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Every Moment Points Toward the Aftermath

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When all this was over, Anakin Skywalker thought to himself as he plummeted down a thousand stories to who-knows-where in the depths of Coruscant's lower levels, they were both going to laugh about this.

Sure, Palpatine had betrayed him to a extent that he was only beginning to understand, there were three murdered Jedi in the Chancellor's office, he didn't know if Padmé was going to be alright, and it was completely possible that he was going to end up as a bloody smear across the windshield of a speeder, but the fact remained that he and Obi-Wan had just spent the last ten minutes shrieking at one another like a pair of younglings to such a degree that they forgot about the Sith Lord in the room.

When all this was over, Anakin thought, he was going to throw Obi-Wan's words from the Invisible Hand back in his face with absolute glee:

Wait a minute, how did this happen? We're smarter than this.

How did any of this happen?


It started with Mace Windu. Specifically, it started with the fact that he was delayed for an extra day on his way back to Coruscant.

What no one in the Order had been willing to acknowledge was that none of them had slept in weeks. The final days of the war had worn everyone to frayed wires, wound them all so tightly that the Force was nothing but a high-pitched noise in the background, scraping at their senses but saying nothing.

Everything around Mace felt like being in hyperspace without a ship: too loud and too fast and detached from time and space. To say that he was “on his last legs” would be putting it mildly: whatever “legs” the Jedi Master once possessed had vanished ages ago.

But the delay in his return meant that, for the first time in what felt like his entire life, Mace Windu got to sleep for a few hours.

Those few hours made all the difference: the Force, which had been swarming around him like a cloud of venom mites, calmed. He felt at peace, and with that peace came clarity.

He had sensed this particular shatterpoint before, the one that stretched between the Order and the Senate and the Chancellor and Anakin Skywalker, binding them all together in a catastrophe that felt inevitable—inevitable until now.

Mace Windu knew what he had to do, which is why, when the Council reassembled after Skywalker and Kenobi rescued the Chancellor from the Separatists, he volunteered to be the one to confront General Grievous.

With the possible exception of Obi-Wan himself, everyone had assumed that Kenobi would be the one to go. Commander Cody and his troops were ready to leave as soon as Grievous’ location could be confirmed.

But the Force had been very clear with Mace: unless Obi-Wan Kenobi stayed on Coruscant, a calamity would ensue beyond anything they had ever seen before.


It was a testament to the strength of Obi-Wan's lungs that, even in the middle of this probably-fatal descent from the window of the Chancellor's office, he was still able to yell loudly enough that Anakin could hear him: “How was this your plan?”

“Did you want to deal with the legion of troops that were shooting at us?” Anakin shouted back.

“I'm surprised you didn't offer to take them all on yourself!” Obi-Wan snapped.

“Get ready!” Anakin warned. He could see the half-dozen spots they would need to use in order to slow the speed of their fall enough to land safely on the walkway below. “Follow my lead!” he called as he aimed for the first one.

"Now you see the merits of following directions!” came the extremely sarcastic reply.


On the one hand, if Anakin had listened to Obi-Wan when he was ordered to stay behind rather than come along to the Senate Building, they wouldn't have had to jump out the window in the first place.

On the other hand, he was pretty sure that Obi-Wan would be dead by now if Anakin hadn't followed him when he went to arrest Palpatine.

Anakin could blame the Council for putting him in the position of having to spy on the Chancellor, or Obi-Wan for being complicit in those plans, or the Chancellor for sowing so much doubt in Anakin's mind that he could barely think straight, or the ravenous krayt dragon that seemed to have taken up residence in his chest in the place where his heart would normally be…

But the real reason why he followed Obi-Wan to the Chancellor's office was because the alternative was sitting there and doing nothing, and between his dreams about Padmé and his frustration with the Council and a death by a thousand little cuts during the war, the fact was that he had been forced to do nothing for far too long and he could no longer stand it.

He couldn't let her die…

And Palpatine had promised him…

He had promised.

So Anakin ran as fast as he could, imagining what he would find in the Chancellor's office, and hearing the blood pounding in his ears to the rhythm of his silent plea:

Don't make me choose don't make me choose please don't make me choose between them please don't make me choose—


They collapsed onto the walkway, the impact knocking the breath out of both of them so severely that, for once, neither of them could say a word.

