Well, guys, this is the last chapter in this little story...Thank you for all the nice and encouraging comments. You made this a lot of fun...Also, thanks to AngelQueen for her kind help and advise. So, on with the story...Enjoy!

---

"Padmé!"

He saw her fall, and he knew that he must be the one screaming her name, but the voice came from so far away and sounded nothing like his...

Anakin threw himself on his knees beside her. She was bleeding badly and as he lifted her, he could see that a pool of blood had already formed on the hard floor under her.

He ran up on the ramp, into the ship. Not allowing himself to think, he put his wife - Padmé! - on the floor and rushed to the cockpit and started the engines.

The Dark Force lifted and he steered her towards the entrance, using his will to force the spacelock open. As soon as he was outside the Dread he fed the computer with the co-ordinates for Coruscant and turned.

Had he bothered to throw a quick glance at the chronometer it would have told him that only 45 seconds had passed since he and Padmé ran into the hangar.

As the ship entered lightspeed he sank down besides the dying woman that was his wife.

---


Korlon was stunned, both by shock and anger. They had fooled him! And it hadn't been just anyone to do so...it had been Vader himself! The Kel Dor cursed loudly.

"Track down that ship! I want it now!"

He turned to walk back to his office, gasping for control. So they had escaped.

Well.

Infuriating as it was, it would mean nothing. He would get them in the end.

What the hell had Vader been doing here? Had the Republic somehow bribed him into saving the Senator, his wife?

Korlon Eysh smiled. It wasn't too late to turn this into victory. And victory he would see, in the end. He knew it.

He pushed the door open to his private quarters. Just as he was about to step into them a huge explosion shook the ship. The world was suddenly all light and heat.

He hadn't time to feel any pain before the Dread went nova, together with all of its occupants.

---


Vader stared at Padmé.

Her face was pale as death itself, in contrast to the deadly red blood.

She was dying.

A few more minutes, and she would be gone.

NO!


His whole soul rebelled against the thought, the possibility.

Not Padmé, not his angel! He wouldn't allow it.

What can you do, Dark Lord? What good will all your great powers do you now, now that she is dying? All this time, and you never even realized that you still love her. Not until now, when it's too late.

He loved her. He always had. Not even during his service to the Emperor had he stopped loving her.

But all he'd given her was death.

No. It couldn't end like this. He wouldn't, would never, ever, allow it.

Never.

He forced himself to calm down, not looking at her wounded body, Opened himself to the Force.

It filled him, as it always did.

But now, for the first time in more than a year, he didn't bend it to his will, but let it flow through him, strengthened it with his love.

He laid his hands on her shoulders and let the Force flow through her as well -

He...would...never...allow...her..to...die!

It was hard - harder than anything he'd ever done before. He reached, reached for something to hold on too...and there, almost out of his reach, he found it...

He kept on focusing, focusing on the only thing that could save her now.

His love -

Won't...let...her...die...

It flowed through them like water, bound them together and healed the bond that once had been stronger than the Force itself.

- that still was stronger -  

Slowly - if time still existed - the wounds started to heal.

And as he kept on concentrating, as the bleeding stopped, his own wounds, hidden deep in his soul, was slowly mended as well.

Her love...as he gave his life to save his angel, her love kept him alive, and chased away all darkness from his heart.

Unable to resist - without any reasons to do so - he submitted to his destiny and once and for all surrendered his body and his mind to the light.




Suddenly, the pain was gone. Padmé opened her eyes. She only felt warmth and peace...and love.

She was alive.

Anakin - Anakin! - met her amazed gaze. He smiled through his tears.

She imagined she was crying too. But she reached out her hand towards him and he took it, held it as if he would hold on to it through eternity.

And they both knew he would.

---

The Council sat in the room. For hours they'd been trying to come up with ways to find Darth Vader. Despite all they'd done, there were still no traces of the Dark Lord.

Mace Windu sighed.

"We won't be able to keep this secret much longer."

Ki-Adi Mundi frowned.

"Wouldn't we be able to reach him through the Force?"

Obi-Wan shook his head.

