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"Okay," Obi-Wan says, distributing a datapad each to Anakin and Padmé when they meet the next day. "Here's what I've found so far on Force-sensitive pregnancies."

They've opted for an evening meeting this time since Padmé had had a full morning and afternoon of Senate meetings and are convening in her personal quarters in the Senate Apartment Building instead of her office.

Anakin frowns. Obi-Wan's eyes are a little wide and his hand movements are just the tiniest bit jerky; his gaze darts around the room restlessly. He's exuding a subtle frenetic energy that on anyone else would be mild but on him is alarming just due to its rarity. "Obi-Wan, have you slept at all since I left last night?" he asks. Padmé looks up from the datapad in her hand, frowning slightly.

Obi-Wan flaps a hand at him and Anakin barely refrains from widening his eyes. "I'm fine. I had some caf. This research needed to be done. We don't have much time. Did you know that the average length of pregnancy for a human female is forty weeks? That means we only have four more weeks to figure out what's going on with your dreams before Padmé goes into labor. And then she'll have to decide if she wants to deliver vaginally or via surgical—"

Anakin's startled. "You know about human pregnancies?"

"No, but I read up on it last night. I started off looking for information on Force-sensitive pregnancies, specifically—which sadly, there isn't much recent documentation on in the Archive, I suppose because there's a restriction on Jedi having children. I mean, it's not an explicitly stated restriction but it goes along with the discouragement of attachments in general. So there really isn't any data from the Jedi themselves about pregnancy and what to expect from Force-sensitive children in the womb or during the delivery. And of the children who are brought to the Temple or found after birth, there's not much documented either since typically the parents don't find out about the Force sensitivity until after birth when they get tested at the hospital if such a thing is routinely done or when things start happening around the child that make the parents suspect that there's some Force use involved. But while I was looking into that, I realized that I—and you, as well, Anakin—are sorely lacking in education about pregnancies in general so I started looking into that —"

"Stop, stop, stop!" Anakin cries, alarm levels rising with each rambling sentence that Obi-Wan utters. Even Padmé is starting to look worried. Obi-Wan stops, looking confused. "You're rambling! You're sounding like you did on that mission on Ryloth when we had to keep moving for three standard days and barely had time to rest so we were downing caf to stay awake." Obi-Wan must have been drinking caf continuously since the previous night in order to be this unfocused in such a short period of time.

Obi-Wan blinks. "I—what? Anakin, I'm fine ."

Anakin just shakes his head. "Sit." He guides Obi-Wan to the sofa and applies gentle pressure on his shoulders to get him to sit down; Obi-Wan goes without complaint or comment which makes Anakin even more worried. "I'll get you some tea," he says.

Obi-Wan just sighs and leans back into the sofa. "Very well."

Anakin rewards him with a big smile. Then he looks towards Padmé and hurries to help her over to the sofa as well. She doesn't really need his help but he enjoys the physical contact.

"Anakin!" she hisses, leaning in close as they make their way slowly over. "This document is thirty thousand words long! There are citations and footnotes and a table of contents! He even indexed everything! This is too much!"

"Oh, that's just the first part. He'll want to interview experts in the field, next. If there are any. And then do a couple of case studies—probably one of you if you'll consent to that."

Padmé’s eyes widen.

"He does this pretty regularly. He likes researching things and writing about them. There's a whole section in the Archives for his works. It's one of the reasons he keeps getting into trouble on missions—he's always wanting to get a closer look at some rare or previously unknown species of plant or creature. I've had to put a stop to some of his research projects for his own safety. And he always forgets he needs things like sleep or food when he's in the middle of something. I should have known better than to leave him alone with it yesterday." They reach the sofa and Anakin helps Padmé get settled in on the opposite end from Obi-Wan, leaving a space in the middle for himself. "Do you want anything too?"

"No, thank you, I'm okay." Padmé eyes Obi-Wan who has tilted his head back against the back of the sofa and closed his eyes before looking back at the datapad in her hands with a quiet sigh. She starts to skim through the document again and Anakin makes his way over to where the tea is set up in the corner.

