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Anakin doesn't sleep. He can't. Even though physically, he's drained to the point of lethargy and his limbs weigh like they're all made of durasteel instead of just the one, his mind won't stop racing and he can't let go of this fear that if he looks away, Obi-Wan might decide he doesn't want him anymore after all and leave (he knows, rationally, that Obi-Wan wouldn't just walk out, and these are his rooms too so where would he even go? But the worry makes his heart pound and his muscles tense regardless). So instead he curls up on their sofa and watches Obi-Wan kneeling on the mat and breathing steadily. True to his word, he hadn't shielded against the bond but Anakin's trying to respect his privacy and keep to his own thoughts; the bond feels peaceful and quiescent and that's the most important thing.

Eventually, he sits up and picks up some of the droid parts on the table. If he can't sleep for the rest of the night cycle, he might as well finish fixing their cleaning droid. Obi-Wan would say (and has said) that there isn't anything wrong with it but Anakin's pretty sure he can increase its efficiency and reduce its power consumption with just a few tweaks...that had required him taking it completely apart....and then they had gotten called away on a mission and the next thing he knew, five months had passed before they returned to Coruscant. Anakin winces. No wonder their apartment had seemed so dusty and stale when they got back. He had barely noticed, eager as he was to go back to Padmé's apartment.

Sorry, Obi-Wan , he thinks because the other man probably had to clean the apartment himself without a cleaning droid for assistance. He focuses his attention on the inner workings of the droid and lets his thoughts wander.

He likes working on machinery. It's easy, the connections make sense, the reactions are predictable. Droids just do what they're built and programmed to do. Some of them develop personalities, like Artoo, but they still work within a set of parameters. They have a function and a place in society and specific roles. Organic beings, on the other hand, are complicated. They have ulterior motives and hidden agendas and a million reasons behind their actions, many of which are completely incomprehensible to him. They all have different opinions and views on issues and they're all convinced that they're right. But there's billions of beings in the galaxy; they can't possibly all be right and yet they don't want to agree on anything.

And sometimes—oftentimes—it feels like everyone wants something from him. Or wants to tell him how to be .

He had hated being a slave and he would die before he ever let himself be put back in that situation. But he had been able to think what he wanted and feel what he wanted and as long as he still did what he was told to do, nobody had cared. Ever since he had been freed, people have been wanting to know what he thinks and how he feels and then they pass judgment on whether he's right or wrong for thinking or feeling the way that he does. It's been just infuriating. Why should anyone have the authority to tell him if he's right or wrong in his own thoughts or emotions? He's a free man now, isn't he? And yet the Jedi do that all the time (it's tapered off some since he was Knighted but he can still feel them judging him even if they don't say anything). Padmé even, before they began their relationship, had told him that his feelings for her and thoughts about her were wrong. And even now, she sometimes gets upset with him for the things he thinks and feels and does. The Chancellor's been the only one who's always just listened to him when he voiced his feelings and never chastised him for any of them.

But Obi-Wan..that's always been complicated. Anakin had known, rationally, that Obi-Wan was his teacher and so was supposed to tell him how to think and feel and act like a Jedi. He needed to know that, in order to become a Jedi so that was good. But at the same time, every time his Master had corrected him, he had felt resentful and terrified that he was never doing well enough, that Obi-Wan was going to change his mind about training him, that he was going to send Anakin away, that he didn't like Anakin because Anakin wasn't the Padawan that he wanted. That he deserved.

Anakin's not stupid or deaf. He knows what the other Jedi—Initiates, Padawans, many of the Knights, and even some of the Masters—had said about him and Obi-Wan. Everyone revered his Master. He fought a Sith and defeated him. The first Jedi in a thousand years to do so. Not even Master Yoda could claim that honor. But Anakin? The others were not so accepting. Why does he get to be chosen as a Padawan? the Initiates had asked each other. He doesn't even know how to use the Force! He hasn't gone through the Initiate Trials! He's only nine! and then He's got too much fear in him. He's too old. He asks too many questions. He doesn't really understand what it is to be a Jedi. Obi-Wan should not have taken him as an apprentice. from the Knights and Masters. Anakin's hand clenches around a hydrospanner just remembering those whispers.

