Liz (amidala_thrace) wrote,
Liz
amidala_thrace

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To Ignite the Stars: Chapter 18 - The Idea of Home

Title: The Idea of Home
Fandom/Pairing: Star Wars/Obidala (Obi-Wan Kenobi/Padmé Amidala)
Previous Chapters: Can be read here.
Characters: Obi-Wan, Padmé, Anakin, Mace Windu
Word Count: 5,959
Rating: NC-17 for a brief sexual scene
Summary: "Home was Coruscant, where the Jedi Temple was located. And now, home for him was wherever Padmé happened to be."
Author's Notes: Yep, it's been awhile. Heh. But here at last is another chapter of TIS, in all its 5,000+ word glory. XD A burgeoning flirtation with BSG, not to mention arguments with my muse over how this chapter should be formatted, are what kept TIS on the shelf for a long time, and so to those of you who have been following this fic I can only express my apologies. (Holy run-on sentence, Batman.) I can say, though, that I don't think anyone will be disappointed at the end of it. Take that direct from Katie, who almost fell off her chair squeeing at me on AIM. And she knew exactly what was coming! XD There's something for everyone: a little politics, a little Obidala fluff, a little Obidala madhawtsex and some Anakin!angst thrown in there for good measure. No journal entry - those will probably be returning next chapter. Enjoy! I won't be nearly so late with the next chapter, I promise.



Home.

He was home.

Of course, Obi-Wan had no idea where his real home was, where he had truly come from. But even if he were to be returned there, he would not think of that place as home.

Home was Coruscant, where the Jedi Temple was located. And now, home for him was wherever Padmé happened to be.

He was quite certain now that she was on Coruscant, though not where their airtaxi would be landing, and the smile on his face confirmed that.

“Excited about seeing someone, Master?” Anakin grinned, nudging Obi-Wan in the ribs.

“Don’t be absurd,” Obi-Wan replied loudly enough for Palpatine to hear. The Chancellor did not appear to be listening in, but Obi-Wan knew that a person could understand much more than they let on. He didn’t want to take that chance. “I’m just glad to be back on Coruscant. Time at the front does wear on one after awhile.”

Anakin sighed and looked a little uncomfortable suddenly. “You have no idea.”

“Anakin …” Obi-Wan paused, wondering how best to phrase his query. “You – you’ve seemed different since the encounter with Dooku. Is there something wrong?”

“No! No, of course not,” Anakin quickly replied. “I just … you know, everything that’s happened today. Palpatine’s kidnapping, the battle, almost losing you, the fight with Dooku, the fact that I had to – well, that I was forced to …”

He trailed off, swallowing hard.

Obi-Wan rested a gentle hand on his companion’s shoulder. “It can’t have been easy for you,” he acknowledged. “None of this has been easy, not for anyone. But you have had to bear a particular burden, and you have done so with grace and humility. No one has the right to ask anything more. You rendered a great service to the Republic today. Every being who calls themselves a citizen is indebted to you.”

“Yeah, but the whole operation was your idea,” Anakin pointed out.

“Let us not forget that you rescued me from the buzz droids,” replied Obi-Wan. “And you killed Count Dooku, and you rescued the Chancellor carrying me unconscious on your back. To top it all off, somehow you managed to land what was left of that ship safely –”

“All because of your training, Master,” interrupted Anakin.

“Anakin, let’s be fair,” Obi-Wan said as the airtaxi juddered to a stop. “Today, you are the hero. And you deserve your glorious day with the politicians.”

Anakin bent his head towards Obi-Wan, watching Palpatine making his way to the door. “And where are you going?” he asked, winking suggestively at his Master.

Obi-Wan blushed. “We promised each other that we would meet at her apartment when I got back. If Padmé has been keeping a close eye on the HoloNet – and knowing her, she has – she’ll have learned that you and I are on-planet. If the press asks, tell them I’ve gone to report to the Council.”

“And if Master Windu asks?”

