this is a disclaimer.
roll the dice
At some point during the fight, his glove tore.
It shouldn't have; the leather is strong and durable, but a sabre must have brushed against it, somehow. There is a hole, scarcely big enough for her fingertip to fit through, but he can see metal and gears and wires through it just the same, steel hard and waiting.
Anakin's eyes drop to Dooku's wrists, cauterized stumps where his hands should be. His own arms are trembling.
Kill him. Oh, how he wants to. How it urges him to, the Darkness, the Dragon. Do it do it stop him destroy him think of what he has done the lives he has taken the good people dead the worlds ravaged the galaxy torn apart kill him and end it.
He recalls a boast he made once, as a child, to Obi-Wan.
I never make the same mistake twice.
Anakin Skywalker steps away, and collapses his blades.
"No," he says.
Dooku looks first stunned, and then – almost angry.
"Oh, very good, young Skywalker," he says softly. "Very good. But keep your pity for yourself! I despise it and you."
The Chancellor shoots him before Anakin can answer.
"I want to have the baby at home on Naboo," Padmé says, smiling at him. "I can go early and fix up the baby's room... I know just the one, overlooking the garden."
Anakin pushes himself away from the doorframe and walks over to her, cups her face in his hands.
His glove still has that hole in it.
"Why early? Let's leave now. Let's go home together."
Her eyes widen. "But the Senate – the Council!"
"The only things that matter to me," Anakin says, "are you. And this child."
Padmé's eyes are shining; no matter how torn she sounds, he knows she wants this more than anything.
"Are you sure?" she says quietly. "It would mean the end of everything, you know that. The end of our secret."
He snorts. "As if we haven't been planning for that since practically before we started keeping it. When the war is over, we've always said. Well, the war may not be over, but I'm done with it, Padmé. I've had enough; I've seen enough. Our baby..."
Our baby shouldn't grow up with a murderer for a father.
How to explain it, his unease, his disquiet? How to put it into words: where did the blaster come from, how did he get out of the binders, how dare he tell me to leave Obi-Wan behind.
"Our baby should be born in peace," Anakin says at last.
Padmé senses that he's struggling with something; she lays the hairbrush aside and reaches out to him, opens her mouth to speak. Then, she stops. Something in his face gives her pause.
"If I ask you about it," she says, "will you tell me what's troubling you?"
Anakin draws a breath and shakes his head. "I don't know if I can just yet," he says.
She looks like she wants to push him, but she doesn't. Anakin holds her close all night, too tired for more. He might want to make love to her until he passes out, but he suspects he wouldn't get much further than foreplay (and that's not even mentioning the part where she's six months pregnant and he's quietly, absurdly terrified that the slightest wrong move could hurt the baby).
He sleeps his first truly peaceful, dreamless sleep in months, and wakes the next morning with a strange sense of relief, as if some terrible event has been averted.
Obi-Wan's blatant disregard for Naboo's no-fly zones stems either from his forgetfulness (unlikely) or his desperation to get to Anakin (even less likely) or he's just doing it to annoy his former apprentice (distinctly possible).
He takes one look at Padmé, glowing despite having spent all week complaining that she looks like the side of a house, and then turns to Anakin.
"You both look well," he says.
"Thank you," Anakin says. "So do you."
"I was just trying to be polite."
"The Chancellor was most upset when you disappeared."
It's a warm day, and they are standing in the sunshine on the veranda. There are no clouds in sight and not a hint of a breeze.
Nevertheless, Anakin shivers.
Obi-Wan nods, silent understanding. "Do be careful, Anakin."
Anakin smiles in spite of himself. "Always have an escape route?"
Obi-Wan smiles back. "Precisely. Senator Amidala –"
"Obi-Wan," Padmé says, pointedly.
"Padmé," he acknowledges. "May I offer my congratulations?"
"Thank you very much," she says, smiling. And then, after a beat, "Why don't I leave you to it?"
Obi-Wan kisses her cheek, and his eyes linger on her hand as it slides out of Anakin's.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asks baldly. It has never occurred to Anakin before that his secrecy, even more than his betrayal of his oaths, would be what hurt Obi-Wan the most.
And so he chooses honesty.
"I didn't think you'd listen."
Obi-Wan flinches. "Was I that bad a friend?"
Anakin shakes his head. "No," he says. "Just... that strict a teacher."
They stand in silence in the sunshine until the wind comes calling off the lake. Obi-Wan shakes his head.
"I have to go."
"Utapau. To deal with Grievous."
Anakin struggles with his next words in a way he never would have believed: the Hero With No Fear, hesitant to offer aid?