"I'm afraid he's too strong for that. Even if…"

He was interrupted as Mace Windu's comm beeped. The Jedi Master picked it up and turned it on.

"Yes?" he asked in his deep voice. He listened and then his eyes suddenly widened. No emotion could be heard in his voice, though.

"Of course. We'll be there immediately."

He put away the small devise and lifted his head to meet their wondering stares. The look in his eyes was distant as he spoke.

"The air controls received a message from Vader a minute ago. He claims that Senator Amidala is on the ship with him, and they'll be docking the main hangar in a few minutes."

Silence filled the room. Then Obi-Wan spoke hesitatingly, but unable to hide the hope in his voice.

"If he's saved her, there's a possibility…"

"Perhaps", Mace Windu agreed. "Let's go find out, shall we?"




The hangar was crowded. The Jedi joined Bail Organa who stood in the middle of it, surrounded by armed guards.

The dark-haired Chancellor gave them a glance.

"What do you think?" he asked in a low voice.

"Feel it we would, if a trap it was", Yoda answered cryptically. The man nodded slowly.

"You think that he saved her? Wouldn't that indicate that he was...ah, returning to the light, as you might put it?"

"It's possible", Mace Windu said. "We can't know for sure until we've met him, though. Maybe he'll just dump the Senator and run away. I'm not sure if we can stop him."

"Wouldn't it have been easier fro him if he left her on some planet with Republic presence?"

"It would have. And that's why we believe there is a chance Anakin is back, unlikely as it would seem."

Obi-Wan swallowed. A chance. There was a chance.

He tried to banish the hope growing in him. If they were wrong, the pain would be unbearable. He'd avoided that these last months, he suddenly realized. Instead of risking more pain, he'd allowed himself to be convinced that Anakin was gone for good, far beyond redemption. But maybe now…

The ship appeared and sank slowly down to the smooth floor. And then the engines were turned off.

Total silence filled the room until it was interrupted by the low hiss from the ramp lowering itself to the ground. It hit the floor with a low dump and then footsteps echoed through the hangar as two beings emerged from the ship.

Padmé wore Anakin's jacket over the remnants of her soiled clothing. Anakin – Obi-Wan's eyes were suddenly filled with tears: it was really Anakin – was still dressed in the dark uniform he'd worn when he fled three days ago. It was incredibly dirty, but more or less in one piece.

The couple stopped when they reached the floor. Hand in hand they stood so for a few moments, looking at the crowd. Then Bail Organa stepped forward and caught Padmé in a bear hug.

"We are relieved to see you again, Senator", he said with a small bow as he let go of her. She returned his smile.

"It's nice to be home again, Chancellor. Imperial hospitality leaves something to be desired."

"I would guess." He turned to look at Anakin. "We are a bit surprised to see you...Lord Vader." There was a question in his words.

Obi-Wan could see an embarrassed smile on the younger man's lips. The former Dark Lord bowed his head.

"I would much prefer Anakin, Chancellor", he said, answering Bail's unspoken question.

Bail nodded thoughtfully.

"I guessed that much." He threw a quick glance at the gathered Jedi. "You would want to speak to him, I take it?"

Mace Windu nodded.

"I think that would be appropriate", he confirmed.

"Well then, take him. Give me a call when you are finished, will you? Padmé, you seem to be in need of a shower, if you excuse me for saying so. And medic, perhaps."

"I don't think medical treatment will be needed, Bail. Anakin took care of that."

"Maybe you better talk to a doctor anyway", Anakin suggested. "I'm not that experienced with healing."

She nodded.

"If you say so, love. I see you later then."

He nodded with a pleading look at Bail and the Jedi.

"I hope."

She gave him a stern glance.

"I'm not losing you again, Anakin. You won't go anywhere without me."

Bail motioned for the squad of guards, and they left the hangar together with the Supreme Chancellor and the Senator of Naboo. That left Anakin alone, standing face to face with the Jedi. For a moment, no one spoke or moved.

Then Obi-Wan stepped forward to stand right in front of his former apprentice. The blonde man met his gaze, uncertainty and shame written all over his features. Obi-Wan beheld him for another moment, then placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder.

