Title: "Salvation"

Chapter (2/3)

Written by: Shawn

 

 

Summary: After facing his moment of truth, Anakin and Padmé must finally deal with the consequences. Obi-Wan reveals a startling discovery. Mace Windu and Yoda at long last must acknowledge their part in the rise of

the Sith.

Category: Drama

Rating: PG

Ship: Anakin/Padmé

Timeline/Spoilers: Everything is canon up until Anakin's arrival at Palpatine's office during the Mace/Palpatine duel in Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. It's AU from a certain moment there on throughout the

rest of this story.

Disclaimer: Lucasfilm owns the right to everything and everyone.

Email: Dayshawn1974@hotmail.com

My personal archive: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ShawnsLibrary/

Special Thanks: Always and forever to Master Jennifer and Master Anne for their help and support. *bows before my Masters*

Authors Notes 1: This story is not set in the "Hearts and Souls" universe.

Authors Notes 2: I have always assumed the Clone Wars lasted at least three and a half years; so keep that in mind when reading this story.

Authors Notes 3: This chapter picks up 3 hours after chapter 1.

 

 

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Life is not a static thing. The only people who do not change their minds are incompetents in asylums, and those in cemeteries.

- Everett McKinley Dirksen

To keep our faces toward change, and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate, is strength undefeatable.