"Anakin, love, what's wrong?" Obi-Wan's hand gently wraps around his. Anakin darts his eyes up to meet Obi-Wan's concerned gray-blue ones, startled.

"Obi-Wan? Did I—I interrupted your meditation, didn't I? I'm sorry." Anakin bites his lip. He hates that even now, when he's trying to give Obi-Wan the space he needs to clear his thoughts, his feelings get in the way. "Everyone was right about me. I should never have become a Jedi. My emotions are too strong. I'm too dangerous." He almost wants to tell Obi-Wan to just go back to his meditation and ignore him but his former Master's sitting there patiently and he honestly cannot bring himself to turn away his freely offered attention. He's not a good enough or a selfless enough person to do that.

Obi-Wan pushes a stack of datapads aside and sits on the low table facing Anakin. He opens his mouth, to no doubt offer his usual reassurances, but Anakin hurries to say (because if he doesn't say it now, he'll never get the courage to bring this up again), "Even you said it." Obi-Wan's brows furrow in confusion, so he adds: "To Master Qui-Gon. After that first Council meeting. I heard you. You told him that I was too dangerous to train and that he should listen to the Council."

"I—oh, I did?" Obi-Wan looks taken aback. His eyes go distant for a few seconds before he blinks and refocuses on Anakin. "Anakin, I apologize. That was wrong of me to say. I was...unsettled by what had happened in the Council chambers and to my chagrin, I took it out on you and I should not have done that."

"Then why did you?" Anakin asks. He remembers the pang of hurt he had felt hearing that from Obi-Wan. He had no idea what he had done to the Padawan at the time, no idea why he would say that when Anakin hadn't done anything except what he had been told.

"Because," Obi-Wan says with a mirthless twist of his lips, "I was upset. I had been Qui-Gon's Padawan for twelve years. And I was quite looking forward to the day when he would recommend me to take the Trials. I thought it was going to be a momentous occasion, a time when he would look at me proudly and say that finally I was ready to become a Knight. But then, when it did happen...it wasn't what I expected."

"Because of me."

"Yes. But through no fault of your own. I just couldn't quite see that at the time."

"It wasn't even my idea! It's not like I asked him to free me and train me."

Obi-Wan's mouth twists. "I know. When Qui-Gon got something stuck in his head, he could be as stubborn and as querulous as an eopie." Anakin snorts and Obi-Wan gives a small misty smile and then sighs. "I'm not proud to say this Anakin, but I had—I have —a temper and I wanted to be angry at someone. I couldn't be angry at Qui-Gon so instead I blamed you. I apologize. It really wasn't fair to you. And then on top of that, I nearly succumbed to the temptation of the Dark Side myself . It made me realize that I was potentially dangerous too. Certainly more dangerous in that moment than you were. And you know, when I was an Initiate, Qui-Gon had thought that I was too dangerous to take on. He said I had too much anger. But in the end, he did it anyway. And look at where I am now. So perhaps having 'too much' of something isn't an insurmountable barrier to becoming a Jedi."

Anakin gapes. How did he not know all of this? (He does know how, actually—he'd never bothered to look. Obi-Wan had always just seemed to be a boring uptight Master who lived, breathed, and was the Code so he didn't think it was worth the effort to try to get into the Temple records to learn about his past. He didn't think there was anything there worth looking at. Clearly, he was wrong about that, though. Very wrong. He's going to have to try to get into the Temple records soon.) "Is that why you decided to take me on?" he finally asks.

"I...no," Obi-Wan says with a slight shake of his head. "To be honest, Anakin, at that time, I was just thinking about Qui-Gon. That was his final request of me and however upset I was about his decisions regarding you, I felt that I owed it to him to trust his judgment about you and see his wish fulfilled." Anakin's heart falls. He'd always suspected that Obi-Wan hadn't wanted him but to hear it confirmed... "I wasn't capable of reasoning anything out then. I just knew that he wanted you trained so by the Force, I was going to train you. No matter what the Council said." Obi-Wan squeezes his hand and gives him a sad smile. "I cared very much about Qui-Gon—he was like my father. He would have made a great Master for you."

