The 1st one-shot in the Post-"Salvation" universe.
Written by: Shawn
Summary: On the eve of Padme Skywalker's official ascension to the role of Vice Chair of the Republic, Anakin steals her away for a wild vacation to Cloud City.
Rating: M for sensual, sexual situations
Ship: Anakin and Padme Skywalker
Timeline/Spoilers: "Salvation" must be read in its entirety to grasp what I'm aiming for in this universe. Everything in the prequel movie series is canon up until a point in "Revenge of the Sith," and then "Salvation" takes over.
Disclaimer: Lucasfilm and George owns it all.
Authors Notes 1: I've longed to explore Anakin and Padme's life post some sort of fairy tale ending. So if they are permitted to be married, the war is over with and Palpatine is dead, Anakin is granted mastery, the children are alive and safe, Obi-Wan knows everything, and Padme at least retains her post... then what? That's the question I want to answer in this series. Its a drama and as such don't expect things to be glossed over or played down. I intend to treat P/A similar to the obsessiveness the media treats such couples in real life, as well as handle things politically in a way I hope keeps you interested.
Authors Notes 3: This is the beginning of the post "Salvation" universe. You will be introduced to new characters and reintroduced to ones who disappeared for a while. You just never know who might pop up. evil laughter
Authors Notes 3: I'm writing adults here, so expect adult situations.
Authors Notes 4: This story takes place 4 months after "Salvation"
Life is not a brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations. George Bernard Shaw
New Republic Tower
Located at the West End of the Government District
The newly built office of Vice Chair Padme Amidala Naberrie Skywalker
Galactic City, Coruscant
New Republic Tower's majestic view above the cloud line gave way to a serene, peaceful Coruscant as the sun set on another day. Very few buildings reached so high as to stand in the atmosphere itself, providing an almost ethereal sense of wonder that such a structure could even be built. From here one could see the Galactic Courts of Justice spire, the brightly lit Diplomatic Hotel, and the City Municipal Authorities Building. And with but a slight turn of one's head you could pick out the towering Skysitter Restaurant, the luxurious Novaplex Hotel with its seemingly endless rows of skydocks, and the Senatorial News Agency.
This was where one wanted to be at the end of the day. Seated above the clouds themselves.
That was why Sylar Vein knew when the opportunity of a lifetime sat before her.
Seated across from the former press spokesman for Republic High Courts Judge Vyn Grissom, whom she was fired by when she punched him for reasons never disclosed to the public, was the enigmatic Padme Skywalker. Immaculately dressed in white and lavender, she was even more beautiful in person than the countless HoloNet vids airing nightly. Early impressions were that she exuded a quiet confidence seemingly unaware of her diminutive years. Married to a Jedi Master in arguably the most controversial union ever, the newly elected Vice Chair of the Republic was the most mysteriously unique woman in the galaxy. Fact, fiction, and assumption warred over defining who she truly was in the eyes of many. Her secret life revealed before the universe, fair or not, gripped the public's attention.
Already twice her age, Sylar wondered how someone so young had lived such an incredible life already and with so much more ahead?
Warned that Mrs. Skywalker's legendary Sabbac face rarely betrayed her innermost thoughts, Sylar mentally analyzed the former Senator's every facial nuance as Padme read over her resume from a data pad. Thankful the plush Greccan office chairs were as comfortable for her more stout physique as it was for her petite, potential new boss, she waited patiently for her interview to begin, her hands folded neatly in her lap. With a few notable missteps in her own past, she felt she needed to have her best interview ever in order to get the job more coveted than working for the Supreme Chancellor himself.
Anything associated with the Skywalker's was simply the "it" place to be.
Only a week ago when the Skywalker's finally returned from Naboo after a four month sabbatical, word leaked out that the Vice Chair's staff was assembled except for an official spokesperson for her office. That job title would also include press secretary and advisor, something Sylar had more than a little experience in. Her years working in the high courts, dealing with the daily insanity that was the HoloNet press while keeping her mouth shut about things rather left unsaid publicly garnered her a great deal of support as well as criticism that her bluntness wasn't wanted in a male dominated society.
She couldn't have cared less. In many ways she felt that society was a big part of the problem to begin with.
Tall for a humanoid woman, the robust figure she was proud of despite it not resembling what passed for a model these days never held her back. Her fair complexion, courtesy of her mother for sure irked her more at times. She bruised so easily. The short, conservative style with which she wore her silver hair gave her an almost regal appearance, as did her vibrant blue eyes. And if that didn't work the strength of her voice and no-nonsense approach to dealing with matters went a long way in giving her presence.
But her, ahem, three arrests in the last four years had cautioned many who would hire her. And when you add in those looking for women in their staff to "perform" certain duties not taught in college, those who were so conscious of public opinion they had to disassociate themselves from a person with a slightly imperfect legal past, and those who had wanted to see her fail to begin with had left her job options limited.
So when she was contacted as a top candidate for a position in Vice Chair Skywalker's administration to say she was shocked would be the understatement of the millennium. But lo and behold, here she was.
Sylar was both confident and terrified at the same time. But at least she didn't look terrified.
"It says here," Padme began, seated behind her massive black-marble desk designed to convey power more than her preferred understated decor, "That your first arrest was for speeding outside repulser permitted lanes of traffic."
While certainly not the opening topic Sylar would have hoped to discuss, she dealt with it head on. "I was late for a dinner party. My husband's brother was announcing his engagement, and I lost track of time. I was detained more for my rather angry tirade than the actual speeding. I tend to fly as fast as the ship will go at times."
That reminded Padme of a certain beloved Jedi of hers. "Your next arrest came when your purse was searched at a security checkpoint, and it was discovered you were carrying a illegal narcotic. Please explain that?"
Sylar sought to make her point crystal clear. "I can assure you I am not now and have never abused drugs of any kind, although I have angered a great deal of jerks with power and influence. I was set up by a one of Palpatine's lower level flunkies when I learned of certain court judges accepting bribes to fix cases. I wanted to go to the HoloNet with a list of names, but was threatened. The drug arrest was a warning. The next time I was told I would receive my husband's eyes in the mail."
All too aware of threats against one's life and family, as well as the lower level corruption Palpatine not only allowed, but supported gave Padme a less than black-and-white view of things. Sylar's story could be checked out, but she had a sense... and this was through her ever growing ability to immerse herself in the Force, that this woman was honorable in her intentions. "All members of my staff will be randomly drug tested, including myself."
Padme continued, "Your last arrest, the one that cost you your job was when you attacked..."
"Punched once, and he had it coming," Sylar's voice rose until she took hold of professionalism. Padme seemed unaffected, thankfully enough. An outburst was the last thing she needed in a job interview. "He was cheating on his wife and expected me to lie for him to her and the press. When I refused he called me a name I'd rather not repeat, and I lost my temper. Stupid people tend to anger me. Especially dishonest, stupid people."
"I have a low tolerance for that as well. Unfortunately, in our line of work, you will encounter them at an alarming rate."
