this is a disclaimer.

AN: So, a while ago, I wrote this ficlet, right? "getting home to you". And it was Clone Wars AU A/P fluff.

And then, last week, I saw The Zillo Beast Strikes Back. And now there is this, which is made of fluff and crack and silliness and sexiness (hopefully) and an Obi-Wan who is Up To Something but won't tell me what.

(the first section is posted as a separate ficlet on my lj, fyi.)

and i love the thought

Mornings at Varykino had, up till now, usually followed a leisurely routine for Anakin: waking up late with the sun in his face and the breeze dancing through the room, wandering downstairs to fetch himself and Padmé a cup of caf each, wandering back upstairs to drink it in bed with her, all tousled hair and sleepy smile, and then either a shower or, more often, slow lazy lovemaking, languid and tender, both of them completely concentrated on the moment and each other.

No longer. His gorgeous wife had recently acquired a new obsession.

"Here we go. Headlines of the week: Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker expelled from the Order for the heinous crime of falling in love –"

"I was not expelled. I left."

"Senator Amidala's image is undergoing some serious overhauling now it's come to light that the most desirable man in the galaxy – well, they got that part right – made her his wife not three years ago – honestly, you'd think I had no say in that decision whatsoever."

"Let them say what they like, as long as you know I didn't mind-trick you into marrying me..."

"The love story of the century!"

"I hadn't realised that was a title we were aspiring to."

Padmé grinned at him over the top of her datapad. "Oh, here. You'll like this one." She cleared her throat. "As romantic and passionate and star-crossed as their story is, there's only one thing we're really interested in about Anakin and Padmé's relationship, and it's got nothing to do with the Jedi Council's reaction to them! No, ladies, the question we all want an answer to is just this: do those legendary Force powers of Anakin's give him an edge in the bedroom as well? There's no way you're convincing me that Jedi stamina only works on the battlefield!"

By now Anakin had disappeared under the covers somewhere, groaning. "Padmé, I'm begging you –"

"Absolutely not," she said evilly. "I'm going to read these every morning for the rest of our lives."

"But why in the name of the Force and all your Nubian Gods..."

"Because I get a kick out of it!"

"Perfect strangers speculating about my talents in the bedroom?"

"Perfect strangers speculating about your talents in the bedroom while I," she paused here for dramatic effect, "am sitting naked in your bed secure in the knowledge that no other woman in the galaxy will ever know a thing about them."

Truth be told, Padmé was expecting Anakin to reappear after that statement and hopefully proceed to demonstrate a few of said talents – the things that mouth of his was capable of! – but interestingly, he didn't.

"Ani?"

"Um."

Padmé froze. "What?"

Anakin sat up, looking slightly abashed.

Padmé gasped as melodramatically as she could, and pressed a hand over her heart. "Oh Force, you've been cheating on me. It's that – that awful girl – the one who had you draped over her lap during the hostage crisis at the Senate, Chuchi or whatever –"

Still, it stung. Other women?

"What!" he shouted, and was there a touch of genuine horror there, or was he just playing along? "No! Never! Don't be ridiculous. I would never cheat on you – I adore you, Padmé, and besides, the only reason I was draped over her lap is because you wouldn't drape me over yours!"

"In the interests of keeping our relationship secret!"

Anakin snatched the datapad off her and waved it around. "Well, I don't know if you noticed, but that hasn't worked out so well."

Padmé snatched it back. "Other. Women," she grated out between clenched teeth.

"Three." Anakin decided the wisest course of action was brief, matter-of-fact replies; like tearing off a bacta patch, it was best to do it quickly.

"When?"

"Before we were married, obviously."

Padmé found herself momentarily speechless, waving her hands helplessly. Really, this was a completely awful conversation to have while naked in bed with her husband. After all, he was the only one she... yeah. The idea of making herself so vulnerable to someone as to sleep with them had not been one she'd been able to entertain while Queen of Naboo, and later she'd found she didn't know how to change that when she'd come to Coruscant.

And then there had been Anakin, with all his barely-hidden passion and abandon and desire and determination and the look on his face when she'd come to him that night after Geonosis. "But... but I mean... you said – you always said – and that first time – and then our wedding night!"

Anakin stared at her. "Well, what did you think it was?" he asked curiously. "Some kind of... innate... instinctive... Jedi thing?"

"I don't know!" Padmé yelled, finally tossing the datapad away; it sailed over the end of the bed and crashed satisfyingly into the dresser. "I didn't exactly have a whole lot of experience to judge you by!"

