Anakin Skywalker, Hero with No Fear, Warrior of the Infinite, Knight of the Jedi Order, pressed a hand to his face and desperately tried to muffle the hysterical laughter coming from his mouth as he collapsed against the wall of the elevator.
Never could he have ever in his wildest dreams imagined a council meeting to result in what had just taken place. The very idea of an uproar happening in that room, let alone with a non-council member and a clone trooper in attendance, was unthinkable.
But it had happened.
And Anakin had had the glorious pleasure of watching not only the infamous Negotiator, Obi-Wan Kenobi, fall speechless but Master Yoda and Master Windu as well. Today truly was the best day of his life.
It had all started before the War when Padmè and he had spoken about his training as a Jedi. He had long pushed his old childhood crush aside even with the dreams of her every night until he was 15, his feelings becoming affectionate but not entirely romantic.
(Not to mention when Anakin had been 14, he’d started realising that dreaming about Padmè without her knowing was invasive. Padmè deserved her privacy. He’d endeavoured to pry those thoughts out of his head, thinking of how the greatest love stories of his childhood had been about friends who endured hardship with each other. That was the great love he wanted. Falling in love with an image wasn’t real.)
Something had eased and with it, the words of loneliness, inferiority and homesickness slipped out when they had spoken with each other. Padmè had been wonderful and hiding on Naboo had only strengthened the bond he’d felt with her. At one point, an old vision, the one he’d had as a child of Padmè dressed in marriage clothes, flashed before his eyes. This time he caught more of it. Unlike the surety of his child self that he was the one Padmè was smiling so lovingly with, it was another with himself beaming to the side.
The vision only confirmed what he now knew. Padmè and he were destined to be friends. Close friends, Sandstorm siblings as his childhood would have put it. Friends who could endure anything, even an unrelenting sandstorm.
Naboo went mostly smoothly as Padmè and Anakin grew closer and fell into a friendship that felt almost too easy. He wasn’t afraid to call her out, unlike the feeling he had with the Jedi even Obi-Wan. It was like he was back on Tatooine amongst his old friends who would guard his back through anything.
They spent most of their time playing and relaxing with the odd bout of sparring (Padmè was lethal with a short staff) in Varykino after visiting her parents.
The only darkness was the dreams he kept having. By the fourth night, Padmè pulled him into a fierce hug and demanded they take a small ship to Tatooine. He’d been too shocked to deny her.
Later he’d be grateful. If they had been but a day later…
Of course, the sight of Senator Padmè Amidala being followed by a tall, charming young man spread like wildfire amongst the people, not knowing he was a Jedi. Rumours started.
He gathered the courage to ask about it while his mother recovered in another room. He got a flat look and a scathing glare shot at the wall.
“Some people believe that if they’re in a relationship with me, they can influence me. Possibly to the detriment of my people. I’ve been dealing with those types ever since I got elected. Everyone else just wants to know who I’m with and when I’ll settle down.”
Anakin had nodded and left it at that.
After the war had kicked off, Anakin had made a point to visit her. Partially because both of them made the agreement that the war did not exist within her home except her office. Also because the presence of Anakin visiting her regularly had a rather wonderful effect.
People who tried to influence Senator Amidala found themselves being glared at by a scowling Jedi Knight who was often perched on her desk when not on the war front.
Rumours spread that Senator Amidala and Knight Skywalker were in a relationship.
The first time they heard it, they had howled in laughter and decided that a little fun was in order. Sure, it meant Padmè’s would be suitors suddenly found themselves with other interests (tragically) and Separatists had to decide whether or not to incur the wrath of Skywalker was a fight they were willing to start (a terrible shame) but the idea of fuelling the rumour mill was too much to pass up.
After all, Anakin was still barely only 20 years old and Padmè had been under public scrutiny since she was 12. A little rebellion and immaturity was expected.
The only other person, outside of their families, C-3PO and R2-D2, who knew of the ruse was Queen Jamilla and later Queen Neeyutnee purely to ensure the Queens’ would not question the rumours. Both had found it hilarious and promised to keep the truth to themselves, seeing the advantage in having the man who had saved them during the Naboo occupation supposedly involved with their senator.
Queen Jamilla had even quipped cheekily that “so long as you don’t get married!” showing her true age.