"Mrs. Skywalker, may I be frank?"
Padme, still getting used to hearing her real name, smiled accordingly, "Of course."
"You and your ridiculously handsome husband," Sylar announced out of the blue, grinning as that seemed to charm her interviewer, "Have utterly defied the word forbidden at every turn in ways that make my little mishaps seem like child's play. I would like to stand on my previous job history and recommendations as the true judge of what I am capable of and my character."
"And you shall, but I needed to discuss the other things, not to hold them against you, but to gauge in person what really happened, why, and how they affected you."
"I lost my job."
"Working for me could make you lose your life," Padme pointed out, and then as calmly as one could imagine she retrieved a blaster from her desk drawer and laid it down on the desk top. Her eyes locked with Sylar's. "Do you know how to shoot a blaster?"
Submerging a mild smirk, Sylar replied, "I normally use the bigger variety, but I can fire anything with a trigger."
"Good, because with the numerous attempts made against my life, my families countless enemies, and those who have even threatened my children(,) there is a very good chance you will need to use this to save your own life, and perhaps others. That's not tough talk but reality where I am concerned."
Your boss couldn't get any blunter than that. Sylar's respect for Padme grew exponentially "I don't scare easy."
"I like that."
"Mrs. Skywalker, I'm getting the sense I was chosen for this job for reasons other than my previous credentials. Am I right?"
"Partially," Padme said. "While you are more than qualified for the job, the insanity and danger surrounding my life at this present time and for the foreseeable future requires someone prepared to deal with anything. Someone with the utmost character and convictions. Someone savvy enough to sail the dirty waters of Coruscant's cold political world while remaining as clean as possible."
"I don't mind getting my hands dirty." Sylar watched Padme nod, seemingly pleased. "With the controversy of your marriage, your children's potential, the upcoming Senate Trials, and your hiring of an ex-mercenary/bounty hunter as your new chief of security you've set yourself up for ridicule and second-guessing. The sheer amount of people worried about another Palpatine regime are growing in numbers. And their trust in the Jedi is shaken to say the least. While your marriage to some might resemble a romantic fairy tale it could easily become a public nightmare."
"The duty to the people in reforging trust and belief that the Republic still equally and fairly represents them is our chief priority. I won't compromise doing the right thing for fear of my public approval rating, I can assure you of that," Padme stated. "Supreme Chancellor Organa has taken office without the executive powers Palpatine abused for years, so that in itself is a step in the right direction. I won't disrespect your intelligence by hiding the fact that Master Kenobi's addition to the administration is for his stature with the people as much as his ability to perform his duty. We are struggling to rebuild the trust between the Senate and the Jedi Order. That will take time, and the upcoming Senate trials as you noted won't aid in that regard."
Sylar considered as much, having followed the Holonet's previews of the trial for the past couple of weeks. "So I can assume information will be revealed that will further damage the people's trust in the Jedi?"
Padme chose her words carefully. "When Jedi Master's Masters▓ Yoda and Windu are called to the witness stand to testify before the entire galaxy certain unfavorable information will come to light. Only a united front with the Jedi, Supreme Chancellor, the Vice Chair, and the Senate standing side by side will offer the people hope that a new age has begun. But to get there a lot of ugliness and mistakes on all sides will be made public."
Sylar thought things carefully, understanding what Padme had said, and what was left up to interpretation. "You guys are really screwed."
Enjoying her blunt personality already, Padme acknowledged, "Yes, we are. The road ahead is paved with danger and uncertainty. That is why I need someone who can see through the garbage and keep our focus in the public on the issues and not the insanity of my personal life. I want someone up on that podium able to withstand the pressure of questions defaming my character, my ability to lead, my marriage, and even the right to have the post I was given. Behind closed doors I need the straight talk-advice to deal with a world I admit is a bit out of my element. In the past I never cared about my so call public persona. Now I have too. The stakes are bigger, and I am dealing in a world that won't conform to what I want it to be, so I have to survive in it to accomplish my goals. I expect success as it is the only acceptable outcome."
"I can tell this position will come with endless criticism, working horribly long hours, defending outright lies, spinning bad press, shouts of corruption, possible threats against my life, and a likely attempt or two."
Padme settled back into her chair, her hands in her lap. "What do you think?"
"Sounds like fun." At that very moment Sylar looked toward the office's entrance, catching sight of the dashing Anakin Skywalker striding in toward his wife. In his hand was a steaming cup of something Padme obviously loved as she took it from his hands, drank a bit, and sighed happily. Her smile was his reward. He bent next to her ear, whispered something that curled her lips, and then pressed a kiss to her temple before standing behind her.
"Milady," Anakin offered a polite bow of respect to his wife's guest.
"Master Skywalker," Sylar acknowledged despite a quickening of her heart. Mercy, even at her mildly advanced age this man had such a powerful presence about him that could make a woman stumble her words.
"Ani, this is Sylar Vein," Padme introduced. "She's interviewing for the position of official spokesperson for my office."
"I vaguely remember you mentioning something about her this morning over breakfast." Blue eyes met the same from across the desk. "It's nice to meet you, Sylar. I hope my presence is not disturbing."
"Hardly," Sylar noted a bit too fondly, now fending off a mild blush. Willing her professionalism back in place, she felt it was time to give them her interpretation of what was to come. "Padme, Anakin, I feel that if I am to represent the office of the Vice Chair, to some small extent I may be considered your spokesperson as a couple. I'm not asking for that job, only hoping that you see how many might not differentiate between my duties."
Sighing, Padme offered, "While I would like to keep my personal life just that, I am not naive to the public▓s perception. From time to time I would like the luxury of knowing someone is in place to speak for us if we choose not too. Would that be adding more than you are willing to take on?"
"I see no problem with that," Sylar replied. "And it would aid you both, but you in particular Padme in providing a consistent voice if one person represents you publicly."
Feeling through the Force for a sense of this woman's character, Anakin found an inner toughness glimmering around a deeply held sense of justice. No wonder Padme was so enamored with her. "How bad do you think things are going to get once Padme takes office?"
Sitting slightly forward, Sylar minced no words. "However bad you think it will be, magnify that by ten," she spoke her mind. "Naboo considers Padme royalty, and by extension you and her children. The luxury of hiding among people who adore you won't be indulged here. Padme will never be truly trusted again as she has so much power and wealth that she will be perceived differently. Her marriage to you will forever remind people that she can lie and keep secrets for years if it suits her purposes. Now what I just said wasn't fair, but what you're going to see is that everyone will have an opinion on everything you both do and say. You will need to be seen doing the work of the people and staying out of trouble as much as you can. ⌠You should probably curtail your HoloNet watching as the insanity can play tricks with your head after while. Expect to be followed everywhere and have pictures taken of you when you least expect it. Don't make public statements that aren't prepared in advance. I'm sorry, but your former lives are over. You will now play by the rules of an institution older than all of us that will outlive us. The good you both can and will do will be placed under a microscope, debated and ripped apart for even a hint of something to bring you down. That's how it is on Coruscant. One day you're the media's darlings. The next, there's a Norsa witch hunt out for your blood."