“He knows. There shouldn’t be any need to lie to him.”

Anakin grinned. “All right, but you owe me,” he said a little more loudly. “And not just for saving your skin for the tenth time.”

“Ninth,” Obi-Wan corrected. “That business on Cato Nemoidia doesn’t – doesn’t count. I’ll see you at the briefing.”

The door swished shut, and Obi-Wan turned to the airtaxi driver. “Five Hundred Republica, please.”

He felt a tingle slither up his spine even as he spoke the words.

***

She would never get out of bed again, not if she had to conduct all further Senate business from her apartment, Padmé had decided. The events of the morning had completely exhausted her, and soon after hearing the news of Palpatine’s kidnapping, she contacted her handmaidens and Captain Typho and requested that she be taken back to her apartment. Once there, she had collapsed into bed.

“M’lady?”

Padmé creaked open one eye. That, at the moment, was all she had the energy for. “Yes, Ellé?”

“So sorry to disturb you, but a strange man just rang the bell of your apartment and said he wanted to hide on your balcony. So … I let him,” the handmaiden said.

“Well – um – that probably wasn’t the wisest decision in the galaxy,” Padmé exclaimed as she bolted out of bed and scrambled around her room, fastening a concealing cloak about herself and snatching a small blaster from her bedside table. Slowly she pushed the door to the bedroom open.

The blaster tumbled from her hand.

“OBI-WAN!” Padmé shrieked.

A moment later, she was wrapped in his embrace.

“Only joking, I knew it was Obi-Wan,” Ellé smiled from behind them.

For a second and an eternity, they held each other, Padmé clinging to Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan massaging her back, stroking her hair, both delighting in the simple comfort of the other’s presence. She found that she could not stop the tears, though she had no idea why she should be crying.

“Padmé, darling,” Obi-Wan whispered, “it’s all right. I’m home, I’m here.” He pulled her close again, resting his chin on the top of her head. “I missed you so much.”

Padmé found her voice at last. “I missed you too,” she murmured into his tunics. “There were whispers … that you’d been killed … I couldn’t – I tried to let go, but I just couldn’t …”

He sighed. “You’re not a Jedi, darling. You shouldn’t be expected or required to let go. I’m sorry if I ever gave you that impression.”

“You didn’t,” Padmé assured him. “I suppose sometimes hanging around with Jedi so much, it rubs off on you.”

“Well, in an ideal galaxy you wouldn’t even have to think about it,” Obi-Wan said. “And I don’t want you to think about it now. I’m fine, I’m here, I’m alive. It’s going to be all right.”

“But you were hurt …” She reached up, lightly fingering the smears of blood on his head.

“Oh, that,” Obi-Wan chuckled. “A friendly parting gift from a certain Sith Lord. Thankfully my head is rather harder than a space cruiser’s walls, or so it would appear.”

Padmé giggled in spite of herself. “Well, I’m glad,” she replied. “The last time you met Dooku, he almost cut your leg off.”

“I’m glad too.”

He found he could no longer restrain himself, and he bent to kiss her. She responded immediately, and fiercely, the soft contact beginning slowly to erase the difficulties of the last months. And again, for that moment, time did not exist, there was only their love and the desire to make up for months of separation with just one kiss.

Then a baby kicked, and Padmé smiled against her partner’s lips, remembering that she had more to celebrate with him than just his return.

Obi-Wan, always sensitive to her moods, smiled as well. “What is it?” he asked.

“I have something to show you,” Padmé whispered.

Slowly she backed away, and reached a hand up to undo the clasp of her cloak. It came away easily and the robe dropped, revealing her swollen belly.

Padmé wished she could have had a holocamera to record the look on Obi-Wan’s face. His expression was at first confusion, then anticipation, then surprise as he saw her fully in profile.

“Is that – are you –?” Obi-Wan gasped.

In answer she smiled, and took his hand, placing it upon her stomach. Almost as if she had willed it to happen, one of the children kicked again, and again, so hard that Obi-Wan’s hand was momentarily dislodged.

