- A few more weeks. It's almost over."
"I want to know everything. How did you find out?"
She laughed, remembering the chaos that had ensued. "I missed my monthly twice, and I started to suspect . . . I thought we had always taken all the precautions available, but we must have been careless the last time you were home."
"We were excited to see each other."
"And I don't regret it for a second."
"Neither do I."
"I was so scared when I realized I might be with child. When I missed my monthly for the second time, I needed to find out for sure, but I did not want anyone to know I was purchasing a pregnancy test."
He stared up at her with a crooked smile. "So what did you do?"
She looked down at her hands. "I dressed Threepio in women's clothing and sent him down to the lower levels --"
"-- Are you serious? Why?"
She shrugged. "Your droid likes dressing up. He asked to wear the dress."
"I am not!" Her stomach growled loudly, and Anakin pulled away. "I cannot be hungry again."
"You're hungry?" He rubbed her stomach.
Padmé chewed her lower lip. "A little."
Anakin raised his eyebrows. "Are you serious?"
"I really do want that shaak steak." Then she ran her hand down his chest and stared into his eyes, knowing he wouldn't refuse her.
He released a mock sigh. "I thought you said you would never eat shaak again!"
"I guess my body . . . needs the protein?"
"I'll give you protein," he growled, and leaned in to kiss her.
She pushed him away and jutted her lower lip out into a pout. "But, Ani, I'm hungry."
He sighed and pushed himself away. "I could get it for you if you really want it." He stood and started walking toward the door.
"No!" she exclaimed, struggling to stand. "Wait." She let out a string of colorful curses in Naboo's native tongue. "Can you help me up?"
He grinned and rushed back to the bed. "What did you do without me? No one to get you food, no one to help you stand . . ."
She extended her arms to him, and he easily pulled her up. "I managed." After a quick kiss, she added, "But now that you're here, I should take advantage of you."
"So that's all I'm good for."
"You know that's not true." She pretended to ponder for a moment. "You're good for this, too." Their lips met for a soft, sweet kiss.
He laughed against her lips and pulled away. "You're still hungry."
She shook her head. "I need you." But her treacherous stomach contradicted her again when it let loose another loud growl. "I guess I am hungry."
He leaned down and kissed her again, but broke away before they surrendered to their building passion. "I'll be right back."
"I suppose I should play all the messages I ignored. I should have checked weeks ago. Dormé was right."
Anakin chuckled and sauntered out the door. "I should tell her you finally admitted --"
"-- Don't you dare, Anakin!"
Before she could add any more threats, he was already out the door. Padmé sighed and walked to the Holo-projector; then, after a deep breath, she pressed the button to play the messages.
The first one started with her mother's soft voice, even before the hologram appeared, saying, "Padmé!"
As the messages progressed in time, her parents' voices became more frantic until Padmé couldn't listen any more. She erased all of her messages, just as Anakin came back into the room carrying the untouched shaak steak and a cup of blue milk.
"They were worried about me. I should have contacted them."
He placed the food in front of her. "Eat. You can't change what happened."
"I know." She took a gulp of the milk and ate a large piece of steak.
"They deserved it after the way they treated you today."
"Give them time." She sighed. "I remember how happy they were both times Sola was pregnant. I know they'll feel that way about our baby, too." She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "I know they love me, and even if they don't agree with my decisions, they will love our baby."
"If you say so." He flashed a crooked grin.
"I know so." Then she cut a small piece of shaak and held it out to him. "Here, you must be hungry, too."
"I ate your ahrisa already."
She turned around and swatted his chest playfully. "You ate my ahrisa?"
"Sorry." He looked down and smiled. "You said you didn't want it."
"You're lucky I love you."
"I am lucky," he whispered reverently. He took the fork from her hand and ate the small piece of shaak. "So, since you've had months to think about this baby, have you thought of what we should name her?"
"Him." She bit her lip, not sure she wanted to have this discussion now. "Well . . ."
"You have! I knew it!"
"I didn't want to decide until I told you, but I was worried you might not be home in time . . . I have always loved this name for a boy." She took another bite of the steak and smiled at him.
"What is it?"
"Luke." She looked down at her belly and smiled.
"Luke," he repeated.
"It's a very old, very traditional name that means 'light.'" She covered his hand with her own and squeezed lightly. "When my sister was pregnant with Pooja, I helped her search for boy's names, and I found Luke. Sola didn't like it; she preferred less traditional names, but I vowed that if I ever had a son, I would name him Luke." She bit her lip, trying to gauge his reaction. "Do you like it?"
"Luke Skywalker." A wide smile spread across his face. "Luke Skywalker." After a moment's pause, he added, "I love it!"
She folded her arms across her chest. "Are you just saying you like it because I like it?"
"Sort of . . ." He reached out and grabbed her hand. "I love it because you love it. And it does sound right with my last name."
"So we will name our baby 'Skywalker?'"
His eyes narrowed. "It is my baby."
She patted his hand. "No, of course. I just meant that to preserve the secret --"
"-- Didn't I tell you that our baby would not be a secret? This is my child, and I want the galaxy to know." He took a deep breath then ran his thumb down her cheek. "We don't have to hide any more."
She closed her eyes. "Luke Skywalker sounds wonderful. Ani, I didn't want you to deny your baby. I just . . ."
"I know, but I'm serious, Padmé."
"I know. I wanted this baby to have your name, but I would have understood if you didn't want the Jedi to find out."
"The Jedi will know, and if they expel me from the Order, so be it." He looked at the floor for a moment before he stared into her eyes. "Our baby deserves better."
Padmé felt a smile cross her lips. "If you are sure."
"Then the baby will have your name." She touched her belly. "Hello, Luke Skywalker."
Anakin's hand came to rest on top of hers. "But what if it's a girl?"
"I . . . I don't know."
"You haven't thought of any girl's names?" His tone was somewhat accusatory, but he had a wide smile on his face.
"The two names I really liked, my sister took!" She avoided eye contact and muttered, "That's why I was hoping for a boy."
"I have one."
She took another bite of steak and tried not to look too surprised. "What is it?"
Anakin looked down at her belly and smiled. His voice took on a whimsical tone. "I never really thought I would have a baby, but sometimes, when I was all alone, I would dream of a little girl who looked just like her mother --" He looked up at her, cheeks turning a deep crimson. "-- and we called her Leia."
"Leia," Padmé repeated.
"It doesn't have any real meaning like yours does -- not much from Tatooine does -- but I heard it once when I was a child, and it has stayed with me."
"I love it." Padmé squeezed Anakin's arm. "It's beautiful."
"Not as beautiful as yours. I am not even sure if it is a name or a word or even some nonsense my mother told me, but I have always thought it would make a good name for a little girl." He touched Padmé's belly. "My daughter."
She put the steak down and moved until she could wrap her arms around him. "It's more beautiful."
"I'm so lucky." He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her on top of him.
"Kiss me, Anakin," she breathed. Their lips found each other and she whispered, "I need you."
He laughed, and his warm breath brushed against her lips. "Are you sure?"
"I thought I told you to kiss me." Her eyes were half closed and her lips were parted. "I've missed you."
Anakin stroked the side of her face before he leaned in and pressed his lips against hers. His prosthetic hand ran across her belly, and she shivered under his touch.
"Oh, Padmé," he breathed before he captured her lips again.
