Chapter 1: Legitimization
“Anakin, dear, your father wants to see you,” Shmi said quietly as she interrupted her son’s forging sessions, her brow furrowed in worry. She was wearing the one set of good clothes she owned, a simple black dress to mourn the loss of another Stark heir. The last Stark heir. Aiden, barely six years old, with so much more to do in his life.
Shmi might not have been the boy’s mother, but she had helped raise him after the death of his lady mother and watched him grow up, following Anakin around. He was, after all, his older brother, though bastard-born. Aiden hadn’t cared for that, he had loved Anakin regardless.
For Qui-Gon, this had been the third child he had lost. The oldest son, Liam, one year younger than Anakin, had succumbed to the chills of a harsh winter. The youngest, a daughter that had taken her mother’s life at birth, had been taken a week later, her little body not strong enough to live despite everyone’s best efforts. Now, Aiden, all that was left of the Stark heirs, taken by a fever. Shmi, even though she was the mother of the bastard son of Qui-Gon, had delivered all these children and had watched them all perish.
“Father?” Anakin set his tools down and wiped the sweat from his brow. “No one has seen him since Aiden’s funeral. Did he say what he needed?” He cleaned his hands in a messed up rag as he brushed up his appearance. Qui-Gon had not wanted him to work, even if he was a bastard, his father had wanted to raise him properly, with his siblings, but Anakin didn’t need to be constantly reminded he was a Snow, not a Stark, and needed to be useful. After a lot of arguing, he did manage to work in the forge to occupy his time.
“He just keeps saying your name, Ani.”
“I’ll go and see him,” he kissed his mother’s forehead as he left the forge and walked towards the keep, on the other side of the courtyard. Snow had started falling and Winterfell was eerily quiet. Aiden’s death was still very recent. Everyone mourned, as he did. He had loved all of his siblings, and he had lost all of them. Climbing the stairs to his father’s rooms, he knocked before he heard his father’s weak voice allowing his entrance. “You asked for me, Father?”
“I have sent a raven to the King.” Qui-Gon stared into the fire, not moving from the great chair where he sat. Anakin quietly walked up to sit in the chair next to him. “And explained the situation. Provided he agrees, you’re to be legitimized.”
“Legitimized?” Anakin’s blue eyes widened. “I will no longer be a Snow?”
“Yes.” His father sighed. “I would have done it from the start, Ani, but…” They both knew why he hadn’t. Lady Stark would not have approved. “You are my only child now.”
“Thank you, Father,” he whispered. For a long time, all that he wanted was to be a Stark. This didn’t feel like a victory to him. “I wish it had been under different circumstances. I would gladly have continued as a Snow if it meant my brothers would have lived.”
“I know, Ani,” Qui-Gon sighed. “You were a good brother. You are a good son. You have it in you to be a great Lord, gods willing.”
“Lord of Winterfell,” he whispered, not having realized what his legitimization and only heir status would mean. “I will do my best to make you proud and uphold our family’s traditions,” he laid one hand on top of Qui-Gon’s. “I wish it had been Liam. Or Aiden. I miss them, Father, I hope you know that.”
“Of course.” Qui-Gon sighed. “It will be some time before the King can reply, but in the meantime, we will start preparing you for the future.”
“Do you believe the Lords of the North will respect me?” Anakin asked. “I have been a bastard for nineteen years, Father, it’s not something they will easily forget. They can claim I have no right to Winterfell.”
“Such claims would be treason. It would be going against the King, saying he was wrong,” Qui-Gon said coldly.
“I hope they can see it that way, Father. From my part, you will have my complete devotion to the traditions of our house,” Anakin vowed.
“Good, because there is something you should begin preparing for now.”
“The lessons with Maester Yoda?” Anakin teased lightly.
“No, Anakin. Provided that his Grace agrees to legitimize you, I’ve also asked him to arrange a betrothal for you, to a daughter of one of the Great Houses. I realize that it is not what you might have wanted for yourself, but such a match will be crucial to your survival.”
Anakin was at a loss for words. “An arranged marriage, Father? So soon after my legitimization?” His voice shook. “Is it really necessary?”
“Yes, Anakin, I’m afraid it is.”
“It could take a while, however, for the King to find a suitable match,” he said, more to try and convince himself of it.
“I’m sure he’ll find us the right match, then, for the future Lady of Winterfell,” Anakin tried to avoid a grimace before standing. “Is there anything else you need, Father?” Qui-Gon said nothing, only pulled him in for a very tight embrace. Anakin returned the hug just as tightly. “Mother is worried about you,” he said in a whisper. “Could I send her to keep you company?”
He nodded slowly. “You’re a good son.”
“I have a good father,” he replied, pulling away. “I’ll tell her to come up in a minute. Will you share the news?”
“No,” his father sighed. “No, you should be the one to tell her.”
“Yes, that might be, but I know she has wanted to hear that from you for a long while,” Anakin insisted. “She always understood why you didn’t, though, she did not hold it against you.”
His father simply sighed, shaking his head as he continued to stare into the fire. “Winter is coming,” he pronounced grimly. “And I fear the storm.”
“We’ll all survive it together,” Anakin nodded. “I’ll leave you to rest now,” he said, leaving his Father’s rooms. He took a moment to gather himself, the news overwhelming him. He had wanted to be a Stark, to be equal to his brothers. He never thought of being Lord of Winterfell. Or marrying into another Great House. He had just wanted to belong. As he came downstairs, his mother paced worriedly in the hall. “You should go and see him. Be with him for a while,” he said. “He might have some news for you.”
“News?” Shmi repeated, tilting her head to the side. “Ani, is he well?”
“As well as one can expect with all he has lost,” Anakin replied.
“What are you keeping from me?” Her dark eyes peered at him sharply.
“I’m a Stark,” he said. “Or I will be a Stark. Once the King signs his approval to Father’s request.”
Shmi’s hands flew to her mouth as she gasped. “Oh, Ani.”
“I wish it had been different,” he whispered. “That he was not just doing this because he no longer has living legitimate heirs, but I am honored he decided to do so.”
“The gods work in mysterious ways,” Shmi sighed, kissing his forehead. “You should not speak of this to anyone else before an answer comes from the King.”
“Of course not, I will continue with my work until the King replies to Father,” he smiled. “He needs company, Mother. You should stay with him. I don’t like him alone in that room.”
“I’ll take care of him.” Shmi sighed. “My son, Lord of Winterfell. I cannot believe it.”
“I can’t believe it myself,” he said. “Also… he has requested something else from the King.”
“A betrothal. With another Great House.”
Shmi pursed her lips. “It makes sense. You would need the strength of your wife’s family to support you until you have a child of your own. I do not like it any more than you do, my love, but it is the way lords and ladies do things.”
“I know it, I will just need some adjustment. One thing Liam always told me is that I would be free to marry the love of my life, as he and Aiden would be paired with ladies of the court, that probably will hate the North.”
“Go work in the forge for a while,” she suggested, rubbing at his shoulder gently. “It clears your head. I’ll tend to your father.”
Queen Breha Targaryen, formerly of House Dayne, tipped over her king, conceding defeat with a sigh. “You’re far too good at this game for your own good, my dear friend.”
“Is that meant to be some kind of aspersion as to why I’ve remained unwed?” Padmé Tyrell retorted with a light laugh. “Men don’t want a wife who can beat them at cyvasse?”
“It may be a contributing factor,” Breha answered, her gaze going to the door where one of her maidservants, Sheltay, was speaking with someone outside the door.
“His Grace is here to see you,” she announced, stepping aside to let the King enter.
“Sweetling.” Baelor Targaryen, Second of his Name, known to his friends as Bail, moved to kiss his wife on both cheeks before nodding at Padmé, who had risen and curtsied. “Lady Tyrell. I’m glad to find you here, I’d wished to speak with you.”
“I am ever at your disposal, your Grace,” Padmé answered, her heart hammering in her chest.
“I’ve had a letter from Lord Stark. His last legitimate child has died, and he is seeking legitimization for his bastard son,” Bail answered, moving to take a glass of wine from the table in the center of the solar.
“Poor little Aiden Stark,” Breha sighed. “He was a sweet boy.”
“I shall pray for his soul when next I visit the Sept, but perhaps, your Grace, you could elaborate on what this has to do with me?” Padmé asked politely, though she could already guess, and the thought of it made her uneasy.
“He has asked me to arrange a match for his new heir, to lend further support to the boy’s claim. Provided both you and your lord father agree to it, I intend to suggest you.”
“Me,” Padmé repeated slowly, considering what this meant. Nearly everyone in King’s Landing, if not the whole of Westeros, knew about Qui-Gon Stark’s bastard, a boy born to the midwife who served in Winterfell. There had been whispers that Lord Stark had wanted to marry the woman before his father had intervened and arranged a more suitable union with Sheev Lannister’s daughter, Tyrra, but the boy and his mother had remained in the castle. And provided her father agreed to this, she’d marry this boy. She would go North and become the Lady of Winterfell.
She couldn’t say it appealed to her. She’d been in King’s Landing for six years now with the understanding that she would marry a courtier here in the Capitol, where she could better serve both the Queen and her family’s interests. Being Lady of Winterfell seemed a suitable arrangement for a woman of her station, a daughter of the second wealthiest family in Westeros wed to the new heir of the largest territory in the Seven Kingdoms, but that territory was the North. A cold, unforgiving land that would be as different from Highgarden as ever she’d known.
“Are you willing?” the King prompted.
“Provided my father consents, I will serve you and the Realm as you see fit,” she answered diplomatically. “Your Grace.” There was nothing else she could say.
“Thank you, my lady.” The King bowed, kissed his wife again, and left the chambers. Padmé sank back down into her chair, breathing deeply.
“You’re disappointed,” the Queen guessed.
“It will be difficult to leave behind all I know for this,” Padmé said, picking up her dragon piece and spinning it between her fingers. “But it is my duty.”
“Sometimes I think you are a Tully beneath those Tyrell looks.”
“Not everyone can inherit the Dornish passion you and your husband share,” retorted Padmé, rolling her eyes. “And I think Growing Strong has more than a little in common with Family, Duty, Honor. Both are concerned with the continued prosperity of the House above all else. If my lord father thinks the best way for me to do that is to marry the new Stark heir, then I will do it.”
“Yes, but must you sound quite so unhappy about it? You may like him.”
“I will not indulge the thought until a decision has been made.” Padmé set the piece down and started resetting the board. “Now, shall we play again?”
Anakin shifted uncomfortably in his seat, in front of Qui-Gon. A raven had arrived from King's Landing that morning and he had been immediately summoned by his Father, who now sat silently in front of him His eyes drifted to the parchment roll, with a wax seal of the Targaryen house. Slowly, his father broke the seal, glancing over the letter’s contents.
"It is official, Ani, you are a Stark. Heir of the North. The future Lord of Winterfell."
Anakin released a breath he didn't know was holding. With shaky hands, he took the letter and read the King's order, making him a legitimate heir of the House of Stark.
"Thank you again, Father. This means so much to me. I will try my best to be the heir our house deserves. I am ready. I know I am." Anakin’s eyes went further down the parchment.
In regards to your second petition, I have the agreement of Lord Ruwee Tyrell to offer his second daughter, the Lady Padmé, for your son. She has been attending my wife for six years now, and I know her to be a maid of unmatched virtue, intelligence, and beauty, as dear to us as if she were our own kin. Provided you find this agreeable, I shall have her sent to you as soon as your reply is received.
“He already found me a wife,” Anakin whispered. “The Tyrells. The wealthiest family of the realm.”
“Second,” his father corrected. “But I wouldn’t want you marrying a Lannister if your life depended on it.”
“Ah, yes,” he winced. “The Lannisters. I think the Tyrells are a very suitable match, don’t you, Father?” He tried to hide his grimace.
“The resources that the Reach can offer would be invaluable in the face of a harsh winter,” Qui-Gon agreed. “And the King also seems to have a mind for your future. Sending a favorite of his wife’s, one who’s been in the capitol so long, suggests he chose someone he believed would help you navigate politics more easily.”
“The King is very kind, then. He has never met me and marrying someone like Lady Padmé to me, who has been a bastard for close to twenty years, it’s a very generous suggestion,” Anakin nodded. “Have you met the Tyrells?”
“Once, when I went south for the King’s wedding I remember the lady, she is perhaps six months older than you. And quite spirited when we spoke.”
“Do you think she will enjoy the North?” Anakin raised one eyebrow. “It’s quite different from Highgarden.”
“I think she will come to like it, given enough time. She’s been raised for this sort of thing, Anakin. She knows what is expected of her.”
Anakin sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “When can we expect her arrival?”
“Assuming she comes by the Kingsroad, it will be at least a full turn of the moon.”
“A full turn of the moon until what?” A new voice came from the door to the study. Anakin and Qui-Gon turned to see a familiar black-clad figure standing there.
“Uncle Ben!” Anakin exclaimed.
“I was not expecting you, brother,” Qui-Gon raised his eyebrows. “What brings the First Ranger of the Night’s Watch to Winterfell?”
“Tracking a few wildlings who made it over the Wall,” Obi-Wan answered, moving to embrace Anakin. “My men are already returning. I delayed to come here and pay my respects to Aiden. I am so sorry.”
“We all miss him,” Anakin whispered. “You should visit us more often.”
“I have a duty to the Realm, Anakin, you know that,” Obi-Wan reminded him. “Lord Commander Windu disapproves of me visiting as often as I do.”
“Lord Commander Windu disapproves of everything,” his nephew muttered.
“We were speaking about Anakin’s duty to the Realm as well,” Qui-Gon cleared his throat. “As you know, he is my only living child.”
“Father asked the King for my legitimization,” Anakin said. “The King has granted it.”
“I am sorry it comes at such a cost,” Obi-Wan smoothed back Anakin’s hair, “but I think the North will be in good hands with you as its Warden one day.”
“I too wish it had been different,” he nodded. “I’ll do my best to make Father, and my brothers, proud.”
“Obi-Wan, you will have to visit us again for Anakin’s wedding ceremony,” Qui-Gon pointed out. “I’m sure Lord Commander Windu will understand if I, or the King, request your presence,” he said with a sly smile.
“You’re to be married?” Obi-Wan looked more shocked by that news than by the legitimization.
“The King was quite fast in finding me a suitable match so I can solidify my claim to the North and my position in the Great Houses,” Anakin grimaced. “Lady Padmé Tyrell. Have you heard of her?”
“Truth be told, I’ve met her,” Obi-Wan rubbed his beard thoughtfully. “Accompany me for a ride and I’ll tell you about her.”
“I will prepare myself,” Anakin said. “I will gladly accept everything you are willing to tell me about my future wife. May I be dismissed, Father?” As Qui-Gon nodded, Anakin left the study, Obi-Wan falling in step with him.
“You’re not looking forward to marrying her, are you?”
“I am that transparent?” Anakin sighed.
“No, nephew, I simply know you too well.”
“I didn’t think about an arranged marriage,” he confessed. “I know Liam complained about it, and I felt so free knowing that at least, I wouldn’t be forced to do that. I do not know this woman. I don’t know if I will feel anything for her. How miserable will we be?”
“Love is a luxury the highborn are forbidden,” Obi-Wan agreed softly as they entered the yard and headed towards the stables. “But I think you may find friendship with the Lady Padmé, if nothing else. She was a very kind soul when I met her.”
“I have only been highborn for a few hours,” Anakin commented. “I’m still getting used to the perks and downsides,” he sighed. “Tell me more about her. How could I please her so she doesn’t hate me at first sight?”
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow as he readied the black horse he always rode. “I am not a man to ask about pleasing a woman, Anakin, you know that.”
Anakin had to wait for one of the stable hands to finish preparing a horse for him to ride, standing and watching awkwardly, and blushed furiously at the suggestion. “I was not speaking about that sort of pleasure, Uncle Ben, I was referring to a way of befriend her, making her comfortable with me so we don’t live in bitter agony,” he mounted his own horse.
“Ah.” Obi-Wan passed a coin to the boy who had helped them. “I only met her briefly. She came with a few of her maids to see us off when I was in King’s Landing, collecting convicts from the Black Cells to serve at the wall, and offered us food and supplies for the journey, then thanked us for serving the realm and said she would pray for all of us.”
“I can imagine that she is not at all happy with her change from King’s Landing to Winterfell.”
“She is very like the rose her family uses for their sigil,” Obi-Wan agreed as they started riding. “But we have roses here too, Anakin. I’m sure she can adapt.”
“I hope I can make her happy,” he said. “I hope we can secure the longevity of House Stark together.”
“I’m sure you will, House Tyrell is generally known as a large one,” Obi-Wan said diplomatically.
“I have a month to prepare for her arrival. I still have a lot to learn.”
“About being a husband, or the future Lord of Winterfell?”
Anakin laughed. “Both. The only thing I have some knowledge of so far is how to conceive a child,” he rolled his eyes, a light pink color in his cheeks.
“I’m told that is the most important part of marriage,” Obi-Wan chuckled.
“I don’t want my marriage to be all about that. I want to be a good husband to her. She will be the future Lady of Winterfell and I will need her support. I will want her support and companionship. I don’t think it’s just by bedding her every night that I will gain her trust,” Anakin said. “But I know… I know providing an heir is what will be held over our heads first and foremost.”
“Find something you have in common and work from there,” his uncle suggested. “You’ll have plenty of time for such things.”
“I have yet to tell my mother the news,” Anakin mused.
“I’m sure she will support you, as she does in everything,” Obi-Wan predicted. “You were blessed with parents who love you, Anakin, use their knowledge.”
“Yes, I’ll try,” Anakin nodded.
“Good man.” Obi-Wan turned his eye to the road that led north to Castle Black. “I will try to come to your wedding, Anakin, but I cannot make any promises. But you know my thoughts are always with you.”
“Thank you, Uncle Ben.”
Chapter 2: Courting
Thank you for all the great feedback about the first chapter.