Padmé!” he cried, and she could tell it was a cry of happiness because next second he had taken her in his arms, grabbed her and twirled her around before kissing her once more as he set her down.

“Twins,” was all she could muster.

That stopped him cold. “Twins? P-Padmé, are you sure?”

“Would you like to see their holopictures?” Padmé said, and for the first time in months, she was glowing with happiness.

“Oh, Padmé.” Obi-Wan kissed her again. She could see tears glistening in his eyes. “That is … absolutely … the most wonderful news I could have come home to. How long have you known?”

“About four months now,” she replied. “I’m almost eight months pregnant, and the medical droid I’m seeing says everything is as it should be. No sign of any trouble with the pregnancy, and the children are very healthy.”

He relaxed visibly at these words. “So – so you’re not in any danger of losing them? I mean … I hate to even talk like that, but …”

“Believe me, the thought occurred to me more than once,” Padmé sighed. “I tossed and turned a lot, wondering what I would do if it happened, wondering if I could cope. But it’s been going fine. I’m a lot more tired than I was with the first, but at least we’re beyond the point at which most miscarriages happen.” She lowered herself onto her couch, massaging her belly softly. “Like or not, the twins are here to stay.”

“Padmé … I’ve been meaning to ask you something for a long time,” Obi-Wan began. He sat next to her, clasping her hand lightly. “I know there are many obstacles to what I’m about to suggest. The war, the Code … but I’ve thought about this. The miscarriage, and being apart from you during the Outer Rim sieges, made me realize that love for you is as much a part of me as my Jedi training. And now, now that we’ve got the children, I think it’s time.”

“Time?” Padmé said, regarding him quizzically. “Time for what?”

She sucked in a breath as he dropped to one knee.

“I – erm, I gather this is the custom on Naboo,” Obi-Wan chuckled nervously. Awkwardly he cleared his throat. Clasped both her hands in his. “Padmé Amidala, will you marry me?”

How she had dreamed of this moment!

How she had dreamed, after her parents forbade her to see him, that he would one day come to love her regardless, and that they would wed. How she had dreamed that he would cook her a romantic supper, and in the middle of it would drop to one knee and declare his undying love. How she had dreamed that they would live with one another after a large wedding, a wedding at which both her parents were present and smiling …

Padmé’s dreams had not included a pregnancy, or that Obi-Wan would leave periodically to fight a war, or that they would go for long periods of time without seeing each other.

But she quickly found that none of this mattered.

“Yes,” whispered Padmé.

Her arms wound around his neck, and the world vanished as they shared another kiss.

***

“You have to leave soon, don’t you,” Padmé sighed. “Again.”

Obi-Wan sighed too. “Yes, at some point I will eventually have to report to the Council. I’d prefer not to press my luck too far, even though they’ve been tolerant.”

She moved over in the bed, pillowing her head against him and delighting in the feel of his soft chest hair against her cheek. “What are they going to say about this, Obi-Wan? Are we even going to tell them?”

“I don’t doubt there will come a time when we can’t avoid it,” Obi-Wan said slowly, “but perhaps we shouldn’t be as hasty. The assassins, the war … I worry about letting many beings know.”

Padmé voiced the concern that neither of them had dared to speak. “What about Anakin?”

“Padmé, I can’t keep it from him. Nor do I want to. We promised each other that we would be honest about our lives, and I’m not prepared to begin lying again. He will just have to … deal with it, I suppose. Nothing about this situation is fair.”

“Tell me about it,” she said bitterly. “I’m happy, I really am, but – we’re still here, we’re still on Coruscant. We can’t just fly home and marry like so many other beings would. I want that life we keep talking about, Obi-Wan. I don’t think I can wait much longer, and I know it’s not fair to either of us … it’s just, I’ve spent four months thinking about this and I don’t want to raise my children in a war zone. I don’t want them to stare out the window every night wondering whether they’ll ever see their father again. I don’t want them to be afraid of lightning wars, and evil. … Am I making sense?” Padmé added hesitantly.

