Title: Horizon
Author: Aeryn
Rating: PG-13 for mild smutty elements
Characters: Padmé Amidala; Anakin Skywalker
Timeframe: Clone Wars era
Genre: PWP, angst/schmoopiness
Length: ~2700 words
Summary: He can imagine no greater joy than Padmé cradling their newborn baby in her arms, rocking and singing her to sleep.

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He is an insect in the presence of a goddess and, inexplicably, she loves him as much as he does her.

It's not to say she has no faults – certainly not. Sometimes she rolls over in her sleep and smacks him in the face. She wears too much makeup. She often works herself to exhaustion, not sleeping or eating properly for days at a time. Even the shower does not disguise her thorough mangling of the simplest melodies. Not that he'll ever tell her that last - there are some dangers even a so-called "Hero Without Fear" does not tempt.

She is not without faults, but the one certainty in the constant upheaval of his life is that there is no more perfect a woman - being - in the universe. And if there were, it wouldn't matter. They wouldn't be her.

The mere sight of her soothes, cleanses, him more than even the deepest meditation (which he's never been great at anyway). Her presence sweeps away, even if only for one night, the blood and ash on his hands and in his soul, leaving only him. Anakin Skywalker the man, husband of Padmé Amidala - not the Jedi or soldier or general or teacher - a man at times he almost doesn't recognize, only assured of his reality by his name passing through her lips. Even so, sometimes he yet wonders which of those mantles is the real him.

This is not one of those times, he decides, as he turns on his side to look more fully at her.

Without her to come home to, he would lose himself.

Padmé lies on her back now, their pale blue sheets a carelessly tossed silken shroud about her, highlights in her dark curls just catching the first red rays of Naboo's dawn. She makes a soft noise, stretching like a felynx in her sleep next to him and revealing even more of her tiny, lithe figure. She mumbles something in her sleep as her arm reaches out, seeking him. At the same time something deep in his chest collapses in a sweeping ache, something animal awakens in him, that desires nothing more than to ravish every inch of that perfect flesh, mark her his own - again. And again, as she's done to him countless times herself.

He settles for leaning over her and covering her mouth in a long, deep kiss. The tip of his tongue teases the seam of her full lips, and after a moment he's rewarded when her own tongue tickles then twines with his. She sighs against him, an almost cooing sound; he hardens almost instantly. When he pulls away, she opens her eyes and smiles sleepily up at him, tracing the fingertips of one hand up and down his bicep. He marvels at his fortune, that he is the only one in the universe lucky enough to ever see that look on her face, to first see her eyes open in the new day.

"Morning, beautiful," she murmurs, lifting her head to peck him on the nose.

"That's supposed to be my line," he mutters. He affects a pout. "Thief."

The sleepiness in her eyes vanishes with a mischievous twinkle. She lifts her head again, just enough to nip his jutted lower lip. "And what are you going to do about it, mmm?"

He feels an almost predatory grin bloom on his face. He leans forward again, nosing her chin upward. She gasps as he seals his lips and teeth lightly onto the soft flesh behind her jawbone, then traces with his tongue down her throat. That happy sigh, more prolonged this time, comes again as she squirms beneath him. He moves his mouth to her ear, delights in her shudder against him as his hot breath falls on the sensitive skin there.

"Many things, milady," he whispers.

She moans as he slowly sucks her earlobe, worrying it between his teeth, then glides his lips down her neck again. He doesn't know what burns him more - the perfumed silk of her flesh pressed against his, or the soft little noises she makes.

He drops kisses across her collarbone and shoulders as his left hand covers the swell of one breast. Like every part of her body, its soft curve seems designed to exactly fit every line of his own, perfectly filling his cupped palm. He moves his hand in slow circles, caressing, kneading. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees her head fall back, eyes fluttering shut. At the same moment, the fingertips of his robotic hand trace a line down the bow curve between her ribs and hip, then back up her thigh, her backside, the base of her spine. His tongue and teeth graze her other nipple, briefly suckling, and her fingers come to curl tightly in his hair.

