Jiné was waiting as the Senator came off the transport, accompanied by Sabé and Eirtaé, the last two of the original handmaidens that had served during her reign as Queen. The others had gone on to other lives, but neither of these would hear of it. Jiné was glad of it; he did not travel with her as often now. He had done all he could to acquit himself of the Jedi's wish to track down the legacy from Darth Sidious's manipulations, and then come back to Naboo, save when Padmé requested him at her side.
"You look tired, my friend," he said with warmth, taking her hand to escort her in. The other two joined them, walking behind, though they turned off to go find other pursuits. They knew Padmé would want privacy with her guardian warrior.
"Which is why I have come for a retreat, Jiné, under your care." Her eyes sparkled. "Master Kenobi sends his greetings, and Anakin sends his affection," she added, amused by the difference in messages.
Jiné allowed himself a smile at that. Anakin was freer with his emotions toward others, but Obi-Wan was still very much a Jedi in all things… except his frequent visits to Naboo, between his missions for Order. Still, it had been a few months since the last one, and the former Jedi missed his lover.
However, Padmé had come home, and that was a reason to revel in. He could not help but reach to the Force around her, to see if the fatigue was natural… and there was a curious effect in her presence that left him puzzling over a mystery. He escorted her inside, though, before the answer came to him. Now, he focused more tightly, and made out the way the Living Force had woven itself in layers. His eyes came to her face, an eyebrow lifting.
"Are you prepared for this addition to your life, Padmé?" he asked, in his characteristic bluntness. She flushed, looking down for a moment, before she met his gaze evenly.
"I only just discovered it before leaving Coruscant," she protested. "But yes, I am ready to be a mother to Anakin's child and all that means."
Jiné's head tipped, his eyes closing, as he confirmed his impressions. "Children," he corrected gently, "and already very Force Sensitive, forming a bond between them."
"Oh…" Padmé had to take a seat on the plush couch at the shock of that revelation. "I didn't realize. I could just feel life, and I wanted to be away from Coruscant before it was obvious to anyone else." He sat down beside her, and encouraged her to lean back against his chest and shoulder, to stretch her legs out on the couch. She did so gratefully, sighing at the fact he still knew just how to make her relax from her tensions.
"What does Anakin think?" Jiné asked, even as he was pleased at her logic. That Padmé looked wistful on his question gave an answer. "He doesn't know."
"He left to deal with a complicated civil war on a Rimward world just after the time I am fairly certain led to this," she admitted. "It's going to be a long mission, I knew that when he left."
"Is Obi-Wan with him?"
"Yes, as they were planning to learn both sides of the matter, and work from the opposing lines to try and build a peace." Padmé glanced up at his face, worried. "You're not upset, are you?"
Jiné brushed a light kiss along her temple. "Other than being far too old to be needing to learn how to cope with infants, I think this is a good thing. It may lead to Anakin formally stepping down from the Order. As they still refuse to admit that attachments can be sources of strength as much as they can be detrimental." His scorn at the antiquated teachings came through clearly, and she giggled.
"Even with one of their own vaunted Masters tangled up in you," she teased him. "And you may be old in years lived, but you carry yourself strongly still."
Jiné did not refute that. He was seventy-two years old, and yet ever since his brush with death, it was as if his body was aging much more slowly from the prime physical form he had awakened with. That, and his own emotional disagreements with the Jedi High Council had led to too much distrust, allowing for this retirement to Naboo with little fuss.
"You will let Jar Jar handle politics for the rest of the year," he surmised.
"And into the next," she agreed, laying her hands low on her abdomen, feeling the beginning of a swell growing there. "He has grown well, has my notes, and is free to contact me. Nothing is pressing in legislation for me to put my weight behind."
"Then, I suppose I will have to look at contacting my Force Adept friends, to see if there are techniques to aid in pregnancy and all it entails," he told her. "While we wait for our loves to come home to us."