Obi-Wan was the one who found his voice first. “I cannot believe that you didn't—”

“Later,” Anakin gasped as he forced air back into his lungs. He pointed up at one of the giant screens projecting the news. “Look.”

Obi-Wan's eyes widened as he read the words on the screen. “The whole Order?” he whispered.

Anakin slowly got back on his feet, ignoring all the muscles that were screaming in protest. “Apparently we launched a coup.”


If it had been anyone but Obi-Wan there, Anakin might have believed Palpatine when he claimed that the Jedi were taking over. But anyone who had spent more than an hour around Obi-Wan Kenobi knew that he didn't have it in him to attempt a coup against the Temple commissary, let alone the entire Republic.

That single moment of half-hysterical disbelief was enough for Anakin to notice that Agen Kolar, Saesee Tiin, and Kit Fisto had all been killed. And since the only two suspects were Palpatine and Obi-Wan, it didn't take a genius to know who had done it.

If it had been anyone but Palpatine, Anakin would have told Obi-Wan to just cut his head off, which probably would have triggered several minutes of arguing over whether executing Sith Lords was “the Jedi way.”

But Palpatine had promised him that he could save Padmé…

So Anakin yelled at Obi-Wan to stop and was greeted by the single most incredulous look he had ever received from his Master over the course of a decade of incredulous looks.

“I told you not to come here,” Obi-Wan said while holding the Chancellor at bladepoint.

“Why? So you could execute him without a trial?” Anakin demanded.

“That wasn't my intent, but the Chancellor is being rather… resistant to the idea of due process.” He was obviously trying to keep his voice light, but Anakin couldn't ignore what happened to Master Kolar and the others, nor could he ignore the hard look in Obi-Wan's eyes.

He could very well end up killing Palpatine here and now.

Palpatine, who Anakin needed in order to save Padmé.

Don't make me choose don't make me choose—


“What are you going to do now?” Anakin asked. He knew what he was going to do next, of course.

“The Order is still scattered across the galaxy at the moment.” Obi-Wan said, continuing to stare up at the news screen. “Right now, the only people back at the Temple are instructors and—”

“And younglings,” Anakin finished, feeling his stomach drop even further than they just dropped from the Senate Building. But even then, he couldn't push away the knowledge that Padmé was out there somewhere and that he had to get to her.

“If the whole Order has been declared enemies of the Republic, he's going to send someone to the Temple.” Obi-Wan stood up, wincing as he did so. The blood on his face and clothes was beginning to dry.

“He could send a lot of someones,” Anakin pointed out. His thoughts were still consumed with Padmé and the curve of her stomach and the promise of things to come, assuming that she… assuming that he could…

He had to find her.

“Which means that, after you find her,” Obi-Wan said, either reading his thoughts or just making a very good guess at them, “I might need a hand.”


“Please, Obi-Wan…” Anakin said, putting out a hand in warning. The Chancellor was slumped against the wall by the broken window, still only centimeters away from the blue of Obi-Wan's lightsaber.

“Anakin, he is much more dangerous than he looks. We need to be cautious.” The tone in his Master's voice was so close to being a lecture that Anakin had a sudden urge to slap him.

“You are not one of them, Anakin,” Palpatine said with pleading eyes. “Don't let him kill me.”

“I won't, Chancellor,” Anakin reassured him. All Obi-Wan had to do was step back and then they could sort this out, and then Anakin could get what he wanted—

(What if he needs to go free in order to help her? said a small voice from the back of his mind. Would you let him?)

“Anakin, could you possibly explain what you're doing here?” Obi-Wan shifted his gaze to give Anakin a look that would no doubt piss him off—

And was thrown across the office in a tangle of blue lightning.

The Chancellor picked himself up off of the floor. Even standing, he looked more frail than Anakin had ever seen him. “I knew that you would come back here,” he said as Anakin tried to figure out what just happened. “I knew you would realize your mistake. No one has to know about this.”

Obi-Wan groaned from his impact with the far wall.