"Anakin," she breathes as she arches against him, the sound throbbing all through his being; he's never heard a more erotic sound in his life.

"I'm yours," he murmurs between kisses, "all of me. Always."

He draws his left hand down her side again, joining its metal twin as it moves down her other side, both coming to rest against her hips. With slow kisses he maps the terrain he knows better than his own homeworld: the delicate ridge of her collarbone, the shallow valley between her breasts, the smooth plane of her stomach, the more pronounced dip curving between the twin jut of her hips. Here he pauses, his lips lingering, marveling. Such a small area, he could nearly cover it with his spread hand - yet it has such an incredible power, unmatched by even the greatest of his Jedi abilities.

One day, he has dreamed, this valley will itself become a gently rising hill as it shelters, cradles the growing life of their child. A child he will give his life to give the galaxy to, as he would for her mother.

"Someday," he murmurs fervently, overcome with the image, pressing his lips against the spot again, then resting his cheek there. He closes his eyes. "There will be a baby, Padmé. I promise you."

Her fingers tighten in his hair again, and he feels her swallow. He looks up to see her brown eyes shining, their corners glittering as she looks at him. She reaches out a hand to cup his cheek; he kisses her palm. She bites her lip.

They have discussed this before, but not at length. When they agreed to this life they knew all too well that the time for such things was far more distant than either would like. It flickers in his mind every time he feels a surge of pride in one of Ahsoka's accomplishments. He knows of the desperate ache inside Padmé, that matches his own - for him to give her a child; for her to give him one; to toss out that bottle of pills in her 'fresher cabinet forever. The fear that the war will claim him before that happens, or that it will go on so long it won't be possible. The longing in her eyes nearly burned him. It is one of the reasons he fights harder each day to bring an end to this destructive conflict. He can imagine no greater joy than Padmé cradling their newborn baby in her arms, rocking and singing her to sleep. He already knows she will be the most beautiful child in the galaxy, the only being to remotely rival her mother, and that he will hamstring the first man to break her heart.

But the time is not now, and seeing the moisture in his wife's eyes, he instantly regrets his careless opening of this door. Their time is so scarce already without him hurting her even more. The place of blood and fire deep within him boils, that here is yet another thing she - they - deserve, that he could give her, if the Jedi Order weren't trying to strangle itself and everyone in it in the noose of antiquated traditions. He might be able to bear it if it were just him – but not Padmé, who suffers only because she chose to be with him.

He would give her the universe – give their child the universe - if he could. Though she never would ask for it. She never asks anything for herself.

You are the most selfish thing I allowed myself, she'd replied once, when he'd told her that very thing. I don't need anything else.

That didn't mean he would ever stop trying for her.

He moves upward, pulling her into his arms so they are nose to nose. He twines his flesh hand with one of her own, kissing it, then the salty trail on her cheek. "I'm sorry," he murmurs as he cradles her head under his chin and strokes her hair. "I didn't mean - "

Padmé pulls away and stares him in the eye, her face suddenly firm, her gaze sharp. She is the only being he's found in the universe whose passion matches his own, and the fact she chooses to direct it toward him, in whatever form, never fails to inspire awe in Anakin.

"No," she says, breath hot against his cheeks. "One day we will have that," she continues, her voice quiet but as steady as he's ever heard it.

He smiles, and after a moment, she does too, though wetness still glistens in the corners of her eyes. "We will," he agrees, kissing her deeply. She moans appreciatively and reaches around to cup his backside with both hands, lingering over and squeezing the muscles there, then pulls him more flush against her. She begins to undulate beneath him, and Anakin shifts, preparing to -

"Tell me more," she murmurs, eyes falling shut.

He barely hears her, continuing further down her throat.

"Mmm?"

"About our baby," she says, pulling slightly away from him, and there's no mistaking her delight at his visible frustration over the interruption.

