by the Yellow Dart

"Listen to me, Padmé," Anakin moaned before he pressed his lips against against her arched neck. He pulled her a bit closer, wrapping his outer cloak around them, shielding her from prying eyes.

Padmé sighed when his lips inched their way toward her collarbone. But she reached up to push him away before they got too absorbed in each other. "Anakin . . ." They weren't alone. Just a few meters away, the holo-reporters were still gathered, waiting to interview any passing being about the Chancellor's rescue. Although she and Anakin were lurking in the shadows under a pillar, any passing being who looked the right way would be able to see them.

More reckless than usual, Anakin didn't seem to care. Refusing to let her get away, he tightened his grip around her back. His metallic finger traced a path down her cheek. "Please," he pleaded, voice cracking. "I can't --" He heaved a heavy sigh. "-- I can't live like this anymore."

She tried to squirm away from him, but he was too strong. Trying to be the voice of reason, she declared, "Anakin, we both knew --"

"-- I know," he forcefully whispered. Bringing the tip of his metal finger across her lips, he took a shuddering breath.

"We agreed," she pleaded. "We knew it would be hard, but we agreed." She looked into his eyes, imploring him to understand.

Anakin sighed and turned his head, averting eye contact. "I didn't realize it would be this hard." Loosening his grip on her, he took a step into the sunlight. "I'm sick of all this deception."

"Anakin," Padmé said warily. "If it wasn't such a bad --"

"-- I know. When the war is over, we will tell everyone," Anakin spat. He whirled to face her. "But what if the war never ends?"

Padmé closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I thought we were making gains in the Outer Rim. Now that Dooku is dead, the Chancellor says --"

"-- It's a lot worse out there than even the Chancellor knows," Anakin admitted. "I'm not sure we'll ever get out, even if we capture Grievous."

Padmé's heart jumped into her chest. "That can't be true!"

Anakin's eyes flashed with emotion as his voice rose. "Really, Padmé? Really?" He dropped his grip on her shoulders and took a few steps away from her. "The War is far from over. Open your eyes. We had Grievous, but he escaped. Even if we catch him . . . " He grabbed her shoulders and ran his hands down her arms. "Padmé, I love you. I want the galaxy, including the Jedi, to know."

"Quiet!" Padmé exclaimed in a harsh whisper. "What if someone hears us?"

"Let them hear." His voice dropped, as if he was out of energy. "I'm tired, Padmé. Tired of hiding. Tired of all the deception."

Padmé crossed the distance between them and grabbed his hand. "I know." Looking at the ground, she admitted, "I'm tired of waiting as each day crawls by for snippets of news from the Outer Rim Sieges, waiting for the sky to fall. Each moment, I worry that I may never see you again. But --"

"-- Then let them find out. Let everyone find out." He leaned down and pressed his lips against her forehead. "It would be so easy." Burying his face in her soft hair, he kissed the top of her head.

Letting out a soft sigh, Padmé said, "I can't let you take the easy way out."

"Yes you can," Anakin declared, his words muffled by her hair. "We've taken the hard way for three years. What has that gotten us? Pain? Suffering? Loneliness? Even if it is forbidden, our love is not a crime," he declared. "We shouldn't have to hide it like this."

Unable to argue any more, Padmé said nothing and let Anakin continue.

"If it wasn't for the Chancellor being kidnapped, I don't think they would have ever brought us home," he said as his lips found hers. His hand traveled down to rest against her slightly swollen belly. "I might never have known about our baby." His lips curled into a smile. "I want to be here . . . I want to be our baby's father."

Feeling her steely resolve begin to crack, Padmé covered his hand with hers and looked up to meet his eyes. "You will be," she said, although she didn't believe her own words.

Their eyes met, and they held each other's gaze for a few moments. Padmé could see that Anakin was struggling with something, so she let him collect his thoughts. "We have to tell them. We have to tell them now," he declared. Before she could start their cyclical argument again, Anakin continued, "I feel something. That if we don't tell the Jedi now, something terrible is going to happen."

"Something terrible? What do you mean." She stared at him with wide eyes, imploring him to continue.

"Darkness. Pain. Suffering. That is what this deception will lead to. I sense it." His eyes clouded with the unpleasant thoughts.

Padmé clutched at his hand that rested on her abdomen. "What do you mean?"

"I think this is a turning point," Anakin said softly. "I feel a darkness inside me, Padmé. I can't explain it, but it's there, begging to be let out."

"Anakin --"

"-- No!" his volume grew louder. "We are at the verge of a dangerous time. And the only way I can fight this darkness is with you by my side." His finger stroked under her chin. "Will you help me? Will you help me fight this darkness inside me?"

"Of course," was her immediate response. His words and actions were scaring her, but she had to help him, had to believe him.

"Then we have to tell the Galaxy." Without waiting for her response, Anakin grabbed her hand and practically dragged her with him toward the cluster of holocams that had surrounded him after his landing just a few minutes ago. Reporters and camera operators stared slackjawed as Anakin strode toward them, clutching Padmé's hand.

Although Padmé's mind told her to protest, her heart would not let her speak. For three years, their relationship had survived in secret, but now, with their baby's imminent arrival, she knew their secret would soon be revealed. Perhaps now was as good a time as any . . .

As soon as he reached the cameras, he turned to a Twi'lek reporter and said, "We are giving you the Galactic exclusive. Senator Amidala is my wife, my lover and the mother of my child."

At that moment, seeing the shock on the Twi'lek's face, Padmé realized that this was not the easy way out at all. It would be a painful mess. First the media, then the Jedi, then -- maybe worst of all -- her family.

The End