“If the Jedi kill me, Anakin, I will not be able to help you,” Palpatine said quietly.

“He won't,” Anakin promised. “I'll make sure that he won't.”

“He knows too much now. If he tells the rest of the Order…”

(What if he needs you to kill someone in order to help her? Would you do it?)

He couldn't let her die.

(What if he needs you to kill Ob—)

Anakin froze.


The air was freezing this far from the upper levels, Anakin noticed with irritation as he made for somewhere he could get a ride. He decided to let himself be irritated by these small things for the moment because the alternative was focusing on the fact that he wasn't with Padmé and that if he wasn't with her then he couldn't protect her.

He didn't know what he was going to do about the dreams he kept having about her, but he did know that she was in much more imminent danger from something else.

And if he got to her in time, he was at least powerful enough to save her from that threat.


“Forget about him, Anakin,” Palpatine said in a voice that sounded so reasonable that Anakin could almost let himself ignore what the Chancellor was actually saying. “I am your pathway to power, not him.”

Anakin could almost let himself ignore the blue lightning or the visible dent in the wall where Obi-Wan had slammed into it.

Don't make me choose don't make me choose don't make me choose…

Obi-Wan was back on his feet, his unlit lightsaber back in his hand. He looked almost as confused as Anakin felt.

Anakin took a step towards him. Maybe he could find a way to explain—

Because he couldn't let her die.

Don't make me choose…

“Anakin, what do you think you're—” Obi-Wan began to say before the Chancellor interrupted him.

“I have the power to save the one you love.”

Don't make me choose between them—

“You must choose,” Palpatine said.

Please don't make me choose…

“Save who?” Obi-Wan demanded.


One of these days, Anakin thought to himself, he was going to have to sit down and calculate exactly how many modes of transportation he had technically stolen since joining the Order at the age of nine.

Obi-Wan probably knew, not that Anakin wanted to hear it from him.

He weaved the speeder around buildings and vehicles and nearly every conceivable obstacle between himself and Padmé’s apartment, and in the meantime let himself become irritated with something else: Obi-Wan could probably list exactly how many misdemeanors Anakin had committed over the course of his entire life but somehow had no idea that Anakin had fallen in love and—


“You married her?” Obi-Wan nearly dropped his lightsaber. "When?”

“After Geonosis,” Anakin groaned, “but before my Knighting ceremony—”

“Which you were a day late to,” Obi-Wan said, realization dawning on his face. “You were a day late to your own Knighting because you got married?”

“Yes!”

“We left you alone with her for barely a week and you married her?”

“Why do you keep screaming the word ‘married’ like that?” Anakin demanded.

“And you told him," Obi-Wan said, pointing at Palpatine, who had been watching the entire outburst in silence, “but not me?”

“Because you’re obviously taking this so well," Anakin snapped. “I can’t imagine why I would have kept this a secret.”

“But for three years?” Obi-Wan asked incredulously. “You can’t keep a lightsaber for three years, let alone a secret!”

“I think that says a lot more about your powers of observation than about my ability to keep a secret, doesn’t it?” Anakin was apparently just letting his mouth move on its own, he realized, because if he took more than a second to think about what he was going to say he was going to remember what they were all doing in this room and the fact that there were still three corpses on the floor and a broken window and a dent in the wall and—


There was a light on in her apartment, which made Anakin breathe a little easier. He reached out with the Force and felt her presence: a tiny flicker in a vast ocean of other lives on Coruscant, but one that shone with the same feeling of home and safety as the light in her window, the one growing closer and closer with every moment.

Anakin reminded himself that, as long as he was there with her, Padmé wouldn’t be calling for him the way that she had in the dreams he kept having of her. She would only have called for him like that if he wasn't there.

That was what went wrong on Tatooine, he told himself: the fact that he wasn’t there, the fact that when his mother was abducted he wasn’t there to save her, because he had ignored his dreams for too long and arrived too late and—


“—the Jedi didn’t do a thing when I was having those visions about my mother!”