--Helen Keller

 

~~~~~~

 

 

******

 

******

 

Padmé's apartment

Located in the Republic Plaza

Galactic City, Coruscant

 

 

The bedroom was bathed in shadows of darkness as slivers of light from outside speeder traffic crawled along the floor.

With his eyes shut as a brisk night wind cooled his face, Anakin stood alone by the open window in the bedroom he shared with his wife. Padmé, bless her beautiful soul, slept peacefully just a few feet away. He felt her utter joy

at having his presence so near. She knew that she was safe and loved dearly. Whatever good he deserved in life, he wished it all for her. So far it seemed to be working.

Knowing that his wife needed her rest far more than he did these days, Anakin quietly sought the balance he was told was his destiny to bring about. Lost in a Jedi meditative state, he willed his spirit to merge with

the Force and allowed it to wash over him in whatever form it saw fit to bestow. Instead of seeking to control it or read it or even understand it fully, he gave himself to it.

For perhaps the first time in all his life he sought clarity. Nothing more. Nothing less.

As time marched on Anakin felt a flourishing of calm and hope begin to surround not only this small bedroom but also all of Coruscant. He couldn't ascertain if the prophecy had been realized as of yet or not. Of all the

premonitions he had those that dealt with bringing balance to the Force were never a part of them. The mystery of his life began at conception itself and didn't seem any clearer even now. His powers were at a level of a

Jedi Master at the age of twenty-two. By the time he was thirty, and he knew this, no Jedi in the galaxy or its legendary history could ever stand up to...

As if stirred by an unknown presence from that line of thinking, Anakin turned around and studied his sleeping wife again. What matters most, she had said to him earlier. He hung his head at how quickly power had come back

to the forefront of his thoughts when only his family should reside there.

At least the war would soon be over.

Attempting to focus on the present as he gazed out over Coruscant's robust skyline, Anakin knew that with Palpatine's death, and the inevitable Jedi investigation to the Senate revealing his true identity and dark deeds, would begin to unite the Republic once more. He would personally see to it that if Obi-Wan hadn't already turned General Grievous into spare parts, he would end his existence anywhere in the galaxy he hid.

The Separatists leaders wouldn't stand a chance without their Sith Lord leading them. If they tried he would hunt them all down and kill them.

Once more, Anakin's heart clenched painfully in his chest. His flesh hand brushed slowly over his face, covering his eyes. For all his vaunted abilities... the hero worship bestowed on him by the HoloNet news reporters... the wonder in the Younglings' eyes when he read to them or played with them... the awe that older Jedi who worked alongside him felt in his presence... he had been emotionally seduced for years by a monster who pretended to be a friend. He fought a war that was as fake as Palpatine's identity. The Sith Lord played both sides against the middle and had decided the Republic would win before the first shot was fired. Nearly two million causalities on countless worlds could have been avoided had he discovered the truth sooner.

Had his perception not been clouded by fear, ambition, and pride.

Obi-Wan and Padmé had warned him many times about his friendship with the Supreme Chancellor. Neither seemed to truly understand how others saw him. In hindsight, perhaps it was how he perceived they saw him. Nonetheless,

Palpatine talked to him with the utmost respect. He listened to his concerns and frustrations. He gave advice in a way that seemed compassionate to the things Anakin felt were important.

And he did all of those things in the voice of a father.

Anakin's fist clenched so tight he knew that if Palpatine were standing in front of him he'd kill him all over again. Only more slowly and far more painfully.

Tonight he acted. Tonight his eyes opened to the undeniable truth. Tonight he slayed a dragon within himself that threatened to burn his life to shreds. Now only the guilt remained. Horrific, all encompassing guilt. And the dedicated resolve to make things right. Even if he had to do it single-handily outside of the jurisdiction of the Jedi Order, Anakin silently swore he would end this war.

"Ani, turn on the lights."

Padmé's soft, sleepy voice evaporated any residual anger he had left. Anakin walked over and adjusted a small dial on the wall. Soothing light illuminated the bedroom to a degree.

Anakin made his way to the bed and fell to his knees by her side. Her lips curled into a smile for him alone. He leaned over, laid his head down, and stared at her with such a deep and abiding love that it felt endless. Seeing

that same love reflected back at him made all the pain and suffering he felt fade away into memory. "No one's tried to contact us yet. You should go back to sleep. Soon enough we're going to be very busy."

"I'm sure there will be an emergency session called by the Senate as soon as the news of Palpatine's death is announced. I would not be surprised if there are nominations for a new Supreme Chancellor made even

tonight." She lifted her hand to tenderly caress his cheek, ghosting over his handsome features. Even his scar. He closed his eyes and seemed to exhale softly against her skin. "The Jedi Council is going to interrogate

you soon."

Anakin insisted, "I want to tell them everything, Padmé. I've had my fill of deception. Are you okay with that?"

She knew that if she said she wasn't, he wouldn't reveal a thing to anyone ever. "Yes, I am," she replied, and then smiled when he pressed a warm kiss to the palm of her hand, and then another over her pulse. "The lies have to