Anakin's not sure about that, actually. When he was younger, he used to think that all the time. Every time they had a disagreement or every time Obi-Wan gave him one of his lectures, he would wish that he had a different Master, a better one. And he did think about Qui-Gon a lot in those times. But then they had a couple of joint missions with other Masters, older Masters who were not Obi-Wan's friends who used to supervise him when Obi-Wan was off on solo missions. And he realized that as much as he thought Obi-Wan was distant and curt with him, it wasn't anything like some of the other Masters. They just seemed indifferent. They were polite to him, sure, but it was like they had some kind of impenetrable veneer blocking off their emotions about everything. He couldn't read them at all and he'd always been able to tell what others were feeling before. He had a hard time with Obi-Wan but at least there were moments where he could read his Master. The others were like a wiped datapad to him. He can't remember if Qui-Gon had felt that way to him too but he shudders just from the thought that he might have had to spend ten years training with one of them instead of Obi-Wan, who he could at least provoke into feeling exasperated.

He used to worry that over time, Obi-Wan was going to become just like those old Masters and that that was going to be his own fate too and that terrified him, because his feelings were what made him him . It was all he had that was truly his . But so far, it hasn't happened and now that they're bonded even deeper than before, he can sense Obi-Wan's emotions. They had been faint at the beginning, when their bond was just established but ever since they had joined together to release that storm from their bond earlier, they've been coming through to him more strongly. He delights in them, in knowing with a certainty that Obi-Wan does care about him and more than that, that he feels things even though he doesn't show it. Anakin vows to protect that, to ensure that Obi-Wan knows that someone values his emotions and doesn't think they're too much. He feels almost angry at Qui-Gon for nearly turning down Obi-Wan as a Padawan because of that, which is silly because it had happened years ago and Obi-Wan doesn't seem to be holding a grudge.

"But Anakin," Obi-Wan breaks into his musings, "even though I didn't choose you, I don't regret being your Master. You've taught me a lot as well and your friendship has been invaluable. I wouldn't trade the last fourteen years for anything in the galaxy. It was an honor to teach you and it is an honor to fight next to you."

"Really?" Anakin asks, spirits lifting.

"Yes. Sometimes, I think I was meant to train you. Certainly, I wouldn't be the man I am today if you hadn't been my Padawan."

"Do you...still think that I'm dangerous?" He almost doesn't want to know, almost thinks that hearing it said out loud by Obi-Wan would make his fears too real. But at the same time, he feels like he has to know.

"I think..." Obi-Wan says slowly. He's clearly thinking about his words carefully, almost visibly becoming the Negotiator that most of the galaxy knows. Anakin can't decide if this is good or not, that Obi-Wan is drawing on his diplomatic skills to tell him whatever it is he needs to tell him. "I think that we are all potentially dangerous to some degree. The Force is a powerful ally and with it, we can do a lot of good or a lot of harm. And sometimes, we can do a lot of harm while trying to do good. That's why we have to be careful. You in particular, though, you are very strong in the Force, Anakin. Which means that your potential for either good or evil is greater than most. It's up to you to choose what path you want to take. But you must choose wisely because with that power comes great responsibility."

Anakin nods thoughtfully. He wants to do good. That's the easy part. It's how that's the problem.

"Would you like to do a bit of joint meditation?" Obi-Wan offers. "It might help settle your mind."

Anakin nods quickly. The steadiness of Obi-Wan's mind is like a beacon to him. It always has been—offering stability and surety when his own thoughts are so chaotic, though they had rarely done joint meditation when Anakin was a Padawan.

"Come on, then." Obi-Wan pulls him up and guides him over to the mats. Anakin settles in next to him. They keep their hands joined as they synchronize their breathing and reach for each other through their bond.

It feels like a different world when he enters the bond this time. He had panicked earlier when his wild emotions had spilled out into it, worried that they would somehow damage the bond or taint it. But it's humming contentedly now and almost seems to glow softly in his mind's eye. He thinks that's likely Obi-Wan's influence. He may have had brushes with the darker emotions but he's rooted in Light and that's clear for anyone with any Force sensitivity at all to see (and even some without). Anakin still has trouble believing that Obi-Wan had touched the Dark Side. He would never have suspected it; the other man had always seemed the perfect Jedi to him and without equal.