Noting his wife's immense weariness over the busy last couple of days, Anakin began gently rubbing her tired shoulders. She leaned back against his soothing touch. "We'd best thicken our skin then."
"Try titan-paristeel," Sylar joked before turning serious once more. "To sum everything up, expect criticism to a degree you've never faced before, but remain mindful of the reason why you were given the duties you have. Other than that we deal with each day as it comes. You can trust that I am ready for anything and will not fail either of you, nor the office of the Vice Chair of the Republic."
Padme tapped one well-manicured finger over the data pad▓s screen; she then nodded knowing she was justified in her choice. This was the right person for the job, daunting as it was. "Mrs. Vein, you're hired. Welcome aboard."
Things were certainly going to be interesting and exciting from now on, Sylar thought to herself as she rose from her chair. At least this time she was working for someone who already had her utmost respect. She extended her hand to Padme, who did the same. "Thank you, Mrs. Skywalker. I won't fail you."
"Of that I am sure." After a gentle squeeze, Padme released Sylar's hand. "As for now, go down the hall and make a left at Sabe▓s office. My new chief of security will prepare your entrance code-keys and assign you a office and private sky dock. We're holding my first staff meeting in four days at 22 standard hours, room 566."
Exhaling finally as she had won the day, Sylar bowed before making her exit. "Thank you again, milady. I'll see you then. Master Skywalker," she noted in passing.
Offering a gentlemanly goodbye of his own, Anakin returned his attention back to his angel, her eyes shut while seated back in her chair. He resumed his relaxing massage of her slender shoulders, sensing how the long trip home and the nonstop work she's put in have drained even her vast reservoirs of strength. Taking care of two infants, no matter the additional help, as well as coordinating her office, hiring her staff, and all of that being done on very little sleep has him worried. "Let me take you home, love? Surely your day is done."
As nice as that sounded, Padme couldn't leave just yet. "I have five data pads worth of official paperwork to fill out and Sabe wants to go over this floors new security protocols again. Apparently she's made even more changes."
"If it protects you and our family, then so be it," Anakin said while brushing the pads of his thumbs over the back of her neck, massaging away the ache he felt there. Her moan probably wasn't meant to be sensual, but the sound alone had that sort of effect on him. His wife's slow rising smirk told him she'd picked up on his reaction. He suddenly felt young at his arousal being so open to her.
"I promise I won't be here much longer, Ani," she yawned. "I need dinner and my babies."
"And your dear husband?" he teased.
"Yes, always," she smiled while adoring his tender care.
Through the connection they shared in the Force, Anakin was in tune with her feelings and state of mind. While dedicated and focused, she was exhausted beyond words and in desperate need of sleep, relaxation, and fun. With her entire family on Coruscant for her coronation ceremony in six days his mind began mulling a most devious plot... one he had to shield from Padme as she'd probably find a way to disagree.
But she needed to get away.
And with so much to come for them both professionally and personally, he began forming a plan that he'd need help with, but was sure to help Padme unwind and let her hair down.
His smile grew mischievous. "Love, I'm going to head home now. I have some things to do. But when you arrive I will have your favorite dinner prepared, and we will fly above the city tonight and toast to our good fortune. How does that sound."
He was sweet as she loved him so. "Like I am cared for by the most wonderful man in the universe."
"Jedi Master, you mean."
"You just love hearing me acknowledge that, don't you?"
"No, not just you," he whispered before kissing her lightly, cupping her soft cheek, and then departing with a secret agenda.
Vice Chair Skywalker's Private Spacecraft
Flying through Coruscant's upper atmosphere above Galactic City
Soaring through the hazy cloud cover above the megatropolis that was Galactic City, the Perseverance burst through the atmosphere at a blazing rate of speed. The pre-set piloting computer logged onto an auto-navigated cruising route, flying a breathtaking path over the capital of the Republic as the starship▓s two occupants lounged inside.
Of all the astounding qualities Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker possessed, and there were many, Padme's respect for his architectural abilities concerning starships grew exponentially when he redesigned her new private starship with a glorious bedroom that catered to her every whim. And while far from a diva, Mrs. Skywalker was a woman who knew what she wanted. It was a great thing to have a husband who glorified in giving it to her.
Lying back on the comfortable king-sized bed, an ice cream drenched ruby-red Blessberry fruit dangled just above her mouth, Padme sighed. Her lips parted to bite into the treat, only to see it gently sway backwards. Before she could utter a word of protest the fruit began its journey towards her lovely mouth once more only to dart away at the last moment. His delight in teasing her with the Force was going to get him in so much trouble someday. "I'm not at all amused, Master Jedi."
Caressing the soft heels of her feet, rested in his lap, a knowing grin crossed Anakin's face. "Whenever I annoy you these days you call me Master Jedi. Why is that?"
"Surely you've answered your own question, kind sir. Now would you please do me the honor of giving me my treat before it begins dripping all over me?"
"I'd lick it off for you."
"Ani, please." The berry slowly descended to her lips. She bit it out of mid-air with her teeth, her tongue lapping the ice cream before devouring the fruit whole. Sighing happily, she nestled into the cozy warm comforter while thoroughly enjoying her foot massage.
Upon arriving home three hours later than she intended she found the Luke and Leia fed, changed, bathed, and already asleep. Giving both a dear kiss she was promptly whisked inside the refresher, given a long hot bath by her adoring husband, and then led to their starship. Jobal and Sola arrived to watch the children while they took off for some much needed alone time.
If only Padme knew just how long that would be, Anakin secretly noted to himself. "Are you feeling better, angel?"
"Infinitely," was her sincere reply. Her eyes fluttered shut, resting peacefully after a very long day. Again she thanked the Force for blessing her with such foot massaging abilities. "This was exactly what I needed. Thank you so much, love. You are so good to me."
If she only knew how those words gave him such sustenance. He lived for them. "There were so many nights I wasn't around to take care of you," he began, and then amended, "I don't mean that you needed taking care of in the sense that you couldn't do things for yourself. Only the things a husband does for his wife I wasn't around to do. I hated being away from you so much. I guess I'm trying to make up for lost time."
"It goes both ways, Ani. You were off fighting a war with no loving words to take to bed with you each night. No soft touch or passionate kiss to remind you of how adored you are. I too feel the need to take care of you." She laughed to herself, "Even now, I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night surprised you're there. So much has changed in the last four months so fast, but it can't erase the last three and a half years."
"Nothing could," Anakin acknowledged, firmly massaging one foot, and then the other to her immense enjoyment. "We can't change the past, but we can create new memories each day until some time in the future the good so outweighs the bad we barely think about it anymore."
"That's a commitment I am in perfect agreement with."
