Title: "Sacred"
The 2nd one-shot in the Post-"Salvation" universe.
Written by: Shawn

Summary: With the looming threat of the Republic Senate Trials fast approaching, the lives of Padme, Anakin, Ahsoka, Obi-Wan, and Sabe begin to shift in unexpected ways.

Category: Drama/Romance/Erotica

Rating: M for sensual, sexual situations

Ship: Anakin and Padme Skywalker, Obi-Wan/Sabe, Ahsoka Tano/OC

Timeline/Spoilers: "Salvation and "Scandalous" must be read in their 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, followed by "Scandalous."

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. It s 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 2: This is the second of the post "Salvation" universe after "Scandalous. 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: Though no mention of Ahsoka Tano was made in "Salvation" or "Scandalous" I fell in love with the character during the Clone Wars series and she makes her debut here. She is seventeen years old here, my best guess at her age after the Clone Wars and my story timelines. She is also a full Jedi Knight and no longer Anakin's Padawan.

Authors Notes 4: I'm writing adults here, so expect adult situations, reactions, and consequences.

Authors Notes 5: This story takes place two and a half months after "Scandalous."

Beta Read by: Master Anne the Wise - Similar to Darth Plagius the Wise, only cuter and she influences the Midicholrin to create cookies. She's also invincible in her sleep.

"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us."
~ Alexander Graham Bell

"We never forget those who make us blush."
~ Jean-Fran ois De La Harpe

"If you would thoroughly know anything, teach it to others."
~ Tryon Edwards (1809 - 1894)

******

******

New Republic Tower

Located at the West End of the Government District

The official office of Vice Chair Skywalker

Mid-afternoon

Galactic City, Coruscant

With her hands clasped behind her in a contemplative pose, Vice Chair Padme Skywalker gazed through the broad transparisteel window of her 417th floor office at the sprawling global metropolis that was Galactic City. So much had changed since she first arrived, both for her personally and for the entire planet. Love, war, death, and birth... the extremes of life she considered as endless lanes of multi-directional repulsor-driven traffic stretched before her. She sighed, weary after a very long day thus far that had just gotten much longer with the updated news her office just received. "A three month delay of the Senate Trials for those mongrels who aided Palpatine is preposterous. How could the High Courts grant such a request?"

Finishing the gentle massage she gave her aching temple, Sylar Vein rested her data-pad on Padme s massive black-gold Drakstone desk. "Considering the massive amount of evidence involved I can't say I'm altogether surprised. This case will be unprecedented in the history of the High Courts. And then there's the facet of attempting to appear fair in the proceedings."

Out of the corner of her eye, Padme caught sight of a small pink Grubba duck lying on the floor. One of Leia's plush baby toys and a victim of the crying fit she threw earlier today. With the merest wave of her hand the small object rose to just before her fingertips, and then her wrist curled and it settled over onto her desk. Sylar watched her in amused amazement, though held her tongue about her boss's undefined abilities... for now. "Be that as it may, this is the second straight delay of over sixty standard days. This is becoming unacceptable."

"The high-powered attorneys hired by Intergalactic Banking Clan chairman San Hill, Commerce Guild President Shu Mai, and Techno Trade Union Foreman Wat Tambor are waiting for the honeymoon of public opinion to die down. They are terrified that with the Clone War still so fresh in everyone s memory, as well as Bail's ascension to Supreme Chancellor and your own to Vice Chair, they won't stand a chance in the courts. Their companies are synonymous with the Separatists movement and everyone knows Palpatine was behind it all," she said. "At present the Republic as a whole is years away from recovery and the galactic economy is slowly eroding. The longer they drag out the proceedings the more likely opinion polls on Republic leadership will fall due to the immense amount of work that will take years to truly accomplish. Sudden change breeds hope in many, but nothing will improve overnight. Impatience may turn the tide of public opinion against you."

"The people want justice and the truth."

"Yes, but the accused want the Senate at war with itself over who gets what aid first and the perception of who deserves it more. Then they can use that against you in particular to discredit the case against them. As surely as they will call Jedi Master Windu and Yoda to the stand, they will call you and your husband as well. If the public begins to view you negatively, and then is presented with secrets and lies you all told during the war, it will only help their case. They intend to turn this trial into the most grand fiasco the galaxy has ever seen."

Her jaw tightened as she knew her official spokesperson and chief advisor was right. But every new angle could be played masterfully if approached the right way. Padme slowly walked back to her desk, a plan of action coming to mind. "Contact our people in the HoloNet. Have them re-run their exclusive reports on the Intergalactic Banking Clan, Commerce Guild, and Techno Union organizations connections to Palpatine. I want it shown bi-weekly. We need to keep the atrocities these companies participated in fresh in the people s minds. If their attorneys want to stretch this case out we are not ever going to let them escape what they did."

Lifting a curious brow, Sylar questioned, "The HoloNet big-wigs don't care to be told what to broadcast and when by politicians. You want me to strong-arm them?"

Padme s cool expression betrayed not a thing. "Persuade them by whatever means."

"Understood." Working for Padme Skywalker was a dream come true for Sylar. The Vice Chair was everything she was made out to be. Strong, beautiful, caring, smart, and compassionate. But there was an underlying quality she wasn't ever given enough credit for. She was cunning. And as dark and ruthless as the political arena was... it was her arena. She knew it well. "Anything else?"

"Release an official statement from my office denouncing the new delay in the trials and blame the attorneys representing the accused for the hold up in the Republic learning the full truth about Palpatine. Use the former Supreme Chancellor s name no less than five times. Have them of the belief that we, the new government and the Jedi Order, are all looking forward to testifying for the truth's sake. Align the accused with Palpatine at every turn. They want us to appear as though we are running from the witness stand. I want to give the appearance that we are running to it."

"What about the Coruscant Galactic Republic Ball controversy? Those viper-snake attorneys have tried to make the Senate out to being extravagant partiers while those planets ravaged by the war are only just now receiving aid."

Reclaiming her chair, Padme drank from her steaming cup of Correlian tea. The sweet taste soothed her. "Toward the end of our statement remind the HoloNet of who provided the billions of credits, armaments, starships, and planets from which many of the attacks on the most hard hit worlds originated. And then reiterate that a charitable donation to the Republic Relief Fund is being made by all who attend, while the catered food is being donated as well as the venue hosting the event is doing so for free. Give them no avenue for criticism."

"Done," Sylar replied after finishing her notes. Working for the office of the Vice Chair of the Republic offered her the opportunity to work towards change with people who truly wanted to create a better world. But it also kept her political claws sharp. Like Padme, she lived for the fight as much as she denounced it. "You know, ominous as this is to say, Palpatine was a fool for not trying to recruit you."

"Who says he didn't," Padme noted with a reluctant grin. "Alas, his ways destroy, while mine are the exact opposite. But your compliment is appreciated nonetheless. I think," she smiled. Twin beeps signaled her desk alert. She pressed the red intercom button. "Yes?"

Protocol droid R-998's digitized voice spoke. "Madam Vice Chair, Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano is here to see you. She has no prior scheduled meeting, but she is on your V.I.P. list. What shall I tell her?"

Sensing apprehension and nervousness from the Jedi Knight through the Force, Padme wasted no time. "Show her in and take messages for all incoming transmissions unless they are from my family or the Supreme Chancellor. That will be all."

"As you wish, Madam Vice Chair." The droid ended the transmission.

Ahsoka had been off-world on Jedi business the past three standard months and was sorely missed. Though Padme s schedule was extremely heavy, she would always make time for someone so special to her family. "Sylar, do you require anything else?"

"Yes, you need to get the Sith-hell out of this office and grab some lunch. All work and no play makes Padme a dull Vice Chair," Sylar winked. Padme gave a grateful nod and smile in reply. "As for me, I'm gonna find Sabe and get a drink. Maybe two. Dealing with Separatists scum requires alcohol consumption."

"Try not to get into any fights. Those lower-level bars Sabe enjoys so much are quite seedy and rebellious."

"Honey, we're quite seedy and rebellious." With a salute she exited through a sliding door to her adjourning office.