He looks through the selection carefully. He's not all that familiar with the different varieties - Obi-Wan's the tea drinker between the two of them but his favorite has caf in it, Anakin knows, so that won't work. He finally decides on one that's supposed to be soothing and help promote sleep according to the label. Force knows Obi-Wan needs the sleep right now. He adds a bit of hot milk for good measure and then picks up the plate of crumpets next to the kettle. When he returns to the sitting area, Padmé looks completely engrossed in the datapad and Obi-Wan's starting to list to the side, breathing evenly. Anakin stops and purses his lips, debating whether to wake the other man up or not. But well, Obi-Wan probably hasn't eaten all day which isn't good so that makes his mind up for him. He tugs a bit on the Force bond as he's coming around the curve of the sofa and Obi-Wan blinks awake just in time for Anakin to press the cup of tea into his hands and set the plate on his lap.

"Wha—?" he asks a little dazedly, fingers automatically wrapping around the teacup.

"Tea. And biscuits. You should eat something while Padmé and I read through what you've found."

Padmé looks up at this with a smile. "Yes, thank you for looking into all of this, Obi-Wan. Perhaps we can discuss it after you've rested and Anakin and I have had a chance to digest it."

Obi-Wan looks startled. "Oh, okay. Yes, that sounds reasonable. Perhaps I should go back to the Temple, then."

"What? No, don't do that! You can stay here!" Anakin protests without thinking. At Obi-Wan's raised eyebrow, he darts his eyes towards Padmé who's luckily smiling in amusement. Anakin's relieved. He hadn't realized there would be so many potential pitfalls to this new arrangement of theirs. He thinks a little mournfully that he'll probably fall into just about all of them at some point.

"I do have some extra rooms. They were set aside for my handmaidens to use but I've only got Motee with me right now so the rest are empty. You're free to stay in one of those for the night. Or longer, if you'd like," Padmé offers.

Obi-Wan looks like he's about to politely refuse so Anakin pouts at him and widens his eyes. Obi-Wan sighs. "Very well. I'll stay. Just for tonight, because it's already quite late."

"Great!" Anakin says enthusiastically and beams. He knows better than to say anything now but he's already planning which room to give to Obi-Wan and how he can rearrange it to make sure it's to the other man's liking - simple furnishings, no clutter, a view of the city, and an open space for meditation. He doesn't want them to completely move out of their rooms at the Temple because they had been there for so long and it is home for Obi-Wan but he wants Obi-Wan to have a space of his own here too.

He's thought briefly about Obi-Wan's suggestion that he leave the Order but he still can't envision leaving while Obi-Wan remains in it and he also can't quite bring himself to ask Obi-Wan to leave with him. He remembers hearing Obi-Wan telling Satine that he'd have left the Order if she had asked it of him, that time when the assassin had been about to kill her en route to Coruscant and Anakin had been sneaking up behind their group. At that time, he had marveled that Obi-Wan had ever considered leaving the Order at all and had thought that Satine was foolish to have let that chance slip away.

But now he thinks he understands why she had never asked it of Obi-Wan - the Jedi are his family, in a way that they never had been for Anakin. Being a Jedi is Obi-Wan's life and he's good at it. No matter how much he protests, he truly is one of the best—compassionate, smart, willing to make the tough calls, and able to charm anyone and win their trust. And he enjoys helping people as a Jedi—Anakin can see that in every mission they do, big or small. He can't in good conscience ask Obi-Wan to give that up. And certainly not for him. What if Obi-Wan actually does it? How could Anakin ever hope to be an adequate trade for something that's defined the other man for longer than Anakin's been alive? Satine may have been able to - she was a Duchess and governed a planet; she was a good person who valued ideals like Obi-Wan does. But Anakin isn't those things. No matter how much he tries, he knows it wouldn't be enough and he doesn't want Obi-Wan to resent him for it. So he won't ask. And he can't leave.

But he will find a way to balance being a husband and a father and a Jedi.

He picks up his datapad again and delves into the document that Obi-Wan had put together. Padmé has already gone back to studying it and Obi-Wan has started munching on some biscuits in silence. They spend the rest of the night reading together (though Obi-Wan does fall asleep against Anakin's shoulder at some point—Anakin ends up sitting very still for much longer than he usually can in fear of waking Obi-Wan from his much-needed rest).

