Chapter three: The Heart of a Father
Leaving Tatooine and coming to Coruscant for the second time in his life was just as difficult for Anakin as it were when he was just a boy taking his fists step into a larger galaxy towards his destiny. Back then he was just a scared little boy putting on a brave face and at the same time craving for his mother's arms and soothing voice, somewhat knowing that he might well never see her again. Now he was a man in his early fifties seeking redemption for his many sins finally deciding to step out of hiding and ready to face what awaited him. The Force had been merciful in sending his Angel back to him, for no matter what he did, how he acted or what he said, she remained steadfast in her unwavering love and support for him, taking his darker side in stride and accepting it as a part of him. After all, she knew what he was capable of doing before she married him, she was in no way blind to the lurking demon that resided in his soul and she still loved him with everything that she had. She accepted him as he was, she always had.
For the last two months, she remained vigilant at his side as she consoled him, loved him and helped him heal. She supported him and remained at his side through the month of painful skin graphs he had received If he was going to try to feel human and convince others that he was human, then he needed to look the part. After all, he had a lot of work cut out for him if he was going to start cleaning up his own mess. He was going to start with his children. For the longest time he had himself convinced that they didn't need him, that they were better off without him. Padmé shot that belief down. She had outlined to him just how much his children needed him. For Luke it was the unquenched need for his father that he hadn't been able to hide from his mother no matter how light he made it out to be. For Leia, she needed to understand the past and that no matter what he had done that it didn't make future generations predestined to automatically follow his dark path of destruction.
Always one hundred percent in control of whatever ship he was piloting, he glided the craft into the atmosphere of Galactic City. The wispy white clouds parted as he sleekly passed through them, he took note of the color and density while the ship was within them, and they indicated that a rainstorm was coming. It had been so very long since he had the simple pleasure of raindrops falling from the sky drenching his skin. He would make a point to escape outside the minute that the rain starts to fall. With his eyes firmly planted on the city scape before him, Anakin angled the craft slightly, towards an awaiting landing pad where a single custom-designed speeder awaited. He had contacted a loyal ally and asked for the arrangements to be made. He was not planning on alerting his children of his presence until he was ready to face them . Facing Coruscant was trial enough for the moment . He knew that Luke was strong enough to feel when he was near but Luke had yet to figure out that it is possible to mask one's force presence from others and so he used that as an advantage over his son, planning on teaching him the skill on a later date.
As he skillfully landed the craft on the landing pad, he finally was able to spot the familiar form of Wrenga Jixton or as he was most commonly known,Jix. The man was only about ten years younger but had proven time and again that he was competent above all others and loyal to those he allied himself with. It was now or never, he thought . Slowly Anakin rose from the pilot's seat and moved to exit the ship, catching Jix drastically off guard when the younger man caught sight of him. But his eyes didn't focus on Jix right away. Straight ahead of him loomed a perfect view of the Jedi Temple, the place he had once called home. For two decades it had been left to decay, now it stood tall, undergoing reconstruction. Was this Luke's doing? How deeply had his son invested himself into rebuilding the majesty that he had single handedly destroyed in one night? As he gazed at the Temple in the distance, he reached out with the Force and located his son deep within, deeply invested in the hard labor required to fix the damage. In his mind, he saw that the work was nearly completed and that with a renewal of the once-mighty Order came a different voice and look as well as a deeper understanding. Many other Jedi lurked inside the temple with his son, many who had somehow managed to escape the purge. They had flocked to his son as he had openly declared a new age and a renewal of the mighty Order, with the claim that it was the last wish of the Grand Master Yoda that he rebuild what once was. Luke's strength, goodness, sincerity and determination shined through his every word. He was the beacon that lit the dawn of the new age. Yet, when the ugly truths began to unfold, he did not hide from them, he did not deny them, he carried on, steadfast in his quest for renewal. His strength of character prevailed through. He had been prepared beforehand and acted accordingly.
Anakin turned away from the view of the Jedi Temple to look at Jix's astonished face. "Well?" he demanded.
"The seamstress is waiting as we speak," Jix said making a face at the rough desert garb Anakin was wearing.
"Then let us not keep her waiting," Anakin told him purposefully as he moved to the custom speeder, making a mental note to have it repainted as soon as possible. A nice bright yellow would be much more appealing than the dreary gray and black.
Leia stood behind her desk, gazing out into the busy traffic of Galactic City through the wall-sized window. The normal Senate proceedings had been delayed for a later date so Chancellor Mon Mothma could decide what to do with the imminent trials of the Banking Clan. Leia knew that this was only the beginning of a long and tedious cleaning. The Banking Clan was the least of the Republic's worries. There was still the Imperial Remnant that lurked in the Outer Rim. The rumors that they had gained a powerful leader were somewhat laced with truth. Leia was no fool. She knew well that all they needed was a strong leader and they would rage war and attempt to reclaim what they thought of as their own.
Before her the Imperial Palace loomed in the distance. It stood empty, a ghostly shell of the reign of an evil tyrant who had met his fate because of his own arrogance. The palace had always sent cold chills through Leia's body. It reeked of evil. Even the sight of the palace at this distance sent chills down her spine. She hugged herself momentarily as she shivered, in that thought. Protectively her hands pressed against her flat stomach. She had never felt more terrified in her life. Certain traits or diseases skipped generations within families. She was aware of that. Would she be responsible with bringing another Sith into the galaxy? As if burned, her hands flew away from her midsection at the thought. She hugged herself again. She sensed before she heard the intercom voice.
"My Lady, a man is insisting on speaking to you. He refuses to leave. He is claiming to be your father..."
Leia snapped to attention upon hearing this. Her untrained abilities picked up on a very familiar presence. It wasn't as dark or in despair as she was used to, rather more in line of phantom memory she couldn't place. "Send him in," she responded before she turned away from the view she had been gazing at in time for the door to her office to open and she froze, unprepared with what she saw.
The real face of Anakin Skywalker greeted her accompanied by short hair on his head, the same shade as Luke's. He carried himself with confidence and pride as he walked in. He was dressed differently. The style reminiscent of the old traditional garb she had seen Jedi wear in the confiscated holos that she had been able to retrieve as a young girl. But the clothes were much more richly tailored than what the Jedi had worn, with dark expensive fabric. The only thing that seemed missing was a lightsaber that was supposed to hang from his belt. "Are you busy?" he asked without preamble.
Leia was too shocked to form an immediate response. Her mind was going a mile a minute at what she was seeing and she didn't register his question immediately, but when she did, she struggled to find her voice. "Not at the moment," she managed to say.
"Good then there won't be any problems with you leaving the building," Anakin replied.
"For what?" Leia questioned.
"You're going to come with me and we're going to have a much needed talk," Anakin told her, his tone brooking no room for any argument.
"And if I refuse?" Leia asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I will toss you over my shoulder and carry you out of the building. Either way, we are having this conversation," Anakin told her.
"I could easily tell security that you are abducting me by force," Leia reminded him.
"No one will fault me for forcing my disobedient daughter to spend one lunch hour with me. You would only humiliate yourself by making a scene," Anakin pointed out.
He was right, they both knew it and he had succeeded in backing her into a corner. However, she did not like it one bit and grew defiant. She calmly took a seat behind her desk. "If you want to talk, then talk," she said.
"I detest this place," Anakin told her.
Leia merely smiled. "Any moment Mon Mothma will be done with her meeting with investigative team conducting the investigation into the actions of the Banking Clan and she will call for me, I simply cannot leave," she told him and picked up a datapad for review.
"And you seem to have overlooked the fact that I covered all my bases," Anakin told her striding over to her and proceeded in keeping his word that he would toss her over his shoulder to carry her out of the building.
"Put me down this very instant!" Leia snapped indignantly, pounding her fists against his back and kicking her feet against his chest.
"I gave you fair warning, Leia, you chose to ignore it, deal with it," Anakin told her stubbornly, keeping a firm hold on her as she fought against him relentlessly.
As they exited her office and proceeded down corridors the guards and fellow senators and staff that were in the corridors stopped and stared at the Vice Chair of the Republic being carried over Anakin's shoulder like a sack of durros. Ever conscious of the people around her, Leia crossed her arms as best as she could and glared. "I assume that you have a place in mind," she growled.
"In a matter of fact I do," Anakin replied, carrying her over to his waiting speeder that had been repainted a bright yellow.