"I'm happy to hear that." With the numerous touring speedervans and small private shuttles cruising their own pre-set courses, Anakin hoped the angled shift in their starships direction would go unnoticed. Alas, his angel was so tired she didn't seem to be paying attention to anything except his tender care. For that he was most grateful. "Next week begins a new chapter in our lives."
Padme hummed when she nodded, delighting in the foot massage she was receiving. "I'll be taking the oath of office and then two days later you leave for a two week mission with Master Windu. Three weeks after that the Senate Trials will begin."
"True, but I meant more personally for us." Anakin rested his hands over the tops of her feet, drawing her attention. "We've only gotten a taste of how things are going to be for us from now on, Padme. We won't be able to go anywhere anymore without HoloNet cameras following us. We're going to be in the news a great deal and face all that entails. Trips to the park with our children with have to be very well planned in advance. And our schedules don't mesh well at all."
"So you're saying things won't be easy?"
Her whimsical tone of voice conveyed it all. "As if we are used to any other way to live, I suppose."
"We shall manage, love. We always do. Our adjustment from what was to what will be will happen naturally as it does to everyone else. I still wouldn't trade the now for the former no matter what." Suddenly Padme felt the starship pick up a great deal of speed. Sitting up, now very alert, she felt the starships main engines come online. They weren't in use unless deep space travel was necessary. "Anakin, something▓s wrong."
She shot off the bed towards the cockpit faster than he could catch up with her, "Padme, wait."
Taking the pilots chair, she checked the navigational computer, only to find a pre-set course plotted along a tourists▓ path over Galactic City. It was programmed to loop that route three times before launching towards a Hyperspace ring. "Our ship▓s been tampered with. The controls have an unspecified location off Coruscant locked in, but a course is well plotted."
Steeling himself for what was to come, Anakin gently rested his hands on Padme's slender shoulders, slowly turning her around to face him. He leaned over her as the lack of shock or worry in his expression told her volumes. "Just hear me out."
"What did you do?"
Her voice rose with accusation. That wasn't a good sign. Swallowing hard, he began the speech he had prepared in his head all evening long. "As I said a moment ago, next week our lives are going to change forever. And ever since we returned from Naboo you've been working non-stop in preparing our home and your office security for our family, hiring your staff, and spending whatever free time you have with your parents and Sola. But we have had very little time for ourselves, love. And while I love Luke and Leia with all my heart and soul, I could use a little time away from diapers, crying, spitting up, burping, and lack of sleep. I bet you could too."
Anakin smiled that devilish grin of his.
Anakin swallowed hard again. "I have worked tirelessly the last couple of hours arranging for us... uhm... a small three-day vacation all alone."
"How could you do this behind..."
His hands rose defensively. "Please here me out. I have talked things over with your parents and Sola. They are going to stay with the babies at our apartment with Sabe. Ben's going to be stopping by and keeping a watchful eye over them. Our children are well taken care of. But we need to take care of ourselves as well. We need to spend some time alone for a few days and just be together, away from everyone because I have no idea of when we will be able to do that again, if ever."
"I did not consent to this."
Her brows rose and her jaw tightened, a clear sign he was in deep trouble. "I am trying to gain your consent now. I want us to have some fun and relax and just be married without children for a few days. That's all. We will never be out of contact with your family, Sola, or Obi-Wan. Artoo is with us, and we have the best coded frequency that cannot be hacked or traced. Secondly, before you worry about tabloids and our identities, Sabe already secured us a place to stay and fake identifications for when we arrive. Dorme has donated civilian clothes for us to wear and where we're going, well, it's pretty much the last place any of us would be expected to go." After thinking about it a moment, he conceded, "Okay, the last place anyone would expect you to go."
Padme wondered if her husband could see actual steam rising from her head. She calmly took his hands off her shoulders and then stood to her full height; again silently cursing it was still nothing compared to his. "I suppose you think this is romantic?"
"Well, you haven't shot me yet. That's got me a little hopeful."
"My blaster's on the bedside table. Shall I retrieve it?"
Feeling as though he wasn't getting anywhere, Anakin called out for R2 to come in. He had a back-up plan in case his argument fell on death ears. "Perhaps your mother can convince you of my good intentions."
Artoo rolled into the cockpits entrance and then beamed a holographic image of Jobal. "Dear, I know you're angry and annoyed with your husband. Expect that often in marriage, but also understand where this is coming from. Anakin knows you best, has seen how hard you have worked, and how much effort it takes to take care of infant twins. His only wish is to whisk you away somewhere you can have fun and embrace Padme the woman for a time. The Vice Chair and the Mother are always a part of you, but time away from it all with the one you love is a necessary aspect of marriage. Go and have a great time. Don't shoot him, okay? I love you and will see you in three days. Stop scowling, dear. Goodbye."
Slightly peeved her mother could anticipate her every reaction, Padme's scowl drifted away. Seizing the moment, Anakin drew her into his strong arms, nuzzling the side her neck until she made that little happy noise he loved so much. "You are still in big trouble, Ani."
"And I am still not certain this is a good idea."
"But I must admit time away with you sounds wonderful. And I could use some fun in my life that doesn't include spit up on my clothes."
"I know," he laughed.
Suddenly it dawned on her the one question she hadn't asked yet. "Ani, where are we going?" His Sith-like smirk spoke of a great mischief he'd undertaken. "Talk. Now."
"Its an exclusive resort... of sorts."
"It has an extraordinary skyline, and uhm..."
His stuttering was evidence enough he just didn't want to come right out and say it. She followed his line of vision until she saw the Hyperspace ring attaching to their starship. "Anakin!"
"It's too late to turn back now," he smiled as an intense burst of speed sent his back hurtling into the wall. "Trust me. We're going to have a great time."
Jobal's words chanted in Padme's mind. Don't shoot him. Don't shoot him. Don't shoot him.
Vice Chair Skywalker's Private Spacecraft
Quickly approaching Cloud City
The planet Bespin
Upon breaking the gaseous planet's upper atmosphere, Padme instantly recognized the silver disk-shaped city hovering above an extraordinary skyline. "Cloud City?" escaped her lips in an incredulous gasp. Anakin's seemingly amused smirk had no such effect on her. "That place is a haven for criminal activities, excessive gambling, strip clubs that cater to far more tastes than just the removal of clothing, illegal smuggling, drug trafficking, fights to the death, starship theft, and..."
"Fun, angel," he interjected before hurtling their starship along Cloud City's tourist trajectory route. "Cloud City might have its sinful element, but no more than Coruscant▓s lower levels. For one thing it doesn't pretend to be something it▓s not. This is the entertainment capital of the galaxy, and we're going to enjoy the debauchery of it all."
"I don't particularly find mingling with the criminal element fun."
"Then why are you working in the Senate?" Her appalled expression evolved slowly into a mildly proud smirk at his teasing. "We're going to have a great time, Padme. We're going to gamble at a casino, something I know you have never done. We're going to eat at some very nice restaurants like a normal couple, albeit undercover. We're going to tour the incredible inner atmosphere of Bespin. We're going to enjoy the sights and sounds of this vibrant, exciting city without the HoloNet's prying eyes, crying babies, or the expectations that come with who we are."
