Title: "Scandalous"
The 1st one-shot in the Post-"Salvation" universe.
Written by: Shawn

Summary: On the eve of Padmé Skywalker's official ascension to the
role of Vice Chair of the Republic, Anakin steals her away for a wild
vacation to Cloud City.

Category: Drama/Romance/Erotica
Rating: M for sensual, sexual situations
Ship: Anakin and Padmé Skywalker

Timeline/Spoilers: "Salvation" must be read in its entirety to grasp
what I'm aiming for in this universe. Everything in the prequel movie
series is canon up until a point in "Revenge of the Sith," and
then "Salvation" takes over.

Disclaimer: Lucasfilm and George owns it all.

Authors Notes 1: I've longed to explore Anakin and Padmé's life post
some sort of fairy tale ending. So if they are permitted to be
married, the war is over with and Palpatine is dead, Anakin is
granted mastery, the children are alive and safe, Obi-Wan knows
everything, and Padmé at least retains her post... then what? That's
the question I want to answer in this series. Its a drama and as such
don't expect things to be glossed over or played down. I intend to
treat P/A similar to the obsessiveness the media treats such couples
in real life, as well as handle things politically in a way I hope
keeps you interested.

Authors Notes 3: This is the beginning of the post "Salvation"
universe. You will be introduced to new characters and reintroduced
to ones who disappeared for a while. You just never know who might
pop up. *evil laughter*

Authors Notes 3: I'm writing adults here, so expect adult situations.

Authors Notes 4: This story takes place 4 months after "Salvation"

~~~~~~

Life is not a brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch
which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn
as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations.
~~ George Bernard Shaw

~~~~~~

******

******

New Republic Tower
Located at the West End of the Government District
The newly built office of Vice Chair Padmé Amidala Naberrie Skywalker
Evening time
Galactic City, Coruscant

New Republic Tower's majestic view above the cloud line gave way to a
serene, peaceful Coruscant as the sun set on another day. Very few
buildings reached so high as to stand in the atmosphere itself,
providing an almost ethereal sense of wonder that such a structure
could even be built. From here one could see the Galactic Courts of
Justice spire, the brightly lit Diplomatic Hotel, and the City
Municipal Authorities Building
. And with but a slight turn of one's
head you could pick out the towering Skysitter Restaurant, the
luxurious Novaplex Hotel with its seemingly endless rows of skydocks,
and the Senatorial News Agency.

This was where one wanted to be at the end of the day. Seated above
the clouds themselves.

That was why Sylar Vein knew when the opportunity of a lifetime sat
before her.

Seated across from the former press spokesman for Republic High
Courts Judge Vyn Grissom, whom she was fired by when she punched him
for reasons never disclosed to the public, was the enigmatic Padmé
Skywalker. Immaculately dressed in white and lavender, she was even
more beautiful in person than the countless HoloNet vids airing
nightly. Early impressions were that she exuded a quiet confidence
seemingly unaware of her diminutive years. Married to a Jedi Master
in arguably the most controversial union ever, the newly elected Vice
Chair of the Republic was the most mysteriously unique woman in the
galaxy. Fact, fiction, and assumption warred over defining who she
truly was in the eyes of many. Her secret life revealed before the
universe, fair or not, gripped the public's attention.

Already twice her age, Sylar wondered how someone so young had lived
such an incredible life already and with so much more ahead?

Warned that Mrs. Skywalker's legendary Sabbac face rarely betrayed
her innermost thoughts, Sylar mentally analyzed the former Senator's
every facial nuance as Padmé read over her resume from a data pad.
Thankful the plush Greccan office chairs were as comfortable for her
more stout physique as it was for her petite, potential new boss, she
waited patiently for her interview to begin, her hands folded neatly
in her lap. With a few notable missteps in her own past, she felt she
needed to have her best interview ever in order to get the job more
coveted than working for the Supreme Chancellor himself.

Anything associated with the Skywalker's was simply the "it" place to
be.

Only a week ago when the Skywalker's finally returned from Naboo
after a four month sabbatical, word leaked out that the Vice Chair's
staff was assembled except for an official spokesperson for her
office. That job title would also include press secretary and
advisor, something Sylar had more than a little experience in. Her
years working in the high courts, dealing with the daily insanity
that was the HoloNet press while keeping her mouth shut about things
rather left unsaid publicly garnered her a great deal of support as
well as criticism that her bluntness wasn't wanted in a male
dominated society.

She couldn't have cared less. In many ways she felt that society was
a big part of the problem to begin with.

Tall for a humanoid woman, the robust figure she was proud of despite
it not resembling what passed for a model these days never held her
back. Her fair complexion, courtesy of her mother for sure irked her
more at times. She bruised so easily. The short, conservative style
with which she wore her silver hair gave her an almost regal
appearance, as did her vibrant blue eyes. And if that didn't work the
strength of her voice and no-nonsense approach to dealing with
matters went a long way in giving her presence.

But her, ahem, three arrests in the last four years had cautioned
many who would hire her. And when you add in those looking for women
in their staff to "perform" certain duties not taught in college,
those who were so conscious of public opinion they had to
disassociate themselves from a person with a slightly imperfect legal
past, and those who had wanted to see her fail to begin with had left
her job options limited.

So when she was contacted as a top candidate for a position in Vice
Chair Skywalker's administration to say she was shocked would be the
understatement of the millennium. But lo and behold, here she was.

Sylar was both confident and terrified at the same time. But at least
she didn't look terrified.

"It says here," Padmé began, seated behind her massive black-marble
desk designed to convey power more than her preferred understated
decor, "That your first arrest was for speeding outside repulser
permitted lanes of traffic."

While certainly not the opening topic Sylar would have hoped to
discuss, she dealt with it head on. "I was late for a dinner party.
My husband's brother was announcing his engagement, and I lost track
of time. I was detained more for my rather angry tirade than the
actual speeding. I tend to fly as fast as the ship will go at times."

That reminded Padmé of a certain beloved Jedi of hers. "Your next
arrest came when your purse was searched at a security checkpoint,
and it was discovered you were carrying a illegal narcotic. Please
explain that?"

Sylar sought to make her point crystal clear. "I can assure you I am
not now and have never abused drugs of any kind, although I have
angered a great deal of jerks with power and influence. I was set up
by a one of Palpatine's lower level flunkies when I learned of
certain court judges accepting bribes to fix cases. I wanted to go to
the HoloNet with a list of names, but was threatened. The drug arrest
was a warning. The next time I was told I would receive my husband's
eyes in the mail."

All too aware of threats against one's life and family, as well as
the lower level corruption Palpatine not only allowed, but supported
gave Padmé a less than black-and-white view of things. Sylar's story
could be checked out, but she had a sense... and this was through her
ever growing ability to immerse herself in the Force, that this woman
was honorable in her intentions. "All members of my staff will be
randomly drug tested, including myself."

"I understand."

Padmé continued, "Your last arrest, the one that cost you your job
was when you attacked..."

"Punched once, and he had it coming," Sylar's voice rose until she
took hold of professionalism. Padmé seemed unaffected, thankfully
enough. An outburst was the last thing she needed in a job
interview. "He was cheating on his wife and expected me to lie for
him to her and the press. When I refused he called me a name I'd
rather not repeat, and I lost my temper. Stupid people tend to anger
me. Especially dishonest, stupid people."