Leia stood in the doorway of the old diner modeled in the old Med'soto style of the golden age of the Old Republic. There were a few patrons of middle class and lower class of Coruscant. She caught the sight of a few people dressed in similar, simpler style, that Anakin wore. "Out of all dining establishments you take me here?" she questioned, not entirely sure of the place.
"Best eats in the CoCo Town streets," Anakin muttered. "I feel comfortable here," he told her as a droid waitress rolled over as they moved to find a booth.
"What can I get you?" the droid asked.
Anakin glanced at the droid. "If Hermione still works here you can send her out," he told the droid.
"Sure thing," the droid replied rolling away.
"And don't roll over her toes or I'll remove your mobility!" Anakin called after the droid as he and Leia took their seats at a table.
"I take it that you've been here quite a few times," Leia remarked as she grabbed a menu.
"More or less," Anakin replied enigmatically. He didn't grab a menu. Leia took notice of that fact.
"You demanded for me?"
Leia turned her attention to the owner of the voice with a street accent to see a woman who seemed to be roughly the same age as her mother. She was very pretty by human standards with light blond hair, blue eyes, and a shapely figure that was shown off by her small blue dress that was low cut enough for a perfect view of her cleavage and short enough to show off her long legs. She carried herself with obvious street sass.
Anakin turned to her with a neutral expression. "Hello Hermione," he said not sure of the reception he would get.
The look on Hermione's face was one of shock before she quickly masked it, planting a hand firmly on her hip which she cocked out to the side and leaned her shoulders to the side slightly. "Well, look who's finally showing his face. You, Anakin Skywalker, have some explaining to do," she drawled.
"Later," Anakin told her brushing it off. He gestured toward Leia. "My daughter and I came here to discuss some things," he told her.
Hermione glanced at Leia recognizing her immediately. "So, the rumors are true then," she said and turned to Anakin. "I don't want to know the particulars of that, I'm just trying to imagine the look on Obi-Wan's face when he figured that out," she said noticing Anakin's frown upon hearing that name. "What do you want to drink and eat?" she asked.
"Ardees and some sliders," Anakin answered. "Do you still serve nerfsteak?" he asked. Hermione nodded. "I'll take that as well," he decided.
Hermione turned to Leia.
"Mineral water and I'm not too sure about much of anything on this menu so I'll have the same thing," Leia decided.
"I'll bring that right up," Hermione informed them as she walked away.
Leia turned to her father to see him watching her walk away. "I take it that you know her better than just as a regular waitress," she deducted, reading between the lines.
"She was a trusted friend," Anakin told her as he wondered if that would be the same.
Leia sensed that there was more but didn't press the issue. "What is it that you are so insistent that we talk about?" she asked getting to the point.
Anakin looked at her, not knowing where to start. There were so many things that he wanted to say to her, but they were too jumbled around in his head for him to coherently pick one to start from. His gaze became fixed on the promise ring displayed on her left ring finger. It was old and looked worn, like a family heirloom or something and he was brought back to focus on her engagement to the space pirate turned Navel officer. He didn't like it. It wasn't because he disliked Han Solo, he didn't trust Solo's background, but his daughter's upcoming marriage bothered him and it wasn't all because of who she was marrying.
Leia noticed his shift in attention and covered on hand with the other, hiding the ring from him. She heard her mother's words in her mind and she turned to look out the window. They remained in silence for what seemed like an eternity. But then he said something that came so far out of left field that she didn't know how to respond.
"You look eerily like my mother, a complete mirror image."
Leia looked at him, never once having expected to hear that.
"I struggle sometimes with trying to remember her face or her smile or the sound of her voice. My memories of her have faded so much that there are days when I realize that I have forgotten her completely. For all of her struggles and sacrifices she had made for me alone, I know that I had in one way or another disgraced them," Anakin started.
Leia listened to him, having only heard the barest mention of his mother from her mother. From the way her mother talked and the way he was talking, he was close to his mother. "How did she die?" she asked.
"I don't suppose you know what Tuskan Raiders are?" Anakin asked.
"I've heard Luke talk about them and his encounters with them," she felt his alarm and anger flare up at hearing that Luke had encounters with them, "But other than that not much," she finished.
"They kidnapped my mother from her home, starved and beat her to death over the course of a month," Anakin told her. "I only found out when I returned to Tatooine to see her when my step-father told me what happened, he didn't have the decency to contact me before hand. When I tracked them down and found her, she was barely hanging onto life and died in my arms. After she died, Not a single Tuskan in that camp survived," he finished.
Leia tried not to be shocked or affected by the cold way he admitted what he had done for she knew what not a one of them survived meant.
"You were close to her then?" Leia asked.
"She was all I had," Anakin told her. "She told me to leave Tatooine when I was freed by the jedi. The last thing she said to me then was to be brave and to not look back, I didn't understand it back then but I do now." He looked her in the eye, marveling at how they were so close to his mother's. "You can't look at the past and judge the present and the future on it. You can learn from it, yes, but don't expect the past to repeat itself. If you do, you could miss out on a lot," he told her.
Leia wondered if her mother had said something to him over what she had disclosed to her but before she could say anything, her father lept up and dragged her to the ground just before an explosion erupted at the window they were sitting at. Leia was too much in a state of shock to protest when he dragged her up and in through a back door barricading them inside what was a store room. She watched as he moved several boxes and opened a wall panel to retrieve what looked like a blaster case.
"You know this diner very well," was all that she could say.
"It was owned by an old friend," Anakin told her as he opened the case with a code and began to piece together a sniper blaster with such expertise that it only took two seconds. "Stay here," he ordered, barely glancing at her before he began climbing a ladder built into the wall.
If Leia hadn't seen him climb it, she wouldn't have noticed that it was there. She watched as he grabbed some handles in the ceiling, tugged and twisted, pushing it aside, revealing a manhole and climbed through. Leia looked inside the hidden storage compartment to find an array of illegal weapons. Illegal under both the Empire and the Republic. She grabbed a blaster, there was no way that she wasn't going to fight.
Anakin positioned himself on the roof of the diner, looking out through the scope on the blaster for the assassin. As he predicted, Leia emerged from the diner carrying a blaster and as soon as she showed herself so did the assassin. Without a seconds hesitation, he pulled the trigger, aiming at an area that would immobilize the assassin but not kill him. Anakin wanted to know who he worked for. Once he saw the assassin fall to the ground twenty paces from Leia, Anakin jumped from the roof and approached the assassin the blaster in his hands aimed at him. "Who hired you?" he demanded as Leia stayed where she was.
"It was just a job," the assassin said snidely, no hint of recognition in his eyes when he looked at him.
Anakin had heard those words before from a different assassin. "Who hired you?" he demanded again.
The assassin attempted to stand only to be kicked back down where he coughed, sure that one of his ribs had been broken. "The Vice Chair made a lot of enemies, fella, she'll die either way," he managed to get out.
Anakin held the barrel of the blaster at the assassins head. "You don't understand, Fella, you attacked my daughter, you're going to die if you give me a name or not. How you die depends on you," he told him menacingly.
"And you are?" The assassin challenged.
"The most feared man in the galaxy," Anakin told him.
The assassin's eyes widened as he realized that he was staring at Darth Vader. "His name is Eithan Caux, he sells illegal weapons and torture devices," he confessed.
"Thank you," Anakin said just before he pulled the trigger to the blaster. The assassin's eyes widened in fear just before the blaster fire hit him in the head and he died. He stored away the name Eithan Caux for a later date. He turned to where Leia stood to see an unreadible expression on her face. He held the blaster down and walked over to her. "You should have Coruscant's clean up crew come out to remove the body," he told her walking back into the diner.
Leia followed him. "What did he say?" she demanded, "or did you let him speak?" once they were inside the store room.
"He was after you. There are people who want you dead," Anakin told her and her eyes widened in surprise. "Don't worry, none of them will succeed," he assured her.
Leia knew what he meant but didn't say anything. She knew that Luke had been trying to break him of killing people for six years and hadn't had any success. She didn't say anything because he said it with the conviction of a father protecting his child which was so out of character with how she knew him that it rendered her speechless.