end. We're bringing a child into this world, and we don't need to do so in hiding. I don't want our child to ever think there was a time in our lives when we did anything less than glorify 'her' arrival."

"Her?" Anakin couldn't help but grin. His wife knew how to play him so well.

"Ani?"

"Yes?"

"Kiss me."

His full lips found hers in no rush at all, engaging in one long, sweet kiss after another. The kind that clearly stated they had survived and anything else thrown their way wouldn't break them either.

Slipping into bed, Anakin lay beside Padmé and took her in his arms. She cuddled up to him and sighed happily. He had long since given up trying to figure out how he had won his angel's heart. He simply knew he could never

live without her. "How are you feeling? Tell me the truth and not what you think I want to here."

"I feel fine. I'm a little tired, but I'm alright," she told him. He nodded, thankfully. "I'm worried about you but only in the sense of your regret. I hate that you felt there was no other course of action you could take but to

kill Palpatine." She hoped he understood how she meant that, and it seemed that he did.

"Our ways are different, Padmé."

"Yes," she conceded. "But our goals are the same. A Sith Lord could not be allowed to run the Republic into the ground. The person responsible for a catastrophic number of deaths is gone. He did not turn you over to the Dark

Side of the Force. He failed. Count Dooku failed. The Separatists will fail, and then this war will be over."

"And then what? Your career as a Senator might be over as well."

She honestly hadn't considered that until this very moment. Suddenly, it didn't matter in the least. Padmé reached for Anakin's flesh hand and placed it over her stomach. "My career as a mother is soon to begin. And nothing

could ever be more satisfying than that."

While lying comfortably on his back, Anakin gazed at the ceiling. His face wore a far-reaching smile. "It just occurred to me that if you are removed from your post as Senator and I am forced to leave the Jedi Order that we

will be unemployed." He began to chuckle, "We might have to actually get real jobs."

"I hadn't thought of that," Padmé beamed with a humorous grin, and then rested her head on his shoulder. "Umm, Ani. While it is not a thing of bragging or boasting, I am quite independently wealthy. We would be far from

living on the lower levels of Coruscant."

"In all the years we've been married I've never once asked you how much money you have."

"It's because none of that ever mattered to you. That spoke highly of your character." A quiet mood fell over him. She was pleased to note it had nothing to do with unhappiness. "Tell me?"

"I'm going to miss being a Jedi."

He had already resigned himself to his fate, Padmé surmised. "It's not a done deal as of yet."

"I've broken the Jedi Code so many times over the years, Padmé. The strict rules of the Code govern the Jedi. There are no exceptions. Not even for the so called 'Chosen One'."

"Until you are asked or told to leave the Order, I would fight it with the record of your service to them thus far. Believe me, if Queen Jamilla requests that I step down from my post it will be after she's heard me out

completely. I'm not going down without a fight."

Anakin marveled at how he had such a deeply sincere respect for her. "I love that about you."

Padmé teased, "Just that?"

"That and everything else."

"Do you love me enough to bring me a cup of Cillian tea?" she asked while her fingers played about over his shirt.

"As you wish, milady." Rising from the bed, he turned to his wife and bowed as would one of her

handmaidens. "Coming right up." He left the room a second later.

While Anakin was the chief facilitator of their Force-bond, Padmé knew that she understood it a little better. She had picked up on all of the emotions he was feeling, and many of them he would have to make peace with on his

own, though under her watchful eye. But one element she sensed was his need to feel as if he were helping her through the pregnancy. He wasn't terribly knowledgeable in those matters, but he wanted to be there for her in any way she needed. He felt terrible about the many months she had not had him around to be a part of it all. So asking for a cup of Cillian tea was a small thing to do just to make him feel special.

And she was a bit thirsty anyway.

Five minutes later Anakin returned with a steaming cup of her favorite tea. He presented it as if he were paying royal homage. The sentiment was sweet as Padmé took the cup and then a long sip.

"Delicious," she complimented. "Thank you."

"You're most welcome."

Padmé also noted that he had a pastry bar. Her Ani had one heck of a sweet tooth. "Did you bring me one?"

"This... this was the last one." His smile was suspect. She stared at him in a way he was sure so many countless husbands across the universe had at some time been stared at by their wives. Tearing the pastry in half, he

offered one to her. "Are you happy?"

"Deliriously so." A thought came to mind. Something she hadn't heard him explain yet. "Ani, why didn't you stay with Master Windu until more Jedi arrived?"

Despite her disapproval at his eating in bed, even though she did it from time to time herself, he climbed back in beside her. "As soon as I killed Palpatine, Master Windu told me I did what had to be done, and then he ran

back to the office where the dead Jedi were. He was hoping against hope that one or more might still be alive. I just had to get out of there. My head felt like it was going to explode. I didn't think. I just ran. It felt as if

I was running for my life."

Padmé's heart went out to him. "Obi-Wan had to have been contacted by now." Her implication was clear. Not if, when they came looking for Anakin there was no doubt where that search would begin. "Are you worried about

that?"

"I haven't trusted my master the way that I should have in recent days. There's so much I just haven't been able to make peace with. But I'm not worried about Obi-Wan's reaction to our marriage. I never have been. It's