I don't know whether to be flattered by that thought or alarmed that you seem to have me on some kind of pedestal, Obi-Wan thinks at him wryly. I'm not a legendary hero who can do no wrong, you know.

Yes, I know, Anakin responds. But that doesn't mean I can't admire you, right?

There's nothing to admire. Anakin, I'm not 'perfect.' No one is. Eventually, I'm going to do something that you won't find perfect. I already have, haven't I?

I....yes, that's true, but.... Anakin struggles to put his feelings into words. But I...I don't know. It's like part of me knows that you do things sometimes that makes me karkin' mad and want to kill you. But part of me still thinks that you can't do anything wrong.

And then you get mad or frustrated about getting mad, Obi-Wan concludes.

Well, yes. Anakin's startled. How did you know?

Because I used to be the same.

What? But you've always said that Jedi don't get mad or overly emotional. And you didn't seem to. So I thought that I shouldn't either.

It's not that Jedi don't feel at all. That would be impossible to do. It's that we don't hold onto those feelings. We don't let them fester in us and build up and start influencing our actions. We release them into the Force. I did and still do get emotional but I've learned to let them go instead of dwelling on them.

But they're my emotions. Why do I have to get rid of them like they're something I should be ashamed of? he asks. It's an age-old question of his and he's never gotten a satisfactory answer.

Because if you act on your emotions, you risk making poor decisions whose consequences you haven't fully considered. And those rash decisions can lead to people getting hurt or killed. Especially if the emotions they're based on are rooted in anger and fear. So you have to let them go and make reasoned, rational decisions, keeping in mind the greater good.

But what about the positive emotions? If you cut them out too, if you cut out all emotions, you're not really living , are you? You might as well be a droid. Why must the Jedi be emotionless? We're living creatures, we're meant to feel things.

Because the Code says -

The Code should be changed! If even you have trouble following it, then maybe it's not right.

Anakin, I am not the epitome of a Jedi. The Code can't and shouldn't be changed just because one or two Jedi can't live by them. Those who do live by it are Jedi. Those who choose not to or can't aren't. That's just how it is. The Jedi live to serve the greater good, they don't live for themselves.

It doesn't make any sense! Why can't you do both? The familiar circles they're going in is making him frustrated and he's certain that Obi-Wan's picking it up. There are some minor differences in the argument this time, though—namely that now he knows that Obi-Wan has experienced similar struggles with his emotions. It makes him even more frustrated, actually, that Obi-Wan is such a stickler for the Code when he knows why Anakin's having trouble with it.

Let's hold on this for now. This isn't what I meant by settling your mind. I wanted to show you something, Obi-Wan sends to him. Anakin doesn't have a chance to respond before he has the disorienting feeling of being pulled somewhere and then he finds himself floating in a vast space filled with swirls of color. He can sense Obi-Wan next to him, though he can't see him. The Force is all around them. It's bright and iridescent and endless .

Anakin gasps. The Unifying Force! I'd forgotten how beautiful it is. Obi-Wan had showed this to him once, long ago, when Anakin had just become a Padawan and he was explaining the differences between the Unifying Force and the Living Force. "It's all the same, of course, just a slightly different perspective," Obi-Wan had told his nine-year-old self. "But some Jedi are more attuned to the Force that's found in living beings and others tend to see the Force on a broader scale. Qui-Gon was more of the former and I'm more of the latter. I suspect that you are more grounded in the Living Force as well."

Obi-Wan had been right; Anakin is very strongly attuned to the Living Force. Strongly enough that he doesn't even think about the Unifying Force most of the time.

You remember what I told you about the Unified Force view? Obi-Wan asks, breaking into his reminiscences.

That there's no clear distinction between Light and Dark and that it's all on a continuum, Anakin recites obediently.

Yes. Individuals can be Light or Dark, though most are somewhere in between. But the Force encompasses everything. All life. And so in the grand picture, it's more of a multicolored gradient than a black or white scale. Obi-Wan does something to turn them around and Anakin finds himself looking at a condensed, shining silver stream of Force energy in the midst of the colored clouds. It stretches on as far as he can see. That's the past. The ribbon is made up of all the decisions that had been made to bring us to the present. The possibilities, the what-could-have-beens permeate the space around it. He spins them again and Anakin notices that the silver stream ends right where they're at, though he can just make out small specks of color continuously joining the end. The ribbon is constantly being lengthened with each decision that's made in the universe. It's hard to get a clear look into the future. Some Masters used to be able to look out into the clouds and make out some of the possible future paths. But these days, it's hard to glimpse even the immediate future possibilities. There are so many big decisions being made on a daily basis, so many factors coming into play with this war that affects billions of lives across the entire galaxy that those of us who try to look just see this.