Anakin recited the address that Padmé gave him for Luke's apartment in his mind, finding it to be in a low priced building on a middle floor. A simple address for someone who wasn't so simple but believed himself to be. There was the stark contrast between himself and his son. Luke had, in part, remained a simple farm boy from Tatooine but in actuality, he was a powerful and respected Jedi, credited for so much and guilty of much of it. Anakin wished that he could be credited for his son becoming the man that he was but he wasn't. Luke had other influences throughout his childhood and journey towards the destiny for which he was born. Anakin regretted not being there for him throughout his life, and hoped that he would be able to, in some small way, begin to make up for that now.
He keyed in the code that Padmé gave him for Luke's apartment, hoping that his son was home and if he wasn't then he'd wait. The apartment was bathed in low light as he entered and walked in but then a very familiar voice made him stop cold before he saw her.
"Oh, Luke," the voice purred, "I've been waiting for you."
The voice belonged to Mara Jade who laid on Luke's couch clad in only the skimpiest lingerie he had ever seen, skimpier than what he had seen Padmé in recently, and by the way she laid, she was in full blown seduction mode.
"I'm not Luke," Anakin informed her, a threatening note in his voice.
Mara looked at him and then shrieked and grabbed a afghan to cover herself up, standing. "Who are you?" she demanded, grabbing her blaster from the floor under the couch only to have it pulled from her hand by an invisible force.
"Luke's father," Anakin told her as the blaster came into his hand.
Mara's eyes widened. "Vader," she said and held her chin up. "So this is what you looked like under that suit," she said.
Anakin scoffed. "I've had surgery," he said as he walked fully into the room. "My question is why you're here? No I know, You plan to kill my son as Palpatine ordered you to do, did you think I was blind to that order. I knew the old man's ploy and I killed him for it, give me a reason not to do the same to you in kind," he said dangerously.
"I have no intention to kill Luke," Mara told him with conviction.
The ferocity that he said the one simple word made Mara's eyes widen but she refused to show any fear. "I'm not lying," she said. "I wouldn't be here like this if I were," she told him as he began to slowly circle her.
"I wouldn't put it past you to use sex as a weapon," Anakin told her darkly.
Mara was incensed by the comment. "You don't know me very well," she told him.
"Oh I know you," Anakin started. "Mara Jade, birth name Calantha Sy Brighthope. Parents murdered in the middle of the night and taken to the Emperor to be trained as a Hand and a palace dancing girl as a cover, renamed at the palace. Palpation's favorite agent, you heard his voice giving you orders in your mind and carried them out without question. His last order, kill Luke Skywalker," he listed off.
Mara scoffed. "So you know those facts, you don't know me personally," she dismissed.
"I don't need to," Anakin told her, he eyed her critically. "If one hair on his head is harmed, one cut, one bruise, and your death will be most unpleasant," he threatened.
"This coming from the person who cut off his hand," Mara reminded him with and edge to her voice.
Anakin's eyes narrowed. "I advise you to leave my son alone," he told her threateningly.
"Tough," Mara told him, defiance seeping through her body language. "I'm not going anywhere," she told him and couldn't resist the rib, "Luke doesn't want me to either, he keeps trying to make things permanent."
"Leave," Anakin threatened, a dark note to his voice.
Mara shrugged on her long jacket, effectively covering herself and reclaimed her blaster. "This isn't over," she told him.
"Oh I think it is," Anakin told her. "Or you wont breathe," he threatened.
"You don't scare me, you're nothing than a big bully," Mara told him as she left.
Anakin watched her go, his mind trying to think up ways to end her role in his son's life short of killing her.
Anakin resigned himself to the guard's search for weapons as he waited to be granted an entrance to the grounds of both the Jedi Temple and the Republic's military house. He sensed his son inside and he needed to speak to him.
"He's clear," the guard announced, finding only a vibroblade in Anakin's boot which had been confiscated.
Another guard came over. "High General Skywalker said for him to be escorted to the war room," he said.
High General Skywalker, since when did his son outrank him? Anakin only allowed the mild shock to remain internal as the guards escorted him onto the premises and into the Republic's military house. The many corridors were a maze and Anakin would have been able to find his way easily, his son knew this, but he knew why. He had been instrumental in the Empire since it's formation, no one besides Luke would trust him. The guards stopped in front of a door before keying it open and ushered him inside.
Luke stood with his arms braced on a table with some schematics projected from it along side other officers including Han Solo.
"You commanded that he be brought here General," one of the guards said addressing Luke.
Luke nodded. "You can leave now, Commander," he said.
The guards that escorted Anakin nodded before leaving. Anakin remained standing by the door. "I need to speak to you alone," he said looking straight at his son.
The other officers looked at Luke for direction, no one knowing how to deal with him. Luke nodded to them. "It's alright," he said. "We could resume our meeting in a little bit."
"Are you sure, General?" Admiral Ackbar asked.
"I'm still alive, aren't I?" Luke replied ruefully. There was a muted agreement around the room before the other officers filled out, only Luke and Han remaining.
"Solo, out," Anakin said sternly as he moved away from the door. To his annoyance, Han merely rested his hip on a window sill and crossed his arms.
An officer noticed this on his way out the door and paused, wondering what Anakin would do.
"I'm not going anywhere," Han said defiantly.
"Han, just go," Luke said, his eyes fixed on his father.
"Just make sure that you shut things down," Han said as he moved away from the window and made his exit, throwing Anakin a challenging look on his way out to which earned him a heated glare.
"You look different," Luke remarked once he was alone with Anakin. He didn't shut the schematics down.
"I'm not here to discuss what I know your mother already did," Anakin told him.
Luke gave no indication on whether or not Padmé had told him or not. "Then what?" he asked, mildly curious.
"I want you to stay away from that scutta shag," Anakin told him without preamble.
Luke rose an eyebrow. "What? Now that you realize that you can't stop Leia from marrying Han you have to focus on me now?" he asked, put off by this.
"You are my son and I will not have that woman sinking her claws into you," Anakin told him.
Luke shook his head. "You really have a lot of nerve," he said. "You really think that you have a say in this?"
"Mara Jade is a lethal assassin! Her mission is to kill you!" Anakin snapped.
"I am well aware of her past, she made sure that I knew five years ago," Luke told him calmly.
Anakin frowned deeply. "Are you just stupid or blind by lust? Is she using a mind control on you?" he demanded.
Luke's eyes widened at the implication. "What goes on between Mara and myself is none of your business," he told him.
"The hell it isn't! I am your father and I know that woman well!" Anakin nearly yelled.
Luke frowned. "Yes and what a wonderful father you have been all my life," he said sarcastically.
Anakin frowned at the tone and advanced on him. "If you were any other man..." he started.
"I'd be dead, right?" Luke finished for him. "Lucky for me then," he said.
It was instances like this that Anakin had not foreseen when he learned that he would be a father. He had assumed that his children would be sensible in picking mates like he was. "You are not acting rational, you're head is clouded," he said as he stood over his son.
Luke gave him an exasperated look. "My head is quite clear, I assure you, why don't you take a peek and see for yourself," he challenged.
"I will," he said and met his son's blue eyes, eyes that he normally saw in the mirror. He focused on his son's mind, mildly surprised to see the barriers gone and grew unsatisfied when he found that it was not clouded or being controlled. But what he found surprised and upset him. "You cannot be thinking straight if you imagine yourself in love with her!" he snapped.
Luke's eyes widened at such an implication. "I...I'm not," he stuttered.
"I saw right through you, you're in love with a woman who is incapable of returning such feelings," Anakin reproached him.
"You don't know her..." Luke realized how stupid that proclamation was as soon as it was out of his mouth. Of course his father knew all about Mara.
"You would be wise to tear yourself away from her," Anakin told him.
"I don't want to," Luke told him. "And you can't force me," and he knew that was childish as soon as it was out of his mouth.
"I can force her," Anakin told him.
"Don't threaten or harm her!" Luke snapped.
"I already did," Anakin told him.
"When?" Luke demanded.
"I was at your apartment just a bit ago, she was there," Anakin told him.
"How did you know where I lived?" Luke demanded and then realized that his mother must have told him.
"Rather stupid question isn't it?" Anakin asked, reading his son's though process.
"If all you came here for is to butt into my life then you can go back to Tatooine, I've done fine for myself without you all these years, I can continue," Luke told him, hoping that jab hit home which it did when he saw the look in his father's eyes.