Suddenly, he's seized with an idea. His mouth resumes its earlier downward path.

"Which one?" he asks, affecting as distracted a tone as he can. With the smell, feel, and taste of his wife all around him, it's not difficult. His effort is soon rewarded, though, when she freezes, eyes wide.

"Oh, I always imagined us having six or seven," he goes on casually, nibbling her neck.

"What?!" The sound pierces straight through to his all-too-close eardrum.

"Seven's supposed to be a lucky number," he explains, wincing and rubbing his ear.

She huffs. "Not when they'll spend nine months jumping up and down - which any child of yours would - " he chuckles - "on my bladder, and I'm the one pushing them out a hole the size of a stylus."

He laughs, and she punches him in the arm, though she's smiling. The blow is surprisingly painful, but he can deal with it. "Oh, not all at once," he assures her. "One at a time is fine."

A wicked smile suddenly blooms on her lips. She reaches down between their bodies and, a second later, he jerks his pelvis upward with a yelp.

"I should say so," she agrees, flexing her fingers, admiring the offending - and very sharp – nails. "Unless you're willing to undergo certain... sacrifices."

"You'd send a Jedi back into battle unarmed?"

"From where I sit, that depends entirely on you – though I am rather partial to that part of your body," she replies smoothly, sliding her toe up and down the inside of his leg. He feels himself clench involuntarily. By the Force, the power she has over him... and she knows it, too.

"So the total number's still open to negotiation?"

She stares at him, incredulous. "You really want seven kids?"

He grins. "You don't?"

Padmé's face softens, all trace of humor or incredulity gone. Her gaze turns distant for a moment, as if she truly is pondering what life would be like with seven little ones. Even one child could mean retirement from their professional lives, a prospect that bothers him less and less as the war goes on (he suspects Padmé is starting to feel the same way, if her increasingly dispirited mood after each Senate session is any indicator). He doesn't have any reservations about turning his back on the Council. He does love Obi-Wan, and he cares about his men - but if it came between staying for them or leaving for Padmé, it wouldn't be a question. Especially if a child were involved. Ahsoka would be a slightly messier matter; he will not leave her training unfinished.

"Probably not seven," she concedes, smiling wryly. Her brown eyes blaze as she cradles his face in one hand. "I'll take whatever the future gives - as long as it's with you."

Suddenly his heart is in his throat. He remembers the look in her eyes as he first heard her speak of her sister's children, how long she's dreamed of her own - but she only wants them with him. Yes, they're married, but somehow with her declaration he's struck anew with the awe that not only does this angel among mortals love him, she truly wants her future, her whole life, to be with him. He brushes her curls away from her cheek, closes his eyes and presses his lips to her forehead, pulling her snugly against him. Not a sliver of air is between their naked bodies, but he finds he doesn't mind simply lying there with her. He feels her own peace and contentment, and it washes over him, cleansing him anew. Whatever else the galaxy might take from him, his future - his life - is here, in his arms.

"I love you," he murmurs against her skin, and he's never meant it more.

She doesn't stir.

"Padmé?" he presses, a little louder.

A tiny sigh and the burrowing of her face against his chest informs her she's already fallen back asleep. He's a little put out (in more ways than one), but decides he can't really blame her - they did have a busy night, he recalls, grinning. And it's not like she gives herself many opportunities to sleep in. It's simultaneously comforting and sobering to know his returns home are probably the only time she does allow herself such a luxury. He is as much home to her as she is to him, yet their time - together or separate - is never really theirs.

She shifts again in her sleep, tightening one arm around his waist. Her other hand comes to rest on that spot between her hips, and he thinks he sees her lips pull up in the tiniest smile. Is it a little girl she sees, with eyes like her mother's that would melt her father's heart - or maybe a little boy, a miniature of him? He pulls his own arm more snugly around her, pressing another kiss to her crown before he closes his own eyes.

Someday, Padmé. Someday I'll give you the galaxy.

-

[end]