"I need you, Ani."
Anakin moaned. "It's been so long . . ."
"Too long," she breathed. She trailed a line of kisses down his neck and across his collarbone, silently cursing her relative immobility.
Their bodies joined together, consummating their love for the first time in so many moths. It was slightly awkward with Padmé's large belly, but that didn't really matter.
They fell asleep, wrapped in each other's arms, both finally at peace.
Padmé cuddled the tiny baby to her chest and stopped to wrap the blankets around him more tightly. His sleep seemed peaceful, but she didn't want him to be uncomfortable in any way.
She leaned against the wall in the hallway and gazed into the sitting room. The sight before her made a silly grin spread across her face. This was the life she had always imagined, but never really thought possible. But here it was, revealing itself before her eyes.
Anakin was home. For good. And she knew he wasn't leaving her or their family again. The war was over, and the Jedi would never send him away again.
And he was at peace. They all were at peace. Neither was pressed with the weight of their secret or the problems of the galaxy.
Today, she was content to watch her handsome husband enjoy the leisurely life he had never had the chance to experience.
Anakin was fast asleep on the nearby settee, his mouth slightly open. He had never looked so peaceful. Usually, even when he slept, his face was contorted, like he was subconsciously fighting some sort of demon.
But now . . . She marveled at the fact that he was actually smiling with his strong arms wrapped around their tiny daughter. Even in his sleep, he was protecting her, and she was sleeping peacefully against his chest.
Padmé wanted to both laugh and cry at the scene before her.
It looked like he had been trying to watch 'Tatooine Pod Racing' on the Holo, but it seemed like he had missed most of the race.
She clutched the baby in her own arms and sighed at the sheer perfection of the scene before her.
But then everything changed. The poetic vignette spread before her dissolved into horrible emotions. Pain. Fear. Despair.
Anakin was thrashing, screaming, and she raced to save her baby.
Before she reached Anakin, she grabbed for her stomach. A strong pain tore through her stomach from her hip across to her ribs.
But the pain and fear weren't coming from her dream at all.
His thrashing shook the bed, and then she felt him pull away from her. By the time she regained the capacity for conscious thought, he was no longer in bed next to her.
She blinked and stared at his now-empty side of the bed. "Anakin?"
When he didn't answer, she sighed and struggled to get out of bed. Without bothering to grab her robe, she padded after him.
"Anakin?" Her eyes struggling to find him as she maneuvered down the dark hallway.
He didn't answer, but she could make out his dark silhouette on the edge of the settee.
Halfway down the hallway, she had to stop walking because a strong pain that started in her lower back and traveled around to her front and around her belly took her breath away. She needed to scream, but couldn't get enough air into her lungs.
Then, just as suddenly as the pain had overtaken her, it vanished completely. She rested her hands on her knees and took several long, deep breaths before starting down the hall again.
"Ani?" She rubbed her belly, trying to soothe away the last remnants of pain.
"I didn't mean to wake you." He didn't even turn his head. "Are you all right?"
She closed her eyes for a moment. "I'm fine. I heard you screaming."
"I shouldn't have disturbed you." His shaking voice was barely louder than a whisper.
"What's wrong?" The only light in the room came from passing traffic and the numerous city lights, casting his slumped frame in an eerie glow.
"Don't worry. It's nothing." His voice shook, and his cheeks were wet with fresh tears.
"It's not nothing."
He sighed and his shoulders slumped, adding to his pitiful demeanor. "You need your sleep."
"That's not important." She found herself gravitating to the settee and wrapping her arms around him from behind. "What's wrong?" Then, she leaned down and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. "Tell me."
After taking a deep breath, he leaned against her, but shook his head. "It's nothing . . ." He ran his flesh hand down her cheek and paused when she kissed his fingertips.
"Something scared you." When he didn't answer, she added, "Don't shut me out. I can help you."
"Were you thinking about the war? Was it something you saw? Or felt?" The words escaped from her lips before she even thought about what she was saying.
"No, I'd really rather not think about any of that. Not here. Not now. That's a different life"
"But you always carry it with you."
He shook his head. The corners of his lips turned up into a smile when he touched the small japor pendant on her necklace. "I can't believe you still have this."
She covered his fingers with her own. "Of course I still have it."
"I can't believe you kept it after all these years." The corners of his lips turned up into a slight smile, but his eyes were still haunted.
"Why wouldn't I keep it?"
"It was a gift from a very special little boy."
"I was just a little boy."
"Even then, you meant so much to me." She touched his cheek.
"You were my friend and savior, even then." She pushed his shoulder. "Ani, what other nine year old can say he saved an entire planet?"
"What other teenage queen can say she saved her planet?" He smiled, but didn't move his eyes from the small piece of japor with primitive carvings.
"I guess we're made for each other, then." She brought her hands up to cover his.
"I still can't believe you kept this."
"I never wore it before we were married. I -- It's stupid, but now I feel naked without it. It's the only outward sign of our love that I can wear every day."
Anakin laughed. "It's not the only sign any more." His metal fingers ran down her belly.
"No, I guess not." She laughed. "But the baby is just another thing I had to hide."
"You don't have to hide any more." His eyes flashed with intensity. "And soon you will be able to wear the ring I gave you."
"Will you wear yours?"
He nodded. His eyes flashed with an almost desperate passion. "We'll be a family."
From the tone of his voice, she could tell that something wasn't quite right.
"Please tell me what's wrong, Ani. I want to help you."
He shook his head. "I told you. It's nothing."
She reached down, trying to examine his wound, but he pulled away. "Are you in pain?"
"No, of course not. The bacta is working."
"I didn't see you put any bacta on it tonight."
"Of course I did."
"If you say so."
He looked down at his hands and his breathing deepened just as another crippling pain shot through her back and around her stomach.
"You're in pain."
For a moment, she thought something was tearing her insides out. But then, as suddenly as it appeared, it vanished again. She shook her head. "It's nothing."
He opened his mouth as if he was going to say something to contradict her.
"I promise; we'll see a healer in the morning."
"Of course." She leaned down to kiss him, lips inches away from his, when she whispered, "I know this is more than my pain, Anakin. Please let me help you."
"I had a dream. It was . . . it was nothing."
"Another nightmare?" She ran her hands across his shoulders and up and down his neck in a way she knew tended to soothe his demons.
He shook his head, still not daring to look at her. "Jedi don't have nightmares."
"Everyone has fears that manifest as nightmares. You're human."
"I'm a Jedi," he declared in monotone, as if he was repeating something he had been brainwashed to say since childhood.
"You're still allowed to feel. To fear."
"Fear?" His voice deepened. "I'm not afraid of anything. Don't you know what the Holo-Net calls me?"
"The Hero With No Fear.".
"The Galaxy thinks I'm fearless."
"They don't know you very well."
Ignoring her comment, he took a deep breath and continued, "I have to be fearless."
"But, Ani, you don't have to be that mythical Hero around me."
"-- All I want is your love."
"What if love isn't enough?"
She squeezed his shoulder. "No matter what you do, you'll always be my husband and my Hero. Think about all the things you have done to save me, to protect me."
"But what if I can't this time?"
The desperation in his voice made her heart ache for him. "Oh, Anakin." She leaned down and kissed him on his cheek. "You can talk to me," she whispered into his ear. "Together, we are both stronger than either of us is alone."