"It's good to see you again, my friend", he said calmly.

Anakin looked at his master. The tone and look was just as he remembered them from his apprenticeship. Calm, gentle, with just a touch of amusement.

"Obi-Wan…"

And then he was in his arms, resting his head against the bearded Jedi's shoulder. And Obi-Wan felt the last of a dead Dark Lord's shields crumble as he embraced his friend.

He couldn't remember ever feeling this happy.

"It's all right, Anakin. Now it's all right."

After a very long night filled with dark dreams, the morning had finally come and the light returned to the world.

The two friends held each other for another minute, then they broke the embrace, sharing a slight smile.

"Go, shall we? We have a lot to discuss with you, Anakin", said Mace Windu. But even though the voice was stern, Obi-Wan thought he could detect a faint smile lingering on his dark lips.

---

Two hours later, Anakin was alone in a small, circular chamber. The room was spare, with only a table and eight chairs. But there was a big panorama window, and the view quite wonderful. But thought Anakin stood by the window, seemingly staring out through it, he didn't really see anything.

The Jedi had listened to his tale of the events from the moment when he escaped until he returned with Padmé, then they'd sent him to rest in one of the empty rooms the Jedi inhabited, and told him to wait there.

Well. It was probably a good sign that they let him rest unguarded.

On the other hand, had his mind been on escape, they would have sensed it. Besides, had it been that way, he wouldn't have come in the first place, right?

Anakin sighed. They'd promised they wouldn't send him to Arkana II without saying goodbye to Padmé. He was grateful for that...but he didn't want to leave her at all!

It would be more proper if he was to work to make up for his crimes, right? Sure, he'd messed up badly - he was sorry for that - but he wanted to atone for it. Ought to count for something, shouldn't it?

He made a grimace, and grinned, a little self-ironic. Skip it, Skywalker, you know you deserve whatever they throw at you.

Obi-Wan forgave him. He should have expected that: his master had always been the kind one. Anakin smiled. Too kind, he believed at times. He longed to talk with the older Jedi, for hours and hours. There was so much he wanted to say...

As if the other had felt his silent wish, Obi-Wan suddenly appeared through the door that opened with a low hiss.

"How are you?", he asked, and Anakin could hear the joy in his voice. It caused him a great lot of happiness - his master still loved him - and equally much guilt. Obi-Wan had deserved better...

"I'm fine." He shrugged. "Won't deny that I'm really nervous, too. The Council's faces are made of stone."

"But not their hearts. I don't think you'll have to worry."

"Wish you're right. Small chance of that happening, of course..."

Obi-Wan raised his brow, and gave the younger man an ironic glance.

"I thought I missed you. Silly me."

Anakin grinned, but then he turned serious.

"I missed you too, master. Even though I would never admit it, not even to myself, I missed you all the time."

"Well, at least now you see my never-ending superiority."

"You're a big fake, Obi-Wan. Everyone thinks you're so humble, but to your apprentice you reveal your true self."

"Only because no one would believe you if you told them the truth." Then the Jedi Master shook his head. "Enough banter. I came to fetch you. The Council requests your presence."

Anakin straightened, his heart beating faster.

"Why didn't you tell me at once?" he asked.

Obi-Wan smiled.

"Patient is a virtue I feel that you've not yet mastered. And as a dutiful senior Jedi..."

Anakin gave him a very miffed look and walked past him.

"Coming, are you?"

"Right after you, Anakin."

"You're not going to tell me what you've decided, right?"

"I'm not allowed. Besides, I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise."

"Of course not", Anakin snorted.


Together they walked down the corridor, and then stopped outside the Council's chamber.

"Well, good luck", Obi-Wan said.


"You're not coming in?"

"No. But I don't think you will need me."

"I always need you, master."

Obi-Wan smiled and leaned forward to give Anakin a quick, comforting hug.

"Don't keep them waiting."

Anakin returned the smile and then he stepped into the chamber to receive his future.