For all Game of Thrones enthusiasts, we would like to make a disclaimer regarding the content of this story. This is a romance based on the Game of Thrones era and it will not involve White Walkers or dragons burning down cities. It's really all about love and politics. Hope you still enjoy it! :)
Padmé pulled her cloak a little tighter around her shoulders as the gates of Winterfell came into view. “Smile, my lady,” Dormé reminded her.
“I need not smile until I meet Anakin Stark,” Padmé retorted without looking at her cousin. “And you cannot say you don’t feel the cold too. It’s only autumn.”
“This is the North,” Sabé reminded her. “You knew that when you agreed to this marriage.”
“Yes, I am aware of where we are. But I still find it unpleasant.” The wheelhouse came to an ungraceful halt and the door opened, her father offering a hand to her. Taking a breath, she steeled her nerves and accepted his help in stepping out.
The bleak grey sight of Winterfell made her ache for the lush green beauty of Highgarden. Who knew if she would ever see her birthplace again? Then she saw the two men waiting for her, and her gaze was held by the younger one, the one who was undoubtedly her new betrothed.
At least he looked pleasing, with fine, narrow features and sandy blond hair. But the way he stood made him seem proud, maybe even arrogant. “Lord Stark,” her father said, moving to embrace the older man without any notice of his daughter. “We thank you for your hospitality.”
“The pleasure is ours, Lord Tyrell,” Qui-Gon patted the other man’s back while Anakin shifted uncomfortably next to him and glanced over his shoulder at his mother, who narrowed her eyes at him, relaying the message for him to keep his posture. “It’s good to see you again, old friend. Is this your lovely daughter?”
Padmé sank into a curtsy. “My lord,” she said softly as she rose, her gaze still drifting to Anakin who had his intense blue eyes fixed on her as if he was trying to read her. He blinked when she noticed him and looked away, turning his attention to her father. “I am honored to be here.”
“The King’s descriptions did not do you justice, my dear Padmé.” Qui-Gon took her hand and kissed it. “The honor will be ours to have you join our family. And may I present my son, Anakin?”
Anakin took one step forward, observing her petite form with the delicate and beautiful features. His imagination had not done Lady Padmé Tyrell any justice. “My lady,” he bowed his head to her. “Welcome to Winterfell.”
“My lord,” she said, tilting her head in acknowledgment. “I hope we will suit each other.”
“I believe the King had both of our interests in mind when he arranged our betrothal, I trust his judgment,” Anakin said diplomatically. “But I do hope you can be happy in Winterfell. I know the North is different from what you are used to.”
“I think we will adapt, given time,” she replied diplomatically
“Anakin, why don’t you show Winterfell to Lady Padmé so she can get acquainted?” Qui-Gon suggested. “Lord Tyrell and I have some last negotiations to go over before the wedding, we don’t want to bother you with such things.”
Anakin nodded. “Yes, Father.”
“Sabé, Dormé, go with them,” Lord Tyrell ordered, and Padmé’s two cousins nodded, sinking into deep curtsies of their own.
“Yes, Uncle,” they said in unison.
“Shall we, my lord?” Padmé asked, looking at Anakin politely. “I’m eager to see my new home.”
“My lady,” he offered her his arm, and she delicately placed her small hand on top of it. “It will be a pleasure.” He threw a glance at his mother, who mouthed ‘godswood’ and he nodded slowly. “Would you like to see where the ceremony will take place?”
“It is as good a place as any to start,” Padmé answered. “Lead the way.”
Anakin pursed his lips but walked until the edge of the keep. People glanced as they passed, whispered about southerners. “Was your travel pleasant?”
“It was untroubled,” she said, using her free hand to lift the hood of her cloak, shielding her brown curls against the chill. “We were fortunate not to encounter any delays.”
“I have never traveled the Kingsroad, but I heard it can be tiring. I won’t take much of your time before you are allowed to rest before supper,” Anakin replied as they entered the small pathway to the godswood, the terrain changing from gravel to light green grass.
“Strange,” Padmé murmured, staring up at the weirwood tree as she removed her gloves. “I do not feel the chill here as I did in the yard.”
“My mother believes it’s blessed by the Gods,” he said as he stopped near the tree, the water of the lake still and calm, reflecting the weak sunlight of the day. “It is why it was chosen as the site for our wedding. So our union can also be blessed.”
“As opposed to a sept,” she surmised. “After the King informed me of our betrothal, I began to study the ways of the old gods. I know the Faith of the Seven is not kept here as much as it is in the rest of Westeros.” One of her cousins coughed and she shot them a brief glare over her shoulder before looking back at her future husband. “I will try to be a good Lady for you, my lord.”
“We believe in the Old Gods of the Forest. They have helped Winterfell in the past,” Anakin cleared his throat. “I believe you will be, my lady and I can promise to be a fair husband to you.”
She turned and really looked at him for the first time. “You are not what I expected.”
Anakin managed to contain a smile as he raised one eyebrow. “Oh? May I ask what were your expectations, my lady?”
She hesitated while her cousins giggled behind their hands. “Someone ruder,” she said finally.
“Then I am glad I did not meet your expectations,” he widened his eyes, looking amused.
“And am I what you expected?”
“No,” he admitted and looked around before locking his blue gaze on her again. “I was not expecting you to be so beautiful,” Anakin pointed out.
Her cheeks briefly flushed pink. “You will make me vain, my lord.”
“Isn’t that a husband’s responsibility?”
“I think it depends upon the husband.”
“I would like to be that husband,” he said. “And we will be married, so if you could call me Anakin, and not my lord, it would make our conversations much less formal, don’t you think?”
“Perhaps after we are wed,” she said, primly folding her hands and rubbing at a gold ring carved with roses on her right hand. “But I fear my mother would know if I abandoned my courtesies.”
“Even if it was a request of your future husband?” Anakin tilted his head.
“Even then, my lord. These two are here just as much to spy on me as to safeguard my honor.” She tilted her head to her maids. “I realize such things may be unfamiliar to you, but my behavior until we marry reflects on my house and the Reach.”
He frowned. That was a very clever insult, using his previous status as a bastard. “Unfamiliar as I may be to some of the highborn traditions, no one knows the North as I do and, well, you will be my wife, so you will have to do my bidding. I’ll reserve that first request for after the ceremony then,” he quipped.
“The wedding or the bedding ceremony?” she retorted sharply. “You’ll have to be more specific.”
“Looking forward to the latter, are we, my lady?” He asked with a smirk.
“As much as anyone can look forward to the idea of being watched while consummating a marriage to a stranger.”
“We do things differently in the North,” he crossed his arms over his chest. “Unless you want to be watched while we consummate our marriage, it will not happen. I won’t allow it.”
“If that is what is done in the North, then I shall gladly comply, my lord.”
“Do you want to be watched?” He raised one eyebrow defiantly, knowing all too well the thought was unpleasant to her. Instead of looking grateful that he would not allow such a thing, she just looked like she was obeying an indication.
“Have I given any indication that I do?”
“You give me the indication that if you were asked to jump in this lake, you would,” he shrugged, annoyed. He knew it to be wrong, but he couldn’t really be blamed. After all, he had only been a Lord for almost two months.
“That is a lady’s duty, to be subject to the will of her father, and then to her husband,” Padmé answered serenely. “Unless the gods see fit to make her mistress of herself, which is not my circumstance.”
“We’ll have fun then,” he narrowed his eyes, her impeccable and unbreakable mask frustrating him.
“I hope so, my lord, but for now, I think I would like to retire until this evening’s feast.”
His nostrils flared in frustration but before he could retort, someone cleared their throat making him turn around. His temper deflated when he saw his mother. Anakin lowered his eyes and scowled to the ground.
“Lady Tyrell, I will be escorting you to your chambers,” Shmi said softly, approaching the pair, her eyes dancing between them. “I hope the walk was satisfying and my son has treated you kindly.”
Padmé raised an eyebrow as she made the connection. “He has been enlightening, mistress.”
Shmi chuckled. “You must be tired and I believe you should rest before the feast,” she said. “Your Father would like to see you, Ani,” she told her son. “I’ll take care of Lady Tyrell in your absence.”
“Until this evening, Lady Padmé,” Anakin did a small bow to her, before nodding to her cousins. “This is not going well,” he whispered as he kissed his mother’s cheek, leaving the women to themselves.
“Until then, my lord,” she agreed, moving towards Sabé and Dormé.
With Anakin far enough for them to speak freely, Shmi sighed and laced her fingers in front of her. “Forgive my son if his manners are not as polished as other highborn lords. He always had a bit more freedom than the rest. It’s a process for him to adjust his temperament with his new status,” she explained. “I hope he hasn’t said anything to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“He is very forward,” Padmé whispered softly. “Are all Northmen so direct?”
“They can be blunt, yes. Brusque even,” Shmi nodded. “They rely heavily on their strength.”
“We are more,” she paused, “formal in the Reach. And King’s Landing. I have tried to prepare to be a good wife and a good lady here in the North, but I fear I’m doing a very poor job of it.”
Shmi chuckled, pushing open the tower door and lifting her skirts as she began to climb the stairs. “You have only been in Winterfell for a few hours, my lady, you can’t expect an immediate adjustment,” she mentioned for her and her cousins to follow her. “I do not doubt you will do splendidly as a wife and future Lady of Winterfell. Don’t let Anakin scare you. He can be defensive when he’s uncomfortable,” she explained. “He’s a very sweet boy when you get to know him.”
“I hope he will choose to show that side to me in time,” Padmé murmured, twisting the ring again as she followed her. “I have been courted before, but nothing has ever come of it. And they were... not like him.”
“He’s different,” Shmi said proudly. “Once you get to know him, you will understand. I raised him to be kind to all people, to be good. I know he’s both. The pressure of being the last heir of his House, learning to become the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North and taking a wife he never met… he’s nervous and he can be shy,” she smiled softly. “I believe he can make you happy.”
“I want to be happy here,” Padmé admitted. “I am trying, but I worry we are not as well suited as we might have hoped.”
“My lady, if I may, if you two were anything alike, it would be a very boring marriage,” Shmi said. “Give each other a chance, and you’ll see the amazing things you can accomplish together.”
“I will try,” Padmé repeated. “But that is all I can do.”
And for now, it was all Shmi could ask.
“My Lord Anakin?”
Anakin raises his head, surprised at the unfamiliar voice. “Yes? Dormé, isn’t it?”
“Yes, my lord,” she confirmed, curtsying
“How can I assist you?” He asked, leaning back in his chair.
“I simply hoped to better acquainted,” she answered, hovering in the doorway.
“Please take a seat, Dormé,” Anakin asked. “Has your lady asked you for some research on her future husband?”
“No, my lord, she’s far too proud for such a thing,” Dormé admitted as she moved to sit opposite him. “And both she and Sabé would despair of the impropriety in my being here alone with you, but I felt it was necessary. I only want to see her happy.”
“I understand. I won’t tell them you were here,” Anakin smiled. “What do you wish to know? Please, speak freely.”
“You’ll treat her kindly, won’t you? And be true to her?” Dormé asked automatically. “She’s an honorable lady, she deserves that.”
“You have my word that I won’t hurt her. I am not that kind of man, Dormé, and I will be faithful, if that is what worries you,” Anakin promised.
“I am relieved to hear it, my lord.”
“I understand it’s frightening. Marrying a stranger. You don’t know who I am, I don’t know who she is. What I can guarantee is that I am not cruel and I do hope I can make her happy. I hope I can please her, not hurt her,” he leaned forward. “When she gives me a chance, I’ll prove it to her myself.”
“Do you dance?” It was an oddly abrupt sort of question.
“Badly,” he confessed.
“That is a shame, my lady is quite good at it. She also reads a great deal, perhaps you have that in common?”
“Perhaps she can teach me how to dance,” he offered. “I used to read a lot more when I was younger, but I won’t mind picking up that habit again if it would give us something to discuss.”
“Perhaps, yes,” Dormé agreed. “Perhaps there are interests of yours she might come to share as well?”
“I doubt my interests would be of a lady’s own interest,” he raised one eyebrow. “Does she enjoy riding?” Anakin asked.
“Very much, my lord, we did it quite often in Highgarden,” Dormé confirmed. “It got her sister, Lady Sola, into some trouble before her own wedding, since the riding—” she flushed, “broke her maidenhead.”
“Ah, that must have been a challenge for her,” Anakin grimaced. “Winterfell has gorgeous snowfields I can show her. Our woods are dense but beautiful. Until winter arrives, I can arrange for a picnic, maybe. Do you believe that will appease her?”
“I think she might enjoy such things,” Dormé agreed. “Is there anything else?”
“I don’t see her interested in sword fighting or archery,” he sighed. Dormé raised her hand to her mouth and giggled.
“Not sword fighting, no,” she agreed.
“Is there something you are trying to tell me?” Anakin asked.
“Of course not, my lord.” Dormé rose and gave him a pretty curtsy. “I may see you again before the wedding, but if I do not, then I wish you well.”
“Before you leave, Dormé, where could I find your lady?”
“I think she was putting the last touches on her maiden’s cloak for the wedding when I left,” she answered. “But if she is not in the guest house, my lord, she might be in your glass gardens. She said they remind her of home.”
“Thank you, Dormé,” he nodded and stood. As Dormé left him, Anakin first visited the guest house and didn’t find her. He then followed Dormé’s advice and headed to the glass gardens. He stood for a moment outside, watching her sit near a few winter roses. Quietly, he approached her. “Do you like them?”
“They’re beautiful,” she mused, fingering a blue petal. “But they are also strange to me. Highgarden is practically covered with roses, but we have none that are quite like this.”
“They only grow in the North,” he explained, sitting at her side. “It’s fitting, though, isn’t it?”
“I suppose it is,” she agreed, releasing her grip on the flower. “Roses are somewhat easier to come by than direwolves though.”
“Though we know some still run through the woods in the North,” he pointed out. “But yes, it is true,” Anakin nodded. “Are you comfortable? In the guest house, I mean. If you need anything at all, we could arrange it.”
“It is colder than I am used to, but not as cold as I feared,” she admitted.
“It can get colder,” Anakin said, tilting his head. “Winter is coming and blizzards will soon start to happen, but the Great Keep is built over natural hot springs, which makes it warm in general and we do have a fire lit in every room.”
“Perhaps by the time winter comes, I shall be enough of a Stark that it will no longer bother me.”
“Should you be too cold, I can always keep you warm,” he said cheekily.
“Hmm.” She pursed her lips and looked away. “If that suits you.”
“My apologies, sometimes my old mannerisms overcome the rushed lessons in highborn etiquette,” he sighed and moved away a few inches. “None of us agreed to this, my lady, but I am making an effort to create some sort of friendship between us.”
“It is not the sort of effort I am used to,” she said.
“Hmm,” he caressed the petals of a rose. “I don’t suppose it had been to your liking when the King announced we were to be wed,” Anakin pointed out. “After all, you spent most of your life in King’s Landing, I can believe you were expecting a better marriage than one to a former bastard, only a Lord now because his brothers are dead.”
“It is not that simple,” she sighed. “You are an excellent match, and I know I am lucky. But I had expected that I would marry a courtier in King’s Landing and remain in the service of the Queen. I am leaving behind everything I’ve ever known for this, save my cousins.”
“The North is not so bad. Despite our harshness,” he plucked a rose and twirled it to her. “We do manage to create beautiful and delicate things as well.”
“I have been here for only a few days, my lord, I need time to learn to like it here. Surely you understand this.”
“I do,” he nodded and set the blue rose between them. “I hope you can rely on me to help you, my lady,” Anakin sighed and hesitated before shaking his head and leaving the glass gardens.
It was the evening before they were to be wed and Anakin had just left one last meeting with both his Father and Lord Tyrell. He knew arranged marriages were necessary to the development of the Great Houses, to peace, to establish in Westeros a sense of balance, but it didn’t make the negotiations any less awkward. Both Anakin and Padmé were discussed as currency, as a means to an end for both of the Houses. The Tyrells had great wealth, the Starks had great power over the North. It still caused Anakin some confusion and the fact he was going to be actually married the following day, caused knots in his stomach.
He left his Father and Lord Tyrell to celebrate a successful union of the houses and headed for the courtyard. At that hour, many had already gone home and soon it would be supper time, so it was empty, save for his future bride, who was admiring his bow and arrow, that he had left behind after his morning practice.
“Have you ever held a bow and arrow?” Anakin questioned.
“I was examining the craftsmanship,” she said without answering his question.
“Is it good?” He tilted his head.
“Did you make this yourself?”
“I did, yes,” he nodded. “Before being Lord Stark, I was working in the forge. I tinkered with things, I made some weapons to entertain myself while my brothers were having their lessons with Maester Yoda. I did too, but it was never something so thorough as it was with them,” he shrugged. “I built that bow for my brother, Aiden,” Anakin frowned sadly.
“He loved archery so I offered it to him on his last name day and he went everywhere with it.”
“I am sorry he’s gone,” Padmé turned it over in her hands again. “Are you a marksman?”
“I don’t consider myself a marksman, I am better with a sword, but I do have a certain talent,” he pointed out and then paused. “Would you like to try?”
“Are you offering to teach me?” she smiled rather impishly.
“Is that not acceptable?” He questioned back, amused.
“I think an exception can be made if it is not.” She plucked at the string of the bow, listening to its vibrations against the chilled winter air. “Show me.”
“You don’t seem to be uncomfortable with a bow,” Anakin teased lightly as he approached her, it was possibly the first time they were so close to one another and he could smell the delicious scent of her perfume. She fitted an arrow and raised the bow, aiming at the target across the yard. “Your elbow is too high,” he said, delicately putting a hand on her elbow and lowering it considerably. “Spread your legs a little bit more to give you more posture and keep the string close to your cheek. Good?”
“Good.” She released her grip, the arrow landing a hand’s width from the center. “But I’ve done better.” Taking another arrow, she assumed her stance once again, this time having her elbow slightly higher than he’d positioned it, and her fingers touching the corner of her lips rather than her cheek. When she let go, the arrow landed dead center. “That’s more usual,” she announced with a smile.
He opened and closed his mouth in surprise. “Apparently, I should be the one taking lessons from you. Trying to show off, are we?”