"But that was the point!" Anakin shouted back. "I mean. Neither did I, and I knew that sooner or later – and if I was right, I wanted it to be – I didn't want you to be. You know. Disappointed."

He couldn't quite look at her, she realised, blue eyes darting this way and that, hair a mess, face slightly flushed, biting down on his lower lip. His mechanical hand was clenching and unclenching, silent worry. Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed.

Padmé slid her hands into his hair and tilted his face up a little so he had to meet her eyes.

"You know that saying about how practice makes perfect?"

He nodded, mouth beginning to curve again in all the ways she loved best.

"It's not wrong."

Anakin laughed. "You're saying I'm perfect?"

"You used those poor girls," she said softly.

He stared at her. "We're not talking girls, we're talking – you know." He made a gesture with his left hand that indicated a general sort of upward motion. "Older. With husbands, and... experience. Sometimes, you know, on missions, they'd offer. And once or twice, I'd take 'em up on it. The second time, it even got her to help us with the investigation."

And all of a sudden Padmé wanted to cry. "It shouldn't have been that way," she said. "It should've been with someone you loved. Like me."

Anakin grins at her. "Are we really sitting here worrying about my first time and what it was like?"

"Yes," Padmé said defiantly, and then she did start to cry, and Anakin's jaw dropped. He shifted and pulled her into his arms, cradling her in his lap as she sobbed, her warm tears trailing down his chest.

"Hey. Hey, it's all right. Angel, please don't cry. It's only a body, it doesn't mean anything."

That just made it worse. "Don't you go giving me that luminous beings crude matter speech."

Anakin laughed. "It's got nothing to do with the Force. It's just... a body. It's not you, who you really are."

She sighed. "If you really believed that, you wouldn't have cared if I enjoyed myself that first time or not."

"I didn't want to disappoint you," he repeated quietly. "I couldn't even get you a devotion-gift for our wedding. It was pretty much all I had to work with."

"I didn't want a devotion-gift," she said fiercely. "I just wanted you. I still do. I always will. And I want – I want to wipe out – oh, all of it, those other women who used you and all those years you spent alone in that place and everything that's ever been anything less than perfect for you."

Anakin combed his hands through her hair and struggled to get a coherent thought together. Oh, he'd always known she loved him, known it in that deep-down wordless way that he now knew was the Force guiding him. But it was another thing entirely – in some ways, even more powerful than their wedding – to sit here and hold her while she cried for all the supposed wrongs done him over the years. "Padmé. I. I love you, you know that?"

Padmé sat up, face flushed and swollen, eyes red, breathing still a little heavy with sobs. "I know," she said. "I love you too. I adore you, Anakin Skywalker, with all my heart and soul and being: you are everything I am, and the only thing I live for."

He smiled at her.

She cupped his face in her hands and kissed him gently, lips wet and salty. When she drew back, she was smiling too.

"Now about those talents of yours we were talking about earlier."

*********

A couple of weeks after the debacle about the tabloid stories and Anakin's... prior experience in the bedroom, Padmé burst out of the house looking agitated and found her husband sprawled on his back in the grass, stripped to the waist and tanning quite nicely.

She stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the view.

"Hasn't anyone ever told you it's not polite to ogle?" Anakin said sleepily, eyes still closed.

"Oh," Padmé said airily, "it's come up once or twice."

He must have heard the undercurrent in her voice just the same, for he cracked one eye open. "Something the matter?"

"Actually, yes," Padmé said with a grimace. "It's... well. You're not going to believe this."

Ten minutes later, Anakin was staring at the holoscreen, stricken.

"Dead?"

"Uh-huh."

"How?"

"I don't know. They're not releasing any details at all. There's a lot of crazy conspiracy theories already. But the general consensus seems to be that that Zillo Beast thing that went on the rampage at the Senate had something to do with it. I'm trying to get through to some friends now – Bail Organa may know something."

Anakin shook his head. "Zillo Beasts on the rampage in Galactic City," he said. "What the hell was it doing there, anyway? Being prepped for a stint in the Coruscant Zoological Gardens?"

"Rumour has it they were experimenting on it," Padmé said.

He snorted. "Well, I wouldn't put it past the Council."

She flicked a hand at him absently, catching his shoulder in reproof. He wrapped his fingers around her wrist and kissed her palm.

"We should go to the funeral."