Searching her warm brown eyes, Anakin added, "And you are going to have the time of your life, Mrs. Skywalker." Wearing a petulant pout of sorts, her arms crossed as she gazed over the horizon.
It was a start at the very least. Anakin gratefully accepted it while navigating the starship towards its destination.
Magnificent in design and technological ingenuity, Cloud City hovered some fifty-nine thousand kilometers from Bespin's core via massive B/I repulsorlift generators, with sixteen pairs of massive Novaldex G47 tractor beam generators powering the city. A gigantic wind tunnel made up the center of the city, anchoring it in place when intense windstorms threatened. Its population numbered around five and a half million, not including droids. Stretching some ten miles in diameter, some structures ascended eleven miles high in the sky. While officially a mining colony built by the late Corellian eccentric Lord Ecclessis Figg many years ago to extract rare Tibanna gas from the world's interior, the true allure of Cloud City laid in its freedom as an exclusive, anything goes city where fortunes were made and lost every minute of every standard day.
From the exceptionally wealthy to those who hustled on the streets of the lower levels, Cloud City catered to everyone. Luxurious hotel/casino's like the Yerith Bespin and the Pair O'Dice among others drew the rich and powerful with credits to spare, while similar to Coruscant the lower levels offered cheap motels, bars, nightclubs, sports gambling, speeder-bike racing, fighting arenas, shipyards, and stores that literally sold anything one could imagine. The industrial loading docks were known for their underworld activities, and mostly avoided if one wasn't into that sort of thing.
The party never stopped, the law be damned, as the code of Cloud City was just don't get caught.
Anakin had to admit, albeit it silently, the lawlessness appealed to him. There was a raw, reckless attraction to Cloud City he felt would force Padme to let her hair down and enjoy some of the darker pleasures of life. She needed an experience like this where the rules were off the table, and she wasn't expected to be the good girl for once.
Suddenly the hailing beacon flashed red, signaling Anakin that the Perseverance had been picked up on radar. Flipping a console switch, the ship's long golden wings folded down and inward, tucked discretely beneath the ship. A new pointed nose tip extended from the front of the craft, while panels all over the starship began to darken into a bronze coloring as the ship itself took on a whole different appearance. It was just another of his new designs geared to give Padme every advantage possible.
((THIS IS CLOUD CITY SKY PATROL OFFICER XLES REQUESTING YOUR IDENTIFICATION AND LANDING PERMIT))
Anakin switched on the intercom. "Cloud City Sky Patrol, this is Andros Zar piloting the EverLast. My wife, Pilar, and I are visiting Cloud City and will be staying at the Pair O'Dice Hotel. Our landing permit is AZQWWWE-1998 and our sky dock reservation code is 000955687. Please reply."
From the right side of their starship, Padme saw three single-wing pod shuttles tailing them, no doubt awaiting orders on if they were hostile or not. Still, she held her peace and let Anakin handle things... for now.
((STARSHIP EVERLAST, YOUR LANDING PERMIT AND SKYDOCK RESERVATION CODES HAVE BEEN CLEARED. PLEASE ATTUNE YOUR NAVIGATION COMPUTER TO FREQUENCEY 000175 AND DO NOT DEVIATE FROM YOUR PRESENT COURSE. WELCOME TO CLOUD CITY.))
"Thank you." Grinning wildly as the city's incredible interior came into view, Anakin caught Padme's awe at the amazing impression that Cloud City made. Jury-rigged shuttles, air taxis of all shapes and sizes, luxury sky-vans, and various other kinds of transports criss-crossed the skies in a far less organized manner than on Coruscant. Perfect. Taking manual control again, he remained on course to the hotel, but zipped and whirled around other ships for the thrill of it.
Out of the corner of his eye he recognized Padme attempting to hide a smile as she was amused by him showing off his piloting skills. "Enjoying yourself is allowed, my love."
"To do that would validate your devious plot."
"Is it such a devious plot when I sought only to please my Angel?"
"We shall see," noted most tongue in cheek as she had to admit being alone with him was lifting her spirits. And while she adored her children, a few days minus having to worry about them began to look very enticing. And she couldn't deny that Cloud City did have a certain daring flair.
Before reaching the hotel the route took them past towering spires of spotless white and chrome. Padme recognized the classical Alderaanian architecture, while Anakin noted the lower levels below. Called Port Town, the seedy, crime-ridden area Cloud City was well documented as a place one could find trouble day or not. Up ahead were the administrative offices, Grissom Race Track, the winding maze-like Ugnaught tunnels that ran through the metropolis, and the service sector where maintenance crews, security forces, cloud car taxi drivers, doctors and hospital staff, and others were stationed.
Cloud City made quite the impression as the Pair O'Dice Hotel towered in the distance. A shimmering glass high-rise with the casino itself a floating starship circling the hotel was just ahead. Anakin ascended their starship five miles high while the navigation computer pointed out their reserved sky dock. Once he found it he swiveled the ship into position, set down the landing gear, and then switched off the engines.
Turning to his wife, Anakin reached for her small hand, caressing it between his. "Trust me. We're going to have a great time."
"This is..." she began a bit hesitantly. "This is pretty far from what I am used too."
"That is why you're going to have so much fun." Gracing her with a pleased expression, he lifted her hands to his lips, kissing it. "Dorme packed enough civilian clothing for us for the entire trip, including a couple of things Sabe picked out for you specifically she wouldn't show me."
"Oh dear," Padme nearly blushed as she was well aware of Sabe▓s untamed attitude about clothing in general. "What about credits?"
"I made a modest withdrawal of fifty thousand credits."
Padme's eyes widened. "Modest? That's a small fortune."
"When will we have three whole days all to ourselves without the children where we can go out in public, do whatever we want, and not have to worry about the Jedi Order or the Senate?"
All things considered, Padme had no rebuttal at all. "I see your point. Let's go."
Anakin escorted Padme to the back of the starship and then pointed out the three bags that were for her. He quickly disengaged R2 from his recharging port, and then began changing clothes himself. Having removed only his tunic, he found himself unable to look away when Padme tore off her top.
"Ani, you're staring."
"You're half naked and lucky I'm not pouncing on you right now."
His obvious desire never ceased to amaze Padme; the once demure girl who could barely make eye contact with a boy in her youth. Looking through the things Dorme and Sabe selected for her, she chose a form-fitting beige bodysuit, and then slipped into a black cloak that matched the one Anakin now wore. "Are you sure this will be enough to fool people?"
While attaching his lightsaber to the dark pants he wore beneath his cloak, Anakin nodded. "Who in their right mind would suspect the Vice Chair of the Republic and her Jedi Master husband to be vacationing on Cloud City without an armed escort? Who would ever imagine you would come to a place like this? Between our civilian clothing, a few other tricks, and the fact that I will be projecting the Force in a confusing manner to those around us will shield our identity. It's not like we're going to be broadcasting our identities or trying to make friends. We're here to have fun and that's all. We'll be fine. I promise."