Obi-Wan stroked her hair softly with one hand, draping the other over the swell of her belly. “Of course you are, darling. I want the same things.”

“I just want to marry you and settle down and raise the twins.” Padmé discovered she was near tears. “Maybe be an activist on the side, continue my duties in the Senate if I can. Is that too much to ask?”

He pulled her into a tight embrace, holding her, letting her grieve for the life they should have had. For the life that might still be denied to them if the war continued.

“No,” he said in a tone of voice she’d never heard him use. “No, it’s not. Padmé, look at me.”

She stared up at him, swiping at her eyes.

“Padmé, when the war is over, no matter the result – though I certainly hope it ends in the Republic’s favour – I’m going to resign my commission in the Jedi Order,” Obi-Wan told her.

Padmé sat bolt upright. “No, Obi-Wan, you can’t! You just – being a Jedi is your life, it’s what you were born to do, it’s all you’ve ever known –”

“That’s not true.” Obi-Wan lifted his fingers to stroke her cheek. “You’re right, in a sense. At one point, being a Jedi was all I’d ever known. The Order was my life, it was where I’d grown up, the beings I served with were my family. They still are. But now, I’ve got another family. You and the babies. You can’t replace the Jedi. But neither can the Jedi replace you. I love you all, for different reasons. The Force has given me a gift. It’s allowing me to start over. I want to make the right choices this time.”

“But – but –” She was dumbfounded. “How could you just – you’re giving up your future for me, you’re giving up Anakin … don’t they need you?”

“Of course they need me. But I have given them many years of distinguished service. It’s partly because of that distinguished service that the Council has permitted our relationship to proceed. And the Order … the Order is not changing as quickly as I had hoped it might. Many are still set in the old ways, too determined to conform to tradition. There’s something to be said for striking out, starting something new. And as much as the Jedi need me, there are three people next to me who will need me even more, very soon.” He let out a long, shuddering sigh. “And you’re exactly right. I don’t want my children to grow up without their father, or their mother either. That’s a burden no one should place on a child.”

Padmé paused, trying to gather her thoughts. “It’s not that I’m not happy about this,” she said finally, lying back down. “I am. I just don’t want you to make a decision you’ll regret. I don’t want you to feel as though you’ve had to stop being who you are, just for me. I could never put that on your shoulders. I promised myself when we first fell in love that I would never make you choose between me and the Jedi. That wouldn’t be fair of me, no matter how much I might want it.” She drew in a breath. “What I said to you during my first pregnancy is still true: if you want to walk away, with no regrets, do it. I will grieve for you, but I won’t stand in your way.”

“No, Padmé,” said Obi-Wan simply. “The time for that discussion is long past. I am not going to abandon you and the children. I love you. I cannot state it any more plainly than that. And I am leaving the Order. I need to do so to marry you. I want us to have that life we keep talking about.”

Padmé could think of no adequate words that suited the situation, so she pulled him towards her and kissed him, again and again. He responded, both of them gasping with need for each other, until the desire to breathe overwhelmed them.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“I love you too,” was the soft response.

Emotions clashed inside her, fear and sorrow and excitement and love, until she thought she would burst from having to contain them all. One feeling was quickly overtaking the others, however, borne of being in close proximity to her love for the first time in seven months: desire.

“How much time do you have?” Padmé asked.

“Oh …” Obi-Wan squinted at the chrono. “Probably a little more. Why?”

“Obi-Wan, it’s been so long … I thought we could …” Padmé let the sentence trail and moved closer, wrapping her arms around his neck and slowly grinding against him. She could feel him responding unconsciously, his groin stiffening as he drew in a sharp breath.

“Are you sure –” He had to swallow hard before continuing. “Are you sure it’s safe? I – I don’t want to hurt the babies. Or you.”