"Oh, definitely," Padmé said firmly. "Palpatine was a friend of yours, and they still haven't actually relieved me of my office as Senator, so I'm probably obligated to go."

"Can't believe he's gone."

"I know, love."

"Of course," with a touch of asperity, "it's not like he could be bothered to even respond to my message telling him about me leaving the Order and my marriage to you."

She looked up. "You didn't tell me that."

Anakin shrugged. "I just. Figured he'd get round to it sooner or later."

"I'm sorry," she said gently, taking in the distant look, the grieved tilt to his mouth. Palpatine had always been a good friend to Anakin – certainly a better one than Padmé had been during all those long years between the Battle of Naboo and the attempts on her life, when Anakin had been stuck at that Temple, struggling to find his way in a world so completely different to anything he'd ever known before.

He narrowed his eyes at her. "Oh, now what are you feeling guilty for?"

Gods, she wished he'd stop picking up on her emotions like that. "Nothing. I wish you'd stop picking up on my emotions like that."

"It's not like I can just stop using the Force," he said ruefully.

Padmé leaned in and kissed his cheek. "I love you," she said suddenly.

Anakin's eyebrows climbed. "I thought you married me for my boyish good looks."

"No, I kissed you for your boyish good looks. I married you for your smart mouth and the heavenly way you make Dashan tea."

Anakin hooked an arm around her waist and dragged her into his lap with ease, laughing when she shrieked and hit at him.

"Is that all, milady?"

How he'd managed to get his hand under her long skirt so quickly she had no idea, but it was tracing rather delicious circles above her knee. Pressed close like this Padmé could feel the heat radiating off his body, higher than normal after his hours in the sun, skin still slightly sticky with sweat, and oh those eyes, fierce and intent and so very, very blue.

Being the focus of every last scrap of Anakin Skywalker's sharp-edged, inescapable attention was more intoxicating than any mind-altering substance in the galaxy. Having the full force of all that determination and boldness and cunning directed at you could stop a person dead in their tracks.

She swallowed, feeling her stomach tie itself in familiar knots, and reached down to trap that wandering hand and steer it in a more... productive... direction. Anakin let her guide him to where she wanted him, his touch as gentle as his gaze was not, making her shiver, lean closer, long for more.

"No, not all," she said softly, lips brushing lightly over his still-smiling ones. "Not nearly all."

*********

It was only a few hours later that the heavy front doors of the large house slammed as if a hurricane had hit them. Padmé jumped, sitting up straight in bed; Anakin rolled off the mattress and to his feet with a groan.

"It's Snips," he said. "What did you do with my pants?"

"I think they got left in the living room," Padmé said, staring around the bedroom. "You didn't have them when we went into the fresher to take a shower."

"Well, no," Anakin said sarcastically, searching through a drawer. She threw a pillow at him.

"Sky Guy?" Ahsoka shouted, boots clattering on the stairs. "Senator Amidala? Anyone home? Master, I'm sorry to barge in on you like this but you did say I was welcome anytime –"

"I did," Anakin muttered, buttoning his pants. "I really did, didn't I? Hang on, Ahsoka!" he called out to her.

Padmé stifled a laugh, sheets still wound around herself, searching through her own drawers for a sundress to wear – Anakin having discarded his Jedi robes for good less than a month ago, he had far less stuff to rummage through – but her amusement faded rather sharply when Ahsoka pushed open the bedroom door just as Anakin reached it, shirt still hanging open.

"Sky Guy – oohhhhhh. Oh, I'm so – I didn't –"

"Ahsoka, it's fine – c'mon, out –"

Anakin herded her backwards out of the room and shut the door behind him, feeling just a tad regretful that he hadn't been able to watch his wife drop that sheet in order to get dressed, but anyway. Ahsoka was wrapped in rather heavier clothes than she usually wore, despite the warm weather outside. The white pigmentation on her cheeks and above her eyebrows had gone grey in a Togruta blush. It looked a little sickly to human eyes.

She looked a little sickly, full stop. No wonder she was dressed more warmly than usual.

Anakin had been about to launch into a teasing lecture about respecting people's privacy and the kind of when two people love each other very much talk that he'd always despised, but he forwent it when he caught her gaze.

He knelt down in front of her and laid his hands on her shoulders.

"Snips, are you all right?"

Was she crying? Impossible. Ahsoka didn't cry. She was Temple-bred, after all.