The bright lights and lawless atmosphere seemed electric, despite Padme's misgivings. "I'm going to hold you to that."
"Milady," Anakin whispered when he invaded her personal space, his arms snaking around her, "I'm going to do a whole lot more than hold you when we reach our hotel room."
Gently pushing him away with a laugh in her heart, Padme pulled the cloak over her head. "I am not yours to simply take when you choose, Master Jedi." She watched him grab their bags while giving her a look that practically screamed possessiveness. Her body felt the pure heat of his gaze.
The duo, with R2 in tow, exited the starship onto the windy sky dock and were immediately greeted by a four-armed Furrian hotel representative and two security guards. They presented the Visa's Sabe created for them and were kindly escorted inside the massive hotel.
Excess to the extreme best described the immaculate golden interior of the Pair O'Dice Hotel. Various alien races hailing from so many distant worlds Padme soon lost count graced the first floor in some of the most outlandishly colorful attire she had ever seen. Aquatic musicians suspended in oval tanks of water played on a floating platform above the front desk. All manner of droids escorted guests to their rooms, while scantily-clad women offered drinks while you waited to check in. There was boisterous laughter all around her. Wall-mounted holo-projectors broadcast HoloNet shows from all over the galaxy, keeping Cloud City up to date on everything outside it.
Anakin checked them in, retrieved their key-cards, and then led Padme and R2 through the crowds towards a massive transparisteel elevator lodged in the heart of the hotel. They walked inside with twenty-five other guests, all speaking in diverse alien dialects as the cabin lifted lightening fast from floor to floor until it reached the 234th floor.
"We're here." Padme was off the elevator in a flash after a female Gorgian offered to sell her death sticks, and when she refused was offered a... ahem, a indecent proposal. Now brown eyes searched the holo-projected room numbers until she found 23490. Swiping her key-card the door swiveled open for her to enter. She noted the white, synthstone architecture was as Alderaanian as the city itself. Luxury that spared no expense greeted her in the rooms elegant decor. Everything was a beautiful white, with a broad curving window overlooking the city, a small table setting, a jacuzzi, a master refresher, and a king-sized four post master bed. While far from a diva, the former Queen in her was very pleased. "Ani, this is amaz..."
Her words were cut short by the hungry kiss Anakin swept upon her, his strong arms hauling her off her feet that very moment, stalking toward the bed. Flashes of sensual heat coursed throughout her body when he laid her down, covering her with the solid weight of him. There was no time to think, only to feel... feel the throbbing length of him pressed against her center... feel the way he ravished her mouth, as if she were the only sustenance he needed... feel the liquid arousal pooling between her thighs... the way his hands were everywhere at once, dragging their clothes off, their kiss broken only to remove the last of whatever separated their bare skin.
Utterly lost in a steamy kiss for a passionate eternity, caressing softly, they were rolling all over the bed and each other. Anakin buried his face in her neck while her fingers combed through his sun-streaked hair. His lips paid loving homage to the lightly-scented skin of her neck, grazing tenderly over her pulse before drinking at the column of her regal throat. As his kisses descended her heart beat faster and faster in anticipation of the pleasures to come.
Anakin had taken her without warning. Padme's body submitted without refute. There were no words here, only erotic emotion. A breathy warmth fell over a hardened nipple before he firmly cupped his hand beneath her breast, inhaled the peak in his mouth, and then drew on the tip until she writhed beneath him. Her back arched high as a groan escaped her lips. Unconsciously, her hand held the back of his head to her breast, reveling in the seductive bliss. Her nipple hardened between his lips as he suckled her softly at first, and then the pressure increased until she was purring in elation, her nails scratching over his scalp. His hand roamed a greedy path over her chest and abdomen, touching and caressing her all over. His tongue swept a wet trail over her cleavage before drowning the other nipple in warm moisture, and then drawing it into his hungry mouth, sucking powerfully.
Anakin was a master musician, playing a decadent rhythm over Padme's willing body. He seemed enchanted by every inch of her, his kisses now descending her chest to her trembling flat belly. He pressed his face there, just breathing for a long moment as if to glorify her. Enjoying the euphoric reaction of his touch, his tongue dashed a long lick at her naval. She quivered and so he did it again, his hands braced on her hips to steady her. The little sounds she made left him so hard it was almost painful not to claim her now, but he swore to himself he'd take his time driving her mad with lust.
The heady, exotic scent of her arousal wrenched at his senses. Hovering over the downy, light brown hairs around her glistening pink flesh, he gave her one long firm lick that saw her hips rise high and twist. His hands filled with the supple, rounded cheeks of her gorgeous backside, kneading them, holding her to him. Unable to resist a second longer, he sealed his mouth over her slick mound, his tongue swirling like mad. A tortured moan escaped from deep in her throat, cheering his efforts even as her body shuddered all over. He draped her slender thighs over his shoulders, dragging his tongue up and down her so slowly the sensation left her sighing behind closed eyes. His hands flexed on her backside, squeezing in time with his absolute feasting of her wetness.
Her backside tensing and releasing in his strong hands, Padme was utterly lost in a world of unending pleasure and the sound of her own heavy breathing. She could not process a single coherent thought outside of the wickedness going on between her legs. She felt exalted, being sucked on like a ripe piece of fruit, her hand clutching at the bed sheets, nails digging for purchase. Panting... all she could do was pant as he held her firmly in place, his tongue sliding over and around her sensitive clit, causing her body to jerky wildly. She could hear him, mercy of the Force, she could hear him ravishing her as if his life depended on it.
Lashing his tongue faster now, Anakin stopped to suckle her swollen clit at last. Drawing deeply until her hand grabbed at the back of his head, her thighs clutched around him. Her pelvis twitched vigorously while he sucked her, and then at last a wincing, choked cry erupted that sent her body into a series of long, writhing convulses that looked so blissfully satisfying to him he prayed they were even better than that.
Padme's ears popped and then she fell back upon the bed, lax and beautifully sated. With her eyes still shut, her trembling hand lightly fell over her lips. The racing of her heart seemed to slow. A lazy smile adorning her lips grew when she felt the softest of kisses crawling up her body until Anakin was kissing her again, deeply. The salty tang on his tongue and the glistening stickiness on his face were her marks of ownership. She loved the solid, protective feel of his body covering hers.
"I love you, Ani," she whispered over his lips while wrapping her legs around his torso. The tip of him begged entrance and then thrust forward deeply inside her, causing her eyes to roll as he filled her so completely. "... love you so much."
"Angel," he moaned in a half-growl after that first piercing thrust, "My angel," sighed quietly into her ear after a second deep thrust that forced her arms around his neck, "Mine," chanted over and over as his hips began delving steadily, pulsing inside her clinging depths.