"You're making a mistake, a fatal error in judgment," Anakin told him. "I cannot sit by and watch you make it," he told him.
"You don't have to, you can go back to Tatooine," Luke reminded him.
"I'm not going anywhere until this problem is fixed," Anakin told him stubbornly.
"There isn't a problem to be fixed," Luke told him with equal stubbornness as he turned back to the schematics in front of him.
Anakin took that a sign to continue this when he could really corner his son. "That is where you are wrong," he told him and turned to leave. He turned back at the door. "If you are looking for a weakness, try the reactor shaft," he said before taking his leave, seeing the officers and Solo waiting outside. The officers watched him with suspicion and trepidation. "Boo," he said, eying the officers and smiled to see some of them flinch before he made his exit.
Anakin walked into the apartment on 500 Republica to find the smell of take out heating up in the kitchen. He zeroed in on it and found his wife there, her back to him. Stealthy he walked up behind her, and swept her up into his arms, making her squeal in surprise. He smiled into her hair, oh how he loved that sound and missed it terribly.
Padmé turned around in his arms to look at him. "Did you see them?" she asked.
"Yes," Anakin answered into her neck, the scent coming from her hair becoming intoxicating.
"And?" Padmé persisted.
"I took Leia to Dex's and then I went to speak to Luke, the boy is stubborn and headstrong, too stubborn for his own good," Anakin told her, his hold onto her tightening.
Padmé knew what he wanted, she could feel it pressing against her stomach. "Ani, I haven't eaten all day," she informed him.
"I can wait," Anakin told her, taking a seat at the table. Padmé raised an eyebrow at him. Anakin looked at her. "You think that I never had raging hard ons during our separation, that I didn't dream about you?" he asked in response.
"Did you do anything about them?" Padmé asked.
Padmé turned back to the food that was heating up. "You thought I had died, Anakin," she reminded him.
"You're the only woman I have ever wanted. No other caught my interest," Anakin told her earnestly. Padmé turned to look at him and he caught the look in her eyes. "I swear to you. You are the only one," he told her, not liking how she was thinking.
"You're hiding something," Padmé told him.
"No one after we have been married. I swear that is the truth," Anakin amended.
"Who?" Padmé demanded.
"Girls that I used to run around with in the lower levels, but I stopped once I was reunited with you," Anakin answered honestly. "One look at you and you were the only one that I wanted."
Padmé took a seat once her food had finished heating and slowly began to eat. "You were always insatiable," she pointed out.
"I learned to live without," Anakin told her.
Padmé looked at him. "I..." she started.
Anakin looked away. "Why are you doubting me?" he asked.
"I'm not, it's just..." Padmé was at a lost for words.
"Just that you can't see me spending the rest of my life as a grieving widower, well you're wrong," Anakin filled in.
"Anakin..." Padmé began but stopped when he rose and lifted her from her seat, lifting her plat to the counter while setting her down on top of the table, her legs spread and skirt hitched up and settling himself between them. "Do you want me to show you that I desire you alone?" he asked, his voice husky and his mouth an inch from hers.
Padmé's body trembled with need, her stomach forgetting the food it was promised for the meantime. "Yes," was all she was able to reply with.
No sooner had she uttered the word then expert hands began to unbutton the back of her dress and dragged it down off of the top half of her body before a warm mouth attached itself to her right breast, a hand coming up to kneed the other. Padmé threw her head back and arched into his mouth. She didn't worry about any interruptions, no one would be coming here, their children didn't know about this apartment and she no longer had any security or handmaidens. When Anakin switched from one breast to another, Padmé's hands began tearing at his clothes, they were cut in the same way his Jedi robes had been which made it easier for her, knowing the way. Soon he was bare from the waist up and his mouth had returned to hers for the most heated kiss she had in the longest time. It left her breathless and wanting much more as her hands flew to the fly of his trousers, undoing it as quickly as she could, freeing the hard erection from it's confines as she yanked his pants down. She groaned in appreciation into his mouth as he yanked her hips to the edge of the table and he pushed himself inside her, her legs tightly wrapping around his waist.
Oh how she loved this man, every inch of him, most importantly the hard length of him sheathed in her confines. Her hips moved in rhythm with his from years of practice after practice. Hard thrusts were met with equal ardor as they sated a hunger that only each other could while his arms anchored her in place, flush against his chest. Padmé didn't fight when he leaned her back against the table, his weight over hers. He was larger than she remembered and most of it muscle with the small amount of body fat that came with age. Her nails clawed at the muscled planes of his back as she arched against him, calling out his name over and over again, professing her unyielding love for him and he returned in kind, calling out her name, calling her "Angel" and crying "mine" over and over again against her neck. His thrusts were more aggressive than what she was used to but she didn't care, she lavished in the way he loved her with his body, years of being denied this feeling behind her. With each thrust came a friction over her clit that was driving her mad until her body couldn't take it anymore and she screamed his name as her body shook and she was wound up in an orgasm like she had never had before. Her own orgasm herald his as he cried out her name, his thrusts becoming more erratic before he stiffened and erupted deep inside her.
Both panting from what they had just shared, Anakin reached up to wipe away a strand of sweat soaked hair from her forehead. "I haven't felt this way in so long, to think I went this long without your for nothing..." he couldn't finish.
Padmé wrapped her arms around his neck. "I agree," she told him breathless. She caught her breath before she felt her stomach growl. "I'm still hungry," she told him and was rewarded with his laugh. "What?" she asked.
"It's just that I'm usually the one who thinks of food after what we just shared," Anakin told her, lifting himself off of her and helping her to sit up.
Padmé hadn't thought of that in so long that she laughed before she smiled. "You remember?" she asked.
"I remembered everything about you, your smile, your laugh, they way you smelled and tasted," Anakin finished, looking deep into her eyes.
Padmé couldn't stop the blush that came over her at the look in his eyes. Mercy, he knew exactly how to make her feel like a wanton woman still. Even at their advanced age and after two grown children, he still had that affect on her. She felt the heat of his gaze as she redressed herself while he did the same. She reclaimed her seat and he handed her back her plate, it having been sitting under the heater while they made love on the table. He had been that thoughtful and Padmé knew, like so many times, that she had lucked out as husbands went. As she began to finally eat, her eyes locked with his across the table. "We should have the kids over for dinner tonight," she told him.
"They may be more receptive if you were the one to invite them," Anakin replied. "I just matched wits with Luke and, right now, I'm not sure where Leia stands. No, we didn't argue, for once," he told her.
Padmé absorbed what he had said and decided to com her children herself. She knew all too well of the parallels between her children and their father.
Luke, Leia, and Han rode the turbo lift together, both Luke and Leia had received an invitation to their mother's apartment on Coruscant and heard the pleading note in their mother's voice as she asked them to come and have dinner with her. Even if they knew that their father was on Coruscant and that he was probably, okay most likely, going to be there himself, they couldn't refuse their mother when they heard her plea. Not with what she had gone through, they couldn't.
So they were now riding a turbo lift together that seemed to go on forever, soaring up high into the skyline, the city soaring before and with them. All three of them wondered when the lift would stop, all they pressed was the button that had their mother's name next to it, they didn't know what floor or apartment it was until finally the lift stopped and they found out that they were on the top floor. The lift doors opened to an anteroom before another set of doors that opened under movement sensors. They entered a luxurious apartment fit for a queen, decorated in steal blue and richly furnished with exotic furniture. There was even a balcony amongst the transpersteel walls. There wasn't anyone to greet them which had each raising their eyebrows before Luke motioned with his hands for Leia and Han to follow him, he sensed that the apartment wasn't empty and he sensed two lifeforms inside the apartment. They went deeper into the apartment down a flight of stairs and through a hall leading in tow directions, one to a large veranda with an excellent view of the Jedi Temple, and into what was a spacious kitchen. As they caught sight of the kitchen they froze.
There was Anakin and Padmé, each laughing at something or another. Padmé was perched on a counter while Anakin cooked. Padmé reached for a piece of shuura only to find that the bowel had moved away from her. "Anakin," Padmé said, her voice both scolding and pleading.
Anakin cut a piece of shuura and floated back to her which she bit in mid air, savoring the sweet juicy flavor.
"Ah hem," Luke cleared his throat.
Padmé turned to the trio and beamed. "I thought you were coming an hour from now," she told them.
"We came early," Leia stated, pointing out the obvious.