"You spoil me, my friend, but I do appreciate it."
Long separations were not uncommon for the Naboo pair and their Jedi lovers, but as Padmé swelled larger and they had no word, Jiné began to worry the twins would be born without Anakin even having a chance to come to terms with his part in their creation first. The warrior watched a particularly restless dinner between Padmé and her dear friends before making up his mind.
Unless the pair of Jedi were literally in a life or death scenario, he was going to be firm in summoning them. If they were… he would learn where they were and go extract them, possibly with assistance from some of the best pilots in the galaxy, as Naboo's flight force had prided themselves on learning every trick Anakin would throw their way.
He saw Padmé to bed, and then went out by the lake shore, centering himself to fall deeply into his bond to Obi-Wan. One imperative command rippled out, over and over, until he got a startled response and assent.
Obi-Wan came awake in the confines of the ship he was sharing with Anakin. The civil war had led to putting out related fires in the local systems, and time had gotten away from them. Ahsoka had bounced in and out of their missions multiple times, but she was a law unto herself, much as Anakin had been.
"Anakin?" He called across the narrow divide between their berths.
" 'm sleepin'," the other man said irritably.
"No, we're changing course for Naboo," Obi-Wan counseled, causing the younger man to shoot up in his berth… cracking his head on the bulkhead above it.
"Ow! Why? What?"
"Qui -- Jiné is being adamant on the 'come home' in my head," Obi-Wan told him. Five years of partnership, and still Obi-Wan's tendency to use the Jedi name instead of the Naboo one refused to leave his lips.
"Something's wrong then." Anakin swung out of the bunk and strode toward the cockpit, singularly minded now. That left Obi-Wan to his curiosity, and to apologize that they would not be stopping in at the last point of their tour of the system. Thankfully, it was the most peaceful of the lot, and likely to stay that way with the stability they had already built.
The battered little cruiser came to a rest on the landing pad, while Jiné waited with the skimmer to take them back out to the house. He was unsurprised at Anakin being first off, or that Artoo came between the two Jedi. Obi-Wan, no matter the summons, was accomplished in remaining calm and unhurried.
There was a time when that would have lit a fierce pride in Jiné, or at least the man he had been as a Jedi. Now, it was one more mark of how differently they had evolved, with Jiné leaving the Order (mostly with their blessing and permission to keep his lightsaber) while Obi-Wan was a Master, expected to someday hold a place on the Council.
"Where's Padmé?" Anakin asked as soon as he was near the skimmer, worry written all over him.
"Home. And more than fine, but there are reasons for you both to have come home." He assisted with getting Artoo in the skimmer, and gave up the pilot seat to Anakin. By the time they were situated, Obi-Wan was in the seat beside the astromech and Anakin could loop around to aim for home.
"You were most emphatic," Obi-Wan said.
"Padmé needs Anakin now," Jiné answered that, unsurprised when Anakin gave the skimmer that much more speed. They made it back to their home in half the time Jiné had spent piloting out to the landing pad, and Anakin hopped out immediately. "Go on, Anakin. I am certain you can find her inside."
Obi-Wan watched his former Padawan, now a Knight and highly respected with a Padawan of his own, race inside to find his wife.
"Ahsoka was cross-training with Master Plo Koon, or else she'd be with us this trip too," Obi-Wan said. "But I am highly confused at the strength of that summons if nothing is wrong."
Jiné looked at his partner as the two of them assisted getting the astromech down. Once the droid was rolling and beeping his way to Threepio, Jiné answered.
"You realize it has been over eight months since Anakin and Padmé were together?" he questioned.
"Has it been so long?" Obi-Wan had lost track of time, given how intensive the first part of the mission had been.
"It has," Jiné said, not adding that Obi-Wan had last come to Naboo at least a full month prior to that. He reached out then, catching his younger lover and pulling him close. //Thank the Force for gifts of unexpected youthfulness,// he thought before laying claim to his lover's mouth. Yes, the news was important, but he'd missed Obi-Wan as badly as Padmé had begun to pine for Anakin!