Anakin gives a mental nod. He's heard Master Yoda grumbling many times about how clouded the future has been since the war started.

But the colors are a good sign. They're vibrant and mixed. The philosophers believe that if the future was headed down a Dark path, the colors of the Force would be muted.

So you can't make out any individual paths? Can't see if someone will go Dark or not? Anakin asks, wondering if he could get an answer to his worries, at least.

No —Obi-Wan starts but colors start streaking by them and the end of the silver ribbon draws close as if they had pulled right up to it in a star cruiser. Oh? What's this? Obi-Wan wonders.

Something catches Anakin's eye and he leans forward to get a closer look. There's a single, thin strand that shines brighter to him than the others. That's me, he thinks at Obi-Wan. He doesn't know how he knows but he does. That strand resonates with him and the light within it pulses as he watches.

Are you certain? You shouldn't be able to make out any individual's Force signature here. Obi-Wan sounds stunned but also a little awed.

Anakin's not really paying attention, though. He snags a metaphorical hold on the strand and follows it. He can sense Obi-Wan trailing behind him, watching in fascination. The strand turns out not to be just one strand but a multitude of even thinner strands of all different colors. About half of them are reds and blacks; the other half a mix of whites, yellows, blues, and greens.

What does this mean? he asks, showing them to Obi-Wan.

He can somehow tell that Obi-Wan is studying the strands and the colors intently. He finally signals at the red and black strands. These feel Dark to me. But these, he gestures to the others in Anakin's mental grip, feel Light. And you have an equal amount of both. So I think this just means that you have an equal chance of going Dark or staying Light. All he can sense from Obi-Wan is academic interest and not any worry. He takes some comfort from that. He feels Obi-Wan's attention switch to him instead of the Force. I think it means that you're not destined to do anything, he reassures and with that comes a feeling of warmth.

Okay, good. Then something occurs to him. Do you think Padmé's is here, too?

I don't see why not. The Force is found in all living things to some extent, even though most of them don't have enough of it to be sensitive to it.

Anakin tries to concentrate on the thought of Padmé, picturing her in his mind. For awhile, nothing happens. Then, a faintly lit strand catches his attention. That's her! he sends to Obi-Wan and lets go of the sense of his own Force essence and grabs a hold of hers. As soon as he touches it, he knows that he's right. It's a thin strand and it feels more fragile to him than his own did. It too splits into a multitude of thinner strands though he's dismayed to see that unlike his, many of those come to an end very shortly. This means that she dies, doesn't it? he asks. Grief threatens to swallow him and the light dims around him.

Anakin! Obi-Wan shouts, sounding alarmed.

He looks up and sees that the previously bright colors in the clouds have darkened. What's happening?

I don't know but perhaps we shouldn't stay much longer.

Yeah, okay. He looks back down at the strand in his hand, feeling dejected. Why is Padmé destined to die?

Look, Obi-Wan says suddenly and Anakin can feel him reaching over and lifting the end of the strand from Anakin's mental hold. He brings it up higher and Anakin can now see that there are a few longer strands trailing past the rest.

Anakin gasps. There's a chance! Hope suffuses him at the thought of being able to save Padme. She doesn't have to die! The light suddenly brightens around them and he looks up, startled. The clouds are once again luminescent.

Obi-Wan seems to be studying everything, including Anakin himself, thoughtfully. Yes, but Anakin, don't get your hopes up too much. There are many factors that could play into whether she lives or dies and it's possible that there's no decision you can make that would affect that.

But there has to be! Why else would I be dreaming about it? He feels almost manic with his need to go and do something right now . The lights start to flicker.

He picks up a spike of alarm from Obi-Wan just before the other man thinks, Might I suggest that we get out of here now? I suspect that your strong connection to the Force is causing it to react to your emotions. I don't think it's a good idea to stay any longer.