“The medical droid says it’s fine,” Padmé replied. “Especially at this late stage of the pregnancy. No harm will come to us, I promise you.”

Obi-Wan relaxed visibly, and she realized just how concerned he had been. It made her love him all the more.

They had moved to her bedroom soon after Obi-Wan’s arrival at her apartment, and she’d helped him remove his upper tunics so they could better cuddle with each other. This left only the lower clothing, which proved no obstacle at all to Padmé’s nimble fingers.

An incoherent grunt escaped Obi-Wan’s lips as she grasped his manhood and ran her fingers lightly along the shaft. He thrust unconsciously into her hand, remembering suddenly how wonderful this felt, wondering why he hadn’t approached her before now because they had not done this in seven months and how could he have gone on that long and Force, he had forgotten how good she was at this …

He might have arrived right then had she not abruptly removed her hand, using it to pull him towards her for a long kiss.

“Padmé …” It came out almost as a whine. “Please …”

“Soon, darling,” Padmé whispered. Kissing Obi-Wan once more, she moved as close to him as the pregnancy would allow, and slowly guided him inside her.

Obi-Wan was unused to her taking the initiative, but he soon decided he liked it. How he had missed this! Oh, he had thought of her many nights, alone in his tent on distant planets, sometimes bold enough to slip a hand below the waistband of his sleep pants if he could be sure of his solitude. He forgot this loneliness now as her wetness enveloped him, inviting him to take her.

Which he did.

The air was soon filled with the sounds of their lovemaking. Obi-Wan thrust slowly into her, gradually picking up the pace as she arched beneath him and demanded he go faster. He had never heard her beg before, fix her brown eyes on his and moan, “Oh Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan, please … please …” Whether hormones or simple proximity were the cause, he loved it.

Padmé came first, her muscles contracting around him as she whispered his name. She held out her arms and he collapsed gratefully into them, his climax breaking over him in rolling waves.

Obi-Wan gazed up at her, eyes full of inexpressible love.

“Welcome home,” she said serenely.

***

An hour later, Padmé sat fully dressed in her office, reviewing a Senate report about the day’s attacks. She thought it likely that Bail Organa would soon contact her about the new amendments Palpatine was sure to push through, and she wanted to be ready to discuss them.

She was not, however, expecting any visitors, so it came as a surprise when Threepio tottered in.

“Mistress Padmé, might I announce a most honoured guest? Master Anakin has arrived on your landing pad!”

“Ani?” Padmé looked up from her work. If anyone, she had thought Obi-Wan might return, but it was far too early. “All right. Please tell him I will be out in a moment.”

“Yes, m’lady.”

She rose and walked to her office window, peering out at the darkening sky. Padmé knew that Obi-Wan wanted their friend to be informed of the pregnancy, and perhaps even of their engagement, but deciding to tell him was somewhat different than just talking about it. Especially since she suspected – no, knew – that Anakin still had feelings for her. They had moved beyond that a long time ago, and simply didn’t discuss it anymore, but nevertheless she wondered how he would feel. Would he be happy? Jealous? Angry?

I’ll tell him about the pregnancy first, she thought. Perhaps our engagement is something better left to Obi-Wan, since he’ll be leaving the Order because of it.

Padmé saved the work on her datapad, decided against putting on a concealing robe, and hastened downstairs.

Sure enough, Anakin was waiting. He seemed to have grown even taller in the months since she had seen him last, and his hair was darker. But much about him was still the same: the lanky, confident air, the way he paced as though no room could possibly contain his boundless energy. She beamed at the sight of him.

“Ani,” Padmé said happily, as he turned.

“Padmé.” He was smiling just as broadly. “How are you?”

“Fine, thank you. Force, when are you ever going to stop growing?” she grinned as she reached up to embrace him. “Soon I’m going to need a repulsorlift!”

Anakin laughed. “Obi-Wan complains about it too,” he admitted sheepishly. “First Qui-Gon towered over him, and now I do. I think he’s sick of being short.”

