Chapter Fifty-Nine

Padme was a decent judge of character. Discerning and intelligent, she would often seen flaws in someone Obi-Wan did not. However, when it came to Xanatos, he was sure she'd been too quick to form an opinion. Perhaps it was the man's arrogance which displeased her so much. It was indeed an imperfection Obi-Wan would work on during his training, but he was sure Xanatos would prove to be a fine addition to the Jedi. He was, after all, quite skilled with the sword, quick-thinking, and a hard worker. He was also one of the quickest fighters Obi-Wan had ever seen. There were several times Obi-Wan had almost been bested by him during a practice bout.

After several days, Obi-Wan was confident enough that he felt it was time to tell Xanatos he had been awarded the position, although Obi-Wan decided to show him instead. He did so by taking the new Jedi to the weapons room where they stored all the lightsaber hilts and crystals. It would be the man's task to choose his own sword and power source based upon the guidance of the Force. Only then, would Xanatos become a true Jedi and Obi-Wan could tell Padme to relax.

"Choose wisely," Obi-Wan announced, his hand spanning the long table which displayed everything Xanatos would need. "Let the Force guide you."

The dark-haired man studied the collection, his hand hovering over each individual piece. As he did so, Obi-Wan held his breath, trying to anticipate which stone would be his and what color it would be. Purple like Padme's? Or perhaps blue or green like his and Aayla's?

"This one speaks to me," Xanatos announced suddenly, picking up a shard, which immediately began emanating a hue similar to that of the setting sun. It started as yellow but then shifted to orange. However, when Xanatos dropped it into the hilt as directed by Obi-Wan, secured it and switched on the blade, the laser shooting forth from the weapon was red. Blood red. A deep, crimson color, much darker than Obi-Wan had expected.

"Matches my personality," Xanatos joked as he swung the sword to and fro. "I always was a man of passion and action."

"Good traits to have, as long as you keep things in perspective," Obi-Wan warned as the Jedi switched off his new weapon and attached it to his belt. "You may begin your training sessions with Aayla now. It will do her well to practice with someone other than me."

For a split second, it appeared as if Xanatos was disappointed.

"Is that acceptable?"

Xanatos swept his dark fringe off his forehead to reveal the circular scar he apparently used the hair to disguise, although he had never told Obi-Wan the story behind it. "I was hoping to train with you."

Obi-Wan accepted the statement as a compliment, unless, of course, Xanatos had a problem training with anyone else. "I think you will find her quite challenging."

The expression on the man's face was difficult to read. Obi-Wan couldn't tell if Xanatos had accepted his words as truth, or if his arrogance went much deeper than even Padme had suspected. He was now facing a challenge of his own.

"You will find Aayla in training room two, I believe. She's aleady there waiting for you." Obi-Wan announced firmly.

It took a moment, and not one without hesitation, until Xanatos finally responded and began walking that way. He was pleased they had found another Jedi, but Obi-Wan was no fool. He would keep an eye on their new addition, and when the time came to set out to find new recruits, he would accompany Xanatos himself. At least until this nagging feeling went away.

In the meantime, he needed to tell Padme the news, and was hoping she wouldn't give him too much grief about his decision.

When Obi-Wan walked into their suite, he discovered Bant and Padme on their bed engaged in a rather serious game of sabaac. It seemed as if Padme was winning, but Bant's demeanor would not lead anyone to suspect so. The two females glared at each other across the game until Padme's lip twitched and lifted into a grin, and she placed down what appeared to be a victorious set.

Obi-Wan had played this game with her on occasion, but not so much any more. She was good at it, and he didn't enjoy losing all that much. He was glad she had someone else to torment now.

"I believe," Bant told her, placing her cards back into the deck with calm assurity, "you cheated."

Padme put on a display of complete shock. "Now, you're starting to sound just like Obi-Wan. He won't even play the game with me any more."

"I don't blame him!" Bant took the cards and shuffled them between her long, webbed fingers. "You've bested me four to one."

"Five," Padme corrected playfully, a grin on her face during the entire conversation.

"I can say with great confidence that I have mastered one thing about this game, and that's only because I've had lots of practice at it," Bant continued as she rose from the bed to put the cards away.

"What's that?" Padme asked her.