 


 

Obi-Wan wakes up on Padmé’s sofa with sunlight streaming in through the wall of windows. He's snuggled into Anakin who's got one arm wrapped around him and one arm around Padmé who's curled up on his other side. A large, thick blanket covers the three of them and it feels warm and cozy so he takes a moment to revel in the sense of peace and contentment suffusing their little group.

Then Threepio shuffles in with a tray of steaming cups of caf and Muja muffins. Anakin startles awake at the noise and jerks up, which jostles Padmé awake too, though she's more graceful about it. Obi-Wan pulls away reluctantly from Anakin's solid warmth and takes a cup from the tray that Threepio offers him. He's slightly embarrassed at falling asleep on the sofa like he had but he mostly only regrets it because he now has a painful crick in his neck.

"Morning," Anakin says, brushing a kiss on Padmé’s lips and then turning and doing the same with Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan smiles into the kiss, feeling oddly grateful that he's being included in this family unit so easily. Anakin takes a sip of caf and then says, "You know, I didn't see anything about any particular dangers involved in bearing Force-sensitive children."

Obi-Wan nods. "I know. I suspect that there just haven't been many children who were strong enough in the Force to be decidedly sensitive even before birth so there weren't any signs to prompt specific data collection about those pregnancies. You yourself probably were but out on Tatooine, there wouldn't have been anyone who could have noticed. There's a couple of older texts I still want to consult but there's generally a lot of gaps in the information that we have on the subject. I did learn that the birthing process is easier with a Force-sensitive healer present but there's no clear explanation as to why that is."

Padmé clears her throat then. "Perhaps there isn't any heightened danger with the pregnancy and it's just your worries about being a father that's causing your dreams, Anakin."

"No, I know what regular dreams feel like. And these are not the same. These feel like the dreams about my mother. They're a warning. Now I just have to figure out how to stop them from happening."

"Well, if they're truly visions of the future, then perhaps they're meant to come to pass and you're being shown them so that you have time to prepare for it."

"What?" Anakin says. "No, you can't believe that."

Padmé raises her chin. "Why not? Anakin, you may be a powerful Jedi but you're not a god. If it is truly time for Shiraya to take me, then She will."

" What? " Anakin yelps and Obi-Wan winces. "You can't be serious," he then says flatly.

Padmé just arches a brow at him elegantly.

"If you believe in destiny like that, then why were you fighting so hard to free Naboo from the Trade Federation ten years ago? Why are you fighting so hard to negotiate an end to this war now? Why are any of us putting our lives on the line for the Republic instead of leaving it in the hands of these so-called gods ?!" Anakin demands, breathing harshly. The Force bond tightens with his agitation and Obi-Wan tries to soothe it out. Breathe, Anakin. Just listen. Don't get worked up.

Padmé narrows her eyes. "Shiraya helps those who help themselves, not those who sit around waiting for things to be handed to them. And I believe in fighting for just causes. But some things you can't avoid, Anakin. Such as dying when it's your time. We all have a time. We may not know when it is but death will come for all of us eventually."

Anakin shakes his head sharply.

"It will, Anakin," Padmé repeats. "And the more you fight it, the harder it will be to accept it when the time comes. It's what we do with the time we have that's important. And what I've chosen to do is live with conviction and love. I've chosen to advocate for peace and freedom and democracy because those are important to me and for as long as I live, I will continue to fight for those, whether it's only another couple of months or another couple of decades."

"You. Will. Not. Be. Dying. In. A. Couple. Of. Months!" Anakin snarls. "How many times to I have to say this? I'll find a way to stop it!" He throws his hands in the air and starts pacing. Obi-Wan watches him pensively, worried that he's going to lose control over his emotions again. Anger is already tinting their bond a faint red and tension tightens it uncomfortably again. He infuses a sense of calmness into it and the color does seem to fade a bit to the orange-tinged pink of sunset.

"No, you will not! Anakin, you can't . Only the gods have dominion over life and death like that. If you try to overreach, if you try to do something that no mortal being was ever meant to do—do you know what that could cost you? Your soul! Why do you think there are so many cautionary tales about people who try to play god and end up destroying themselves and everything they care about? Why do you think the holymen of Naboo preach that we should live in harmony with our planet? Breaking the natural cycle of life will break one of the seven gates guarding against Chaos!"