Wait, what about you? Anakin asks.

Anakin, no, you've already seen more than any Jedi can or likely should. You have to be careful not to lose yourself studying the possibilities. That's what Qui-Gon had always warned me about. It's easy to get lost trying to see the future, so much so that you lose track of the present. We should go. Obi-Wan tugs him away from the stream and gives him a gentle push.

He surfaces from the trance moments before Obi-Wan does and so he gets to watch as Obi-Wan, bathed in the morning sunlight streaming in through their window, blinks his eyes open and turn to him. His form is limned with a soft yellow glow and he looks ethereally beautiful. Anakin feels a sense of wonder looking at this man in front of him. How he got lucky enough to have two gorgeous people in his life, he doesn't know.

Obi-Wan quirks a smile at him. "What is it?" he asks, sounding bemused.

"Nothing. You're just...breathtaking. You're like the starbird, being rejuvenated in the heart of a nova."

Obi-Wan flushes. "Now who's the one speaking in flowery prose?"

"Nah, it's not flowery if it's true," Anakin says with a grin. Fondness fills him until he's brimming with it.

Obi-Wan clears his throat. "Well, it's quite a bit later than I expected. What time was it that we were supposed to meet with Senator Amidala?"

"Midday."

"Okay, yes, very good. I suggest that we start to get ready, then, and head over to the Senate Building." With that, Obi-Wan gets up and beats a hasty retreat to the refresher.

Anakin chuckles. "You're cute when you're all flustered!"

Obi-Wan huffs and flaps a hand back at him and then disappears into the refresher. Anakin grins, feeling a little giddy. He picks up the cleaning droid again and bends to his task with a lighter heart. He's not destined to Fall and Padmé doesn't have to die and he and Obi-Wan are still bonded. He feels like he's soaring high above Coruscant in his starfighter doing loops in the sky.

 


 

Anakin parks their speeder in the hangar of the Senate Building. He's been feeling nervous the whole flight over from the Temple, possible catastrophic scenarios playing themselves out in his head one by one. He tries to force his anxieties aside. Padme and Obi-Wan are two of the most diplomatic people he knows; if they do have a problem with each other, it won't come up during the meal anyway. But still. He desperately wants them to get along. He knows that they respect each other on a professional level, at least. He takes a deep breath and hopes that his worries aren't transmitting to Obi-Wan.

"Ready, my lovely starbird?" Anakin asks with a mischievous grin that only feels mildly strained. When in doubt, resort to light-hearted deflection. That was one of the most helpful lessons he learned as a Padawan.

Obi-Wan eyes him knowingly for a second and then groans in exaggerated exasperation. "Is this going to be a thing, now?"

"Whatever are you talking about?" Anakin asks, throwing himself into a close approximation of their usual banter and layering on the innocence in his voice. They exit the speeder and start making their way unhurriedly through the halls of the Senate Building.

Obi-Wan rolls his eyes at him but Anakin can see him biting back a smile. "The starbird comparison."

"I think it's a very apt comparison," Anakin defends.

"It's a creature of legend. How do you know if it's an 'apt comparison' or not?"

"Because I know my mythology. It's got wings of fire, a tail of gold and red, and blue eyes. That's definitely you." They call for a turbolift and wait with a few other milling Senators, most engrossed in worried discussions about the ongoing war efforts. Anakin tunes them out. He knows all too well the difficulties faced by the front lines; he really doesn't want to hear what a group of politicians who have never fought in battle before think about the war. " And ," he continues emphatically instead to Obi-Wan, "it's associated with the sun. So that makes it even more apt."

Obi-Wan splutters lowly. "What? That's a bit much, isn't it? How am I like the sun?"

The lift arrives and they enter, moving to one of the back corners. The other Senators don't look at them but their traditional Jedi robes guarantee that they're given a respectfully-wide berth. Anakin's glad for the privacy, or at least as much as one can get in a group like this. He keeps his expression schooled, hoping that everyone will think that he and Obi-Wan are discussing serious Jedi matters and aren't to be interrupted unless it's an emergency.