Her nails raked over the hard planes of muscle over his back and shoulders, then descended, now clawing at his firm ass. He was taking her with such longing, and she was so small beneath him, her teeth gently biting into his neck after each deep invasion. The bed rocked accordingly, praising the straining efforts of their churning hips. She drew his face to her own, devouring his lips with a kiss so furiously passionate he longed to die inside her. Lunging deeper and with more purpose now, his knees sank into the bed.
"Ani... Oh, Ani." Padme needed this, by the Force, she needed this. To feel him spreading her flesh asunder, taking her as his own. They were grinding vigorously, exerting counter pressure, the wanting union of their bodies colliding frantically.
Anakin made sure the friction over her clit was deliciously hot, evidenced by her cries of passion. The awe inspiring sight of her beautiful face flushed with color and faint traces of sweat left him aching for her. His aggression grew, pounding her into the bed now, rocking it back against the wall hard. The tight, wet sheath of her pulled so sweetly around him, even as her body tensed beneath him. She stiffened, suddenly writhing full body while every muscle in his body clenched. They came together, grinding and straining mightily, her face smothered in his neck, whining his name softly as the feeling of him erupting hard inside her to completion felt so good.
And then there was nothing save the sound of their labored breathing, slowed peacefully at last.
There were no words spoken because words for what they shared was unnecessary. Their satisfied, sweat-soaked bodies collapsed around each other, lying in the quiet freedom of their love, and soon fell fast asleep from sexual exhaustion.
Pair O'Dice Starship Casino
Three standard hours later
Cloud City, Bespin
In Anakin's keen observation Padme had never looked more sinfully delicious... or more desirable than she did tonight. Standing on the windy deck of the Pair O'Dice casino's starship circling the mammoth hotel, his stare swept over her slinky, long black dress with the lace-up sides. From the moment she held up the garment wearing such an appalled expression that Sabe would pack something so revealing for her, he taunted her need to forever remain the good girl, modest and forthright before the eyes of the galaxy.
He actually laughed, rousing her ire that she wasn't daring enough to step out of herself for an evening. When she was done putting on the dress all laughter ceased. Her husband▓s heartbeat did as well.
"Surely," Anakin declared in a husky tone of voice at the scandalous vision before him, his blue gaze making love to her. "Your heart is Sith."
Her words were liquid warmth lifted around them. "Do I inspire such wickedness within you, Master Jedi?"
"You are my reason," he lifted her small hand, curling his fingers around it, "My passion," spoken as he brought her hand to his lips for a kiss, "And my worship."
"Good answer." The true beauty was that even after all this time Anakin could still make her blush. Padme drank in the sight of his all black attire, complete with a civilian cloak far different than his daily Jedi attire. He was gorgeous beyond words, towering over her with his hair tied back in a ponytail. As for herself, the revealing dress she wore was easily the most bold, sexy statement she'd ever made in public. In a strange sort of way the dark straight strands of her wig aided in feeling as if she could pull this off.
Suddenly, Padme covered her hand over her mouth, laughing softly behind it. Anakin circled her, interested in what amused her so. "What has brought this smile upon my angel's face?"
"My mother would kill me if she knew I was out in public not wearing underwear," spoken quietly, as if her mother could actually hear her. The sides of the dress ran from her hip to forever, offering no doubts as to what she wore beneath, or lack thereof. "I've never done this before."
"Then we're off to a great start," Anakin was pleased to report, taking her arm. "This is our time to let go, Padme. Relax and enjoy yourself. Absorb this carefree atmosphere. I am with you always, so don't worry about anything."
"Famous last words," she noted wearing a smirk. "Show me a good time, Master Jedi."
They made their way toward the casino's entrance. For reasons they still couldn't quite figure out Padme was able to sense when Anakin was manipulating the Force. She felt his mild concentration when he mentally broadcasted a sense of slight confusion to any who might be paying close attention to them. What was even more intriguing, she partly felt she was able to do the same. Perhaps at a later date, she surmised, they would look into this.
Entering the huge starship casino on the deep red carpet was a sight to behold. Extravagance greeted Anakin and Padme as the bright lights and seductive sounds ushered them inside the massive structure. Padme wondered if even the Galactic Senate Hall had ever witnessed such an amazing selection of alien races all gathered in the same place at the same time.
Touring the first floor with Anakin, seemingly hundreds of rows of holo-slot machines spread out in every direction. There seemed to be no dress code at all seeing as how any manner of dress, or undress was acceptable. Hover-droids flew above the people carrying drinks, credits, and food to patrons all over the casino. The lively ambiance was entrancing; as chatter lifted about them in so many languages one would be stressed to identify them all. They walked toward twin Sabbac tables near the center of the first floor, watching intently while a rather elderly and portly Glorian woman, her normally bluish skin now a reddish hue as she was concentrating, tried to win a hand. Apparently her far younger Glorian male counterpart was interested as well. And when the older woman won big he graced her with a long kiss.
"Hopefully that kiss was for her and not her winnings," Padme noted to Anakin, her hand in his.
"Something tells me his reasons aren't pure."
"I sense that too." When Anakin's curious stare found her she simply smiled. "Another time."
He understood, guiding her through the boisterous crowds and pit crews keeping the peace. Suddenly they were stopped at the end of a row of Rolling Begats tables by a lovely one-eyed Fyriax waitress. Scantily-clad in red lace she bowed before the guests. "Welcome to the Pair O'Dice casino. My name is Dalor. Can I get you something to drink? The house special tonight is Bisesq Wine."
Anakin saw this as a prime opportunity to do something he▓d been meaning to do for years. "Love, can I pick your drink? I've always wanted to try Ben's favorite but never have. We both could if you're interested?"
"I must admit I'm curious as to what Ben enjoys in places like these. Sure, go ahead."
Anakin nodded to the waitress. "We'll have two Outer Rim brandies on the rocks."
"Very well, sir. Please take this tracking chain." The waitress draped the slender silver chain around Anakin's neck. "You can continue enjoying the casino, and when your drinks are ready I will use it to find you."
"Thank you," Padme offered before adding ten credits to her data pad. Tipping the help early always brought about better service.
"Thank you, ma'am."
Anakin watched the Fyriax waitress press a button on her wrist band and then slowly ascend above them, flying towards the bar on the second floor. He couldn't help but to want a jet-pack. Yeah, even a Jedi Master is still a guy. "I gotta get me one of those." Turning around when he heard Padme's voice talking to someone, he found her looking through the inside of a four-armed man's jacket. Attached by small hooks to the inside of his jacket, there were a vast array of purses, jewelry, and watches.
While dearly wishing he had a camera, Anakin couldn't help but to smile.
"Ani, this Alderranian Bless purse costs two thousand credits on Coruscant," Padme noted the fine leather material and intricate design. "This gentleman is selling them for only 200 credits. It's the deal of a lifetime."
Anakin knew this guy's type. Harmless mostly, but needed to be watched. "Have you ever heard the term knock-off, Padme?"