"I – I -"

"Tell me," Anakin said, keeping his voice slow and soothing. A child, that was all, a frightened, anguished child who needed him.

She'd come all the way here to see him because he could do for her what the Jedi Order could not: give her comfort.

"I was there," she said at last, voice shaking. "When the Chancellor – I was there too, and I should have done something, and Master Windu and Master Secura both say – but I was still there, Master!"

Anakin squeezed her shoulders, rubbed at her upper arms. "Hey. Hey! Listen to me. I don't know what happened, Ahsoka, but you are not to blame. Y'hear? You think you could have collapsed that Zillo-whatever-it-was by snapping your fingers at it? There wasn't a thing you could have done."

Ahsoka bit her lip, still looking anguished, but slowly, she nodded.

"Not a thing," Anakin repeated.

Sniff. Wipe defiantly at her eyes with the back of her hand. Another nod.

Anakin smiled at her.

Tiniest of smiles in return.

"I'm sorry for –" Ahsoka gestured over his shoulder at the bedroom door, blushing again. Anakin grinned.

"Yeah, we'll live. And I did say anytime."

"Yeah, you did," Ahsoka agreed. "I kind of thought – er. Um. You know what, never mind. It's not – never mind."

"No, no, tell me. You thought what?"

She glared.

"I promise not to repeat it to anyone ever."

"I guess I kind of always thought that... it was – a night time. Thing. You know. That you. I mean, in the dark."

"Having sex?"

Ahsoka clapped both hands over her face. "Oh, Force. I'm leaving now. And never coming back. And never looking you or Senator Amidala in the face ever again."

He choked back a laugh. "Snips, I'm sorry, I – this is really making you uncomfortable, isn't it? Let's go downstairs. The kitchen's nice!"

Ahsoka shot him a glare, but she didn't object when he took her shoulder gently and led her back downstairs. Padmé was just leaving the bedroom as they reached the staircase, and she caught up with them quickly.

"Ahsoka, it's lovely to see you."

"Senator Amidala," Ahsoka said, blushing again.

"Padmé, please."

"Padmé. I'm so sorry. I didn't – I mean, I wasn't thinking. And I was being rude, and it's your house and I'm just so –"

"I did not get this profuse an apology, I'd just like to add," Anakin tossed in.

Padmé banished him into the kitchen with a glare.

"Ahsoka, it's fine, really. I do understand; Anakin was your Master up until two weeks ago, and, well..."

"It's just that it's kind of something that – happens to other people," Ahsoka blurted, and then blushed even more: of all the stupid things to say! They were married, after all.

But Padmé grinned. "Yeah, I remember thinking that."

Ahsoka managed a smile. "So first I find you making out in a broom closet in a Separatist base, and now this. You should not invite me anywhere with you ever again."

"I think Obi-Wan was the one who found us in that broom closet, actually."

Ahsoka waved a hand. "I was there. It counts."

Padmé smiled. "Come on. You look cold; I'll get you some hot chocolate. Or we'll make Ani make Dashan tea. He's pretty good at that."

"I know," Ahsoka said.

*********

By the time Ahsoka had gotten the whole ugly story of the Chancellor's death off her chest, dinner had been eaten and the sun had set. Padmé made her take a guest room over her objections, absolutely refusing to let her fly back to Coruscant till morning at least.

Anakin wandered out of the house to check on the fighter she'd taken from the Temple hangar bay and smiled when he saw the yellow paintwork.

"Eaten," he said to his ship. "Can you believe that? The Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic, eaten alive by a rampaging monster as tall as the Coruscant Mall. It's rather embarrassing, all things considered."

He paused a moment. "If he hadn't been a friend, it would be hilarious, too."

Night time in the lake country was always so quiet: not quite as quiet as home, but quieter by far than Coruscant. Anakin leant against his ship and looked out at the darkened lake and the mountains. Light was spilling out of the windows of the house he was slowly learning to call home, golden and beckoning – several on the ground floor, one in the second: Ahsoka's room.

Suddenly, he thought of what she'd said earlier, about sex being a night time activity, and had to grin. Maybe it was for the best that she'd walked in on them like that; it had distracted her from the real issues and given her time to compose herself before she told the story.

"There'll be hell to pay once the Council realises she's stolen a fighter and run off for comforting from her renegade former Master and his Senator wife, of course," he said.

Silence still. In Ahsoka's window, the light went out.