(Later, near the end of the war, Sabè would be brought into the secret after a very uncharacteristically nervous Padmè asked to court her in the old ways of Naboo. Anakin had been sure to make his approval known as loudly and as obnoxiously as possible without blowing their cover.)
All in all, the rumour of Amidala and Skywalker persisted throughout the war. More than one bet was made and Anakin often had to refrain himself from placing a bet himself.
It had been the best relationship he had. It was open, honest, and often, the very thing he needed after a long day. He found himself blowing off invites by the Chancellor to chat with Padmè, sometimes dragging her into the office to talk politics and war, other times just curling up on the couch with her hands in his hair.
Even the incident with Rush Clovis hadn’t infuriated him as much as he thought it would. Sure, the guy was a huge sleemo and he’d chewed him out for trying to kiss Senator Amidala without her permission. Even more impressively, he hadn’t punched him after seeing that scene but had refused to leave her side afterwards.
Which had been key to preventing her poisoning.
(“Him, Padmè? Palo, I could understand. An artist is cute. I can appreciate art. Sabè is amazing and I can totally see why you’re in love with her. I completely approve and think you should go for it. But Rush Clovis?! I thought you had taste!”
“Shut up, Ani!”
The fact their friendship was rock solid meant Padmè had no qualms about mentioning her fears about certain senators, up to and including Chancellor Palpatine.
The first time she mentioned it, Anakin felt a blaze of fury overwhelm him and he had to take several slow breaths to ask why. When she gently explained it, the anger flowed out. A simple matter of opinion differences between politicians. Padmè made sense and Anakin could see why she was worried even if he didn’t think much of it.
Eventually, the evidence started adding up. Anakin felt awful for suspecting his mentor but the longer the war went on, the more he felt the Chancellor promised more than his actions delivered. It was when Fives came to him, deluded and clearly frightened by something that the final piece fell into place.
The Chancellor was either corrupt or being manipulated by the Sith. As terrible as it was, Anakin hoped it was the latter. Maybe that would mean all their earlier interactions actually meant something, not just the careful calculations of a politician looking for a Jedi ally.
Even then he was barely able to talk Fives into lowering the ray shield just before the Coruscant Guard entered.
A week later proved both his theories wrong. He spent the fall out hiding in Padmè’s apartment, trying to figure out how he couldn’t have seen it. How could the Chosen One with the highest midi-chlorian count in the Order not have noticed the Sith under their noses?
At least he had taken Pa-Sidious’ head for crimes against The Republic with Padmè providing evidence to the Senate beforehand. They had nearly lost several masters in the fight, but Anakin had shoved his way to the forefront and taken on the old man himself, opening himself up to the Force in a way he barely remembered from childhood.
For the first time since he came to Coruscant, he could hear the Force sing in his veins.
Apparently, it had freaked a few people out, according to Padmè. He had moved too fluidly, too swiftly. He’d also glowed for a good twenty minutes. A true instrument of the Force.
(Rumours of his power and no few images of him, glowing and ruthless, made their way into Separatist hands and the war ground to halt. News that Sidious was manipulating both sides mean peace talks became a viable solution as evidence of Dooku’s role in the war became clear.)
He’d collapsed into Obi-Wan’s and Padmè’s arms, absently noting Rex and a few other troopers hovering worriedly. All he could do was peer up at them brokenly and whisper, “He was my friend” before burying his face into Padmè’s shoulder and cried for the death of a man who had once been a friend to a lost and scared former slave boy even if it had been just a deception.
He honestly didn’t know what he would have done if not for Padmè in those few days. She’d fought for order in the Senate and then cowed any Jedi out of her apartment when she came home. Only Obi-Wan had been let in and that was supervised by an eagle-eyed Sabè.
It was only a ten-day later when Rex had shown up with a gift from the 501st that Anakin had made the effort to leave the safety of Padmè’s apartment. Mostly to the barracks where his troopers, his wonderful crazy brilliant troopers, kept him occupied and deflected any Jedi before escorting him back to Padmè’s apartment. It was rather like being doted on by hundreds of mother krayts, but Anakin didn’t argue. It felt good when they pulled him into conversations and strong hugs, affection flowing freely but never sympathy.