just that I would hate for him to be looked ill upon because of the things I've done. He doesn't deserve any criticism for my actions." That was as hard an admission as he had ever made before. "I hate that I resent him

still," he confided to his wife. "Some dark part of me feels if he had allowed me to visit my mother from time to time she would have never died. Deep down I've never forgiven him for that."

Hearing of any rift between the men who loved one another like brothers tore at Padmé's heart. "He was only following the Jedi Code as it had been taught to him."

Anakin tried not to sneer. "The Jedi Code is flawed and outdated. Trust me when I say the only person who has benefited from it in many years was Palpatine."

"How so?"

"Because I almost killed Master Windu is defiance of it," he told her while remembering where he stood and how he looked from the Jedi Master to the Sith Lord and back again. He could have killed either one. "Every single

thing the Jedi Code denied me, Palpatine offered to me. The Jedi Code was written thousands of years ago and has never been revised. Nothing that old can fail to evolve because of changing times, themes,

and ideals. The Jedi don't need to change their morals, purpose, or responsibility in the universe. It simply needs to address itself internally as it pertains to how a Jedi can live his or her life."

"The Senate has its work cut out for it as well. Recovering from this war, mending fences, arresting and prosecuting those who committed atrocities under Palpatine's rule, all of those factors will take time."

"Excuse me?" C-3PO interrupted with a knock from outside the bedroom door.

"What is it?" Anakin asked.

"Master Anakin, we have company. Master Kenobi, Master Windu and Master Yoda are here to see you both."

"Both?" Padmé looked to her husband.

"Yes, milady. They specifically asked for you both and said that it was urgent they speak with you."

Padmé saw the recognition in her husband's eyes. "Thank you. We'll be right there." She slowly shifted to the side of the bed, her feet now planted on the floor. "It seems the moment of truth has arrived." Her husband's vacant

expression gave her reason to pause. Had he reconsidered what they were going to tell the masters?

"It's time."

No, he hadn't. Conviction, purpose, and honor marked not only the tone of his voice, but when he rose the very set of his broad shoulders was strong. He extended his hand to her and she took it. Together, she smiled despite

what awaited them. They would face this together.

Upon exiting their bedroom, Anakin and Padmé walked hand in hand down a short corridor until they reached the living room area. In the center of the room the masters looked to them when they arrived. Their faces didn't convey nearly the shock that was expected, as they were deeply concerned about the blatant show of affection.

Lines in the sand were drawn in that moment alone.

"Of the utmost importance, events have transpired today. Speak with you both, we must," Master Yoda explained from his small circular floating pod chair.

"Please, sit," Padmé offered without her customary greeting. This conversation was going to be anything but customary. That was obvious.

Obi-Wan and Mace sat down on the long couch while Yoda hovered near by. Anakin helped Padmé into a recliner, and then stood by her side. He had no interest in sitting down.

"Before we begin," Mace stated as he watched the couple. The obvious feelings he sensed between them through the Force spoke volumes. "Anakin, I feel I owe you my sincerest apology." He seemed to struggle with this, and

yet he found the words. "I, for the longest time, have worried about your friendship with the Supreme Chancellor as well as your dedication to the Jedi Order. While I'm sure new revelations are on the horizon." He briefly

glanced toward Padmé, an expression that bore no anger. "Today, you did exactly what we asked you to do. As soon as Palpatine revealed himself you presented us with the information. You made the right decision even when you weren't entirely trusting of our methods. I know you have become greatly frustrated with matters we've hidden from you. I was chief among those with reservations concerning how you would handle learning of Palpatine's

dishonesty if it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt."

"My ability to deal with dishonesty had been honed greatly since my return from the Outer Rim Sieges," Anakin offered his opinion in a slightly biting tone of voice. "Those lessons came as much from the Jedi Council as they did

from Palpatine."

Anakin's temper flared at Mace in a more direct way than anyone else in the room. The master took it in

stride. "The Jedi Council acted in the way we felt would best expose the Sith Lord without exposing our investigation into Palpatine." The Korun Master looked to Yoda and then to Obi-Wan. "Unfortunately, the Jedi Council has made a great deal of mistakes in recent times. A great deal indeed."

Obi-Wan watched... listened... sensed... and all things became crystal clear to him.

"Masters, we have lost today. Friends to us all," Yoda sadly reported. "Nonetheless, good has come of this. Palpatine's deception, over it is. Eradicated, the Sith have become once more."

The political ramifications had only begun, Padmé considered. "The Senate will need to begin the nomination process for a new Supreme Chancellor immediately. The Republic must appear stable and functioning again. The

regional governors Palpatine called to power must be removed at once, as well as the vast contingent of Republic clone soldiers from those worlds they were sent to."

"Agree with you, the Jedi Council does." Yoda nodded as he gazed around the room. "A long period of healing will be required."

Anakin felt his master's eyes upon him. No matter the outcome of this discussion, at least this night would see an end to all the lies that had sought to cripple his spirit. "Master, what of General Grievous?"