---

The Jedi Council - now with only nine members - sat in the usual circle, and their faces revealed nothing. No surprise, Anakin thought to himself as he stepped forward to stand in the middle of the ring and bowed his head.

"Masters", he acknowledged.

"Anakin", Mace Windu greeted. "We've been discussing what you've told us."

Anakin waited, his heart beating so hard it would seem as if it was making its way out of his chest.

"In the light of the recent events Chancellor Organa has agreed to erase your life-sentence to Arkana II."

Anakin did his best to stop the smile from showing. He didn't think they were finished with that, but at least they wouldn't lock him up forever with an Ysalamir as his only companion. Nothing could be worse than that.

"You will return to your service as a Jedi Knight...with a few special conditions."

Mace Windu stared at him, his calm gaze making him feel as if he was made of glass.

"For the next two years, you won't go on missions alone, nor will you leave the planet without permission. You may live with your wife, but you are to report to your master every week." He shook his head. "We've argued about this, your marriage. You rebelled against the code, and kept it a secret...But in the end, your love for Senator Amidala saved you from the Dark Side. Because of that, we feel it would be wrong to keep you from each other. Besides", he added with a wry grimace, "I don't think we'd succeed should we try." He looked at Anakin, waiting for comments.

Anakin bowed his head.

"I'm grateful, master. I will not fail your trust."

Something that was similar to a small smile lingered on the bald man's lips.

"We don't think you will. However, there is one last condition..."

"Yes?"

"There will be a press conference later this evening, concerning Korlon Eysh's defeat. Of course we weren't able to keep it secret, and it's time to let the public know all about it. And of course, about Lord Vader's change of heart."

Anakin frowned. He had a bad feeling about this...

"And I'm supposed to...?"

"Be there and convince everyone what a nice person you are, perfectly trustworthy, and repentant."

"What?"

There was no doubt this time. The head of the Council was smiling, as were many of the other members. Anakin stared at them.

"You've got to be kidding me! You can't be serious!"

"Of course we are. You have a meeting with Bail Organa in five minutes. He will give all the information you need."

"I can't do that!"

"Oh yes, you can. We have the deepest faith in you", Mace Windu said serenely. Anakin gave him a sour glance, full of suspicion.

"You do this only to be mean, right?", he accused.

"Of course not. We are the Jedi Council", Mace admonished delightedly. "We're only trying to teach you a valuable lesson."

"Which is...?"

"Don't turn to the Dark Side, and if you do, don't turn back until everyone that might punish you are dead and buried."

Anakin grunted.

"Yeah, sure. Next time I kill you all, then I turn back."

But he had to smile. Sure, this was about the stupidest thing he'd ever done, but at least the amused smile on the Council's lips told him what he wanted to know: forgiveness had been granted. And as long as that was the case, he could withstand anything.

He sighed, and let his shoulder drop.

"I guess I better head for the Chancellor's then", he said. "When the two years are finished, am I back to normal life again?"

"Everything forgotten", Mace promised with a slight smile. "Now go. We'll be looking forward to your holo-appearance later tonight."

Anakin muttered nothing, bowed his head and left the room. Obi-Wan was waiting outside, and judging from the grin on his face, he was just as amused as the Council with Anakin's assignment.

Anakin glared at him.

"This wasn't your idea, was it?" he asked suspiciously.


"Actually, it was Bail's. As was the rest of it", Obi-Wan explained.

 
"I think I'll have a long talk with that guy."

Obi-Wan lifted his brow.

"You shouldn't complain, Anakin. You got off easily."

"Yeah, I know. I'm happy, really, but...press conference? Me?"

"Ah, you might find out that you love it."

Obi-Wan didn't get Anakin's answer, since it was give in Huttese, but he had an idea it wasn't very kind.

"You should watch your mouth, Anakin. It'll get you into trouble someday."

"I'm used to it", the blonde Jedi shrugged.

"I won't debate that. You'll find Bail in his office at the next level", Obi-Wan told him.

"OK. I see you later? After the conference?"

"I'll be in my quarters. Watching the holonews."