“It was not my intention,” she said innocently. “I was taken on hunts as a child in Highgarden, I learned to shoot around the same time I was learning to ride. Shooting well is a habit.”
“Hm, well I could say my ego is hurt but then again, there are certain things I know I am better at than you,” he said cheekily. “Do you still go hunting, however? We go regularly. Maybe you would like to accompany one time or another?”
“Perhaps I will, after we’ve had a son,” she said lightly.
“Ah, right,” Anakin nodded. “That’s the next step, isn’t it?” He asked rhetorically.
“It is,” she agreed, passing the bow into his hand. “Why don’t you show me how you shoot?”
“I don’t think my pride could take it if I missed after your flawless shot,” he snorted but still fitted an arrow and raised the bow. “However, I’ll take my chances,” Anakin mumbled. She moved to the side of him, her hands lightly brushing against his limbs as she made adjustments to his stance.
“Release,” she whispered in his ear. Anakin released the arrow but he was no longer paying attention to it. Her touch and her voice, so close to his ear, made him shiver as anticipation rose inside of him. He turned to look at her for one, long minute, unaware of where his arrow had landed. She returned the stare, then looked away with a small smile.
“Look at that. Your arrow has split mine.”
His head turned to the arrows. "I believe I owe it to your lesson, my lady," he whispered, lowering the bow. "You are a very good teacher."
“I’m flattered you find me so.” She tucked a strand of brown hair back into the hood of her cloak.
"We should head inside for supper before people begin to wonder our whereabouts," he cleared his throat, setting the bow aside, focused on putting some distance between them.
“I will not be taking supper in the Great Hall tonight, actually,” she corrected. “I’ll be in my chambers until the wedding tomorrow.”
"Of course," he nodded. "I'll guess we'll see each other tomorrow, then," Anakin stated softly.
“Yes, we will,” she confirmed. “When I become your lady.”
Anakin hesitated before leaning forward and kissing her cheek. "I look forward to it," he said pulling away and turning on his heel, back to the keep.
Chapter 3: Marriage
The morning of her wedding dawned clear and cold. “We should have made a thicker maiden’s cloak,” Dormé fretted, examining the sheer green fabric.
“I can bear the cold for a little while,” Padmé said, pinning up her braid as she stepped towards the tub that had been prepared for her.
“Are you frightened, cousin?” Sabé asked as she helped Padmé into the bath.
“Of course not, what is there to be frightened of?” Padmé let herself sink into the water, allowing her cousin to scrub at her back. “By Dormé’s estimate, we are dealing with a man of honor who will not play me false, and by my own, he is an earnest boy. I am not afraid of him.”
“I think our cousin was referring to,” Dormé paused and blushed, “the act itself.”
“Perhaps if I were a girl newly flowered.” Padmé cupped her hands and splashed a bit of the hot water on her face. “But that was seven years ago. I have had more than enough time to understand what my duties will be.”
Her cousins exchanged baleful looks as Padmé sank a little deeper into the tub.
“He is handsome,” Dormé pointed out. “I believe he is also a good man and he can make you happy, cousin.”
“Winterfell is not the worst place to live,” Sabé added. “It is cold, but it’s not unpleasant.”
“The glass gardens are lovely. They feel like Highgarden sometimes,” Dormé said with a soft smile. “And the winter roses are stunning.”
“So you see, by your own admission, there is no cause for me to be frightened,” argued Padmé calmly.
“Do you think you will learn to love him?” Dormé asked.
“Does that matter?” Padmé rose out of the tub, accepting the robe Sabé offered.
"Perhaps not," Dormé conceded. "It would be nice though."
“I am not going to pin my hopes on something that might never happen. This is a duty.” Padmé moved to take her smallclothes and corset from the bed, sliding the shift over her head. “We all know that, we were raised to understand it. Perhaps I will come to love him, but it is more important that we have children that will ensure the Stark line continues.”
“I hope you both are blessed with many heirs,” Sabé wished, wrapping the corset around Padmé’s chest and lacing it up.
“Which we will love to take care of, with their fat cheeks and chubby hands,” Dormé chuckled.
“At least until you’re found husbands of your own,” Padmé gasped a little as Sabé pulled at the lacing. “It will happen someday, I’m sure.”
“I would rather die,” Sabé declared dramatically. “I’m perfectly content to watch your children. Dormé, on the other hand, will want her own.”
“You say that like I’ve committed a crime,” Dormé sighed wistfully.
“I’m sure they will find you someone lovely,” Sabé replied, lifting the white satin gown from the bed for Padmé to slide into. “I’m happier alone.”
“Sabé the Septa,” Dormé teased, moving to fetch the stockings and fur-lined white leather boots that had been made specially for this day.
There was a knock on the door and Sabé opened, smiling as she saw Shmi, in her finest clothing, standing outside holding a beautiful and intricate crown of winter roses. “May I come in, dear?” the older woman asked.
“Of course,” Padmé said as she slid on one stocking and then the other, followed by her boots while Dormé unpinned her hair.
“You look beautiful,” Shmi beamed at her, her eyes glistening as if she was about to cry as Sabé closed the door behind her. “I bring you a gift,” she lifted the crown. “Do you like it?”
“It’s lovely,” murmured Padmé.
“Anakin made it. He asked me to bring it to you as his gift. He would like you to wear it today, if you wish so,” Shmi explained, stroking the delicate petals with the tips of her fingers.
In spite of herself, Padmé smiled softly. “I would be honored.”
Dormé unraveled Padmé’s braid, spreading the curls out around her face so that Shmi could more easily place the crown on Padmé’s head, stepping back to admire her future gooddaughter. “You’re perfect,” she whispered and tenderly touched Padmé’s face.
“Thank you. I hope my husband finds me so too,” the younger woman whispered. “I know I am not what he wanted, but I will try to please him.”
“Listen to me,” Shmi held her softly by the shoulders. “You two have everything to be very, very happy. You’re young and I have seen how you look at each other. He doesn’t know it yet, and neither do you, but you are each what the other wants and needs. I have a sixth sense for these things,” she laughed gently.
“I pray you’re right.”
“I’ll see you in the godswood,” Shmi smiled and squeezed her hand. “Take good care of her, ladies,” she nodded at Dormé and Sabé and left the room.
“Give me the cloak,” Padmé ordered softly. “It’s time.”
Anakin took a deep, shuddering breath as he looked around the godswood. Nearly all of Winterfell was present to witness his union with Padmé Tyrell, along with members of every House in the North. He was wearing clothes that had been specially made and tailored for the occasion, white with a silver direwolf pin on the breast to hold his own cloak in place. The cloak that he would wrap around his bride’s shoulders felt heavy in his arms.
“How do you feel, Ani?” Shmi asked, as she approached him and touched his shoulder gently, adjusting the silver direwolf pin.
“Nervous,” he frowned, rubbing his hands together. “Did she accept the crown? Did she like it?”
“Yes.” Shmi smiled. “And she looks beautiful in it.”
He released a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “Good.” When he made it, he had thought about her house sigil. It was a rose. The fact it was winter roses in the crown, it was a sign of how both of their houses could merge beautifully. “This is nerve-wracking,” he whispered.
“Deep breaths, son,” Qui-Gon reminded him, moving to take Shmi’s place. Anakin might have been legitimized, but his mother was still a lowborn midwife. She couldn’t stand with the family, much as Anakin wanted her there.
“I’m trying,” Anakin made a face. “Father, what we discussed previously… the consummation of this marriage will not be watched. I hope you understand.”
“I will do what I can to ensure it,” his father promised. “But there will need to be assurances of some kind. There could be trouble if she doesn’t bleed.”
“I’ll collect the sheets myself in the morning,” Shmi vowed. She too didn’t agree with the awful and invasive tradition of having the consummation of the marriage being watched. A hush began to fall over the crowd as people turned and saw Lord Tyrell leading his daughter towards the weirwood.
Anakin was immediately speechless as his eyes landed on his bride and he didn’t see anyone else. He didn’t notice Lord Tyrell’s emotional face. He didn’t see Dormé and Sabé taking their seat. He didn’t see his mother’s soft smile. All he could see was Padmé, dressed in immaculate white, making her beautiful, long mahogany hair stand out, the crown of winter roses the perfect piece atop her head. The emerald cloak of House Tyrell trailed behind her in the snow as she took the last few steps to Anakin. His eyes locked with hers, blue and brown.
“Lord Tyrell,” Qui-Gon inclined his head.
“Lord Stark,” Padmé’s father returned the nod. “I present my daughter, the Lady Padmé, as a bride for your son, Lord Anakin.”
“Are you willing, my lady?” Qui-Gon asked, looking at Padmé, who nodded.
“I willingly and gladly take your son to be my husband, my lord,” she answered clearly enough for everyone to hear while her tone remained soft.
“Take her hands,” Qui-Gon whispered to Anakin as Padmé let go of her father and Lord Tyrell stepped back.
Nodding discreetly, he took her hands into his own, feeling her soft skin underneath his fingertips. They were cold, as it was expected as they were standing in the godswood and the day was clear, but it threatened snow. He squeezed both of her hands gently, in a gesture of comfort, both for her and for him as well. They both knelt, her more carefully, for the sake of her gown, and bowed their heads. Everyone else followed their example, taking the moment to pray. Out of the corner of his eye, Anakin admired his bride and he knew what he wanted to ask the old gods. Let her love me, let this work.
As the moment faded away and Anakin stood, Padmé remained kneeling, moving only to undo the clasp of her maiden’s cloak. “Anakin, you may bring her under your protection now,” Qui-Gon instructed. Anakin removed the thin green cloak from her shoulders and picked up the Stark cloak set aside for her, placing it around her shoulders and securing it with a direwolf pin, much like the one he wore to secure his own cloak. After a moment of hesitation he leaned down and captured her lips in a soft, delicate kiss.
He wasn’t expecting her lips to be so soft that he found himself sighing and taking one step closer, closing the distance between them. His hand rose to cup her cheek as another was placed at her waist. She leaned into the kiss briefly, pulling back with wide eyes as a snowflake landed on his nose, followed by more all around them.
“Were the skies not clear a moment ago, husband?” she asked softly.
“Apparently, the Gods wanted to manifest their approval at our union,” he responded equally as softly, brushing a stray snowflake from her cheek.
“I hope we are worthy of it,” Padmé replied lightly. “Anakin.”
Anakin beamed. “You remembered. Now, to complete tradition,” he leaned down and picked her up in his arms. “There is a feast we have to host, dear wife.”
Padmé fingered a strand of her hair, looking over at her husband briefly as she took another bite of the cake in her other hand. The hour was growing late and she knew what was coming. People were getting drunker and rowdier. “How often are there celebrations like this?” she asked awkwardly. “Or only at weddings?”
Anakin set down his goblet and leaned sideways in his chair to be closer to her. “When there is a reason to celebrate, we do,” he confirmed. “We like to celebrate life,” he smiled. “Is it bothering you? I know men can grow tiresome with wine,” he raised his eyebrows.
“No, I just wanted to know what to expect for the future.”
“You will never be bothered and you can always retire early if you wish so,” he explained.
“Thank you,” she smiled softly. “I’m sure I will come to like it.”
“No one would dare to be improper to you,” he took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “I know what comes next is daunting, but we can retire if you feel tired.”
“If it is what you want,” she agreed.
He smiled at her. “Padmé, this won’t be my first time, so I feel comfortable. I know it’s inevitable that you are nervous but we can leave when you want to. I want you to have that freedom of choice. If you want to leave now, we will. If you want to wait a little longer, it will be alright.”
“I know what’s expected,” replied Padmé. “And if you want a full bedding ceremony, I will accept that. If you wish things to be more private, I won’t mind.”
“Can you stop doing that?” He rolled his eyes. “If you wish, if you want… I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a puppet at my side.”
She turned to him, her brown eyes burning. “I am no puppet, Anakin Stark. But my knowledge is rather lacking, to the point where I don’t care how we make our way to the marriage bed, since we reach it no matter what.”
“Don’t be offended,” he said softly. “I want you to tell me how you feel too and I know you are inexperienced. Even if you weren’t, I wouldn’t want people watching us,” he took her hand. “Do you want to leave?”
“I think I do, yes. I would rather not have my gown torn away by men too drunk to realize we don’t want such a spectacle. And even if you are experienced,” her lip curled slightly,
“I am not interested in seeing other women touch you.”
Anakin stood and offered her his hand. “Lady Stark.”
“My lord.” She took it, and a few men started whooping loudly, toasting to the new Lady Stark.
“Ignore them, my father will keep them in line,” he whispered as he pulled her closer.
“I’ve heard worse,” she said, holding onto the direwolf pin keeping her cloak in place.
“That is not what a husband wants to hear,” Anakin muttered as he guided her out of the great hall.
“Would you prefer it if I lied to you?”
“No, but I don’t like to hear that you’ve dealt with worse. Was it at King’s Landing?”
Padmé nodded. “No one is foolish enough to do it in the Queen’s presence, but there is no shortage of drunken knights who have told me what they would do, were I their lady. I hardly think they matter now.” She reached up and touched his cheek. “I’m your lady.”
“You are,” he turned his head to kiss her palm, as he led her up the stairs, towards his rooms. Now their rooms.
“Then we won’t speak of it anymore. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” he said softly, pausing at the door before opening it. “After you.” She stepped inside, carefully removing the cloak and placing it on the chest at the foot of the bed, followed by the crown of winter roses. The gems on the bodice of her dress glistened in the firelight as she moved. Anakin closed the door behind him, and removed his own cloak, setting it on top of a chair. He stripped out of his doublet, aware that the moment they both dreaded was upon them and there was no more avoiding it.
Padmé sat on the bed, carefully unlacing her boots and avoiding his gaze. He could see her chest rising and falling as her breath began to pick up speed.
Sitting on the chair, he removed his boots too, before he took a deep breath and standing, approaching Padmé and offering her his hand. “Allow me.” She accepted it silently, turning and moving her hair to the side so he could reach the laces of her gown.
First, he unclasped the dress at the back of her neck, before he slowly began unlacing her corset, recognizing the looser it got, the more nervous she got. He could tell her to relax, to trust him, but those were just plain words that were easily spoken by someone who already had experience.
“I know it will hurt,” she said quietly. “But I’m not afraid.”
“It will just be this first time that it hurts,” he explained as the last of the laces came undone. “I hope you can learn to enjoy it, not just for conceiving a child, but for yourself too.”
“I have always understood a woman’s enjoyment of this to be dependent upon the quality of her lover,” Padmé replied dryly as the gown fell to the floor, followed by her corset, leaving her only in the thin silk shift embroidered with wolves and roses.
“Is that a challenge?” He chuckled as he pushed the shift away from her shoulders and down her arms, letting his fingertips brush against her skin.
“A request,” she corrected. “Be good to me.”
“Always,” he whispered, kissing her shoulder as the shift fell down to join her gown and corset. “Turn around,” Anakin asked softly. She did so, her arms folded to conceal the swell of her breasts. “You don’t have to hide from me,” he said. “Besides, it’s your turn,” he waved to himself, still dressed.
She took the edge of his shirt, tugging at it with a trembling hand. He covered her hand and helped her pull the shirt up and off of his head, so it could join her own clothes on the floor. As she glanced down at the waist of his breeches, she swallowed, squeezing her eyes shut as a flush crept over her cheeks.
“You know, I hope there is a time in the future where you take my clothes off faster than I dispose of yours,” he shook his head and undid the laces of his breeches and pulled them down, stepping out of them.
“Perhaps with more experience,” she replied. To distract her and just because he had enjoyed kissing her immensely, he leaned down and captured her lips again in a breathtaking kiss, wrapping his arms around her slender waist, bringing her flush against him. She gasped at the sudden movement, her arms pressing against his chest without making an attempt to push him away. “My lord…”
“Anakin,” he said, breaking the kiss. “If you have to be formal in front of other lords and ladies, so be it, but never in our bedroom,” he asked, kissing her down her jawline.
“Force of habit,” she apologized, her hand lingering over his heart as her gaze drifted to the bed nervously.
“Focus on me,” he turned her face towards his. “We’ll be there in a minute,” he said before claiming her lips again. Her hand clenched and relaxed against his chest as she slowly leaned into the kiss. He broke their kiss to trail his lips down the pale column of her throat and over her collarbone.
“Anakin,” she whispered as his hips pressed against hers. “I can...feel you.”
He chuckled. “You know that’s good, right?” Anakin teased, kissing her cheek. “It is the effect you have on me,” he whispered in her ear.
“No, I know, but it’s,” she paused. “It’s strange to me.”
“You want to touch it?” He questioned, curling one of her strands of hair around his finger.
“I…” Her blush grew brighter as her hand slowly moved downward, brushing against his cock. She pulled back, looking away and wishing she’d been more thoroughly educated about this.
“It’s alright, you’ll learn with time,” he smiled sweetly and kissed her temple. “Lay on the bed,” he asked gently. She obeyed, sinking onto the square white sheet that had been laid atop the furs with her legs spread wide as she stared up at him.
He climbed on top of the bed, over her, and leaned down to kiss her softly on the lips. “Don’t be scared,” he brushed his lips over her cheek.
“I’m not scared,” she insisted stubbornly.
“If it gets too much, you can tell me to stop,” he said as he positioned himself at her entrance.
Anakin nodded and after a brief moment of hesitation and start to push himself inside of her. She exhaled as he moved in, whimpering as her maidenhead broke. “Hold on to me if you want,” he whispered as he pushed past the initial resistance of her maidenhead and sheathed himself inside of her, groaning as he did so. She gripped his wrists as her hips rocked back and forth, trying to accommodate the unfamiliar girth filling her. He pulled back before pushing in again, biting his lip at how tight she was. He had bedded more experienced women, this was the first time where he was the experienced one. Padmé’s eyes were squeezed shut, her entire face puckered in concentration as she continued to hold onto him. He kissed her lips, coaxing them open with his tongue.
"Relax. You are far too tense," he whispered, brushing his lips against her ear. "It will make it more painful."