Obi-Wan tried to protest: “Anakin, you know that I wasn’t—”

“And I was right, wasn’t I?” Anakin insisted. “All Yoda said when I told him was to stop being so afraid and—”

“You went to Yoda before you came to me?” Obi-Wan looked even more appalled by that revelation than he did when he found out that Palpatine knew about Anakin’s marriage.

“You would have told me the exact same thing!” Anakin yelled. “You would have said that I needed to let go of attachments and just let her die! You couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to lose someone you love and know that you could have done something to stop it!”

The color drained from Obi-Wan’s face and Anakin realized instantly that that was the wrong thing to say. It might have been correct three years ago, but the war had given his Master more experiences, more memories, and more heartbreak than he had possessed before. It wasn’t the same—nothing could ever be exactly the same as what Anakin felt when the light vanished from his mother’s eyes—but he did know that the Clone Wars had given Obi-Wan a sharp new familiarity with loss and the knowledge of how, when someone died in your arms, they somehow got both lighter and heavier at the same time.

“What did he promise you?” Obi-Wan asked quietly. His eyes briefly flicked over to Palpatine and then back to Anakin.

“That he could save Padmé,” Anakin said, feeling uncomfortably defensive.

“How? The Dark Side?” Obi-Wan said, apparently unable to keep the scorn out of his voice. “When has the Dark Side of the Force ever saved anyone?”

Anakin was sick of being talked to like he was still a Padawan. “How would you know what it can do?”

“You know just as well as I do that all the Dark Side does is corrupt and destroy! Remember the last few years, Anakin: Dooku, Ventress, Maul—did you see any of them save something? Preserve something? Do anything other than kill and annihilate?” He looked like he was trying to decide between igniting his lightsaber or just throwing the pommel at Anakin’s head.

“I have to try! ” Anakin yelled.

“And this is your brilliant idea?” Obi-Wan demanded. “Let me guess: he never gave you any details on how it would work, did he?”

Anakin glared at him, wishing that his eyes could somehow fire blaster bolts at this infuriating man and the words that were hitting just a little too close to the mark. Palpatine had said something about a Sith named Plagueis who could manipulate midichlorians and… and something. It made so much sense at the time.

“The Jedi are using you, Anakin,” Palpatine said, his voice easing some of the doubts that Obi-Wan's words had uncovered. “They fear your power; they fear the threat that you will become—”

“Exactly!” Obi-Wan shouted. "Your power, not his!” He somehow got even louder as he yelled: “You're supposed to be the Chosen One! What could he possibly offer you that you couldn't figure out on your own?”

“Knowledge,” Palpatine insisted, starting to sound a little louder himself. “Knowledge outside of the narrow restrictions of the Jedi—”

“They were all yours, weren't they?” Obi-Wan had finally stopped screaming, to Anakin's relief, but the look he was giving the Chancellor was somehow worse. “Dooku, Maul—they were your apprentices, and now you want Anakin.” He looked more nauseous than angry.

“I'm not his apprentice,” Anakin protested, but he was becoming increasingly aware that that had probably been Palpatine's plan. “He just offered to help—”

“What kind of help could he even give you?” Obi-Wan asked.

Anakin's temper flared. “More help than you've ever offered me!” he snapped.

His Master looked flabbergasted. “When have you ever needed my help?”

“All the time!” Anakin screamed. “I need you all the time! You're the one who has taken care of me for years and taught me practically everything I know and—screw it—you're probably my only friend who isn't a droid!” His mouth was moving on its own again and the rest of him was just along for the ride. “I have always needed you and needed your help—”

“Then why didn't you tell me about Padmé?” Obi-Wan shouted back. “If you needed me so badly, why didn't you bother to confide in me? Why didn't you trust me with that?”

“Because you don't trust me!" He wanted Obi-Wan to just shut up for a moment and stop asking him all these questions. “You didn't want me to be a Jedi Master—”

“I was still a Padawan when I was your age!”

“—you and the Council lied to me all the time! About the Chancellor, about Hardeen—”

“Really? You're going to bring that up again?”

“I thought you had died!” Anakin snarled. “You didn't trust me to know about that, you didn't trust me to come along with you now—”

“Because that's obviously going so well!” Obi-Wan retorted, gesturing at the state of the Chancellor's office. “If you had bothered to be patient during any of those incidents—”

“Oh, like I should be patient while Padmé is dying?”