The official entrance to the grand office of Vice Chair Skywalker cleared as Ahsoka Tano walked past four armed Clone guards who saluted her arrival. Padme rose from her chair and rounded her desk, smiling dearly at her husband's former Padawan. Now at age seventeen, she'd traded in her sleeveless two-piece attire for a simple one-sleeved maroon Jedi uniform minus the cloak and looked every bit the attractive young Togruta woman she was. Though she loathed the attention, Ahsoka was a very popular figure and nightly accounts of her daring exploits were featured on the HoloNet. "You've gotten taller."

"Its nice to see you again too, Sky Girl." Feeling at peace, Ahsoka hugged her former Master's wife with such deep affection. Padme had taken on as the Clone Wars drug near its third year something of a mentor's role in her life. As age collided with her blossoming femininity and the Jedi's complete ignorance of it, she found a big sister of sorts that helped her sort out her feelings. Blessed with the secret of Anakin and Padme s marriage, she felt a part of their family and had needed that more than she realized. Especially now with this tricky situation she's gotten herself into. "I missed you and Anakin. How are little Sky Crawlers?"

Until they could walk she refused to call them Skywalkers, something Padme often enjoyed a great deal of amusement over. "We missed you too. As for the babies, Luke and Leia are crying, eating, pooping, peeing, sleeping, and repeating that as often as they possibly can. And they miss you too."

"I can't wait to see them," Ahsoka grew smile while taking the plush Greccan office chair while Padme took the one behind her desk. The dark blue-gold decor of her luxurious office echoed power and flexibility, a style she admired the first time she saw it. But at the moment she was fidgeting and she never fidgeted. Her legs crossed once, and then again as she sought a comfortable sitting position. Her foot kept tapping the floor and for the life of her she just couldn't stop. Worse yet, Padme was aware something was wrong with her. Suddenly, she felt very, very young. "I'm uhm... I'm sorry if I'm interrupting you or anything. I just needed... I mean I wanted to talk to you about something, but it can wait. It s not super important." Nervously grazing her akul-tooth headdress, she finished, "Maybe I should just go."

"No," Padme shook her head, watching Ahsoka bow her head. She looked very uneasy and was giving off the most insecure vibes. "Ahsoka, dear. What's wrong?"

The Jedi Knight was on her feet before she realized it, trying her best to talk and pace and make sense of it all. Suddenly her voice carried a very shy note. Something so unlike her. "It's all your fault really."

Sinking back in her chair, Padme gave a small laugh and then drank more of her tea. She settled in patiently until Ahsoka was ready to reveal all.

"See, us Jedi are trained to be pillars of discipline and focus. We are one with the Force, both gifted and responsible for our use of it. We are the keepers of the peace and we have served the Republic for centuries. Everything we were ever supposed to do, learn, and become came from the Jedi Code. And it hadn't changed for a very, very long time." She snickered, "Then Anakin met Padme and poof, the Jedi Code gets re-written with all these new bright and shiny choices that we've never had before."

"Okay, so whatever's troubling you is all my fault," Padme nodded while listening, following Ahsoka's back and forth pacing in front of her desk. She couldn't help a small laugh. "What exactly did I do?"

"You seduced Anakin." The Vice Chair laughed so loud Ahsoka almost cringed.

"Dear, rest assured I had nothing resembling seduction skills when Anakin and I were reunited. I think I barely knew how to kiss. The only thing I had was a scandalously backless dress that I hadn't ever had the courage to wear before. Thankfully, it did most of the work for me. But seducing Anakin... not a chance."

"Yeah, well, who seduced who isn't important. It s just that because of you two the Jedi Code was edited and now all Jedi can have emotional attachments." Her gaze sought Padme s and found curiosity in her caring brown eyes. "You know, date and stuff."

Forget the Force, Padme s sisterly intuition was firing on all cylinders. "Okay, go on."

Standing behind her chair, Ahsoka rested her hands on the back of it, her head still bowed. "I... I, uhm..." Looking up, she gave a innocent little shrug. "I like a boy."

Padme held in check a wide smile to no more than a small one. She rose from her desk and walked over to the chair beside Ahsoka, and then sat down. "Sweetheart, there's nothing wrong with that."

"Yes there is!" Ahsoka quickly pointed. "I'm the scary girl at the old folks home," she exhaled before slumping back in her chair. "I'm the war-hero who was trained by the Chosen One. Four of my best friends are Jedi Masters and the Vice Chair of the Republic. I'm on the HoloNet gossip mongers show almost every night. They even said I kissed that Bothan singer when I was assigned to protect him, but I didn't. He lied about it, and then I got teased for days. And he had the breath of a Hutt."

Recalling the uproar of Anakin going all father-figure and railing about that Bothan boy one evening, Padme chose a gentle approach. "Unfortunately we all must deal with the unwanted invasion of our personal lies and in some cases outright lies told about us the in the media," she explained. "You are a very, very accomplished Jedi Knight for one so young and with the Code's adjustment the Jedi have become something of a novelty to report about when it comes to possible romantic interests. But as you have with all things set in your path, you won't let it stop you. So how about we talk about what is really bothering you."

"Like I said. I'm the scary girl at the old folks home."

"Yoda might take offense to you calling the Jedi Temple the old folks home."

Ahsoka smiled. "It was his idea years ago. It s the code name we use when sending interstellar transmissions to the Temple." Padme seemed amused. "Anyway, like I said, with my name in the news so much and rumors about that singer, coupled with my high-profile connections I'm something of a weirdo these days. The other Knights think that I think I am better than them because I was trained by Anakin Skywalker and Knighted by Obi-Wan. Add into all that my HoloNet news coverage and I just can't seem to... I don't know."

Going round and round her troubles, Padme saw this for what it really was. She reached for Ahsoka's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, holding onto to it. "What is his name?"

"Jo'Seth Coral," Ahsoka said in a voice so much smaller than her own. She shook her head, bowing it again. "He's eighteen years old and a humanoid Jedi Knight. He has dark hair and even darker eyes."

"Is he cute?" Padme watched Ahsoka blossom before her very eyes when she nodded her reply.

"He's quietly confident and one heck of a pilot. He writes in his spare time and always finds me when I return to the Temple." Her eyes lifted softly. "He thinks I'm funny and he talks to me alot. About his experiences during the war and mine. I'm not some celebrity freak show to him, you know." Padme gave a short nod and squeezed her hand again in support. "We share stories and sneak candy to the Younglings and even took in a holo-movie the other day. He's... he's really nice to me. And he doesn't think I'm scary."

"Mr. Coral sounds wonderful, Ms. Tano." Padme purposely used her name that way to convey that she was not going to be talked down to, but talked with as a grown woman. This was an important conversation for Ahsoka and a great deal of trust was being placed in her. She had no intention of making Ahsoka ever feel embarrassed or ashamed. "Dear, again, what is the problem here?"

Unable to hold it in anymore, Ahsoka blurted it all out in one long sentence. "He asked me to be his date for the Coruscant Galactic Republic Ball and I don't know how to dance or kiss or buy a dress or what to do on a date and I will be the most universally dorky girl that has ever existed and as old and wise as Master Yoda is he knows nothing about dating boys."

Padme hugged her close, laughing not at her, but just because it felt so good to be on the other side of having no clue about boys for once. Only now she knew plenty and intended to help. This was just the distraction she needed and was going to be tons of fun. "Wait here."

Ahsoka watched Padme go back to her desk and type in a couple of commands to securely shut down her computer console. Then she used her personal office intercom.

"R-988, please cancel with my apologies all of my afternoon and early evening meetings. Then inform the Chancellor s office that I will be away for the rest of the afternoon but reachable should the need occur. Have Captain Typho ready my private shuttle for immediate takeoff and prepare my guard detail for my arrival at the sky dock. Inform Sabe that I will be in the shopping district. Contact Anakin as well. Tell him to bring some blue milk home when he leaves the Temple."

"As you wish, Madam Vice Chair." The droid disengaged the communication.

Padme walked back to Ahsoka and extended her hand. "We are going to get the SkyCrawlers, and then you and I are going shopping. We are both getting new dresses for this party and we are going to talk about boys, kissing, dating, and a wealth of other relationship topics our dear sweet eight-hundred and seventy two year old Jedi Master knows little about."

Thankful that she hadn't been made fun of or treated like a kid, Ahsoka took Padme s hand. She felt so relieved she could barely believe it. "Thank you, Sky Girl."

"Anything for you, Snips."