“Just imagine how I feel,” Padmé retorted, and they both chuckled.

“It’s wonderful to see you again,” he said as they seated themselves on her couch. “Although …” Anakin’s eyes lingered on her belly. “You look – um, you look –”

“Like I’ve put on a bit of weight?” chuckled Padmé. “I don’t doubt it. Obi-Wan and I … well, I’m pregnant.”

His eyes widened, and he looked quickly back up and down again. “Well, that’s … that’s … that’s won – that’s wonderful,” Anakin managed to say. “Does, um, does he know yet?”

She nodded. “I just told him this afternoon. He was very happy.”

“I would imagine so,” Anakin replied. “I think he’s still pretty upset about your miscarriage. He admitted as much to me on one of our missions in the Outer Rim. And, well, I can see why, really. I’d have been upset too.”

“We both were,” Padmé said. “But we talked about it for a long time this afternoon, and we agreed that this is like a chance to start over, to learn from our previous mistakes. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

“Is he going to tell the Council?”

Eventually he’ll have to, she thought. “I’m not sure. He didn’t say. I suppose he’ll need to at some point.”

Anakin gazed towards the Coruscanti skyline. “Padmé, did you see the reports about the battle today?”

“Well, yes, of course,” replied Padmé, thrown by the sudden change in subject. “I was just reading a HoloNet article about it. Apparently two very heroic Jedi Knights managed to sneak aboard the Invisible Hand, rescue the Chancellor, take control of the vessel and pilot it to a safe landing on Coruscant, away from inhabited areas.”

She grinned at him, but he did not return the smile.

“That’s what they want you to believe,” Anakin muttered darkly.

“Ani, what are you talking about?” Padmé said in puzzlement.

“That’s just – it’s just –” He stood and began pacing. “They want to make me out to be some kind of hero, some sort of saviour. I’ve read the reports. I know what they’re saying. And it’s not true. It’s just not true.”

“What do you mean it’s not true?” She rose as well, went to him, put her hand on his shoulder. “Anakin, your accomplishments far outshine any other Jedi … any other man. There have been three or four battles in this war that you’ve almost singlehandedly won! How can you say you’re not a hero?”

“Because I’m not,” Anakin said shakily. “I’m just … not.”

“Why not?”

He took a deep, shuddering breath. Tried to swallow the emotion clogging his throat.

“Padmé … have you ever looked into a man’s eyes, heard the fear in his voice as he begs for mercy, begs you not to kill him – and then killed him anyway?”

Padmé blinked. “No, I can’t say as I have.”

“And in your heart of hearts, you know the man has committed atrocities, you know he’s pitted two sides of a galaxy against each other, you know he’s ordered the death of the woman you like … love … more than anything without a second thought, you know he’s got the blood of millions on his hands,” Anakin rambled on. “Does a man like that deserve to die, for what he has done? Or does he deserve mercy, because you’ve been trained that all beings should be treated with compassion? Especially if he begs for it. Especially if, when you could kill him, he looks into your eyes and asks to be spared? What do you do, Padmé? What do you do?”

His voice was raw and ragged, and he sounded close to tears.

“Anakin, these are some very difficult questions you’re asking,” Padmé said. “Beings have grappled with them since the creation of the galaxy.”

“Yes, exactly. But no one knows. No one has an answer yet. No one can say, look, this is what you should do in this situation and this is the action you should take if that comes up. Because it’s war, and the rulebook has been shredded.” He ran a hand over his eyes. “And sometimes you do things and hate yourself later. Because even if they seemed right then, they’ll never really be right.”

He was shuddering now. The shudders came from Jabiim. From Geonosis. From Tatooine, and the Tusken camp.

From the fire that had shined in a dying man’s eyes, fire generated by blue plasma and a synthetic bloodshine blade, crossed at his throat.

Padmé put her arms around him and held on. “Dooku,” she said.