"Do you need me to come?"
"No," instantly and without hesitation. "No. You and Padmé... she's always made you happy, Ani."
"Jedi aren't supposed to be happy," Anakin says, teasing.
Obi-Wan raises an eyebrow and shrugs a bit, thoughtful, teasing. "Maybe the Jedi have been getting it wrong."
Anakin thinks of Siri, and finds he can't do much more than nod.
Padmé insists on having the baby at home; not even her mother can sway her, and so Luke Skywalker is born into his father's arms shortly after dawn, squalling with the indignity of being born as soon as Anakin clears his nose, mouth and eyes.
No, his hands are not shaking.
Blue blue eyes scrunched up in that red little face, and Luke thrashes weakly the way babies do. Anakin had almost forgotten this – palm under his head, hold him gently, remember he's fragile, his mother whispers.
"It's a boy," he says, and smiles at his crying wife.
"Didn't I tell you?"she demands, and tries to hold out her arms for him, but another contraction wracks her, and she decides to curse a blue streak instead. Anakin laughs helplessly, joyously, feeling like he'll never stop.
"It's just the afterbirth," Sola says comfortingly. The red halfmoon imprints of Padmé's nails on her hands will take a while to fade. Anakin shakes his head, frowning.
"I – Sola, will you take him?"
He kisses his son's forehead before passing him to his aunt. Anakin lays his flesh hand on his wife's stomach.
"Not the afterbirth," Padmé says, staring at him.
Their eyes meet.
"Another child," Anakin says. Sola shrieks with joy, and he smiles. "Twins. Force, I can barely tell them apart even now!"
Padmé laughs, and curses again when the contractions hit.
Less than ten minutes later, Anakin whoops.
"It's a girl!"
It's evening by the time Obi-Wan arrives. Padmé is asleep, completely exhausted. Anakin sits by her bedside, cradling Leia close, looks up when Obi-Wan knocks gently and then slips inside.
He looks delighted when he sees Anakin with Leia, but he passes the cradle on his way over to them, and to his astonishment it's not empty.
"Twins," Anakin says unnecessarily.
"So that's what it's called."
"Luke and Leia," Anakin says, ignoring the dig. "Go ahead, hold him."
Careful not to wake him, Obi-Wan carries Luke over to Anakin and draws up the second chair using the Force.
"He has your eyes."
"Padmé's sister let me in. She says you delivered them?"
"They're almost two weeks early. We didn't even get a real chance to comm the doctor, it was so fast. Unusual for a first child, but I'm not complaining. And that med droid is worse than useless."
Obi-Wan is grinning. "Where did you learn to deliver babies?"
Anakin blinks. "At home," he says. "Mom used to midwife – all the women who'd born a child would. It's not like we had doctors. And she'd take me along, so I'd know to help if ever – well. If ever my own wife needed it."
Obi-Wan looks pensive. "I never knew."
"I never knew you didn't know."
Silence again; they've been doing that a lot lately. It's a struggle to turn his attention away from Leia's yawn, the way her tiny fingers curl into fists and grasp at his thumb.
"Gone, as of this morning. Almost as soon as the fight was over, I could sense your child."
Anakin grins. "Can you tell them apart in the Force?"
"Not for the life of me."
"Neither can I!"
They share a quiet laugh over that. A short while later, Luke wakes up hungry and hell-bent on letting everyone know it. Obi-Wan goes downstairs to make hot chocolate.
Padmé winces a little when Luke starts to nurse, but despite the initial awkwardness, she eventually starts to smile.
"I never thought we'd have this," she says softly.
I knew we would, Anakin thinks, but she'll laugh and call his arrogant if he says so, and then he'll remind her of how he knew they'd marry, and she'll declare that nonsense with a saucy look in her eyes and the mock argument will go on for the rest of the night.
"I knew we would," he says.
"You know, it's a little embarrassing," Padmé says, dropping onto the sofa beside Obi-Wan. "Ani knows more lullabies than I do. And prettier ones. And ones in languages I don't understand."
Obi-Wan smiles. "He tried teaching them to the younger children at the Temple once, not long after he first came."
Padmé crosses one leg over the other, winces and uncrosses them again. "I sense a 'but'."
"Jedi younglings don't have lullabies."
She's fascinated. "Really?"
"It's not – rational."
"And the Force is, of course."
Obi-Wan's next words are slow, quiet. He has the withdrawn look of a man searching for a way to put an indefinable concept into words, to capture an innermost feeling in a description others will understand.
"I think... I wonder if maybe we do believe that. In some way. That – it's predictable. Or if not predictable... comprehensible. Within our ability to understand. We talk about understanding the ways of the Force as if we already knew all of them, as if we have a – a map, a set of instructions... " He looks at her. "Am I even making sense?"