"I have a low tolerance for that as well. Unfortunately, in our line
of work, you will encounter them at an alarming rate."

"Mrs. Skywalker, may I be frank?"

Padmé, still getting used to hearing her real name, smiled
accordingly, "Of course."

"You and your ridiculously handsome husband," Sylar announced out of
the blue, grinning as that seemed to charm her interviewer, "Have
utterly defied the word forbidden at every turn in ways that make my
little mishaps seem like child's play. I would like to stand on my
previous job history and recommendations as the true judge of what I
am capable of and my character."

"And you shall, but I needed to discuss the other things, not to hold
them against you, but to gauge in person what really happened, why,
and how they affected you."

"I lost my job."

"Working for me could make you lose your life," Padmé pointed out,
and then as calmly as one could imagine she retrieved a blaster from
her desk drawer and laid it down on the desk top. Her eyes locked
with Sylar's. "Do you know how to shoot a blaster?"

Submerging a mild smirk, Sylar replied, "I normally use the bigger
variety, but I can fire anything with a trigger."

"Good, because with the numerous attempts made against my life, my
families countless enemies, and those who have even threatened my
children(,) there is a very good chance you will need to use this to
save your own life, and perhaps others. That's not tough talk but
reality where I am concerned."

Your boss couldn't get any blunter than that. Sylar's respect for
Padmé grew exponentially "I don't scare easy."

"I like that."

"Mrs. Skywalker, I'm getting the sense I was chosen for this job for
reasons other than my previous credentials. Am I right?"

"Partially," Padmé said. "While you are more than qualified for the
job, the insanity and danger surrounding my life at this present time
and for the foreseeable future requires someone prepared to deal with
anything. Someone with the utmost character and convictions. Someone
savvy enough to sail the dirty waters of Coruscant's cold political
world while remaining as clean as possible."

"I don't mind getting my hands dirty." Sylar watched Padmé nod,
seemingly pleased. "With the controversy of your marriage, your
children's potential, the upcoming Senate Trials, and your hiring of
an ex-mercenary/bounty hunter as your new chief of security you've
set yourself up for ridicule and second-guessing. The sheer amount of
people worried about another Palpatine regime are growing in numbers.
And their trust in the Jedi is shaken to say the least. While your
marriage to some might resemble a romantic fairy tale it could easily
become a public nightmare."

"The duty to the people in reforging trust and belief that the
Republic still equally and fairly represents them is our chief
priority. I won't compromise doing the right thing for fear of my
public approval rating, I can assure you of that," Padmé
stated. "Supreme Chancellor Organa has taken office without the
executive powers Palpatine abused for years, so that in itself is a
step in the right direction. I won't disrespect your intelligence by
hiding the fact that Master Kenobi's addition to the administration
is for his stature with the people as much as his ability to perform
his duty. We are struggling to rebuild the trust between the Senate
and the Jedi Order. That will take time, and the upcoming Senate
trials as you noted won't aid in that regard."

Sylar considered as much, having followed the Holonet's previews of
the trial for the past couple of weeks. "So I can assume information
will be revealed that will further damage the people's trust in the
Jedi?"

Padmé chose her words carefully. "When Jedi Master's Masters' Yoda
and Windu are called to the witness stand to testify before the
entire galaxy certain unfavorable information will come to light.
Only a united front with the Jedi, Supreme Chancellor, the Vice
Chair, and the Senate standing side by side will offer the people
hope that a new age has begun. But to get there a lot of ugliness and
mistakes on all sides will be made public."

Sylar thought things carefully, understanding what Padmé had said,
and what was left up to interpretation. "You guys are really screwed."

Enjoying her blunt personality already, Padmé acknowledged, "Yes, we
are. The road ahead is paved with danger and uncertainty. That is why
I need someone who can see through the garbage and keep our focus in
the public on the issues and not the insanity of my personal life. I
want someone up on that podium able to withstand the pressure of
questions defaming my character, my ability to lead, my marriage, and
even the right to have the post I was given. Behind closed doors I
need the straight talk-advice to deal with a world I admit is a bit
out of my element. In the past I never cared about my so call public
persona. Now I have too. The stakes are bigger, and I am dealing in a
world that won't conform to what I want it to be, so I have to
survive in it to accomplish my goals. I expect success as it is the
only acceptable outcome."

"I can tell this position will come with endless criticism, working
horribly long hours, defending outright lies, spinning bad press,
shouts of corruption, possible threats against my life, and a likely
attempt or two."

Padmé settled back into her chair, her hands in her lap. "What do you
think?"

"Sounds like fun." At that very moment Sylar looked toward the
office's entrance, catching sight of the dashing Anakin Skywalker
striding in toward his wife. In his hand was a steaming cup of
something Padmé obviously loved as she took it from his hands, drank
a bit, and sighed happily. Her smile was his reward. He bent next to
her ear, whispered something that curled her lips, and then pressed a
kiss to her temple before standing behind her.

"Milady," Anakin offered a polite bow of respect to his wife's guest.

"Master Skywalker," Sylar acknowledged despite a quickening of her
heart. Mercy, even at her mildly advanced age this man had such a
powerful presence about him that could make a woman stumble her
words.

"Ani, this is Sylar Vein," Padmé introduced. "She's interviewing for
the position of official spokesperson for my office."

"I vaguely remember you mentioning something about her this morning
over breakfast." Blue eyes met the same from across the desk. "It's
nice to meet you, Sylar. I hope my presence is not disturbing."

"Hardly," Sylar noted a bit too fondly, now fending off a mild blush.
Willing her professionalism back in place, she felt it was time to
give them her interpretation of what was to come. "Padmé, Anakin, I
feel that if I am to represent the office of the Vice Chair, to some
small extent I may be considered your spokesperson as a couple. I'm
not asking for that job, only hoping that you see how many might not
differentiate between my duties."

Sighing, Padmé offered, "While I would like to keep my personal life
just that, I am not naive to the public's perception. From time to
time I would like the luxury of knowing someone is in place to speak
for us if we choose not too. Would that be adding more than you are
willing to take on?"

"I see no problem with that," Sylar replied. "And it would aid you
both, but you in particular Padmé in providing a consistent voice if
one person represents you publicly."

Feeling through the Force for a sense of this woman's character,
Anakin found an inner toughness glimmering around a deeply held sense
of justice. No wonder Padmé was so enamored with her. "How bad do you
think things are going to get once Padmé takes office?"

Sitting slightly forward, Sylar minced no words. "However bad you
think it will be, magnify that by ten," she spoke her mind. "Naboo
considers Padmé royalty, and by extension you and her children. The
luxury of hiding among people who adore you won't be indulged here.
Padmé will never be truly trusted again as she has so much power and
wealth that she will be perceived differently. Her marriage to you
will forever remind people that she can lie and keep secrets for
years if it suits her purposes. Now what I just said wasn't fair, but
what you're going to see is that everyone will have an opinion on
everything you both do and say. You will need to be seen doing the
work of the people and staying out of trouble as much as you can.
"You should probably curtail your HoloNet watching as the insanity
can play tricks with your head after while. Expect to be followed
everywhere and have pictures taken of you when you least expect it.
Don't make public statements that aren't prepared in advance. I'm
sorry, but your former lives are over. You will now play by the rules
of an institution older than all of us that will outlive us. The good
you both can and will do will be placed under a microscope, debated
and ripped apart for even a hint of something to bring you down.
That's how it is on Coruscant. One day you're the media's darlings.
The next, there's a Norsa witch hunt out for your blood."