You burn bright and fiery, Anakin thinks at him. He sends a teasing touch along their bond, with a bit of affection mixed in at Obi-Wan's light blush. You're essential for life but you can be harsh and burn it away too. Anyone who comes near you gets pulled into orbit around you and those who get too close get completely consumed.

Obi-Wan frowns. That's an...interesting analogy. Doesn't sound pleasant. And I'm not as intense as that.

Oh, but you certainly are. You're magnetic.

So are you saying you're at risk of getting consumed? Because I don't think anyone's quite as close to me as you.

Anakin tamps down on the thrill he gets from that. Well, I didn't say that being consumed by you is bad. He throws in as much innuendo as he can into the words and feels Obi-Wan get a bit hot under his collar. He smirks. And anyway, I've always been a risk-taker, you know that.

That I do. Obi-Wan gives a long-suffering sigh.

I think I got it from you, actually. Anakin sends a burst of memories - of Obi-Wan jumping out of windows, charging into battles ahead of his troops, facing down raging beasts. His heart stops every time he turns around and finds that Obi-Wan's gone off and done something reckless without backup.

Oh, no. I'm not taking the blame for that. I'm not the one who was podracing at the age of nine. Obi-Wan doesn't have any direct memories of that since he wasn't at the race but he conveys the horror he had experienced when he had heard the story from Qui-Gon.

Anakin can't help the rush of happiness and pride he still gets when he thinks about that race. The first time he finished a race and he had won and it had changed his life. It was fun! And I was perfectly safe. I had the Force on my side, he defends. They get off the lift at the level of Padmé's office. Anakin's only peripherally aware of his surroundings; he's taken this route so many times he can navigate it in his sleep.

Ah, yes. Is that what you told yourself every time you snuck out of the Temple to go speeder racing?

"You knew about that?!" Anakin yelps just as they stop in front of Padmé's door. He had made sure to only do that when Obi-Wan was off-world, not wanting to risk his Master catching him and sending him away from the Order.

Before Obi-Wan can say anything, the door opens and they come face to face with a small group of Senators exiting Padmé's chambers. She must have been meeting with another Committee that morning. He recognizes a few of them and gives them courteous nods as they pass by him and Obi-Wan. The two of them step in when the entry clears and he sees Padmé speaking with Senators Mothma and Organa. He doesn't know Mon Mothma very well but he narrows his eyes at the dark-skinned senator from Alderaan.

"Let's set up a time to speak with the Chancellor about our petition. I feel that we have enough support now that he must listen to us," Padme's saying to them. They both nod.

"I'll have my aide make an appointment," Senator Mothma says. She and Bail turn to take their leave and Bail freezes when he sees Anakin. He's smugly satisfied at this reaction.

"Senator Mothma," Obi-Wan murmurs in greeting and farewell as she exits. Then he smiles at Bail, eyes lighting up a bit. Anakin fights off a wave of jealousy; he has nothing to be jealous of. "Bail! It's been awhile. How are you?"

"I, ah, I'm doing well, General Kenobi," Bail says, eyes darting between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Anakin juts his chin out a bit and raises a brow at him, unimpressed.

Obi-Wan frowns. "Why so formal today? You're not still upset that I won our last sabacc game, are you? That was...Force, that must have been eight or nine months ago. We're long overdue for another one."

"Oh well, I understand that you're busy, Obi-Wan," Bail says hastily with another glance at Anakin. "So there's no rush."

"Nonsense, I can always make time for a game of sabacc with a friend." Obi-Wan claps him on the shoulder and Bail nearly flinches. "I'll comm you to set up a time."

"Wonderful." Bail gives a slightly strained smile, nods a farewell to them both and leaves, head hanging low like a man doomed.

As soon as the door slides shut, Obi-Wan turns to Anakin and smacks him lightly on the arm. "What did you say to him?!"

"Nothing!" Anakin says. "I didn't say anything! Well, not much, anyway."

Obi-Wan scowls at him but he just feels fondly exasperated through their bond so Anakin's not worried. "When did you even have time to comm him? Please tell me you didn't jump to do so as soon as I got in the shower so that you could threaten him."

"What? No, of course not." Not that he wouldn't have done it if he had thought of it; he just didn't have the chance to think of it. "It's not my fault! He overheard me telling Padmé!" Padmé chuckles behind them and he turns to her. "Tell him, Padmé!"