“I’m trying,” she mumbled weakly.
"Is it hurting?" He asked softly, rocking his hips forward again.
“No.” Her jaw set. “I’m fine.”
Anakin kissed her as he picked up his pace, thrusting in and out of her, moaning at the sensations she made him feel. It was different from the women he bedded before. It was… special. As he spilled inside her, she exhaled, going limp beneath him and releasing her hold on his wrists.
With his breathing labored, he slowly withdrew and lay by her side, instead of crushing her with his weight. He stared at the ceiling, unable to find words or better, unable to think of anything to say.
“Goodnight, husband,” Padmé said softly, her hand brushing against his arm as she pressed her legs back together.
"Goodnight, Padmé," he wished quietly.
Hopefully, next time would be better.
Chapter 4: Love
“You’re quiet this evening.”
“Anakin and I will be keeping separate chambers for the next week,” Padmé answered bitterly as she stuck her needle into the linen of the shirt she was mending for her husband. “My blood has come again.”
“I’m sorry, my lady,” Dormé said, shaking her head in sympathy.
“Perhaps next time, my lady,” Sabé said with a smile.
“Was Lord Stark upset?” Dormé asked timidly.
“If he was, he did a good job of hiding it,” Padmé sighed, pushing back the gold-edged sleeves of her outer gown as she fixed a troublesome stitch. “But I know he is disappointed as I am, having an heir is our chief duty.”
“You both still have plenty of time,” Sabé insisted. “It has only been six months, it will happen. Soon, you won’t be able to stop having beautiful babies.”
“At this point in her marriage, Sola was already heavy with Ryoo,” Padmé muttered ruefully.
“You both are different women, my lady, you shouldn’t worry,” Dormé said.
“When should I worry? When tongues begin to wag and call me barren?”
“You are bleeding every month, you are fertile and soon, you’ll be heavy with a child too,” Sabé assured her.
“My lady…” Sabé stuttered, shocked with the sudden words.
“I don’t wish to discuss this anymore, I want to be left alone. You may tell my husband and goodfather that I will not be at supper this evening.”
Both women shared a look but decided not to argue against their lady. After all, Padmé was understandably upset and they didn’t want to aggravate her mood. Setting what they were holding aside, both stood and left the room, closing the door behind them. Dormé gasped as she nearly ran into Anakin.
“My lord, you’ve frightened me!”
“My apologies,” he grimaced. “Is my wife inside?”
“She is, my lord, but she’s not in a pleasant mood,” Sabé warned. “I would not go in there unless you want her to bite off a finger.”
“I understand, but I will still enter,” Anakin sighed. “I don’t like seeing her so upset over something that will eventually happen. You may leave to eat your supper, I’ll deal with my wife.”
“My lord.” They both bobbed curtsies as they left him standing at the door.
Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door before entering. “I have been looking for you,” he said softly, closing the door behind him. “Aren’t you coming down for supper?”
“Not tonight,” she said, keeping her eyes on her sewing.
“Padmé,” he sighed and took a seat in the chair next to hers.
“I’m not well,” she argued. “And I would make for poor company.”
“Stop sewing and look at me,” he took a hold of the shirt she was sewing, stopping her movements. “Please.” She raised her brown eyes to his face, her expression stony. “No one is upset that your blood has come. I’m not. I know the pressure that exists, but we’ve been married for only six months, we have time. You can’t lock yourself away every month that it happens.”
“We have less time than you think,” she argued. “The longer it takes, the greater the risk becomes, and I would rather not die in the birthing bed.”
“Please don’t, I would miss you,” he said softly. “You’re talking like you are old, Padmé. We’re both young. This time, the Gods did not bless us. But they will. I believe they will. You should too.”
“Anakin, please, don’t try to soothe me.”
“Why shouldn’t I? What will you have me do?”
“Go to supper, make my apologies to your father. I will be recovered in a few days. This is my concern, not yours.”
“You will want me to be a husband who doesn’t care?” Anakin asked, frustrated.
“Why do you insist on twisting my words to make it seem like I despise you?” she retorted bitterly. “I understand that you care about my well-being, but there is nothing else you can do for me at this moment. I wanted to be left alone!”
“Fine,” he said through gritted teeth and stood up, abandoning the room, slamming the door on his way out. The sound of the wood crashing against the stone made Padmé burst into tears, slumping in her chair. The door opened again and her husband returned and initially was unaware of her tears. “You know, eventually, you have to stop pushing me away… you’re crying,” his annoyance, his frustration, dissipated as he saw her tears.
“I’m sorry,” she sniffed.
“You don’t have to be,” he shook his head, approaching her and helping her to her feet. “You are putting so much pressure on yourself,” Anakin kissed the top of her head and wrapped his arms around her.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered in his chest. “I should be with child, I know I should be, we try and try, but nothing happens, and I know it’s my fault somehow…”
“It’ll happen. I have faith. Don’t you?” He brushed a few tears away from her cheeks.
“We’ll soon have a child,” he smiled. “I know we will. I can stay with you tonight if you want me to. We don’t… have to do anything, I know you are still bleeding.”
“I,” she paused. “I would like that.”
He kissed her forehead, lips lingering on her skin a little longer than normal. “Then I’ll stay.”
“I need to finish with your shirt,” she reminded him with a smile.
“Oh, I have others,” he dismissed it, nuzzling her cheeks. “You can easily finish it tomorrow and I’ll have our supper brought up to us. We’ll say we’re both feeling under the weather, how does it sound?”
“It could be pleasant,” she admitted.
“I’ll be right back,” he kissed her cheek before leaving the room in a much softer note than before. As he was going downstairs, he saw his mother speaking with both Dormé and Sabé. As they spotted him, Padmé’s cousins rushed out and Shmi smiled at him softly.
“Mother?” He questioned, curious. “Were they telling you about Padmé’s mood?”
“You mean about how she’s in the usual state of ill humor that comes with her courses?” Shmi asked with a little twinkle in her eye. “Yes, I heard. Have you calmed our newest direwolf?”
“I hope so. I offered to stay with her tonight and she accepted,” he seemed pleased.
“Good, good. The two of you need time to know one another before you become parents.”
“She is worried about not conceiving and honestly, I’m starting to be as well. But I don’t want her to feel bad,” he whispered. “Mother, you have more experience in this. What do you think?”
“I think that there needs to be love between a husband and wife before they can have children,” she answered. “It can happen without it, but in my experience, the marriages that last are ones that have a foundation built before the babies arrive.”
“Love?” He asked baffled. “Mother, we can’t depend on love, we need an heir. We can’t force each other to feel love.”
“You might at least be friends first.”
“That I like to believe we already are.”
“You are friendly, there is a difference, Ani.”
“I’m trying, Mother, but I feel like she keeps resisting me,” Anakin confessed. “She was brought up to be a dutiful wife and provide the heirs. It would be her chores. I would like if she were to let go of those ideals a little and maybe give me, give us a chance.”
“You’ll be with her tonight,” Shmi reminded him. “Use that time well.”
“I will. Could you please ask for our supper to be brought to us?”
“Of course, love.”
“I love you,” he kissed her cheek.
“I love you too,” she smiled. “And I’ll see about sending up a few extra cakes as well.”
“Padmé, Anakin,” Qui-Gon greeted the couple that had been taking a walk around godswood. “You have a raven from Highgarden,” he passed Anakin the scroll. “Apparently, my lady, you are an Aunt again, of a baby boy this time. Your Father is throwing a tourney in celebration.”
“I’m sure his parents are delighted,” Padmé sighed somewhat wistfully.
“I think it would be in the best interests of the North to send representation to the festivities,” Qui-Gon continued with a smile. “Perhaps someone who knows the Reach well.”
Padmé looked at her husband, brown eyes wide and hopeful. “I’d love to visit.”
“I think you can go with your cousins. I know you miss home,” Anakin nodded his approval.
“You should go along too,” his father suggested. “Meet your wife’s family.”
“Father, I’ve never left the North and I need to help you here, in Winterfell,” he frowned. “Would that be wise?”
“We can manage without you for a while, and besides,” he looked between the two of them. “I would not want the two of you to miss each other.” Padmé flushed pink, tugging at the high velvet neck of her gown as she looked away. Anakin scratched the back of his head, embarrassed at his father’s not completely wrong comment. “Go, enjoy yourselves,” his father urged. “I already have the servants packing for you, the sooner you leave, the better time you’ll make to Highgarden.”
“I don’t want to leave you alone,” Anakin said, but he would miss Padmé and worry constantly about her.
“I’ll have your mother. And Obi-Wan might pay a visit, we never know. Padmé, my dear, will you give us a moment?”
“Of course,” Padmé said, curtsying before she left. Qui-Gon took the opportunity to place a hand on Anakin’s shoulder.
“You’re as good a son as any father could hope for, Anakin, and I love you for that. But if you stay here, preparing for what your life will be, you will miss everything that is happening in the moment. You will regret that far more than you realize.”
“Winterfell was all I’ve ever known and I know you need me, I just didn’t want to leave you, or mother,” Anakin explained.
“We’re not going anywhere.”
“I guess you’ll have Mother and you won’t be so alone,” he said, giving his father a sideways glance. “Don’t think I don’t know about the late-night meetings,” he rolled his eyes, making a face.
“Anakin, I’m a sad old man, allow me a few comforts.”
“I do. I know she loves you. She never stopped,” Anakin muttered. “You are why we remained in Winterfell. Thankfully so. I am really proud of who I was and who I am today.”
“You are who you have always been,” his father said firmly. “My son.”
Without hesitation, Anakin pulled his father into a hug. “Thank you,” he whispered. “For all you’ve done for me. I doubt there would be other Lords who would accept and raise a bastard son like you did.”
“If I could have, I would have married your mother and spared you all this pain,” Qui-Gon whispered. “But the gods willed it otherwise. I don’t know what they have in store for you next, Anakin, but I know that it lies with your wife.”
“I honestly expected a much worse experience,” Anakin confessed. “Padmé is not at all what I expected when you told me I would marry a woman of the King’s own choosing. She is special. Different.”
His father smiled. “I am glad of that. Trust her in the coming weeks, she knows this world, and how to navigate its thorns.”
“I will,” he nodded. “This will be the ideal trip to take her mind off of our lack of an heir.”
“All in good time,” Qui-Gon predicted merrily.
“That is what I tell her,” Anakin pointed out.
“ All things in good time. Even adjustments,” his father amended, pulling him for another embrace.
“I am going to miss you, Father,” Anakin sighed.
“I will miss you too, but you’ll be home soon enough. It’ll be like you never left.”
“I look forward to returning. I don’t think I’ll be very good company with all the heat in the south,” he laughed. “I am going to see if Padmé needs my help. Thank you for the talk, Father.”
“Of course, Anakin. You’re my son. I only want to see you happy.”
“I am,” he replied, nodding slowly as if it was the first time he had admitted it out loud. “I really am.”
Qui-Gon smiled again, then paused, removing the scabbard from his side and carefully balancing it as he held it out to Anakin. “You should take Ice with you.”
“Father, it’s your sword, I couldn’t accept it,” Anakin eyed the sword with respect. Ever since he was a little boy, he dreamt about wielding it.
“It is our family’s sword,” Qui-Gon corrected. “And you should become accustomed to wielding it so that it is not heavy when you inherit it.”
“I don’t want to make a fool of myself in the tourney,” he confessed and took the sword into his hands, caressing the leather that covered the Valyrian steel blade.
“I would hope you’ve trained well enough that you would have a little more pride in your abilities.”
“I never had the chance to use my abilities in such a way. Especially since it will be in front of my wife and her family. I just don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow. “I will never be disappointed in you. But I am also sending you to Highgarden so that you can be with your wife, and so that you can show the realm what you are made of, that our house stands strong. You can do that without fighting. ”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Anakin nodded. “I’ll take good care of Ice.”
“I know you will.” Qui-Gon clapped a hand on his back. “Go on, now, help your wife.”
“We could ride if you prefer,” Padmé suggested as she noticed Anakin stripping off his cloak.
“It’s alright,” he sighed, pushing the heavy, warm cloak aside. “How do people survive in this heat?” He complained, rolling up his sleeves.
“We wear lighter clothes,” she answered with an impish smile. “And we get creative. There were plenty of days when my father was taking a turn in the gardens only to find me playing in the fountains wearing nothing but my shift.”
“Along with the rest of us,” Sabé giggled.
Anakin shook his head, amused. “Well, I don’t have lighter clothes, so I’ll guess I’ll just have to lose the layers I already have.”
“I think we’ll ride, then,” Dormé said, exchanging a glance with Sabé before stepping out of the wheelhouse. “There are still a few horses resting, it won’t be a problem.”
“Something I said?” Anakin asked, glancing between the woman as his collar started to bother him as well.
“Absolutely not, my lord,” Sabé said with a wink to her mistress. “We just wanted to take in some fresh air. And it may be less hot in here with fewer people.”
“Best to let them go,” Padmé said, catching Anakin by the arm as her cousins moved away rather hastily. “They’ll be fine. Or does being alone with me frighten you?”
“I think I proved that to be wrong, my lady,” he raised his eyebrows.
She chuckled slightly, tying off the grey thread she’d been using on the large white wool square on her lap, exchanging it for a yellow one. “Is that your way of telling me that I ought to be taking my clothes off as well?”
He raised one eyebrow. “If that is your wish, my lady, who am I to stop you?” Anakin smiled wickedly, blue eyes darkening slightly at the prospect.
“You’re incorrigible,” she scolded.
Anakin leaned back against the cushioned seat, switching to a more relaxed mood. “I have done nothing, beloved wife.”
“Oh, you’ll fit in well at Highgarden,” Padmé sighed, pulling her needle through the fabric.
“Do you always have to be sewing?” He sighed exasperated, taking the needle and the thread away from her hands, discarding it to the side. “It gets more attention than me.”
“It’s an easy way to keep my hands busy,” she protested. “I don’t want to fight, Anakin, but I don’t understand what you want. I suggested riding, and you said no.”
“I don’t want to ride a horse,” he retorted as he pulled her to his lap suddenly. “I want you to ride me,” he whispered with their faces inches apart.
“You don’t think,” she paused and winced as the wheels went over a rock in the road, jostling both of them, “it’ll be uncomfortable?”
“No,” her husband replied, kissing her down her neck slowly, hand pushing the fabric of her skirts away so he could caress the skin of her thighs. “We might just have to be a little quiet, unless we want to give our retinue an ear full,” he chuckled.
“ Anakin, ” she squealed as his fingers brushed against her folds through her smallclothes.
“That’s not being quiet,” he laughed as pulled her smallclothes aside, his fingers caressing her slowly.
“Oh, gods.” Her arms wrapped around his neck as she leaned into him.
“Ssshh,” he teased as two of his fingers entered her. “Everyone will know what we’re doing,” he mumbled as he pulled them out only to thrust them in again, starting a teasing pace.
“You couldn’t,” she paused to gasp, “wait until tonight when we got to an inn?”
“Who says we can’t do it earlier?” Anakin shrugged before capturing her lips in a searing kiss, stopping her words as he began to pick up speed, enjoying how she squirmed in his arms, how she prepared for her release.
“I…” she trailed off, unable to think of an answer and overwhelmed by the building of her arousal. “ Gods… ”
“Come, sweetheart, come all over my fingers,” he whispered huskily in her ear, his fingers thrusting wildly into her as his other arm secured her on his lap. Padmé obeyed with a whimper, shuddering as she clenched and released around his hand. “Good girl. Now, you have to be the one to unlace my breeches and guide me into you, I’m not in the most comfortable position,” he pulled his fingers out of her.
She rolled her eyes, standing up and awkwardly bracing herself against the wall of the wheelhouse with one hand as she obeyed him with the other. As they hit another rock, she lost her balance, falling on top of him just as she’d freed his cock. “This is why I was concerned,” she complained, hiking up her skirts to more properly align them.
“You worry too much,” he kissed the side of her cheek sweetly. “This trip is for us to enjoy ourselves,” he rocked his hips forward, his member already hard for her. “I need to be inside of you so badly.”
“And you don’t,” she inhaled sharply as he sheathed himself inside her, “worry enough.”
“That’s not really something I want to discuss when you are wrapped around me so sweetly,” he replied as he took a hold of her hips and began guiding her movements over him, pulling her up and down his cock. “I know you can do it on your own,” Anakin teased, gently nipping at her neck.
“After almost seven months as your wife, I should hope so,” she retorted, rocking back and forth. “I was under the impression you liked playing the teacher.”
“The teacher has no more lessons, my lady,” he chuckled before moaning as he felt his arousal taking over him. “He taught you well and hopes you use your knowledge to please him.”
“I do my best.” She kissed him lightly as she felt the warmth of his seed filling her womb, and wrapped her legs around his, ensuring that they were tightly coupled together. Gods be good, let this be the time we both get what we want.
Though they had taken the last few weeks to become better acquainted with one another rather than simply trying nightly for an heir, it was still something Padmé wanted, especially now that her sister had a third child. It was more than mere duty, she wanted to be a mother. And she rather liked the thought of a baby with Anakin’s blond curls.
He held her tightly against him as they both regained control of their breathing. “You are amazing,” he whispered in her ear, kissing her down her jawline before ending in a sweet kiss on her lips.
“I try,” she sighed, leaning against him. “You know I do.”
“This was not about that , Padmé, this was about me desiring you,” he pointed out.
“I know ,” she huffed. “Is it so unbelievable that I might just be wanting to please you? To make you happy?”
He opened and closed his mouth. “Oh, er, no, it’s not. I believe you want to make me happy and you do. Believe me, you really do.”
“Good.” She brushed back his hair, kissing his temple. “A word of advice, husband, think before you speak in Highgarden. There are always thorns among the roses.”
“I will keep that in mind,” he nodded lazily. “For now, I think I’ll just keep having you for the rest of our journey. In every way possible,” his smile was sinful. Padmé rolled her eyes and shook her head, but she smiled too, just a little.