Padmé slid off of the counter and walked over to them. "You're father is still cooking," she told them. "We have time before the food is ready."
Han leaned in closer to Leia. "Who would have thought, Vader cooks," he said unbelievingly.
"I heard that," Anakin said, his back to them.
"Anakin always cooks, I have no culinary skills," Padmé said, looking at her children and Han. "If he wasn't a jedi, he could have easily made his way as a cook or an engineer," she said. She glanced back at her husband, "Something I know he would have enjoyed," she said.
"I only cook for you," Anakin informed her, not glancing behind him.
"Engineer then," Padmé said with a smile.
Luke and Leia shared a look and then with Han. Not a one of them ever pictured Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader as a happily married man, but they were now seeing it. They could see the love between Anakin and Padmé. To Luke and Leia this was a relief, to Han it was uncharted territory.
"Why don't we have a seat, then," Padmé suggested, gesturing to the oval glass table in the room with six plush chairs sitting around it. The very same table that she and Anakin had made love on only hours ago. She took a seat at the opposite chair of the head of the table while Leia and Han took a seat at her right and Luke and her left. Han really didn't want to sit next to the man he was sure would make his life hell but had no choice as Leia chose to sit next to her mother and so did Luke. "How was your day?" Padmé asked.
"Eventful," both Luke and Leia said, each glancing at Anakin.
"Yes, I know that you each had a visit from your father," Padmé told them.
"So you know about the assassination attempt on Leia then," Han said.
Padmé shot a glare at her husband who visibly stiffened. "No, I did not," she said frowning.
"I took care of it, there was no need to tell you," Anakin told her defense, silently cursing Han Solo and vowing to get even.
Han mentally smiled at the thought of getting Vader into trouble. He didn't let it seep into his voice though. "It happened while she was at lunch. We don't know what the assassin said to him," Han gestured towards Anakin.
Padmé turned to Anakin. "What did he say, Ani?" she demanded.
"It doesn't matter, I took care of it," Anakin told her.
"It does too matter," Padmé insisted. "This is our daughter, I demand to know," she told him. When he didn't say anything she grew more annoyed. "I swear, Anakin, I will retrieve my blaster and blast you," she threatened.
Anakin didn't doubt her threat, she had done so before and he had been unable to sit for a week. He turned around to look straight at her. "All I got was a name, I have someone following up on it as we speak," he told her.
"What name?" Padmé demanded.
"You don't need to worry about it, it will be taken care of," Anakin told her stubbornly.
"And who do you have following up on this?" Padmé demanded, continuing her interrogation.
"A trusted agent who has worked for me for years, I had him tailing Luke once before to keep him alive, he is very competent," Anakin told her.
At the news that he had been tailed, Luke looked properly affronted. "You had someone following me?! That does it!" he snapped.
"He's not following you anymore, there is no reason to get wound up," Anakin told him dismissively.
"The point is that he was following me!" Luke told him.
"Your point?" Anakin asked unconcerned.
Luke did a double take. "You can't have people following me! Or Leia!" he added the last part at the look Leia threw him.
"I can do whatever I like," Anakin told him stubbornly and unconcerned.
"I agree with the tail, put this man on Leia's guard," Padmé said, looking at her husband.
"What?!" Leia cried in outrage. "I do not want or need a babysitter!"
"If I didn't notice being followed then you wont either," Luke grumbled to his sister.
"It's not a bad idea," Anakin agreed with his wife.
Leia threw them both an exasperated look and leaned back heavily in her chair, and shot a glare at Han who balked under it.
Padmé watched her daughter silently thinking how much her reaction was to hers many years ago.
"She reacts the same way you do at extra security," Anakin said, looking at his wife, voicing her thoughts.
"So it seems," Padmé said. "Now that I am on the other side, I see the necessity," she told him.
Luke and Leia looked at each other. "Huh?" they said confused.
"Your mother was a very controversial politician, she attracted many assassins in her glory days," Anakin informed them.
Padmé looked at him with a glare. "What do you mean by 'glory days'" she demanded.
"I'm speaking about when you were in politics," Anakin expertly skirted the issue.
"I can still run in politics, you know," Padmé told him.
"I am aware of that," Anakin told her. "Should you do so, you would have my vote and not because we are married, because I respect you politically," he told her.
"See that you do," Padmé told him.
Luke, Leia, and Han looked at each other, clearly seeing who was the dominant one in the relationship and that one wore a skirt. They had thought otherwise over the years.
Anakin set down a dish of fodu in green fire sauce on the table to which Padmé was the first to get her helping of.
"I love it when you cook, Ani," she told him, happy to eat his cooking.
"That good then?" Han said, taking a helping and was surprised by how good it tasted.
"Han is also a good cook," Leia said to her mother as she tasted the fodu. "I don't cook," she added. Normally she didn't eat anything spicy but her appetite was changing since becoming pregnant. After weeks of not being able to hold anything down, she was finally able to eat and keep it down.
"Then we should try some of his cooking next," Padmé suggested. "Wouldn't that be nice, Ani?" she asked, looking at her husband.
"I'd rather not be poisoned," Anakin answered.
Han looked affronted. "Hey! I know how to cook, been doing it since I was five!" he said in defense.
Luke held up a hand over his mouth to hide his amusement at Han's expense. Padmé had caught the movement and she smiled at her son. "Do you enjoy the fodu, Luke?" she asked, noticing the stain on Luke's plate.
"I've never had anything like it," Luke answered. "Where does it originate?" he asked.
Anakin shrugged, "Not sure," he said, "I found the recipe today," he said. He went back to preparing the scrimpi in glockaw sauce and pulled a pan of breadsticks from one of the focus cookers that was positioned in a wall with four of them and placed the pan on a pressured glass counter that could withstand heat.
Padmé got up to steal a breadstick, only to have her wrist grabbed by her husband. "I just want one," she told him.
"You can wait," Anakin told her. He went back to stirring the pletik soup while Padmé stuck her tongue out at his back in a most unlady-like move. "I saw that," he said without looking at her.
Luke and Leia looked at each other then, wondering, if their parents had raised them, if they would have gotten away with anything.
Anakin began to ladle out five bowls of soup, handing each bowl to Padmé who in tern set them on the table with soup spoons. He then set the scrimpi in glockaw sauce on simmer before taking his seat at the table. He was fully prepared to let Padmé take the lead in the conversation around the table which seemed fairly pleasant and when it was appropriate, he added his two cents in. The topics avoided were what was going on in the galaxy and Anakin's past as Darth Vader.
In the middle of the night, Anakin was still awake. Beside him, Padmé remained sleeping soundly. He had made sure that she would. No, he was waiting for the com from Jix on the location of Eithan Caux, a man that Anakin planned to eliminate and make an example of to other would be killers for his daughter. Anakin knew that it would come at any minute, Jix was that good. And as Anakin was thinking about it, his com beeped. Sitting up, he grabbed the com and switched it on. "Skywalker," he said.
"Hey, Uncle D, I found Eithan Caux," Jix said from the other end.
"Where?" Anakin demanded.
"He owns a seedy shop in the lower levels. I stopped in and told him my employer was interested in some illegal contraband," Jix told him. "I told him to expect you in thirty minutes, I'm sending you the location now," he finished.
"Good work, your pay will be double this time if all goes well," Anakin told him.
"Sir?" Jix asked unbelievingly, never being praised before or offered more pay.
Anakin ignored him. "I will meet you in under twenty minutes," he told him, getting out of bed without waking Padmé and began to get dressed.
Anakin met Jix in the lower levels outside a dingy shop twenty minutes later. The younger man was waiting for him in a nearby ally, leaned up against a wall, his right foot pressed against it, his arms crossed and smoking a cigarra. Jix merely looked up when Anakin landed his speeder in the alley. "He works alone," he said.
"Good," Anakin said pleased. "Associates?" he asked.
"He just had a hate the vice chair club meeting, I put tractors under all of their speeders," Jix told him.
"How many?" Anakin asked.
"Oh about twenty," Jix told him. "I'll follow up on each one," he said at the hard look in his employer's eyes. "Why does this mean so much to you, I thought you and Leia Organa were enemies?" he asked.
"She's my daughter," Anakin told him strictly.
Jix blinked. "What?" he asked.
"She was stolen from me when she was born, I didn't know until recently," Anakin explained.