“If the alternative is selling your soul, then yes!”

Anakin closed the distance between them and drove his fist into Obi-Wan's face.


Any relief Anakin had felt at the knowledge that Padmé was home vanished as, with the sensation of a fist squeezing his heart, he realized that she wasn't alone.

The shuttle was unmarked, but the presences inside (and he knew there was more than one) were familiar.

But she was still there, he reminded himself. He wasn't too late.

The temptation to just crash the speeder through the transparent wall of her living room was… well, not irresistible, it turned out, because he was able to resist it. They were probably going to need a means of escape, after all.

He could be patient and think things through if he had to, Anakin grumbled at a currently-absent Obi-Wan.

His hands clenched the speeder controls, the tension pushing away the throbbing pain in his knuckles. In retrospect, it was amazing that he hadn't broken his hand.


From the look of it, Obi-Wan's nose was probably broken, but the Jedi Master barely seemed to notice as several years-worth of frustration and resentment between the two of them erupted in the form of an all-out brawl.

Anakin took a kick to the stomach that sent him tumbling over a nearby chair. He was back on his feet in an instant and resumed his almost single-minded assault on his Master's facial features. At some point during the past few years, Obi-Wan had finally realized that he fit a general galactic standard for human attractiveness, something he wasn't above using in his so-called role of “The Negotiator,” which never failed to rub Anakin the wrong way.

He wasn't surprised that Obi-Wan was just as upset with him—why wouldn't he be? Anakin had derailed all of his plans when Qui-Gon dropped that burden into his lap. Training a Padawan at only 25, and not just any Padawan: a stubborn, insolent, ignorant child who barely listened to him. A Padawan whose every action reflected back on him, whose every error invited the judgment of a thousand other Jedi who probably thought that they could have done a better job with the “Chosen One.” Without Anakin, Obi-Wan could have had what he really wanted: a life of quiet contemplation, a life where he didn’t have to jump into every catastrophe, or be on the front line of every ground and space battle, or spend all his energy trying to charm the entire galaxy into calming down for five damn minutes.

So of course he resented Anakin. Of course he didn’t want him. Of course every blow he was raining down on Anakin’s body was a genuine expression of how much he probably wished that Anakin would just go away.

Anakin wished that he could, and he absolutely hated the fact that in spite of all that, he still needed Obi-Wan.

With a roar of fury, Anakin tackled him and the two of them slammed into the Chancellor’s desk, nearly knocking it over and sending everything in the immediate vicinity flying. They hit the floor and rolled over once or twice before coming to a stop lying next to one another.

“I hate you!” Anakin screamed as he rose up onto his hands and knees.

“No, you don’t," Obi-Wan said through a split lip as he sat up. “Do you want to know how I know?” He turned his head to one side and spat out a mouthful of blood. “Because if you really hated me, you would have drawn your lightsaber instead of trying to pummel me into the carpet.”

“I hate this,” Anakin said, full of too many emotions to figure out what to do with them. He coughed and realized that his own face wasn’t in much better shape. “Everything’s out of control.” He pushed himself up until he was sitting back on his heels. “I feel so helpless."

“Then ask for help,” Obi-Wan said, looking suddenly exhausted. “Ask me for help—you can always ask me for help. I will always be here. Whatever is happening with Padmé, we’ll figure it out together, I promise.” He leaned in until their foreheads were almost pressed together. “I promise."

“But the Council—”

“I never thought I’d say this,” Obi-Wan admitted, “but I don’t care about the Council. I care about you." He put a hand on Anakin’s shoulder. “You are far more than just my apprentice, Anakin. You are my brother, I love you, and we will figure this out. It isn’t just a choice between the Dark Side and doing nothing.” Even matted with blood, he managed to raise an eyebrow. “When have you ever failed to find a third option?”

Anakin laughed, which triggered another fit of coughing. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“Right,” Obi-Wan said, starting to climb to his feet. He looked up over the desk. “Oh, hello there.”

Somehow, in the middle of this complete meltdown, they had both managed to forget that there was still a Sith Lord in the room with them.

