Title: Define a Galaxy
Author: Disco Shop Girl
Timeframe: Post-ROTS AU
Summary: Anakin's watching Padmé's funeral when she mysteriously comes back to life
Author's note: I was feeling a bit inspired and this was something I was daydreaming while bored the other day. It's not that long, a bit implausible with a totally silly ending, but I thought I'd share it anyway. Just a nice little Post-Revenge of the Sith Alternate Ending. Thanks for reading!
"Ahhh yes, come in my friend."
Anakin – no Vader, he was Vader now – swept into the Emperor's office. Barely acknowledging the attendants that went scurrying like ants.
Palpatine stood from his desk and turned his back to Vader. Surveying his city, his galaxy from the window. Just where they used to stand, when Palpatine would help him. Listen to his problems and discuss what they could do. Encourage him to choose his own path.
Mould you Vader silently acknowledged. Still, at this point he didn't care. Palpatine was all he had left. And thanks to his new power, everyone in the galaxy would bend before Darth Vader. No longer would he be anyone's slave.
He fell to his knee and greeted "My master," telling himself that this time it was different. This time there was mutual respect. This time Palpatine wanted him. Not as a subject, but as a teacher and a guide. Nothing more.
With the hood of his cloak pulled low over his features, Palpatine gestured for his dark apprentice to join him. And Anakin did just that.
Striding across the floor to join the Emperor. Something was flickering on the Emperor's desk, just at the reaches of his vision. But he ignored it. The sides of his helmet made it difficult to see beyond what was straight in front of him. And he no longer cared about the outside world. All he cared about was himself.
Vader went and stood to his master's side. Just like he had always done, ever since he was a little boy. Now here was someone who wanted him. They stood in a comfortable silence, and though he could feel the waves of darkness emanating from his companion, it was no longer sinister. Instead of a threat, something to feel guilty for, he now felt comfortable. It offered shadows he could hide in. Offered power and removed his pain. It gave him everything he needed. What was surprising was that he'd lived until now without fully embracing it.
"Such a shame," the Emperor tut-tutted, breaking the silence.
The apprentice simply stood, staring out at the speeder traffic and waiting for an explanation. Ironic. Now that he had no need for the patience Obi-Wan had tried to drum into him, he had it in bucket-loads. After all, there was nothing truly exciting in the near future that he eagerly anticipated anymore.
The Sith Master didn't make his wait long now. Obviously his off-handed comment was meant to incite a reaction. When one wasn't given, the old man pressed it further.
He gestured to the holo on his desk that had been projecting when Darth Vader walked in. It was a subtle command to observe, and the half-machine did as he was bid. Turning to view the scene laid out in perfect 3D on the Emperor's grand desk.
His heart clenched. A hard, yanking grip on the muscle that most kept him alive. It was nothing like having lightsabers sever every limb, not even like having his body burnt off. This was much, much worse. Like being disembowelled even as he breathed.
"Such a terrible shame…She could have been quite useful," the Emperor offhandedly observed to him.
Vader stood trembling, rooted to the spot. His eyes glued to the horrific image. If there was one thing he wished he would never live to see, it was this. His wife's burial coffin. Mournfully pulled through the streets of Theed.
Our baby was conceived in Theed.
He wanted to rip his eyes away but he couldn't. He'd known it was today, he'd known that she was – that is that they were planning to – that her last sermon would be… His thoughts were jumbled even as his vision refused to blur. He couldn't look away from her. Even in death she was perfect. Death his mind fumbled with the term. He hadn't wanted to see, he'd purposely stayed away.
Her belly is still swollen his heart shrieked at him in agony.
His eyes traced her gentle fingers. Resting on her baby – OUR baby – for what would be all eternity. She looked so peaceful. Like she was just sleeping. Like she was sleeping. That was how she looked, when she'd lain beside him a few nights ago. When he'd propped himself up on his elbow and watched her breathe, knowing he'd do anything to keep her alive.
And now this.
Tears fell onto his cheeks unbidden. Their saltiness burned his raw skin like acid. And he felt it wasn't enough, never enough to make up for what he'd done to her.
"People loved her. Who knows, she may have convinced many star systems to fall into line. It looks like a few rebellions are rising already, although they'll be quickly crushed."
"She would never have agreed," Vader automatically replied.
He didn't even think of the rebuttal, it just fell from his lips. His first contradiction to his master's opinion. The harshly modulated voice penetrating through the music he could hear being projected. Cutting across the commentary – commentary! – of his Padmé's funeral.
"You would make her see how things should be," Sidious corrected.
Vader said nothing. He wouldn't fight his master on this, it was irrelevant. But he knew that she would never help the Empire to grow. She would probably have started one of the Rebellions herself.
His eyes caressed the curls of her hair, fanned out around her. She looked too peaceful. Her death hadn't been peaceful. She'd been upset, pleading until she fell into silence. Even when it was the force itself cutting off her windpipe, she'd still clawed to free herself. Never was she able to stand by and do nothing.
He restudied the perfect retransmitted detail of her long fingers. Shuddering in his skin as he remembered how softly they'd caressed him. Mere hours ago. Or had it been days?
No he refused to believe. Not days.
There was something draped across them. He looked closer, seeing a chain threaded through her lifeless hands. Confused he followed the length, wondering what they could possibly have buried her with a chain for. He couldn't quite see the pendant, it was hanging just out of shot
Oh no he suddenly realised, his mind jumping to a conclusion. It can't be, they'd never betray her by keeping the memory of me and what I did to her even into death – his mind got cut off before it could complete the thought. Because the cart that guided her curvy form brushed against a mourner. And the Japor snippet came into view.I remember when I gave this to you.
He heard his own words in his head and shuddered. Visibly.
"Such a loss. Your child would have been an asset to the galaxy. A powerful sith, to be trained from birth in the dark arts," Palpatine continued to lament.How long's it going to take for us to be honest with each other?
He heard her words. Her words, clear as day. In his mind, as if they were out on the balcony now, and she was asking for his truthfulness in the middle of the night. And instead of pressing herself gently against him, her coffin reached the middle of the city, and the true masses of crowds were revealed to her dead form.
Now, he promised her softly. Now, only when it's too late, can I truly be honest with you.
"I would never have let you near our baby," Anakin spat.
And his eyes widened as something unnatural, unthinkable and certainly impossible happened. In her coffin, the good luck charm he'd made her as a child was suddenly clutched tight in moving fingers. Dark, soulful eyes he got lost in sprung open. The image projected halfway across the galaxy of his beautiful wife flung herself out of the deathly still of forever sleep. And took an audibly deep gasp of breath.
"Padmé," a soft voice caressed her ear. Blowing his quiet breath across it in that funny way he had.
"Amidala," he insisted, trying to get her to wake.
Amidala? Obviously he'd awakened but why was he calling her Amidala? He hadn't addressed her as that – well, ever.
"Padmé," he repeated gently, but it was fading away.
And the caress of his breath became stronger. She realised it wasn't his breath at all, but a breeze blowing past her. His voice became something else. It wasn't Anakin, but it was people saying her name.
Voices, unfamiliar voices that repeated her first name and her title, both spoken quietly, both in reverence.
Anakin? she called for him but her voice didn't work. And she couldn't see anything. Where am I? she panicked, dizzy and disoriented.
Where had she been before she fell asleep? At home? With Anakin? Captured by a bounty hunter? The senate was in turmoil – Empire, he had declared an Empire. And Naboo was suffering, the war was close. And her baby, was her baby alright?
Suddenly she realised she wasn't breathing. Her chest ached, like it was burning.
'If it is your time then you'll take him and your baby with you. Wake up' another voice ordered into her ear. But this one wasn't soft, or mournful – is that how the others sounded? Yes, mournful, that's exactly it. It ordered her, and when she didn't do it, it demanded with that quiet authority and the caress of motherly love curled in all her words. 'Up Padmé. Now!'
Now this voice she knew. Shmi.
Without ordering them to, her fingers contracted. She felt the press of a chain between the bones of her fingers and instinctively knew what it was. Ani's good luck charm, she'd rethreaded it when she found out she was pregnant and kept it pressed against her heart. To ward off the worry and loneliness she felt knowing her Anakin might never come home. Might never find out about the baby.
She clenched it tightly, drawing strength from the cold metal.
'Please. Do it now' Shmi's words cajoled.
Her eyes snapped open to stare at the dead grey of a Naboo winter's evening sky. Confused she sat bolt upright, forced her lungs to inflate. Once that first, painful breath had been taken in it was easy. Rhythmic.Where am I?
All around her there were gasps. Cries. Padmé looked into her lap before she looked anywhere else. There it was, the one material thing she had to remind her of her husband. With the same intricate carvings it had always had. She reached for where it lay and eagerly took it up. Pressing it into the palm of her hand. Her eyes swelling with tears. Her fist clenched around it and she held it tight. Pressing it against her chest in thankful relief.
As long as it's with me, everything will be alright she almost relaxed.
Then she had enough strength to begin paying attention to her surroundings again.
She looked up from her lap – why does the baby feel funny? – to see people. Lots and lots and lots of people. Every single one of them staring at her. Was I giving a speech and collapsed she wondered.
The domes of the buildings, the last hint of pink in the sky, she had to be in Theed. But she didn't remember coming home.
They were silent, they were all silent. Their eyes wide.
What is it? What's wrong? And why is the baby not moving anymore? Worriedly she put her hand down to her middle, forgetting about the public space, willing to give up everything to make sure it was ok. Her fingers pressed against her bump but something was different. Wrong. She pressed, and the flesh gave. Not like when the little life was curled inside her. When she could feel the definite presence of another body in there. It depressed like nothing but fluid now filled her body. And the aching across her abdomen. Images came back to her, powerful, horrible.
She looked out at the people in horror. Hundreds of thousands, tiered, stretched as far as the eye could see down the main boulevard. All dressed in black. White flowers of death fell from her hair. And behind her the snort of an animal. She slowly turned. Squeezing her fist so hard the japor snippet felt like it was pressing into her skin. Six beautiful white beasts stood behind her.