Noting his wife's immense weariness over the busy last couple of
days, Anakin began gently rubbing her tired shoulders. She leaned
back against his soothing touch. "We'd best thicken our skin then."

"Try titan-paristeel," Sylar joked before turning serious once
more. "To sum everything up, expect criticism to a degree you've
never faced before, but remain mindful of the reason why you were
given the duties you have. Other than that we deal with each day as
it comes. You can trust that I am ready for anything and will not
fail either of you, nor the office of the Vice Chair of the
Republic."

Padmé tapped one well-manicured finger over the data pad's screen;
she then nodded knowing she was justified in her choice. This was the
right person for the job, daunting as it was. "Mrs. Vein, you're
hired. Welcome aboard."

Things were certainly going to be interesting and exciting from now
on, Sylar thought to herself as she rose from her chair. At least
this time she was working for someone who already had her utmost
respect. She extended her hand to Padmé, who did the same. "Thank
you, Mrs. Skywalker. I won't fail you."

"Of that I am sure." After a gentle squeeze, Padmé released Sylar's
hand. "As for now, go down the hall and make a left at Sabé's office.
My new chief of security will prepare your entrance code-keys and
assign you a office and private sky dock. We're holding my first
staff meeting in four days at 22 standard hours, room 566."

Exhaling finally as she had won the day, Sylar bowed before making
her exit. "Thank you again, milady. I'll see you then. Master
Skywalker," she noted in passing.

Offering a gentlemanly goodbye of his own, Anakin returned his
attention back to his angel, her eyes shut while seated back in her
chair. He resumed his relaxing massage of her slender shoulders,
sensing how the long trip home and the nonstop work she's put in have
drained even her vast reservoirs of strength. Taking care of two
infants, no matter the additional help, as well as coordinating her
office, hiring her staff, and all of that being done on very little
sleep has him worried. "Let me take you home, love? Surely your day
is done."

As nice as that sounded, Padmé couldn't leave just yet. "I have five
data pads worth of official paperwork to fill out and Sabé wants to
go over this floors new security protocols again. Apparently she's
made even more changes."

"If it protects you and our family, then so be it," Anakin said while
brushing the pads of his thumbs over the back of her neck, massaging
away the ache he felt there. Her moan probably wasn't meant to be
sensual, but the sound alone had that sort of effect on him. His
wife's slow rising smirk told him she'd picked up on his reaction. He
suddenly felt young at his arousal being so open to her.

"I promise I won't be here much longer, Ani," she yawned. "I need
dinner and my babies."

"And your dear husband?" he teased.

"Yes, always," she smiled while adoring his tender care.

Through the connection they shared in the Force, Anakin was in tune
with her feelings and state of mind. While dedicated and focused, she
was exhausted beyond words and in desperate need of sleep,
relaxation, and fun. With her entire family on Coruscant for her
coronation ceremony in six days his mind began mulling a most devious
plot... one he had to shield from Padmé as she'd probably find a way
to disagree.

But she needed to get away.

And with so much to come for them both professionally and personally,
he began forming a plan that he'd need help with, but was sure to
help Padmé unwind and let her hair down.

His smile grew mischievous. "Love, I'm going to head home now. I have
some things to do. But when you arrive I will have your favorite
dinner prepared, and we will fly above the city tonight and toast to
our good fortune. How does that sound."

He was sweet as she loved him so. "Like I am cared for by the most
wonderful man in the universe."

"Jedi Master, you mean."

"You just love hearing me acknowledge that, don't you?"

"No, not just you," he whispered before kissing her lightly, cupping
her soft cheek, and then departing with a secret agenda.

******

******

"The Perseverance"
Vice Chair Skywalker's Private Spacecraft
Late evening
Flying through Coruscant's upper atmosphere above Galactic City

Soaring through the hazy cloud cover above the megatropolis that was
Galactic City, the Perseverance burst through the atmosphere at a
blazing rate of speed. The pre-set piloting computer logged onto an
auto-navigated cruising route, flying a breathtaking path over the
capital of the Republic as the starship's two occupants lounged
inside.

Of all the astounding qualities Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker
possessed, and there were many, Padmé's respect for his architectural
abilities concerning starships grew exponentially when he redesigned
her new private starship with a glorious bedroom that catered to her
every whim. And while far from a diva, Mrs. Skywalker was a woman who
knew what she wanted. It was a great thing to have a husband who
glorified in giving it to her.

Lying back on the comfortable king-sized bed, an ice cream drenched
ruby-red Blessberry fruit dangled just above her mouth, Padmé sighed.
Her lips parted to bite into the treat, only to see it gently sway
backwards. Before she could utter a word of protest the fruit began
its journey towards her lovely mouth once more only to dart away at
the last moment. His delight in teasing her with the Force was going
to get him in so much trouble someday. "I'm not at all amused, Master
Jedi."

Caressing the soft heels of her feet, rested in his lap, a knowing
grin crossed Anakin's face. "Whenever I annoy you these days you call
me Master Jedi. Why is that?"

"Surely you've answered your own question, kind sir. Now would you
please do me the honor of giving me my treat before it begins
dripping all over me?"

"I'd lick it off for you."

"Ani, please." The berry slowly descended to her lips. She bit it out
of mid-air with her teeth, her tongue lapping the ice cream before
devouring the fruit whole. Sighing happily, she nestled into the cozy
warm comforter while thoroughly enjoying her foot massage.

Upon arriving home three hours later than she intended she found the
Luke and Leia fed, changed, bathed, and already asleep. Giving both a
dear kiss she was promptly whisked inside the refresher, given a long
hot bath by her adoring husband, and then led to their starship.
Jobal and Sola arrived to watch the children while they took off for
some much needed alone time.

If only Padmé knew just how long that would be, Anakin secretly noted
to himself. "Are you feeling better, angel?"

"Infinitely," was her sincere reply. Her eyes fluttered shut, resting
peacefully after a very long day. Again she thanked the Force for
blessing her with such foot massaging abilities. "This was exactly
what I needed. Thank you so much, love. You are so good to me."

If she only knew how those words gave him such sustenance. He lived
for them. "There were so many nights I wasn't around to take care of
you," he began, and then amended, "I don't mean that you needed
taking care of in the sense that you couldn't do things for yourself.
Only the things a husband does for his wife I wasn't around to do. I
hated being away from you so much. I guess I'm trying to make up for
lost time."

"It goes both ways, Ani. You were off fighting a war with no loving
words to take to bed with you each night. No soft touch or passionate
kiss to remind you of how adored you are. I too feel the need to take
care of you." She laughed to herself, "Even now, I still sometimes
wake up in the middle of the night surprised you're there. So much
has changed in the last four months so fast, but it can't erase the
last three and a half years."

"Nothing could," Anakin acknowledged, firmly massaging one foot, and
then the other to her immense enjoyment. "We can't change the past,
but we can create new memories each day until some time in the future
the good so outweighs the bad we barely think about it anymore."

"That's a commitment I am in perfect agreement with."