******

******

"The Jaak Knyfe"
A night club and holo-pool hall

Late Afternoon

Uscru District

Located in the lowest region of the city-dominated, galactic-capital world of Coruscant

"I think I see a trend forming, fellow gamblers." Through a billowing cloud of purple smoke lifting from his Tritan cigar, the four-armed Kiughfid dealer declared with a hearty laugh, "Our dearest Sabe wins again. Three thousand credits added to her fortune thus far tonight." He gave a full bellied laugh that ruffled his six-inch long whiskers as the bystanders graciously applauded the winner.

"Now who among you has the courage to try your hand at defeating her? She is a mere humanoid woman, after all." Lo'Veck winked in her direction, his last comment far from a slight as it was meant to trigger the pride in the male gamblers around their crowded table.

Keeping one eye on the four grumbling gamblers who just lost at her Sabacc table, Sabe lazily counted her winnings. They were sore losers for certain, but she carried herself with an air of danger. Any bad attitude fired her way would be met with one of the two blasters adorning her slender hips. Of course her daring smirk didn't help ease tensions any. "Enough, Lo'Vek. I'm going to leave the boys be. I have relieved them of enough of their credits for one evening." She rose from her high-back chair, her dark brown eyes focused on the other gamblers. They knew of her lofty position as Chief of Security for Vice Chair Skywalker. But they respected her reputation as an ex-mercenary and bounty hunter. If they entertained ideas of trying to take back their losses... "You fellows go on and enjoy the rest of your night. You wouldn't want to lose anything else, now would you?"

A warning for certain. Trouble with her was settled at the end of her blasters.

Ignoring a couple of interesting insults she vaguely recognized in alternative alien dialects, Sabe vacated her chair and made her way past a throng of death-stick addicts gazing hypnotically at the Tattoine pod-racing tournament being broadcast on several ceiling-hung telescreen monitors. No doubt they were hoping and praying for a winner that would award them with more credits to feed their habit. Only thing it fed was their gambling habit as well. She almost pitied them as they were hopelessly lost to their addictions. Still, the dangerous atmosphere, ominously intriguing characters, and explosive off-world gossip kept her coming back here for more.

This was her exotic arena. Coruscant's underworld was a dark home away from home Sabe considered while deftly parting the crowded, rowdy night club. No matter if you were a smuggler, gun runner, thief, spice dealer, prostitute, bounty hunter, assassin, or hired gun this hidden world accepted you without judgment. And while she didn't agree with much of the corruption surrounding her, this was the place where information was power. Knowledge of the best, most cutting-edge new weapons originated here. Starship technology, computer console hacking, advanced droid alterations, undetectable poisons, and who wanted who dead were discussed over drinks and laughter. Scandalous gossip that could ruin lives, cripple corporations, and bring down elected officials were bought and sold without a care. The lower levels were a hidden society unto itself, far removed from the towering spires of Galactic City.

Her bright glory didn't reach down here where the criminals dwelled. And for that Sabe was grateful. Because in her short half a standard year back on Coruscant she d found evil and cruelty amongst those that rule upper Coruscant far out-eviled anything in the lower levels. In some ways she even felt safer here.

At least here there wasn't any annoyingly charming Jedi Master confusing her in his presence.

Running her right hand through her short dark hair, Sabe confidently strode past a table of loud drinking Wookies and the appreciative stare of a lithe Bothan at her form-fitting Grutan leather attire. Dimly lit save for the holo-illuminations throughout the club, she fit right in as she approached Sylar's corner hub. Though having known her for only a short time, a friendship grew between them as they were both prone to speak their minds bluntly and think outside the box when it came to accomplishing tasks. Friends were few and far between for Sabe, made even worse by her inability to trust. But with Sylar, it came all too easy.

A robust woman of size and personality, Padme s official spokesperson held two betting disks in her cards and was greatly into the Odupiendo racing airing on the far-wall telescreen. Sabe caught sight of her immense interest. "You should just ask Anakin to secretly enter that race on your behalf. He'd win it in a flash and probably make you a wealthy woman."

After her racer lost, Sylar tore her betting cards in two, frowning. "I think Padme would take issue with that. Especially with her being my boss and all. Plus, I kind of like having a job. This galactic recession isn't exactly over yet, you know."

Straddling a chair from behind, Sabe shrugged, and then ordered two bottle of Hynekan from a tri-legged serving droid. "Worst comes to worst and I go back to bounty hunting. No job's worth going crazy over."

Sylar grinned knowingly while downing her Dora wine. "That Jedi still driving you batty?"

Sabe snorted, "Obi-Wan Kenobi can kiss a Shaak's ass for all I care."

That drew a hearty laugh from Sylar, who knew all to well the true source of Sabe's issues with Obi-Wan. After all, when the business of the people ended by nightfall Padme, Dorm , and Sylar had to gossip about something. Sabe and Ben were their hot topic at the moment. "Whatever did our bearded friend do this time?"

"Your friend," Sabe amended bitterly with a pointed finger. "Commander Rex and I were going over our security protocols for Bail's big party when Mr. Know-It-All Jedi begins finding fault with where I am stationing my plain-clothes officers and the exit strategies I've been working on with Bail's security chief should trouble arise. Now I tried my best not to shoot him, never mind that he would probably just deflect my blasts anyway. But his arrogance drives me batty. He thinks he knows everything. I may be younger than him, but I've been around the block plenty of times. I know how assassins think just as well as he does. And last I checked it wasn't a normal human who sat in front of the Sith Lord every single day for years and didn't even know it. Jedi perception is vastly overrated."

Sylar gave a nod of partial agreement. "Dear, all Jedi carry themselves that way to an extent. Its a byproduct of having so much power. But I've found Ben to be humble and articulate. He rarely finds fault unless he truly believes there is reason to bring it up. You might want to debate the issue with him rather than grow angry at every single thing he says. The man will listen."

Sabe could barely believe what she was hearing. "So you're siding with him?"

"Yes, and your anger is almost cute," Sylar teased. Sabe s drinks arrived as she downed half of one slim bottle in a single turn, then wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Though she was utterly gorgeous to every man who saw her, she possessed the manners of a Hutt. But beneath it all Sylar sensed what Padme did. A heart of gold weighed down by a tortured past. "Why does he get to you so?"

"He doesn't," Sabe noted defiantly, her tough exterior appearing as dense as titanparisteel. She downed the rest of her first bottle, then held it between her fingers as she contemplated once more. At last she spoke from the heart. "Okay, fine, he makes me feel something."

"What exactly?"

"Its enough that its something," Sabe replied in a reflective tone. "No man has ever made me feel anything. And I was pretty damn certain no man ever would."

Though Padme never betrayed what personal demons lay in Sabe s past, Sylar was perceptive enough to pick up the subtle hints. Something vile scarred this young woman at a very young... likely innocent time in her life. Ever since then she d hardened herself against the universe. "Do you dislike feeling something?"

Sabe paused for a beat and then sighed. "It s just... it s so unexpected." She gathered her thoughts as best she could. "Ben is so wise and well-known. He's a respected war hero and a Jedi Master. He's educated... I don't know why he gets to me. But when I'm around him I'm on edge and... I think he wants me." Finally after a moment she confessed, "I just don't know why."

Such a private revelation cost Sabe a great deal and Sylar knew that. And she honored it. "I've seen the way he looks at you, Sabe. When he's trying to appear so above it all and neutral, but his gaze betrays him. He favors you like a woman. And with the Jedi Code amended..."

"It means nothing to me," Sabe quickly blurted out. "So he likes what he sees. Big deal. I'm sure there are women lined around the Jedi Temple ready to ride his lightsaber all the way to the Outer Rim."

Sylar couldn't help a small laugh but held control of herself. "And yet I think he wants you." Her friend's complete silence spoke volumes.

"I... I can't," was all Sabe was able to convey, quietly, as if the words were to painful to admit. "I didn't return to Coruscant to find a man or anything like that."

"Then why did you return?" Sylar questioned. "From what I heard you've enjoyed your free-spirited lifestyle since leaving Naboo."

That free-spirited lifestyle came long after a personal tragedy... Sabe sucked it up, burying the memories yet again. "Padme told me she needed me. And in a lot of ways I think I needed to have her back in my life as well. I've been running from certain things... from my past for far too long. But this," she groaned, sounding unsure in a way very unlike her daring persona. Suddenly, she couldn't believe what she was saying. "I'm drawn to him, alright. He gets on my last nerve, and I just want to punch his lights out... and then kiss him senseless. And then shoot him. No where fatal. Just in the leg or thigh or something."