“Ready?” Padmé asked, reaching over to adjust the collar of his tunic as the hedge labyrinth and white stone walls of her childhood home came into view and the roseroad wound nearer its end. As she moved, the thinner cloak she’d been wearing revealed the gold and green gown she was wearing, designed in the Reach fashion of a split bodice and skirt that fastened only at the front and the back of her waist
“As I’ll ever be,” Anakin replied, smiling at her gesture. “You look beautiful. It is a very different style from Winterfell. I don’t know how I feel about so much skin on display,” he pouted, his fingers touching her bare stomach teasingly.
“Everything I had in Stark colors was too heavy,” she protested lightly. “But you have nothing to fear. No one would be foolish enough to try anything untoward.”
“Good,” he said possessively, kissing her forehead.
“Now, remember, there’ll be my parents, my sister Sola, and her husband, Ser Darred Tarly, their daughters, Ryoo and Pooja, the baby, and both my grandmothers, Winama Tyrell and Ryoo Hightower,” Padmé listed as the gates of the first wall began to rise. “Our womenfolk are formidable, but you mustn’t let them intimidate you.”
“I will try not to. I have you to guide me through these uncharted waters,” he smiled, squeezing her hand. Padmé smiled softly, glancing out the window again as they drew closer and closer. "How long has it been since you've come home?"
“Five years,” she admitted. “I was here for the celebrations when Pooja was born, but my duties to the Queen have kept me busy. They would visit me in King’s Landing from time to time, though. And I wrote to them often. I still do.”
"They must miss you," Anakin said.
“They understood. And I wasn’t alone, I always had at least a few of my cousins with me, though their numbers have dwindled as they’ve married. Now there’s only Sabé and Dormé left.”
"They will soon have their husbands too," he noticed. "I look forward to meeting your family."
“Oh, they’re sure to be there,” she laughed. “Along with half of the realm. Our words aren’t Growing Strong for no reason. I must have a cousin married in every region of Westeros by now.”
"That is why the Tyrells are one of the strongest and well-respected families in Westeros," Anakin said.
“You’re not nervous, are you?” she asked.
“I would be lying if I said no. Besides being my first time out of Winterfell, this is your home.”
“You have nothing to worry about,” Padmé promised, fussing with his hair. “We’re already wed, they couldn't have the marriage dissolved even if they wanted to.”
“Stop fussing, it won’t change,” he groaned and shook his head. “They would try to do that?” He frowned.
“Gods, no!” She sighed, shaking her head. “That was just the worst possible outcome I could think of, and it’s not even possible.”
“You’re not soothing my nerves,” Anakin complained.
“I’m sorry. I am trying,” Padmé huffed. “I have very little experience with this sort of situation, you know.”
“I don’t want to return to Winterfell without you, don’t scare me.”
“I’ll try not to.” The wheelhouse came to a stop, and one of the guards opened the door. Before Padmé or Anakin could step out, two little girls in matching green dresses charged in at them.
“Aunty!” they shouted in unison.
“Hello, my darlings.” Padmé laughed, pulling them more comfortably into her lap so that she could kiss their cheeks. “I’ve missed you too. But no greeting for your new uncle?” They turned to look at him with wide brown eyes.
“Hello, Uncle,” they chorused.
“Anakin, may I present the Ladies Ryoo and Pooja Tyrell,” Padmé said with a smile. “Scourges of Highgarden.”
“I thought he was a wolf,” Pooja blurted out. “He doesn’t look like a wolf.”
“His sigil’s a wolf,” Ryoo corrected. “Don’t be stupid.”
Anakin laughed at both girls. “It’s nice to meet you, Ladies Ryoo and Pooja. You’re right, Ryoo, my sigil is a direwolf.” Pooja stuck out her lower lip in a pout, climbing off Padmé’s lap and out of the wheelhouse while her sister rolled her eyes.
“You should come out too,” she informed Anakin. “Everyone wants to meet you.”
“It’s time, then,” he chuckled as Ryoo followed her sister. “After you, love.”
Padmé hesitated a moment, looking at him with wide eyes before stepping out into the sunlight and flower-scented air of her birthplace.
Chapter 5: Tourney
Anakin saw his wife wince. She’d clearly tried to hide it, turning to her sister and baby Marcas, but he saw it all the same. “Ser Rush Caswell,” the elderly voice of Lady Ryoo whispered in his ear. “A rather persistent former suitor of our Padmé.” Anakin’s gaze followed her crooked finger to a man a few years older than him with dark hair and proud, cold blue eyes. “Persistent, but not good enough for her. I told my son that my granddaughter would have better, and I was right.”
He was glad to hear Padmé’s grandmother had a good opinion of him, it tranquilized him. “Thank you, Lady Ryoo,” he whispered back.
“Don’t let any of these little thorns prick you,” she warned, taking a sip of her wine as she gestured around the great hall. “They’re merely envious that you plucked the prettiest rose the Reach has seen.”
Anakin glanced at his wife again, an adoring look on his face. “I did, didn’t I?” He mused. “Your granddaughter is very special, Lady Ryoo.”
“Will you be wearing her favor tomorrow? Fighting for her honor in the tourney?”
“If that is possible, it would be my honor,” he stood straighter.
“Well, then I suggest you broach the subject with her as soon as possible.”
“Thank you for the suggestion, Lady Ryoo, I don’t believe your granddaughter would have asked me,” Anakin nodded.
“Good boy. I’d like to see my girl crowned Queen of Love and Beauty at least once in my lifetime.” The old woman gave a bit of a cackle before shuffling off with her cane and her wine.
“Lady Sola, may I steal your sister?” Anakin asked, offering his hand to his wife. “I would like her to show me around the gardens.”
“Of course, my lord,” Sola smiled serenely, going back to rocking her weeks-old son in her arms. “You may meet a few of our other cousins while you’re there as well.”
“This place is often crawling with them,” Padmé agreed as she slipped a hand into the crook of Anakin’s arm. “This way.” As they moved through the other guests, Anakin heard some people coughing rather loudly when he passed.
“Something smells dirty ,” he heard one of them say. Padmé’s grip tightened on Anakin’s sleeve.
“Pay them no mind.”
“I’ve dealt with comments about my upbringing my whole life, I don’t let it bother me anymore,” Anakin said calmly.
“I was talking to myself,” she admitted. “I don’t like to hear them speak of you like that.”
“It was expected,” her husband pointed out. “I am a bastard who got lucky when his brothers died and his father ran out of heirs,” he said icily. “For many, I will never deserve Winterfell. We can’t listen to their comments.”
“They should at least try to be courteous,” Padmé muttered. “Whether they like it or not, you will be Warden of the North one day.”
“One day when they need the North, I will remember,” Anakin shrugged. “Listen, I was speaking with your grandmother and she asked me if I would fight in your honor, with your colors, tomorrow. I would love to do it, if you agree.”
She pursed her lips as they stepped out into the gardens. “It’s not my place to forbid you from it. But the thought of it makes me nervous. Tourneys can be dangerous, fatal even. Gods forbid the worst should happen to you and leave the North without any heir.”
“I’ve brought Ice with me and I am quite talented. I would like to do it in your honor. To crown you Queen of Love and Beauty,” he said. “Nothing so drastic will happen to me, love, I promise. I can take care of myself.”
“It’s not you that I’m worried about.”
“Any number of equally skilled men who are also riding tomorrow.” They passed a copse of trees where the sound of lovemaking could all too clearly be heard. “Some people,” Padmé sighed, clicking her tongue.
“I know, we should have thought of that first,” he said cheekily.
Anakin smirked. “I was teasing.”
“We’ve already made love in a wheelhouse, I was not about to think you incapable of further exhibitionism.” She lifted the long sleeves that had been trailing on the ground before they fell into one of the garden’s little ponds. “A bed will do quite well later tonight.”
“Fine, if we have to be so boring,” his shoulders dropped forward.
“Would you prefer we be caught?” Padmé retorted.
“Having trouble with your mongrel, my lady?” A drawling voice came from behind them, and Padmé’s jaw clenched, making it very clear exactly who it was.
“Keep walking,” she said under her breath. “Ignore him.”
“Ser Caswell,” Anakin greeted, turning around. “How have you been?”
“I was not speaking to you,” the knight said coldly, his pale eyes still fixed on Padmé’s back. “I was addressing the lady.”
“The Lady Padmé is my wife, Ser Caswell, you would do well to remember that,” Anakin stated equally coldly.
“How can any of us forget the shame of the Reach?”
“Go inside, ser, and see a maester, you’ve had too much to drink,” Padmé said, glancing over her shoulder.
“The King disgraced you by offering you to a Northern mutt.” Rush stumbled towards her, grabbing at her sleeves. “He insulted you and you accepted it.”
“Let go of me,” Padmé said, trying to remain diplomatic as she moved further away.
Rush winced under the tightening of his arm as Anakin grabbed him and pulled him away from his wife, knuckles turning white. “You touch her again, I’ll show what a direwolf does to a whining centaur,” Anakin hissed.
“Anakin, don’t, he’s not worth it,” Padmé pleaded. “Leave him.” Her husband growled as he released Rush’s arm, standing protectively in front of her.
“I’ll say this, you’ve trained him well,” Rush sneered, stepping back and rubbing his arm. “It must be a very short leash you have to keep him on.”
“Will you be participating in the tourney, Ser Caswell? So we can see which one of us has a short leash?” Anakin asked.
“If that is a challenge, mongrel, I gladly accept,” snarled Rush, cutting Padmé off. Then he looked at her, running his tongue across his lips lecherously. “My lady.”
“We’ll see if he is so brave during the tourney as he is outside one,” Anakin scowled as Rush disappeared from his sight.
“You should not have let him bait you.”
“You think I would have watched him grab you like that and done nothing?” Anakin asked, baffled. “Absolutely not.”
“He’s setting you up to humiliate you,” she warned. “And you walked right into it. You had him off me, nothing else needed to happen with him.”
“You seem pretty convinced he will humiliate me,” he snapped. “You will have a chance to see me fight tomorrow and then you can decide if I will be humiliated or not.”
“I don’t have much of a choice at this point, do I?”
“No, you don’t,” he scowled and left her in the gardens, deciding that he might do well to sharpen Ice before the tourney.
“Padmé, you’re going to make your hands bleed if you keep rubbing them like that,” Darred warned lightly. “At least use a handkerchief.”
“I told him not to do this,” she complained, moving to twist the tasseled end of the belt around her waist.
“If you ask me, it was about time someone taught Ser Caswell his place,” Sola said coldly.
“There are plenty of men besides Caswell that would like to see me made a widow,” Padmé. “He’s putting his pride before his life, and I cannot be comfortable with it.”
“No sight is sweeter than a pair of young lovers pining for each other.”
“Indeed not, Winama,” Grandmother Ryoo agreed. Padmé turned back to give both her grandmothers an unladylike scowl.
“He looks very capable of handling his own,” Darred pointed out. “Besides, his sword has a very distinctive history. It’s not every knight in this tourney that wields a Valyrian steel blade.”
“You should have more faith in him,” Sola agreed.
“You’re mad, all of you,” Padmé huffed, turning her attention back to the field as the first riders presented themselves. Anakin would not ride for a while yet, but with every lance that shattered, she cringed and looked away, trying not to picture her husband in the place of the men who fell. When she heard his name, she reached out and grabbed the nearest hand— Pooja’s.
“You’re hurting me, Aunty,” her niece said. Padmé released her grip apologetically
“Calm down, Padmé, he looks proud, you should be too,” Sola whispered to her sister. Padmé forced herself to smile as Anakin approached and she carefully pulled one of the ribbons from her hair.
“Husband,” she said softly.
He brought his horse closer to the benches and extended his arm towards her with a soft, confident smile. She tied the ribbon carefully around his wrist, keeping her eyes on him. “Ride well,” she told him.
“I will make you proud, love, I promise,” he vowed.
Padmé released him, watching him take his place against one of the knights from the Riverlands. Was it Eirtaé’s husband, or Yané’s? Oh, what did it matter? They were off, and she held her breath as the lances crashed against the shields, releasing it only when it was clear that Anakin had stayed mounted while his opponent had been unseated. She jumped to her feet, leading the applause as her smile became genuine. He lifted his visor and beamed at her before taking his place for the next tilt, this time against a Knight of the Vale.
“Uncle Anakin!” Ryoo shouted, waving at him. “Win it again!”
As the horses started to race, bringing them closer to each other, lances on point, the crash of the wood against the shields made many in the benches wince, and Anakin was still standing, for the second time, receiving even more applause than before. Padmé let herself breathe a little more easily. One more, and he’d be finished, at least for today. “Winterfell!” she called out, smiling widely and waving at him. Anakin grinned and tipped his head in her direction.
“Winterfell!” the nieces echoed gleefully until their parents hushed them.
“Oh, I hope he wins,” Pooja whispered
“Me too,” Ryoo agreed eagerly. “He’s very strong.”
“Look, he’s taking his place again,” Sola said.
“Gods,” Padmé exhaled, gripping the railing as she watched him take his place against a knight with the colors of House Dayne, a kinsman to Queen Breha. “Protect him.” The signal was given for them to go, and this time, the horses seemed to be running as fast as the wind, the lances crashing into each other so quickly that the cracks were deafening. As the Dornishman fell to the ground, Padmé saw Anakin drop his lance and shield, his left hand moving towards his chest. While she understood something might have been wrong, Anakin did not let it show on his face, waving with his other hand as it was announced that he would be advancing to the semi-finals tomorrow. Padmé left the stands, rushing to his side as a squire helped him dismount. “What happened?” she asked in a panic.
“I won,” he announced, wincing slightly. “Do I get a kiss for my victory?”
She huffed, lifting the helmet from his head and kissing him briefly. “What happened to your hand? Are you hurt?”
“I just twisted it the wrong way in the last round, it’s nothing serious. I’ll get a Maester to get a look at it,” he dismissed it, leaning forward to steal one more kiss from her. “Do you believe I can do it now?”
“Anakin,” she sighed, her fingers brushing against the ribbon on his arm. “Yes, I believe you. But I’m not going to stop worrying, that’s what wives do. ”
“I—” He stuttered. “You are the best wife,” he nuzzled her cheek. “I won. I’m elated. I’m one step closer to crowning you Queen of Love and Beauty.”
“Once the Maester sees to your hand, you should come join us in the stands,” she said, brushing back his hair. “The girls are very impressed with you.”
“I noticed, they are so adorable,” he chuckled. “I’ll be right with all of you,” Anakin said and kissed her one last time.
“It’s broken,” the Maester informed him, examining the hand. “I can make a splint to hold it in place, but I don’t advise you take part in the melee, my lord.”
“Do the splint, but I am taking part in the melee. I won’t be labeled a coward by Caswell and his friends,” Anakin scowled. “Do the best that you can, Maester, please.”
“You could lose the hand,” the old man warned, raising an eyebrow as he began to take pieces of wood and strips of linen, wrapping them around Anakin’s injured hand. “Is it common in the North to ride in both the joust and the melee, my lord? Surely you’ve had enough for one day.”
“I will not lose my hand as I will be careful with it,” he sighed. “I am crowning my wife Queen of Love and Beauty, no matter what it takes. I’ll be part of tomorrow’s activities as well.”
The maester sighed. “Vainglorious fools in love. You cannot say I didn’t warn you, my lord.” Anakin remained quiet as he let the Maester work, looking up at the sound of skirts rustling. His wife entered the tent, looking flushed. “You’ve been in here so long, they’ve finished the rest of the jousting for today. I was worried,” she admitted as she moved to his side.
“Maester Accu, it’s good to see you.”
“Perhaps you could persuade your husband that it would be ill-advised for him to fight a melee and another day of jousting with a broken hand.”
Anakin shot the Maester a dirty look as he hadn’t been planning on telling her that it was actually broken. “I told you, I will be fine.”
“Anakin,” Padmé moved to take his unbroken hand. “Has he told you the risks?”
“It’s nothing I can’t handle. Besides, it’s my left hand, I’ll be able to fight with just my right hand,” Anakin argued.
“You’re going to do this regardless of what I say,” she sighed, raising his hand to her lips. “You’re determined to drive me into old age, aren’t you?”
“I’m determined to crown you Queen of Love and Beauty and drag Ser Caswell through the mud,” he quipped.
“If you make it through this in one piece, I’ll let you crown me Queen in the North,” she muttered.
“Don’t give me ideas,” he said cheekily. “Once the Maester is done, I can return and join the melee again.”
She kissed his forehead, leaving the tent with her lips pressed into a thin line.
The maester worked in silence for a few more moments before releasing Anakin’s hand. “If you survive the melee, my lord, make sure you come back to me to have it set again. And I am afraid this is non-negotiable, you must avoid strenuous activity this evening.”
Anakin groaned. “You are very negative, Maester. Even if I just… lay still?” The old man coughed, turning bright red behind his beard. “Fine,” he rolled his eyes. “Is it done?”
“It is, my lord.”
“Thank you, Maester Accu,” Anakin stood up, testing the movement in his arm, wincing a bit, but still grabbed Ice's hilt. He could have lost the hand, and he would still be fighting. He was a Stark, and he would not let anyone forget it.
“I still can’t decide if you’re brilliant or lucky,” Padmé said, not looking at her husband as she brushed out her hair.
“Can I be both?” He asked as he rested on the bed, his broken hand on top of his stomach. Maester Accu was a brilliant man and he had done an impressive job after the melee. “Besides, I won, didn’t I?”
“You were also nearly unseated twice, and I counted at least five instances when you nearly lost your head,” she replied coldly.
“Must you focus on the negative?” Anakin sighed.
“Anakin, I was terrified for you, and I don’t think you understand that.” She set down the brush, turning to look at him. “I told you as much, and you disregarded me, for the sake of your pride. What if you’d been wrong? What if I were on my way back to Winterfell right now with you in a box? Do you understand how much that frightens me?”
“I understand, but that is very dramatic. I have shown that I can take care of myself, haven’t I?” He stated frustrated. “What would you have me do? Cower in the benches at your side?”