That warranted him another sour, but also slightly amused, look and then the taller man turned and walked down the corridor. Obi-Wan watched him leave with an affectionate smile on his lips. Then he shook his head and headed for Padmé's apartment.

---

Anakin knocked on the door and waited until it slid open. Bail was alone, sitting behind his desk and reading some hardcopy documents. He lifted his head when Anakin entered, a small smile on his lips.

"Ah, Anakin. Do come in. Have a seat."

Anakin sank down in the comfortable visitor's chair, then gave the Supreme Chancellor a weary look.

"They told me the press conference was your idea. I'm really grateful you don't send me to Arkana, or anything, but couldn't you be lenient and sentence me to something like torture or whatever."

Bail smiled and rose.

"If we want to keep you here on Coruscant, more or less in freedoom, there are some political needs to be satisfied. The special conditions aren't there for your sake: it's to make the Senate happy. The press conference is to calm the public", he explained.

 
"It's one big fake, isn't it?" Anakin asked dryly.


"Most politics are. However, it's important that you make a good impression. Honestly repentant, humble. Don't overdo it, though."

Anakin closed his eyes, and sighed. He opened them again, and stared at his dark-haired friend.

"Enjoying this, aren't you?" he accused the Supreme Chancellor.


Bail grinned.

"Certainly. I think this is the perfect solution...It'll satisfy everyone, and you'll hate the conference enough to make it a punishment."

"Yeah, yeah, great." Anakin waved his hand.


"Only so that you understand."

"Yeah, it's fine, Bail! Go on, shall we?"

The other man smiled mildly.

"On your request", he said.

---

"I can't believe this is happening", Anakin mumbled to Padmé, who was standing next to him. She smiled, with just a touch of amusement.

"You'll do fine, don't worry."

"Yeah, right, don't worry", Anakin answered wryly. "How the hell did I end up like this?"

"Want me to answer that?"

He gave her a quick glance, and smiled, slightly embarrassed.

"On second thought, no. I'll stop whining."

"Are you ready?"

Wife and husband turned as one when they heard Bail's voice, coming from behind them. He stood there, grinning at both of them.

Anakin sighed and bent forward to kiss Padmé, then looked at Bail.

 
"I don't think I'll ever be ready, so let's get it over with."

"It'll be fine", the Chancellor assured him.

"Padmé told me the same."

"She's a wise woman."

Anakin gave them both a sour glance.

"I just can't get rid of the feeling that you're all laughing behind my back."

"If you have a problem with that, we can do it openly,"

"Oh, thanks a lot."

Padmé laughed, and shook her head.

"You're impossible, both of you. Have fun."

She kissed Anakin's cheek, then turned and left the small antechamber.

"Have fun?" Anakin mumbled.

"I thought you promised her to stop whining."

"So you heard that."

"I sure did."

Anakin sighed.

"This isn't my day, is it?"

The Chancellor smiled widely.

"It certainly is. You'll get all the attention at the press-conference!"

"And that's supposed to make me feel better?"

Bail shook his head.

"Force grant me patient. Go, shall we?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Not the slightest."

Together they walked over to the measured floor and stopped outside the door leading to the big chamber, where the conference was to be held.

Bail gave Anakin another smug smile, then pressed the controls. Anakin took a deep breath as the door slid open and followed his friend through the opening.

The room was filled with reporters and holoteams. And everyone turned their heads to look at the couple when they sat down behind the desk standing on a podium set half-a-meter higher than the rest of the room.

For a moment, the silence was total.

Then Bail smiled pleasantly, totally the experienced politician.

"Gentlebeings"; he said, and then delivered an elegant and spare speech, which included a short summary of the last days. "And now, right beside me", Bail finished, with another gentle smile, "I have Anakin Skywalker, also known as Darth Vader. We'll be available for half an hour, and happy to answer your questions."

At the mention of his name, all headlights were directed at Anakin, and suddenly he was bathing in light. Spotting the holocameras he realized that his face was now seen all over the galaxy.

He swallowed, then forced himself to smile. He had a feeling, though, that it seemed more like a grimace.