Progress at long last, Sylar happily thought to herself. "No woman is an island, Sabe. Everyone needs someone. And for him to have recognized such quality in you is a great compliment."

"I'm not..."

"You are!" Sylar insisted, punctuated by her fist pounding the table once to get through to her. "You are good and worthy and an incredibly cunning, capable woman. Now if you just don't want Obi-Wan then that is your choice. But do not deny yourself because you feel some moment in your life decimated your value as a human being. Nothing can do that. And certainly nothing done against your will." Sabe s expression grew fearsome as she stared daggers. "I know nothing concrete, Sabe. Nor will I surmise any further. But for three standard years I counseled young females who had suffered assaults of many kinds. I recognize signs better than most. And I just want you to know your life is your own to live how you see fit. And let me tell you, love and passion are real and wonderful to behold."

Before she could reply with a thank you or retort, Sabe wondered why Sylar was suddenly laughing with her hand over her mouth. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end when she glanced over her shoulder and caught sight of the star of her recent nightly dreams walking toward them as dashing as ever. "Great. Just great."

"Ben," rising from her chair, Sylar greeted Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi with a warm hug. "What brings you to the lower levels this evening?"

Taking the chair beside Sabe, he offered her a polite bow before addressing Sylar. "I might be seeking information on a reported shipment of re-conditioned Separatists battle droids, or I might just be in need of a little diversion in my life. We'll see how the night unfolds." Sparing Sabe a side-long glance, he appeared as unaffected about things as he was well known for. But their latest disagreement left him on edge, a feeling he absolutely detested. "What brings you two here this evening?"

Sensing Sabe had little to nothing to say, Sylar jumped in. "Did you hear about the Senate Trials being delayed three more months?"

Grazing his beard, Obi-Wan's eyes narrowed. The political world he now had a hand in wasn't something he requested or hoped lasted much longer. But the Jedi Order needed a public representative as part of the Chancellor's new cabinet. He was its only logical choice. "Unfortunately yes. I was with the Chancellor when the HoloNet broke the news. I'm afraid the politics behind the High Courts decision elude my understanding."

Holding up her drink, Sylar announced, "That is why I am here tonight. But I have stayed too long and my husband will likely start to worry. So I bid you both farewell." She gently squeezed Sabe s shoulder. "Do try to stay out of trouble. The last thing this galaxy needs is another scandal."

"Goodnight, milady," Obi-Wan offered with a bow.

"Later. Fly safe." Before Sylar exited the table, Sabe caught her wrist. "Uhm, thanks."

"Anytime, darling." Sylar walked away with a smile, feeling as though something worth while was accomplished tonight.

Thick, heavy tension saw the quiet between Obi-Wan and Sabe drag on longer than either were comfortable with. Especially for the Jedi Master who was known across the galaxy the 'Negotiator.' Words came easy to him. Always had. But in affairs such as this one he felt like a Padawan taking his first flight lesson. Terrified and thrilled all at the same time. Yes, he was far too old for this... though she felt far to worth the effort. Change was in the air. "I talked to Anakin today."

Her foot rapped the floor beneath their table, and then she turned to face him. "About?"
"I am too critical at times."

"And his assessment?"

"At times I can be... difficult." She smirked before wrapping her pouty lips around the end of her bottle. He tried not to notice the elegant slide of her throat as she drank. So much was different now. When once an attractive woman was no more than that, now he didn't just have to walk away. Anakin's joy and strength from the love he shared with Padme had left the legendary Jedi Master with a profound sense of envy. Something he d never felt before. Siri awakened his heart for a time... Years ago, so far in the past he felt but the faintest echo of her. "If I appeared overly critical today, I do apologize. I am new to working with non-Jedi so closely and the Clone soldiers were always under my command. So again, I am sorry if I overstepped my boundaries. I know that I could have rephrased my opinion or perhaps kept it to myself all together. Especially since the Ball isn't my official assignment."

He was trying, that was for sure. She held tight to her anger at him for as long as she could before finally recognizing her own fault in this. "You have far more experience in securing a specific facility than I do. I should have better explained what I had planned and then at least listened to your suggestions rather than ignoring them and walking off."

"So you're sorry?" he asked with a sly grin.

"I never said that."

"Apology accepted."

Sabe damned the knowing smile that threatened to curl her lips. He knew her far too well already. And his own triumphant expression was tempting... "So what do you think of this Coruscant Galactic Republic Ball?"

"It is a feast for those who love excess and a complete waste of time," he answered honestly. "But the proceeds will aid a great deal of people, and this city needs a night where the war and Palpatine's fowl legacy aren't foremost on their minds."

"Agreed," she found herself saying, her gaze held by Obi-Wan as they gently tested the waters. She rarely gave thought before she spoke, a trait that had gotten her into trouble many times. "So, you got a date?"

"That you even ask the question is appalling to me on some level," Obi-Wan chuckled quietly. "Being asked if I have a date... No one s ever asked me that before."

"You still can't get over the fact that you Jedi need no longer be home to the oldest living virgins club, can you?"

Quirking a brow, Obi-Wan quickly corrected her. "We were forbidden romantic attachments only."

"But not sex?"

"... no."

"So did you ever..."

"That's none of your business."

Why did she suddenly want to make it her business. Maybe it was because he was staring at her like he wanted it to be her business. Or maybe she just liked the way he looked at her. Like she was a woman to be desired. Like someone who wasn't emotionally broken. "I don't have a date either."

"A pity." She went back to drinking from that damn bottle and for the life of him the curve of her pretty little mouth was driving him mad. Years of strict self-discipline and a near photographic memory of the former Jedi Code had always aided him throughout life.

Tonight he just didn't want to be a Jedi, and the mere thought of thinking that was shocking. There was more to life than simply serving the Republic. In that regard he was the Padawan and Anakin the Master. He suddenly, and with a growing sense of joy, felt young again. "Are you waiting for me to ask you to the Ball?"

"I was waiting for you to leave."

Of course nothing would be easy with her. He knew that. Accepted it even as part of her charm. But then again, he thought, that was why he liked her so much. She was a challenge. "I'm being forced to attend as a official guest of the Senate."

"I didn't ask."

"We're going to both be there anyway."

"Do I look like I care?"

She'd forgotten for the moment he was a Jedi Master. Her tough-girl attitude was betrayed by the feelings he sensed from her. Fear, insecurity, anger, and arousal all at the same time. A potent cocktail of emotion no doubt. At least now he realized that for them to take a step forward, he must first take two. "I greatly enjoy your company, Sabe." Her eyes softened towards him, though he could tell she fought it. "And I mean as a woman and not simply a friend."

Speechless and all to unprepared for this, Sabe ducked her head and sighed. "You can do better."

Uncertainty was one thing, but he had never suspected this. And the Force was no help at all in figuring out the eternal mystery that was a woman. "I've flown from one end of this galaxy to the other." Reaching between them for her hand, he took it between him own. "Better does not exist beyond you."

Sabe actually fought off tears. With those precious words he'd gotten under her skin.

Suddenly they weren't in a loud lower levels night club surrounded by a couple hundred alien patrons. They were just two people trying to figure out how in the world do you push past all your preconceived notions, issues of the past, and live in the moment. Sabe found that she didn't have it in her to argue anymore. Padme told her time and time again that the best revenge is living a good life. Perhaps this was a start. "Are you going to wear that dress?"

"It s a tunic and Jedi robe, milady."

She laughed because it felt so good. "So do I meet you there or are you supposed to pick me up?"

Obi-Wan realized he had a date for which he hadn't even properly asked. But never let it be said he didn't grab onto opportunity when he saw it. "I will see to your safe journey to the ball, Sabe."

The sexy accented way he spoke her name made her toes tingle. She wondered if Padme was so affected by her Anakin once upon a time. "I'm not wearing a dress."

"Whatever you're comfortable with is fine."

"I don't dance."

"I don't even know how."

"And you're not getting laid later on in the evening."

"... we'll see."

Damn he was charming when he wanted to be. And she was helpless to resist.

******

******

The High Council Tower of the Jedi Temple

Jedi Council Chambers

Early evening

Galactic City, Coruscant

For all the years Anakin Skywalker felt disrespected, unwanted, and untrusted in this hallowed Jedi Council chamber, today he experienced something altogether different.