The Senator's eyes bugged open, filling with tears even as she understood. Her baby was no longer inside her. And she was on her death march.
What happened next was beyond her control. It was an automatic response, triggered inside her confused brain by an achingly broken heart. Her lungs which were still taking deep breaths to try and restore some semblance of balance drenched up every free air molecule they had.
Her perfectly painted lips parted and she screamed one name into the sky, a low, mournful, haunting sound.
He froze, waiting for the illusion to end. But the music stopped, and the commentators stopped their incessant rattling. Padmé was sitting up. How – HOW?! in the galaxy was Padmé sitting up? Was this another of the Emperor's cruel tricks? To animate her dead body just to crush his hopes again. It bespoke the mistrust he would find in life as a Sith that that was his first thought. But it soon became obvious the Emperor was just as confused as he was.
If the loud
from next to him was anything to go by.
"Padmé?" he whispered, lost in a quiet awe.
Her body didn't fall back down, or look like a mutilated corpse. Instead she looked down to her hands. Took his only gift to her in her hands and held it to her heart.
"My love," he quietly mouthed.
She seemed to ignore everything around her, at least momentarily.
"What is going on? What have you done?" Sidious demanded.
At that moment Anakin understood that Sidious had never intended to help him. He recognised power, and his own grab for it. He didn't know how to help others. Padmé had been dead for almost four days and he had never helped to save her yet now, now…
"I haven't done anything," he said quietly, too focused on her.
Her. I don't understand he quietly told the force. Or asked. Or pleaded. He wasn't quite sure which, but he knew this wasn't the doing of a person. Padmé had been dead. Her light was gone, he'd known, he'd felt it. The woman you loved, the woman you breathed for didn't die without you feeling it. Feeling as if a part, no most of yourself was gone. And Padmé had been gone. Taken their offspring with her.
Now – his eyes slid closed. There you are he realised in a moment of pure joy as he reached into the force with strings of light and rethreaded his lifeforce through hers.
"Well this has never happened –" the commentator started up again.
Anakin's eyes were tracing her body, watching her hands fall to touch the baby – his baby, their baby. Her confusion was clear but at this moment he didn't care. My wife he screamed out into the force, knowing she couldn't hear it. Still, the feeling reverberated and the Emperor's displeasure was clear. Love saturated the crimson office as never before.
She took an age in turning, as if she didn't want to see what was behind her. But she saw the creatures that pulled her cart, and the people around her. And as she cried out in pain, she called his name into the sky. His name. The whole galaxy was watching as the Senator rose from death, and she called for him.
Her sweet pure light screamed across the galaxy heading straight for him. It speared through his armour and straight into his soul. The Emperor, Palpatine, Sidious Anakin corrected, seething, was blinded by the flash. Her purity flooded Anakin and took control of him like never before, as he had never been vulnerable enough to let it do. Leaving no places for the darkness to hide.
The Sith Master never saw it coming. His senses had no time to adjust to the force of good as it overwhelmed him even as it swallowed his apprentice. The lightsaber was through his heart before he took another breath.
"I would never have let you near our baby. And I certainly won't let you near Padmé," were the last words he ever heard.
The young husband disengaged the Sith blade in his hand. His dark mentor had provided him with it and he threw it to the feet of the slowly collapsing body as a last sign of spite. If the Master could have looked into the dark Jedi's eyes he would have seen no cool rage, nor hatred, to give him a lost hope of the continuing Sith line. He would have seen calm collection. Determination, but peace. A quiet smile not of sneering revenge, but hope. He would have seen the return of the Jedi.
And the overwhelming love no Sith could ever possess.
Anakin took one look at the holo projector where people were now flocking to the slab his wife had rested on. She was alert, in tears but awake. Her hands were pressing to her middle and he could see her lips begging his name. No more sound could be heard, it was a frenzy.
He turned and left the Empire's ruling office for good. Right now he had somewhere else he was supposed to be.
Obi-Wan sat back in his chair. Trying not to feel upset as the last vestige of good in the galaxy was drawn towards her grave. Still trying to come to terms with everything that had happened. How Anakin had fallen to the darkside. How he hadn't noticed it was happening. How the most responsible, self-sacrificing person he knew had died still trying to convince him the man she loved had goodness inside him.
The people of Naboo wouldn't agree. The family following behind her wouldn't agree. Her parents wouldn't agree. They'd lost her and all the good she still had left to do because of her faith in Anakin.
Not to mention their children.
His hand rubbed his face tiredly. Anakin and Padmé were planning on having children and he hadn't known about it. In all his life he'd had absolute faith in two people. Qui-Gon and Anakin. The people he could trust to be there for him no matter what. To pull him out of danger even if it was the absolute last minute. Now he had to live the rest of his life in seclusion with the horrible truth. Of those two people he had believed in, one was dead, and the other….Anakin hadn't trusted him at all.
If Anakin hadn't even wanted to tell him about the good things in his life how could he possibly have believed Obi-Wan could help him with the bad?
You didn't help him he sarcastically pointed out to himself. You dismembered then mutilated him before you left him to die. Then took his pregnant lover to her death bed.
At least Anakin's children were safe for now. The girl may not – he couldn't even think her name. She was a little too close to the Senate for his liking but Yoda had agreed and Bail had seemed desperate. Obi-Wan just hoped he hadn't sacrificed Padmé's flesh and blood, Anakin's daughter, to the Sith Lord. And the boy was nearby but at a far enough distance. Far enough away that Obi-Wan couldn't influence another Skywalker so detrimentally.
How would he ever tell either of them what he'd done to their father? Done to their mother? That it was him that had finally pushed Anakin over the edge, had driven him to turn on the last person he trusted, the loving Senator that had dashed for the safety of his embrace.
How do you tell a child that you manipulated their parents' devotion to one another so you could kill one and destroy the other?
"Well?!" Obi-Wan called to the force. "Any pearls of wisdom?"
He wasn't really expecting a reply.
The holo in front of him kept moving. It was morbid, that he could sit here watching her funeral procession. Knowing that he'd been the one to do that, even if it was Anakin's hand that had at last destroyed her faith.
For years he had let the boy, come teenager, come man babble on about a dark-haired Nubian and he'd always been amused. He'd never truly encouraged it to stop because it added a light-hearted element to the sometimes frustrating days.
And now, all he could think was a simple "No, Anakin," when he was younger may have saved the entire galaxy from this ruin.
He flicked his hand and turned the sound back on. He didn't want to hear his own thoughts anymore. Even the sombre funeral march was better than them.
Something trembled in the force. Something odd. It felt reassuring. In a way he hadn't felt for a long time. Yoda had mentioned on Polis Massa but he hadn't had the strength to calm his mind and try the exercises yet. But –
"Qui-Gon?" he asked in disbelief.
The ghost of his master stood at the door. Not saying a word. Just standing there, arms folded into his sleeves.
Obi-Wan couldn't move, he was frozen into place. His master smiled brightly at him.
"Don't be so mournful Obi-Wan. Be mindful of the living force. Turn outward, not inward."
And then he was gone. Obi-Wan stared at the place he'd been. Shaking his head to clear any cobwebs, then looking again. He couldn't possibly have just imagined that could he?
He didn't notice the holo had fallen silent until he heard a sharp cry of
that whipped his head around. As he watched the animated senator's body moving around there was only a single thing a true Jedi Master could do. Lift an eyebrow. Quietly get to his feet. Retrieve his lightsaber and Anakin's from where they rested in a small chest.
And leave his hut on the edge of the Jutland wastes to head for a small cave a few kilometres away. To where the fighter he'd planned to abandon forever was about to be recommissioned.
Most people stepped back, gasps and hushed whispers falling all around her.
"Where's Anakin?" she kept asking.
If this was her funeral then where was her husband? Where was her baby? She whipped her head around, enough of her wits about to her to realise where her loved ones should be. She'd attended too many funerals already in her young life, and she knew where the family always were.
Following behind. Sola, Darred. Her mother and father. Her nieces. Queen Apailana. She could identify them all and more. But her eyes searched desperately for one figure.
"Dad, please," she struggled to get up onto her feet.
They were shocked. That was obvious. Far too shocked to move, let alone answer. Anakin, and their son. Where were they, why weren't they here? A sharp stabbing pain ripped through her midsection and she collapsed with a whimper of agony back onto the beginnings of her sarcophagus.
"Please, is Anakin alright?" she was trembling.
It hurt, it hurt so much. She struggled to remember what had happened, to put the images she could see in her mind into sequence. While her brain tried to sort out the horror and simultaneously dealing with the shooting pain, her mother appeared at her side.
"Padmé?" the soft lilt of her voice asked in quiet disbelief.
But her hand, her comforting warm hand covered up her youngest daughter's. Padmé held on tight to the trinket a young freed slave had once given her in her fist, freeing the other to clasp her mother's heat.
"You're here," Padmé looked like she was about to burst into sobs as she clung onto the one familiar thing in her vision. "Is-is our baby alright? Where is he? What's happened? Please. Where's Anakin? He's not hurt is he? Is he?! What's going on?"
The noise of the crowd rose as Padmé begged for answers. The rest of her family gathered around her. Those closest that had made up the funeral procession no longer weeping in grief. All dressed in the dark clothes of mourning, veils drawn back to reveal their shocked features.
Around them the masses began to heave, and still no one really knew what to do. Finally her brother-in-law called out
"Where the hell is a doctor?!"
and a moment later a few stepped forward, members of the public that had come to pay their respects to the saviour Queen on her final journey. Padmé wanted to know what was going on, but still no one would tell her. All she needed to know was that her husband and her baby were safe.
"Shhh, calm down Padmé. It'll be alright, we're here with you. Oh Padmé," her mother hushed, tears trickling down her cheeks unhindered.
The doctors pushed her to lie back as she tried to sit up. Tried to search the crowd for him. Why did she feel like something terrible had happened? Where she was, why she was here, that was irrelevant compared to the power of her love for Anakin. And he loved her – he would be here. What could possibly stop him?