"Okay," Jix said slowly. "You didn't search..."
"I thought she was dead, I'm not about to live through that again," Anakin told him.
Jix stood at attention there. He understood that the loss of a child was a horrible pain and he thought he understood what made him the way he was. "So you're going to kill these people?" he asked.
"Starting with this one," Anakin told him. "You probably don't want to stick around," he said.
"You're probably right, knowing you, his screams will be heard a mile away," Jix agreed. He nodded in the direction of the shop in question, "You ready?" he asked.
"I was ready after lunch," Anakin told him as he pulled the cowl of his cloak up over his head. He let Jix lead the way inside where a electronic bells could be heard from the door opening.
"I'll be out in a moment!" came a disembodied husky voice from a back room.
Jix moved in further into the store, Anakin remained at the door. "Ey Caux, I brought my boss just as I said," Jix called in an under cover voice.
Anakin moved about the shop and spotted some shelves with a number of illegal chemicals, plucking some Bavo-6 from a shelf and pocketing it before Eithan Caux could come out.
Jix had spotted Anakin do it and what he took and he knew that Eithan Caux was going to die a very horrible death. Especially with Bavo-6 which would make the slightest cut excruciating.
A moment later Eithan Caux emerged from the back room rubbing his hands together. "What can I do you?" he asked.
"My employer is interested in torture devices," Jix informed him and gestured to Anakin, who's face was hidden in the cowl of his cloak.
"Oh, for anyone in particular?" Caux asked.
"I plan to capture the Republic's Vice Chair and use it on her," Anakin told him menacingly.
This seemed to perk Caux's interest. "Really?" he asked with a sick smile. "Then we have much to talk about, follow me," he said and went into the back with Jix and Anakin following him. He poured three glasses of a foul liquid and sat down at a table and took a drink. "Why do you hate her?" he asked, looking at Anakin.
"It is not about hate, it's about power," Anakin told him, taking a seat. Jix remained standing behind him. "You?" Anakin asked.
Caux took another drink, he didn't seem to care that his potential customer didn't drink. "She's taken down a lot of business. Thirty of my customers went bust and they all sent troops to me. Luckily I had a heads up each time and I hid my contraband. But that scutta whore is bad for business," he said.
Anakin frowned and his eyes narrowed to slants under his cowl. The insult to his daughter making him very angry. But he wanted Caux to continue to dig his own grave.
"And what do you plan to do about it?" Anakin asked.
"Me and several others are plotting her death. Perhaps you can join us. The more of us against the Republic's whore the better. Why she won't know what hit her. When I get my hands on her, every instrument in my shop will be used, she won't know suffering until she is brought here. Several of the men in my group also voiced their taste of flesh and how she shouldn't go to waste before she is dead," Caux ranted.
Anakin decided that he would hear no more and he stood up suddenly, turning the table over and pulled Caux up by the neck and slammed him against the wall, seething in anger. "I dare you to say that again," he seethed.
Jix tisked at Caux. "Shame, you just pissed off Darth Vader," he said. At Caux's confused look, Jix continued. "You were speaking about his daughter," he explained.
Caux's eyes widened in fear as he looked at Anakin. He didn't say anything.
"You will be the first to die," Anakin told him, dragging him to a hanging rack and locked him up in it.
"I don't have to stick around for much longer, Have fun," Jix said before leaving.
Caux didn't want to be left alone with Darth Vader. He had heard about his infamous torture skills and he had all type of torture available. He watched as Anakin pulled a bottle of Bavo-6 from his cloak and picked up a syringe from a table with them. "No, no, no," he chanted, knowing what it was for.
"Did you really think that you wouldn't be made an example of?" Anakin asked mildly. "Your friends can consider this a warning," he said darkly as he injected him with bavo-6. He then activated a scan grid which had been heavily modified with additional tools designed for torture, including microsurgical vibroscalpels, an electroshock assembly, diagnostic scanners and chemical injectors. Much like he used on Han Solo on Bespin. He moved Caux over to it, hoping to weaken him with it. Caux's screams of agony pleased Anakin to no end. This was a man who was a danger to his daughter, he was doing what he had to in order to protect Leia.
When Anakin decided that Caux had enough of the scan grid, he moved him away. "What are the names of your friends?" he demanded.
"No! I won't tell!" Caux told him.
"I'd like to know before I kill them," Anakin told him.
"You'll get nothing out of me!" Caux declared. His eyes widened when he saw Anakin pick up a knife specifically designed for torture.
"No matter, my agent put tractors on all of their speeders," Anakin told him. "Soon your little group will all be dead," he told him. "But names would be nice," he said as he cut into Caux's skin. He smiled at Caux's agonized screams. He cut pieces of skin off.
"I won't tell," Caux cried, he screamed as he was cut into and he felt an organ being ripped out. If there were a chance that his friends would succeed, he had to preserve them.
Anakin gave him another injection of bavo-6. He then cut into Caux again and ripped out another organ. Caux had screamed in even greater agony. "You must have a list somewhere," he said.
"I don't," Caux was nearly in tears. He screamed again as a large chunks of skin was carved out. He couldn't scream when the skin on his face was carved off. He was bleeding like a river now and he knew that he would die soon. He watched in fear as Anakin rummaged around in the shop before coming up with a prize. He looked on in fear as he saw a holo of his wife and children in Anakin's hands.
"Is this your family?" Anakin asked, eying the holo. "It would be a shame if something happened to them," he said. "I'm willing to kill for mine," he finished.
"Don't you touch them!" Caux cried.
"Tell me the names!" Anakin roared, throwing the holo aside.
Caux visibly flinched as much as he could. "Go to hell!" he cried.
"I've already been there," Anakin told him darkly. "I'll see you there with your friends," he said, picking the knife back up.
Caux screamed as best as he could as the rest of his organs was cut out of him until he died.
Once he was done, Anakin surveyed his handy work. The gruesome sight of Caux's body was to be an example to his friends. He dearly hoped that they would see it. He commed Jix. "When does that group meet here again?" he asked
"You're finished?" Jix asked, relieved that he didn't hear any screaming.
"Yes, I want to get to this group at one time," Anakin told him.
"I'll keep tracking them," Jix told him. "I'm on their tail now," he informed him.
"Keep it up," Anakin told him before finding a refresher to wash the blood off his hands and face.
Padmé woke up to the sensation of fingers delicately tangling in her hair and tracing the side of her face. Her eyes fluttered open to the sight of the most exotic and expensive looking boutique of flowers. She looked up into her husband's face in surprise. He had never bestowed flowers like this on her. "Oh, Ani, they're beautiful!" she said, sitting up and taking the flowers and inhaling their exotic scent.
"That isn't all," Anakin told her, giving her a velveteen box.
Padmé set the flowers aside and took the box and opened it, finding a complete jewelry set of the most exquisite gems and veda pearls. She knew that he had spent a small fortune alone on her this morning. She was speechless.
"Do you like it?" Anakin asked.
"They're exquisite," Padmé breathed. She looked up into his eyes. "But why?" she asked.
"I wasn't able to buy you these kind of things before, now I can. I wanted to do this," Anakin told her. "And to top it off, we're going to the Indigo Tower for diner and dancing tonight where I can show you off," he told her.
He was so romantic at times that Padmé's heart gushed. "Oh, Anakin!" she cried, throwing her arms around him. She felt his arms wrap around her tightly. She turned her head slightly to capture his mouth with hers in a kiss, wanting to make this morning even more special. The flowers and jewelry were moved to a bedside table before they began to make love all morning long.
Luke headed the team to inspect the undercity shop that had been under his watch list. There were reports of inhuman screaming coming from within during the night. He wasn't sure what he would find as soldiers pried opened the doors. The feeling of terror and torture was rife in the air. Luke knew who was the cause the minute he entered the shop. Then he spotted soldiers hurry out from the back, covering the faces. He decided that he needed to see what it was and he walked back there to be met with the most gruesome sight there ever was.
"General, there aren't any traces left by anyone but the victim," a soldier informed him after preforming a sweep.
Luke kept his eyes on the sight before him. "No, there wouldn't be," he said, knowing that his father had done this. "I want all evidence to be in my office only, this is my case," he ordered.
"Of course, General," the soldiers agreed.