He was snoring softly.

The gentle noise caught the attention of the person seated closest to him as green ears curled forward. Prodding the quietly sleeping new Jedi Master with his gimer-stick cane, Yoda asked with his typically impish sense of humor, "Master Skywalker, late night the little ones keep you up, do they? Find our humble chairs quite comfortable, see."

Jostled awake, Anakin's eyes shot open. He quickly sat up in his chair, mindful that the stares of Master Yoda, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Plo Koon, and Ki-Adi Mundi were trained upon him. After clearing his throat, he offered, "My apologies, Masters." Offering a bow to the Grand Master of the Jedi Order. "And to answer your question, yes, my children are keeping me up most nights. Sometimes they just won't fall sleep."

Possessing the wisdom of the ages, Yoda's warm smile forgave Anakin's minor transgression. "Use the Force on them, you must, when called for. Sleep, no greater joy there is for a caretaker or parent."

While already in a splendid mood this evening, Obi-Wan found great amusement in that notion. "Master, you authorize the use of the Force on a child?"

Yoda gave what amounted to a snort. "Crying infants, greater shrill than angry Wookies, it is. When stop they won t, the Force I will use... gently, for certain." Punctuating his point, he tapped the end of his cane on the floor. "Wonderful blessings children are in the Force. But beware. Not without end, even old Yoda's patience. Rest... yes... forever sleep. Earned it, I have."

Master Windu was sure the Jedi Order would never be the same if Council Chambers talk fell in the range of how to deal with crying babies. Then again, this was necessary for the Jedi Order to grow and rebuild itself from within. For too long their rigid, sometimes cold methods led them to the brink of cataclysmic disaster. But evolving from the old ways... his ways... was difficult for the Koran Master. "I trust your family is well, Master?"

It was still taking some getting used to hearing Mace refer to him as Master. But now more than ever he understood the equality and respect the title held for him. Anakin sat up straight, hands folded in his lap. "Yes, Master. We are adjusting to the media scrutiny as best we can. But overall we are doing very well. Thank you for asking."

Mace gave a nod, pleased that the intense strain between them had at least lessened in recent times. He was the source of the most opinionated opposition to Anakin for many years, though now he recognized the honor and character the young man possessed -- and the error of his own ways in so many areas. The reassessment of all he held dear was still a ongoing process. "Alright, the topic at hand before our mild interruption was over the reported abuses of prisoners at the Kessel hard labor correctional facilities. Senator Hye has requested a Jedi investigate the charges. I think we should..."

As Anakin listened to his fellow Jedi Council members debate the issue and consider who would be best for the investigation, he pondered what it truly meant to be a Master amongst these great men and women. Not long ago title alone called out to him and he ran himself raw after its allure. But the majesty of receiving the highest honor in the Jedi Order came with an immense amount of personal responsibility and accountability. More so than he originally understood past the respect he felt he was often denied. The entire Republic counted on the Jedi Order, their numbers already decimated from the slaughter on Geonosis and then throughout the three and a half standard years of the Clone War. So many of them dead and gone, all because of Palpatine's hateful lust for power.

There were nights he still couldn't sleep over his own thirst for it and what it would have cost him had he truly given in to the Dark Side. Padme, Luke, and Leia were his whole world. Without them he would have surely been lost.

When asked his opinion on the Kessel dilemma, Anakin proposed that Shaak-Ti and her new Padawan be sent to investigate the charges of wrongdoing. They were nearest to that part of the galaxy and Master Ti was especially skilled in the area of criminal investigation and interrogation. In addition, her Padawan hailed from Kessel and his knowledge of the world would be a great asset on the mission. The rest of the Council agreed, and he felt proud that he had finally become used to keeping track of where all Jedi were stationed now that he was a member of the governing body of the Order.

Before this time in his life, Anakin could have been as reckless and wild as his spirit called for. But now he struggled with patience and proper consideration rather than leaping into the fire. In many ways he was learning more from Obi-Wan now than he ever did as a Padawan. Though mindful the notion carried the burden of his ego, he always felt far ahead of those his age from the moment he became a Padawan through becoming a Jedi Knight. But now he needed to think of the whole and not just the moment he was in. It wasn't easy being at the forefront of the war, and now being part of the group that decided the future of the Jedi Order. A future they were still working out.

The Jedi Council proceedings continued...

"While I now understand, albeit a bit begrudgingly, why the aspect of romantic attachment needed to be amended," Master Windu began, his voice as powerful as he was. "I still feel very strongly about a Jedi having no personal possessions save his lightsaber. After all, we are susceptible to greed and ego as it has well be documented."

"Agree, I do," Yoda added to the discussion. "Love, being the heart and soul of the Force, should be shared. Too long we have remained stagnant in that regard. But material items, and then the gain of such, many problems I foresee in that path."

Obi-Wan nodded in agreement as well. "On that stance, I am with you. Being a Jedi and mastering the Force comes with a immense sacrifice of self-wants for the greater good. We would be pursuing a dangerous course of action if Jedi were able to be paid for services and then began amassing personal wealth. Envy and greed are well known paths to the Dark Side and should be avoided at all costs."

Anakin knew that his actions and subsequent consequence were part of the direct cause of this re-organization of the centuries old Jedi Code. Often when talk turned to the actual outlining of that change,
his opinion was sought as he represented this brave new age of the Order. For that reason alone he gave it the utmost seriousness it deserved. "Material possession is one rule I feel should stand the test of time in the Jedi Code. We see every day what the unhealthy pursuit of wealth and power cause. Palpatine taught us our lesson well." A grim sliver of the Force swept through the Jedi Council chamber. "That is why though I am married to a very wealthy woman, I own only my Jedi clothing and my lightsaber. I claim no other personal possession as my own."

"The matter is settled then, unless any others have something to say." Mace scanned the room and found no disagreement. Although the entire Jedi Council was not present, those in attendance could make the necessary decisions. "It is so ordered. The matter of material possession as written in the Jedi Code stands."

"A wonder it is, that stand, we still do." Shutting his green eyes, there were times Yoda appeared as old as he truly was. Tired even, as if the years of his historic life were finally catching up to him.
Though Mace was the Fist of the Jedi Order, Obi-Wan the face, Anakin the hero, it was Grand Master Yoda who was the heart and soul. As his gaze fell, he found himself troubled with his thoughts of late. It was not the Jedi way to grieve or allow past mistakes to fester into the present. But even the oldest living Jedi in the galaxy struggled with failures. "Our way it is to cast off our transgressions. Better to live and learn, it is. To the eye, eight-hundred and seventy nine years I am. But before the Force," his voice echoed around the rooms silence, "A second of time and no more will I be." Three green fingers tightly gripped his gimer-stick cane and then eased their grasp as he reigned in his emotions, ever a master of himself. "Our greatest enemy, before him I stood for years. A decade even. More. Sense his evil, I did not. And so the great burden of so many of our lost, I carry."

"Master," Mace called out with a hint of trembling emotion, far unlike his stoic persona. "I was there with you. We are all to blame."

"Master, none of us saw clearly enough," Ki-Adi Mundi added. "The Dark Side..."

"No!" Yoda vehemently pointed out. "Not the Dark Side," he cracked his cane on the floor with such force to emphasize his point. "Our ego and great pride, murder us they almost did. Too sure of ourselves I have warned us before. So great and powerful are the Jedi that no one could destroy us; we lived without saying out loud. Lied to the Republic, we did. Blamed the Dark Side when it was our own hand choking our throats. A century passed since last we destroyed the Sith. Certain we were that they were gone. And before our very eyes the Dark Lord plotted, laughing at us all." He slowly shook his head, seeking the calm that governed his life. The others waited before he spoke again. When his moment passed, great strength returned to his voice. Determination lit his eyes. "Those who died, in vain their sacrifice was not. Live in the past we will not, nor shall we forget it. Forgiven us, the Force has. Back into balance, it is. Master Skywalker, fulfilled his prophecy, he did."

Purging the guilt from his conscious as it was the Jedi way to hold onto to nothing that was empty of value, Mace addressed the Council. "The Jedi Order is not perfect. That is a fact that shouldn't need to be said, but we certainly never acted as if it were the truth. Palpatine fooled us all, but we certainly gave him rope to hang us. But no more. Our relationship and duty to the Republic will be restored and renewed. We are all dedicated to that."