"He is no more," Obi-Wan was pleased to report. "We have taken Utapau, and the Separatist forces have been defeated. I have just left an interrogation session that revealed their remaining leaders are on Mustafar. Master

Ki-Adi-Mundi and a massive armada are heading there now. There is a very real possibility this war will be over tonight."

Obi-Wan observed his former padawan with as much admiration as caution. Aside from Anakin's secretive personal life, which was about to be placed on display, he felt justified at the faith he had placed in his friend. It

was true that Anakin had many faults that he needed to work on to reach his full potential as a Jedi. But when the chips were down, as Obi Wan had said all along, he trusted Anakin Skywalker to do the right thing. And

he did. "You saved the Jedi Order today, Anakin. You may have saved the galaxy itself."

While the words were greatly appreciated considering the source, Anakin didn't fully understand their meaning. "I killed the Sith Lord. But had I not interfered Master Windu may have been able to defeat him. I did no more

or less than was called for."

"For once, I think you are being far to humble," Master Windu interjected. "The conclusion of our fight without your intervention was hardly a guaranteed outcome. Palpatine was harboring far more power than even I had

anticipated. But there's much more to the story than that."

"With child, you are?"

Yoda's deeply personal outburst of sorts stole the very air from the room as he stared at Padmé. The Jedi Master's long ears stood at attention. He felt far more empathy than dissatisfaction considering all that had happened.

Having prepared herself for this eventuality, Padmé offered a simple, "Yes, I am." Reactions around the room varied, though one in particular caught her attention first. If the situation wasn't so serious she would have laughed

out loud at how Obi-Wan, who for the first time she had ever seen, looked absolutely shocked. It was one thing to suspect an affair. Obviously, he suspected no more than that. And what of her dear husband? Anakin stood

stiff as a board by her side. Mace's expression didn't change at all, and she wondered if the running joke around the Senate Hall that he only had one expression were true. Yoda seemed sincerely concerned, but she sensed that wasn't entirely in the way she suspected on the surface. "I am late in my pregnancy. My due date is not very far away."

Compassion best described Yoda's emotions as he seemed to ponder what he had heard and the consequences to come. On any other day this would have been a matter of priority but not today. "Congratulations, Senator Amidala. Rest assured your personal life, our business, it is not."

"I am the father of Padmé's child," Anakin declared at long last. The aura of the Force vibrated powerfully around the room and its occupants. Even while standing on the edge of losing all that he had worked so very hard

for, the relief and utter joyful freedom he experienced from finally being able to proclaim who he was and what he had done before the masters held no equal. What was mastery compared to being what he never had? A f

ather. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions for me. I know that I have plenty to answer for."

With his hands clasped together and eye brows knitted tight, Mace leaned forward. "We do indeed. But that matter must take a back seat to the results of Master Kenobi's investigation."

Obi-Wan felt now was as good a time as any to drop this bombshell. "As soon as I arrived at the Chancellor's office and was briefed by Master Windu, I gathered Palpatine's entire administration together and informed them that

we had identified him as the Sith Lord, and that he was killed when he attempted to kill Master Windu, who was there to arrest him. I informed them that General Grievous was dead as well, and that the Separatist's leadership

would be captured within twenty-four hours. That was when Vice Chair Mas Amedda fell to his knees before me and begged for diplomatic immunity from prosecution in exchange information on Palpatine's dealings."

Mas Amedda? Padmé had known for a long time that his office was as corrupt as any organization on Coruscant. She felt sick at even hearing his name. "He's a coward and a liar."

"Cowards and liars usually have the best information on criminals, provided you terrify them just a little." Obi-Wan then sighed deeply. "During the interrogation I learned from the Vice Chair something extremely troubling.

Something that threatened each and every Jedi in the galaxy."

"Don't keep us in suspense," Anakin said.

"Apparently each and every clone. All ten million, seven hundred and twenty five thousand of them were implanted with a neural transmitter that could receive direct orders to their minds that they could not defy. The clones

were created to serve the Republic and had a clear understanding of how the Senate worked and who their orders were to come from. But that neural implant contained Palpatine's distinct voice patterns and identity. The

clones could become, from his word alone, slaves to his will." Padmé and Anakin seemed shaken by this news, and it was only going to get worse. "The Republic never had control of the Clone Army. Not for a single day.

Palpatine allowed us to use it, but at any time he could have taken command. To make matters worse, he implanted within the clone's minds a deadly command. Order 66. Translated, it meant that all Jedi are to be hunted down and killed immediately when it was given. That was Palpatine's master plan from the moment he commissioned the clones to be created. The utter destruction of the Jedi."

The dire ramifications were only starting to dawn on Anakin. Had he not killed Palpatine, but still resisted his lure, every Jedi in the galaxy would have been murdered. Him right along with them. His wife squeezed his

hand in support. He could feel her tension as well. "Palpatine could have ordered the Jedi wiped out at any time."