"I don't know," Padmé admits.
The twins are two weeks old by the time Obi-Wan deigns to answer the Council's increasingly irate comms and returns to Coruscant to make his report.
Three days later, the Chancellor arrives.
Anakin flatly refuses to let Padmé leave the house to greet him, telling her to stay inside with the twins. There's a tense moment when she's absolutely seething with fury (and he can't really blame her; Anakin can be an absolute arsehole when he wants to be, but he's never been one to her before), but then she backs down.
"It was him," she says. "That was why you wanted to leave Coruscant."
"Something's wrong with him," Anakin says.
Padmé curls a hand into his loose shirt and forces him to look her in the eyes.
"Never keep something like this from me again," she says flatly, brooking no argument. "Either we're in this together, or we're not."
We're not in this together, Anakin wants to shout at her. How can I possibly protect you if we're in this together?
But she wouldn't stand for that, and she shouldn't have to. He could have lost her so easily when the twins were born – how many of his childhood friends' mothers died birthing them? Half at least, Anakin is sure.
Padmé is stronger than he gives her credit for (but he will never quite be able to shake that overprotective whisper that tells him she's weaker than he thinks, too).
He kisses her forehead and leaves the house to greet his friend.
The conversation is brief.
"Chancellor, you look well."
"Thank you, Anakin. So do you. Your vacation appears to have done you good, my boy."
Anakin feels himself stiffen. "It wasn't a vacation. Isn't a vacation. I'm staying here."
Palpatine stills, eyes dark and inscrutable. "But the Order?"
"The Order will have noticed by now that I'm not coming back," Anakin says wryly. "Or if they didn't, Obi-Wan will have told them. Padmé and I are married."
He doesn't know why he doesn't mention the twins.
"You wouldn't have to return to the Jedi, Anakin. I need your abilities, your great skills. I need your help."
It's sincere, it's perfectly sincere, he's telling the truth, he truly does want Anakin to return to Coruscant with him, he's concerned for him, but Anakin can't shake the memory of Dooku's face as the blaster bolt entered his temple and somehow Anakin knows that there's more to it.
"You've always been a friend to me, Chancellor," he says at last. "I've trusted you, and I've always been grateful to you for taking the time to help a lost boy from the Outer Rim find his bearings in the Core. But the war is over, Chancellor, for me at least. Everyone has a breaking point. In a way I guess Dooku hit mine with a spoon. Sir, I'm finished. I need time. And even when I've had it... I just don't know."
The silence is long and thoughtful. Palpatine is watching him with a look that is both calm and calculating: weighing his options, Anakin thinks. Deciding on the best course of action. Adapting to this new situation, this set of parameters he clearly never expected to have to deal with.
Finally, he says, "I regret this, Anakin. I regret this very much. Farewell, Master Skywalker." Soft, gentle, kindly. Too kindly for a man who can pick up a blaster and shoot another in the head at point-blank range before the Jedi Knight standing by the victim has even realised what's happened.
Anakin's reply goes unheard as Palpatine turns away and disappears up the ramp into his shuttle.
It's later that same evening that Padmé comes to a decision. They've both been sitting around in brooding silence, thinking about the Chancellor, watching the Holonet draw up the statistics from the war: when once you couldn't go a day without hearing of a skirmish somewhere in the Outer Rim, now there have been two whole days of nothing save a brief dogfight in the Hoth system. Wherever the Separatist leaders are hiding, they're clearly keeping a low profile until they've decided whether or not to discuss the terms of surrender Palpatine has offered to them.
Padmé shuts the viewer off as the news report winds down. Anakin turns to look at her.
"I have something to tell you," she says quietly.
He blinks. "What?"
"You're not the only one whose suspicions of the Chancellor have been growing over the last month. And no smart-ass remarks, thank you very much, I don't just mean me."
Anakin smiles a little. Waits for her to continue.
"I think we may be on the verge of committing treason," Padmé admits, and the rest just spills out of her from there.
Anakin wakes near dawn, his head still full of conspiracies and secret Senate delegations and his heart – ah, his heart is aching, and there's an icy pit in his stomach. He wanders the silent house restless as a ghost, checks on the twins, watches his wife sleep for a few minutes. Goes downstairs to make some caf.
Everything is fine. His family is safe and well, sleeping in peace. There is no reason for this worry, this unrest. This growing fear.
The comm goes off just as he's pouring: it's Bail Organa, pale and haggard.
Anakin looks at him, and knows in his bones what he's about to say.