"I was blind to Palpatine's allure," Anakin said. "I enjoyed his interest and encouragement as I felt disrespected and unwanted by the Jedi Order. All of us have made mistakes and all of us will live with them. For now though, we move forward."

"Forward, indeed," Plo Koon agreed. "Now that we've had our pity party." Ki-Adi Mundi gave a small chuckle, while Obi-Wan smiled, Anakin grinned, Yoda sighed with amusement and Mace seemed to convey he got the point with a nod. "I wanted to regal you all with a recent side-trip adventure I had to the coldest world I have ever set foot on. Hoth in the Outer Rim."

Anakin rather enjoyed Master Plo Koon's tale of his encounter with space pirates near the Outer Rim world of Hoth. His storytelling abilities were legendary among the Younglings, Knights, and Masters. Even while doing so he sensed Padme was... laughing. She was pleased and very amused at something to do with R2. Her light flowed over him like the warmth of a Naboo dawn. He basked in her joy, relieved that whatever was stressing her earlier in the day seemed to have passed. His eyes shut briefly, though not asleep this time. He attempted to push a thought to Padme that he wanted Veshen hot ribs tonight for dinner, and the thought amused him that he was actually doing that here. He felt the moment she sensed him and then fired back her own request. His mood faded as yet another gallon of Blue milk was needed.

"I'd buy you a blue cow for your birthday, provided I possessed credits and knew when that was," Obi-Wan could not help but to tease, and then laugh when Anakin's eyes shot open yet again. "You are in a room filled with some of the most powerful Force perceptions in the galaxy. Do remember that."

"I will try, Master." Anakin felt yet another poke from Yoda's cane.

"Do or do not. There is no try," the ancient Jedi Master declared, and then enjoyed a chuckle of his own. "Poured thousands of glasses of blue milk, I have. Rich in nutrients it is. Though make old Yoda taller, it did not. False advertising, it may be."

The Jedi Council Chamber... for a brief moment... erupted in blinding laughter... and even Master Mace Windu cracked a small smile. A very, very small smile.

*******

*******

Vice Chair Padme Amidala-Skywalker's apartment

Located on the top floors of the Senate Apartment Complex of 500 Republica

Senate District

Night time

Galactic City, Coruscant

Periodically, Anakin caught sight of the flying security droids that patrolled the immediate area surrounding their upper levels apartment. The majesty of the Galactic City night skyline was abuzz with endless lanes of repulser traffic, showering the heavens in the most vast array of colors one could ever imagine. The metropolis that was Coruscant never slept.

After corkscrewing the eletro-driver into R2D2's back-plate, Anakin began removing the dead bolts and setting them on the stone floor of the veranda. Several in total until he was able to remove the plated covering, revealing the droid's internal command console, multi-deck attachments, and coils of wiring. A slightly charred scent struck him immediately and was not a good sign at all. His frown said it all. "It's not a loose wire."

While holding a peacefully slumbering Leia in her arms, Padme leaned comfortably against the wooden door frame, mildly amused at her husband's every attempt to ensure that whatever was wrong with R2, it wasn't a loose wire. His pride was on the line here and he had never appeared more like a typical guy than right at this very moment. She found it utterly adorable in a strange sort of way. "So it's a burned out one, I assume?"

Moving his right hand around inside the droid to detect heat, he replied, "No."

"Something dislodged?"

"No."

"A malfunctioning chip?"

"No."

"I don't know, Ani... to me it sounds like a loose wire," Padme couldn't help teasing just to get a rise out of him. His hot temper caused her to hide a little laugh against her daughter's baby-soft hair. Anakin didn't value many material things in this world, but he loved that droid. And he was particularly protective of any criticism turned his way. R2 saw him safely through a war, after all. "When R2 began spinning around in circles at the Sky Mall I thought Luke wouldn't stop laughing and drooling. Leia was trying to clap her little hands in celebration. Poor 3PO tried to help R2, but he wasn't very successful. If I ever see a droid have a nervous breakdown, it will be our C3PO."

Anakin grumbled, "R2 just had a moment, alright."

Padme enjoyed a luxurious yawn. "A loose wire moment?"

"Angel, unless you want me to bend you over my knee and spank you for that smart mouth of yours," he gazed over his shoulder with an evil, daring smirk, "I suggest you temper your comments."

A flush of heat swept through Padme as the edge of his piercing stare aroused her. Nonetheless, she wasn't about to let him get away with that line. "Let the record show that you have tried to tame me many times, Mr. Skywalker. And yet my smart mouth remains."

"We'll revisit this conversation later, Mrs. Skywalker." Attempting to ignore her mocking snort, Anakin surveyed the damage inside R2. Simply put, the droid had gone far to long without a thorough repair cycle. Their lives have just been so non-stop busy the last five months that R2 was kind of left out of the equation. And though the droid wasn't flesh and blood, Anakin felt a sincere twinge of guilt. R2, in his eyes, was a member of the family. "Maybe somethings just dislodged a bit," he attempted to downplay what he knew was much more than that. He began searching for the origin of the burnt scent while shining a small snake-light in and around the droid's circuitry. He found a number of burned out boards and frayed wires that were... in fact... loose. He gulped, thankful Obi-Wan was far away. The job of repairing R2 was going to require him to shut the droid down completely and take him apart to replace what was no longer working properly or destroyed. "R2, are any of your memory capacitors fried?"

The droid chirped a couple of times in a language it seemed only Anakin could decode.

"It looks like you're going down for a while." Anakin rose to his full height, stretching his long arms over his head. R2 gave a downtrodden noise of reservation. "Sorry pal, but there's no other way to get you up and running again." He patted the the droid on top of its dome head, and then replaced its back-plate. "I'll tend to you first thing in the morning. For now, go back-up all your data and then recharge." R2 beeped a couple of times and them rolled away.

With the light, pale blue nightgown she wore was far more comfortable than her professional day attire, Padme sprinkled sweet kisses over her daughter's head, pleased that she was resting so peacefully after a particularly fussy day. Usually it was Luke who was the problem child, for lack of a better term. But today it was his sister who seemed to not like anything or anyone. Despite the fits and all, Leia was forever precious in her mother's eyes. "I think its time to tuck you into bed, Little One."

Free of all clothing save his pants, Anakin approached his family, coming round Padme to intimately shadow her right side. He bent over and kissed Leia's head and then tenderly brushed his fingers over her soft hair. "Goodnight, Princess."

Leia didn't stir as she was out like a light, but Padme was certain she knew her father loved her more than anything in the world. Looking to her husband, she told him, "You need dinner. No more tinkering with droids."

"Are you giving me orders now?" Anakin playfully scoffed.

"I think that growling stomach of yours has a say in the matter as well," she playfully taunted while offering him no room for further argument. His warm hand softly cupped her cheek as he stole a lush kiss that lingered with a hot hint of more to come. No matter the years they'd been together her mouth still tingled every time his brushed over hers. His love had such an effect on her. "The Veshen hot ribs are still warm. Let me put Leia down and then I'll make you plate."

Craning his neck about, Anakin shook his head. "Angel, you have been busy all day long. You don't have to do that."

"You're my husband," she sweetly reminded him, pressing a kiss to his shoulder, just over a slanted war scar. "I don't have to do that. But sometimes I like too. It's a wife thing. We take care of each other, remember?"

"Yes, always." His mouth sampled hers a final time before she softly padded off to the nursery. For so long their relationship whithered under the immense pressure of their secrets, but now it was able to breathe freely in the open. And he had never been happier in all his life.

Ever the night owl, Anakin rarely felt tired as the night dragged on. And while he was finally getting used to sleeping easier, years of that not being the case were still with him. He gazed out over the grandeur of Galactic City and its seemingly endless cityscape, his hands braced on the stone railing, and marveled at how far he'd come from that small stucco hovel on Tattoine. Gentle warm winds kissed his bare chest as he exhaled a soothing breath. For the boy who was once a slave to the Jedi Master who was now a husband and father, there were times he had trouble wrapping his mind around the unbelievable journey of his life. Loss, violence, rage, love, and redemption were extremes of his very existence almost from birth. One wrong move and he was sure he'd slip into a darkness he might never return from. And in his quieter, solitary moments... he knew that if he let his guard down he could still lose it all.

Nonetheless, his life was now a good one. A very good one.