Anakin scoffs. "What do those holymen know about the Force? They're just a bunch of monks living in isolated temples and communities!"

"Anakin!" Padmé rebukes, looking aghast. "One of those holymen presided over our wedding! If you don't respect their authority and their wisdom, then our vows mean nothing!"

Anakin's eyes widen in panic and he takes several large steps over to Padmé to grab her hands. "No, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. Of course our vows mean something. They mean everything to me!"

"Then you'll respect my stance on this," Padmé says firmly. "I don't want you destroying yourself trying to save me. Especially not when we have a child on the way." She frees one of her hands and cups Anakin's cheek with it. "No matter what happens to me, whether I live or die in childbirth, you have to be able to be there to take care of our child. You're a good person, Anakin. I don't want that to change because of me. I could never live with myself if I was the reason your light went away."

Anakin bites his lip and his eyes start to water. He blinks rapidly. "I don't know if I can keep going if I lose you. Even for our child," he says shakily. His hands grip hers tightly.

"You absolutely can. I believe in you. And you won't be alone - you'll have Obi-Wan."

At that, both of them glance over at him—Padmé’s eyes asking for support and Anakin's for reassurance. He stands and clasps a hand on Anakin's shoulder. "Of course you'll have me, Anakin. I'll be with you no matter what happens." Anakin's eyes continue to bore into his out a little wildly and the Force feels a bit turbulent around him from the strength of his emotions. I swear on the Force itself, my heart. We'll stand together in this and in all things, Obi-Wan promises and braids in a few additional threads to their bond.

Anakin quickly follows suit. Then I too swear on the Force that I'll be with you. For as long as you'll have me. Through darkness and light and whatever the universe throws at us.

The bond glows brightly when their threads come together in the middle and then dims to a soft golden hue in the back of Obi-Wan's mind. When he opens his eyes—he hadn't even been aware of closing them but apparently he had—it's to see Anakin blinking his own eyes open. They look calmer now, steadier. There's still the fieriness that's always shone out of their blue depths but it's mostly banked for now. The flow of the Force settles around them.

Anakin smiles softly at him and leans in to kiss him. "Forever," he murmurs against his lips.

"Yes," Obi-Wan agrees. A thrill of giddiness shoots through him at the prospect and he's not sure if it's entirely his own or a combination of his and Anakin's feelings. He thinks he might have just done what he had gotten upset with Anakin about just a couple of days ago—made vows to someone that could conflict with his commitment to the Order. But this feels... right . Listen to the Force. Let it guide you, Qui-Gon had always told him. He hopes that it's guiding him in the right direction in this.

Padmé clears her throat gently and they startle, looking over at where she's still standing by Anakin. She's holding a cup of tea in one hand now and resting the other on her stomach. Behind her, Threepio stands frozen, head tilted and eyes bright as he seems to watch them in perplexity. Padmé smiles softly at them. "I don't need to be sensitive to your Force to know that something just happened. Should I say anything to officiate it?"

"No, I don't think so," Anakin says, leaning down to hug her. "We had renewed our old bond the other day and we were just strengthening it."

Oh, there was a bit more to that than just strengthening an existing bond, Obi-Wan thinks to himself. But he keeps silent on that for now. He wants to do a bit more research before bringing anything up.

"Really?" Anakin asks anyway, glancing over at him. Padmé looks between them, puzzled.

"What?" he says, a little startled. Then he frowns, realizing what Anakin must have meant. "Yes," he answers a little distractedly. Had they deepened the bond to the point where they could hear each other's thoughts that easily?

"Maybe," Anakin says with a puzzled look. "Because I just heard that. But I'm okay with that. I had wanted to do that originally."

"I know. I had meant for us to talk about it before going forward with it but I'm fine with it, too. It just worries me a bit that it wasn't our intention to do so just now and yet it happened," Obi-Wan says. To Padmé, who's looking increasingly more bewildered, he explains, "On top of adding to the bond, we exchanged what would probably be considered to be vows of fealty. And now it appears that our bond has gone deeper than we realized."

She raises one brow. "'Vows of fealty'? You mean like marriage vows?"