He looked down at the floor and whispered, "I have nothing to say."
"I know you're afraid of whatever happened in your dream."
This time, he didn't try to argue with her. He just continued to look at the floor without moving.
She touched her belly. "Is it the baby?"
He shook his head, but turned around to face her, his eyes traveling down to follow her hand as she rubbed her belly.
"Anakin, you just found out --"
"-- But I'm --"
"-- I know you're happy, but you can't tell me you're not at least a little afraid. A few hours ago, you had no idea I was pregnant, and now you're going to be a father in a few weeks."
"I guess . . ." He sighed. "Padmé, our baby doesn't scare me."
"Then what are you afraid of?" She traced a path down his jaw and around to his lips. "You can tell me."
"My dream." He looked down at his hands and then out at the fountain, unwilling to meet her eyes.
"Anakin, dreams pass in time."
He shook his head. "Now you sound like Obi-Wan."
"Sometimes he's right, you know."
Anakin folded his arms across his chest. "And sometimes he's wrong."
She tried to calm him, running a hand up and down his back, but he only shivered and pulled away. "Sometimes dreams are only dreams."
"Not this time."
"Anakin, what happened in your dream that was so . . . terrifying?"
"It was not a dream. It was a vision." He finally looked up, and his desperate, icy, blue eyes met hers.
"Like the ones I had about my mother." He looked down at her belly and then back into her eyes. "I saw it as clearly as I see you now."
"Was it about the baby?"
Anakin shrugged without answering.
"What did you see?"
He shook his head and looked down. "I can't --"
"-- It was about me." Her heart seemed to beat faster with nervous anticipation.
He bit his lip and nodded.
His eyes darted around the room, but the rest of his body was completely still. "I will not let this vision come true I won't let it happen to you --." A pained expression spread across his face. "-- and the baby."
She clutched his arms. "What did you see?"
He looked down and shook his head.
"You die in childbirth." He met her eyes. "And I won't let it happen."
She gasped and shook her head. "No. That can't be --"
"-- I saw it. Just like I saw my mother."
"That doesn't mean your dream will come true." She ran her hands down his arms, trying to sooth his demons. "I am not going to die in childbirth."
"I know what I saw, what I felt."
"What about what I feel, what I know?" She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth against the shooting pain that again coursed through her body.
"I know you're hurting now."
"I'm fine." She ran her hand along the swell of her growing child. "What about the baby? Is he . . . all right in your dream?"
"I don't . . . I don't know."
She sighed and looked into his eyes. "Tell me exactly what you saw." When he didn't reply or even look at her, she put both hands on his cheeks and forced him to look into her eyes. "Ani, let me help you."
He took a deep breath, and then the words began to erupt. "You were screaming for me. And I . . . I was stuck. I couldn't move. I couldn't help you."
"I know they don't teach you much about childbirth in the Temple, but women do scream when they are giving birth."
"That's not --"
"-- From what I understand, it hurts." She smiled at him, but he didn't smile back.
"It was more than that." He squeezed her hands. "You were in pain, and I couldn't help you."
"Anakin, just because I was in pain does not mean I am going to die." She took a deep breath. "I'm in pain right now and I am certainly not dying."
"You're still in pain?"
"The pain comes and goes." When she saw his terrified expression, she added, "Don't worry. I'm fine."
His eyebrows furrowed. "But --"
"-- Did you actually see me die?"
"No, but --"
"-- Then I'm not going to die."
"You don't know that."
"Don't even say that your dreams are always prophetic." She laughed at his flustered expression. "You were right about your mother, but what about the countless times you were wrong?" Her hand came to rest on his shoulder. "Remember when you were positive that Obi-Wan was really a woman?"
"No --" He coughed warily. "-- that was not the same thing. I knew that was a nightmare."
"But, at the time, you said the vision was clear and you were sure of it." To strengthen her case, she added, "Or what about the time you thought Master Yoda was going to morph into a bird and fly into our bedroom while we were making love?"
"I . . . um . . . That was different, Padmé! This is serious!"
"I know you think --"
"-- I know, Padmé, and I am not going to let it happen."
She put her hands on his cheeks and forced him to look into her eyes. "I am not going to die in childbirth, Ani. I know your dream must have seemed realistic, and I know it scared you, but it is not going to happen."
He folded his arms across his chest and stared at her. "How do you know that? You've never even seen a healer." His tone was accusatory, and she immediately recoiled.
"I know I've never seen a healer, but I know my body." She closed her eyes momentarily and then put her hand against her belly.
"You're in pain now," he declared.
"But it's normal in your last month of pregnancy. These pains are getting my body ready to have the baby."
His eyes narrowed. "Are you sure?"
"I've read so much about pregnancy and childbirth. I would know if there was anything to worry about."
"I've read about all of the warning signs and I haven't shown any of them."
"Crippling pain is not a warning sign?"
She rolled her eyes. "It's not crippling."
"I can feel it."
"It's normal. I promise." She paused for a second and then changed the subject. "I am not dying."
"But my dream --"
"--Anakin, how do you know your vision is prophetic and mine is not?"
"Your vision?" He looked at her, genuine confusion played across his face.
She flashed him a crooked smile and ran her hand down his cheek. "Yes, my vision. I have dreams, too, you know."
He shook his head. "But yours was just a dream." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "It couldn't have been more."
"How do you know that?" She folded her arms across her chest and dared him to challenge her. "You don't even want to hear about mine?"
"I don't --"
"-- How can you say my dream is any less meaningful than yours."
"I'm a --"
"-- Don't even say it." She glared at him, and he closed his mouth. "Anakin, just because I am not a Jedi doesn't mean that I don't have some kind of intuition."
"Intuition isn't the same thing."
Padmé chose not to argue his point. Instead, she continued, "Plus, I am carrying your baby, so I know the Force is --"
"-- But --" He looked down at her belly. "-- How can our baby --"
"-- Listen to me." She put her hands on his cheeks and made him look at her.
He tried to pull away, but she wouldn't let him move. "Padmé --"
"-- Anakin, your dream, even if it was a vision, might be misleading."
"You didn't actually see me die." She brought her hand down to her belly. "You didn't see anything happen to our baby. You didn't even see our baby."
"But you died. I . . . felt it."
She shook her head. "You heard my screams. I couldn't scream if I was dead."
"That's not what I meant, and you know it."
She rubbed the spot in her back that continued to hurt even after the last shooting pain had subsided. "Anakin, those screams could have been normal. Maybe I was just giving birth to our babies . . . baby"
Anakin didn't seem to notice her slip of tongue. "But --"
"-- And you're already nervous about my pregnancy, so maybe you leapt to conclusions."
"I'm not nervous . . . or afraid!" He grabbed both her hands. "You have to listen to me!"
"No. You have to listen to me. At least let me tell you about my dream, and then you can judge for yourself."
Anakin bit his lip. "Fine."
"Fine," she echoed. She closed her eyes and touched his cheek. "Ani, you have to believe me. I am not going to die in childbirth."
"Padmé? Are you all right?" Her mother peered into the room suspiciously. "I heard you yelling."
"Mom?" Her eyes shot open and she, almost reflexively, pulled her hand away from Anakin's face. "Did we wake you?"
Jobal shook her head. "I couldn't sleep. Your father is snoring like a sick shaak."