“You’ve shown that you’re skilled,” she admitted. “And lucky . I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but you didn’t need the melee in order crown me Queen of Love and Beauty. And if this is about your rivalry with Caswell…”
“This is about a lot of things, including these two. Besides, do I want to prove everyone right when they say I am not worthy as the Warden of the North? How can I prove to them I am able to protect the North if I don’t show it? Why don’t you understand my side too?”
“You’ve done more than enough to show it already,” she argued, pulling back the covers on her side of the bed and looking away from him again. “I understand wanting to show that you belong in this world, and you do , but not at the risk of your life.”
“That is the world we live in. Everything we do, we do it at the risk of our lives. I understand you are concerned, but if you thought I would keep my head down, you don’t really know me,” he muttered and blew out the candle at his side.
“Anakin…” she sighed his name into the dark. He closed his eyes, his back slightly turned away from her and didn’t acknowledge it.
“Your hand looks silly,” Pooja said, staring at Anakin’s splinted hand as he sat with the entirety of House Tyrell for breakfast. Padmé didn’t look up from the apple she was slicing, but he heard her huff in distaste.
“It’s just a little hurt,” Anakin smiled at the young girl. In the arms of his wet nurse, baby Marcas fussed and squirmed.
“What’s wrong?” Sola asked, and Padmé turned her head towards the window.
“I think he might hear something. I hear it now too.” She rose from her seat, leaning out the window and gasped. “Those are Targaryen banners.”
“The King?” Anakin asked, baffled. “Was he supposed to come?” He asked Darred.
“He was invited, of course, but we didn’t think he would come,” he replied.
“The Royal Family usually gets invited everywhere,” Lady Jobal explained. “And if they cannot attend themselves, they send a representative or a raven. “We received neither, and now we know why.”
“It might not be the King himself,” Padmé said, returning to her seat. “But if it is, I’m sure he’ll want to meet you.”
“Aunt Padmé is friends with the King,” Ryoo bragged. “And the Queen.”
“Uncle Anakin knows that,” Pooja pointed out. “King Bail was the one to decide about them being married.”
“King Baelor, dear, you mustn’t be informal with him,” Jobal reminded her granddaughter.
“We should all finish eating and see about getting dressed,” Padmé interrupted. “We’re not nearly ready to receive his Grace in this state.”
“And it’s almost time for today’s joust,” Anakin pointed out. His wife glared sullenly at him, sweeping out of the room without another word.
“You’d best win today,” Ruwee said dryly. “That may be the only way she’ll be satisfied.”
“I don’t know if that is possible,” Anakin muttered bitterly.
“Whether she says it or not, I know my daughter. She’s upset because she loves you. She doesn’t want you hurt. This one used to be the same way.” He indicated his wife with a smile.
“Every day until you listened to me,” agreed Jobal with a smile of her own.
Anakin frowned, not wanting to disrespect his wife’s parents, yet he didn’t believe their words. He stood, his mood foul. “If you excuse me, I need to get ready for the joust.”
“Of course, dear. Good luck today,” his goodmother said kindly. “We shall all be cheering for you.”
“Thank you,” he said softly before exiting the room, leaving his wife’s family on their own.
Padmé was in their chambers, dressing with Sabé’s help in a gown that was a more modest Reach style, but dyed in Stark grey. When she saw Anakin, she paused. “Promise me something.”
"Depends. What is it that you want me to promise you?"
“That you’ll value your life over your pride.” She opened her hand to reveal a small charm on a leather cord, a running wolf surrounded by a border of roses. She looped the cord around his neck, tucking the pendant beneath his shirt. “Please.”
"I promise that I will do everything in my power to return to you alive," he vowed. "I have no intention of dying out there, don't write me off as defeated just yet."
She huffed, clearly not satisfied, but decided not to press the issue. “I’m going to greet the King with my parents.”
"I need to get ready for the joust. Please give the King my regards."
“Yes, of course,” she brushed her fingers against his unbroken hand. “But I’m sure you’ll have time to meet him yourself, after the tourney.”
“Indeed I will,” he nodded in agreement.
The cracks of the lances were deafening, so much so that Padmé covered her mouth with both hands, watching in mute horror. Anakin stayed mounted, thank the gods, but Rush began to tilt to one side, slipping out of the saddle so quickly that his head slammed against the railing separating the tracks. Then he hit the ground and did not move. “Get the maester!” a girl screamed from the stands, but everyone seemed frozen in shock.
Anakin himself stood unmoving, on top of his horse, in shock. Rush Caswell had to be dead, the crack they all distinctly heard was surely his neck breaking and no maester would be able to save him. As maesters and members of the silent sisters moved onto the field, everyone held their breath, hoping against all hope that the fallen knight might pull through. Maester Accu looked up at the stands, shaking his head. As Rush’s body was carried off the field, the girl who had screamed began to sob openly, but everyone else looked to the King, who rose from his seat. “The loss of a knight is always disappointing to the realm,” he announced. “But Ser Rush knew the risk, as every brave man who competes in a tourney knows. And his memory will be honored by those who knew him. Anakin Stark.”
As he was called, Anakin turned his horse to be able to face the King. “Your Grace,” he bowed his head slightly.
“You are not to blame for this unfortunate accident. But it seems to me that you would have been victorious regardless. Do you agree, Lord Tyrell?”
“I do, your Grace,” Ruwee said diplomatically, his face the same stony mask that Padmé often used when she wanted to hide her true feelings. “That my goodson is the victor and champion of this tourney is beyond dispute in my mind.”
“Then we should recognize that properly.” The King raised the cup in his hand. “A toast to Anakin Stark, today’s champion.” The applause was hesitant at first but grew louder as a squire approached Anakin, holding a crown of blue roses. They were not quite the shade of winter roses, but they were very close.
“M’lady Winama said to make it like this, ser,” the boy told him. “You must choose the Queen of Love and Beauty now, before the feasting.”
Anakin was still reeling from the last few minutes but he still nodded and accepted the crown with his good hand, knowing exactly where it belonged. “Thank you.” The boy bowed to him, backing away. Directing his horse near the stand where his wife still stood in shock, like many others, he extended her the crown of roses. “Please, my lady, give me the honor of crowning you Queen of Love and Beauty,” he tried to keep his voice steady and gave her a timid smile.
Padmé bowed her head, letting him place the crown in her hair before leaning forward to kiss him soundly, which triggered a much louder cheer from the crowd. He relaxed into her kiss, sighing as he pulled away. “See? I kept my promise,” he whispered.
“You did,” she admitted somewhat grudgingly as she brushed her fingers against his cheek. “Now go see the Maester about that hand.”
Anakin nodded and rode his horse until he was near his tent, dismounting, wincing as pain shot up his arms. He nearly tripped inside and sat on the cot, shaking his head as he waited for a maester to come to him. Thank the gods this was not the same tent where the Silent Sisters would be preparing Caswell’s body. No matter what the King and Lord Tyrell said, he was still responsible for someone’s death, even if that someone was Rush Caswell. He shouldn’t have left Winterfell. He shouldn’t have come to Highgarden. This was a mistake. He had killed a man and he could very well lose his hand. It was a complete mess.
Maester Accu approached him, the makings of a new splint and a flask in hand. “Dreamwine,” he said, opening the flask and holding it out to Anakin. “One swallow, to dull the pain while I work.” Without saying a word, he took the flask and took a sip out of it, passing it back to the maester.
There was a whisper outside the tent, and then Baelor Targaryen stepped inside, followed by a man in the white cloak of the Kingsguard. “This was not how I had hoped to meet you, Anakin Stark,” the King said, and there was a little mirth in his eyes, even as his face remained serious.
“Your Grace,” Anakin stuttered, a bit disoriented. “I would have hoped it would be under better circumstances as well. I would like to thank you for my legitimization. I know it was my father’s wish, but you could have refused him, so, I am in your debt for that and for matching me with Lady Padmé.”
“I’ve always know your father to be a good and loyal man,” the King said, sitting on Anakin’s other side while the maester worked on his hand. “I had no reason to refuse. And as for Padmé,” he paused. “I suppose I just had a feeling that you two would be well-matched. I’m glad I was right. I imagine you’re not feeling well right now. I went through something similar in my first tourney.”
“This was not how I imagined the outcome to be like,” Anakin confessed quietly. “I thank you for your words out there, your Grace, you were very kind,” he winced as the maester wrapped his hand.
“I meant it,” the older man replied. “You are not to blame for what happened out there. It was an accident. And in all honesty, if your positions were reversed, I do not think Caswell would have been honorable enough to regret it as you do.”
“It still weighs on my conscience, independently of who Ser Caswell was or how he acted, I was hoping to put an end to our conflict in a much better way than his death.”
“Good. I would think less of you if you did not feel remorse.” The King stood. “I’ll leave you in the maester’s hands, but I hope I will see you at the feasting?”
“I’m not sure if I will feel up to the feasting, your Grace, I might ask Maester Accu for some milk of the poppy to be able to rest and hopefully, not lose my hand,” Anakin said slowly. “I hope you won’t be offended by my absence?”
“Of course not. From what your wife tells me, you’ve earned the rest. But I hope we will speak again before we both depart?”
“Yes, your Grace, I hope so too. Maybe tomorrow.”
“Yes, tomorrow,” the King agreed. “Congratulations again on your victory.” Anakin didn’t reply, simply nodded and allowed the maester to finish his work.
By the time Padmé made it to their chambers, it was well past midnight, and Anakin was already in bed. Without a word, she undid the belt of her gown and let it fall to the floor, moving to the bed without any indication that she would be donning a nightgown. “Anakin,” she whispered as she pulled back the covers. “Are you asleep already?”
“I was,” he replied groggily and didn’t move. “How was the feast?” Anakin mumbled, sighing into his pillow.
“Somber, without you.” She slid into bed beside him, pulling the covers back up as she ran a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry for waking you, but there was something I wanted to say to you.”
“I wouldn’t have been very good company,” he said. “Padmé, I’m sure we can speak tomorrow,” he groaned as he moved his hand just an inch and a pain shot up his arm, making him nearly weep. “Please.”
“No, I need to say this now.” She turned on her side, looking straight at him. “I nearly lost you today, and I don’t want to wait another moment to tell you that I love you.”
Anakin’s eyes flew open to observe her face carefully. He blinked a couple of times, to make sure he wasn’t having a dream or a hallucination. “Are you serious?” He whispered.
She nodded, pressing a hand against his cheek. “Truly. With all I am. I love you. I didn’t want you to die, not because of what it would mean for Winterfell, or your parents, but because I could not bear living in a world without you.”
With his good hand, he tucked one strand of hair behind her ear and caressed her cheek lovingly. “I love you too, sweetheart. I have for a long time. Forget being legitimized, you are the best thing that’s happened to me.”
“You mean it?” Her face practically lit up the darkened chamber. “Truly?”
“With every syllable,” he smiled kindly at her. “I love you. I didn’t expect it to happen. So soon, at least. But the more time I got to spend with you, to know you, the more I realized what was happening.”
She moved closer and kissed him, softly and tenderly. “I wish we could do more to celebrate this, but I don’t want to cause you pain.”
He pursed his lips. “I can be very still and you do all the work.” That made her laugh.
“Alright, my love, if that’s what you want, I’m all too happy to oblige.” She pushed back the covers, exposing them both to the warm air.
“Like I would ever refuse you,” he rolled his eyes, leaning on his back. “It’s only my hand that is broken.”
She giggled again, pushing back his nightshirt and stroking his cock to attention. “You spoil me.”
Anakin moaned, his body obviously responding to her touch. “That’s debatable at the moment.”
“You can return the favor when we’re home in Winterfell and I get cold,” she teased.
“I told you I would always keep you warm,” he snickered.
“And I’ve learned never to doubt you.” She straddled him and sank down, smoothly sheathing his length inside her. “My love and my husband.” And she leaned forward to kiss him again.
Chapter 6: King's Landing
“Anakin, if I might have a word?” Padmé’s eyes moved from her husband to the King, who sat at the table, breaking fast between her grandmothers with the rest of her family. “If you don’t mind, that is, Lady Padmé?” Bail amended.
Anakin nodded slowly looking from the King to his wife. “I will be just a few minutes, love,” he whispered to her, kissing her temple.
“Hurry back to me,” she replied sweetly, running her fingers along his arm as he stood and left her side, following the King into the solar.
“You’re still unfamiliar with the larger political games played in the realm, aren’t you?”
“My father and Maester Yoda are doing their best to teach me, but it has barely been one year since I was legitimized, your Grace” Anakin started.
“We’re in private, you can call me Bail if you’d prefer.”
Anakin hesitated. Permission or not, it was something he needed time to be comfortable saying. “I can admit there is a lot that I am still unaware of, yes, but with time I’m sure I’ll be very well-informed,” he finished.
“That’s just it,” Bail said looking at him gravely. “I was hoping to have your advice as an ordinary man. Not a future Lord. I have more than enough Lords surrounding me, grasping for power, wanting to take. I would like for you to come to King’s Landing with me, for a time.”
He was taken aback with the request. It caused panic to stir in his stomach. “I am not sure I am the right man to help you, your Grace. My advice could lead you to make some unwanted decision and Gods forbid I provoke some rebellion in the realm,” he shook his head. “My place is in Winterfell. At my father’s side.”
“It would not be for long. I’m only asking you to consider it.”
“I understand, but I would need to speak with my wife and I would like to get word to my father. He is expecting me back,” Anakin said, trying not to have a panic attack in front of the King, since all he wanted to say was ‘no, thank you, but no’.
“Of course.” Bail nodded. “We will be going part of the way home together, you have time to make this decision. I just wanted to make certain I gave you time to consider it.”
“Thank you, your Grace, it was very kind of you.”
“I need to get back to the business of the realm, so I’ll leave you now.” Bail gave him a curt nod before going back the way they had come. Padmé entered a few moments later, frowning.
“Did it go badly?” she asked, moving to Anakin’s side. “I was worried when the King passed by without you.”
"He wants me to go with him to King's Landing for some additional advice of an outsider since he doesn't trust that the lords surrounding him aren't just grasping for power," Anakin told her quietly.
“Do you want my advice as your lady or as your wife?”
"I don't want to go," he gritted his teeth. "I have a bad feeling about it. I don't want to go," Anakin repeated.
“And as your wife, I don’t want you to go either,” she admitted, kissing him softly. “But as your lady, I think you need to send a raven to your father. This is a decision he should know about.”
Anakin sighed deeply. “I hope he says no. I want to go home. I had enough of exploring for the rest of my life.”
“I know, love,” she sighed. “I miss Winterfell too.”
“Really?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. “You miss the cold?”
“It’s where I met you, and it’s beautiful in its own way. I’ve come to love it.”
He kissed her temple. “I love you,” he nuzzled her cheek. “I have to go inside and write to my father. The faster I do it, the faster he replies.”
“And after that, we can do as we like for the rest of the day,” she proposed with a wicked smile. “You’re going to regret making me a Queen.”
“I would never regret such a thing. More than Queen of Love and Beauty, you are my Queen in the North,” he pulled her forward for a soft, passionate kiss.
“Careful, Lord Stark, don’t let the King hear you,” she giggled, wrapping her arms around his neck as she deepened the embrace.
Anakin crumpled the paper in his hands and groaned. “He told me I should go, that I should take this time to enter the King’s good graces and that if I refused, I could put the North in a delicate position,” he explained. “He encourages me to know the court. To know the King. It’s another way I can establish myself as Warden of the North. I was looking forward to him telling me to return to Winterfell and not look back.”
“Oh, Ani,” Padmé hugged him tightly. “Do you want me to go with you?”
“You should go home,” he whispered, burying his face in her neck. “It would give me an even better reason to return as soon as possible since we have pending situations, after all,” he chuckled and cradled her face in his hands. “I won’t take long. I’ll do everything in my power not to.”
She kissed his hand softly. “I’ll write every day.”
“Please. I have a feeling I will go mad without you.”
“Promise to write back?”
“To every letter.”
She looked out the small window of the inn, where the roseroad and the kingsroad met. “This will be the last day we see each other for some time then.”
“Don’t… phrase it like that. I’m already hating the idea of being away from you, from Winterfell, I have half a mind to pretend I am ill so I don’t have to go. I’m sure that if I claim my hand is not well and I need further care and a lot of rest, the King will not force me to go with him,” Anakin scowled, turning away to sit at the bed.
“Ani, you know you can’t.”
“I shouldn’t have left Winterfell,” he said with a groan, falling back in the mattress.
“You would have missed me too much,” she said, trying to make things better.
“I guess I’ll have to tell the King I will be joining him to King’s Landing,” he said begrudgingly.
“I’m sure you’ll be home in no time,” she kissed him on the temple. “Or I’ll get to learn every story about your childhood that you don’t want me to know.”
“I believe you will know everything by the time I return.”
“Hurry back to me all the same. Sail up the Narrow Sea if you have to.”
“I will, I promise.”
“And I know you keep your promises.” Padmé smiled, pressing her forehead against his. “I’ll never doubt that again.”
“You miss your wife,” Queen Breha’s voice came lightly from behind and just below Anakin. He’d learned when he’d arrived in the capital that the reason the Queen had stayed behind was that she was expecting, and her health was fragile enough that she required a wheeled chair to move around during her pregnancy.
“Yes,” he nodded in agreement. “I miss her. I miss home. I have this sinking feeling in my stomach that something is going to happen and I won’t be there,” his eyes looked away again before he sighed, and straightened up. “I’m sorry, your Grace, I didn’t mean to sound so depressing. How are you feeling today?”
“I would be better if I had not had to endure the Lord of Casterly Rock,” she said, tilting her head towards the whitehaired man from the Westerlands. “His sigil may be a lion, but Sheev Lannister is a snake if ever I saw one.”
“He does not inspire trust, I can agree on that. I’ve been trying to avoid a conversation or moments alone,” Anakin shivered.
“You’re a wise man,” she smiled at him warmly. “I think the North will be in very good hands one day. I sincerely hope...” she trailed off, her eyes growing sad.