"Massacred, we would have been." Yoda shook his head slowly. Painfully. "Blind, we have been. All of us. Without blame, none are."

"Palpatine wanted you to turn to the Dark Side of the Force so that not only would he have the Republic Army on his side but the Chosen One as well." Mace explained, "His moves were as political as they were violent. We were

all pawns who did not foresee this danger until it was far too late. Countless lives have been lost." His rage threatened to crest until he willed it back. "For years the Jedi Council worked closely with Palpatine

and never, until recent months had we truly considered his involvement. We could not sense the Dark Side within him."

"Neither could I until he taught me how."

Lifting his gaze toward the Chosen One, Yoda's face turned grim. "Taught you the dark arts, did he?"

"He had only begun, master," Anakin related. "That was how I knew he wasn't nearly as defeated and weakened as he pretended when I arrived at his office."

Yoda had to ask, "A Jedi, you are. Why would you do such a thing?"

"Because at the time I felt I had no other option to save Padmé's life but from the one person who actually gave me one."

Their talk on premonitions in his quarters came to mind. Yoda's calm wisdom had failed him in ways he would have never imagined. For the first time in a very long time, he felt there was so much he did not know. "Much needs to be discussed, I see."

"Indeed."

The Force... in its most living, visceral form entered the room in the ethereal guise of a ghostly apparition. The form, the face, and the voice were as familiar as they had been sorely missed for many years now.

"Qui-Gon..." barely escaped Obi-Wan's mouth on the wing tips of a whisper. He could barely breathe. He was thankful that he was sitting down.

Everyone in the room rose to their feet as their sole attention focused on the deceased Jedi Master who stood before them looking as healthy and strong as he ever had on the far right side of the room. He walked toward them.

Obi-Wan could not will himself to move any further. Anakin soon joined his side. "Is it really you?"

"Yes, my old friend. It is me. And I have much to tell you all." From around the room he had a smile for all of them. A hopeful smile that the dark times were over for a time, and perhaps when they returned the Force would be their ally once more.

"Masters, heed my message and hold it dear to your hearts. The Force was without balance not due to anything done by the Sith but by the Jedi alone."

Mace could not believe what he was hearing. "How could that be?"

Qui-Gon Jinn spoke as eloquently as ever. "Master, search yourself for the answers you seek. Feel through the Force the arrogance and prideful ways that should have never been allowed to become a part of the Jedi Order."

Anakin, Mace, Obi-Wan and Yoda all relaxed themselves into a state of acute awareness as the Force joined them as one. The gentle voices of Jedi Masters long ago spoke to them... whispering harsh truths that had gone on for far to long unheard.

The Sith were simply, utterly, not responsible for the loss of balance in the Force.

Pride was why the Jedi Council refused to inform the Senate of its diminished capacity in using the Force. All other reasons went against the truth that the Jedi Order had built its word on.

Pride again prevented them from informing the Senate that a Jedi Master had ordered the creation of the Clone Army. To have the Republic know that the creation of a clone army came from one of its own, but in reality it

didn't, would have made them look like fools. Palpatine, at the time, left the details of its creation out in a mock show of wanting to protect the Jedi from any further loss of the public trust.

"The very basis for which the Force exists is love. The love of all living things. The compassion to feel. The character to honor. The courage to persevere. The lack of pride to admit faults. And the ability to change,

which is the enemy of a stagnant people. The Sith can never become one with the living Force because they can only love themselves. They seek power for the sake of glorifying themselves. Greed motivates their every action. A

Jedi does not crave these things," Qui-Gon professed as he walked about the room.

"The Sith embraced change, and we did not. We acted as if thousands of years were yesterday. We feared change. That is why we nearly faced genocide today. The living Force isn't supposed to be made up of assumptions, as we have taught for far too long. Jedi bond with and meditate on the Force, and then

let it flow freely through us. Its lessons will come to us in time. We must convene within the Force and change in this moment of triumph. The Chosen One has fulfilled his destiny in bringing balance to the Force not by

destroying the Sith but by being the example of a Jedi in this day and age who could still uphold the Order and its duties and responsibilities while heading the call of his heart. What good is balance if you have no true

understanding of what needs to be balanced? That is the goal you should now seek. Place the ways of the past in its proper respective place while embracing the future. And in time the living Force will reveal a way for you to bond with it upon death, and even retain your consciousness. A gift to be taught to the open-minded who no longer fear change. Take all that I have said to heart. Listen to one another as equals. Do not make the same mistakes again."

"May the Force be with you."

When Anakin opened his eyes Qui-Gon was nowhere to be found. He quickly looked to his wife, who surprisingly enough seemed to have experienced exactly what they all had. She slowly opened her eyes. How odd, and yet, it

wasn't at all.

As life changing as Qui-Gon's visit had been, Mace exhaled a deep breath as he accepted what he had been told and his part in what almost took place today. The work ahead would be daunting and evolution was on the horizon. At long last he felt the right path had been illuminated once more. And for that he was grateful and determined.