"Are you all right, mom?"
Jobal smiled for a moment. "Yes, of course, dear."
"You look tired. I know it was a long trip; and when you got here, you weren't expecting --"
"-- Oh, Padmé, your father and I are just happy you're all right." Jobal smiled at the young couple.
"You look tired."
"Don't worry about me. It was a long trip and I didn't sleep much on the ship."
"You were worried about me. I'm sorry."
"No, Padmé, it's not your fault. It was an exciting day, and I'm just having trouble winding down." She took a few steps into the room. "You know I can't sleep when your father is snoring like that."
"I know." Padmé touched Anakin's shoulder. "I guess I'm lucky you don't snore." She looked at her mom conspiratorially and rubbed her husband's shoulder. "He just has night terrors."
Anakin didn't even flinch.
"Is Anakin all right?"
Padmé glanced at Anakin and then turned to her mother. "We're fine, mom. Anakin just had a nightmare."
"It wasn't a nightmare."
Padmé turned to look at him and then turned back towards her mother. "It was a nightmare."
Jobal padded into the room and put her hand on Anakin's shoulder. "What did you dream about, son?"
He shook his head. "It wasn't a dream. It was a vision."
"A Jedi vision?"
Anakin looked from Padmé to her mother. "I saw Padmé die in childbirth."
"What!" Jobal took a step back, visibly shaken
"No, you didn't," Padmé corrected him. "You heard me screaming. That doesn't mean I am going to die!"
He closed his eyes and squeezed her hand. "I know what I saw."
Jobal looked from Anakin to Padmé. "What did you see?"
Anakin took a deep breath and visibly tensed. "We were in a med center."
"I'm not sure," he admitted.
"Was it on Coruscant? Who else was there?"
"I don't know. I heard Padmé . . . screaming. She wanted me to help her, but I couldn't do it. I wasn't strong enough."
Jobal's voice shook and she closed her eyes. "Couldn't do what?"
"I couldn't save her." Anakin's voice was soft, but forceful, and his eyes flashed with fear.
"-- I have saved so many nameless, faceless beings, but what good am I if I can't save the woman I love?" He looked up at her with a strange, defeated expression.
Padmé sat down next to him and pulled him into an embrace. He clung to her like he was afraid she would disappear right before his eyes.
"Anakin, you can't think this way."
Instead of acknowledging Jobal, Anakin slid down so his head was resting on Padmé's lap. He closed his eyes and sighed.
Padmé stroked his cheek. "I'm not going to die. He didn't see me die in his dream."
"Padmé! Listen to me." He shifted in her lap and his eyes opened, radiating a sense of pure fear. "We have to stop this dream from coming true."
Jobal looked from Anakin to Padmé and closed her eyes for a moment, as if she was trying to figure out the right words to say. "She's right, Anakin. Childbirth is very safe. Women of all species have given birth safely for millennia. The chances anything will happen to Padmé are very remote."
He didn't look up. "On Tatooine, I saw . . . Women died."
"Anakin, I am not giving birth on Tatooine!" Padmé exclaimed. "On Coruscant and Naboo and most civilized planets, women receive top-rate medical treatment."
"There is a very low risk of pre- or post-natal mortality," Jobal added.
"But there is a risk," Anakin declared.
"There is almost no risk that anything will happen to me."
"But there is still a risk. And you've never been to a healer, so you really have no idea if you are at risk for any of those complications."
Padmé leaned back against the settee, defeated. She closed her eyes and let the pain overtake her.
Jobal shook her head. "Anakin, it sounds like you might be just feeling guilty for leaving Padmé alone for so long, for not knowing about her pregnancy, and that guilt manifested as a nightmare."
Padmé ran her hands through his soft hair, and her nimble fingers massaged his scalp. "That makes sense, Ani. Not all of your bad dreams are visions. And a vision doesn't always have to show bad things happening."
Anakin sighed. "I know what I saw."
"I know what I saw, too." Padmé crossed her arms over her chest. "My vision showed us wonderfully happy. But you won't even listen to me." She took a deep breath and closed her eyes as another strong pain coursed through her body.
"What did you see, Padmé, dear?"
She smiled at her mom, and then took a deep breath. "I can't be sure it was a vision --" She looked down at Anakin pointedly. "-- but I was having the most beautiful dream."
He looked up into her eyes, and muttered, "Exactly. A dream, not a vision."
She chose to ignore him, "It was like I was watching a vignette of our life. I sawour future, and we were happy."
"I want to be happy."
She felt the baby kick, and she smiled. "Did you feel that, Ani?"
He the corners of his lips turned up into a small smile. "Our daughter. I can't lose her. I can't lose you."
"What did you see?" her mother prodded without responding to Anakin's comment.
"Life," Padmé whispered. "I was in the hallway, right over there." She raised a hand to indicate where she meant. When she brought her hand back down, she let a finger linger on Anakin's cheek. "It looked like you had fallen asleep in front of the Holo again."
Anakin shook his head wildly as he pulled away from her. "You're wrong. That can't be a real vision."
"What?" Padmé folded her arms across her chest and flashed him an angry glare. "How can you say that already? I haven't even told you what I saw."
"I've heard enough to know it can't be possible." He shrugged. "Again? Neither of us has time to watch the Holo."
"In my dream, we both had time to watch the holo." She patted his arm. "It was like I always picture us as a family. We had time to spend together."
"Absolutely. There was no war, and we were a family. And you never had to leave us." She brought his flesh hand up to her swollen belly.
His metal hand lingered on her cheek and he gazed into her eyes. "I never want to leave you. You know that, right?"
"I know," she breathed. "It's not your choice." She covered his hand with her own. "But in my dream, you didn't have to leave me for months at a time."
"That would be wonderful."
"In my dream, you were holding our baby against your chest, and you were both sleeping so peacefully." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I had to watch because it was so beautiful."
"Our baby?" he breathed. He wrapped both arms, one cold metal and one warm flesh, around her belly. "You saw our baby?"
She wiped a tear from her cheek. "Our beautiful baby girl."
A wide grin spread across his face. "It was a girl?"
Padmé squeezed Anakin's hand. Her somber expression turned into a smile. "You were holding our little Leia." Her smile stiffened when another pain ran through her body.
Anakin placed a soft kiss on her stomach. "I knew you were a girl." He grinned when he felt the baby move against his hand.
"So you believe me?" She looked up at her mom and then down at her husband.
"I . . . I didn't say that."
"You're just happy I said the baby was a girl." Padmé jumped when she felt an especially hard kick. "Ooh! I guess she woke up."
"That was her foot again, wasn't it?"
"I think so."
"How is it that first, she was up here --" He touched the upper right corner of her belly. "-- and now she's all the way down here?"
Jobal stared at Padmé. "At this stage of pregnancy, your baby shouldn't be moving around that much. She should be too big."
"I think I know why the baby is on both sides."
"In my dream, the baby on Anakin's chest . . . she wasn't the only one."
"What do you mean?"
She took a deep breath. "I was holding our son as I watched you and Leia."
"Our son? But I thought --"
"-- We had two babies." She looked up at Anakin and smiled.
"Luke and Leia."
"How did we have two babies?"
"Padmé, do you really think you're having twins?" her mother prodded.
"I don't know, Mom." She took a deep breath. "I know it doesn't run in our family, but --"
"-- That's not true, Padmé."