"I'm happy to hear that." With the numerous touring speedervans and
small private shuttles cruising their own pre-set courses, Anakin
hoped the angled shift in their starships direction would go
unnoticed. Alas, his angel was so tired she didn't seem to be paying
attention to anything except his tender care. For that he was most
grateful. "Next week begins a new chapter in our lives."

Padmé hummed when she nodded, delighting in the foot massage she was
receiving. "I'll be taking the oath of office and then two days later
you leave for a two week mission with Master Windu. Three weeks after
that the Senate Trials will begin."

"True, but I meant more personally for us." Anakin rested his hands
over the tops of her feet, drawing her attention. "We've only gotten
a taste of how things are going to be for us from now on, Padmé. We
won't be able to go anywhere anymore without HoloNet cameras
following us. We're going to be in the news a great deal and face all
that entails. Trips to the park with our children with have to be
very well planned in advance. And our schedules don't mesh well at
all."

"So you're saying things won't be easy?"

Her whimsical tone of voice conveyed it all. "As if we are used to
any other way to live, I suppose."

"We shall manage, love. We always do. Our adjustment from what was to
what will be will happen naturally as it does to everyone else. I
still wouldn't trade the now for the former no matter what." Suddenly
Padmé felt the starship pick up a great deal of speed. Sitting up,
now very alert, she felt the starships main engines come online. They
weren't in use unless deep space travel was necessary. "Anakin,
something's wrong."

She shot off the bed towards the cockpit faster than he could catch
up with her, "Padmé, wait."

Taking the pilots chair, she checked the navigational computer, only
to find a pre-set course plotted along a tourists' path over Galactic
City. It was programmed to loop that route three times before
launching towards a Hyperspace ring. "Our ship's been tampered with.
The controls have an unspecified location off Coruscant locked in,
but a course is well plotted."

Steeling himself for what was to come, Anakin gently rested his hands
on Padmé's slender shoulders, slowly turning her around to face him.
He leaned over her as the lack of shock or worry in his expression
told her volumes. "Just hear me out."

"What did you do?"

Her voice rose with accusation. That wasn't a good sign. Swallowing
hard, he began the speech he had prepared in his head all evening
long. "As I said a moment ago, next week our lives are going to
change forever. And ever since we returned from Naboo you've been
working non-stop in preparing our home and your office security for
our family, hiring your staff, and spending whatever free time you
have with your parents and Sola. But we have had very little time for
ourselves, love. And while I love Luke and Leia with all my heart and
soul, I could use a little time away from diapers, crying, spitting
up, burping, and lack of sleep. I bet you could too."

Anakin smiled that devilish grin of his.

Padmé fumed.

Anakin swallowed hard again. "I have worked tirelessly the last
couple of hours arranging for us... uhm... a small three-day vacation
all alone."

"How could you do this behind..."

His hands rose defensively. "Please here me out. I have talked things
over with your parents and Sola. They are going to stay with the
babies at our apartment with Sabé. Ben's going to be stopping by and
keeping a watchful eye over them. Our children are well taken care
of. But we need to take care of ourselves as well. We need to spend
some time alone for a few days and just be together, away from
everyone because I have no idea of when we will be able to do that
again, if ever."

"I did not consent to this."

Her brows rose and her jaw tightened, a clear sign he was in deep
trouble. "I am trying to gain your consent now. I want us to have
some fun and relax and just be married without children for a few
days. That's all. We will never be out of contact with your family,
Sola, or Obi-Wan. Artoo is with us, and we have the best coded
frequency that cannot be hacked or traced. Secondly, before you worry
about tabloids and our identities, Sabé already secured us a place to
stay and fake identifications for when we arrive. Dormé has donated
civilian clothes for us to wear and where we're going, well, it's
pretty much the last place any of us would be expected to go." After
thinking about it a moment, he conceded, "Okay, the last place anyone
would expect you to go."

Padmé wondered if her husband could see actual steam rising from her
head. She calmly took his hands off her shoulders and then stood to
her full height; again silently cursing it was still nothing compared
to his. "I suppose you think this is romantic?"

"Well, you haven't shot me yet. That's got me a little hopeful."

"My blaster's on the bedside table. Shall I retrieve it?"

Feeling as though he wasn't getting anywhere, Anakin called out for
R2 to come in. He had a back-up plan in case his argument fell on
death ears. "Perhaps your mother can convince you of my good
intentions."

Artoo rolled into the cockpits entrance and then beamed a holographic
image of Jobal. "Dear, I know you're angry and annoyed with your
husband. Expect that often in marriage, but also understand where
this is coming from. Anakin knows you best, has seen how hard you
have worked, and how much effort it takes to take care of infant
twins. His only wish is to whisk you away somewhere you can have fun
and embrace Padmé the woman for a time. The Vice Chair and the Mother
are always a part of you, but time away from it all with the one you
love is a necessary aspect of marriage. Go and have a great time.
Don't shoot him, okay? I love you and will see you in three days.
Stop scowling, dear. Goodbye."

Slightly peeved her mother could anticipate her every reaction,
Padmé's scowl drifted away. Seizing the moment, Anakin drew her into
his strong arms, nuzzling the side her neck until she made that
little happy noise he loved so much. "You are still in big trouble,
Ani."

"I know."

"And I am still not certain this is a good idea."

"I know."

"But I must admit time away with you sounds wonderful. And I could
use some fun in my life that doesn't include spit up on my clothes."

"I know," he laughed.

Suddenly it dawned on her the one question she hadn't asked
yet. "Ani, where are we going?" His Sith-like smirk spoke of a great
mischief
he'd undertaken. "Talk. Now."

"Its an exclusive resort... of sorts."

"Go on."

"It has an extraordinary skyline, and uhm..."

His stuttering was evidence enough he just didn't want to come right
out and say it. She followed his line of vision until she saw the
Hyperspace ring attaching to their starship. "Anakin!"

"It's too late to turn back now," he smiled as an intense burst of
speed sent his back hurtling into the wall. "Trust me. We're going to
have a great time."

Jobal's words chanted in Padmé's mind. Don't shoot him. Don't shoot
him. Don't shoot him.

******

******

"The Perseverance"
Vice Chair Skywalker's Private Spacecraft
Quickly approaching Cloud City
The planet Bespin

Upon breaking the gaseous planet's upper atmosphere, Padmé instantly
recognized the silver disk-shaped city hovering above an
extraordinary skyline. "Cloud City?" escaped her lips in an
incredulous gasp. Anakin's seemingly amused smirk had no such effect
on her. "That place is a haven for criminal activities, excessive
gambling, strip clubs that cater to far more tastes than just the
removal of clothing, illegal smuggling, drug trafficking, fights to
the death, starship theft, and..."

"Fun, angel," he interjected before hurtling their starship along
Cloud City's tourist trajectory route. "Cloud City might have its
sinful element, but no more than Coruscant's lower levels. For one
thing it doesn't pretend to be something it's not. This is the
entertainment capital of the galaxy, and we're going to enjoy the
debauchery of it all."

"I don't particularly find mingling with the criminal element fun."