Anakin took the stairs two at a time up to where he could feel Padmé's presence. He burst into the room, and despite Jiné's assurances, he could feel fear all through his soul, bitter in his mouth, as she stood at the balcony railing, looking out away from the door.
"Padmé?" He asked it hesitantly, frozen just a few steps inside the room.
She turned her head, looking over her shoulder -- she'd seen the speeder coming, heard it set down, and had deliberately moved to where she now stood. The light coming in off the lake would keep her oversized belly from immediate notice, and she had wanted him to see her first, not that.
She hadn't expected him to sound so hesitant, almost terrified, his eyes darkened with panic, and she stretched her hand backward to him, smiling her delight, her pleasure at seeing him. "Come here, my love," she told him, fully aware that she was the only person in the galaxy that her lover would not fight a command from. "Thank all the gods and the Force, you're home!"
Anakin moved then, quick and determined, so that he could join her. "What happ--"
It hit him, as he was twining his senses around her, that she felt different to him. There was nothing dark or sick in her, but it was more an abundance of energy, of the Living Force, radiating off of her. As his hand closed on hers, it thickened, strangely welcoming.
"What?" He asked, as his head tried to make sense of the susurras of almost sound moving in his awareness of her.
"Oh, you," Padmé replied, shaking her head, "blasted Jedi, always knowing things before you're told."
She tugged him to her, leaning back into his chest before she turned her head up to kiss his throat, his cheek, relaxing into the feel of him, the powerful strength and Force-presence, then took a half-step forwards, away from his body, so that she had room enough to turn around without running her belly into him.
Anakin had relaxed some at the way Padmé sounded, at the little kisses, but then she was turning and his eyes drifted over her… to her stomach, beneath the diaphanous gown she wore. He was utterly without speech, fully in shock, as he realized just why she felt so overwhelmingly alive.
"You… there's… we…" He could not find words, could do nothing but drop to his knees, resting his ear along the swell of her stomach, arms coming up around her to hold her right there.
Jiné broke from holding Obi-Wan close, from the kisses he'd used to distract his lover, as the shock rippled through Obi-Wan from his former Padawan.
"Ahh, she's told him now," the elder man said, a wry smile on his lips.
"Told him what?!" Obi-Wan demanded, even as he wanted those kisses back, or to be inside the house, in Jiné's rooms, with less clothing between them.
"Padmé is having twins."
That was enough to truly shock Obi-Wan, and now Jiné tucked him under his arm, guiding him inside and up to their rooms, certain the younger couple would be well-occupied for the rest of the evening.
Anakin had almost fallen over -- she had been ready to catch him, actually, when he started to stammer -- but then he had folded down at her feet, his ear against her stomach, his arms wrapping so close around her... Perfect, that was perfect, and almost instantly she felt tears threatening to well up, to pour down her cheeks. She wrapped one arm tight around him, holding him in against her, feeling suddenly as speechless as he was, in addition to the tears, and fastened her other hand into his hair.
"We're having a -- no, more than one -- we're having babies," Anakin said. "I mean, you have to do all the work at first, but… ours." He looked up at her face, worried for her. "Are you alright? Is this my fault? We talked about it, for the future but…"
Padmé freed her hand from his curls to press against his lips instead, shaking her head. "Shh.... shh, Ani, love. I'm perfectly fine -- I've had Jiné fussing over me since the moment I got home, making certain everything is going just the way it should.
"I just -- I wanted, needed, you to be here, to know I'm, we're, pregnant, before I have them..."
Anakin laughed softly at that. "And me out there turning every stone over, trying to be a good Jedi, and Obi-Wan utterly wrapped up in being the perfect Jedi… I could have missed this." On that note, he surged back to his feet, arms sweeping her off her feet so he could carry her to the bed. "I'm not going anywhere, not unless Ahsoka gets in trouble, for as long as possible," he promised her.