Her eyes opened wide. "What, mom?"
Jobal smiled. "My mother had three sets of twins in her family. I think she, Sola, and I just were not lucky enough to have this blessing."
"Then it is possible." She brought her hand up to cover her gaping mouth.
"You and Anakin must be special."
Padmé looked down at her belly and felt a smile spread across her face. "Anakin is special --"
"-- I'm just a Jedi."
"The most powerful Jedi," Padmé argued. She closed her eyes against the pain that again spread through her body. "If anyone were to have twins, it would be the Jedi's 'Chosen One.' It makes sense."
"You are carrying quite large."
Padmé cradled her belly with both hands. "I never thought about it before, but it makes sense."
"We're having twins?" Padmé could sense how stunned he was.
"I think so." She took a deep breath. "I hadn't considered it before, but now . . . I have this feeling."
"You need to go to a healer, Padmé."
"I know. If it's twins . . . "
Jobal looked at Anakin, and added, "Just to make sure she and the babies are healthy. And to make sure we're right about the twins."
Anakin looked at both women with apprehension in his very demeanor.
Jobal put her hand up as if to stop him before he said anything more. "Not because there's anything wrong with twins. You just want to be prepared."
Suddenly, Padmé brought both hands to cover her abdomen and let out a quiet moan. It was like the entire droid army had invaded her body and was ripping her apart from the inside.
"Padmé! Are you getting another pain?"
"Another pain?" Jobal's brow furrowed.
"She's been having pains like this every few minutes the whole time we've been out here."
Padmé squeezed her eyes shut. "This one is worse," she managed to croak. She leaned against Anakin, and he sent comfort through the Force as he rubbed her back.
"Do you think you're having contractions?"
"Contractions?" Anakin did not move his hands from Padmé's back.
"Strong pains at regular intervals?"
"She's been having pains like that all night."
When the pain subsided, Padmé felt the sensation of a warm fluid trickling down her legs. She looked from Anakin to her mother. "Oh, Force, this cannot be happening now."
"Padmé? Are you all right?"
"I think . . . I think we need to go to the med-center now." She rocked back and forth clutching her belly.
"What? Why?" Anakin jumped up from the settee and looked around the room like a crazed animal. "Padmé?"
"Calm down, son. What's the matter, Padmé?"
She closed her eyes and almost whispered, "I think my water just broke."
Anakin froze. "What does that mean?"
"I think the baby is coming now."
"What!" Anakin ran his prosthetic hand across his forehead and squeezed his eyes shut. "Now?"
He certainly did not look like the Jedi Hero she knew him to be. Anakin couldn't seem to stand still.
"Anakin, are you all right?" Jobal voiced Padmé's thoughts.
He shook his head wildly. "Today?"
"Ani?" She looked up at him and bit at her lower lip. "I need you."
"I know you do." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "But are you sure . . . now?"
"I'm sorry, but I think our baby -- babies? -- want to come out now." She ran her hand across her belly and smiled at him.
"It can't be." He ran his prosthetic hand through his hair. "I'm not ready to lose you."
"I'll get your father."
Padmé shook her head. "Stay with me, mom. I need . . . I don't know what I need."
Jobal took a few steps towards Anakin.
"It's too early!" Anakin exclaimed.
"Not if it's twins." Jobal shook her head and came behind Anakin and touched his shoulder. "They sometimes come a little early."
"This can't be happening. My . . . my dream." Anakin looked like he was going to collapse before them.
Padmé sighed. "You're not going to lose me. I promise."
Jobal put her arm on Anakin's back and steadied him for the moment. "Now is not the time to worry about your dream, Anakin. You have to worry about Padmé now."
After a moment's pause, Padmé rubbed her belly and smiled. "Ani, I've never needed you more than I will need you today."
When Anakin didn't seem to be inclined to respond, Padmé sighed and held her arms out to him. "Can you help me up?"
He effortlessly pulled her to her feet. She draped her arms over his shoulders and leaned her head against his chest. "It hurts," she breathed.
"I know it does." He kissed the top of her hand and laced one of his hands through her flowing curls. His prosthetic hand rubbed up and down her back. "I'm so afraid," he admitted.
Padmé kissed his chest and squeezed his shoulders. "Where's my Hero With No Fear?"
Anakin laughed. "He's on some news holo right now."
"He's right here." She tilted her head up to kiss him. Against his lips, she whispered, "It hurts so much, but I promise I am not dying."
Anakin rested his chin on the top of Padmé's head. He held her tightly, like he never wanted to let her go. "I don't know if I can believe you."
She signed and closed her eyes. "You won't lose me," she breathed.
"I know how much this is hurting you."
"It will get worse before it gets better." Jobal wrapped her arms around both her daughter and son-in-law. "Anakin, don't worry. All of this is normal."
"This is normal?"
Jobal laughed. "You should have seen her sister, Sola, when she had her babies." She put her hand on Anakin's arm. "Believe me, son, Padmé is handling the pain far more gracefully than her sister did."
Padmé laughed against Anakin's chest. "I wish I could have been there to see Sola like this."
"I'm sure she'll be upset she didn't get to see you like this." Jobal looked up at Anakin. "My daughter is strong. She led her people in a war when she was just a child. I think she can handle childbirth. Don't you forget that."
Padmé smiled against Anakin's chest.
Anakin kissed the top of Padmé's head. "I know she is."
"I know it's a scary time for both of you," Jobal continued. "But soon you'll forget about it all because you will be holding your baby."
Padmé smiled at the thought. "Ani, our baby. We have to be strong for our baby."
Jobal rubbed her daughter's back. "Right now, we all have to help Padmé."
"I think I can help take away her pain."
"Use the Force," she managed to say through clenched teeth.
He brought his artificial hand around to rub the small of her back. Padmé felt soothing waves of energy enter her body and combat the shooting pain.
The contraction passed, and Padmé leaned back so she could look into his eyes. "I love you, Anakin. And you're not going to lose me. I promise."
"I wish I could believe you."
"Fine. Don't believe me. But we're not doing anything productive by standing here and lamenting my possible death."
"What?" Anakin took a step away and shook his head.
"We have to get to the med-center." She took a step away from him. "Could you please wake Dormé?" She clutched at her belly and took a deep breath.
"I don't want to leave you."
"Anakin!" She pushed his chest. "We need to get to the med-center. Standing here is not helping us. I do not want to give birth in the middle of our apartment." She folded her arms across her chest. "Get Dormé, please! And make sure you don't accidentally activate Threepio."
When Anakin pulled away and turned towards Dormé's room, Padmé looked her mother. "I can't believe this is happening."
Jobal kissed Padmé's forehead. "Everything is going to be fine, Padmé. You'll see."
"I know." She reached up to brush the tears from her cheeks. "It's too much. Anakin, our secret, the baby -- All in just one night --"
"-- Are you sure your water broke?"
"Believe me, my water broke. I know it's time. I've been having pains in my back that have gotten longer and stronger since yesterday morning. And then, when Anakin woke me up, the pains got progressively worse. According to the datapad --"
"-- I am going to be a grandmother again."
"Are you ready?"
"I should be asking you that question, my daughter." Her mother pointed toward the Dormé's room and whispered, "Do you think he will be all right?"
"Probably not. If anything happens to me . . ."