"Then why are you working in the Senate?" Her appalled expression
evolved slowly into a mildly proud smirk at his teasing. "We're going
to have a great time, Padmé. We're going to gamble at a casino,
something I know you have never done. We're going to eat at some very
nice restaurants like a normal couple, albeit undercover. We're going
to tour the incredible inner atmosphere of Bespin. We're going to
enjoy the sights and sounds of this vibrant, exciting city without
the HoloNet's prying eyes, crying babies, or the expectations that
come with who we are."

Searching her warm brown eyes, Anakin added, "And you are going to
have the time of your life, Mrs. Skywalker." Wearing a petulant pout
of sorts, her arms crossed as she gazed over the horizon.

"We'll see."

It was a start at the very least. Anakin gratefully accepted it while
navigating the starship towards its destination.

Magnificent in design and technological ingenuity, Cloud City hovered
some fifty-nine thousand kilometers from Bespin's core via massive
B/I repulsorlift generators, with sixteen pairs of massive Novaldex
G47 tractor beam generators powering the city. A gigantic wind tunnel
made up the center of the city, anchoring it in place when intense
windstorms threatened. Its population numbered around five and a half
million, not including droids. Stretching some ten miles in diameter,
some structures ascended eleven miles high in the sky. While
officially a mining colony built by the late Corellian eccentric Lord
Ecclessis Figg many years ago to extract rare Tibanna gas from the
world's interior, the true allure of Cloud City laid in its freedom
as an exclusive, anything goes city where fortunes were made and lost
every minute of every standard day.

From the exceptionally wealthy to those who hustled on the streets of
the lower levels, Cloud City catered to everyone. Luxurious
hotel/casino's like the Yerith Bespin and the Pair O'Dice among
others drew the rich and powerful with credits to spare, while
similar to Coruscant the lower levels offered cheap motels, bars,
nightclubs, sports gambling, speeder-bike racing, fighting arenas,
shipyards, and stores that literally sold anything one could imagine.
The industrial loading docks were known for their underworld
activities, and mostly avoided if one wasn't into that sort of thing.

The party never stopped, the law be damned, as the code of Cloud City
was just don't get caught.

Anakin had to admit, albeit it silently, the lawlessness appealed to
him. There was a raw, reckless attraction to Cloud City he felt would
force Padmé to let her hair down and enjoy some of the darker
pleasures of life. She needed an experience like this where the rules
were off the table, and she wasn't expected to be the good girl for
once.

Suddenly the hailing beacon flashed red, signaling Anakin that the
Perseverance had been picked up on radar. Flipping a console switch,
the ship's long golden wings folded down and inward, tucked
discretely beneath the ship. A new pointed nose tip extended from the
front of the craft, while panels all over the starship began to
darken into a bronze coloring as the ship itself took on a whole
different appearance. It was just another of his new designs geared
to give Padmé every advantage possible.

((THIS IS CLOUD CITY SKY PATROL OFFICER XLES REQUESTING YOUR
IDENTIFICATION AND LANDING PERMIT))

Anakin switched on the intercom. "Cloud City Sky Patrol, this is
Andros Zar piloting the EverLast. My wife, Pilar, and I are visiting
Cloud City and will be staying at the Pair O'Dice Hotel. Our landing
permit is AZQWWWE-1998 and our sky dock reservation code is
000955687. Please reply."

From the right side of their starship, Padmé saw three single-wing
pod shuttles tailing them, no doubt awaiting orders on if they were
hostile
or not. Still, she held her peace and let Anakin handle things... for
now.

((STARSHIP EVERLAST, YOUR LANDING PERMIT AND SKYDOCK RESERVATION
CODES HAVE BEEN CLEARED. PLEASE ATTUNE YOUR NAVIGATION COMPUTER TO
FREQUENCEY 000175 AND DO NOT DEVIATE FROM YOUR PRESENT COURSE.
WELCOME TO CLOUD CITY.))

"Thank you." Grinning wildly as the city's incredible interior came
into view, Anakin caught Padmé's awe at the amazing impression that
Cloud City made. Jury-rigged shuttles, air taxis of all shapes and
sizes, luxury sky-vans, and various other kinds of transports criss-
crossed the skies in a far less organized manner than on Coruscant.
Perfect. Taking manual control again, he remained on course to the
hotel, but zipped and whirled around other ships for the thrill of
it.

Out of the corner of his eye he recognized Padmé attempting to hide a
smile as she was amused by him showing off his piloting
skills. "Enjoying yourself is allowed, my love."

"To do that would validate your devious plot."

"Is it such a devious plot when I sought only to please my Angel?"

"We shall see," noted most tongue in cheek as she had to admit being
alone with him was lifting her spirits. And while she adored her
children, a few days minus having to worry about them began to look
very enticing. And she couldn't deny that Cloud City did have a
certain daring flair.

Before reaching the hotel the route took them past towering spires of
spotless white and chrome. Padmé recognized the classical Alderaanian
architecture, while Anakin noted the lower levels below. Called Port
Town, the seedy, crime-ridden area Cloud City was well documented as
a place one could find trouble day or not. Up ahead were the
administrative offices, Grissom Race Track, the winding maze-like
Ugnaught tunnels that ran through the metropolis, and the service
sector where maintenance crews, security forces, cloud car taxi
drivers, doctors and hospital staff, and others were stationed.

Cloud City made quite the impression as the Pair O'Dice Hotel towered
in the distance. A shimmering glass high-rise with the casino itself
a floating starship circling the hotel was just ahead. Anakin
ascended their starship five miles high while the navigation computer
pointed out their reserved sky dock. Once he found it he swiveled the
ship into position, set down the landing gear, and then switched off
the engines.

Turning to his wife, Anakin reached for her small hand, caressing it
between his. "Trust me. We're going to have a great time."

"This is..." she began a bit hesitantly. "This is pretty far from
what I am used too."

"That is why you're going to have so much fun." Gracing her with a
pleased expression, he lifted her hands to his lips, kissing
it. "Dormé packed enough civilian clothing for us for the entire
trip, including a couple of things Sabé picked out for you
specifically she wouldn't show me."

"Oh dear," Padmé nearly blushed as she was well aware of Sabé's
untamed attitude about clothing in general. "What about credits?"

"I made a modest withdrawal of fifty thousand credits."

Padmé's eyes widened. "Modest? That's a small fortune."

"When will we have three whole days all to ourselves without the
children where we can go out in public, do whatever we want, and not
have to worry about the Jedi Order or the Senate?"

All things considered, Padmé had no rebuttal at all. "I see your
point. Let's go."

Anakin escorted Padmé to the back of the starship and then pointed
out the three bags that were for her. He quickly disengaged R2 from
his recharging port, and then began changing clothes himself. Having
removed only his tunic, he found himself unable to look away when
Padmé tore off her top.

"Ani, you're staring."

"You're half naked and lucky I'm not pouncing on you right now."

His obvious desire never ceased to amaze Padmé; the once demure girl
who could barely make eye contact with a boy in her youth. Looking
through the things Dorme and Sabe selected for her, she chose a form-
fitting beige bodysuit, and then slipped into a black cloak that
matched the one Anakin now wore. "Are you sure this will be enough to
fool people?"

While attaching his lightsaber to the dark pants he wore beneath his
cloak, Anakin nodded. "Who in their right mind would suspect the Vice
Chair of the Republic and her Jedi Master husband to be vacationing
on Cloud City without an armed escort? Who would ever imagine you
would come to a place like this? Between our civilian clothing, a few
other tricks, and the fact that I will be projecting the Force in a
confusing manner to those around us will shield our identity. It's
not like we're going to be broadcasting our identities or trying to
make friends. We're here to have fun and that's all. We'll be fine. I
promise."