Hovering nearby, Yoda felt himself smile for reasons he could not quite comprehend. The dread lifted from his foresight, and he could breathe again. The mistakes that had been made by himself and others for so very long paled in comparison to the horrors he sensed were on the other side of how today could have turned out. For eight hundred and seventy years he'd trained Jedi to use the Force. He'd been considered the foremost archive of knowledge on the Force in the entire known universe. And in the span of less than a few minutes he learned the Force still had many surprises left for him to discover. Yes, he felt young again.

Once more the Force was with the Jedi Order.

"Master Yoda and I have to get back to the Jedi Temple to coordinate the assault on Mustafar," Mace declared while walking toward Anakin. "Once that is settled I will personally handle the rest of the investigation into

Palpatine and all who assisted him since he became the Supreme Chancellor." He looked to Obi-Wan and then back to Anakin. "Master Kenobi will address the Jedi Council tomorrow morning concerning your activities and you will be

present. I expect no less than the truth, whatever that may be."

"I understand, Master." Anakin bowed. He was nearly shocked when the Jedi Master extended his hand. They shook hands, and for the very first time ever, Anakin felt he had not only Mace's respect but his trust as well.

"Master Windu, I hope you are aware the Senate will probably commission itsown private investigation into the Jedi Council's activities as well," Padmé warned. Mace revered her with a respectful nod.

"You can expect our full cooperation and compliance, milady."

"Padawans, we all are once more," Yoda offered, as well as a friendly acknowledgement to Padmé. "The Force will guide us in the days to come. Listen to it, we will. Work together we shall."

Moments later Master Windu and Master Yoda left the apartment as Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padmé were finally alone.

Taking his own dear time to process all of this, Obi-Wan rubbed at his beard. He briefly looked to the couple and then away and then back again as he tried to assemble his thoughts. "Might we talk on the veranda? I could

use a bit of fresh air."

Anakin smiled beside Padmé, who wondered why. Nonetheless, she offered. "Of course."

Obi-Wan caught sight of the light kiss Anakin brushed along her temple, and then he left them for a moment. When they reached the veranda, as Coruscant's never-ending brilliance lay before them, he had to ask, "How long?"

Resting one hand over her rounded belly, Padmé's other hand grazed the spot where earlier Anakin had cracked his hand. "We fell in love on Naboo during the time Anakin was sent to protect me. We were married just after the battle on Geonosis." Obi-Wan's reaction was subtle in a widening of the eyes and then a calm nod of his head.

"Even back then Anakin was so powerful he could hide his feelings from me. I sensed his attraction to you from the moment we all met again, but I never knew..."

"He never wanted to lie to you. And I had severe reservations about giving in to what we felt for each other. Keeping our secret has been far from easy for either of us."

"He was defying the Jedi Code, Padmé."

"He was in love, Obi-Wan. And so was I."

In spite of her honesty Obi-Wan felt like reciting the entire Jedi Code chapter and verse. He wanted to make her understand the dire consequence Anakin would likely face tomorrow at the Jedi Council meeting. He... and

admitting this hurt him a great deal, wanted to know why they hadn't told him sooner. "Anakin will likely be expelled from the Jedi Order."

"He has wanted to leave for quite some time," Padmé told him what he was clearly surprised to hear. "He loves and needs to be a Jedi, but he has always placed our marriage first. He's done so in ways I feel I haven't been

as equal in," she disclosed a piece of her own regret. "His greatest fear is bringing you any shame or disrespect because of what he's done. He hates to disappoint you in any way. That is not something he talks about but is

something I know about him."

One didn't need the Force to feel certain that Padmé was a good person. They need only sit down and talk with her for a time. She was honorable, honest, and genuine in an age when that wasn't nearly as respected as it should have been.

Obi-Wan put aside his Mastery and thought of the little boy he raised. A Padawan was one thing, but a son was quite another. While he had done his best to view Anakin as his Padawan, the little boy had looked upon him as a

father figure. And that was a role Obi-Wan wasn't always comfortable with. "I could not be more proud of him or his accomplishments," he spoke candidly. "But this..."

"It's a lot to take in, I'm sure."

"We were out there fighting the war for over three years, and he never once mentioned any of this to me." Perhaps the true failure resided in their friendship, Obi-Wan pondered somewhat bitterly. "Anakin is a far different

person than I am. That has never been an issue between us. He has more in common with Qui-Gon and was never even trained by him. I've tried to relate to him and understand who he was to the best of my abilities."

Suddenly, Padmé felt through the Force what bothered Obi-Wan so greatly. Having been trained by a man who regularly defied the Jedi Council, a rebel instinct was not foreign to him. But close, dear friends were. And Obi-Wan

loved Anakin like a son at first, and then a brother as he grew into manhood. He was sincerely hurt that Anakin could not share with him the single most important aspect of his life.

Padmé stepped over and placed her hand gently on his forearm, drawing his attention. "He respects no one above you. He trusts no one above you. These are truths he lives by. The only part of his life he felt he had to keep you