It didn’t hurt that Anakin convinced Padmè to put forward the bill they’d spent the past two years perfecting between them and a few other select senators, closing loopholes and shoring up legalities. It was a bill for the Rights of Cloned Sentient Beings. A few sly insinuations about how they had failed the clones and to oppose the bill would be to align themselves with the policies of a sith meant any rebuttal would be weakened.
(When the clones found out, a whole squad stormed Padmè’s apartment and piled themselves on top of Anakin. Rex, who had followed them and started to chew them out, was pulled in by Anakin. [“Just get in here, Rex. You look tired.”] Padmè came back to find her living room inundated with several snoozing clone troopers and a very happy Jedi. She left them to it, Anakin tucked under Rex’s arm safely and draped half across his chest.)
The bill passed by a landslide and Padmè found herself as a serious contender for Chancellorship. She turned it down immediately and pointed out several other candidates.
“While I am honoured and humbled by this nomination, I must decline. I am happy to serve the Senate and our peoples in the position I already hold at this point in time and would like to spend some time to come to grips with this war and my personal life.”
It was the first laugh Anakin had since everything had gone down. Leave it to Padmè to insinuate their relationship in an important moment like this.
It was that night that Padmè brought it up.
“Ani? I know we said we were pretending to… you know but, I want to ask Sabè to marry me. I want to start a family with her. This awful war has shown me life is far too short for fear.”
“Padmè, that’s wonderful!”
(Sabè said yes.)
That was when they decided to come clean. Mostly.
Senator Amidala announced her engagement, carefully avoiding names and pronouns as was custom on Naboo for the first two weeks before the names were released to give each partner time to start preparation, and Anakin was called to a Council meeting just as he and Rex arrived back from rescuing an injured Echo. He figured he’d drag Rex along to debrief at the same time.
However, since Master Windu decided to cut to the chase before Anakin had even made it completely through the door, Anakin figured that this might be the best council meeting he had ever attended.
“Skywalker. What the hell is this about your’s and Amidala’s engagement?”
Anakin froze and Rex stiffened like a pole of duro-steel next to him. “Er, masters? What engagement?”
Obi-Wan stared blankly at Anakin, the small signs of hurt around the edges. “Senator Amidala has announced her engagement and since we all know about you two, … well, I did expect you to have at least resigned before announcing it.” Obi-Wan stared at the far wall, not making eye contact with anyone.
Oh, Anakin was going to enjoy this. He shuffled into the middle of the room, cautiously followed by Rex after a brief gesture.
(The small part of him that was still aching after the Rako Hardeen incident thought Obi-Wan deserved this.)
Master Windu frowned and moved to dismiss him before Anakin interrupted.
“Masters, I must admit that I did know about the engagement announcement and that I approved of it before Captain Rex and I left to investigate the signal we received a few days ago.” Anakin started calmly.
Obi-Wan seemed to deflate in his seat. “Anakin, you know you cannot marry Senator Amidala and remain a Jedi. Attachments are against the Code, marriage included.”
Anakin turned to face his master with a gentle smile. “I am well aware of that, Obi-Wan. But I must admit as to why the news concerns me?”
Oppo Rancisis seemed to swell up indignantly. “Skywalker, stop being so-“
Adi Gallia intervened. “What Master Rancisis means is that we wish to know why you have not resigned when Senator Amidala announced your engagement to her.”
Anakin blinked innocently. Here was the moment he been waiting three long years for. A part of him was glad that he could share this moment with Rex. The men were going to love this. “I’m sorry, Master Gallia, but I don’t recall Padmè announcing my engagement.”
There was a beat of silence before what could only be described as pandemonium erupted from several masters.
“How dare - “
“The very nerve – “
“Skywalker.” The calm voice of Master Plo Koon cut through the noise and the room fell silent. Half of the Council looked furious, Windu’s eye was twitching, Yoda looked disappointed and Obi-Wan was staring at the floor. Anakin turned with a blank expression, carefully shoving his disbelief and glee down.
Sure, he was winding them up, but he hadn’t expected that reaction.
“Yes, Master Plo?”
The two stared at each other for a moment before Plo linked his hands together and leaned forward, a touch of amusement hovering in the Force. “Are you and Senator Amidala in a romantic relationship?”
Anakin said nothing but couldn’t help the unrepentant grin that slowly spread across his face.
(Clearly, he been spending far too much time with Fives and Hardcase.)