Anakin sighed and patted his fighter's dome absently. "Thanks for taking care of her," he murmured.

"Talking to fighters now?"

"It's my fighter."

"So it is," Padmé said, astonished.

"I'm surprised they didn't scrap it straight away."

"Ahsoka probably stopped them."

"How is she?"

"Still a little shaken up."

Anakin sighed. "It's my fault."

His wife felt her jaw drop. "Excuse me?"

He made a wide, expansive gesture that encompassed her, the fighter, the lake, the moonlight, the house and the entire galaxy for all she knew.

"It's my fault. I'm a bad influence. She should be able to deal with this stuff. You know. Release it into the Force, Anakin. She's Temple-bred. Not like me. They expect me to not be able to deal. But someone like Ahsoka? She should be better at this, and it's my fault."

Padmé came forward and took his hands in hers. "She's a child," she said quietly. "And frankly I can't think of any member of that Order I'd willingly entrust a child to but you."

Anakin squeezed her hands tightly and smiled his thanks. She could still see a flicker of doubt in his eyes, but it was quickly suppressed, and he said, "Which... doesn't say much for my upbringing at the hands of your friend Master Kenobi," mouth twitching with amusement.

She just kissed him.

*********

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine's funeral was a sorrowful affair, the ceremony taking place in the great Plaza before the Senate Rotunda. There was no body to burn, of course, but they lit a bonfire just the same: on Naboo, fire was a symbol of memory and hope.

The Jedi Council and many senior members of the Order stood on the dais with the Senators and aides of Palpatine who spoke in his honour, but Anakin, despite his friendship with the late Chancellor, wore formal civilian clothing and stood at his wife's side, solemn and silent.

Ahsoka stood with them, face set but calm.

*********

It was long past midnight when Anakin and Padmé reached her official Senatorial residence. After the ceremony and the speeches had come several hours worth of wine and small talk and nosy fools, insincere commiserations and sincere ones, a persistent reporter, several acquaintances of Padmé's who had been only too happy to inform them that aside from Palpatine's death, they themselves were the only topic of conversation anyone on Coruscant was interested in these days, and a very close brush with Master Windu, whom Anakin had been rather tempted to jump into a fountain to avoid.

That was one conversation which could wait a while. He'd handed in his resignation from the Order and left without further ado, not even waiting to be questioned by the Council for his decision – they were probably putting up the bust of him already: the Lost Twenty-First.

"I wonder if they'll bother adding the bit about how I was supposed to be the Chosen One, or if that's too embarrassing," he said to Padmé in the elevator.

"I hope they add the scar, it makes you look very dashing," she said, looking amused.

"Again with the being sneaky and mean. It seems to be a pattern with you. Especially in enclosed spaces."

"You're a leeeetle drunk, you know that? No one at the ceremony noticed. Hell, I didn't notice. But you are."

"He was a friend," Anakin said solemnly. "I don't understand why Ahsoka feels guilty about it. I should have been there. I was supposed to be this great and awesome Chosen One. And he was my friend and he was eaten alive by some mythological now-extinct breed of monster and I should have been there to stop it but I wasn't because I was too busy being with you."

"Oh, well, thank you very much," Padmé said. "Now I know where I stand in your life."

"At the bottom," Anakin said. "Cause you're. Like, the foundation of it. Everything else comes afterwards. If you weren't at the bottom I'd collapse into a bottomless pit, because I wouldn't... have a... wow, I am drunk, aren't I?"

Padmé giggled in spite of herself. "I don't know how you manage to be so ridiculous and so sweet at the same time," she said.

Anakin waved a hand deprecatingly. "It makes you smile. I like making you smile. You have a very pretty smile."

She reached out to the elevator controls and then stopped. "If I put this thing on hold and jump you here and now will you pass out?"

Anakin thought about it. "Probably," he admitted. "Do it anyway."

She did, and he didn't.

*********

The next morning, Obi-Wan dropped in to see them.

"Oi," Anakin said, blinking up at him through bleary eyes. "I thought this sort of thing would stop when I left the Order."

"Hangovers, you mean?"

"You waking me up at the crack of dawn for no good reason."

"Well, first off, it's nearly midday. And secondly, your wife sent me in here with a glass of... something. It looks frankly toxic to me."

"It's her sister's hangover cure," Anakin said, sitting up and taking the glass off him with a groan. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," Obi-Wan said, watching him gulp the foul-tasting stuff down with a little smile which, coming from someone who wasn't Obi-Wan, Anakin would have described as affectionate. "I'm told painkillers and caf are next on the menu."