“You will have to visit us in Winterfell soon,” Anakin took her small hand in his. “I know Padmé misses your company and I also know she would be overjoyed to have you as our guest. After the baby is born, of course. We would love to meet the little Prince or Princess.”
“I will ask my husband.” But the expression on her face made Anakin think she already knew the answer.
“Of course. And maybe by the time you visit, we will have an heir of our own.”
“Or one in the making,” she jested lightly. “Given how often she writes, I can tell the two of you adore each other. I’m glad that Bail made the choice he did, I was worried when he brought the subject to our attention. She was very reserved about it.”
“I think the cold was her worry,” he chuckled. “Also, she was paired with a total stranger that no one heard of. I understand her concerns but I am very happy with your husband’s choice. I love her. I would do anything to see and make her happy. The fact that we have yet to conceive is being a challenge, but I know that it’s definitely in our future.”
“Oh, you’re wrong, we’d heard of you. Your father actually refused to become Bail’s Hand a long time ago because he wanted to be with his sons. I believe it was only you and poor Liam at the time.”
“My father was too attached to the North, to his family, to ever come to King’s Landing,” Anakin smiled softly. “Kind of like me. For me, being here is the most difficult thing I have ever done. I appreciate your kindness and the King’s trust, but I should return home soon.”
“I agree. Being separated from family is an awful thing. There were quite a lot of Daynes at court when I first married Bail. I was surprised when Padmé only took Dormé and Sabé with her.”
“They are very close and I know she has a lot of support from them.”
“It’s only Sabé with her now, yes? Dormé remained in the Reach to be married?”
“Yes, yes, it was. My apologies, with all the events of the tourney, I ended up forgetting that detail. Yes, her father found her a suitable match in the Reach. It was a very tearful goodbye for all of them.”
“I’m sure it was.”
A small girl ran up to them, holding a scroll sealed with white wax. “For you, m’lord!” she said, handing it to Anakin. Queen Breha smiled and signaled for her lady to wheel the chair.
“Thank you, dear, let’s get you a sweet.”
As Anakin watched the Queen being taken away with a soft smile, he unrolled the scroll and began reading the words. His eyes widened as he read his wife’s perfect calligraphy and his heart began beating harder than before.
It has happened.
“No ravens,” Maester Yoda croaked before Padmé could even cross his door. “No ravens from your husband.”
“You’re horrible,” Padmé sulked to the wrinkled old man. “Making me feel like I’ve committed some crime by wanting to hear from him.”
“Work, I must do,” he replied, barely looking up from his work as he scolded her. “Work for your goodfather.”
“Padmé, dear, I’m sure he’ll be sending a raven soon,” Shmi said softly. “Come with me, Qui-Gon would like to speak with you.”
“It’s torture not knowing if he’s received the letter yet,” Padmé protested as they walked together. “I shouldn’t have told him to write and ask his father, I should have agreed with him and had us both come home. He’ll be devastated.”
Shmi sighed, knowing it wouldn’t be the only thing her son would suffer about in the upcoming times. She rubbed her gooddaughter’s back soothingly. “He will understand. Neither of you could have imagined it and Qui-Gon did encourage him to go to court with the King. I’m sure he’ll return as soon as possible to be with you during this time.”
“I can only pray you’re right.” Padmé’s hand pressed against her stomach. “The King will understand, I’m sure of it. After the losses he and the Queen have endured, he wouldn’t refuse Anakin this.”
“I hope not,” Shmi, however, looked doubtful. “We can pray for the best and that the King is generous, but sometimes, Padmé, it can be a bit more complicated,” she sighed sadly. “Speaking about complicated, there is something I need to speak with you about, before you see your goodfather.”
“I know he’s ill,” Padmé said somewhat irritably. “That’s why Maester Yoda’s been working. But it’s just a chill, isn’t it? Surely there’s no cause for alarm.”
“Sweetheart, he is dying,” Shmi said softly, squeezing her gooddaughter’s hand. “There is no cure, we have known his time is limited for a while, but he didn’t want to put any additional pressure on you or Anakin. This is why he married me before either of you returned from Highgarden. We had so little time.”
Padmé stopped in her tracks, staring at Shmi in shock. “He seemed fine yesterday!”
“He hasn’t been fine, but he is very good at masking his symptoms,” Shmi said. “Sweetling, his fever is not coming down. Maester Yoda and I have done everything, but his sickness is slowly winning and all we can do is make him comfortable.”
“Anakin will be heartbroken . I have to tell him—”
“I sent him a raven early this morning,” Shmi interrupted. “The North will need him sooner than anyone thinks.”
“You should have overruled Qui-Gon, you shouldn’t have kept this from us!”
“If Anakin asked you the same, wouldn’t you?” Shmi hastily brushed away a few of her tears. “He wanted to see his son happy. Continuing the Stark legacy without this dark cloud over his head. I pray that Anakin arrives in time but I don’t think that we have any time left and Padmé, he will need you so much, he loves his father so deeply.”
“And now he might not get to say goodbye!” snapped Padmé. “He was already worried about this, he’s been worrying about it since he was legitimized!”
“Sweetheart, I understand, but this was Qui-Gon’s choice and I had to respect him. I know it will hurt Anakin, but I couldn’t betray Qui-Gon’s trust and I know Ani will understand him. Maybe not now, but later he will,” Shmi reassured her. “Qui-Gon sent him to King’s Landing with the knowledge of what it could mean and he did it with a clear conscience.”
“I hope it stays clear when he meets the gods,” Padmé said icily, moving forward in a rush of skirts. “I will stay to hear him, but no longer. I will not risk my health or the health of my child.”
Shmi sighed, watching her leave. This was not an easy situation to anyone and it would become much harder once Anakin discovered the truth.
“My deepest condolences, Anakin, your father was a great man,” the King said somberly, sitting on the Iron Throne. Anakin stood in front of him, the throne room empty. His eyes were empty as he looked at the ground and nodded.
Ever since he received the news of his father’s passing, he had not been able to completely process it. The idea that he would return to Winterfell, and Qui-Gon wouldn’t be there to welcome him. The idea of his child growing up without knowing his grandfather was unbearable.
“Your Grace, I would like to request to be dismissed so I can return to Winterfell. My mother and my wife need me. Padmé is expecting. The North has just lost its Warden. I’m sure you can understand my haste,” he spoke, but he was very detached.
“I understand, but I’m disappointed,” Bail said. “My wife and I have grown very fond of you, and I have found your advice to be invaluable. I will be sad to lose you.”
“You are very kind, your Grace, but there are other men like me who would jump at the opportunity to serve you and they would be well suited,” Anakin pointed out. “The North needs me right now. I can’t fail it.”
“I had hoped to name you Hand of the King.”
Anakin opened and closed his mouth, shocked. “Your Grace, I am hardly suited for the position. King’s Landing is not where I belong. I am thankful for the hospitality and what I have learned in court, but my home is in Winterfell.”
Bail rose from the throne, stepping closer to him. “I value the North. It makes for half the Realm, it ought to be represented here. But I understand the position you are in, and so I think I have a compromise we can offer.”
“A compromise?” Anything. Anything to get me out of this place.
“There is, of course, no guarantee that it will be this time,” the King paused, looking straight into Anakin’s eyes. “But I would like to arrange a match between my firstborn and whichever of your children will be best suited to them.”
Anakin froze. The King was actually proposing a marriage contract for their still unborn children, and his mind was reeling. What was he supposed to say? Without consulting Padmé nonetheless. “A marriage alliance? Your Grace, you’re… proposing a marriage contract in order to allow me to return home?”
“It is somewhat unorthodox, I admit. But we can renegotiate in the future, if you so choose. With all the miscarriages and stillbirths Breha has suffered in the past, I am terrified of what might happen this time, Anakin. I want to know that, gods willing, if my child lives, there will be a secure future for them.”
“This is a decision I can’t make without Padmé, she will never forgive me for deciding something of this magnitude,” Anakin explained. “What about the Queen, will she agree with this union?”
“She and I have been discussing this since you informed us of Padmé’s pregnancy.”
Of course they have. Anakin shook his head and started to pace. He could send a raven to Winterfell and wait for the reply, but how long would it take? He has been in King’s Landing for too long already. He missed the first part of his wife’s pregnancy. He had been unable to say goodbye to his father. He felt completely broken and useless and now, to go home, a marriage contract was needed. It was ridiculous. He regretted ever stepping foot outside Winterfell.
The Targaryens had been friends with the Tyrells for a long time and Padmé had spent most of her life in court, with the Queen and the King. They have known each other and it had been Bail who had arranged their match. Anakin knew Padmé trusted them. There was an affinity between their families. He had known he would have to arrange a match for his children, but never before they were even born.
Anakin stopped and took a deep breath. He hoped, he prayed that he would never come to regret this decision.
“My child does not leave Winterfell until they are of an age to marry,” he stated. “He or she will be provided with the appropriate education, but they are not leaving home until it is strictly necessary.”
“When they are older, they will meet each other and they will have a say in the union. I know neither of us will want our children unhappy or in a resentful marriage. That is how nations are destroyed, your Grace,” he said confidently. “If they dislike each other, they will be free to refuse the union.”
“Agreed. And I swear to you that I will not deprive Winterfell of its heir, regardless of what may happen.”
“Then we have an agreement, your Grace. If the gods are good, our houses will be united in the future and our children will rule the Realm together.”
Chapter 7: Reunion
The horns were blown, announcing the arrival of Anakin and when he crossed the gates and jumped out of his horse, he could feel the grief of the people of Winterfell and he felt its own, now heavier than before. There were a lot of ‘our condolences, my lord’ and he absentmindedly nodded, acknowledging them.
He crossed the courtyard to wrap his arms around his mother, squeezing her close to him, face hidden in her shoulder as he silently cried. “You should have told me he was sick,” he whispered brokenly. “I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.”
“He asked me not to tell you, I’m so sorry,” she whispered, holding him tightly. “I couldn’t refuse him this. Padmé was furious when she found out.”
“I deserved to know,” he insisted. “Padmé, where is she?” Anakin pulled back, his eyes half-covered by the curls of his longer hair.
“In your old chambers. She won’t set foot in the lord’s chambers without you. Go to her, I know you’ve missed her.”
“I have,” he nodded. “You? How are you?” Anakin asked. “Besides recently widowed. Thank you for including me on those plans too,” he added somewhat bitterly.
“Ani, it happened very fast, we hadn’t planned on it before he found out he was sick, after you and Padmé had left for Highgarden.”
“I guess he managed to do all he wanted before he died. Legitimizing me and marrying the woman he loved,” Anakin whispered, squeezing her hands.
“He would have wanted to hold his grandchild too, and it breaks my heart that he won’t.”
“At least he died knowing he would have a grandchild and that helps me,” he said.
Shmi kissed his forehead. “Go to your wife, Ani, she needs you.”
Anakin nodded and headed for the keep in quick, long strides. People moved out of his way, many understanding his rush and understanding where he needed to be at the moment. Climbing the stairs two at a time, he entered their chambers, his eyes desperately searching for her. “Padmé,” he whispered as he found her. She rose from the bed, rushing into his arms, and below the waist of her black mourning gown, he saw the faintest swell of her belly.
“I’m so sorry, I should never have told you to consider Bail’s offer. You should have been here, I tried to make them delay as long as possible, I said you deserved to be here for the funeral, but then we heard about the storms on the coast…”
“Padmé, it’s alright, I understand, I should have said no from the beginning,” he whispered, showering her face with small kisses, his hands coming to cradle her stomach. “We have as much to mourn as we have to celebrate. How are you feeling? How’s our child?”
“Strong, your mother says,” she whispered back.
“Good,” he smiled, even though his eyes still carried some sadness. “But is he too heavy for you? Have you been resting properly?”
“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” she admitted, sitting back down. “I have tried my best to take care of myself, your mother’s advice has been invaluable. But mostly, I’ve missed you.”
“I’m here now, love, and nothing will take me away from you again,” he kissed her knuckles. “This time apart, it has been hell for me. I can’t believe I missed these initial months. I missed it and I missed my father’s last goodbye, this is…” he shook his head, getting emotional.
“Shhh, love, you’re here now.” She patted the space beside her on the bed. “Sit with me. Stay with me. Tell me everything you’ve been doing.”
“What I’ve been doing is pointless, it was all a ruse from the start, but I don’t want to discuss that,” he sighed, sitting next to her. “All I want is to make sure you are healthy and now I need to speak with Maester Yoda regarding my new responsibilities and how should I go about them,” Anakin said, caressing her stomach. “Do you think it was the wheelhouse sex or the tourney victory sex?” He asked, changing the topic.
“Does it matter?” She pouted, running her fingers through his hair. “Either way, it will be quite some time before we can do it again.”
“I was just curious. We tried so hard that when we stopped, it happened,” he laughed, kissing her cheek. “I know, but it will be worth it. We’ll soon have our baby in our arms and that’s all that matters. I’m content enough with holding you through the night, feeling our child move and grow inside of you.”
“I look forward to that,” she beamed. “And I think it was the encounter we had in the garden to take your mind off the king’s offer. I might be wrong, but we’ll see when our son gets here.”
“You are sure it’s a boy then?” He sighed, feeling the comfort he has craved for months now. “It might be a little girl.”
“Mother’s intuition,” she replied. “I always pictured a little boy with your curls.”
“I like that image. I also like the image of a brown-haired little girl, with brown eyes and her mother’s fierce determination.”
“Maybe next time,” she said. “I did enjoy the process of making this one, I’d love to make more. A whole pack of little wolves for us.”
“While I do want a big, happy family with you, love, childbirth is still dangerous and I would rather have a child and you, than more than one child and no you, so let’s do it one at a time and see how it goes,” Anakin said more seriously. “I know my mother has some herbs and tricks that do help to prevent conceiving for a while. It’s something that we could keep in mind. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I promise it’ll never come to that,” she swore just as gravely. “We’ll be careful. They’ll be healthy.”
“They’ll be healthy but you’ll have to be just as healthy,” he pointed out. “I can’t do this without you. You are not allowed to abandon me.”
“Never, love. Never.” She began to unlace the front of her gown. “I’m sure you’re tired from the journey home, and this little one saps my energy, so shall we go to bed early?”
“I need to see my mother again and speak with Maester Yoda, but I will join you soon, love,” he kissed her forehead. “You rest, I’ll be back soon.”
“ Very soon. I’m cold.”
Anakin chuckled. “I’ll hurry,” he kissed her soundly on the lips, sighing in content. He broke away and leaned down to kiss her stomach.
“So, you agree everything looks healthy?” Padmé’s hands rested on her stomach as she looked between Maester Yoda and her goodmother, and the two of them exchanged a look. “What is it? Is something wrong?”
“No, no darling,” Shmi shook her head. “You are healthy and the baby is strong,” she nodded. “Actually, there might be one little detail, relating to the size and shape of your stomach.”
“Mother?” Anakin asked, lacing his fingers with his wife’s. “What is it?”
“It does not mean anything is wrong, exactly,” Shmi started. “With my experience, I have seen many pregnancies. Usually, women who carry just one child, are much smaller at this time, and the shape of the stomach is much more round. I believe Padmé might be carrying twins. It would explain the growth of her stomach, to accommodate two babies.”
“Or simply due to her size, it might be,” Maester Yoda amended. “Small, you are, my lady.”
“I shall choose to take that as a compliment,” Padmé said dryly.
Shmi sighed. “While I understand Maester Yoda’s reasoning, I have been a midwife since I was sixteen. I have delivered many babies and observed many women. I am just expressing a possibility and my grandmother was a twin, it runs in our blood,” she justified and Anakin’s eyes darted from his mother’s face to the growing stomach of his wife. “You’ve felt movement already, haven’t you, dear?”
“A little, but I thought it might have been discomfort in my stomach. Morning sickness,” she answered, considering the prospect. “But I suppose it’s possible.”
“Twins, if healthy, are very active. You will feel movement on the right side of your stomach just as suddenly you can feel on your left. Usually, one baby does not kick both sides, unless he has turned inside the stomach and that only happens when he is ready to be born. If you feel some very energetic kicks inside of you, it’s a good sign,” she smiled. “I know Anakin kicked me all the time, up to the day he was born,” she rubbed her son’s arm adoringly. “I remember you were flailing your arms around, displeased at your surroundings, and hit your father on the nose,” she chuckled fondly.
Padmé giggled, looking at Anakin with a smile. “Is there anything else we should be aware of?”
“He had a very good set of lungs in him,” Shmi quipped. “All of Winterfell knew when he was hungry or soiled.”
“Thank you, mother,” Anakin muttered, blushing a deep scarlet.
“I meant anything to avoid or do specifically while I’m carrying,” Padmé corrected, watching her husband with an amused smile. “Making love, riding, hunting, that sort of thing.”
“Do strenuous activities, you should not,” Maester Yoda scowled.
“Maester Yoda, please give us the room,” Shmi requested, with a raised eyebrow. Bemused, Yoda left the room, grumbling and supporting his weight on his cane. “He’s very old and very attached to his books and readings. Speaking from professional and personal experience, hunting and riding are both ill-advised. I recommend long walks. Trust me, it helps with the birth. While you feel capable of taking walks, I advise you to do it.”
“And love-making?” Padmé asked, raising an eyebrow curiously while her husband blushed at her side.
“While you have the energy and don’t bleed, you can engage in it,” Shmi chuckled. “Many have the tendency to stop love-making during pregnancy because it might hurt the child, but the truth is that there is nothing wrong with it,” she paused and looked at Anakin. “Just look at how healthy and strong Anakin is!”
“ Mother !” Anakin gasped horrified. Padmé burst into a fit of laughter so strong that she had to excuse herself and visit the privy chamber to relieve herself. “That was not something I needed to know,” he made a face.
“That your father and I couldn’t keep our hands off of each other, even when I looked like a direwolf, pregnant with you?” Shmi teased.
“Stop,” he groaned. “You’re ruining it for me.”
She laughed. “Oh, darling, please. It’s a natural part of life.”
“That I do not need to imagine my mother taking part in,” he scowled.