"Well", Bail said, giving Anakin a teasing glance. "Let's start with the Human male in the left corner."

---

"He doesn't look all too content"; Amidala remarked.

Obi-Wan smiled and leaned back in the sofa.

"Well. At least he hasn't vomited yet."

She giggled.

"We're horrible. We should feel sorry for him…"

"I do. On some level. But the thought of Anakin Skywalker in a situation like this…I can't help but feeling this is exactly what he deserves."

"You are horrible!"

"No, I'm only…"

"Shush! The questions are about to start."

Both of them fell silent as they turned their full attention to the holoviewer where a simply dressed Human stood.

"I have a question for Lord Vader, or Skywalker, or whatever he wants to call himself. How can you possibly defend the crimes you've committed?"

Anakin gave him a pained look, then leaned forward and spoke into the speaking unit.

"I do not wish to defend them. I take full responsibility for my past, and will face the consequences of that."

"Not bad", Obi-Wan mumbled.

"Bad question", Amidala said with a frown. "Why can't them let him be?"

"How do you feel when thinking of your victims? Do you ever think of them?" That was a femal Barabel.

"All the time", Anakin said quietly, but the loudspeaker caught his words and carried the sound of them through the big room. The blonde Jedi blushed, but then lifted his head. "I regret every single deed. If there was a way for me to change the past, I would do so, no matter what. I can't do that, however. The only thing I can do is to go on, and do my best to atone for my past sins."

"And how are you going to achieve that?"

"By being a Jedi, and work to re-establish the Repbulic."

"Chancellor, don't you think a lot of people will be upset with the fact that you allow this man to walk around freely? Won't they demand a heavier punishment?"

Bail cleared his throat.

"Anakin Skywalker has proved to us that his regret is sincere. Sure, we could lock him up, but that would serve no purpose. A punishment is supposed to show the sinner that his way is wrong. If that already has been achieved, it won't be a punishment, but revenge. And as we all know, that is of the Dark Side. Besides, the tradition is that the Jedi deal with their own. So it will be this time."

"Will he return to the state of being a Jedi?"

"Yes. There are certain conditions to that, however, and if he breaks the rules, serious actions will be taken."

After that, the questions went on to different aspects of Korlon Eysh's attack and how Bail was working to stabilize the political climate after this.

Anakin started to relax. Sure, a public confession of his sins wasn't his favourite way of spending an afternoon, but well…he deserved it. Maybe he'd survive this after all.

---

"See? It wasn't that bad, was it?"

Anakin shrugged, but then he smiled. It was over, and he was all but fainting from relief. The couple wandered down the corridor, away from the conference room to the parts of the buildings where some of the Senators lived.

"Nah. I got off easily, didn't I?" he said.

Bail returned the smile.

"You did. But I guess you aren't complaining, huh?"

"Not particularly", Anakin admitted.

They stopped where the corridor split in two.

"You're heading for Padmé's apartment, am I right?" the Supreme Chancellor asked.

"Your instincts serve you well, Chancellor."

"Well, I am a politician."

"Yeah. That's why I'm so surprised", Anakin told him with a smirk.

Bail shook his head.

"You aren't this rude to the Council, are you?"

Anakin rolled his eyes.

"Are you crazy? They'd use my skin for a carpet."

"Sounds like an interesting idea."

"I bet. See ya, Chancellor."

"Yes. But then I want to find you receiving a medal for your heroic actions," Bail admonished.

 "Yes, Chancellor."

"Very well. Goodnight, Anakin."

"Same to you, Bail."




When he entered the apartment, both Obi-Wan and Padmé was waiting for him.

The bearded Jedi that had been his Master and best friend for so long grinned at him.

"Let me guess. You loved it and are now planning to do this all over again, just to get to attend another press-conference?"

Anakin raised his eyebrows.

"To do this all over again? You mean, turn to the Dark Side, and then back again?"


"Don't tell the Council I gave you the idea."

Anakin rolled his eyes, and looked down at Padmé as he embraced her and placed a kiss on the top of her head.

"He's out of his mind", he told her.

"Certainly. He loves you, doesn't he?"