She thumped him in the shoulder as he picked her up, but nestled delightedly into his arms in the next moment. The thought of having him home for a while, of him being there for the birth and their first moments, made her heart swell up wildly, but she nodded firmly. "If Ahsoka gets in trouble, you had better get yourself out the door," she agreed, before he laid her down and curled around her.
"Oh," she murmured, all a soft breath, "I missed you so, Ani."
"I missed you, Padmé, my wife, mother of our children," he told her softly. He could not wait to share this news with his mother, even if it meant going to Tatooine, because he could not just tell her over a HoloNet message. For now, though, he curled up with her, and tenderly made up the lost time with her.
"I can't not tell the Council that the twins are Force Sensitive already." Obi-Wan was sprawled on his back, with Jiné leaning up over him, the cooler night air wafting in off the lake against their bare skin.
"Tell them," Jiné said. "I know Padmé. I am certain she will refuse." He was lazily confident in that matter, and Obi-Wan's eyes narrowed.
"You plan to teach them, don't you? As… Force Adepts."
Jiné silenced the growl of irritation for that tone, and he rose from the bed, striding to the balcony railing to look out over the lake, his braids streaming behind him. How could there be so many differences between his beliefs and those of the man who held his soul? He did not want to waste time, precious time that was so rare, by arguing over the ideals that separated them.
Obi-Wan took a deep breath, rising from the bed and taking the time to shrug on his outer robe before joining him at the railing. "Jiné, you know the difficulties posed by not training a Force Sensitive. Yet to deny Anakin's children the fullness of Jedi training --"
"--Obi-Wan, I am not having this discussion with you." His voice was firm. "There is a need to evolve, a need to learn how to accept, instead of deny, and yet you stand by the very Code that would demand you sever your bond with me. So no, we will not have this talk now, or ever, as you have made yourself entirely clear on your position."
Obi-Wan flinched, hearing… feeling... all of the disappointment and regret in those words. How could he even recover when he didn't fully understand how he had made his lover hurt over the logical course?
Anakin played with a long strand of Padmé's hair in his fingers. "The Jedi test children here, don't they?" he asked softly as he felt the calm rapport shared between their twins.
"Sometimes," Padmé agreed, pressed close into his other arm, "but I don't care what the results are, your Temple is not taking my children from me.
"And if Obi-Wan has hurt Jiné over this, I am going to throw him into the lake and hold him down a while."
Anakin rose up enough to look at her in surprise. "I am never going to get used to how fierce you are over my master's master," he said with a chuckle. "And I don't expect you to let the children go, but… it will mean the Council might stop turning a blind eye to me and you as a couple. I could be subject to discipline… and I will choose my family long before I choose the Jedi Order, Padmé. Are you okay with this?"
Her eyes gleamed at him, sharp and set, even as she stroked her fingers down his cheek. "I will be perfectly happy if you tell the lot of them to go kriff themselves and come home to be my husband and their father. But if they harm you, my beloved, in their 'discipline', they will not enjoy my response."
He had to smile at her for that, all of her strength and determination making him feel like he was the luckiest man ever. "Alright. If it comes to it, I will resign from the Order, like Jiné did, and come home. Between us, the twins will have teachers, so they aren't completely at a loss on how to handle the Force."
He didn't think it would be terrible for them to never be full Jedi; the Jedi had too many problems with actually living fully, in his opinion.
Jiné turned his eyes up and back at the house, unerringly seeking the balcony that led to Padmé's suite. He then looked back at the lake. "Anakin must have brought up the testing as well," he commented. "And she is very set against it, if I am reading her correctly."
Obi-Wan tried not to have any negative emotions in the direction of the woman, but sometimes the constant reminders of how she tangled Anakin and Jiné both up in emotions was hard to cope with. "Then I shall tell the Council that testing them is pointless, and to leave you in peace. I still do not know if they will be ready to cope with the idea that Anakin has gone this far in his attachments."