The planet's name jumped into her head like a shell exploding. The anger in his eyes. The betrayal. And Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan had emerged from her ship. Sent her Anakin completely over the edge.
She touched her throat, remembering the breaths she could no longer take. And then Obi-Wan had taken her somewhere and – her heart felt like it stopped again. Just for a single beat. She'd had their baby. It was far too early, he wasn't close to due yet, but she'd had their baby. And he hadn't been there. Anakin wasn't there. That was all she'd imagined for months, her one fantasy, that when their baby came into the world he'd be there to hold her hand. After their wedding, it was the most important thing that was going to happen in their lives.
She knew nothing would have kept him away. And that made her panic. Where was he? Why had Obi-Wan returned to her ship and taken her to that medical facility without her beloved? One answer seemed the most obvious but she was horrified to even contemplate it.
Anakin couldn't be dead.
The agony of that thought sliced through her. She moaned a low "nooo," her vision swimming.
"Not Anakin," she muttered.
Those around her studied the only half-lucid woman worriedly. Trying to get her to calm.
"Please not Anakin."
He didn't get to meet his babies. She blinked at that and her heart just clenched even tighter in her chest. His babies. There were two of them. We had two…
"Oh please no."
Somehow to know there was more than one just made it that much worse.
A boy and a girl. Oh Anakin how did that happen to us and we didn't know?
"Did he at least get to hold them?" she begged her mother for some sign of hope.
Looking up into the eyes she'd trusted all her life she only found confusion.
"I think we need to get her to a hospital."
Two totally foreign voices decided her fate and soon Padmé found herself in a medical transport. A path cleared through to the medical centre. The cloud that had hung over Naboo since their ex-Senator had declared himself Emperor lifting. Padmé Amidala was back from the dead. And if she could be resurrected, then there was no need for hope to die.
Anakin really wished he had R2 with him. And his Jedi Starfighter for that matter. The most capable droid in the galaxy and the most manoeuvrable ship to boot. Unfortunately, he had neither.
Both were still on Mustafar, and if it weren't in the opposite direction, he'd almost consider going there first. Retrieving his friend and his fighter before he went to Padmé. But they weren't on the way and he needed to get to her. Above all else, he needed to get to her.
The landing bay was hopelessly inadequate for his needs. Not a fighter. Not a freighter. Not even a decently sized yacht. Just large, lumbering diplomatic transports.
This is ridiculous he squeezed his fists. It'll take me days to get to her in one of those.
He looked around, trying to be critical without letting his excitement overtake him. He'd been trying not to mourn his wife and failing miserably for four days now. Contemplating his own failure to protect her and her precious baby from his own lust for power. His mind had been on her, on how much he hated what he'd done to her, hated himself. How could he possibly stand being on Coruscant and not with her a second longer? After what he'd just witnessed?
His eyes landed on a speeder as he continued to survey the hanger.
I know where there's a whole docking bay full of Jedi Starfighters.
It was morbid. Horribly morbid, and so terribly wrong. What he'd done there he couldn't even contemplate right now, all he could think about was getting to Padmé. She'd look confused, distraught, upset on the holo broadcast. And she was calling for him. And that was worth re-entering the Jedi temple a hundred times over.
Before he could stop himself he'd lowered his body into the speeder, his skin aching with every movement, and gunned the engine.
Obi-Wan powered up the engines with a surprising calmness. Like it was every day a woman rose from the dead. He went through the pre-flight, powered up his R4, closed the hatch and quietly guided the small craft out of its makeshift hanger and up into the bright Tatooine sky.
For now he was content in knowing that Anakin's son was quite safe. If Vader had seen what he'd just seen, then his mind would be on Naboo and nothing but Naboo. If this whole experience had taught him one thing, it was that Vader or Anakin or whatever the hell it was would abandon anything and everything for Padmé Amidala.
He twitched. Something was different. The force didn't feel so – bereft – anymore. The feeling continued to grow. Like the sun slowly rising on the horizon. He tried to push it aside, exiting Tatooine's harsh atmosphere.
"Obi-Wan. Don't charge into this blinded, stop and think," Qui-Gon's voice pestered.
The remaining Jedi Master ignored his Master and begun inputting coordinates. Waiting for the navigation path to be correctly calculated.
The sound of an impatient foot-tapping he remembered so well started next to his ear.
"Always on the move."
"Stop it," Obi-Wan muttered.
Somehow knowing Qui-Gon could hear him just fine. Even if Qui-Gon only existed in his mind.
"No wonder your apprentice turned out so reckless. I've always blamed his natural enthusiasm. Apparently I should have pointed the finger at you."
That made Obi-Wan look up. All he could see around him was cold, dark space. No Jedi master sitting on his wing or appearing anywhere nearby for that matter. But his voice certainly was. And it was trying his patience.
"Stop this," he demanded of the man who had raised him and been dead fourteen years. "I must get to Padmé."
"Oh, you must?" Qui-Gon gently mocked him.
"Yes," he sighed, exasperated.
There was a pause and Obi-Wan willed the damn computer to hurry up.
"Why is that?"Apparently people go senile in their old age
"He will go after her!"
"And you see this as a problem?" he was pushed.
"YES! He will kill her all over again!"
"The force has revealed this to you?"
"Ahh, and yet you're so sure. Too often you listen to your mind and not your heart Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes, telling himself he shouldn't be surprised as his engines disengaged and the hyperspace vector stopped being calculated.
"Sit still and meditate," Qui-Gon persuaded him.
And knowing he could do nothing more, the man closed his eyes to the blackness of space and sunk into the peaceful force.
Anakin pulled the speeder into a very familiar arc, looping into the docking bay. Knowing that this time no one would be looking out for him. No one would be guiding him onto the correct return platform. No one would be alive.
Don't think about it now, he tried to calm himself. Padmé first.
The brightly coloured speeder he'd chosen from the Emperor's personal collection smoothed to a stop. Allowing him to carefully climb out in an agonising process that caused his suit to rub against his already raw skin.
One fighter was already on a half-extended platform. It would do. He stopped to look down as he approached the craft. Noting the dried pool of blood. Someone had been shot here. A Jedi, most likely. Someone who had been near the spacecraft. Someone who was here all the time maybe? He tried to shake off the list that grew in his head. Of Jedi who enjoyed the hanger bay. Mechanics. A handful of people, and he knew them all. One of his friends had died here.
Although – he paused and looked around. No body. No bodies at all. So someone had been shot here but they hadn't died here then.
He reached out, flicking the controls that would open the vast doors and extend the platform's arm out into the Coruscant skylanes.
The cockpit hatch snapped open and he warily climbed the ladder. Wincing in pain with every step. He finally reached the relative comfort of the cockpit, sinking into the chair in relief.
"Hey you! Stop!" a voice called out loudly.
Anakin looked back into the temple. Seeing someone – someone in dark robes! A familiar snap-hiss and a blue lightsaber appeared. There were Jedi still alive?! How could that be possible? He'd been thorough! The clones were ruthless! For once he was glad he'd done a sloppy job.
Now, however, was not the time. He flicked a switch and the cockpit clicked shut. The controls were familiar, this was a model similar to his own, and he was soon lifting off.
Looking back he was startled to see two, then three Jedi accompanying the first one, looking up towards him. What was going on? He could be sloppy but not that sloppy! A pocket of resistance he'd missed somewhere?
Shaking it off he pushed them to the back of his mind. Padmé. He had to get to Padmé. The clones had been called off, these others would be fine for now. Two fighters scrambled after him, which meant that – what, at least six other Jedi still remained alive? Not to mention Obi-Wan.
Something very strange was happening but his mind was on other things.
"Download all broadcasts from the last hour pertaining to Padmé Amidala before we jump," he commanded the unfamiliar R4 unit that was already mounted into the small ship.
The ship was already on a direct course for a hyperspace ring. With any luck he'd be on Naboo in twelve hours. Twelve hours too long, but he could wait that long if it meant his lifetime without her had been forfeited.
She'd called for him. It jumped up and down in his mind like a torch in the darkness. She had passed. He'd known it, even when the Sith Lord had told him, he'd already known. That first moment he'd woken in agony and struggled to find the comfort her love always brought him. She had been gone and yet moments ago he'd watched live as she'd awoken. Confused even the masterful Sidious as she opened her beautiful eyes. And called for him.
He was powerless to do anything but heed her call. Even now he could feel her heart. Beating in time to his. Screaming for him to come to her from across the galaxy. She was lost, confused, but then again so was he. Without her he hadn't even existed. Now he could actually feel his heart in his chest. Could feel something other than the terrible burns that covered his skin. Everything about him that was himself came rushing back in his desire to be near her. To be with her. To reassure her.
She looked so frightened he worried.
The small ship locked into its ring without troubles, and he paid no attention to the laser blasts that passed by him from a pair of Jedi starfighters heading straight for him.
Please be safe he prayed to the force as he punched one of his ship's levers forward and watched distractedly as he slipped into lightspeed.
Hold on Padmé. I'm coming to you.
Padmé stared at the falsely cheerful walls of the most expensive hospital suite in Theed. Her mind in a panic but her body silent. Her parents didn't have her children. Her husband wasn't here. That was all she could think about.
They'd sedated her when they couldn't answer any of the questions she desperately needed to know the answer to. And now she was trapped in her own mind. Being prodded, and poked and on the whole ignored.
Where is Anakin her mind was crying out. Where is he? Where are our babies?
She could remember giving birth to them. Naming them. She remembered that Obi-Wan had been there. Had been holding Leia as her life slipped away. But what had he done with them? He hadn't taken them to Anakin. Her memories of their last meeting in her apartment, of Obi-Wan's distrust of her husband, were still clear. And the way Anakin had reacted when Obi-Wan came out of her starship showed the Master had come to kill the man she loved more than anything.
How had she possibly led him there?
"Ani," she was able to whimper softly.
Her doctors studied her like she was crazy, but didn't respond. Didn't tell her where her children were. Where are they?! Where did he take them!?!
Soon enough they left her alone with her family. So heavily drugged that she wasn't able to say a word. Her senses, though, were still perfectly clear. And even in her turmoil, she heard things about her own health she carefully filed away.