"Perhaps. Jedi haven't wed each other since before the Great Sith War thousands of years ago so many of those rituals have been lost. Or, more likely, locked away. The Order instituted our current Code after that war, in an attempt to prevent more Jedi from falling to the Dark Side which is how the Sith even came to be."

Padmé’s eyes widen. "Oh. That's...not common knowledge."

"No, it isn't."

"And that's why the Code needs to be updated," Anakin chimes in. "It's so old. The universe has changed in the past couple of thousand years, Obi-Wan." He looks at Obi-Wan pointedly.

"Yes, I know that—"

"—and the Jedi haven't changed with it. We're becoming relics and if it weren't for this war, we'd have probably been completely forgotten and made into myths."

Obi-Wan sighs and shakes his head. "I'm not saying that you're wrong and that we shouldn't re-examine the Code and possibly revise it. But we're in the middle of a war. This isn't the right time for that." The chrono on the wall chimes the hour and Obi-Wan curses mildly. "Speaking of, I need to get back to the Temple for a Council meeting. Thank you for your hospitality, Padmé."

"Any time, Obi-Wan."

"Wait," Anakin says while Obi-Wan is returning his empty tea cup to Threepio's tray. "I'll come back with you. I want to look into something at the Archives." Obi-Wan nods and waits for him by the door to the veranda where he had parked his speeder the night before. "Have a good day at the Senate, angel," Anakin says and kisses Padmé.

Padmé sighs. "It's rarely a good day in the Senate. There are so many representatives arguing for expansion of the army and to give even more power to the Chancellor. It's like they don't realize that every step in that direction takes us farther away from the democracy and the peace that the Republic was founded on."

"Well, the Chancellor's a good man. I'm sure he's aware of that," Anakin says.

"He may be aware of it and he may not want the power but he's accepting it all the same and he's not doing anything to promote a return to peaceful negotiations. I fear that he's being swayed by the Banking Clan and the Trade Federation. It's so dangerous for any one person to have that much power and authority over the whole Republic. Chancellor Palpatine may be a good person but what if something happens to him and someone less honorable takes the position and abuses that power? He needs to cede it back to the Senate and restore the system of checks and balance."

"I'm sure he will. And the Jedi would never let anyone with ill intent remain as Chancellor."

Padmé quirks an eyebrow at him. "The Jedi serve the Republic and the Chancellor is the head of the Republic. Would their hands not be tied?"

"Not necessarily," Obi-Wan speaks up. "You're right in that the Jedi do serve the Republic but part of that service is to protect the ideals that the Republic was founded on. If the Chancellor didn't uphold those ideals, the Jedi would take steps to correct that. And the Jedi's function is determined by the Senate, not the Chancellor."

Anakin frowns. "Yes, and that just means it takes longer for us to be sent to where we need to be because there's so much bureaucracy. Imagine how much more good we could have done if we could have acted faster, had to wait for fewer people to come to a consensus. Maybe the Chancellor should have jurisdiction over the Jedi instead of the Senate."

Obi-Wan shakes his head. "Absolutely not. The Chancellor doesn't have any particular understanding of what we are or what we can do so he's in no better position than the Senate to make calls about where to send us. It's not ideal but at least with the Senate, there can be multiple opinions and multiple viewpoints shared. Liability is also shared. Imagine how many Chancellors would have been voted out of the office if they had sole discretion over what the Jedi did or where they were sent and angered a significant part of the Republic. The way it's done now, it's a majority vote so there's no one person to blame for less-than-satisfactory results and we don't have a constantly changing leader."

"Okay, fine. But then, if the Chancellor shouldn't be given authority over the Jedi and the Senate takes too long to make decisions, then the best solution would be for the Jedi to govern themselves. Shouldn't that be what the Council does? Why tether ourselves to the Republic? We could be helping so many more people if we could act on our own!"

"No, I don't think that would work, Anakin," Padmé says with a thoughtful frown. "People are frightened by the Jedi as it is and you're official representatives of the Republic. If the Jedi were an independent organization, they'd likely be seen as unwanted visitors as best and terrorists at worst."

"What? No way!" Anakin protests. "We would just be helping people!"

"There's two sides to every conflict," Padmé responds. "The one that you're not helping won't be very happy about your involvement. If you go around toppling governments, you'd just be wreaking havoc in the universe."