"Padmé! Don't think like that!"
"I know. I really don't think anything will happen to me, but what if something does? He has had prophetic visions before."
"You'll be fine."
"I'm more worried about Anakin. I don't think he will . . . turn to the Dark Side or anything like that, but I'm not sure what he will do if anything happens to me or to our baby." She closed her eyes and sobbed against her mother's chest. "Hopefully Dormé is talking to him now."
"Dormé might be able to help him. She's been with you this whole time."
"I think that's his problem. I know he feels guilty for missing my entire pregnancy." She took a deep breath. "And I've told him that it's not his fault, but I know he doesn't believe me. And he hasn't had the nine months to adjust to the idea of having a baby. He just came home and found me about to have his baby -- or babies."
"That's true, but I can tell that he is very happy about your baby."
"He is." She took a deep breath. "I know he has always wanted a family, but he has to be thinking about some of the ramifications, at least subconsciously."
"I don't know him very well, Padmé, but I can tell he loves you very much." Jobal squeezed her daughter's shoulder.
Padmé sighed and leaned against her mother. "I know he does. But sometimes I wonder if he loves me a little too much."
"Yes, but isn't that better than not loving you enough?"
"I suppose . . . I know I love him more than I ever thought I would be able to love anyone."
"And that's wonderful, Padmé."
"I know. But it could destroy us both." She closed her eyes. "What would he do if he lost me?"
"Nothing is going to happen to you," Jobal declared.
"I know; I don't really believe his dream will come true, but it still scares me."
"It's all right to be scared, Padmé. You don't have to be the strong one all the time."
Padmé just shrugged and wrapped her arm around her mother's shoulders. "Could you help me to the 'fresher? I need to get dressed and clean up a little bit."
"Of course." She led Padmé towards the master 'fresher suite.
Padmé turned back towards her handmaiden's quarters. "I hope Dormé keeps him occupied a little while longer."
"I'll wake your father. Maybe he'll be able to help Anakin."
"I don't know if anyone can help him now."
Jobal turned and started to walk out of the 'fresher. "Your father --"
"-- Wait." Padmé put her hand up to stop her. "I know who will be able to help Anakin." She paused and clutched her belly until the pain subsided. She took a deep breath. "We need to call Obi-Wan Kenobi."
"Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi?"
"He might be the only being who can talk to Anakin."
"But what about --"
"-- He's Anakin's master. He's the only father Anakin has ever known. He's Anakin's best friend, his brother. I think he's our only solution."
"All right. If you're sure."
"I think he's the only being in the Galaxy who has a chance to get Anakin to listen."
"Let me help you to your quarters, and then we can try to contact him."
Padmé wiped her hands. "I think Anakin has his comm-link somewhere on his belt. It's a direct link to Master Kenobi."
She leaned against her mother as they made their way towards her quarters.
"Where is his belt, Padmé?"
"I think it is next to the bed." Padmé slipped her most comfortable dress and robe over her shoulders, only pausing once when the pain overwhelmed her.
"Is this it?" Jobal held up a shiny silver box.
"Yes, that's it." She grabbed the device from her mother's hand. "I hope Anakin is serious about wanting the Jedi to know."
"Padmé . . ."
"I know Obi-Wan will be able to help him -- help us."
"If you're sure."
"Warn me if you see him." With her hands shaking, she pressed the button that connected her to Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"Anakin! I've been trying to contact you. What have you --" He looked up, and his brow furrowed. "-- Senator Amidala?"
Padmé took a deep breath. "Master Kenobi --"
"-- Obi-Wan, please." He shook his head and stroked his beard. "What are you doing with Anakin's --"
"-- Obi-Wan, I'm very sorry to contact you like this, but I'm worried about Anakin." The rest of the words tumbled from her mouth. "We're on our way to the med-center just behind the Temple, and I think he needs you."
"Is he all right?" Obi-Wan shook his head and clenched his fists. "I knew he snuck away from the Jedi healers. He should have --"
"-- He snuck away from the healers?" Padmé shook her head. "I knew it. How bad is his injury?"
Obi-Wan closed his eyes and shook his head. "He was injured quite badly in the field, as was I. But we are both much improved."
"Thank the Force."
"If his leg --"
"-- His wound is bleeding a little bit, but I think he's all right." Padmé shook her head. "I don't think he's sick or hurt, but I'm worried about him."
"What?" Obi-Wan stroked his beard and clenched his right hand into a fist. "What has he done now? Please do not tell me he re-injured his leg doing something reckless like racing a speeder through the Senate air lot again."
"Again?" She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth against another shooting pain.
"Last time, he was only twelve years old. I thought he had outgrown all of his childlike behaviors"
"No, it's nothing like that." She took a deep breath. "He's not injured again and did not do anything truly reckless. It's not his physical state, but his mental state." Padmé paused for a moment. "He thinks I am going to die, and he needs someone to tell him --"
"-- What! Why does he think you are going to die?"
"He . . . he had a nightmare."
"Why the med-center then if he's not hurt?"
"It's for me. Please, Obi-Wan, can you meet us? Anakin is going to need you or else . . . I don't want to know what he might do."
"But what is he doing with --"
"-- I promise, we will explain . . . or I will let him explain."
Obi-Wan heaved a deep sigh. "Is Anakin there?"
"He is, but he doesn't know I am calling you. Please, will you meet us? Anakin needs you."
"I will be there, Senator."
"Thank you." She closed the comm-unit and put it back in its place on Anakin's belt.
"He's coming." She turned to her mother and smiled. "I knew he would."
"Who's coming?" Anakin strode through the door and looked from Padmé to her mother, confusion etched on his face.
"You are. Did you wake Dormé?"
"Yes . . . but you said --"
"-- Did anyone wake Dad?"
"He couldn't have slept through this commotion." Jobal rolled her eyes.
"I think you underestimate him, mom. Maybe Dormé managed to wake him."
"She is efficient. You're right. Your father is a heavy sleeper. I'll check on them both." She slipped out the door and touched Anakin's shoulder as she passed. "She's doing well. Don't worry."
"Don't worry," he repeated.
Another pain sliced through her body, and she let out a muffled scream.
"Padmé!" Anakin screamed.
She bent down with her hands against her belly and closed her eyes. "I'm all right," she said through clenched teeth.
Anakin rushed to her side and put his hand on her back. "You are not all right," he declared.
"It hurts," she admitted. "I need to get to the med-center."
"What . . . what should I do?"
He looked down at his sleep pants and smiled.
"Quickly, Anakin. Please, I do not want to give birth in our apartment." She took a deep breath. "I think the baby is coming very soon."
Anakin held his tunic, but seemed frozen in place. "I'm not ready to lose you, Padmé."
He pulled off his sleep pants and threw on his clean pants, boots and tunic. "I won't lose you. Not like I lost my mother."
Padmé wrapped her arms around his back and leaned against his chest. "I need you to be strong for me."
He hugged her tightly and kissed her forehead. "I love you."
"I love you, too. But we have to go. Now!"
Even in the middle of the night, the med-center in the center of Coruscant's business district was brimming with activity. Beings of all different species sat in the waiting room just outside the emergency department, each with a different illness or injury.
Padmé didn't really see any of them, though. Her pains had gotten worse during the speeder ride, and now she didn't even want to open her eyes. She could feel Anakin trying to send comforting waves through the Force to her.