Having had his fill of introspective thought this evening, he re-entered the apartment down a curving sweep of stairs past the magnificent hand-crafted fountain towards the expansive kitchen area. One of Luke's chew toys laid beside the interior fountain he so loved to splash in. With the slightest gesture the toy lifted from the floor as he guided it over to the sink in the kitchen area. He hand-washed the toy and then put it away. Looking after something for his son underscored how the simpler things in his life. For all the years his sole relentless focus was on attaining the respect, title, and power he felt he was due they were all so far beneath the dedication to his family that now defined him.

Okay, so maybe he wasn't totally over the introspective part, he mused with a small grin. Padding barefoot back into the kitchen, when he reached for a white plate the item lifted just out of his reach. He stood perfectly still, mildly bewildered, and then rubbed his eyes. His Padme was quite stubborn when she wanted things to go her way.

"I told you I would get that. Now sit down."

Arguing with his wife rarely got him anywhere. Anakin surmised he was finally figuring out this marriage thing. At least a little bit. He did as he was told without further hassle. "As you wish, milady."

That low, husky tenor of his voice never failed to elicit a alluring reaction from her body. With plate in hand, she set about fixing his dinner. A full meal for her beloved husband. Most nights didn't afford her the time or energy to play the more traditional of wife roles. But even the highly educated, feminist-centric Padme Skywalker enjoyed taking good care of her husband from time to time. "Ahsoka is so thrilled about her first date." A sense of mild dread swept from her husband over her. She understood its origin. "She's growing up, Ani. You're going to have to deal with that."

His jaw tightened. "That boy has shifty eyes."

"So do you."

"And boys always have... you know... things on their minds... inappropriate things..."

"Like you had?"

"Ye... no!" Upon setting his plate of spicy Veshen ribs, Cascaroni in Rossi sauce, and steamed vegetables down in front of him, Padme beamed a knowing grin. Anakin hung his head in mock shame. "Thank you, Angel."

"Anything for you." She ran her hand through his sun-streaked hair affectionately and then took the high-back chair opposite of him. Though he fought with such wild, untamed grace, she wished he didn't eat that way. Alas, he wasn't perfect. Luke would not learn his table manners from his father, that was for certain. "So what do you think of Jo'Seth Coral?"

With a cold glass of Florsha punch in hand, he offered, "I'd like to send him to the farthest ends of the Outer Rim for the next fifty standard years."

"That's not an opinion, love."

Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Anakin's gaze lifted. "He's alright, I guess."

Padme felt more from him. He was attempting to be evasive. "Just alright?"

Anakin gave a shrug of sorts. "Jo'Seth is articulate and honorable. Obi-Wan speaks highly of him. He's a bit more precise and methodical than I ever imagined Ahsoka would go for."

"Did you ever think she'd want someone like you? A bit more unpredictable and wild?" His eyes narrowed. "Dear, many girls early on date men somewhat similar to the most important, loved men in their lives. Its natural, really."

That made more sense than he cared to acknowledge. "As much as I disagreed with the Jedi Code's strict stance on romantic attachments, I was never on this end of it before. I mean, I know I'm not Ahsoka's father..."

"In many ways you are," Padme reminded him while he ate. "You were responsible for the latter half of her training and preparation for her Trials. But more than that you were her friend, confidant, and prime example of the type of Jedi she wanted to be for years. She looked to you for guidance during the war. She has many of your good and bad habits, and even has taken on some of your mannerisms. She loves you like a father no different than the way you loved Obi-Wan at her age. Its genuine."

"I love her too, its just..." He sat his fork down and sighed. "She should stay single for a while longer."

"Like you did at her age?" Anakin winced slightly, causing her to chuckle. "Need I remind you of the age we were married? We weren't that much older than she is now."

"She is not marrying that boy!"

Padme now knew when Leia began dating it was going to be a unique experience to say the least. She pitied the first boy her daughter would bring home. "Of course not. But Ahsoka's finally found a boy she's interested in. One who treats her nicely and talks to her and isn't intimidated by her lofty accomplishments or public persona. You have no idea how important that is for a young woman to feel accepted for who she is. She really likes this boy and she wants your approval. She won't ask for it, but she does."

He was getting "the look" and he knew it. The serious one that meant his wife was sure of what she was talking about. Still, he struggled with the idea of Ahsoka dating boys. She was a Jedi and... For Force sake, he was certain somewhere Obi-Wan was cackling at him. Another persons shoes rarely held a good fit. Still, he would never, ever begrudge Ahsoka any happiness. She'd earned it. "I'll talk to her tomorrow. And I won't give her any grief."

"Or threaten Jo'Seth?"

Anakin tried to glare at her. "You're taking all the fun out of this."

His bad-boy smile lit up the room... and her life. "Keeping you from the Dark Side is my job, you know." After that comment he actually threw a small piece of food at her, to which she caught mid-air and teased him triumphantly. They switched topics to the newly delayed Senate Trials and the rising threat of the Black Sun criminal organization and its growing influence on the Republic. That led to their daily discussion over if any new threats were made against them, be it professionally or personally. Being such a high-profile family these days, coupled with the numerous enemies they'd made now that those who aided Palpatine had been outed, threats were an unfortunate way of life. They refused to allow them to rule how they lived, but each and every one was dealt with seriously.

Back and forth thoughts flowed until they'd had enough of seriousness for the evening and decided to relax in the living room area on the broad beige couch for a while.

"Come here, Angel." Reaching for his wife. Anakin curled his arms around Padme's middle, easing her back to his chest at the end of the couch. He sighed into the lush curls of her thick hair, shutting his eyes to everything save the soothing sound of the rushing water fountain and the loving feel of his wife resting peacefully in his embrace. She settled fully against him, drawing her legs up slightly, content as a Nabooian kitten. The lamp disks were dim, casting intimate shadows about the interior of the luxurious apartment. With their children asleep and their responsibilities to the Republic and Jedi Order set aside for the time being, this was the absolute best part of their day.

"You're not asleep yet?" Anakin playfully questioned while wearing a small smile before brushing his lips over the soft side of her neck.

Padme enjoyed a most pleasant hum courtesy of his affection. "I'm not that sleepy," she yawned, her fingers grazing tenderly over the arm secured around her slender waist. She rested back against the solid wall of his body, inhaling the fresh scent of his skin. "My trip to the Sky Mall was alot of fun. I think it helped getting me out of the office and letting go of all the Senate Trial nonsense I've been stressing over. I spent most of my day dealing with the Palpatine's ex-cohorts in one way or another. Enough about me; how was your day?"

"The entire Jedi Council morning session dealt with the Senate Trials. The Order isn't used to being put on display, so the fact that we'll have to testify on the witness stand that we all willingly lied about the creation of the clone army and our diminished capacity in using the Force won't be our best day."

"And after that the accused will send their high-profile attorneys after us personally. Anakin and Padme, the forbidden love they shared and lies they told for years. They're going to make us out to be something ugly and fowl."

"Shhh, Angel. Enough of that for tonight," he whispered over her ear, nipping it gently with his teeth until she giggled. He drew her that much closer, loving the way she nestled against his body. "So I assume both you and Ahsoka bought new attire for the ball?"

"I helped Ahsoka find something feminine and appropriate for a Jedi Knight of her stature. It's a dark blue Rylor dress and matching shoes. I can't wait for you to see her. She looks so stunningly beautiful in it. We even bought some light make-up for her to wear. Nothing heavy or anything, but just enough to mark the evening as her adult coming out party."

Having to accept that Ahsoka was growing up, Anakin resigned that he couldn't stop it. The life of a Jedi would never be the same now that the Code was re-written concerning romantic attachments. "She was really happy?"

"Yes," Padme replied, and then felt his joy over the fact. Though he was still being over-protective, his heart was in the right place. "I think she's excited and scared and ready to bravely face this new aspect of her life head-on."

"And what about you, Mrs. Skywalker?"

"Well," she began while turning just enough in his arms enough to be able to gaze into his sky blue eyes. He sifted his fingers through the long strands of her brown hair as she leaned into his touch. "Like Ahsoka, this will be my first ball as well. Not the first I have ever attended, but the first with an actual date."

"Seriously?"

Padme tilted her chin. "Love, you know Senator Amidala's spinster years held little to no romantic contact with the opposite sex."

"For if it did I might be forced to..."