"Besides, the Jedi do help people, Anakin. Have we ever been sent someplace where we weren't needed and didn't do any good?" Obi-Wan says.

Anakin bites his lip and thinks, which is a pleasant surprise to Obi-Wan. He finally shakes his head reluctantly. "No, I suppose not."

Obi-Wan hums and nods. "The universe is a vast place. There's no end to the number of people who could use our help but the Jedi—and Force users, in general—have always been few and spread thinly. There just isn't any feasible way to help everyone who needs it. And no universally agreed upon system to determine who should get the help that we can offer. And since this war started, we've had to devote nearly all of our resources to it. But hopefully that will end soon now that Count Dooku is dead."

"Then would the Jedi support the Delegation of 2000?" Padmé asks. "We've put together a proposal that we'll be presenting to the Chancellor to request that he return his emergency powers to the Senate. It would be helpful to have some Jedi presence to help persuade him that now is a good time to do so...?"

Obi-Wan purses his lips. "You'll have to make that request formally to the Council. I think they'll support such a proposal but it may depend on the reports we receive from the field, whether or not the Separatists are rallying behind a new leader."

Padmé bows her head. "Of course. We do understand that the Chancellor has to make an informed decision about the state of the Republic. We only wish to present the idea to him early on."

"I'm sure he'll appreciate it," Anakin says. "He's always spoken about what a burden the emergency powers are and how saddened he is that it's had to come to this. Now that the end is near, he'll probably be happy to return to how things used to be."

"I hope you're right, Anakin," Padmé says somberly.

"And with that, we really must be going or I'm going to be late to the Council meeting. Good day, Padmé." Obi-Wan bows to her and climbs into the passenger seat of the speeder behind him.

Anakin smiles at him and then turns to Padmé and kisses her softly. "I'll let you know if I can come back tonight. But there's a couple of things I want to look into in the Temple and if we're going to leave in a couple of days to Naboo..."

"I understand," Padmé says.

"I love you," Anakin tells her and then hugs her tightly.

"I love you too," Padmé returns.

Obi-Wan watches them and wonders at how easy and natural such displays of affection seem to be for the two of them. Physical displays of compassion aren't discouraged within the Order but neither are they encouraged and so many of the Jedi, himself included, don't typically engage in such actions. He's gotten used to receiving Anakin's affections over the years because Anakin has always been prone to physical contact and he's learned long ago that physical contact—usually a hand on the shoulder or the back—is often the quickest and most effective way to soothe Anakin when he needs comfort and reassurance so he's gotten comfortable initiating those. But in this too, Anakin has been the exception to the rule.

Part of him thinks that it might be nice to be more physically affectionate with Anakin. Another part wonders how exactly he would go about doing so.

His musings are interrupted when Anakin hops into the driver's side of the speeder and flashes him a bright grin. "Don't worry, I'll make sure you get to your meeting on time."

Obi-Wan groans and fights off a wave of nausea at just the thought of the stunts Anakin's going to pull to accomplish that. "That's kind of what I was afraid of."

As they peel away from the veranda - going twenty kilometers per hour more than the posted limit - Anakin reaches over and tangles their fingers together. "This is okay, right?" he asks.

Obi-Wan's a bit taken aback - Anakin doesn't usually ask before he bestows some form of physical contact. "Yes, of course," he says, hoping his consternation isn't obvious. Has he reacted in any way that's made Anakin worry that his touch is unwelcome now?

Anakin just nods, though, and turns his head so he can keep an eye on the traffic lane and glance at Obi-Wan out of the corner of his eyes. "It's okay with me whenever you want to do it, too," he says. " If you want to, that is. You don't have to."

Obi-Wan feels a rush of love for him. He squeezes Anakin's gloved hand and brings it up to his lips to kiss the palm. It's his prosthetic hand so Obi-Wan doesn't know how much Anakin will be able to feel it but from the way his eyes are sparkling, the sentiment is appreciated. "Perhaps it's something we can figure out together," he says.

"Yeah," Anakin agrees. "No pressure, though. We can take our time with it. We'll have all the time in the universe once this war ends."

Obi-Wan nods. "Indeed." He hopes that's truly the case.