"Oh no, I don't think I should get involved in this," Padmé says, holding her hands up. "This is between you and Obi-Wan, Ani." Anakin pouts but she doesn't relent.

Obi-Wan tips his head at her and Anakin throws his hands up. He can't win here. "Is this what my life is going to be like now? The two of you teaming up against me in arguments? That's not fair. You're both more eloquent than me!" He's actually quite delighted. He doesn't care if he loses every argument from now until the end of time if he could just keep this - both of the people he loves in the same room with him, safe from the war and anyone who wants to hurt them. All that's missing is Ahsoka and things would be perfect. He smiles widely at them both, Bail forgotten completely. "Padme, angel! I've missed you." He goes over to sweep her in a tight hug, taking a moment to breathe in her familiar perfume.

"Oh dear! Master Kenobi!" Threepio suddenly pipes up from the other side of the room. Anakin can detect the worry in the droid's voice and almost wants to laugh. "Would you care for something to drink? I've got the tea set up over here."

"Thank you, Threepio. I believe I will," Obi-Wan says, amusement tinging his voice. Please tell me you didn't program your droid to distract people so that you can be affectionate with your wife.

Of course not! But while Obi-Wan's distracted getting a cup of tea with Threepio's assistance, Anakin bends down to kiss his wife. He savors the sweetness of her lips and the softness of her skin. He really has missed her terribly in the past day and a half.

"Anakin, you look tired. Are you okay? How did it go with Obi-Wan?" Padmé asks quietly when they pull back from each other. He rests one hand on her shoulder, fingers rubbing absently at the thick cloth of her Senatorial robes as he chances a glance over at the other man. Obi-Wan appears to be patiently listening to Threepio go on about something or other; he feels content to give Anakin and Padmé their privacy for now.

"It went great! We talked most of the night and then meditated until we came here. Oh, and I have some more good news, too! We're going to be able to save you."

"Save me?" Padmé asks, sounding puzzled. "From what?"

"My dream. Of you dying."

"Oh, that. Ani, those are just dreams."

"That's what Obi-Wan had said about the dreams I had of mom. And those ended up coming true. But it doesn't matter, because I won't let these happen. I'm not going to let you die, I promise."

Padmé's eyes soften. "You can't stop death, Anakin."

"Maybe not, but I can keep it from getting to that point. And Obi-Wan will help. So it'll be okay."

Padmé shakes her head but just says, "Let's talk about this later, okay? I don't want to spoil our lunch."

"Okay," Anakin agrees reluctantly. She feels distressed. Why isn't she happy about this? Does she not believe in him? But it's no matter if she believes he'll be able to do it or not. He and Obi-Wan have had their share of doubters before and it's never stopped them from accomplishing their goals.

Padmé flashes him a smile and brushes another kiss on his lips. "I'll go make sure the food's here. Why don't you get Obi-Wan?"

He nods and she departs to the dining alcove. He takes a moment to watch her retreating back, admiring her gracefulness even in pregnancy. She seems more beautiful now than ever, glowing with new life. It doesn't make any sense for her to be in danger of dying. He shakes off the gloom from his premonitions and makes his way over to Obi-Wan, touching him gently at the small of his back. "Threepio, why don't you go help Padmé get set up?" he suggests, breaking into the droid's recounting of his latest adventure.

"Very well, Master Anakin," Threepio says agreeably and turns to go.

"You may want to consider adjusting his programming a bit," Obi-Wan says to him, watching the droid thoughtfully. "All that fretting can't be good for his circuits."

"Oh, don't I know it, Master Kenobi," Threepio calls back mournfully.

Anakin chuckles, placing a kiss at Obi-Wan's temple. "It's part of his personality. I can't change that now. And I like that he worries. I can't be with Padmé very often, especially when she's sent out on diplomatic missions but at least I know that Threepio's watching out for her."

Obi-Wan shakes his head. "I really should have known about you two when you traded droids."

"It's more like joint custody, really. Come on, we should head in before the food's cold."

Obi-Wan doesn't feel reluctant to go but Anakin keeps his hand on his back for reassurance—it's more for him anyway, because Obi-Wan's a steady presence both physically and in the Force and it calms him down.