"Force, yes please," Anakin said. "Um. Pants. I keep losing them lately."

"Now that," Obi-Wan said with a sigh, "I did not ever need to know."

In fact, Padmé had made breakfast. Anakin slid into a chair at the kitchen table and pulled a plate towards him with a sigh of relief, tucking in without further ado. Padmé glanced at Obi-Wan curiously. "Isn't there some mystic Jedi technique out there for cleansing your body of alcohol, or something?"

He grinned a bit. "Well, yes. But I've never seen him use it."

"It's the principle of the thing," Anakin said piously from around a mouthful of bacon and egg. "If you get drunk, then you get drunk and you suffer the consequences. Part of it."

"Stop talking with your mouth full," Obi-Wan said.

Anakin's eyebrow climbed. "Sorry, Master."

Padmé hid her smile in her caf cup.

"There is actually something we need to discuss after breakfast," Obi-Wan added nonchalantly.

Anakin glared at him. "I knew you had ulterior motives."

*********

"A Sith Lord," Anakin said, staring around the underground bunker with narrowed eyes and his jaw set angrily. "I don't believe it. A Sith Lord. And to think, I felt guilty for not being able to stop him dying!"

Obi-Wan nodded, resting a hand on his shoulder comfortingly. "I know, Anakin – he fooled us all, remember? Current theory is that he was intending to try and turn you to the Dark Side and destroy the Jedi Order. That's why he was so careful to make sure he always had your trust, at least."

"Oh, well," Anakin muttered, not in the slightest bit mollified. "That certainly worked out well!"

"Yes," Obi-Wan said, looking smug all of a sudden. "Didn't it?"

"I guess at least I get to laugh at the idea of him being eaten by a Zillo Beast now," Anakin said, rather nastily.

"Does that help?" curiously.

Anakin thought about it. "A little, yeah."

*********

Anakin wasn't quite sure how he'd managed to let himself get roped into helping with the investigation into Palpatine's numerous and nefarious plots against the Republic, but since Obi-Wan had first taken him down to the bunker they'd found he had barely left the place. The troopers were all addressing him as General still, and even a few Jedi – mostly the younger ones – had slipped up and looked at him with something resembling respect.

Of course, the likelihood that that would keep up if anyone overheard this particular argument...

"No. No, no, no and no, how many times do I have to say it? I'm not going."

"Someone needs to take command of that outpost," Obi-Wan said, following after him. "Half the Order is already in the field and the other half is embroiled in investigating Palpatine's various misdeeds and you know it. Just because he's dead doesn't mean that Dooku has suddenly become inclined to open peace talks – if anything he probably believes that he can get an even bigger advantage out of this war now that his Master is gone."

"Eaten by a Zillo Beast," Anakin said with relish. "I don't care what Dooku thinks. I'm a private citizen and have been for a month and more. I'm not going to Prestegra, I'm not taking command of any sieges – "

"You retook the entire Hervel system from Tench in three days if I recall correctly," Obi-Wan said blandly.

"And now you're appealing to my ego," Anakin said.

"The old ones are the best."

"Well, here's an old one for you, Master we'll-just-take-a-little-trip-everything-will-be-perfectly-fine-we-can-handle-it! No!"

"If I've told you once I've told you a hundred times," Obi-Wan snapped. "Cato Nemoidia doesn't count."

Anakin glared at him. "As far as I'm concerned it's the only one that counts."

"You wouldn't be the only Jedi going along, just the most experienced – and the best –"

"Right, but unlike those other deluded fools I know exactly how your little trips have a way of turning out, and the answer, for the last Kesseled time, is no! I'd rather spend a thousand years in Sith Hell than take you up on this one."

Obi-Wan was on the verge of a particularly vicious retort when the elevator slid to a halt and the doors opened.

"And don't even think about trying to get my wife to talk me into it," Anakin said, stepping out past a bucketload of Senator's aides and a protocol droid.

"Wouldn't dream of it," Obi-Wan said testily. "I hope you're sleeping especially comfortably the night the Separatists invade Coruscant, Anakin."

"Hey," Anakin shot back. "If one washed-up renegade former Jedi is the best you can do for a commander for the base at Prestegra, then maybe you got bigger problems than Count Dooku, Obi-Wan."

"Washed-up my sorry arse," Obi-Wan muttered as the doors slid shut. "Afraid is more like it."