“Dooku. And the orphaned Padawans. And Mom.” A tear snaked its way down his cheek.

She guided him to sit on her couch, still rubbing his back, still holding him.

“Nothing about this war is rational or logical,” Padmé murmured. “At the end of the day, all anyone has the right to ask is that you’ve done your best. For the galaxy, for your friends, and for yourself.”

“That’s the problem,” Anakin croaked. “I don’t know if I did my best. I don’t know if I did the right thing.”

“Well, only you can know that for sure,” she reasoned. “But Ani, you don’t have to go through this alone. You have friends who will support you. I’m always willing to listen. And I’m sure Obi-Wan is as well.”

He took a deep breath, seeming to gather his emotions.

“Padmé … well … thanks,” Anakin said finally, managing a small smile. “Just – thanks.”

With another slow breath, he calmed again. Her presence bolstered him.

***

Mace Windu looked as worried as Obi-Wan had ever seen him. Perhaps more worried than ever. The Force buckled and curled around him in ever more intricate patterns, patterns that the Master could not interpret. The office, too, hummed with anticipation and tension.

It was after the main Council meeting, which had lasted a full hour. Most of Obi-Wan’s report had been devoted to describing Palpatine’s rescue, and so he had not yet discussed Padmé’s pregnancy or his plans to marry her. He was not sure he wanted to do that in front of the full Council, in any case. Better to trust Yoda or Mace with that information first. He knew they would keep the secret if asked.

Engaged, Obi-Wan thought blankly. I’m engaged. I asked a woman, THE woman, the woman I love more than anything, to marry me. And she said yes. We are going to be married. And then I’ll be a father to her children.

The facts did not seem to compute. But he knew undeniably that they were true, and he also knew he was more happy than he had ever been.

For now, though, he needed to focus. And he was good at that.

“You wanted to speak with me?” Obi-Wan asked.

Mace nodded, gesturing to one of the soft chairs. Obi-Wan sat.

“It’s Anakin,” the Korun Master said without preamble. “I don’t like his relationship with Palpatine.”

“We’ve had this conversation before,” Obi-Wan said cautiously. It was true – they had spoken of this matter more often than he cared to remember.

“There is something between them,” Mace persisted. “Something new. I could see it in the Force today, when they greeted me at the Senate building. It felt powerful, and incredibly dangerous.”

“I trust Anakin with my life.” The declaration was uttered firmly and with conviction.

“I know you do,” Mace said grimly. “I only wish we could trust the Chancellor with Anakin’s.”

Obi-Wan frowned. “Yes. Palpatine’s policies are … sometimes questionable. But he dotes on Anakin like a kindly old uncle on his favourite nephew.”

Mace sighed, squinting out the window. “The Chancellor loves power. If he has any other passion, I have not seen it.”

“I recall that not so long ago, you were something of an admirer of his,” Obi-Wan pointed out.

“Things change.”

Obi-Wan sighed too, running a hand over his beard. He could not imagine a more truthful statement. Four years ago, he certainly would not have pictured himself in his current situation: on the Jedi Council, Anakin a full Knight, Padmé not only pregnant with his children but also having agreed to marry him – and most of all, his resignation from the Order. Yes, things certainly had changed.

“What would you have me do?” Obi-Wan asked tiredly.

“I am not certain,” Mace admitted. “You know my power; I cannot always interpret what I’ve seen. Be alert. Be mindful of Anakin, and be careful of Palpatine. He is not to be trusted, and his influence on Anakin is dangerous.”

“But Anakin is the Chosen One –” Obi-Wan began.

“All the more reason to fear an outsider’s influence,” Mace interrupted. “We have circumstantial evidence that traces Sidious to Palpatine’s inner circle.”

Obi-Wan swallowed. “Are – are you certain?”

“Nothing is certain. But this raid – the capture of Palpatine had to be an inside job. And the timing … we were closing in on him, Obi-Wan! The information you and Anakin discovered – we had traced the Sith Lord to an abandoned factory in The Works, not far from where Anakin landed the cruiser. When the attack began, we were tracking him through the downlevel tunnels.” Mace sucked in a breath. “The trail led to the sub-basement of Five Hundred Republica.”