Dawning realisation spread through the Council and Anakin caught a blip of shock and something else that was quickly stuffed behind mental shields from Rex.
“Master Plo, contrary to popular rumour, I am pleased to announce that Sabè Tolerra has accepted Senator Amidala’s hand in marriage. Although if we could keep the knowledge quiet for a few more days, Padmè is giving the full announcement next Primeday.” Anakin said cheerfully, relishing in the stunned silence.
He flicked his eyes over to Obi-Wan and barely managed to muffle the snort at the sight of his Master with his mouth open and eyes wide. It was a look Anakin had never seen on his master and he loved it.
Windu was very much in a similar position.
Yoda had dropped his stick.
And his jaw.
There was a small noise and Anakin turned to see Kit Fisto bury his face into his hands, chuckling. Depa Billaba had stuffed her sleeve into her mouth to muffle her giggles. Gallia was silently laughing too with an amused smile.
Force, he hoped Rex’s helmet was recording this. Please, let Rex’s helmet be recording this.
Plo let out a low chuckle. “Please pass on the Council’s congratulations to the Senator.”
Anakin nodded as Obi-Wan finally managed to make some semblance of words.
“But… but… all those times you spent in her apartment?”
Anakin shrugged and tucked his hands into his sleeves taking on the air of a serene Jedi. He knew he was broadcasting a ‘Who? Me?’ aura but it was that or unrepentant mischief. “The Clone Rights Bill was hardly going to write itself and Padmè wanted an outsider’s perspective who knew the troopers. We couldn’t let it get out before it was ready, so I offered my experiences as a former slave. It also deterred certain senators from attempting to coerce her into an unwanted relationship.”
There was an uncomfortable silence before Fisto looked up with a chuckle. “And that time you looked ruffled in our morning debrief?”
“Partly writing the Bill, partly watching bad holodramas and listening to Padmè… er… decompress after a rough committee meeting the night before. A lot of wine had been involved.” There were a few chuckles from the more relaxed Councillors.
Windu still looked like Anakin turned his entire worldview upside down. Even the revelation of Sidious hadn’t visibly ruffled the man this badly.
“And the nicknames?”
He shrugged. “Inside jokes from when I was a child.”
Obi-Wan stared at him. “Why didn’t you tell me?” The question was plaintive, and he seriously looked as though he was questioning everything he ever knew about everything, up to and including his own sanity.
Anakin put on an expression of surprise and spread his hands. “You never asked!”
Obi-Wan blinked at him then buried his face in his hands. “Just… go, Anakin.”
“Does that mean you don’t want to debrief Captain Rex and I?”
Anakin bowed and strode out of the room followed by Rex.
The door was just about to close when Anakin had a sudden thought and spun back around with a surge of confidence. “By the way, would it help if I said I was sorry for ruining your wagers?”
Obi-Wan looked up and scowled fiercely. “Now.” Several other Masters snorted and Plo broke into a low chuckle.
Anakin ducked back out and practically skipped to the elevator.
The doors closed, and Anakin couldn’t help himself. He broke into hysterical laughter and slumped against the side of the elevator. He pressed his hand to his mouth to try and calm himself, but it still took a few minutes for his laughter to abate enough for him to speak.
“Rex, please please please tell me your helmet cam caught all of them. I want Obi-Wan’s face when they realised it was just a rumour to be preserved for future generations. I want to make it into nose art for my fighter.”
He never would have had the courage to wind the council up like that when he was a padawan but the friendship Padmè and the 501st had given him a deeper sense of confidence. It was freeing, a feeling even better than when he was 9 and won the Boonta Eve Classic.
Eventually, Anakin wiped the tears away from his face and faced Rex who had taken off his helmet and was staring in disbelief at him.
“I can’t believe you kept that from us, sir.”
Anakin nudged Rex companionably with his foot. “Thought I told you to call me Anakin, Rex. War’s pretty much over.”
“You’re a worse liar than Fives. How did we not see it?”
Anakin snorted. “Nobody is worse than Fives.”
He grinned and bounced on his toes, revelling in the fact he managed to pull a prank of this magnitude over the esteemed Jedi Council. He was never going to be able to look Obi-Wan or Windu in the eye without thinking of the looks on their faces.
He failed to see the tentative glances Rex sent him out of the corner of his eye.