“Commander Fox,” Palpatine said calmly into his comlink, “execute Order 66.”


He could sense three of them inside; clone troopers, Anakin realized with a sinking heart. Whatever Palpatine had done to them, they were being forced to follow orders. He didn’t want to hurt them, but they would probably try to kill him on sight and he would have to stop them.

His hesitation vanished the moment that he heard the sound of blasterfire. Anakin drew his lightsaber and cut a hole through the window of Padmé’s empty bedroom.

He was barely inside the apartment when he nearly ran headlong into his wife. She shut and locked the door behind her before throwing herself into his arms.

“Are you hurt?” he asked; the fear he had been feeling for the last few weeks reasserted itself in his throat.

“I’m fine, Anakin,” she said. She stepped back and took another look at him. “Are you alright?” she asked.

Anakin suddenly remembered that he was covered in bruises, scrapes, and dried blood. “Obi-Wan and I had a… disagreement. Listen,” he said, locking eyes with her, “the soldiers out there, they’re—”

“Trying to capture me so that the Chancellor can use me as leverage over you,” Padmé finished with a slight note of impatience. She indicated the blaster she was carrying.

“How did you know?” Anakin asked, puzzled.

“A group of soldiers arrive less than an hour after my husband is declared an enemy of the Republic? I made a few assumptions,” she said. She dashed to her closet as quickly as her pregnant body would permit and grabbed a bag. “Let’s go,” she said, handing it to him.

“You were expecting this?” Anakin was still confused. He helped her into the speeder and put her bag in the back seat.

Her impatience morphed into a glare. “Have you been listening to anything I’ve been telling you about what is going on with the Chancellor and the Senate? The moment the Delegation of Two Thousand met with the Chancellor, I knew this was a possibility. He’s far too powerful, Anakin.”

“He’s a Sith Lord,” Anakin blurted out.

Padmé’s eyes widened. “All right, that was something I didn’t know.”

Anakin had only put one foot inside the speeder when he doubled over in agony.

“What is it?” Padmé asked, alarmed.

“The Jedi—” was all he could gasp as the Force tore away at him.

Thousands of them, across the galaxy, betrayed.

Dying.


Anakin didn’t think that many troopers could even fit inside the Chancellor’s office.

“Young fool,” Palpatine said, his face no longer that of the kind old man that Anakin had once looked up to, “I offered you power. I offered you a place at my side. And instead you chose to remain weak.”

There were too many blasters pointed at them. Even the supposedly unstoppable team of Kenobi and Skywalker couldn’t deflect all of that firepower, Anakin realized.

“We should probably find a way out of here,” Obi-Wan said, summoning his lightsaber into his hand with the Force.

“Commander Fox,” Palpatine said to the lead clone trooper. “Fire at will.”

“Don’t worry, I have a plan,” Anakin said, and then pulled Obi-Wan along with him as he jumped out the window.


Padmé hauled Anakin into the back of the speeder and climbed into the driver’s seat. “Where are we going?” she asked as they sped away from her apartment.

“The Temple—wait,” he said, still trying to pull himself together as the screams of thousands of Jedi echoed through his mind, “there’s going to be an assault on the Temple. It’s not safe.”

“Is Obi-Wan there?” she asked.

Only a few hours ago, that question would have driven him mad with jealousy, but now that reaction just seemed petty. “Yes.”

“Then you have to help him.”

“But I have to keep you safe—” he protested.

“We stopped being safe a long time ago, Anakin,” she said. “Besides, I’m the one driving.”


The Siege of the Jedi Temple lasted twelve hours before they were able to evacuate everyone. Fortunately, Padmé’s foresight had extended to ensuring that Captain Typho and the rest of her security detail were prepared to rescue whoever they could, including several Senators from the Delegation of Two Thousand.

Obi-Wan had already altered the Temple beacon to warn any surviving Jedi away from Coruscant, but aside from that, there was no clear path forward.

“What are we going to do?” an exhausted Anakin asked as one of the Healers from the Temple worked on patching up the numerous blaster wounds he had obtained during the siege.

“All the things that will infuriate Sheev Palpatine the most,” Padmé said, sporting a few injuries of her own. “Survive. Unite. Resist.”