"I need a healer!" Anakin yelled as he sprinted through the waiting room with Padmé in his arms followed by Jobal, Ruwee, and Dormé.
Padmé felt the eyes of all of the beings in the room turn to her. "I've got a bad feeling about this," she whispered against Anakin's chest. "They know us. I know they know us. Maybe I should have given birth at home."
"Padmé!" her mother exclaimed through a harsh whisper. "It doesn't matter if they know you. You and your child are going to get the Galaxy's best care."
Padmé closed her eyes. "You're right." The pains were now coming almost on top of each other, and Padmé leaned her head against Anakin's chest.
"So what if they know us." He raised his voice and exclaimed, "My name is Anakin Skywalker, and my wife is having my baby!"
She heard a collective gasp and then the room erupted in chatter.
"Anakin! I can't believe you just did that."
"I was serious, Padmé. Our baby will never be a secret."
Ruwee squeezed Anakin's shoulder. "Son, I don't know if that was the best way to announce your marriage to the Galaxy."
Anakin shrugged. "Well, it worked." He took a few steps until he was in front of the reception droid and announced, "We need a healer! Now!"
"Sir?" A medical droid rolled up to them and presented a hover-stretcher for Padmé.
"Aah!" Padmé moaned as another labor pain washed over her. Suddenly, all thoughts of what Anakin had just done flew from her mind. "I want to push."
Anakin put Padmé down onto the stretcher. "Hurry! Can't you see? My wife is having a baby!" He ran his thumb across her forehead and wiped away some of the beads of sweat.
"I need to push!"
"Is she allowed to push?"
"No, sir, she cannot push until we get her into the suite."
"I need . . . I need to push." She looked up at Anakin with tears in her eyes. "Please, let me push."
Jobal grabbed her daughter's free hand. "Don't push until the droid examines you and sees if you are ready."
"Do it now!"
"Can't you see she's in pain?"
"Yes, of course. I have determined that she is having a baby. We must move to Maternity Ward D-3R4-Q."
"Come on." Anakin sighed. He pushed Padmé's stretcher himself without waiting for any more droids.
The small group followed Anakin, the stretcher, and the triage droid to the maternity ward.
When they entered Padmé's white, sterile room, she turned towards Anakin and whispered, "Is this the place you saw in your dream?"
"I don't know." He shook his head. "I don't think so. It doesn't feel familiar . . . "
"That's good." Padmé clenched her teeth together as another pain spread through her body. "Because the baby is coming now." She took a shuddering deep breath. "It hurts so badly," she whispered. "But I know I am not going to die."
Anakin clutched her hand and rubbed her belly. "You'll be all right. I can sense it."
In what felt like a blur, Padmé was transferred to a maternity droid, changed clothes and moved into a birthing apparatus.
Then, suddenly, they all turned around when a breathless, familiar voice wafted through the air. "Anakin, there you are!"
Padmé squeezed Anakin's hand and couldn't help but smile. "I am glad you are here, Master Kenobi."
"What . . . what are you doing here?" Anakin looked from Obi-Wan to Padmé.
"Anakin, if I may ask, what are you doing in . . . a birthing suite?"
"Padmé is giving birth."
"Oh, yes, there was quite a commotion in the waiting room. I was not sure what to think. One holo-news crew tried to interview me . . ."
Anakin spun around, his face screwed up in confusion. "What are you doing here?"
"I was . . . I've been trying to contact you all night. The chancellor has been --" He shook his head. "-- That's not important now. The council has assigned two other Jedi . . . I am here because Padmé contacted me. She said she was afraid for you, so I came to meet you here. I thought you were hurt again. I had no idea --"
"-- Anakin thought he saw me die; I was afraid for him." She closed her eyes as another pain hit.
"What?" Obi-Wan shook his head. "Where did you see her die?"
"In a dream."
"Maybe my dream was not a vision. It could have been just a --"
"-- Ani, I need to push." She squeezed his hand and gasped for breath, the strain of holding back finally getting to her. "I have to push."
"Can she push yet?"
"The first baby is engaged."
"First baby?" Obi-Wan exclaimed.
"Twins," the droid chirped. "On the next contraction, she may commence pushing stage. Only the father may stay in the room."
"Twins." She turned towards Anakin and smiled, but he had already turned back to Obi-Wan.
Before anyone could say anything else, the droid, who had swiftly worked to put monitoring equipment all around Padmé, interrupted. "The babies are coming now, Master Jedi."
"Babies!" Obi-Wan exclaimed.
"Twins!" Anakin bent down and kissed Padmé hard on the lips. "You were right."
"I'm away right," Padmé retorted through clenched teeth.
"Twins! Ruwee, our baby is really having twins!"
Ruwee hugged his wife. "We need to contact Sola." Padmé's parents and Dormé left the room.
Obi-Wan shook his head. "You are the father."
"Yes." Anakin moved to Padmé's side, but still stared at Obi-wan. "These are my babies."
"I suppose I have always known . . . You have always had special feelings for Padmé. I never realized how far your attachment . . ."
Anakin squeezed Padmé's hand. "Master, my love for her is more than mere infatuation, and our children are not a result of a careless mistake."
"Anakin, do you know the consequences of what you are saying?"
"Yes, master. Padmé is my wife."
"Master, are you all right?"
"I don't believe --"
"-- Anakin, I need you!" Padmé exclaimed suddenly as the urge to push overcame her. The pressure was overwhelming, like nothing she had felt before. "The baby is coming now!"
"Help your . . . wife. But you will explain this later."
"Yes, master." Anakin turned towards Padmé and smiled. "Are you ready?"
"I hope so. Are you ready? I know you never expected to come home to this."
"I'm always ready." He squeezed her hand, and brushed the damp hair from her forehead. "I'm glad I made it home. And I am glad we are no longer a secret."
"Me -- Aaaah! -- too," she groaned as she felt the first baby descending. It was a sensation like nothing else she had ever felt in her life.
Anakin put his hand on her belly and closed his eyes. "Does this feel better?"
Suddenly, after just two pushes, the first baby was out. The droid chirped, "It's a boy."
"A boy!" Tears of joy spilled down her cheeks.
"It's our son. Our Luke." Anakin rushed over to the droid. "Padmé, he's so small."
"It he all right? Anakin, is he breathing."
"He's perfect, Padmé. Just perfect."
After a moment, she breathed a sigh of relief when she heard her son's healthy cry.
"He has ten little fingers --" Anakin laughed. "-- And he has ten tiny toes." He helped the droid cut the cord and carried the baby to Padmé.
"Luke. Oh, Luke." She stroked the soft, blond hair on the baby's head with her index finger. "Ani . . . I can't believe . . . he's perfect." She stared into her son's clear blue eyes. "I knew you were a boy."
Anakin laughed. "There's still another one. I can't believe how small he is."
Padmé admired how Luke fit perfectly in the crook of Anakin's strong arm. She trailed her finger down Luke's cheek. "He looks like you."
"I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not." Before Padmé could answer, he kissed her on the lips. Then, he pressed a soft kiss on baby Luke's forehead. "I am so glad I didn't miss this. I can't believe that just yesterday, I had no idea . . ."
"I know. I couldn't have done this --" She took a deep breath as another pain spread through her body. "-- without you."
"Are you all right?"