"Enough," she poked his side for fun, watching him smile brightly by moonlight. Her right hand settled over the rise and fall of his chest in a steady rhythm. She traced soft circles over his skin, encouraging the cocky smirk he wore. "I bought something... daring." Her voice switched from casual to sultry as sin within the span of a heartbeat. That certainly peaked his interest. His arms tightened around her in response. "It's little, black, sexy, and provocative."

"Go try it on for me."

"No, you're going to wait until the night of the ball..." Feeling a touch light-headed for a brief moment, Padme suddenly felt compelled to... "Hey, did you just try to use a Jedi Mind trick on me?"

"Uhm... no." Padme gave him the "death brow." "Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak minded," he quickly sought to assure her and when that failed he simply attached his mouth to her neck and sucked passionately until a traitorous little groan of pleasure escaped her lips. Try as she might, he wouldn't allow her to escape his arms, drawing her tightly to him as she felt the heat of his erection throb against her backside. Her cheeks blushed with color that very second.

"You are in so much trouble," Padme did her best to lace her voice with the appropriate venom, but her aroused body had other ideas. When he lifted his hands to firmly cup her breasts through her gown, her nipples puckered against his palm and heat swelled between her thighs. She closed her eyes as his lips glided along her neck. "I will get you for this... at a later date," she moaned. Reaching over her shoulder, her fingers sank into his hair. His mouth drank from her pulse-point, while his hands kneaded her breasts with the certainty of how she loved to be touched. She trembled in response.

Unable to resist a moment longer, Anakin angled around her and captured her luscious mouth, passionately kissing his wife while lying her back on the couch. He covered her body with his own, his manhood throbbing heatedly over her belly. Basking in the sweetness of her mouth, his tongue parted her soft lips, delving inside to tangle with her own. Her left hand ghosted down between then, grasping at his aching cock. His shudder made her grin while she stroked him. Breaking their kiss, he inched up her night gown until he could lift it over her head, and then tossed it aside. "Now about that smart mouth of yours."

Flushed and needy, Padme burned from the heat of his gaze as it roamed her nude body. That he still lusted for her, still ached with need for her alone made her feel so sexy and wanted. "What are you gonna do about it?" she taunted with a note of sarcasm and then a naughty little pout. "Another attempt at a Jedi mind trick, perhaps?"

Her breath hitched when he dove for her throat, lashing and swallowing wetly over her sensitive skin. The voracity of his hunger for her sent electric tingles all over her body. Her thighs parted, allowing his solid weight to descend gently upon her, his hardness pressed against her center. She quivered with need, gasping when his kisses rained down her chest and then over the gentle slope of a breast until his mouth inhaled the erect peak. The feel of his tongue swirling over the tip made her fists ball up as she whimpered her approval. Cheeks hollowed as he drew seductively over the tip, drowning it in wetness for a long while before suckling until her moans grew in volume. Her belly clenched over his, her right hand clasped over the back of his head, holding him to her. "Ani..." she winced pleasurably when he began sampling the other nipple, causing her back to arch slightly when his teeth nipped at her. His hands spanned her slender hips, sating his insatiable need to touch her always.

"Mrs. Skywalker, you belong to me."

Gripped by the most thrilling sensation, Padme's eyes shut tightly when his mouth began its sensual, lazy journey down her body tongue-first. He kissed and lapped a wet trail down the center of her until his warm breath fanned the rosy flesh of her glistening sex. He made her wait a agonizing moment, hovering just above her... and then her hips lifted in response and she bellowed "Ahhh..." when he ran his tongue along the slick length of her, slowly lashing up and down with broad strokes until her right hand fisted a couch pillow. She swallowed hard at the exquisite feel of his vigorous tongue making love to her, swirling round and round before brushing her with such rich pleasure. She felt so wet when his mouth covered her as shudders took hold of her body. She couldn't possibly sit still. Her thighs trembled, squeezing around his neck as the erotic sounds of his mouth suckling her filled her senses. "Don't stop."

"Never!" Wetly dripping saliva over her clit, he began firmly lashing his tongue until her hips arched and her muscles tensed. His hands embraced the supple cheeks of her backside, holding her to his feasting. She twisted and rocked against his hungry mouth, her body nearly curling sideways when he began fucking her with his tongue. He took such personal gratification from sucking on her, his raspy groans muffled against the sheer desire to drive her blissful madness. She tasted divine and beyond words, her scent clouding his mind, forcing anything not of her from his thoughts.

"Gods," Padme whimpered between clenched teeth, panting hotly with one hand clutched to the back of his head as her body quivered and trembled until at last the pleasure detonated in a breathless, shaking orgasm that rolled her hips against his tongue in wet throbs. She gasped loudly for air, her head thrown back on the couch, teeth bared, her body humming. Shaking, she felt his love-bites along her inner thighs, and the slickness of her essence dripping off his chin over her leg as he ascended her body and shoved his pants away. "You're still in trouble, Master Jedi. One orgasm won't make me forget."

"How about two?"

She shook her head, grinning, "You're going to pay no matter what."

"I don't care," Anakin teased before capturing her lips with a deepening kiss. The tight buds of her nipples brushed sensation over his chest. She sucked on his tongue until his cock flexed with envy, and with but a minor adjustment he rested at her entrance, and then slid inside her fully. Her inner muscles clenched around the invasion, drawing deeply upon him with every deep thrust into her. The pleasure was as enthralling as the woman writhing beneath him, clutching her arms tightly around his neck to match her legs embracing his waist. "I love you more than anything, Padme."

His declaration made her heart soar, while her body craved the way he glided into her tightness. She felt so deliciously full of him, possessing him in the most intimate way. He was hers forever and never again would she be denied the right to stake her claim. His heart beat rapidly against her chest, the feeling as wonderful as the passionate intensity written all over his face. The carnal way his strong body labored above her so splendidly saw her flesh grasping at the hardness spreading her so deliciously. The decadent noises he made and the way his blue eyes twinkled mischievously left her mesmerized by his skill. It often felt as though he was dominating her, though she knew it was the other way around. He ached for her and she knew it. "I love you... Oh Ani, I love you I love you..."

Her slender hips rose to meet his impacting thrusts as they passionately rutted on the couch, causing the springs to quake loudly beneath them. Their bodies moved as one aggressive entity, relentlessly seeking pleasure, utterly lost in the vigorous rapture of their love making.

Suddenly a thought rendered through Padme's mind. "Ani... Oh, Ani, we have to... we need to not finish... I couldn't make my doctors appointment yesterday and... if we... not protected."

"Need you, Angel." Anakin gazed in wonder at the desperate yearning that swept over Padme's beautiful features. He understood her meaning, but the reminder only made him lose what little control he had left. Never mind the possibilities, he kissed her again, hard, deeply drinking her in while taking her faster. Her nails clawed at his back, while her moans urged him onward. "My Padme!"

"Yes... a thousand times, yes," the words dripped from her lips. Her head was thrown back when she felt her body tremble and tense just before she climaxed hard around him, screaming his name while her sex clenched in desperate spasms. When his head buried in the side of her neck and his thrusts shaky she felt him swell impossibly hard and then burst inside her time after glorious time. She held onto him throughout it all, swearing her devotion and love while living on the declarations he made that she was his whole life and without her he would be lost.

Gasping and panting in the dark, they held each other closely... tenderly... clinging onto that which meant everything to them. Wondering what if...

Drenched in sweat and love, Anakin brushed some of his wife's damp hair off the side of her face. The light of pure satisfaction lit her beautiful eyes. Such pride swelled in his chest. "I don't suppose you want to try the dress on now, do you?"

Her Anakin was a world-class ass at times, but she still loved him. Padme gently caressed his face. "You, my dear husband, are still in so much trouble. And I will have my revenge."

"Revenge is a path to the Dark Side, Angel."

"Then just call me Darth Padme because when you least expect it, I will get you back," she laughed in his smiling face before he kissed her again. "Now how about we share a refresher and then get some sleep?"

"Or how about we stay out here a little while longer?"

"Are you trying to enter into negotiations, Master Jedi?"

"Aggressively so," he teased.

She felt him harden again, and then her bottom lip caught between her teeth when he began moving inside her again. "Mr Skywalker, you are so bad."

"Mrs. Skywalker, hush."

For once, she did just that.

******

The End

Chapter 2: The Coruscant Galactic Republic Ball holds many surprises, new beginnings, first love, danger, and naughtiness.