"Kind sir," the very hairy man's high-pitched voice interjected. "I assure you I only sell the very best name brand products."
While closely inspecting the colorful collection of purses, Padme questioned, "How are you able to sell these so cheap?"
When the man's shifty expression seemed to shift a little too swiftly, Anakin shook his head behind Padme. All his stuff was stolen, but oh well. When in Cloud City...
"Dear, our drinks are coming. Buy the purse and let's be off." Anakin watched over the humorous exchange as Padme not only purchased the purse, but jewelry for her mother, sister, Dorme, and Sabe. She probably paid enough credits to that guy that he could call it a night.
Their drinks arrived, and when the waitress flew off Anakin and Padme prepared to toast the evening as the live band ahead played something slow and pleasing to the ears.
"To the light of my life," Anakin lifted his drink. "You saved me from myself."
"To the joy in my life," Padme lifted her drink to his. "To my champion." They clinked glasses, took a long pull from their glasses and both blanched hard at the strong taste. "By the Force, are we drinking starship fuel!?"
Anakin swore he would have embarrassed himself laughing at what Padme said if he had feeling left in his tongue. "I'm going to have to have a talk with my old friend." Laughing as they were standing there looking like they couldn't hold their drinks, they walked off while sipping rather than drinking fully.
Time passed, a flamboyant, fast-talking female date coordinator offered Anakin and Padme any of his five shape-shifting escorts for the rest of the evening in any way they might wish. When Padme quickly declined the man offered Anakin ten thousand credits to buy her outright, citing her immense beauty. After the Force-choking nearly caused him to pass out, wife led husband away before anyone was killed.
"I have warned you about Force-choking people in public, Ani."
"... never lets me Force-choke anyone," was mumbled under the Jedi's breath.
"Okay, I just have to try this." Stopping at a Naboo Paradise Jackpot Holo-slot machine, Padme finished off her drink and then took a handful of credits out of her purse. She put one in the mounted slot and watched the three holographic images rolling in front of her, stopping at two Naboo starships and a Gungan. "I didn't win."
"Just try again," Anakin said as he sat down at the machine next to her. They played for the next hour, enjoying various degrees of winning streaks and losses. The idle chatter of everyone around them was crazy enough to provide entertainment no matter how the games went. But it wasn't until the alcohol began to loosen Padme up a bit that she became frustrated at having lost ten straight games. "Ani, this machine seems to not like me anymore."
She sat up straight, her warm brown eyes suddenly serious, staring at him. "Okay."
"Perhaps you can... enlighten this machine."
For all the years of his life Anakin would he remember the night Padme implied he do something slightly illegal. He couldn't mention it out loud, but the order was understood. "Allow me to aid this machine in understanding its true purpose, milady." Sparing a look around them, Anakin calmly waved his hand over Padme's slot machine.
Depositing another credit, Padme made the motion on the holographic lever to pull it and hit three Naboo Queens. Quite poetic in her estimation. Her winnings were a thousand credits. "This never happened, Ani." He laughed at her, kissing her cheek just before they left the area. "Order us another drink. The same one as last time."
"I thought you said it tastes like starship fuel?"
"Yes, but it makes me feel very..." leaning in close, she caressed the curve of his mouth with a kiss, "Adventurous."
There drinks arrived after a rather successful round of Sabbac at the center tables. Feeling amazingly relaxed tonight, Padme led them through the casino, noting the brilliant architecture and design. The starship casino circled the Pair O'Dice hotel constantly, and yet graviton motion nodes prevented the guests from feeling as if the casino was moving at all. Anakin stated how he would love to get a look at the engines schematics while they enjoyed their drinks.
From Persian Roulette to Desi Craps, they enjoyed giving a go at a number of different games, never betting too much, but enough to make the gamble interesting. Anakin refrained from using the Force to win and was able to amass a nice sum of credits, while Padre hit a couple more holo-slot machines with success.
"Excuse me, kind patrons," came in a deep baritone over their shoulders. Anakin and Padme turned around to find a hunched back Strotham male with long white hair bowing before them. "Might I trouble you for a moment?"
"No," Padme halted any further discussion. "We do not want to buy death sticks, nor do we want dates for the evening. We do not want to buy books on tourism in Cloud City, nor do either of us want to sell the other. I am sorry, but we are not looking for any sort of criminal credit making opportunity. Thank you."
"My lady, I am Westin and I represent the Galactic Children's Fund." He produced his Coruscant-licensed identification card to Padme and Anakin. "I take donations here since most patrons enjoy a rather underworld-like lifestyle they are often generous in their donations to our cause to rid the galaxy of poverty and famine in children. I was not trying to sell you anything."
"Oh dear." Padme felt mortified, and after noting his authentic identification card began offering him each and every credit in her purse, much to Anakin's amusement. "I am so, so sorry. Please pardon my manners. I have been drinking this evening and..." He walked off after she said that, thanking her for the credits. "I'LL DONATE MORE LATER" she shouted after him, arousing the attention of others around them. "Okay, no more drinking for me."
"Oh, I don't know about that," Anakin replied, snaking his arm around her slender waist. "I enjoy you being tipsy. It's a side of you I've never seen before. In fact I applaud it greatly. Would you like another drink?"
"I am so going to kick you one day."
"You're going to have to be pretty close to me with those short legs of yours." He just couldn't stop himself from teasing her, ever aware of the sensitive issue of her height. He received the evil Padme head tilt and pursed look expression.
"You should apologize to me, Pookie."
"That name," he pointed at her, "No longer has any meaning for me."
"It is the name of your true self, given to you by your nieces. You've only forgotten. I know there's a part of you that likes it. The alcoholic hasn't driven it from you fully," she smiled at his mild despair. "And don't point at me again or tease about my legs. If you still want to feel them wrapped around you in bed I'd try compliments from now on."
Bending down to her, Anakin gently nudged her lips apart, kissing her slowly and deeply. "You are the most incredible woman in the galaxy. I am your humble servant for all time. I love you endlessly."
"That's a nice star..." Padme was about to say when her eyes caught sight of something she just knew she couldn't be seeing. A couple against the back wall of the casino near a darkened corner were engaged in "aggressive negotiations." They were pressed against the wall with the female being lifted rhythmically against it by the male, her head thrown back, a look of ecstasy clearly etched on her face. "What kind of people do that in public?" she noted in a low tone of voice, showing Anakin what she saw. The couple were aggressively having sex up against the wall. "Have they no shame?"
"It's called living in the moment, angel."
"Not to me," Padme confessed as they walked away, smiling. "But to each their own, I suppose. As for us, go get me another drink."
"You enjoy ordering me around, don't you?"
"Two words for you. Luke and Leia."
"What does that mean?"
"When you can push something the size of a Lisian watermelon out a hole the size of a Coruscant quarter you can complain about getting my drink."
Anakin just stared. "Duly noted." Padme laughed while watching him hail another waitress. This was the most fun she's had in ages. She snuggled behind him, holding him close, and simply breathed.
The End of Chapter 1