The bright lights and lawless atmosphere seemed electric, despite
Padmé's misgivings. "I'm going to hold you to that."

"Milady," Anakin whispered when he invaded her personal space, his
arms snaking around her, "I'm going to do a whole lot more than hold
you when we reach our hotel room."

Gently pushing him away with a laugh in her heart, Padmé pulled the
cloak over her head. "I am not yours to simply take when you choose,
Master Jedi." She watched him grab their bags while giving her a look
that practically screamed possessiveness. Her body felt the pure heat
of his gaze.

The duo, with R2 in tow, exited the starship onto the windy sky dock
and were immediately greeted by a four-armed Furrian hotel
representative and two security guards. They presented the Visa's
Sabé created for them and were kindly escorted inside the massive
hotel.

Excess to the extreme best described the immaculate golden interior
of the Pair O'Dice Hotel. Various alien races hailing from so many
distant worlds Padmé soon lost count graced the first floor in some
of the most outlandishly colorful attire she had ever seen. Aquatic
musicians suspended in oval tanks of water played on a floating
platform above the front desk. All manner of droids escorted guests
to their rooms, while scantily-clad women offered drinks while you
waited to check in. There was boisterous laughter all around her.
Wall-mounted holo-projectors broadcast HoloNet shows from all over
the galaxy, keeping Cloud City up to date on everything outside it.

Anakin checked them in, retrieved their key-cards, and then led Padmé
and R2 through the crowds towards a massive transparisteel elevator
lodged in the heart of the hotel. They walked inside with twenty-five
other guests, all speaking in diverse alien dialects as the cabin
lifted lightening fast from floor to floor until it reached the 234th
floor.

"We're here." Padmé was off the elevator in a flash after a female
Gorgian offered to sell her death sticks, and when she refused was
offered a... ahem, a indecent proposal. Now brown eyes searched the
holo-projected room numbers until she found 23490. Swiping her key-
card the door swiveled open for her to enter. She noted the white,
synthstone architecture was as Alderaanian as the city itself. Luxury
that spared no expense greeted her in the rooms elegant decor.
Everything was a beautiful white, with a broad curving window
overlooking the city, a small table setting, a jacuzzi, a master
refresher, and a king-sized four post master bed. While far from a
diva, the former Queen in her was very pleased. "Ani, this is
amaz..."

Her words were cut short by the hungry kiss Anakin swept upon her,
his strong arms hauling her off her feet that very moment, stalking
toward the bed. Flashes of sensual heat coursed throughout her body
when he laid her down, covering her with the solid weight of him.
There was no time to think, only to feel... feel the throbbing length
of him pressed against her center... feel the way he ravished her
mouth, as if she were the only sustenance he needed... feel the
liquid arousal pooling between her thighs... the way his hands were
everywhere at once, dragging their clothes off, their kiss broken
only to remove the last of whatever separated their bare skin.

Utterly lost in a steamy kiss for a passionate eternity, caressing
softly, they were rolling all over the bed and each other. Anakin
buried his face in her neck while her fingers combed through his sun-
streaked hair. His lips paid loving homage to the lightly-scented
skin of her neck, grazing tenderly over her pulse before drinking at
the column of her regal throat. As his kisses descended her heart
beat faster and faster in anticipation of the pleasures to come.

Anakin had taken her without warning. Padmé's body submitted without
refute. There were no words here, only erotic emotion. A breathy
warmth fell over a hardened nipple before he firmly cupped his hand
beneath her breast, inhaled the peak in his mouth, and then drew on
the tip until she writhed beneath him. Her back arched high as a
groan escaped her lips. Unconsciously, her hand held the back of his
head to her breast, reveling in the seductive bliss. Her nipple
hardened between his lips as he suckled her softly at first, and then
the pressure increased until she was purring in elation, her nails
scratching over his scalp. His hand roamed a greedy path over her
chest and abdomen, touching and caressing her all over. His tongue
swept a wet trail over her cleavage before drowning the other nipple
in warm moisture, and then drawing it into his hungry mouth, sucking
powerfully.

Anakin was a master musician, playing a decadent rhythm over Padmé's
willing body. He seemed enchanted by every inch of her, his kisses
now descending her chest to her trembling flat belly. He pressed his
face there, just breathing for a long moment as if to glorify her.
Enjoying the euphoric reaction of his touch, his tongue dashed a long
lick at her naval. She quivered and so he did it again, his hands
braced on her hips to steady her. The little sounds she made left him
so hard it was almost painful not to claim her now, but he swore to
himself he'd take his time driving her mad with lust.

The heady, exotic scent of her arousal wrenched at his senses.
Hovering over the downy, light brown hairs around her glistening pink
flesh, he gave her one long firm lick that saw her hips rise high and
twist. His hands filled with the supple, rounded cheeks of her
gorgeous backside, kneading them, holding her to him. Unable to
resist a second longer, he sealed his mouth over her slick mound, his
tongue swirling like mad. A tortured moan escaped from deep in her
throat, cheering his efforts even as her body shuddered all over. He
draped her slender thighs over his shoulders, dragging his tongue up
and down her so slowly the sensation left her sighing behind closed
eyes. His hands flexed on her backside, squeezing in time with his
absolute feasting of her wetness.

Her backside tensing and releasing in his strong hands, Padmé was
utterly lost in a world of unending pleasure and the sound of her own
heavy
breathing. She could not process a single coherent thought outside of
the wickedness going on between her legs. She felt exalted, being
sucked on like a ripe piece of fruit, her hand clutching at the bed
sheets, nails digging for purchase. Panting... all she could do was
pant as he held her firmly in place, his tongue sliding over and
around her sensitive clit, causing her body to jerky wildly. She
could hear him, mercy of the Force, she could hear him ravishing her
as if his life depended on it.

Lashing his tongue faster now, Anakin stopped to suckle her swollen
clit at last. Drawing deeply until her hand grabbed at the back of
his head, her thighs clutched around him. Her pelvis twitched
vigorously while he sucked her, and then at last a wincing, choked
cry erupted that sent her body into a series of long, writhing
convulses that looked so blissfully satisfying to him he prayed they
were even better than that.

Padmé's ears popped and then she fell back upon the bed, lax and
beautifully sated. With her eyes still shut, her trembling hand
lightly fell over her
lips. The racing of her heart seemed to slow. A lazy smile adorning
her lips grew when she felt the softest of kisses crawling up her
body until Anakin was kissing her again, deeply. The salty tang on
his tongue and the glistening stickiness on his face were her marks
of ownership. She loved the solid, protective feel of his body
covering hers.

"I love you, Ani," she whispered over his lips while wrapping her
legs around his torso. The tip of him begged entrance and then thrust
forward deeply inside her, causing her eyes to roll as he filled her
so completely. "... love you so much."

"Angel," he moaned in a half-growl after that first piercing
thrust, "My angel," sighed quietly into her ear after a second deep
thrust that forced her arms around his neck, "Mine," chanted over and
over as his hips began delving steadily, pulsing inside her clinging
depths.