"I don't pity them, Obi-Wan, if they try to impose sanctions. I have no doubt, even given his loyalty to you and Ahsoka, what he will do if they make it difficult for him to be here." The elder man drew in a deep breath of the lake air, before looking his lover squarely in the face. "We all make our personal choices, and drawing the line on what we are willing to sacrifice. I am certain I know where his line is."
With that, he left Obi-Wan to go to the 'fresher, seeking to be clean, seeking space to think clearly, and privacy to mend the cuts Obi-Wan's stances always inflicted on his heart.
Obi-Wan found Anakin down by the lake very early the next morning. It had been a restless night, as Jiné had come back to bed, silent, and gone to sleep with only a light kiss against Obi-Wan's hair. When he rose at dawn and left, Obi-Wan had cleaned up and come down here to walk the shore.
"I thought you'd still be with your wife," Obi-Wan said in surprise.
Anakin looked at him, a soft smile on his lips. "Sabé took her on a trip they had planned for today, to get some things for the babies. She'll be back by midday. Jiné must have gone with them, if you're up." The younger man then tipped his head to the side, catching a flare of something. "Or, my wife is going to tear strips out of you for being difficult with him," he offered as an alternative.
Obi-Wan sighed. "I didn't mean to, Anakin. I just…." He threw his hands up, his usual calm broken. "I disagree with the decision to deny your children access to full training," he admitted instead.
"They're already bonded to each other, Obi-Wan. Firmly," Anakin told him, waiting for the implication of that to fully sink in. "I won't watch them be separated, made to see that as a danger, when I know it can be made into a strength. Like you used our bond to save me from the Chancellor."
That made Obi-Wan take a figurative step back. Here he was, flagrantly bonded to the man that had trained him. Worse, it was a bond that had been fully severed, one that he had allowed to be reignited with his complete desire for just that. He had convinced the Council that Anakin was too critical an asset in the Jedi Order, so they would overlook the illicit relationship with a Senator. And now, he was going to go convince them to continue to ignore that, because Anakin was a good, solid Jedi… even on the occasions that Padmé had been the focus of their guardian missions.
All because Anakin used his attachments to strengthen his resolve. And now, the twins that were due all too soon, would enter the world with that level of a bond because the Force had already enabled it.
He believed in the Jedi Order and the Code with most of his heart, but maybe he was being too dismissive of whatever path Jiné was proposing for the twins. Maybe the Order did need to revisit the concept of attachments.
But Obi-Wan knew he needed to figure out how to make it right with his lover, and quickly, or he would be right back to the eight years of gnawing emptiness, as Jiné kept him at arm's distance, rather than allow himself to be hurt again by Obi-Wan's thoughtlessness.
"Anakin," Obi-Wan began softly. "I'll do my best to shield you from the Council."
"You always do, Master," Anakin said, resting a hand on his shoulder for a long moment. "And I'll tell Padmé she should give you a day or two to make up with Jiné."
"I appreciate that; her tongue is sharp."
Obi-Wan had debated going and getting the Council out of the way, rather than wait for the trio to return, but he knew that for a coward's tactic. He remained, working with Eirtaé to clean the nursery from top to bottom. The manual labor actually helped rejuvenate his mind, as he faced what he needed to do. As soon as the skimmer came back, he was going down to the lower level, eyes only for his lover.
Jiné looked more at peace, bodily lifting Padmé out of the skimmer to her laughing protests. Obi-Wan could not help but notice the smile he granted her, or that Sabé was teasing them both over his protectiveness. Jiné was thriving in his retirement, as he called it, from the Order. It made Obi-Wan realize, yet again, that he really did need to find a better understanding of his own future with the man he loved.