One of the Senator's aides in the elevator with him gave him a wide-eyed stare. "Afraid? Anakin Skywalker? Of what?"

"Failing," Obi-Wan said quietly. "Just like all the rest of us."

*********

The first thing Padmé said when he got to her office was "Are you taking the Prestegra assignment?"

"No," Anakin said. "And don't you start telling me I'm the only one who can do it, either."

"Of course not. You know perfectly well what you're capable of."

Anakin frowned at her. "Right," he agreed, dropping into one of the chairs opposite her desk. "So. Have they decided what's happening with your post yet?"

Padmé glanced up at him and nodded. "Yes, actually. The Queen contacted me this morning."

"Well?"

"I can stay if I want. She says it's entirely up to me. The public remains obsessed with our star crossed romance, they love it."

Heavy dose of irony there – perhaps a little too heavy for his normally easy-going wife, who didn't really speak ill of anyone unless they had proven themselves to be deserving of it.

"There's more," Anakin said.

She sighed. "Interim Chancellorship."

"Right."

"It's been decided that, because of the investigations against so many people on Palpatine's staff, someone should take the job who has no professional connection to him and who is preferably not one of his political supporters."

Anakin sat up straight. "Suddenly, I don't think I like where this is going," he said warily.

"I'm a prominent and outspoken member of the Opposition," Padmé said. "I didn't speak at the funeral. I've had no contact with him or his offices for weeks, which can't be said for most of the Senators here. I'm a supporter of the peace process, and they're talking about offering terms to Dooku. I'm the logical choice. I need to give an answer by this evening."

Her husband sank back into his chair again and started to swear in several different languages at once.

She leaned back and crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm glad you're happy my career is going so well, darling."

"It's not that," Anakin said. "You know it's not that. It's just..."

Padmé glared at him.

"I'd hoped we'd get to go home soon," he admitted quietly.

"Home? Oh, sure. Awesome plan. No, really. The Republic is in shambles, the Jedi Order is currently in deepening disrepute thanks to your marriage to me and the controversy over it, the Senate is running around squawking at the most pointless things like a headless chicken and we're slowly beginning to realise that corruption is so entrenched in the highest courts that it will take a generation to weed out. No matter what kind of evidence we have against Palpatine's associates, they may never be brought to trial. And you want us to just go home?"

"You're unbelievable," Anakin said. "You really... you don't have to fix all the wrongs in the galaxy, Padmé, you cannot be responsible for everything and everyone."

"I swore an oath," she said flatly. "I have a duty to the Republic. And to the people of the Republic."

"Yeah, well, I swore an oath as well!" Anakin shouted, on his feet now. "And you know what? I threw it over for you! You've known from the second we first kissed that I would do that the instant you asked it of me –"

"That's not true, don't even try and pretend that it is," Padmé shouted back. "You stayed to fight with the Jedi because you thought you had to, because you thought you could make a difference, because it was your duty, just like I consider this -"

"And I don't remember you being this fixated on your damn duty when we first announced our marriage to the galaxy a month ago, Mrs oh-Ani-let's-stay-here-forever-and-never-set-foot-on-Coruscant-again!"

"You're afraid, Anakin!" Padmé exclaimed, flinging up her hands. "You think you failed somehow in not knowing what Palpatine was, that you screwed up and let everyone down – you couldn't even be the Jedi they wanted, let alone the Chosen One –"

"And you're terrified of being with me for more than a few weeks at a time! It's like you have this fairy tale picture of what our marriage is like, and whenever I've been around you for long enough that the cracks start to show you run straight back here and hide in your duty because you don't know how to deal with the idea that neither of us are sithing perfect!"

"Oh, you're a great one to talk about being a perfectionist, Anakin, with all the demands you make of yourself and the expectations you think you have to live up to from thousands of beings across the galaxy that you've never even met!"

"Well, maybe if I'd lived up to them at Geonosis when I faced Dooku, this war would never even have started!"

"And maybe if I'd been a little more concerned with my duty to the entire Republic and not just myself and my own people, Palpatine would never have become Chancellor!"

They were face to face now, shaking with fury, yelling so loudly that anyone passing in the corridor outside the office could probably hear every word. At some point someone's more expansive gesture had knocked a caf mug and a few styli off the desk. Neither of them had noticed.

"I love you," Anakin said. "You're my whole life. I want to spend it with you, starting now. Not another minute apart."