'Gave birth very recently, less than a day' and 'natural labour without any complications' and 'healing quite nicely'.
From a small monitor beside the bed she noted four days had in fact passed since she had dissolved her attention in that hospital room.
"Padmé," her mother took up her hand once more.
It was comforting, like when she was a small, ill child. Something reassuring in her chaotic swirl of thoughts. And another voice to almost be heard over the call of her heart for its mate.
"Where were you? Can you tell us what happened?"
Padmé's eyes were expressive but her lips couldn't move.
"She can't talk Jobal, just reassure her," her father's voice came from behind her.
"They don't know what's happened to you Padmé but I feel blessed," he quietly continued.
She felt the press of her father's lips to her forehead.
"We will get through this, you'll be fine."
The stroking of light fingertips on her hand was an attempt to be soothing. But to be soothed, she needed to hear one thing. That he was alright.
She could remember all the terrible things he'd done, there was no doubt about that. And she saw how ridiculous it was. To wish a mass-murder would return to your bedside. Hold you. Tell you that he was sorry, that he loved you. That didn't mean her longing for him was any less.
Her heart had quietly been winning out over her rationality for almost four years now.
"They're putting you to sleep. But we love you Padmé, we'll be here when you wake up."
She quietly drifted off to sleep. The not very appreciative thought of I only want HIM reverberating in her mind.
Obi-Wan's eyes flew open and he suddenly started slamming his fingers onto buttons.
"R4!" he cried out, trying to get the droid to reinitiate the jump sequence.
"He's going after her!" Obi-Wan was alarmed, as he told no one in particular.
Qui-Gon could probably hear him though.
"Set the coordinates," he ordered gruffly.
Frustration overtook him as he called the Jedi Master a whole string of words he'd learnt from Anakin. Annoyed that something so amazing had happened. Or more correctly, annoyed that something so amazing had happened, and now he'd put the young senator in danger. By leaving her exposed. So Vader could get to her first. So Vader would know his children were alive. So Vader could kill her again, and then come after the offspring Obi-Wan had already tried to protect.
That was what made it so much worse. That Qui-Gon, in all his 'sit and meditate' wisdom had just put those infants at risk. He'd heard from a distraught Beru that Luke hadn't stopped crying in the three days he'd been in his aunt and uncle's care, but the little boy's unhappiness would be nothing next to being trained as a Sith.
Anakin bolted through the medical facility's halls. He probably should have been striding confidently, pushing people out of his way so he could demonstrate his authority. But right now he just wanted to be with Padmé, and he didn't care how he looked to others.
He'd demanded her location from the desk on the first floor, and after that his interaction with the hospital staff had been less than nothing. They scurried out of his path as he rushed to be with her. His skin rubbing painfully against the confines of the suit. His breathing dangerously erratic. The hard helmet knocking against his head with every step.
As luck would have it, fate would again be kind to the fallen Jedi. The turbolift arrived at his command, and two other people already stood in the ascending carriage. Too self involved to even notice his intimidating form. Padmé's parents. Her mother's face tucked into her father's shoulder as he tried to quietly hush her. He almost stopped breathing as he listened to their conversation.
"Just had a baby? How did she just have a baby? She doesn't even have time for a boyfriend!"
Anakin's heart immediately rebelled as it heard that. Not the boyfriend comment, he'd long ago accepted that their love was a secret. And his jump here had left him enough time to realise that her devotion was for him alone. Unlike Palpatine's insinuations, he knew she would never be with Obi-Wan.
No, his eyes briefly closed as it tried to overcome the one piece of bad news in this day of miracles. The baby had been born. He hadn't been there. It was too early. Far far far too early. He alone shared her secret of when they had been conceived. He'd seen and touched and slept with the swell in her middle. And it was not nearly big enough, not grown enough to be stolen from Padmé's abdomen.
Obi-Wan he quietly seethed.
Even as his insides twisted in pain. The misery of a father losing a child he'd never held. Their baby. He was supposed to be with her when she had her baby that their love had created.
The turbolift doors opened to the floor the parents had prescribed. Padmé's floor. He swept off first and used the force to slam shut the doors before they could follow him. He needed time alone with her first. To make sure she was alive. Safe. Whole. To make sure her love for him still lived. And then he would have to explain what had happened to him. He couldn't even fathom how he was going to do that.
The corridors on this floor were almost empty and he was in full flight by the time he reached the door the force was drawing him to. He didn't even pause as he flew inside, then stopped. A doctor was helping her out of bed, helping her to stand just as he entered.
Her eyes turned curiously toward him, obviously drawn by the oppressive noise of his breathing equipment.
His insides soared as he set eyes on her. Alive. Breathing. Wincing amusingly. Her hair loose and falling over her shoulders like it did at home. In private. It wasn't a ruse then.
'Padmé' – his lips formed the word but no sound came out. His love wasn't lost to him.
And by the way her eyes widened, he could tell she was almost frightened of him. For just a moment he wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all. To be so close to her and yet separated by so much – what he'd done, what had happened between them. What he now was – a creature forever removed from the world.
Then his aching lips stretched into a smile. Because the brief flash of fright across her features disappeared. Instead she tilted her head at just the slightest angle and asked in disbelief
Obi-Wan slid in the back entrance to the Senator's suite, his break-neck speed catching up with his aging body. Only to see the horrific form of a machine, and feel the signature of his ex-Padawan. Vader.
He was here. Qui-Gon's unamusing delaying tactic had led to this. And the conflict he thought had been resolved on Mustafar would be played out all over again. He wasn't sure he had the emotional strength to deal with another confrontation.
How in Sith's hell did Vader live beyond that confrontation?
Obi-Wan tried to brush off the generally cheery feeling in the force. Instead focusing on the situation right in front of him. He looked from the Senator to Vader. The Dark Lord stood clear across the room in the other open doorway. Between the three of them not a breath was taken, not a sound made.
"Excuse us doctor," Padmé finally murmured.
The poor Twi-lek glanced from one doorway to another. Finally making the choice to slip out past Obi-Wan, obviously terrified by Anakin's intimidating form.
Amidala then glanced from one to the other. Seeming to decide which of the two warring Jedi she'd be safer with.
Come here Padmé, stay away from him Obi-Wan silently pleaded.
Caring too much for the already traumatised woman to let her fall into that thing's clutches. Finally she began to inch towards him and he briefly sent a thanks into the force. Shifting his right hand to his lightsaber warningly only to see his eyes flash down to the Sith's empty belt.
No lightsaber? Is this some kind of trick?
Darth Vader didn't move but Obi-Wan could feel the hurt as his wife slowly moved away from him. Slowly destroying the already dead man. His palms hung open by his side, almost saying he had nothing else to lose. It didn't look like he could hurt, but Obi-Wan was well-used to the deception of the Sith.
As Padmé came close to him she stopped. Turned and shot what Obi-Wan hoped would be her final glance at the deadly dark Lord.
Their gaze was long, intense. Though he couldn't see the amber eyes that had hated him on Mustafar, he had no doubt they were locked to Padmé now. The senator seemed to see through the dark mask, looking for a long time before turned back to Obi-Wan.
All will turn out right. You've made the best decision he quietly praised her.
Then out of nowhere she raised her right and slapped him across the cheek. Hard.
"Where are my children?" Padmé angrily demanded.
"I've hidden them. For their own safety," he replied in disbelief.
Rage wasn't an emotion Padmé was familiar with. Usually she could see the rationale, or at least sympathise with a person's motivation. But this was no ordinary situation. And her rage flooded her veins as never before.
Their own safety? How could they possibly be safe when he'd taken them away from their parents?! Who loved them! Even if she'd died, Anakin was still here.
They should be with him!
"You're a kidnapper! Are you a murderer too? If you've so much as harmed a single skin cell I will triumph where Anakin failed and I will slaughter you myself!"
Obi-Wan in shock was something she'd never actually set eyes on before today. But now she had a perfectly fine view. Her hand stung but she couldn't care less.
She wanted her babies. Now. They'd been tiny, harmless little things. They'd been living inside her. Created by her love for her husband. And they should be nowhere else in the galaxy besides her arms at this moment.
Obi-Wan stared her down. His shock fading as his lips clenched together and his jaw locked. Physically without orally saying that he wouldn't tell her. Her! Their mother!
Padmé locked her gaze onto him and stared right back. He'd claimed Anakin had changed and was a very great threat – what about him! He'd been there when she gave birth, had denied her the one moment she'd longed to share with her beloved, and stolen her newborns!
Luke, Leia… her heart was mournful even though she didn't yet know their fate.
Their intense eyes were locked, both standing their ground as they each waited for the other to break the silence. It could have gone on forever except on the other side of the room a horrible sound, the synthesised version of a choked sob let out
At that moment she did something she was sure her younger self would have deplored. She forgave him. For all he had done, she forgave him. Without the other, neither of them existed. Her heart was locked to his in every way imaginable. He was her Anakin, if she knew nothing else in this life, she knew that.
So she turned back to him and without even fully realising she was doing it, smiled sadly. Gestured just quietly for him to come to her.
Anakin was across the room in a heartbeat. By her side before Obi-Wan had a chance to back away and Padmé could doubt her decision. She didn't. He was alive. The truth of that hit her square in the face. For all the questions she'd frantically been asking all day, for all the flurry or hurt she'd felt when no one would answer her desperate pleas, for all the mistruth that had begun to wind its way into her mind – Anakin was alive.
Here, and breathing if only barely, and wanting to be with her just as desperately as he always had. That bizarre suit may conceal his features, his expressions, the passionate soft tones of his voice, his entire body, but not his stance. The way he stood was something she would recognise anywhere.
Without even thinking she turned into the padded black and tried to press herself against him. Only to feel him flinch, and gasp in pain. She quickly drew back, the mere idea that she'd hurt him torturous enough. Her arms had threaded around his waist but the stiffness in his posture was palpable.
What has Obi-Wan done to him?
Withdrawing herself from his body hurt, but she did it all the same. Instead just turning her eyes on him and trying to see through those darkened lenses.