"I think my parents, Obi-Wan, and Dormé must want to see him," Padmé croaked.
Anakin laughed and cuddled Luke to his chest. "I see your mother at the window."
"Are you sure it's not Dormé?" Padmé ran her hand around her son's soft face.
"Both of them. Should I take our little Luke out there so they can meet him? I don't want to leave you."
"I know, but take him out to see his family."
When Anakin left with Luke, Padmé was filled with a sense of loneliness which was soon overtaken by complete pain when another labor pain spread through her, and again, she felt the urge to push again. "Anakin!"
No sooner had she finished his name than her husband was back at her side. "Are you all right?"
"It hurts." She closed her eyes for a moment, but then they fluttered opened again.
"You're almost there, Padmé." He let her clutch his hand as another pain overcame her.
Her eyes darted around the small room. "Luke? Where's Luke?"
Anakin put a hand on her arm and closed his eyes. "He's in the waiting room. Your mother is holding him, but Dormé is the one cooing over him." He grinned. "Don't worry, he's fine. I can sense everything going on in that room."
"Thank the Force." She breathed a sigh of relief. "The second baby. She's coming."
He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "You can do it, Padmé."
"I can't," she whispered. "It hurts too much."
"You can do this," he declared. He leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her temple and around her cheeks.
She felt him send waves of comfort and strength through the Force, and suddenly she had the energy to birth their second baby.
"A girl," the droid said just as their small daughter let out her first cry.
"Is she all right?"
"Perfect, just perfect. She's beautiful with dark hair and dark eyes. And she's more impatient than her brother."
Padmé laughed. "Great, just like you."
"She might have my temperament, but she looks just like you." Padmé saw tears fall down Anakin's cheeks as he held his baby daughter for the first time. "Leia, my little princess." After he helped the droid cut the cord, he rushed to Padmé's side.
"Anakin, she is perfect."
"I was right, too, you know."
"We were both right." She reached out to touch Leia's small fist. "She really is just like you. She sleeps all coiled up, just like you do."
"I just hope her dreams are happier than mine."
"We will make sure they are both happy." She closed her eyes for a moment.
"Are you all right? Are you in pain?"
"I'm fine, Ani. It hurts, but not that badly. Don't worry about me."
He flashed a brilliant smile. "I have to worry about you,"
"I know, just like we both have to worry about our babies now."
"Please, Ani, get Luke," she pleaded. "I need to hold my babies."
"I will," he declared. He turned to the droid and demanded, "Is she all right?"
"She is in perfect health, Master Jedi."
"And she's not going to die?"
"No, Master Jedi. She is not dying."
"Did you hear that, Padmé? You're not dying! I didn't think you were, but I had to be certain."
"See, Ani, not all of your dreams are visions." She reached out and he placed Leia in her waiting arms. Padmé kissed the top of Leia's head, then, she looked up at Anakin and smiled. "Get Luke so we can all be together."
"I . . . I can sense them both."
:"Do you think they are strong in the Force?"
He beamed with pride. "Extremely. They are both like strong beams of light in the Force. So pure, so amazing. I can't believe I didn't sense them when they were inside of you, but now . . ."
"We were both distracted, and everything happened so quickly."
"But I wouldn't change a minute."
She bit at her lower lip, and took a deep breath. "You won't let the Jedi take them, right? I know they are strong and they deserve to be Jedi, but --"
"-- I will not let the Jedi have them. They are our children, and they deserve to grow up in a world where they know their parents and grandparents and cousins. They deserve to have the opportunity to choose their attachments."
As if on cue, Obi-Wan appeared in the room carrying the sleeping Luke Skywalker. He came up to Padmé and kissed her on the cheek. "Congratulations, M'lady, Anakin."
"Thank you, Obi-Wan. I'm sorry I contacted you so abruptly."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "It's quite all right, Padmé. I am glad you called me. This explains so much."
"What did you say about the chancellor before, Obi-Wan?"
"It's not important now, Padmé. Don't worry. The counsel assigned two other Jedi to help him. I told them Anakin was . . . indisposed at the moment." He turned to Anakin and crossed his arms across his chest. "We need to talk."
Anakin took Luke from Obi-Wan. "We can talk right here. I don't want to leave my wife and children."
"If that is what you want, padawan."
"I know what you are going to say. Especially if you already spoke to the council about me."
Obi-Wan's brow furrowed. "I do not think it is what you expect me to say. I'm not upset with you for deceiving me, for going against the Code."
"I do not think any of us have ever understood you."
"None of you ever really did."
"I see you here with your children, with your . . . wife, and you are more at peace than I have ever seen you before."
"I am." He kissed little Luke's head. "My attachments make me stronger and more focused. I am not your typical Jedi."
Obi-Wan laughed. "No, you certainly aren't."
"If I didn't have Padmé . . . or Luke and Leia, I don't know what I would become."
"I know, Anakin . Seeing you here today has changed my mind. But the Code --"
"-- Maybe the Code is wrong. Maybe this is how I am supposed to bring balance to the Force. By teaching the Jedi that we are wrong."
Obi-Wan shrugged. "I really don't know, padawan."
"I had already formed attachments before I began my training that were impossible to forget." He smiled down at the tiny baby in his arms. "My attachments ground me. Padmé keeps me sane. I am the Jedi I have become because of her."
"How long have you been married?" Obi-Wan looked at the floor and shook his head. "I cannot believe I didn't sense it."
"I'm deeply sorry, master. I guess I perfected those mind-shielding techniques you always tried to teach me."
Padmé held Leia tightly against her chest as she watched the scene between her husband and his master unfold before her.
"We were married more than three years ago when I accompanied her home after Geonosis."
"I knew you and the senator had a strong connection, even that you were attracted to each other, but I never expected this."
"I'm sorry, Obi-Wan." She took Anakin's free hand and squeezed it. "Our love was something we couldn't control. We knew it was dangerous for us both, but we couldn't deny our feelings."
"And I am happy for you both. I see you together, and I see a different Anakin."
"I need them, Master."
"I know you do."
"I know I have violated the Code, and I know I will be expelled from the Order. But I can't live without them."
Obi-Wan looked down at his hands. "I suppose I have violated the Code myself."
"You, Master? How?"
"By forming an attachment --"
"-- You, Master?"
"To you, Anakin."
"You are my brother."
"You are the father I never had."
"And you are my son, my brother, and my best friend. And I am proud of you."
Padmé wiped a tear from her cheek and hugged her sleeping daughter close.
"Thank you. You have no idea what this means to me."
"I don't speak for the counsel, Anakin, but I know you are a better Jedi than I could ever hope to be. You are strong and wise, and I know you owe so many of your strengths to Padmé. Maybe your attachments do make you a complete person, and a better Jedi."
Padmé allowed Anakin to put Luke next to his twin on Padmé's chest. She grinned as master and padawan embraced.
When they broke apart, Anakin shook his head. "What about the Code? And the Council?"
"Let's not worry about that tonight."
"Let's just be happy," Anakin agreed with a smile. "We know everything will crash around us tomorrow."
Before anyone could say anything else, Ruwee, Jobal and Dormé rushed into the room. Through a chorus of requests to hold the babies, Anakin and Padmé looked at each other and laughed.
Anakin leaned down and whispered, "Thank you, for giving me my life," before he captured her lips with his own and the rest of the world faded away.
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