"You're the best commander they have right now," Padmé said softly. "You're Anakin Skywalker. Half the troops would rather take a demotion from you than a promotion to Grand Admiral from any other officer in the galaxy. You're the Hero With No Fear. And you don't get to back out of that now. Not when Palpatine is gone. Not now that he's not crawling into our lives and messing everything up. Not now that not even the Jedi can come between us anymore."

"You don't get to run away from me – from us," Anakin told her, equally softly. "No more excuses. You don't get to spend the rest of your life thinking that – that Senator Amidala is the most important part of who you are. Because Senator Amidala is not the woman I married. And Supreme Chancellor Amidala wouldn't be that woman, either."

"You'll go to Prestegra?"

"You'll come away with me when I get back? When this... interim... stuff is over?"

Padmé's mouth began to curve. "How long for?"

Anakin shrugged. "As long as it takes."

"To work out who we are together?"

He nodded.

"And then come back."

Burst of laughter. "Damn you, and damn your duty. Yes. And then come back." He paused. "Although, come to think of it, we might need to take care of Dooku and the war first."

She was smiling fully now, wide and bright. "I love you."

He waved a hand in the general direction of her comm unit. "Aren't you gonna go tell 'em?"

Padmé glanced over at it. Then, coming to a decision, she powered it down and shut off her desk computer as well.

"You remember the hostage crisis?"

"It wasn't that long ago."

"We were making out in... hmm." She stepped and turned, looking out over the city. "Just this spot, I think."

"Entirely possible," Anakin said, following her.

Padmé grinned at him. "Want to know what I was planning for Phase Two?"

Anakin took a swift step forward and wrapped an arm around her waist, lifting her onto the desk with such ease it was almost frightening how quick and strong he was, and stepping between the v of her thighs. The silky material of the informal gown she was wearing was soft under his palms and quickly moved aside.

"I can guess."

Padmé hooked the fingers of one hand in his belt and drew him closer still, the other one ghosting over his chest, tracing a curve around his navel, her fingers then walking a slow but deliberate line from there back up his chest to rest over his heart.

"I would be most interested in the details of your guess, General Skywalker," she teased.

"Oh," Anakin said, hands pushing her dress back further with every inch of her thighs that they caressed, "it's detailed, all right. Chancellor."

"Interim Chancellor."

He looked an odd combination of amused and resigned. "I'll take your word for it, milady."

Padmé slid her hand into his hair and brought his head down to hers. "I certainly hope you're not taking anyone else's. That awful girl Chuchi, for instance."

Anakin was still laughing when she kissed him.

*********

The next morning, Obi-Wan was hunched over a table in the command centre trying to make sense of the more detailed reports from Prestegra when a datapad crashed down on top of the holochart in front of him and slid almost off the table to his right, such was its momentum.

"There you go," Anakin said, gesturing at it. "Requisitions for the Prestegra mission, complete with my own calculations which I think you'll find more accurate than the original. That aide of Admiral Raxwell's couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery, if you'll permit me the expression. But no fear, I will handle every one of those except the ones that go through Governor Tarkin's offices. I am not dealing with that man, he sets my teeth on edge."

Obi-Wan looked up at him. "And you had his aide arrested just the other month."

"Right. For lining his own pockets out of requisitions and supply lines destined for nicely distant locations in the Outer Rim. I notice a whole slew of members of the Admiralty underwent several staff changes after that got out. It's just a shame Raxwell didn't, too. I think they're related."

Obi-Wan was too busy hiding a grin to answer that one. Oh, but there was the beginnings of a brand new Anakin here, emerging slowly out of old doubts and worries, and he liked it.

"I'm taking Ahsoka with me, by the way," Anakin added. "You can sort that out with the Jedi Council, too. She's my apprentice. End of."

"I will," he promised. "So. What changed your mind?"

For a moment, he thought Anakin intended to ignore the question. Then he shrugged. "A Sith Lord got eaten by a Zillo Beast," he said. "I mean, can you imagine? All those years of planning, and skulking around, and – and I can't trust the memory of anything he ever said to me, you know? Not even the things that helped at the time." He sighed. "Not even the little things. And then he gets eaten by a Zillo Beast!"

Obi-Wan tried not to laugh, he really did, but Anakin started to smirk himself, and by the time Rex found them they were breathless with it and barely even upright anymore.

Anakin had been right: it did help. Rather a lot, in fact.