Then Anakin was jogging over, wiping his hands off on a rag; of course he'd been working on something greasy. If Obi-Wan went and checked the hangar for the skimmer, he would probably find a swoop bike in there. He waited, watching as his former Padawan wrapped arms around the heavily pregnant woman, kissing her. To Force perceptions, Anakin looked as if he was completely at peace with the universe.
He was not left to his observations for long, as Jiné strode toward him, the smile fading back into the calm but still expression that more commonly graced those leonine features. Obi-Wan knew now that part of that was because of the nature of their relationship being kept to discreet visits as Obi-Wan was able to fit them in. Was it fair to the elder man to be so reserved in how frequent those contacts happened? Was Obi-Wan guilty of abusing the emotions of the man he most loved in all the universe?
"You are too thoughtful," Jiné stated as he came in reach of the younger man.
"Or I've not been thoughtful enough, Jiné," Obi-Wan admitted. "Anakin told me the twins are already bonded. And I think I understand better, why the Temple is not right for them."
Jiné shrugged a shoulder, as he was determined to keep that discussion behind them. "Come help me with the packages," he invited instead. They would work a while, and then dine with everyone. After, Jiné planned to keep Obi-Wan to himself until the Jedi left them to make his report. He had to make the most of what time he was allowed, after all.
Not only was Anakin on hand for the birth, but Obi-Wan had not yet left. The twins decided an early appearance was in order, but neither Jiné nor the medical droid brought in, just in case, were overly worried about it.
"It is time," Jiné offered calmly at Anakin's fretful questions on if they should take Padmé to the capital. "We have had a birthing plan in place for weeks, and there is no need to change it at this time. You may assist, so long as you maintain your calm and control your emotions fully; the twins will be scared at the sensations they will be experiencing."
"I can do that," the young Knight promised, going with him and Eirtaé to attend his wife's delivery. Sabé looked at Obi-Wan with bemusement.
"It is to you and I, then, to keep the house safe, and make food for once the twins are here," she said cheerfully.
"At least that is something I do understand how to do," Obi-Wan said with a smile for her. He was rather impressed that his former Master had brushed up on Jedi healing techniques and studied midwifery alongside Eirtaé to humor Padmé's wishes on having the children at home.
The entire world seemed to slow to a crawl the moment Obi-Wan was coming in from a swim and he found Jiné holding both twins as he sat in the inner courtyard. The large man looked completely at peace, sitting on a blanket, one twin in each arm against his body while Anakin and Padmé took up the other side. The babies were only a few days old now, but Obi-Wan would have had to be Force-blind to not see the way their presences blurred into one, rather than two distinct ones.
Yes, the Council would have to know of the twins, Obi-Wan decided. But if they had any wish to train the pair, the entire concept of attachments would have to be revisited. The only way that was going to happen, Obi-Wan realized, was if he could demonstrate what he knew. Attachments, while opening potential tragedy and abandonment of the Jedi causes, could also provide a secondary strength and protection, just as it had when he pulled Anakin away from the Sith influence through the training bond.
His stance would be seen as revolutionary, probably, and would be shadowed by the very fact Jiné had separated from the Order. It would not be an easy debate, but he owed it to Anakin, to the twins, and most especially to Jiné to try.
That resolve made, he went to join the small family at their picnic, drinking in the sight of his lover displaying his gentle, nurturing side.
"Ahsoka's going to be absolutely thrilled by them," he offered to Anakin.
"No doubt," the young Knight said, smiling in delight at the idea of introducing his children to her.
"Not for a few months, Anakin. Preferably not until they are crawling," Padmé said. "Ahsoka is a wonderful young lady, but the babies are rather boring for someone like her, with all of her adventurous nature."
Anakin laughed. "Is that a polite way of saying I'm not allowed to take them on my swoop until they're older?"
"Yes," Padmé and Jiné said in one voice. All of them started laughing at that, with the babies sleeping peacefully through it.Obi-Wan let himself fall into the quiet peace, leaving the Council and other debates to be held for some later date.