A/N: I know it can be a while between updates but please be assured, none of my stories are abandoned. Another huge thank you to my beta, Toni here on FFN, who is my editor/cheerleader/fantastic email friend.
Chapter Nine: My Big, Fat Secret
Anakin took the long way home. He had left his comm off and taken the scenic route to the Jedi Temple. He checked in with Yoda, Mace Windu, Shaak Ti, Obi-Wan and even went to visit his new friend Cilghal in the Halls of Healing.
Finally, when the patients in the Halls of Healing had tired of his latest story about how he named his lightsaber, Cilghal had finally kicked him out. Obi-Wan refused to answer his comm and he hadn't heard anything from either Mara or Luke.
It was definitely time to go home.
Anakin thought about inventing an excuse to stay at the Temple. He then thought about what his wife of over twenty-five years would think about that. It wasn't the first time he had tried this. It hadn't been pleasant last time. He took a deep breath. Anakin was a man and he would behave as such. He was a Jedi Master for Sith's sake, and here he was frightened to go home to his wife.
Who had been a politician since she was a young girl. Who denied being curious but was the first one to watch the sludge news when it came to the stupid Kmarlashian sisters from Zoid and what they were covering their tentacles with this week. She found out everything.
Anakin recalled an incident in which he had taken Luke out of his Jedi training camp on Hoth to take him to the opening of a water-based theme park on Kamino. It had taken Padmè about three standard hours to get it out of him and she was all the way on Coruscant. This time, he was hiding the fact that she was going to be a grandmother!
He was suddenly very irritated with Mara-how dare she turn him into a secret smuggler! Didn't she realise how difficult this would be? Not for the first time, Anakin thought about his poor Master. He had managed to keep a secret from him well enough, hadn't he? It was the same. Completely the same, he rationalised. He called on the Force to help him.
As if on cue, his comm buzzed. He ignored it. It was Padmè. He stared at his speeder.
"No time like the present," he announced to nobody in particular. The various occupants of the Temple were well accustomed to his strange outbursts. Many of the Younglings thought of him as Weird Old Skywalker. Younglings. Luke's Youngling. He shook his head.
As he sat in the speeder, his comm buzzed again. He was a Jedi and he could do this. He touched Stevie to give him some support. In good traffic, he would be home in about twenty standard minutes. He could ignore her insistent comming for twenty minutes, surely?
It cut out. Anakin smiled triumphantly, feeling as if he won a fight that his wife didn't know they were having. He pulled out of the Jedi docking station. As he took a familiar turn in the air, the sound of his wife pierced his ears.
"Kriff!" he swore as he narrowly avoided a Kremlonian in a yellow speeder. He looked at the centre panel in disbelief- there was his beautiful wife in all her glory. On the dashboard of his speeder.
"How did you-?"
She glared. "You left the override code on the Holo," she stated. Anakin distinctly recalled the override code being locked in a secure folder on his Holo connection.
A Jedi should always be prepared to be deceptive, however, one cannot be sneaky when one's wife guesses the password to be stevie52.
Her eyes softened. "Where have you been? Leia and I have been so worried. She nearly sent Han after you. He thought you were having some kind of seizure!"
Of course he did. "I'm fine," he assured her. "I'm on my way back home now."
The image of Padmè leant in. "I know you're younger than me, Anakin, but I'm sure the Jedi Healers wouldn't mind taking a look at you. Han said that seizures are a common symptom of early onset old man's disease."
Anakin felt his body relax. If he was concentrating on being annoyed with Han, he could push the information about LukeandMara'sbabywhichI'mnotsupposedtoknowabout out of his already filled brain. He frowned.
"Early onset old man's disease?" he asked, afraid to know the answer. She smirked.
"Tattooine Dementia." She paused. "Do Jedi suffer old man's disease? I mean Master Yoda-"
"I bet you wouldn't look as good when you're 800," Anakin snapped. He looked at his wife's image. She looked stunned.
He swerved the speeder, nearly missing his exit. "Look, I don't have time to talk. I'll be home soon. You're distracting me."
Padmè glared at him. "I see. Well, I look forward to distracting you further when you get home. Goodbye, Anakin."
Somehow, he knew she didn't mean the kind of distraction that left them both exhausted and his prosthetic charging in the corner bay. He was in for a long evening.
Much to Anakin's chagrin, Padmè had taken it upon herself to invite half the galaxy over for dinner. The guest list included his children and respective partners, Obi-Wan and Chewbacca, Han's long-time friend and partner.
He had explained to Padmè that he'd rushed off to confront Mara about her upcoming solo mission and he was understandably concerned about the whole matter. She had listened to his grovelling and apology. Clearly, she had decided to exact revenge on him anyway by throwing the informal dinner in honour of Mara's departure.
She had also reminded him that he owed their daughter a rather large apology. So right now, Anakin found himself staring at his fancy Jedi boots as his son-in-law sat smugly at the table, across from him. Leia looked at him from across the table too. "Are you sure you're alright?"
Alright barely covered it. One of his babies was married and the other was about to become a father. "If you mean, am I suffering from the Tattooine Dementia? No, I am certainly not. I'm not that old!"
Or that stupid.
Han snorted. Anakin glared. Padmè coughed.
"Alright," Leia said, still clearly not sure. "What made you think that I was preg-?"