Luke turned away from the sight and left the shop. He needed to plan what he would do accordingly. If he arrested his father and his mother learned about this, she would be devastated. But would his father deny doing this? Luke knew the chances there. His father never denied doing anything he had done. Luke knew his duties, he had to bring his father in for questioning, even if it killed his mother. He silently begged for her forgiveness.
Leia stormed into her parent's apartment and found no one right away. She checked all the obvious rooms before heading straight to the large bedroom in the back and stopped as soon as she entered, freezing at the sight of her father walking in from the refresher clad in only a towel at his waist and wearing a very annoyed look on his face.
"Out!" Anakin roared.
Leia crossed her arms and cocked a hip out to her side. "You're at it again," she started. "You're... let go of me!" she grew indignant when he grabbed her upper arm and forcefully shoved her out of the room and locked the door behind her. Leia managed to regain her footing and glared at the locked door. She was not going to let him off of it and stalked to the living room where she took a seat, crossing both her arms and legs and her foot began tapping in agitation.
"My bedroom is off limits," Anakin's voice could be heard, having a strict note to it as he came out, fully dressed.
Leia stood and faced him. "By all rights I should have you arrested," she told him.
"Then do it, but I guarantee you, you won't have me contained for long," Anakin told her, crossing his arms.
Leia threw down some holos of the scene Luke had found earlier. She gave her father a challenging look. "You did this, didn't you?" she demanded.
"Yes," Anakin told her.
"A confession like that will land you in prison!" Leia told him.
"Do you want to know why?" Anakin asked.
"I do not want to hear any of your twisted excuses," Leia told him.
"He hired the assassin that tried to kill you yesterday," Anakin told her.
Leia looked at the holos with a new dimension. "Why?" she asked. "Why would you do this?"
"Why?" Anakin repeated incredulously. "He wasn't going to stop until you were dead!" he told her. "It is either him or you, which would you choose?" he challenged.
"Prison for attempted assassination would have been more appropriate," Leia told him through a glare.
Anakin walked over to her. "Do you honestly believe that would have stopped him?" he challenged. "Admit it, Leia, you're relived that he is dead, it makes you feel safer," he said.
"I don't have to admit to anything," Leia told him. "What you did was unconscionable. You claim to not be Vader anymore but when I look at this and you..." she trailed off.
"Trying to kill you is a death sentence in my opinion," Anakin told her.
Leia scoffed. "What's with the change of heart?" she demanded.
"Things changed the minute I learned that you were my daughter," Anakin told her.
"That wasn't a pleasant change for me," Leia told him. As soon as she said it, she learned to regret it when she saw the look in his eyes flash before her eyes.
"Whether you like it or not, Leia, that is what you are and what you will remain," Anakin told her.
"And what does that mean to you?" Leia demanded, challenging him, looking him in the eye. She didn't look away when he stepped up to her and took her chin between his forefinger and thumb, forcing her to look him in the eye.
"Everything," he told her.
Leia knew by the look in his eyes that he meant that and all of her mother's pleas that he loved her came to mind. Still, she had her reservations. "I had a father, I don't need another," she told him.
"I don't care what you are letting yourself believe. I'm not letting you slip away," Anakin told her. "And I'm not going to stop hunting down that man's friends before they can harm you," he told her.
The idea that there were more of them alarmed Leia. "There are more?" she asked.
"At least twenty," Anakin told her honestly.
"And you plan on killing them all?" Leia asked.
"Any threat to you or Luke will be eliminated," Anakin told her. "I will not lose either one of you." he said it with such conviction that Leia was forced to believe that he loved them.
"And you don't think you're acting with an obsession?" Leia asked.
"Unless you live with the idea that you lost a child, you will not understand my motives," Anakin told her.
Leia's thoughts traveled to thoughts of the child growing in her womb. Did she want to live with that? She decided that she didn't. "I cannot condone what you are doing, the thought of it sickens me," she told him.
"It will not stop me," Anakin told her.
The fact that he could switch from a loving family man to cold blooded killer so easily unnerved her. She decided that she couldn't be in the same room with him a moment longer at this time. "I have to get back to the senate," she told him.
She didn't need an excuse, Anakin read her easily. "Then go," he told her and watched her make her exit. He picked the holos up and stashed them away in a drawer. He decided to take a long awaited nap.
When Anakin woke from his nap, he left the bedroom, taking note of the dress that was stored in a garment bag, slung over a chair with a shoe box on the floor beside it. Padmé was home from shopping at his expense. With a smile on his face, he left the bedroom and stopped short upon entering the living room where Padmé was gazing at the holos Leia had forgotten to take with her.
Padmé turned to look at him, an unreadable look on her face. "Did you do this, Anakin?" she asked.
"That was the man who hired the assassin that attacked Leia," Anakin told her honestly.
Padmé turned back to the holos, but a look of disgust didn't cross her face. "He suffered?" she asked.
Anakin knew that she had views against the suffering of others. But he would not lie to her. "I made an example of him to his friends," he told her.
Padmé turned to him, knowing what he meant. "There are more?" she asked alarmed.
"At least twenty," Anakin told her honestly. "Leia had made enemies."
"You're going to kill the rest then aren't you?" Padmé asked.
"Yes," Anakin told her honestly. "I won't let anything happened to either Leia or Luke," he told her.
Padmé set the holos down and stood. She turned to him, her resolve like steel. "I will come with you when you confront them," she told him.
"Excuse me?" Padmé's eyes narrowed. "Leia is our daughter, I have every right to confront these men that you do," she told him.
Anakin crossed the distance between them and took her upper arms in his hands, looking her in the eyes. "Angel, for me to do what I must do, I can't have you with me," he told her.
Padmé knew what he planned to do. She knew and surprisingly, she condoned it. "I want you to do what you have to do, Ani," she told him.
Anakin blinked in surprise. "You do?" he asked skeptically.
"I want them to suffer for wishing our baby harm," Padmé told him with the conviction of a mother protecting her young.
"They will," Anakin vowed. He then took her into his arms and held on tight. He didn't voice his plans, he knew what he would do without saying it. That was when Anakin's com link went off. Anakin answered it, expecting it to be Jix but it was Luke.
"I want to see you at my apartment," Luke's voice could be heard through the other end.
"Fine, I'll be there in twenty minutes," Anakin answered and closed the transmission. "Scolded from one child and now the other," he muttered.
"They don't have children of their own, they don't know the extremes a parent will go for his child," Padmé reminded him.
"Lets hope that isn't for a while," Anakin muttered.
"They will be thirty in another month," Padmé reminded him and Anakin paused, looking at her. It was then that she realized that he didn't know when their birthday was. "I'll tell you later," she promised and by the look in his eyes, she knew that he planned on spoiling them, what with his wealth and all and all the birthdays he had missed. She kissed him before he left.
When Anakin arrived at Luke's apartment, he found Luke sitting alone in a mountain of evidence and he knew what this was about. "Before you finish that, an upcoming fire will pop up with at least twenty victims," he told him bluntly.
Luke was momentary taken aback by that disclosure before he gave him a double take. "Don't you have a conscience?" he demanded.
"Not when it comes to protecting my family," Anakin told him. "Am I to be interrogated?" he asked.
"I'm debating on whether I should bury this for the first time in my life," Luke told him honestly.
"That would be most helpful," Anakin told him seriously.
Luke gave him an exasperated look. "When will you stop killing people!" he demanded. "When it was just slavers I didn't have to clean it up!"
"I'm not asking you to clean it up. I left no evidence that could lead to me," Anakin told him.
"And what am I to tell his family?" Luke demanded.
"That was no family man," Anakin told him.
"And you are?" Luke challenged.
"I do the best that I can, you and your sister keep throwing up resistance, it is not my fault," Anakin told him.
"Oh and turning to the dark side did wonders," Luke said dryly.
"I thought we were over that, I guess that was my mistake," Anakin told him.
Luke sighed deeply. "I am over that," he said.
Anakin rose an eyebrow. "You brought it up," he pointed out.
Luke stood to face him. "Give me a reason to bury this," he asked.
"He wanted your sister dead, I have his confession recorded, you can listen if you'd like," Anakin told him.
"I think I'll pass," Luke told him decisively. He didn't want to hear what kind of torture would make the man confess. "What about the twenty you plan on killing next?" he asked.
"Associates of the man you found, all wanting the same end, your sister's death," Anakin told him.
"I can't talk you out of this can I?" Luke asked tiredly.