"Losing," Bant said in such a deadpan voice, it caused Padme to began to giggle, which prompted Obi-Wan to come out of the doorway where he'd been spying on the two of them. He was pleased to find Padme in good spirits this afternoon. Although she had taken to being confined to bed as well as she could, he knew how much not staying busy and occupied throughout the Temple bothered her.

"Obi-Wan, there you are," she said as he walked in. "I was just letting Bant teach me a thing or two about sabaac."

"Uh huh," Bant replied from the dresser before excusing herself to the 'fresher.

Obi-Wan sat down next to his wife on their bed and leaned forward to kiss her. "I have some news," he informed her. "Xanatos chose his crystal today."

Padme looked surprised and then concerned. "That worked out for him then?"

"You didn't think it would?"

Her eyes shifted and Obi-Wan recognized the fact she was attempting to provide a most diplomatic answer as possible. "I wasn't entirely sure the Force would deem him worthy enough, honestly."

Obi-Wan leaned across his wife, keeping his weight supported by his outstretched arm. "I really think you need to give him a chance. I have, and apparently the Force sees something in him too. Otherwise, a weapon wouldn't have been revealed to him, would it have?"

Padme reached out to grab hold of his free hand, her brows lowering with worry. "I hope you're right."

"It will all work out, you'll see. Try not to worry, The Force will guide us and everything will be turn out just fine. Trust me."

A skeptical brow rose, but it was followed by a lopsided grin which drew Obi-Wan forward once more to erase with a long and langorous kiss; one which brought his blood to a simmer. Ever since her confinement, Bant had thought it best they refrain from any strenous interactions, and frankly, Obi-Wan missed it. He missed the feel of her naked skin pressed against his hands, of her heat wrapped around him, of sharing the intimacy of physically joining with Padme. However, he figured he had waited nearly twenty-six years to be with her in such a fashion, surely he could wait another six months.

However, he would not deny himself the pleasures of kissing Padme, nor of bringing her pleasure in other ways. Obi-Wan took the opportunity to bring his lips to her earlobe and then run his tongue lightly down her neck. He could feel her response in the way her body trembled and how the skin along her arm transformed to a mass of pimpled flesh. And although she pleaded for him to stop, he knew she actually desired the opposite, and he continued his tortuous caresses a while longer before returning his attention to her mouth, which opened readily to accept his explorations.

After a few seconds, his head was fogged with desire, which was why it took so long to recognize the voice coming from the doorway.

Bant was the one who answered its call, appearing from the fresher, her skin covered with recently applied moisture. "You two need to find a room," she spouted as she opened the door to allow Sabe entrance.

"Mi'Lady," the young woman announced as she walked forward, curtseying quickly, "we have a visitor."

Strange, Padme thought as she exchanged curious looks with Obi-Wan. They weren't expecting anyone, but then, they hadn't actually expected Xanatos either. The man had simply appeared out of nowhere. Was word really spreading that quickly about their cause? How many more would come to their door expecting to be tested? And how many would they have to turn away?

"Who is it?" she finally asked the obvious question, her interest rising when she noticed the concern etched in the handmaiden's face.

"Senator Palpatine."

"Chancellor," another voice from the doorway interrupted as the older man made his own entry. "I do hope I'm not intruding, but I wanted to share the news myself. I've recently been elected Chancellor, and find myself in the position to be of some help."

Padme was stunned with the news, but then, she had been out of the loop, so-to-speak when it came to political happenings.

"How are you, my dear?" Palpatine asked with genuine feeling as he approached the bed. "I've heard of your condition. Is there anything I can do to help? Perhaps one of my physicians.."

"Thank you, Chancellor, but no," Padme countered in a friendly manner as Obi-Wan stood and moved several steps out of the way. "I have been receiving the best of care," she replied, casting a quick wink at Bant, who stood dutifully in the corner of the room.

"Then allow me to offer you congratulations."

The visit was unexpected, but she had known Roberd Palpatine a long time. She shouldn't be surprised he had come to check on her. It was sweet of him, actually, to offer his well wishes for their unborn child. If that was the reason for his visit, although Padme suspected it was not.

"In my new station," he continued. "I am pleased to announced I now have the power now to do something to help you. There's a committee currently looking into the cost effectiveness of helping Theed attain its former glory, to help regain its position as the center of commerce and trade in the Bothan system. I wanted to share this good news with you myself. Soon, everything Naboo once was will be again and all will return to normal."

Just once, Padme wished she could be wrong.