The doorbell rang. Anakin jumped to his feet. "I'll get it!"
Padmè walked past, gently pushing him back down. "Threepio will get it," she said firmly, placing a plate in front of him.
"You seem really on edge, Paps," Han said. "Even more than usual."
Han was certainly a bright spot in his day. Anakin briefly wondered why he bothered being sarcastic in his own head when the rest of the dining party, led by Threepio, walked into the dining room.
"May I present to you-"
"We know, Goldenrod," Han said. Anakin couldn't help smirking as his droid looked flustered and embarrassed.
"By the Maker!" Threepio moaned as Luke gave everyone a friendly wave. "Master Anakin, I would appreciate it if you would command Master Solo not to speak to me like that again!"
"Calm down Stiff Pants," Han reiterated. "You know me- I'm just joking!"
Threepio walked off, still grumbling. "And as if you could command me," Han added from across the table. Anakin tried to avoid looking at either Mara or Luke as they took their seats.
Chewie roared as Padmè kissed him on the cheek. "You're most welcome!"
Oddly enough, Anakin liked Chewie. He just didn't approve in his taste in friends. He turned to Obi-Wan, who had taken his usual seat next to Anakin.
"So Chewie, how's the Kyybryyk going?"
Chewie growled in response. "Helluva ship," Han agreed.
"Dad, are you alright? You look red," Luke said, clearly trying to help. Next to him, Obi-Wan took a drink of the expensive ale Padmè had set out. He looked like seafood. "Yes, you do look red," Obi-Wan agreed.
Red. Mara. Mara's tiny, red baby. He looked at his padawan. She was shielding quite well this evening. He was proud, in a completely mortified sort of way. She shook her head.
"He was about to apologise to Leia for his rude behaviour this morning," Padmè added, finally sitting. "Weren't you?"
All eyes were on him. "This is why we came, after all!" Han said.
He looked at his daughter. "Leia, I am very sorry."
Leia looked pleased. Too often it was her apologising to him. "Apology accepted, Dad. Now, you were just going to say, what made you think I was pregnant?"
Luke spat out the blue milk he was drinking. "You're what?"
Anakin really didn't want to be talking about this. No, no and more no. Mara wiped the remnants of the blue milk off her tunic. Shut your mouth, her voice echoed in his head.
I'm the Master here, Anakin sent back. And maybe if you shut yours once in a while...
"I really need to change this outfit," Leia whined. "Luke, I'm not pregnant. And you're disgusting."
Obi-Wan grimaced. "Your manners must be hereditary."
Padmè sighed. "We got an encrypted transmission last night through our old med droid. After Anakin assumed it was me-"
"We both assumed it was Leia. Erroneously."
Luke frowned. "And you have no idea who sent the transmission?"
Padmè shrugged. "Perhaps someone had the wrong code. It happens."
"A total mystery. Leia, could you pass the flatbread?" Mara asked.
Change the subject!
Anakin cleared his throat. "So, Mara, are you excited about your mission?"
Everyone turned to Mara to see her response. She spent a full second indulging in glaring at Anakin and he was fairly certain plotting his untimely demise. Luckily, she was still shielding.
Leia passed the flatbread. "Yes, Mara! You must be excited."
"I had no idea the Council had asked you to go on your first solo mission. Anakin, why didn't you tell me?" Obi-Wan asked.
Anakin shrugged, his mouth full of food.
"Are you sure you're up to it?" Luke asked, pouring sauce all over his bantha steak. Anakin frowned.
You're ruining your food, he sent to his son.
As usual, Luke ignored his sound advice. Mara turned to face Luke.
"What are you insinuating, Skywalker? That I'm somehow incapable of running a mission on my own?"
Red alerts went up through the Force.
Anakin knew Luke didn't mean it that way. He never did. But Mara, training Jedi or not, was a force to be reckoned with. And in a matter of months, she'd be a Jedi Knight and the size of a rancor with an attitude to match.
And Luke didn't even know.
His face fell. "I just meant, because you've been training! I- Dad?"
He wasn't going to fall for this one.
Good luck, he enthused through the Force. You're going to need it.
Luke turned away from Mara. What is that supposed to mean?
Change the subject, Leia commanded. Padmè looked mortified, Leia looked sympathetic, Chewbacca was looking at his food, Obi-Wan was looking into his third glass of ale and Han looked as if he was going to wet his pants.
He cleared his throat. All his years as a stealthy Jedi Master had prepared him for this moment. He needed to change the subject and fast. Distraction and misdirection. He looked at his son-in-law again.
"Han? Would you mind helping me take a look at the med droid? We might be able to trace the transmission!"
Chewie roared his approval and Padmè's eyes lit up. "Oh Anakin, could you?"
Of course he could. He was Anakin Skywalker.
Han looked confused. "Eh, sure Paps. I've got my kit in the speeder. Chewie?" The Wookiee confirmed through a series of soft growls.
"Well that's settled then," Leia said smugly. "Master Kenobi, could you please pass the protato salad?"
Obi-Wan obliged and everyone started eating. Anakin felt very impressed with himself. Until he saw Mara. Her face matched her hair. He then looked at Luke.
Thanks Dad, he beamed.
I'm going to program every alarm in this house to beep every hour until your ears bleed, Mara shot him. And disable Threepio's filter. Her eyes narrowed.
It was going to be a long night.
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