"Ani, there were two of them. A little boy and a little girl. Our," she choked back a lump in her throat as she thought of how perfect they'd been. The bare glimpse she'd caught of each of them. "Our baby is twins."
He obviously longed to hold her. And she wanted nothing more than to be buried in his arms. Sharing his strength at this moment when she most needed it. But if his reaction just before had been anything to go by, it wasn't possible. His hand did rest in the small of her back however. And that small touch, of his glove to her hospital gown, expressed more love and made her feel more complete than any hug or kiss or caress her family had given her in the last twelve hours.
Their family would be complete now, if it weren't for what Anakin had done.
No she quietly corrected herself. Not just what Anakin has done. What I helped to foster. If Obi-Wan hadn't disapproved. Hadn't created mistrust between them and then stowed away on my ship. If he hadn't taken them away. Just because Anakin is in love with me.
She felt even more powerful with him there behind her. Supporting her every move.
"Bring them back, Obi-Wan," he seethed the master's name.
"No," Obi-Wan immediately countered and Anakin felt like screaming.
Right now he couldn't care less about the Jedi. He'd even let him leave with his life. All Anakin Skywalker wanted was to allay the terrible fear Padmé was radiating. And satisfy her overwhelming need to hold her children.
He needed her to be happy.
"They are my responsibility," Obi-Wan continued.
Anakin almost raised an eyebrow, until the pain of severe burns to most of his skin reminded him why that would be a bad idea. Besides the fact that no one would see it.
They are not your responsibility Anakin quietly countered. He had been raised as a Jedi, he knew perfectly well what the master intended to do with them. Raise them as Jedi. Deny them love. And probably teach them to hunt down their father. Things even Padmé at her most self-righteous would never want them to do. All they had ever wanted for their baby was for it to be happy and healthy. Their baby. Their responsibility. He was about to say as much as loud, when the beautiful ball of fire beneath his fingertips did something much better.
Quietly snipped "I don't remember you in our bed."
Even Anakin's shock resonated in the force at those words.
"I remember Ani," she continued unhindered.
Taking his right hand, the one she knew was prosthetic and couldn't cause him pain, and clasping it in her own.
"I remember worrying for months about him, waiting for him to come home. I remember him telling me it was the most wonderful thing in his life. I remember him feeling it kick. I remember having a discussion about sexes and names with him. I remember sleeping tucked up into his side. And I remember him falling to the darkside to try and save me. Remind me where you became a part of that story Obi-Wan, because I have no recollection."
She knows. That long speech should have lifted his spirits, and made him laugh. There was nothing better than hearing her soft accusations fired one after the other at the man Anakin now hated more than anything. Instead, all he could feel was heavy-hearted. Because Padmé knew. That every horrible thing he'd done, he'd done it to try and save her.
Before he could become too lost in his thoughts a doctor entered across the room and started. Surprisingly, instead of addressing Padmé, the patient, he looked directly at Anakin.
"I thought you were going to visit your sister for a few moments. I told you that you couldn't be out of the burns ward more than twenty minutes, what are you doing up here? That suit will destroy your skin if you're not careful."
Obi-Wan looked from Anakin, to the doctor, and back again.
"He's not your patient, please leave us," he said convincingly, the wave of his fingers by his side only subtle.
Unfortunately the good doctor wasn't so easy to confuse. He didn't even pause to give Obi-Wan a moment.
"Of course he's my patient. Third degree plasma burns to eighty percent of his body."
Obi-Wan wondered how any normal person could survive such a catastrophic event. Anakin barely had, and likely only because he'd been conceived by the force itself.
"Lava fire and coals, not plasma," Anakin corrected out of nowhere.
The doctor tipped his head in question.
And Obi-Wan couldn't believe they were having this discussion. A resurrected Senator, an outlaw Jedi, and a deadly Lord of the Sith standing perfectly normally in a brightly lit hospital room debating burns.
"No, I remember your case file quite correctly."
"I'm not your patient. My injuries have already been dealt with as best they can."
"Then why are you in that suit?" the doctor countered.
Why is he alive at all, after what I did to him, would be a much better question.
"My lungs don't have the capacity to breathe on their own."
Padmé sucked in a deep breath of air and Anakin turned to her. Obi-Wan could almost imagine the sad eyes he'd witnessed on more than one occasion. The ones he'd thought meant a sorrow at never experiencing a life they both obviously longed to have together. Now that he looked back, it was probably more a sorrow that they'd have to wait a little longer to be together in private.
How ridiculously naïve he'd been.
The doctor approached him with a disbelieving face.
"When were these burns sustained?"
"Four days ago."
The doctor grabbed his comlink and started barking orders.
"What are you doing?" Obi-Wan asked calmly, wondering if they could return to their life-or-death discussion about the fate of Senator Amidala, her children, the Jedi Order and the galaxy or if this doctor was going to keep them all entertained with his irritating questions on Anakin's physical state.
Not that many a young woman hadn't held up missions on previous occasions wanting to know much on just that – Anakin's physical state. Suddenly he could see why Anakin had been so dismissive. And it had nothing to do with Jedi distance.
"Who was your treating physician? Where were you treated?"
"There was no physician, only droids. On Coruscant."
Anakin's mild confusion settled out into the force just gently, like silt falling to the bottom of a pond. These were very odd questions considering Amidala had literally been dead this time yesterday.
"You've been operated on?"
"Well, yes. Nothing can be done, please leave us."
He settled his eyes on Padmé, and the anguish he felt at seeing her dark eyes fill with tears was almost akin to the throbbing in the force at the death of thousands of Jedi. It made Obi-Wan all the more angry that Anakin had never truly been accepted into their Order. How had they made such a critical mistake when the force itself literally breathed through Anakin?
"Burns from fire and contact heat are incredibly different to plasma burns. This suit," the doctor pointed but did not touch, indicating he knew just how painful the skin underneath could be when touched "is designed for short term mobility with plasma burns only. Twenty minutes at most. How long have you been in it?"
Anakin paused and seemed to be considering something.
There was that feeling again. That cheery settling of the force into an almost harmonious balance. Completely inappropriate. He'd consider it later though. Right now he was, confused.
"Three – we have to get you down to the burns ward! You should still be immersed in bacta, and you should never have been put in this suit! It's probably retarding the healing process!"
"But –" Anakin began to protest.
Then something amazing happened. Amidala's fingers compressed. Just a little, around the hand holding Anakin's. And just like that his protest died. It was something Obi-Wan had never borne witness to. Had never even imagined. The greatest power in the universe, one he had thought could never be stopped after seeing this creature emerge after the mess he'd let on Mustafar, that power could be overcome with a simple touch. No words, no discussion. Her want alone was enough to quell him.
He had turned them against one another, and all along he should have used Padmé's strength as his ally.
"Can I come with him?" she inquired softly.
The doctor turned to Padmé like he didn't even know she was there. And Anakin squeezed her fingers harder. His wife was alive. Their children were alive. And his debilitating injuries, the ones that would have confined him to this suit and keep him in pain for the rest of his life, had been mistreated.
One person really couldn't expect such happiness in one day.
Although – immersion in bacta? Anakin shuddered, remembering why he'd been free of that particular burden for many years now. His hope almost died again.
"I can't go into bacta. I have prosthetics," he quietly informed the doctor.
Watching as the man still recoiled at the sight of Padmé. Not in disgust, but awe. Suddenly his voice became much quieter, and the respect was obvious.
"For-forgive me m'lady. I-I didn't know this was your suite or I should never have presumed…"
He trailed off and the room fell into silence.
Anakin's thoughts turning over and over. It was so much to take in – his treatment had been wrong. But why – why would the Emperor – even as he thought the name he knew why. To keep him subservient. The perfect apprentice. There would be no killing in his sleep for that Sith Master. A spike of anger shuddered through Anakin's entire being, and he was glad he'd already done away with the evil fiend.
"Prostheic – s?" Padmé asked quietly by his side.
He closed his eyes briefly, then turned to her. Wishing she could see the sorrow in his eyes. That he would never touch her properly again. Her words seemed to drag the doctor out of his stupor though. His tone much quieter, much less authoritarian, he responded
"Bacta technology has advanced much over the course of the war. How many do you have?"
Anakin had Padmé's hand in the metal appendage she was familiar with. The one she'd explored many times. Hoping it would bring her comfort as he answered
Her choked sob just about broke his heart.
"Four?" she repeated.
The sorrow and disbelief thrummed at him. Almost overwhelmed him with its intensity. I'm so sorry he apologised. Hating that he'd done this to her even more than he hated Obi-Wan for doing it. Even more than it had hurt to lose his legs and arm.
"We can change the bacta mix, it won't be a problem. Please, come down and let me treat you."
He couldn't be away from Padmé. That was the only thought on his mind. He'd been away from her once, believed he'd lost her. And he never wanted to feel that bereft again. Foregoing treatment was his only option if it meant being away from Padmé.
Remembering her earlier question he repeated it.
"Can Senator Amidala come?"
The doctor shoot quizzical looks between them, then scurried to a small data terminal by the wall. Punching in some commands and obviously checking Padmé's condition. Then nodding.
"I'll get you a hoverchair my lady. Give me one moment."
He disappeared, leaving the three of them all alone, but barely a flickering of breath had passed before he returned with the hoverchair and Anakin was carefully helping Padmé into it. Seeing how carefully she moved. How she winced as she lowered herself. Getting an inkling of the pain her body was in after experiencing childbirth. Trying to calm her through the force he hoped he was relieving her pain as she clutched his prosthetic hand.
Then she turned her beautiful eyes on Obi-Wan.
"We're going to the burns ward. You're going to bring our children to us. Now."
Her tone made it obvious she was not to be meddled with. And because of that, Obi-Wan looked all the more confused.
Beru Lars hummed a quiet tune she vaguely remembered from her childhood. She paced back and forth across the width of the little bedroom. She bounced the baby boy in what she hoped was a soothing rhythm. She even stroked her fingertips down the side of his face in an attempt to calm him. Nothing helped.