"No, you cannot," Anakin told him stubbornly.
"Then make it look like an accident," Luke begged, hardly believing what he was saying.
"Since you asked nicely," Anakin agreed, happy that he wasn't getting a lecture. He sat down on the couch and frowned when he pulled out a piece of women's lingerie. "I see she has been back," he said icily.
"Your opinion on the matter matters as much as yours on Leia and Han," Luke told him.
Anakin scowled. "Think I have a say when my son gets involved with a woman who means to kill him," he told him.
"Mara is not going to kill me," Luke told him.
"She hears Palpatine's commands in her head, it is painful for her to not follow them," Anakin pointed out.
"She doesn't hear him anymore," Luke told him.
"Did she tell you that obvious lie?" Anakin demanded.
"It isn't a lie," Luke told him. "I was with her when she stopped hearing him," he said as he went to a cabinet and opened a drawer, pulled something out before handing it to his father.
Anakin looked down at his old lightsaber, the one Obi-Wan had taken from him. "Is this supposed to mean something to me?" he demanded.
"A dark Jedi used the hand you cut off to clone me, the clone was armed with that and trained to kill me and take my place. Mara killed the clone, saving my life and ending the emperor's influence on her," Luke told him.
"You trust her because of that?" Anakin demanded.
"Yes," Luke told him. "I trust her with my life."
"Then you are a fool!" Anakin snapped, standing up to tower over his son.
Luke stood to his full hight and looked up to stare his father down. "And you are too stubborn to admit you are wrong," he challenged.
Anakin glowered at him, the urge to smack him being too great to resist at the moment, but he managed. "I am ordering you to end this foolish fling you have going on!" he snapped.
Luke's eyes widened at the order and then narrowed. "I am not one of your subordinates. I will not follow orders from you," he told him stubbornly.
"You are my son, you will do as I say!" Anakin snapped.
"That may have worked when I was kid, but you lost your chance. I'm not ending things with Mara," Luke told him.
Anakin's hands tightened into fists. His patience had been tried to the brink. "I will not stand for this, one way or another, you and that woman will be over," he told him in clipped tones.
Luke was both annoyed and amused by his father's reactions. "Didn't you promise to take my mother out?" he asked. At his father's sharp look, he explained. "We had lunch, she told me how you surprised her this morning and of your plans. She seemed very pleased," he told him.
"This is not over," Anakin told him before he left the apartment, purposely leaving the lightsaber behind.
It was after dark and Luke knew at this moment that his father was too busy wining and dining his mother to pay attention to what he was doing. Upon landing his speeder at the scheduled meeting spot, he hopped out and stood by the rippling fountain, watching the water cascade. He felt her approach and at the last minute caught her in his arms, pulling her in for a soul searching kiss. He wondered if his father's assumption were true and he really was in love with Mara. With the amount of fighting for her that he had gone through recently, there had to be something there.
Mara pulled back to look at him. "What was that for?" she asked.
"You cannot believe how much fighting I have been engaged in with my father, he's on the brink of striking me," Luke told her.
"Yes, I bet he is. He threatened my life if I did not end things with you," Mara told him.
Luke had an exasperated look on his face and raked a hand through his hair. "I don't know what to do with him," he said tiredly.
"Why not cut him from your life?" Mara suggested.
"I can't do that, it would kill him and disappoint my mother," Luke sighed. "He is insistent that things between us become over, he even gave me an order to end things between us," he told her.
"If this is causing friction in your family, then why are you fighting?" Mara asked. She didn't understand families but she did understand that they shouldn't fight.
"I...I don't know," Luke admitted. He met Mara's expectant stare. "It's just that something tells me that this is worth fighting for," he offered lamely.
This disclosure encouraged Mara some. "And what is this anyway?" she asked. She really didn't have a name for it, other than the feelings she knew that she shouldn't have.
Luke looked her in the eye. "What is it that you want it to be?" he asked.
"I... I don't know," Mara answered honestly. She was somehow mesmerized by his gaze. She didn't realize she was disclosing her feelings until they were out. "I just know that I shouldn't be feeling what I am," she told him.
"And what is that?" Luke asked, wondering what he was feeling himself.
"I don't know what it is, I just want to be with you more than anything, I've never felt this," Mara confessed. No sooner had she confessed it then she was pulled flush against his chest and kissed like their lives depended on it and she clung to him for dear life.
He pulled away suddenly and looked her in the eye. "Marry me," he urged without thinking.
Mara's mouth gaped as she looked at him in shock. "Won't your family protest?" she asked.
"Lets not give them a chance to, we can elope, tonight," Luke told her.
"It would really tick your father off," Mara pointed out.
"Do you care?" Luke asked. "Because I don't."
Mara smiled at the thought of his father's reaction should he find out. "No, I don't care. And lets do it," she told him.
Luke took her hand in his and pulled her along to his waiting speeder. He knew that the justice of the peace was still open. By the end of the night, they would be married.
As they waited for the next course, Anakin took Padmé's hand in his and kissed the underside of her wrist. She wore a royal blue gown that was ultra sensual, backless and extremely low cut. She was also wearing the jewelry he had given her. She looked like a million credits with her chestnut curls swept atop her head with a rhinestone barrette, exposing her neck to him. He knew that there were a few holocams aimed at them. It was the first time in years that they were really out in the public eye and they were together, he knew the media hounds would be watching and he knew the next day's headlines.
Padmé loved the way his mouth trailed feather light kisses up her arm in line with her pulse. It left her heart fluttering. "Ani, I used to dream that we would have a night like this," she told him.
"I live to make your dreams come true," Anakin told her, kissing her knuckles.
Her heart fluttered some more, he still had that effect on her. Padmé smiled. "And such over the top complements," she said, loving them. She too was aware of the holocams aimed at them.
"I love you with all that I am," Anakin told her.
"And I you," Padmé told him. "I wonder what the kids are doing," she pondered.
"I don't care at the moment," Anakin told her honestly, "All I want to focus on is you."
"Ani..." Padmé was prevent from saying more when he leaned in to kiss her as deeply as he ever had. Her hand flaked through his short hair as his cupped the back of her head. When he broke away she was left with wanting more before he stood and took her with him.
"Dance with me?" he said close to her ear. Padmé merely nodded before he lead them to the dance floor where they danced in rhythm to the music of the band playing. She was surprised to learn that he could dance.
"You can dance," she said surprised.
"I was a clumsy child, it was suggested that I learn to dance to overcome my clumsiness," Anakin told her. "It somehow helped me with my forms," he added.
Padmé smiled. "Well I am grateful," she said as she leaned into him, pressing the side of her face against his shoulder.
"I'm happy that you approve," Anakin told her as he was finally able to spot the holocams. Let them watch them, Anakin really didn't care. They had waited so long to being able to be out in the open with their relationship, they weren't going to let the media hounds ruin this for them. As he rested his chin atop her head, he closed his eyes. He was happy, truly happy, for the first time in many years. He didn't want this moment to end.
Across town at the justice of the peace, Luke and Mara stood facing each other, hands clasped while a judge presided over their vows. They had chosen the more standard vows and stood looking into each other's eyes as the judge spoke. Luke's eyed were fixed on her green orbs as he spoke. "I, Luke Skywalker, hereby swear to stand by you, Mara Jade, through better or worse, in sickness and in health, to give to you my mind, body, and soul until the end of my days," he vowed
Mara paused momentarily. She knew that it was her turn to speak but her mind replayed the drastic turn her life has taken, from imperial hand to smuggler and now the wife of the jedi she had once been ordered to kill. She wondered what the emperor would say to this and found that she didn't care. All that she cared about was standing in front of her. Finally she spoke. "I, Mara Jade, hereby swear to stand by you, Luke Skywalker, through better or worse, in sickness and health, to give to you my mind, bod,y and soul until the end of my days," she vowed.
"To break apart what the universe has bound together, let it be a crime of the highest capacity. With the laws of the Republic and the will of the force, I now pronounce you husband and wife," The judge proclaimed.
Mara looked up into Luke's eyes questionably, briefly wondering what she had gotten herself into before his hand cupped her cheek and his fingers caressed her skin as he leaned in to kiss her. As they broke away, she couldn't stop herself from saying, "Your father will be so ticked off."
"He'll get over it," Luke told her, leaning in to kiss her again.