“I’m sure he’ll appreciate the irony of his own homeworld being the center of a rebellion,” Obi-Wan pointed out. Of the three of them, he was in the worst shape, with a fairly vicious burn across his face from when the attacking soldiers fired an incendiary grenade into the Archives.

“He spent so long focused on cementing his hold on the galaxy that he forgot about his own people,” Padmé replied. “We noticed.”

“There has to be a way to break his hold over the clones,” Anakin mused out loud. “It must be something with the chips; I bet we could figure out a way to disable them so they at least have a choice." It felt far too much like the trackers that were implanted into slaves on Tatooine.

“We’ll figure it out,” Obi-Wan said, echoing his words from their confrontation in the Chancellor’s office, “but perhaps we should take a moment and rest first.”

He was right, Anakin thought with some annoyance. Neither of them had slept in weeks.


In the end, they made it to Naboo just in time for Padmé to go into labor. Anakin nearly lost his mind with worry but refused to leave her side. For a few terrifying moments, he heard her cry out his name just as she had in his dreams, but he was there and reminded himself that he was there and that if death wanted to come for Padmé Amidala, it was going to have to go through him first.

There was one moment, during the most uncertain point, when he could hear Palpatine’s offer ringing in his ears—I have the power to save the one you love—and he wondered if he had made the right choice… but only for a moment.

Anakin reminded himself that a Sith apprentice would have been an even greater danger to his wife than what she was enduring now.

His utter relief at her survival was quickly overridden by the surprise revelation that she had given birth to twins.

All of those visions, all of that fear and worry and paranoia, all of Padmé's reassurances that she was receiving excellent medical care, all of Anakin's Force powers… and none of them looked closely enough to know how many children they were expecting. Come to think of it, Anakin realized with a rush of embarrassment that he vowed never to reveal to anyone, he had been so focused on Padmé that he never even thought about them.

He and Padmé were parents. That was going to take some getting used to.

Somehow, Obi-Wan was even more confused and astonished than Anakin was. “I cannot believe that you…” he trailed off while holding Leia and looking at her like she was some kind of temporal anomaly.

“...that I didn't tell you, I know,” Anakin said wearily.

“Not that,” Obi-Wan said. “I can't believe that you… made these."

Anakin emitted a brief snort of laughter. “Padmé did most of the heavy lifting.” He was currently resisting the impulse to poke a sleeping Luke on his tiny nose. They were both so small—how could anything alive be that small?

Not just alive, but people. They were going to get bigger and have personalities and opinions and lives that would be completely out of his control. Not only that, if they were anything like him…

“How soon do kids start showing Force abilities?” he asked Obi-Wan.

“Usually not this early, but their midichlorian count would show up in a blood test.” He arched an eyebrow, the one that hadn't been burned off when he was injured. “You haven't checked that yet?”

Anakin shook his head. “Not yet. Too many things happening. Besides,” he said with a shrug, “they deserve a few years without those kinds of expectations on their shoulders.”

“Too true,” Obi-Wan sighed. “Well, if they're anything like you, you're going to have your hands full once they're old enough to start training.”

“Not just me,” Anakin said with a sly grin. “You're going to be raising Skywalkers for the rest of your life.”

Obi-Wan groaned but was also obviously trying to hide a smile. “You know, I found some grey hairs the other day and am absolutely certain that you're the one to blame for them.”

Anakin laughed, which unfortunately woke Luke up, who then woke Leia up, and the two men spent the next several minutes in a whispered argument over whose fault that was.

After things had calmed down and the hard work of building a real rebellion began, Anakin was able to get some sleep (between nighttime feedings and diaper changes and all the exhausting tasks that were part of being a parent) and some perspective.

Palpatine had exacerbated his fears, he realized, and had manipulated him into thinking that dominion over others was the only way to feel secure. Palpatine had presented himself as Anakin’s only source of aid by isolating him from the people in his life who would have helped him unconditionally.

He realized how close he had come to being dragged down into the dark. If Obi-Wan hadn’t been there, who knows what would have happened?

But he had been there, and Anakin had the sneaking suspicion that he always would be.