This would be the third day in a row since he'd been brought to them that the little thing refused to stop crying. Yesterday he'd finally cried himself into sleep with exhaustion.
"Please, Luke," she begged but it did no good.
Owen appeared with a container of warm milk, offering to feed it to their young nephew.
"Anything?" he wanted to know.
The young wife shook her head and handed over the only son of a man she'd met ever so briefly all those years ago. He'd been stubborn then. Just as his child was now.
"Here you go," Owen offered.
Her heart broke a little more as the infant clamped tiny gums closed and twisted his head away.
"Not again," Beru sighed in defeat.
"Come on Luke. You must be hungry by now," Owen chimed in.
Nothing. Luke writhed uncooperatively, refusing to take the offered nourishment.
"He's going to dehydrate. If he doesn't take it in the next few hours, I think we're going to need to go to a med centre," Beru murmured practically.
Carefully hiding her broken heart, that even after hours spent together, she couldn't even bond with this unknowing baby. Owen freed an arm from his nephew, and slipped it over her shoulders.
"It will be alright," he quietly reassured, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
She wasn't so sure.
Padmé carefully got to her feet as Anakin lay out on the examination bed the doctor indicated. Watching in some fascination as a number of nurses and other doctors appeared. When Anakin had stridden in she had assumed he was in his permanent solution. Healed as much as possible. The team that swarmed around him like he was an emergency patient bespoke a different conclusion altogether.
They were touching him like a man who hadn't even been treated yet.
She silently took up his hand again, watching as the doctor from upstairs approached with a pair of scissors.
"This is going to hurt," he apologised and Padmé looked at him like he was mad.
"Then don't cut him with scissors!" she yelped, holding out her hand to still the tool.
The doctor gave a sad grin and shook his head.
"No, this is to cut the suit off. If he has fire burns as he claims, then he should never have been put into it. His skin is probably trying to regenerate, and in the process sticking to the inside fabric. You must be in terrible pain," he sympathetically addressed his last words down to Anakin.
She looked down in horror as he quietly answered "yes."
"We can't risk pulling the suit off. It would likely tear a layer of skin, or two, with it. This way we can go slowly, carefully. Then I can do a proper analysis."
Anakin reached down for her interfering hand and gently drew it away. Allowing the doctor to get on with his work. And even through the mask, Padmé could see him stiffening in pain as the doctor began to peel the fabric back.
It was horrific. All his skin was either bright red and covered in pustulant sores or charred black. To make it worse, she couldn't see his eyes. The one thing that would express to her how he was feeling no matter what. And his attempt at a calming
"It's alright Padmé, it will be alright," only came out in that horribly mechanical voice. Reminding her that there was no part of her Anakin that had remained untouched.
Finally the suit was all cut away. One of the nurses went to get a sheet to protect Anakin's modesty. But the doctor had to stop her. Embarrassing the medical staff as he explained that nothing could be touching Anakin's skin. Suggesting that perhaps Padmé would like to leave. At that moment another physician was carefully unlocking the helmet. And in that moment their eyes met.
It was terrible. If his body had been bad, his face was worse. His lips were cracked and raw. The hair burnt not only off his head but eyebrows and lids too. But his eyes. His beautiful eyes. A clear blue, just like they'd always been. And staring up at her like only she could right everything.
She reached out her hand to touch him, to run her fingertips across his brow. Oh Ani her heart whimpered, unable to keep away. Only when she saw his eyes blink, as if suddenly terrified, did she think about what she was doing. Her hand froze half-way and the forlorn look in his eyes said it all.
"M'lady?" someone prompted, interrupting their quiet moment. "If you'd like to leave –"
the nurse pointedly looked below Anakin's waist then up at the Senator, who only dragged her gaze away from Anakin's long enough to give the woman the death stare.
"Do you think I'm here on some mercy mission?" the still hormonal senator demanded. "That my middle is swollen because of a disease? My children weren't miraculously conceived, that has been inside me more times than I can count. You'd do better to worry about my husband, not your ridiculously false modesty."
Anakin had the beginnings of a smirk quirking his lips when she turned back. But it quickly pulled into a frown, and it was immediately obvious even that small movement hurt him.
Padmé looked up worriedly to the doctor who looked a lot more positive.
"All is not lost," he soothed, patting Padmé's shoulder then leaning over Anakin.
"While we get your tank ready you'd best say your goodbyes for now."
The word goodbye was not one Padmé wanted to hear in relation to Anakin. At all.
NO! she panicked. You said you could fix him!
"You're going to be spending the next two or three days in bacta"
he finished and Padmé breathed a sigh of relief.
"I love you," she leaned down to whisper into his barely functioning ear. "Tell me you still love me," she quietly begged of him.
For a moment feeling the terrible sorrow that had encompassed her on Mustafar when she had realised it was Anakin's control of the force that was slowly choking her.
His head turned on the shiny metallic slab, his breath blowing across her ear as he promised "all I am is my love for you. We'll get our babies back, I promise you. Stay nearby while I'm in there?"
"They couldn't drag me away," she murmured, her eyes drooping with the longing to kiss him.
But seeing that even movement was hurting him, there was no way he could stand the press of lips. So instead, she took up his right hand and pressed her kisses to it like she had on their wedding night.
"I'll see you in two or three days. Anakin."
Their connection was strong, you couldn't doubt that. Obi-Wan looked at the bed the Senator had asked to have placed in the same room as the Sith. Wondering how he had possibly missed this devotion. The young man was unconscious in the fluid, but his probing of the force continued. He noted Obi-Wan's entrance, but the hatred and need for destruction he expected never came. Instead it gently probed and moved back. Stopping when it found Amidala's light. Settling itself into her warmth and not really caring about the world beyond her.
It was the middle of the night. The only time Obi-Wan felt it safe to investigate just what was going on. He didn't think Padmé had quite recovered from her ordeal, if their confrontation earlier was anything to go by. And he still wasn't sure just what was going on with – it. Vader. Anakin. Sith, Jedi, human. The certainty that Anakin was gone had fled from him. If that had been true he would have been armed, and he would have tried to kill Obi-Wan the second he set eyes on him. Instead his main concern had been the Senator. And her family.
Their family he mused, studying the bubbles that floated through the bacta.
He looked towards the bed, where the young Senator was herself hooked up to a drip, belying the picture-of-health façade she portrayed. Occasionally turning her head and sighing as if to move into a caress. If it were just her and Anakin/Vader/the-force-knew-what and the Emperor were dead, then he would retrieve her children from their respective hiding places in a heartbeat. Her longing was almost palpable, and her grief only suppressed by the focus on another. No being should have to suffer that amount of emotional turmoil – and the burden was obviously never meant for her or anyone else to bear.
But him – how could one truly know his intentions? Four days before it had channelled the darkside through its hands and choked her. This morning it had bolted across the galaxy to be with her. It had pledged allegiance to the Sith, yet even the Sith wouldn't support this relationship with the democracy-supporting Senator.
He carefully probed the force around it once more.
'Anakin, Obi-Wan, You can call him Anakin.'
"That's not what he is," Obi-Wan disputed, not even turning.
He hoped this wasn't another one of Qui-Gon's interventions. The last one hadn't worked out so well. If he'd ignored the force-ghost he would have beaten the Sith here and Padmé would have been long gone, hidden safely out of his reach.
"Oh yes he is," Qui-Gon disputed, shimmering into form across from him.
Obi-Wan didn't even have the good manners to appear startled anymore. He had seen too much in his life. Too many horrible, horrible things.
"He's not," Obi-Wan denied again.
Just as he caught a whisper of a thought. Straying out from beneath Anakin's shields as, unconscious, he tried to protect his bond with Padmé. 'Want to hold them'. It was one, simple thought. Permeated with a longing Obi-Wan himself had never felt for anything.
"Pregnancy is meant to prepare young people for parenthood, and though he hadn't experienced a lot of it, his path towards fatherhood had begun, Obi-Wan. Don't pretend to understand it."
Another emotion slipped free. A caress of love for Padmé.
He must feel Qui-Gon's presence and be distracted. It was the only explanation for why he'd felt nothing in almost an hour and suddenly Anakin was struggling to protect his thoughts.
The ethereal presence stood between him and the tank. Forcing Obi-Wan to look at his master.
"You have to bring them back," Qui-Gon said firmly.
Obi-Wan immediately knew who 'them' was. Leia and Luke.
"Absolutely not," he smoothly replied.
"The force wills it Obi-Wan."
He couldn't believe he was hearing this.
"He would train them as Sith. They are the only hope now."
That cryptic answer confused the breathing Jedi. Of course they were. Vader had ensured that. Brought the Jedi order to its knees. Massacred the force itself. The only way to end that darkness was best kept as far away from him as possible.
"He's had a taste of life without his family. Now he truly knows what he wants Obi-Wan, and he will be most cooperative if you give it to him. Trust me."
Obi-Wan carefully considered those words, turning them over in his mind.
"Cooperative how?" he murmured, intrigued.
He couldn't hope Anakin had returned. The fall would be too great if he even allowed himself to try. It was hard enough to go on knowing everything you lived for had been lost. To do that after a second loss would be heart-wrenching. Impossible.
"Look at what he's already done. Destroyed the Jedi, murdered the separatist leaders, choked his wife –"
"Killed the Sith master," Qui-Gon patiently interrupted.
WHAT? What did he say? No – that can't be true!
"Why?" he asked quietly, his thoughts a whirl of confusion as he turned back to Anakin's tank.
It was almost plausible it was Anakin, if that were true.
"At a very basic level, Anakin understands only a few things."
"Loyalty," Obi-Wan conceded.
"And love," Qui-Gon concluded for him. "He loves Padmé, that is the reason he did all this you know."
Obi-Wan nodded sadly. He hadn't known, but it implicitly made sense in a way nothing else did. Anakin's lust for power didn't come from nowhere.
"His love for Padmé couldn't save her, and Sidious' disloyalty was revealed. It was all Anakin needed."
Obi-Wan swallowed as he tried to digest everything that had been revealed. The Sith gone. Killed by Anakin. Because of Padmé – all because of Padmé.