"As do you, Senator. Or am I wrong about that?"

"Don't be a fool, dear husband. Of course not."

"Well, does that make you a raving lunatic too?"

"No."

"Doesn't sounds all too logic, if you ask me."

The soft kiss they shared stopped her from answering, but once their lips were parted she gave him a dignified look.

"I'm not asking you. If I say it is that way, then it is."

"That's tough."

"Complaining, are you?" she asked sweetly.

"I'm not that stupid", Anakin replied.

"I'm glad."

This kiss lasted longer. An amused grunt interrupted it, though. Anakin gave Obi-Wan a slightly embarrassed glance.

"Sorry, Obi-Wan. I…" He cut himself off, blushing.

"…forgot you?" his friend finished with a raised eyebrow. Anakin hesitated, then nodded sheepishly.

"Sorry. It's just that…"

Obi-Wan made a dismissive gesture.

"It's okay, Anakin. I understand. You've been separated for a very long time. I'll leave, so that you can re-explore each other."

Wife and husband exchanged glances, then Anakin looked at Obi-Wan with an innocent smile.

"That's an order, Master?"

The Jedi didn't answer, just turned and walked out through the door. They watched him leave, then Anakin shook his head.

"I'd never thought Obi-Wan, stuffed with the Jedi Code, would ever say something like that", he remarked. "Maybe he understands more than I thought."

"I've come to the same conclusion", Padmé agreed.

And then they spoke of Obi-Wan no more that evening. They were busy.




Two hours later she was resting in his arms, her head under his chin. He caressed her hand, which he held in his.

"It's been a long time, hasn't it?"

"It has."

"But we're here now."

She lifted her head and smiled at him. It was the smile he remembered from their first meeting, so many years ago. Much had changed. But not that smile.

"Yes", she agreed softly, and let her finger follow his cheekbone. "We're here now."



EPILOGUE


The gardens of Theed were greener and more alive than ever. Anakin couldn't help but smile as he took in the beauty. And spotted something even more beautiful approaching him.

She was smiling, he saw. No, he corrected himself. She was beaming.

"In a happy mood?" he asked as he caught her in a close embrace.

She looked up at him, her eyes shining like the sparkling stars.

"Anakin, you…you cannot guess."

He grinned and kissed her teasingly in the neck.

"Well, if I can't guess, why don't you tell me?"

She just sighed and leaned against him, burying her head in his chest.

"Hey, Padmé, this isn't fair!"

She lifted her and met his gaze.

"We're going to have a baby."

It took him a few seconds to understand what she was saying. Had she - ?

"A baby?" he whispered.

She nodded.

"A baby."

He stared out into nothingness, then back at her perfect face. A huge smile grew in his face.

"This…this is just…I love you."

"Love you, too."

Together they collapsed on the soft grass, too happy to stop laughing. Finally they managed to calm down, and Anakin sat, dragging her into his lap.

She touched his face, and sighed happily.

"Anakin…we're having a baby."

He smiled, and put his hand on her stomach, reaching for the small being that was their child. As realization hit him, his smile turned into an amazed grin.

"No, love", he whispered against her hair. "We're having two."

---

That night Anakin was standing on the balcony, staring at the night sky where thousands of stars shone brightly.
He couldn't remember ever feeling this peaceful or happy-

He and Padmé were going to have a baby. Two babies. He was smiling, as had he been the whole day. He couldn't wait until Obi-Wan arrived. The Jedi had stayed on Coruscant when Anakin was granted permission to leave the planet for a week. Obi-Wan would join them for the three last days, though.

"I miss you, master", Anakin whispered to the stars. "And you can't imagine what I have to tell you."

He smiled once more, and shook his head. Indeed the stars shone more brightly than ever before.

Anakin stood unmoving for another minute, contemplating the beauty of the galaxy where he'd been granted an existence.

"Thank you", he said quietly, aiming his gratitude to the eternal Force, the very core of the sparkling universe itself.

With that, the Chosen One turned and walked back to the illuminated room where the center of his very own personal universe was waiting for him.

The End