separate from was our marriage. And even in doing so he felt in some way he was protecting you in case we were ever exposed. He loves you dearly, Obi-Wan. Surely you know that."

"I do," he admitted with the hint of a smile. "But he resents me as well."

Padmé had little doubt that Obi-Wan wasn't so blind to Anakin's feelings towards his mother's death. "There are some things he will have a hard time accepting for the rest of his life concerning Shmi's death and the other

events that took place afterwards." She offered no more than that, knowing full well it was her husband's discretion to reveal the rest. "Just know that he loves you, and that the person he resents most is himself. In time he will understand that his mother's death wasn't your fault. My husband is a good, honorable, and courageous man. But he is also a young man. Just give him time."

The absolute unwavering love Padmé felt for Anakin nearly left him speechless. "Never a dull moment." His eyes graced her full belly, and then back to her lovely face. Pregnancy only enhanced her magnificent

beauty. She shifted her hand just over to the side when she undoubtedly felt something. "Remarkable."

"You think being kicked from the inside out is remarkable?"

"Yoda's gruel probably does a reasonable facsimile"

Padmé laughed softly. She heard footsteps and looked up to see Anakin carrying a chair by its sides. There was one cup and one glass balanced on the seat. When he reached them he sat the chair down next to her and then

handed her the cup. "Thank you," she said before sitting down.

"You're welcome, milady," he greeted her with a pure smile. He then handed the glass to Obi-Wan. "I thought you might need something a bit stronger than Cillian tea after today's events."

Taking the glass from his hand, their easy camaraderie seemed to settle back in. Obi-Wan immediately recognized the Corellian vintage wine. "We confiscated five boxes containing over two hundred bottles of this stuff a

while ago. I always wondered why only four boxes were documented on our report."

Tongue placed firmly in cheek, Anakin could only shrug. Padmé, however...

"He had an entire box full of bottles of Corellian vintage wine sent to me a year and a half ago."

Obi-Wan arms crossed his chest. "That's when we busted those illegal importers."

"The important thing is," Anakin interjected quickly while standing by Padmé, who was clearly amused, "We are all here together."

"How optimistic of you."

"I do try, master."

Enjoying this peaceful moment came easily for Padmé. She was more than content to sit here with her husband and their child and the very best friend their family had. "I was thinking, Obi-Wan. If you are surprised

tomorrow and the Jedi Council decided to alter its stance on a Jedi being able to fall in love and have a relationship, well... I have at least four highly intelligent, well trained, beautiful handmaidens who all find you

greatly attractive."

"Padmé!" For the second time tonight Anakin saw shock written all over his master's face. Padmé had made him blush. She had that effect on men. "I've personally overheard them saying how much they like the beard."

"As appreciative as I am of your obvious compliments..." Obi-Wan paused mid-sentence and thought it over slowly and then said, "So they like the beard?"

Padmé's laughter lifted Anakin's soul. He rested his hand on her shoulder, as she placed hers over his. "Jedi are sexy, you know." He winked at his wife. She rolled her eyes. "We exude confidence and authority."

"That is true." Obi-Wan considered this with a mock of a nod, now rubbing his beard again. "I suppose should the Council reconsider its stance on a Jedi's personal life that any and all considerations should be given careful thought." After briefly clearing his throat, he looked to Padmé. "Umm, by any chance would one of those handmaidens Anakin spoke of be Dorme?"

"Why yes," Padmé said while hiding behind a grin.

"Hmmm," was all Obi-Wan offered in the way of a reply. He did seem pleased.

Having put this off long enough, Anakin addressed his friend. "Master. I am truly sorry for keeping so much from you. I never meant to hurt you, and I mean that sincerely."

Obi-Wan stood before his former padawan who was not just a powerful Jedi, but a good man and a dear friend. "No apology is necessary, Anakin. We have all made mistakes and learned life lessons from everything that has happened. Myself included. Now is the time to become committed to doing what's right for everyone and for ourselves." He looked to Padmé, and then to Anakin. "It's a joyous news that you're going to become parents."

Padmé squeezed her husband's hand. "Thank you, Obi-Wan."

Out of nowhere, R2-D2 made his presence known as he had finished his recharging session in another room. The little droid rolled past the veranda and seemed to stop and then oddly spin around twice before it went on its way.

Anakin quickly pointed at Obi-Wan. "Hey, no loose wire jokes."

"I didn't say anything." His hands held up defensively.

"He might have had a minor overload."

"Did I say anything?"

Padmé just shook her head. They were big kids at times. Speaking of children, hers gently shoved a foot or hand against her. "Your daughter's awake, Ani."

Choosing to tease him for the 'Ani' line later on, Obi-Wan offered, "His son is too."

Anakin pressed a kiss on the top of his wife's head. "Padmé only says the child is a girl to get me to do things for her."

"If I want you do things for me I'll simply tell you to do them." She knew he found her defiance sexy. He bent down for a sweet kiss.

"You're going to have your hands full with the twins." Obi-Wan swore he had never seen two people ever look so close to passing out from the mention of one word. "I can sense both of their Force presences."

"Twins?!!" Anakin and Padmé said in unison, as pale as they could possibly appear.

Obi-Wan smiled before downing the rest of his drink.

 

 

******

 

The End of Chapter 2