"When?" he asked hoarsely.
"About twenty-four hours ago, give or take," Qui-Gon smiled cheerfully. "Right before he came here."
The joy in the force. This was what it was about. The Sith were gone. Anakin was all that remained of their order and if Qui-Gon was right then even that – the Sith were gone. After a lifetime of fighting, the Sith were gone. He was overwhelmed, sinking into a chair. Letting his head fall between his knees as he took deep breaths.
The force ghost's voice was more sombre when it spoke again.
"Unfortunately, my young friend, it's not only the parents that long for their children."
He paused and Obi-Wan looked up to him. This was so much, so very very much to take in all at once.
"Leia, and her brother, neither have eaten, slept. They're both longing for the completeness they know they should feel. Unless they find their way into Anakin's presence and Padmé's arms soon …"
Obi-Wan stopped. Stopped breathing, stopped thinking.
"You must be joking."
After all that he'd done to hide them. To protect them 'til they grew. To ensure they would reach adulthood. To see them restore the order. Now they wouldn't survive without him anyway? No! It couldn't be right!!
Qui-Gon turned and studied the half-mechanical body floating in bacta.
"His longing to hold them is balanced by a longing to be held. Just as you couldn't put another child in his arms and convince him it was his, so you can't put them in the arms of others and convince them, they are home. They are his children, what did you expect?"
Padmé awoke early in the morning to find Anakin's doctor checking readouts and her own carefully removing her drip.
"M'lady," she quietly greeted, nodding her head to Padmé.
Padmé looked down to where the needle was being extracted from her arm and winced.
"Don't worry, it's going for good this time," the doctor explained. "We're still not quite sure how…"
Padmé shook her head. How to explain her rising from the dead, four days after her heart had stopped beating? She didn't even know herself, although she had her suspicions. She'd once told Anakin his love was all she needed. And she suspected that in this case that was more true than either of them had ever believed. To the doctor she simply explained
"The force must be with me," and left it at that.
"I'm just going to check a few things," came a short explanation, even as Padmé nodded.
Soon warm hands were pressing at her middle through her nightgown.
"Does this hurt?"
Padmé shook her head. The hands moved up a little higher
"How about here?"
Padmé looked down and realised just what was going on. This was a specialist. And patients who mysteriously come back to life wouldn't be a very big field.
"You're an obstetrician," she comprehended.
The doctor nodded, still pushing down on her fluid-filled middle. Obviously trying to make conversation she asked
"Is there anything we can get for you? Your family are anxious to see you."
My family are either unconscious or half-way across the galaxy I suspect.
Padmé didn't say her thoughts out loud but only asked "I'd like to be alone for today."
Thinking that she couldn't even try to focus on explaining her life to them until her life was picked up from all the tiny pieces it was shattered into and reassembled into one whole picture. Complete. The woman nodded in understanding and didn't push the issue.
"I would like a datareader and holonet access though," she requested.
"Of course, I'd be happy to get you one. With the death of the Emperor it's hard to imagine there would be anything more uplifting to the spirits I could prescribe."
Padmé's face lit up.
All she got was a knowing smile and "I'll get that reader for you."
She clambered out of her bed as best she could, still in her hospital nightgown as she crossed the room to his tank. Where he still floated. He looked better. Much better. His skin not so ragged, the angry red fading to a less powerful pink. And the black patches all but gone.
"Oh Anakin," she grinned.
She pressed her palm to the tank. Immediately hoping that the Emperor's death was his doing. That her 'if it works' warrior had finally made his choice. It would have to be someone pretty powerful to have defeated the Sith Lord.
"How are his lungs?" she murmured to his doctor.
Studying the curves of his face. His lips looked thoroughly kissable. Much improved since yesterday. If this was how well he was healing then just maybe they could truly be together again.
The breathing apparatus strapped around his mouth she couldn't make even a rough diagnosis herself. There was no way to tell the functioning of his lungs by watching their inflation. After all, he might not be doing that himself.
The doctor looked up to her with a smile and her hopes soared.
There was a long pause while he helped her to sit down again. Her knees could barely support her. Good – it was good, Anakin would be alright.
"He'll be able to breathe on his own, no suit, when he comes out."
She squeezed her eyes shut. Hearing all the words she needed sweeping into her brain. No suit. He'd be alright. Her Anakin. He'd be her Anakin again. She'd be able to hold him – she desperately needed to hold him. And be held by him. She could almost feel his skin under her lips right now. Tears fell through her fingers and onto her lap as relief finally swept through her.
His doctor nodded, trading places with the obstetrician as she returned with the datareader.
The female doctor waited until they were alone and then pulled a chair up next to Padmé.
"I need to ask you some personal questions."
Padmé nodded, her throat closed and her eyes still flooded with tears as she contemplated her life from now on. He would come first. She'd make sure of it. They would spend their days together, just as he'd once begged for. Never again would she deny him. His insatiable hunger.
"Are your breasts tender?"
Padmé recoiled, not expecting the question to be quite so personal.
Self-consciously her hands folded across her chest, protecting the area in question from view. The doctor too seemed unsure, caught between her human sensitivity and her medical duty.
"Your baby isn't with you," the doctor quietly noted.
Obviously embarrassed by the observation. And also aware that it might cause some pain where it definitely wasn't needed. Considering the influential senator's obvious attachment to the man floating in the bacta tank. Coupled with the lack of evidence of a baby having ever been in the ward.
She had drawn her own conclusions, about a women who died so near to labour. And seemed to have decided that the child had somehow joined her in death.
"Babies," Padmé slowly murmured, looking away. "I had twins."
The room fell into silence and the doctor struggled to say anything else.
"You've not been feeding them…"
This was an awkward conversation for both of them.
"They hurt a little," Padmé confirmed, sadly looking down at her hands.
Not wanting to talk about herself. Not with her thoughts on where her children could actually be. Whether her husband would truly be alright.
"We can talk about this later," the doctor assured, getting to her feet. "When it starts to feel uncomfortable page me and we can do something to alleviate the pain."
Padmé nodded distractedly. Her worry now focused on Leia. And Luke. And whether she'd ever get to feed them herself. Whether the nursery she'd designed in little distracted sketches would ever exist beyond her own imagination.
Anakin awoke, his eyes popping open to see a liquidy blue haze. Bacta he thought to himself. I'm in bacta. His body rose to the top while his thoughts tried to order themselves. Tried to remember where and why he was injured. As he was carefully removed from the tank he set eyes on the only thing he needed to. Padmé was standing there anxiously watching. Waiting for him.
His face lit up. Giving her a big smile. Only to feel a peculiar stiffness in his cheeks. A tingling sensation on his lips. Why did she look so anxious?
"Your skin is healing nicely," a voice he vaguely recognised told him.
He was carefully laid out on a metallic slab. Carefully washed off by some nurses as Padmé came to his side. He reached for her with his human hand, not caring who saw. Only to recoil as he saw metal. Oh he remembered. Hurting Padmé, the Jedi, their babies. Obi-Wan. He was just about to fall in to depression when Padmé took up the digits he offered. Drew them to her rosy mouth and kissed them with a wary smile.
"Can you take a few deep breaths?"
Dragging his eyes away from the wondrous site of Padmé before him, he looked up to the twi'lek. Realising that he was no longer looking through red lenses, he finally understood exactly why he was in bacta. The doctor pressed a tool to his chest and Anakin did as instructed, taking in a few deep, precious breaths all on his own.
"Kiss me," he cheekily demanded of Padmé.
Not caring who was there to listen. Or what nurse or doctor watched as she touched him. But he didn't quite get the reaction he was hoping for. Instead of disappearing into a cave of dark curls, his hand was raised to press at her heart. Even as she shook her head. A lamenting smile twitching the corners of her mouth.
"I'm afraid you can't have contact with others for a few more days yet. We're going to wrap most of your body in bacta dressings that will need to be changed twice a day, and you will have to remain within the hospital."
Anakin had stopped listening. He could feel something – familiar. Coming towards them. Quickly. His eyes shot open, startled. Shooting his attention towards the doorway just a moment before Obi-Wan appeared. With a baby in his arms.
His heart swelled as he set eyes on his baby boy for the first time. The little thing felt like light. Soothing and whole and relaxing the force around him. Just like Padmé. His arms ached to draw the small ball into his arms and just hold him. Look into his eyes. What colour were his eyes?
Anakin continued to reach out to him in the force, even though he couldn't physically touch him. Something didn't feel right. His brow furrowed, attention splitting between the two members of his family. Padmé turned from him and he could feel her surprise.
"Your son," Obi-Wan hesitantly offered.
She didn't budge. From her place beside him, where she held his hand, she didn't seem able to move. But he felt her swell. And he saw her eyes fill with tears. Carefully Anakin withdrew his hand. Hoping Padmé would hold their son for the both of them. While he brushed against Luke's innocent force-presence, luxuriating in the feel of it.
Except for that twinge.
"Is something wrong with him?" Anakin inquired.
Trying to keep his temper calmed. After all, something good had happened – something that had convinced Obi-Wan to return their child. Anakin felt he had to prove he was worthy of such a precious gift.
The Jedi master didn't quite answer his question, instead following Padmé to where she had sunk onto her bed. Placing Luke in her arms. The baby was calm, silent.
"Luke," she said softly.
Her eyes were locked to the baby and Anakin's heart leapt. It was beautiful. The most wondrous site he'd ever laid eyes upon. Padmé and her baby she'd longed for. Their baby. From where he strained to lift his head, halfway across the room, he could see them. Instantly bonding. The doctor urged him to lie back again so they could begin swathing him in dressings but Anakin wouldn't comply. Succumbing to the feeling of completeness as he drunk in Padmé's sensations. Her baby in her arms.
Padmé's doctor made her presence known, approaching the bonding pair with a hopeful smile.
"Is this one of them?" the woman asked kindly.
Took one look at Luke and frowned. Sending Anakin into an absolute panic before a word had crossed her lips.