Her nails raked over the hard planes of muscle over his back and
shoulders, then descended, now clawing at his firm ass. He was taking
her with such longing, and she was so small beneath him, her teeth
gently biting into his neck after each deep invasion. The bed rocked
accordingly, praising the straining efforts of their churning hips.
She drew his face to her own, devouring his lips with a kiss so
furiously passionate he longed to die inside her. Lunging deeper and
with more purpose now, his knees sank into the bed.

"Ani... Oh, Ani." Padmé needed this, by the Force, she needed this.
To feel him spreading her flesh asunder, taking her as his own. They
were grinding vigorously, exerting counter pressure, the wanting
union of their bodies colliding frantically.

Anakin made sure the friction over her clit was deliciously hot,
evidenced by her cries of passion. The awe inspiring sight of her
beautiful face flushed with color and faint traces of sweat left him
aching for her. His aggression grew, pounding her into the bed now,
rocking it back against the wall hard. The tight, wet sheath of her
pulled so sweetly around him, even as her body tensed beneath him.
She stiffened, suddenly writhing full body while every muscle in his
body clenched. They came together, grinding and straining mightily,
her face smothered in his neck, whining his name softly as the
feeling of him erupting hard inside her to completion felt so good.

And then there was nothing save the sound of their labored breathing,
slowed peacefully at last.

There were no words spoken because words for what they shared was
unnecessary. Their satisfied, sweat-soaked bodies collapsed around
each other, lying in the quiet freedom of their love, and soon fell
fast asleep from sexual exhaustion.

******

******

Pair O'Dice Starship Casino
The entrance
Three standard hours later
Cloud City, Bespin

In Anakin's keen observation Padmé had never looked more sinfully
delicious... or more desirable than she did tonight. Standing on the
windy deck of the Pair O'Dice casino's starship circling the mammoth
hotel, his stare swept over her slinky, long black dress with the
lace-up sides. From the moment she held up the garment wearing such
an appalled expression that Sabé would pack something so revealing
for her, he taunted her need to forever remain the good girl, modest
and forthright before the eyes of the galaxy.

He actually laughed, rousing her ire that she wasn't daring enough to
step out of herself for an evening. When she was done putting on the
dress all laughter ceased. Her husband's heartbeat did as well.

"Surely," Anakin declared in a husky tone of voice at the scandalous
vision before him, his blue gaze making love to her. "Your heart is
Sith."

Her words were liquid warmth lifted around them. "Do I inspire such
wickedness within you, Master Jedi?"

"You are my reason," he lifted her small hand, curling his fingers
around it, "My passion," spoken as he brought her hand to his lips
for a kiss, "And my worship."

"Good answer." The true beauty was that even after all this time
Anakin could still make her blush. Padmé drank in the sight of his
all black attire, complete with a civilian cloak far different than
his daily Jedi attire. He was gorgeous beyond words, towering over
her with his hair tied back in a ponytail. As for herself, the
revealing dress she wore was easily the most bold, sexy statement
she'd ever made in public. In a strange sort of way the dark straight
strands of her wig aided in feeling as if she could pull this off.

Suddenly, Padmé covered her hand over her mouth, laughing softly
behind it. Anakin circled her, interested in what amused her
so. "What has brought this smile upon my angel's face?"

"My mother would kill me if she knew I was out in public not wearing
underwear," spoken quietly, as if her mother could actually hear her.
The sides of the dress ran from her hip to forever, offering no
doubts as to what she wore beneath, or lack thereof. "I've never done
this before."

"Then we're off to a great start," Anakin was pleased to report,
taking her arm. "This is our time to let go, Padmé. Relax and enjoy
yourself. Absorb this carefree atmosphere. I am with you always, so
don't worry about anything."

"Famous last words," she noted wearing a smirk. "Show me a good time,
Master Jedi."

They made their way toward the casino's entrance. For reasons they
still couldn't quite figure out Padmé was able to sense when Anakin
was manipulating the Force. She felt his mild concentration when he
mentally broadcasted a sense of slight confusion to any who might be
paying close attention to them. What was even more intriguing, she
partly felt she was able to do the same. Perhaps at a later date, she
surmised, they would look into this.

Entering the huge starship casino on the deep red carpet was a sight
to behold. Extravagance greeted Anakin and Padmé as the bright lights
and seductive sounds ushered them inside the massive structure. Padmé
wondered if even the Galactic Senate Hall had ever witnessed such an
amazing selection of alien races all gathered in the same place at
the same time.

Touring the first floor with Anakin, seemingly hundreds of rows of
holo-slot machines spread out in every direction. There seemed to be
no dress code at all seeing as how any manner of dress, or undress
was acceptable. Hover-droids flew above the people carrying drinks,
credits, and food to patrons all over the casino. The lively ambiance
was entrancing; as chatter lifted about them in so many languages one
would be stressed to identify them all. They walked toward twin
Sabbac tables near the center of the first floor, watching intently
while a rather elderly and portly Glorian woman, her normally bluish
skin now a reddish hue as she was concentrating, tried to win a hand.
Apparently her far younger Glorian male counterpart was interested as
well. And when the older woman won big he graced her with a long
kiss.

"Hopefully that kiss was for her and not her winnings," Padmé noted
to Anakin, her hand in his.

"Something tells me his reasons aren't pure."

"I sense that too." When Anakin's curious stare found her she simply
smiled. "Another time."

He understood, guiding her through the boisterous crowds and pit
crews keeping the peace. Suddenly they were stopped at the end of a
row of Rolling Begats tables by a lovely one-eyed Fyriax waitress.
Scantily-clad in red lace she bowed before the guests. "Welcome to
the Pair O'Dice casino. My name is Dalor. Can I get you something to
drink? The house special tonight is Bisesq Wine."

Anakin saw this as a prime opportunity to do something he'd been
meaning to do for years. "Love, can I pick your drink? I've always
wanted to try Ben's favorite but never have. We both could if you're
interested?"

"I must admit I'm curious as to what Ben enjoys in places like these.
Sure, go ahead."

Anakin nodded to the waitress. "We'll have two Outer Rim brandies on
the rocks."

"Very well, sir. Please take this tracking chain." The waitress
draped the slender silver chain around Anakin's neck. "You can
continue enjoying the casino, and when your drinks are ready I will
use it to find you."

"Thank you," Padmé offered before adding ten credits to her data pad.
Tipping the help early always brought about better service.

"Thank you, ma'am."

Anakin watched the Fyriax waitress press a button on her wrist band
and then slowly ascend above them, flying towards the bar on the
second floor. He couldn't help but to want a jet-pack. Yeah, even a
Jedi Master is still a guy. "I gotta get me one of those." Turning
around when he heard Padmé's voice talking to someone, he found her
looking through the inside of a four-armed man's jacket. Attached by
small hooks to the inside of his jacket, there were a vast array of
purses, jewelry, and watches.

While dearly wishing he had a camera, Anakin couldn't help but to
smile.

"Ani, this Alderranian Bless purse costs two thousand credits on
Coruscant," Padmé noted the fine leather material and intricate
design. "This gentleman is selling them for only 200 credits. It's
the deal of a lifetime."

Anakin knew this guy's type. Harmless mostly, but needed to be
watched. "Have you ever heard the term knock-off, Padmé?"