The mention of one of the most exclusive addresses on Coruscant prickled the fine hairs on the back of Obi-Wan’s neck. The most rich and powerful lived there: Palpatine. Many influential Senators.

Padmé.

“Oh,” he managed.

“We have to face the possibility – the probability – that what Dooku told you on Geonosis was actually true,” Mace said grimly. “That the Senate is under the influence and control of Darth Sidious. That it has been for years.”

“Do you – do you have any suspects?” Obi-Wan croaked.

The Korun Master interlaced his fingers and squeezed so hard the knuckles cracked. “Too many. All we know of Sidious is that he’s bipedal, of roughly human conformation. Sate Pestage springs to mind. I wouldn’t rule out Mas Amedda, either. The Sith Lord may even be hiding among the Red Guards. There’s no way to know.”

“Who’s handling the questioning? I’d be happy to sit in; my perceptions are not so refined as some, but –”

Mace snorted. “Interrogate the Supreme Chancellor’s personal aides and advisors? Impossible.”

“But –”

“Palpatine will never allow it,” Mace said firmly. “Though he hasn’t said so, I’m not sure he even believes the Sith exist.”

“But – that’s impossible, how can he –”

“Look at it from his point of view. The only real evidence we have is Dooku’s word. And a lot of good that will do us now, without the man alive to back it up.”

Obi-Wan forced open the clench that had settled around his heart. “The Sith Lord on Naboo,” he said hesitantly, “the Zabrak who killed Qui-Gon …”

It still hurt to speak of that incident, no matter how much he wished it didn’t.

“Destroyed,” Mace replied. “As you know. Relations with the Chancellor’s office have – deteriorated. I feel he has lost his trust in the Jedi. I have certainly lost my trust in him.”

“But he doesn’t have the authority to interfere with a Jedi investigation,” Obi-Wan protested. “… Does he?”

The elder Jedi all but rolled his eyes. “The Senate has surrendered so much power, it’s hard to tell where his authority stops.”

The clench settled in again. “It’s that bad?”

“The only reason Palpatine’s not a suspect is because he already rules the galaxy,” Mace said grimly.

“But we are closer than we have ever been to rooting out the Sith,” replied Obi-Wan. “That can only be good news. I would think that Anakin’s friendship with Palpatine could be of use to us in this. He has the kind of access to Palpatine that other Jedi might only dream of. Their friendship is an asset, not a danger.”

“You cannot tell him,” Mace insisted.

Obi-Wan blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“Of the whole Council, only Yoda and myself know how deep this actually goes,” Mace explained. “And now you. I have decided to share this with you because you are in the best situation to watch Anakin. Watch him. Nothing more.”

“We do not keep secrets from each other,” insisted Obi-Wan. “Not anymore.”

“You must keep this one.” Mace’s tone left no room for argument. “Skywalker is arguably the most powerful Jedi alive, and he is still getting stronger. But he is not stable. You know it. We all do. It is why he cannot be given Mastership. We must keep him off the Council, despite his extraordinary gifts. And Jedi prophecy … is not absolute. The less he has to do with Palpatine, the better.”

“But surely –” Obi-Wan paused, wondering how he could possibly circumvent this. The last thing he wanted to do was begin keeping secrets from his friend once again, so soon after they had promised to be honest with one another. He intended to tell Anakin of Padmé’s pregnancy as soon as he could – providing, of course, that she had not already done that. And the engagement … well, that would be trickier, but the last thing he wanted to do was keep that inside.

And yet this was far more serious than babies or weddings.

“What can I tell him?”

“Tell him nothing,” was Mace’s final word. “I sense the dark side around him. Around them both.”

Tags: fic: to ignite the stars, nc17 ratings, obi-wan/padmé, star wars
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