Nothing could have sent a dagger to Padmé's heart faster. Wrong? She instantly fretted. No! No it's not fair! This is my first time – holding him. Please, he's perfect. He felt just right against her.
"How old is he?" the doctor wanted to know.
Padmé couldn't even get her lips to move. Those words were tearing her apart. The mere idea that something could be wrong with Luke was agonising.
"Six days," Obi-Wan quietly answered nearby but Padmé had no time for him. "He refuses to eat, I think he's dehydrated, and he hasn't slept almost since he was born."
The doctor waved a device over Luke who was looking up at her. With Anakin's eyes. Her baby had the same clear blue crystals as her young husband.
"It sounds like we need to get him on a drip…" the doctor trailed off.
Luke was hungrily nuzzling at his mother's chest. Without even really thinking she'd carefully skimmed the top of her robe aside. Watched as he immediately latched on, as if he'd been waiting all six of his days for her. And drank from her body like his father did – a starving beast.
She ran her fingers over the smooth pale skin of his forehead.
"Oh yeah, is that good?" she murmured down to him and him alone.
Not realising how soft and soothing her voice was to the young ears that had previously heard his own name spoken only once by her.
Obi-Wan looked away awkwardly, and Anakin gazed at the pair of them like no other site in his life could fulfil him but Padmé was lost. In the sweetly innocent son who she had thought she would never set eyes on. Who stared up at her with the quiet promise that he would rely on her for everything. His warm weight had settled itself into her arms and she herself settled in to feed him. Watching in quiet amazement as he didn't even stop to breathe.
Obi-Wan and the doctor quietly disappeared outside. And from across the room a slightly healed Anakin was almost fully encased in temporary bandages. The medical staff left after helping him to his feet, and he carefully crossed the room on his own. Gingerly sinking to the bed by her side.
Padmé felt him settle beside her. Felt the weight of his metallic hand on her shoulder. Saw the long, shining fingers stroke across the infant's forehead. Tracked Luke's blue eyes as they moved from her to their mirror image in an older face.
"Hi," Anakin greeted the curious gaze Luke sent his way.
And her world was almost complete.
With tears running down her cheeks unstoppably now, she leaned over and ever-so-carefully rested her head on Anakin's shoulder. Unabashedly weeping.
"He feels so good," she admitted as she cried.
Anakin's thumb caressing her shoulder just about pushed her into emotional melt down. Why – why was the force being so kind to her? She was getting more than she deserved. And every moment of it felt like a guilty pleasure. He could read her mind, or her emotions at the very least, because Anakin murmured against her ear
"you deserve it Padmé."
She wanted to nuzzle into him but restrained herself. Knowing how tender his skin still was. Even with all those bandages to help him heal. In his first demonstration that he held all the power his father did, like he'd somehow picked up on her feelings, Luke did it instead. Nuzzled his little nose even further into her soft skin and clasped at it with his miniscule fingers.
There were quiet chuckles from an enamoured set of parents. The tiny family's presences singing in one pleasantly harmonious tune to the balanced force. Though Padmé couldn't feel that, she could feel her own relief. To know her own baby was in her arms, and she would never surrender him, allow him to be taken from her again.
She felt Anakin's fingers on her cheek and sighed deeply.
"He's helping you," that soft warm voice curled over her skin.
With a soft note of inquiry she barely looked up from the baby who had lived inside her.
"You were aching. Before. He's helping you," Anakin partially clarified.
It took a moment to realise what he was talking about. And a moment more to acknowledge her husband knew everything about her, whether she told him or not.
"Yes," she softly acknowledged.
The aching of milk gathering but not drawn had accumulated into almost agony. But now, now it was receding. Disappearing in the manner her body had altered for.
Obi-Wan appeared in the room again. She knew because she heard Anakin reluctantly say
"Thank you," to the sound of footsteps.
Glancing up showed her the Jedi Master bowing his head in acceptance.
"Your daughter will be here in a few hours, and she's bringing your droids with her," he informed.
My daughter. Leia Padmé wondered. Overwhelmed once more with delight. Both of them. She would have both of them back with her. And Ani will be alright.
The tears that had never stopped trickling now rained down her cheeks. She mumbled incoherently, ignoring his condition and now pressing into Anakin's chest at his insistence. Surrendering to the feeling of wholeness.
"I'm in need of rest. I will return tomorrow," Obi-Wan quietly made his excuses to leave and the Senator's head shot up.
Looking at the man whom, until a few minutes ago, she'd wished nothing but painful death.
"Obi-Wan," she stopped him.
Her throat still choked up.
"Please, our apartment. We're both here and it's empty for now – please feel free to stay there."
"Thank you m'lady," he dipped his head again and made to leave.
"Be safe," Anakin beseeched Luke, stroking his tiny fingers.
Then he pressed his palm to Padmé's cheek. Brushed his fingers reverently against her hair. Locked his warm blue eyes on hers. And assured
"I'll be back in a moment" as he stood.
Obi-Wan's hand drifted down to his hip on its own. The mass of bandages followed him out into the hallway where they then stood. Facing one another in absolute silence. Even though he'd had a good day to himself to try and make order of his thoughts, it hadn't been nearly enough.
The Sith Lord was dead. The news was flooding every hyperspace channel, every holobroadcast. The Chancellor had been struck down and his sinister plan revealed.
As if that wasn't enough to draw a Jedi to his knees. Especially one who had lost his master and apprentice, father and son, to the Dark lord. But that was only the first stumbling block.
The message he recalibrated to ward away stragglers had been the last time he'd been within the blood-soaked walls of the temple. And yet his fighter had a message waiting for him as he made his journey back to Tatooine with thoughts of retrieving Luke.
Jedi were alive.
'Sidious is dead. Be wary and make your way back to the temple.'
Watching those characters scroll across the screen had stunned him. But even as he read the words he knew it to be true. He'd have felt it before, if only he hadn't been so close to Anakin.
There was no doubt that Anakin felt joy at finding the Senator for Naboo with life breathed into her body. His release of ecstasy permeated the force around Naboo to such an extent that the entire planet literally vibrated with his positive energy. The rest of the galaxy was too dull to perceive in the face of such elation.
As he moved away from the lush paradise he could feel that the force not only rejoiced because the love of a young Jedi had been restored. The force rejoiced because its faith, and faithful had been restored.
A secure communication had verified that the temple was brimming with life, just as it had always been. That fatal wounds on fallen Jedi had healed, scorch marks of clone blasters had miraculously disappeared, and the home of peace in the Republic was restored.
Who am I to deny a man his child when the force sees it fit to reward him in such ways?
Now that same man stood across from him, his expression revealing confusion through the small window of facial features he could see through the bacta swathed head.
"You brought him back to us."
The first words spoken since that horrible duel came from the apprentice. They weren't spiteful, or even regretful. They weren't the words of a Jedi. Instead they were choked up, and full of relief.
Obi-Wan nodded, and before he could really censure himself, the words
"You're a family," slipped out of him.
Even as he said them, he knew them to be true on so deep a level. If the whole force could resonate across star systems in response to Anakin's mood, there was no way Anakin's children could be less connected to him. Especially considering his devotion to Padmé, the apparent love that had conceived them, and had happily anticipated their arrival before the Political heart of their existence had fallen apart.
So why did Anakin's eyes drift away from him now?
"Anakin?" he enquired.
That was the first time he'd used that name, and acknowledged that that person still existed.
"I don't know how," the patient confessed. "Padmé didn't tell me until the outer rim sieges were over, and by then she was already so far along. No one's ever told me…"
He trailed off, and Obi-Wan was startled that this the young man acknowledged as a weakness. Diplomacy, foreign trade negotiations, violent physical clashes, survival in an inhospitable wilderness – Anakin barely acknowledged these things as a challenge. All the things he'd tried to pass on as a Jedi.
Out of nowhere Obi-Wan laughed loudly, obviously startling his companion. Master Qui-Gon would have appreciated this!! All the skills I've taught him and only in being a father does he feel unprepared.
Still chuckling he automatically put his hand on Anakin's shoulder to steady himself. He didn't catch the wince from Anakin, but he did manage to calm himself down.
"You have worked out how to love Senator Amidala, I am sure you will work out how to be a parent with her too."
Anakin looked so doubtful at the reassuring words, that Obi-Wan felt he needed to say something else to clarify.
"I have faith that you will learn how to be a father."
"Like you did?"
That innocent statement made the aging Jedi master's heart skip a beat. Like I did he repeated quietly. His eyes studied the man in front of him, and couldn't help but remember the small boy that had been thrust upon him more than a decade ago. All masters had a chance to prepare themselves for the burden of taking a Padawan. They took the time to consider how much of themselves they would have to give, and how their lifestyles would change to accommodate another person. Every single master in the Order's history had taken their time, except him.
While Anakin may not have had the model Jedi career since leaving his tutelage, Obi-Wan knew without a doubt that he wouldn't sacrifice their time together for anything.
"Like I did," he confirmed with quiet resolution. "And in that vein, I think a good beginning would be to join Padmé and experience the beginning of your son's life."
He leaned in close and murmured "she's not the only one who has to bond with him you know. I fear one day your twins will need to be trained, and though I can teach one Padawan, someone will have to take on the other no doubt reckless new Skywalker."
It was obvious when Anakin's thoughts returned to focus on Padmé. A celebration of completion rang out a soft tune in the force for all sensitives to hear. His joke went over without a single protest and the intense blue gaze, the only thing unharmed by lava, drifted back to the open doorway.
The lava. He'd almost forgotten. Still, that discussion could wait.
"We will talk more later," he released his apprentice from their conversation.
The younger man turned his body to follow his eyes and made a direct line for the Senator.
Though every movement looked painful, he brushed his bandaged cheek across hers. While from outside Obi-Wan watched on, Padmé's eyes turned up to Anakin's, intensely loving and with a face covered in tears as she leaned into that caress that spoke more than words ever could.
Their love had brought forth a family. But it had done more than that – it had destroyed a religion and crushed democracy. And at the end of it all, when the force itself sprung forth to rescue them, their love helped do away with the horror and hatred. Their loved helped define a galaxy.