"Kind sir," the very hairy man's high-pitched voice interjected. "I
assure you I only sell the very best name brand products."

While closely inspecting the colorful collection of purses, Padmé
questioned, "How are you able to sell these so cheap?"

When the man's shifty expression seemed to shift a little too
swiftly, Anakin shook his head behind Padmé. All his stuff was
stolen, but oh well. When in Cloud City...

"Dear, our drinks are coming. Buy the purse and let's be off." Anakin
watched over the humorous exchange as Padmé not only purchased the
purse, but jewelry for her mother, sister, Dormé, and Sabé. She
probably paid enough credits to that guy that he could call it a
night.

Their drinks arrived, and when the waitress flew off Anakin and Padmé
prepared to toast the evening as the live band ahead played something
slow and pleasing to the ears.

"To the light of my life," Anakin lifted his drink. "You saved me
from myself."

"To the joy in my life," Padmé lifted her drink to his. "To my
champion." They clinked glasses, took a long pull from their glasses
and both blanched hard at the strong taste. "By the Force, are we
drinking starship fuel!?"

Anakin swore he would have embarrassed himself laughing at what Padmé
said if he had feeling left in his tongue. "I'm going to have to have
a talk with my old friend." Laughing as they were standing there
looking like they couldn't hold their drinks, they walked off while
sipping rather than drinking fully.

Time passed, a flamboyant, fast-talking "'female date coordinator"
offered Anakin and Padmé any of his five "shape-shifting escorts" for
the rest of the evening in any way they might wish. When Padmé
quickly declined the man offered Anakin ten thousand credits to buy
her outright, citing her immense beauty. After the Force-choking
nearly caused him to pass out, wife led husband away before anyone
was killed.

"I have warned you about Force-choking people in public, Ani."

"... never lets me Force-choke anyone," was mumbled under the Jedi's
breath.

"Okay, I just have to try this." Stopping at a Naboo Paradise Jackpot
Holo-slot machine, Padmé finished off her drink and then took a
handful of credits out of her purse. She put one in the mounted slot
and watched the three holographic images rolling in front of her,
stopping at two Naboo starships and a Gungan. "I didn't win."

"Just try again," Anakin said as he sat down at the machine next to
her. They played for the next hour, enjoying various degrees of
winning streaks and losses. The idle chatter of everyone around them
was crazy enough to provide entertainment no matter how the games
went. But it wasn't until the alcohol began to loosen Padmé up a bit
that she became frustrated at having lost ten straight games. "Ani,
this machine seems to not like me anymore."

She sat up straight, her warm brown eyes suddenly serious, staring at
him. "Okay."

"Perhaps you can... enlighten this machine."

For all the years of his life Anakin would he remember the night
Padmé implied he do something slightly illegal. He couldn't mention
it out loud, but the order was understood. "Allow me to aid this
machine in understanding its true purpose, milady." Sparing a look
around them, Anakin calmly waved his hand over Padmé's slot machine.

Depositing another credit, Padmé made the motion on the holographic
lever to pull it and hit three Naboo Queens. Quite poetic in her
estimation. Her winnings were a thousand credits. "This never
happened, Ani." He laughed at her, kissing her cheek just before they
left the area. "Order us another drink. The same one as last time."

"I thought you said it tastes like starship fuel?"

"Yes, but it makes me feel very..." leaning in close, she caressed
the curve of his mouth with a kiss, "Adventurous."

"Waitress!"

There drinks arrived after a rather successful round of Sabbac at the
center tables. Feeling amazingly relaxed tonight, Padmé led them
through the casino, noting the brilliant architecture and design. The
starship casino circled the Pair O'Dice hotel constantly, and yet
graviton motion nodes prevented the guests from feeling as if the
casino was moving at all. Anakin stated how he would love to get a
look at the engines schematics while they enjoyed their drinks.

From Persian Roulette to Desi Craps, they enjoyed giving a go at a
number of different games, never betting too much, but enough to make
the gamble interesting. Anakin refrained from using the Force to win
and was able to amass a nice sum of credits, while Padre hit a couple
more holo-slot machines with success.

"Excuse me, kind patrons," came in a deep baritone over their
shoulders. Anakin and Padmé turned around to find a hunched back
Strotham male with long white hair bowing before them. "Might I
trouble you for a moment?"

"No," Padmé halted any further discussion. "We do not want to buy
death sticks, nor do we want dates for the evening. We do not want to
buy books on tourism in Cloud City, nor do either of us want to sell
the other. I am sorry, but we are not looking for any sort of
criminal credit making opportunity. Thank you."

"My lady, I am Westin and I represent the Galactic Children's Fund."
He produced his Coruscant-licensed identification card to Padmé and
Anakin. "I take donations here since most patrons enjoy a rather
underworld-like lifestyle they are often generous in their donations
to our cause to rid the galaxy of poverty and famine in children. I
was not trying to sell you anything."

"Oh dear." Padmé felt mortified, and after noting his authentic
identification card began offering him each and every credit in her
purse, much to Anakin's amusement. "I am so, so sorry. Please pardon
my manners. I have been drinking this evening and..." He walked off
after she said that, thanking her for the credits. "I'LL DONATE MORE
LATER" she shouted after him, arousing the attention of others around
them. "Okay, no more drinking for me."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Anakin replied, snaking his arm around
her slender waist. "I enjoy you being tipsy. It's a side of you I've
never seen before. In fact I applaud it greatly. Would you like
another drink?"

"I am so going to kick you one day."

"You're going to have to be pretty close to me with those short legs
of yours." He just couldn't stop himself from teasing her, ever aware
of the sensitive issue of her height. He received the evil Padmé head
tilt and pursed look expression.

"You should apologize to me, Pookie."

"That name," he pointed at her, "No longer has any meaning for me."

"It is the name of your true self, given to you by your nieces.
You've only forgotten. I know there's a part of you that likes it.
The alcoholic hasn't driven it from you fully," she smiled at his
mild despair. "And don't point at me again or tease about my legs. If
you still want to feel them wrapped around you in bed I'd try
compliments from now on."

Bending down to her, Anakin gently nudged her lips apart, kissing her
slowly and deeply. "You are the most incredible woman in the galaxy.
I am your humble servant for all time. I love you endlessly."

"That's a nice star..." Padmé was about to say when her eyes caught
sight of something she just knew she couldn't be seeing. A couple
against the back wall of the casino near a darkened corner were
engaged in "aggressive negotiations" They were pressed against the
wall with the female being lifted rhythmically against it by the
male, her head thrown back, a look of ecstasy clearly etched on her
face. "What kind of people do that in public?" she noted in a low
tone of voice, showing Anakin what she saw. The couple were
aggressively having sex up against the wall. "Have they no shame?"

"It's called living in the moment, angel."

"Not to me," Padmé confessed as they walked away, smiling. "But to
each their own, I suppose. As for us, go get me another drink."

"You enjoy ordering me around, don't you?"

"Two words for you. Luke and Leia."

"What does that mean?"

"When you can push something the size of a Lisian watermelon out a
hole the size of a Coruscant quarter you can complain about getting
my drink."

Anakin just stared. "Duly noted." Padmé laughed while watching him
hail another waitress. This was the most fun she's had in ages. She
snuggled behind him, holding him close, and simply breathed.

******

The End of Chapter 1