“Agreed,” she snickered. “Your wife is strong and healthy. Her pregnancy is going well, thank the gods. You should go to godswood and say a prayer, love.”
“I will, mother, thank you,” he kissed her forehead. “I don’t know what would become of us without you and your advice.”
“It is the joy and privilege of my life,” she said with a wide smile. “At least until my grandchildren are born, then it will be spoiling them.”
“I shall hope so,” he beamed.
“Ani, one more thing before you go.”
“I know you came back from King’s Landing with a secret. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that secrets are poison to a marriage. When she asks, tell her.”
Anakin’s expression immediately changed to a grave and somber one. “I’ll do it, don’t worry. It’s not something I will be able to hide forever and I don’t intend to keep secrets.”
“Good.” Shmi nodded. “Good, I’d hate to see you lose something that makes you so happy.”
“Well, we’ll see if I don’t lose it anyway,” he looked away. “I don’t think she’ll speak with me again.”
“It can’t be that bad, can it?”
“It will all depend on how she chooses to look at it.”
“Don’t tell me I’m spending too much time sewing. If we’re going to be having twins, we need twice as many things,” Padmé laughed from where she sat in their bed as Anakin returned from an afternoon of dealing with the Northern Lords.
“I didn’t say anything,” he laughed, removing his cloak, before sitting down to start removing his boots.
“I just remember what you said the last time you caught me doing it.”
“Well, I wanted you to be on me, not sewing,” he shrugged. “Completely different circumstances.”
“I’ve been thinking about names, do you like Luke?” she asked lightly as her needle continued to work on the pattern of a direwolf. “For a son.”
“Luke? Hmm,” he set his boots aside, removing his surcoat. “Luke Stark. I like how it sounds. What made you think of that name?”
“Sabé was reading earlier, about Rhaenyra Targaryen and her children,” Padmé said. “I’m not fond of the name Lucerys, but Luke seemed right somehow. A good name for a future Lord of Winterfell. We can certainly talk about other names, we should have two of each, just to be prepared for all possible outcomes.”
“Yes, we might have two girls. Maybe two boys. Or blessed with one of each,” he nodded, smiling weakly as she said future Lord of Winterfell. If Queen Breha gave birth to a girl, Luke would be the future Consort of the Queen, not the future Lord of Winterfell. “How do you feel about Leia? It was my grandmother’s name, from my father’s side. She was always good to me, even though I was a bastard. It drove my father’s wife to madness and I believe she was especially kind to me just to spite her,” he chuckled. “Grandmother never did like Lannisters.”
“Nor do I,” Padmé wrinkled her nose. “Sheev Lannister tried to marry me off to his son Triclops before the fool caught his death in a brothel.”
“The King is hoping the Lannisters go extinct,” Anakin said. “Sheev Lannister is at court, so he can be kept a close eye on. His daughter died giving my birth to my younger sister, who didn’t survive her first week. His son had that shameful death. There’s no one else of his House left.”
“I can only imagine who the Westerlands will be given to when he dies, but hopefully they do a better job of it. Assuming he does not inflict himself on some poor girl young enough to be his granddaughter.”
“We can only hope so,” he sighed and finally moved the covers aside, so he could lie down next to her.
“I like Leia, to answer your question,” she said. “And if we have two boys, I think the second should be Qui-Gon. For your father.”
“He would love that honor,” Anakin smiled at her sweetly, kissing her cheek. “Any grandfather would be proud to have a grandchild named after him.”
“He’d be proud of you too, you’ve done splendidly.”
Anakin made a face. “It hasn’t been easy. I don’t hold myself in such high regard.”
“What’s wrong, darling?” She set aside her needlework worriedly. “Did one of the lords say something?”
“No, nothing like that,” he shook his head and sat up. “I need to tell you something that happened in King’s Landing. It’s not going to be easy for you to hear, but I hope you can understand.”
“What is it?” she pressed.
“When I received the news of my father’s death, I asked the King to let me leave immediately, but he didn’t want me to,” he started. “He wanted me to stay in King’s Landing and become his Hand, a position he had previously offered my father and that had been refused. I said no, as well, but he… he was persistent on having me in court and, love, all I could think was that I had to return to you. That I had to be here for you and our child.”
“Anakin, what did you do?” Padmé’s voice became decidedly colder.
“As you know, Queen Breha is expecting as well,” his voice trembled. “The only way the King would let me leave for Winterfell was through a marriage contract between our children. If we have a daughter, and he has a son, then she will become the next Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. If he has a daughter, and we have a son, he will become her Consort,” he ended in a whisper, nervously watching her face.
“So what you’re saying is that no matter how this pregnancy ends, one of the twins will belong to the realm and not to us.” She pulled back the covers and struggled to her feet.
“I have arranged with the King that the child remains in Winterfell until he or she is of age and that the children will meet first and will have a say in the contract. If they dislike each other, if they do not feel like the other is a suitable match, they are free to renounce the contract,” Anakin argued. “Our children will have to marry in the future and I have just secured that one of them will be Queen or Consort. I know I should have spoken with you, but there wasn’t time and you like the Targaryens. They are your friends, were your friends before they even met me.”
“That doesn’t mean I would promise them one of our children before they’re even born!” she protested.
“What difference does it make that this contract happened at this time, or eighteen years from now? It’s a good, suitable match.”
“It makes a difference because you’ve made an arrangement where this will be hanging over their heads like an executioner’s blade!” she snapped. “There will be a feeling of obligation, expectations pushing them to accept it, despite what they might feel in their hearts!”
“Only you could be so angry that your child could be Queen or King one day,” he scowled. “We are all born with expectations being pushed on us. I didn’t pass by that, but I was a bastard. But I know Liam had the expectations of being Lord of Winterfell. Then there was Aiden. Highborns always have these sort of arrangements and you are making it sound like I committed a crime worthy of being sentenced to the Wall.”
“How do you not see why this upsets me?”
“I know how it upsets you, but would you have preferred having me stay in King’s Landing, doing something where I would be absolutely miserable, all the while you stay here, in the North, alone. How can you not see my perspective? The position I was put in?” Anakin pleaded. “The Targaryens are a good match. We know they are good people and just like they want to ensure their child is married to a good, honorable family, I believed we wanted the same.”
“But not like this! Not before we’ve even held them! Not before we know them,” she said tearfully.
“Didn’t you hear me? They are not leaving Winterfell before it’s strictly necessary. We will hold them. We will know them. We will raise them as we see fit.”
“It’s not the same!” she shouted, then winced, gripping her stomach.
“You are working yourself up,” he scowled. “Please, come back to bed. You need to rest.”
“I’ll rest in my old room,” she retorted bitterly, grabbing the sewing from the bed along with one of the larger furs.
“Padmé, please, you are exaggerating. You need to try and understand this is not the worst that could happen. Please. Try and think it over. To see the full picture.”
“I see the full picture. It’s me preparing one of my children for a life in King’s Landing, because I won’t be able to bear the thought of sending them down there unprepared, because of course they’ll find it in them to love their betrothed, just like you found a way to love me.”
“Will that be so awful? If they actually find love?”
“If it means they’re never ours first, yes.” She stormed out of the chamber, slamming the door shut behind her.
Anakin sat back on the bed, running his fingers through his hair. He knew it was going to be a bad reaction, but this was worse than what he imagined.
Chapter 8: Direwolves
“Ani, where are you going?” Shmi scowled, following her son into the courtyard, wrapping a shawl around her shoulders. Winterfell’s days were getting colder as the seasons changed and storms became more frequent.
“Hunting trip,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Your wife is days away from giving birth,” Shmi stated. “That is not wise.”
“My wife has made it perfectly clear that she wants nothing to do with me when she spent the past months locked away in the guest house, stopping me from enjoying any part of this pregnancy so I don’t really care,” he hissed. “I am going on a hunting trip because if I stay here, I might do something I might very well come to regret later.”
Shmi frowned — the truth was she would have taken Padmé’s side if she had been involved in the argument. She remembered all too well how much she had feared Anakin being taken from her as a child, either sent to foster somewhere far away or, gods forbid, to the Wall, had the former Lady Stark gotten her way. But she chose not to come between her son and his wife. “What if she goes into labor while you’re gone?”
“Then I’ll be far away, just like she wants me to and I’ll celebrate when I return,” he scowled, taking the reins of his horse from the stableboy. Across the courtyard, a glimpse of Padmé’s chestnut curls could be seen through the window as she watched them.
“I pray to the gods you’ll both come to your senses when those babies arrive,” Shmi sighed. “For their sakes, if not your own.”
“I am not the one overreacting,” Anakin said, mounting his horse. “I will not apologize again and I am done with trying. I am the Lord of Winterfell. Warden of the North. I am not being subjected to this treatment any longer.” He and the other members of the hunting party rode off.
They had been riding for a couple of hours in silence when Kitster Karstark decided to break it. “Ten gold dragons to whoever bags the biggest kill,” he called out as they made their way into the woods. “For our little lords on the way!”
“Focus on the hunting,” Anakin ordered. “That’s what we are here for,” he said as he led the party through the woods. Ahsoka Mormont, the only woman in the party, loosed an arrow, running clean through the eye of a stag.
“Does that put me in the lead?” she asked with a grin.
“As always,” Anakin shook his head. “You’re putting the men to shame, Lady Mormont, I think we need to rise to the challenge.”
There was a loud rustle in the brush nearby, accompanied by a high pitched keening. Ahsoka, who had dismounted to see about retrieving her arrow, drew her sword, taking a step closer. Anakin dismounted as well, rushing to fall in step with her, his hand on Ice’s hilt. She pushed back the brush to reveal a massive grey-speckled beast that made everyone gasp. “Gods be good, I didn’t know there were still direwolves living,” she exhaled, sheathing her sword.
“The poor thing is in pain,” Anakin whispered as he stepped closer. The direwolf bared its sharp teeth at him and Anakin stopped raising one hand, closer to its nose. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said quietly, looking into its blue eyes.
“Careful,” Kitster warned, from where he sat. “It’s in the same way as your wife, my Lord.”
“Shut your fucking mouth, Karstark,” Ahsoka snapped.
“Look at her belly, Mormont,” Kitster retorted snidely.
“Quiet, the lot of you,” Anakin hissed over his shoulder, turning back to the direwolf. “We can help you,” he took one step closer and the direwolf seemed more at ease. “I won’t hurt you,” he said again and holding his breath laid a hand on her soft fur, caressing. “There we go. You’re expecting as well, aren’t you?”
“What should we do?” Ahsoka asked.
“She is obviously separated from her pack if she has one, and if we don’t help her, she won’t survive,” Anakin stated. “We could take her to Winterfell. Direwolves are my family’s sigil. We can take care of her and whatever pups she has. I will not, in good conscience, leave her here to die and for her babies to be eaten.”
The direwolf seemed to understand his words as she pushed her muzzle into his hand as a thank you. He smiled briefly. At least, this pregnant female did not hate him.
“We just left Winterfell,” Kitster whined.
“We can keep going with the hunting trip if you are well versed into the direwolf birthing process,” Ahsoka quipped. Kitster made a face. “Besides, I think it’s sweet. Perhaps the pups and the babes will be friends.”
“We’ll return to Winterfell to leave the direwolf and then we resume our hunting trip,” Anakin sighed and caressed the direwolf’s head. “Can you walk?” The direwolf took a large breath and stood on her pawns, her height hitting Anakin’s chest. “Good girl. We’ll take it easy.”
“As easy as we can,” Ahsoka said, pulling her cloak tighter and sniffing the air. “I smell a storm coming. We might not get to finish the hunt at all, Karstark.”
“Well I don’t want to lose any parts of me to frostbite, so it’s alright,” he shrugged as Anakin mounted his horse, the direwolf at the side. “Returning to Winterfell, then?”
“Yes,” Anakin nodded, looking sour over the decision. “I guess there is no escaping my wife’s cold glares through the windows of her self-imposed confinement.”
“What did you do to make her so cross with you?” Ahsoka asked dryly. Nearly everyone in Winterfell knew the Lord and Lady were at odds, but the reason why had not been made public knowledge outside the family until now.
“Made our child the next Queen or King of the Seven Kingdoms.”
Kitster whistled. “Strange woman to object to that .”
“Tell her that, I dare you,” Anakin muttered. “I deserve to take the black for that, apparently.”
“I’ve heard that pregnancy makes women’s temperaments different. But it might’ve made your wife into too much of a wolf, my lord,” Ahsoka joked, nodding at the direwolf walking with them. “I wouldn’t try to take this one’s pups.”
The direwolf growled and Anakin sighed. "She is acting like the child is going to be ripped from her arms when in truth, he or she won't leave Winterfell until they come of age."
“There’ll be others.”
“They’re children, not arrows,” Ahsoka scolded, rolling her eyes.
“Our children would have to marry and leave Winterfell one day. It was inevitable. They are not leaving now or for a long time and this marriage is with a family that not only rules over the Seven Kingdoms, but is a friend. I am done putting up with her overdramatization of the situation,” Anakin scowled. “I would rather not speak about this anymore.”
The direwolf growled alongside him, but her anger seemed more directed at his companions.
They took longer in their return, than they did when they initially left, but the direwolf was unable to run and none of them knew anything about helping a direwolf give birth, so they settled for an easy pace. When they arrived at Winterfell, it was at the break of dawn and the wind had picked up speed, the courtyard was nearly empty.
“M-my lord?” The stableboy stuttered seeing the direwolf among the horses.
“She doesn’t bite,” Anakin dismounted his horse to scratch the direwolf behind her ears. “I need you to prepare her a space in the stables. Away from the horses, but comfortable enough for her to give birth.”
“It’s a d-direwolf, m-my lord,” the stableboy widened his eyes, shocked.
“Yes. My house’s sigil. We owe it our respect, do we not?” Anakin raised one eyebrow.
“Y-Yes, my lord, quite right,” the stableboy nodded, still wary of the pregnant beast at his lord’s side. “It’s good you arrived when you did, there’s a blizzard moving down from the Wall. They say it will hit us tonight, and your lady mother ordered everyone moved to the Keep.”
“It was a good thing that we didn’t move with the hunt,” Ahsoka pointed out.
“It’s like that direwolf was a sign from the gods,” Kitster agreed.
“Join everyone in the Keep,” Anakin said. “Thank you both.” The wolf nuzzled his side and whimpered. “I know, I’m taking you somewhere you can rest.”
He walked down to the stables as Kitster and Ahsoka left to join the others in the Keep. Anakin wanted to make sure the direwolf was safe before he headed inside to take shelter. The stables were constructed to resist blizzards and storms, to protect the horses, so he knew she would be safe there. The horses were wary of the predator’s presence and made it known, but Anakin kept walking until the far end of the stable, where piles of straw could make a comfortable bed and even birthing place. The wolf seemed to agree as she didn’t ask for an invitation to get comfortable among the golden straw.
“I’ve secured the horses, my lord, is there anything else you might need?”
“Yes. Get her some water and food.”
“Food… right. What kind of food, my lord?”
Anakin sighed. “Whatever meat the castle butcher can spare.” As the young man left in a hurry, Anakin knelt down to pat the wolf’s head. “Comfortable?” She gave a long sigh and he chuckled. “Good. You are safe and so are your babies.” The wolf licked his face and laid back in the straw.
“At least you like me,” he muttered, shaking his head standing up. Leaving the stables, he headed for the Keep, not looking forward to the next couple of days at all.
The blizzard did not come that night, but the next morning, and it raged around the castle, howling and beating against the stones that held firm, just as they had for centuries. For three days, no one dared to venture outside. On the fourth morning, Padmé’s labor began, and her screams matched the storm, carrying through Winterfell.
Anakin sat in the chair near the fireplace of his room, eyes fixed on the fire. Kitster and Ahsoka looked at each other every time another scream echoed and Anakin twitched in his seat. There was a blank mask over his face as he rubbed his hands together, waiting for it to be over.
“How can any woman stand it?” Ahsoka finally said. “It sounds awful.”
“No babies for you, then, Mormont?” Kitster teased.
“And none for you either, Karstark,” she retorted. “No woman would be that mad.”
“Do you know anything?” Kitster asked Anakin.
“What do you think?” The Lord of Winterfell snapped and his friend widened his eyes and shut his mouth, obviously understanding that his question was useless.
“ Anakin!” For the first time, the screams were more than just inarticulate sounds of pain, his name was clear as a bell as his wife screamed it out.
A cold shiver went down Anakin’s spine and his eyes went to the door as his heart raced but there was nothing he could do about this process. Anakin leaned forward, elbows on his knees as he rubbed his hand across his face.
“She called for you,” Ahsoka said softly.
“What do you want me to do? Deliver the child for her? There’s nothing I can do to help her,” Anakin scowled, his nerves clearly getting the best of him.
“Your mother’s delivering the child, but you might at least be there with her,” Kitster suggested, abandoning his dispute with Ahsoka.
“Now, at the end, I get to be with her? I lost all of the pregnancy, she had a long time to want me at her side and now when I’m completely useless, she remembers me?” Anakin retorted angrily.
“Gods, man, forget your pride right now and think about what will happen if she dies in that chamber!” snapped Ahsoka, grabbing him roughly by the shoulder. “Both of you need to leave behind your insufferable pride! Go back to being at odds after your children have been safely birthed!”
“She doesn’t want me there, if she did, she would have stated so before,” Anakin argued with her, not resisting Ahsoka’s impressive strength as she pulled him from his seat and pushed him out of the door.
“Your wife said your name,” Kitster argued, lending his help to Ahsoka. “She clearly wants something from you.”
Begrudgingly, Anakin left his rooms and headed closer to the door where his wife was giving birth. He winced as the howls of the wind mixed with the ones from Padmé’s painful effort to bring their children into the world and he hovered at the door. Usually, men were not allowed to witness the birth of the children, so the only thing he remembered to do, was pace in front of the door.
“ Anakin! ” Padmé screamed again, and the door flew open, one of the midwives who was not his mother looking flushed.
“We tried to tell her you would not come, m’lord, but she insisted.”
“I’m here, what can I do?” Anakin asked, his heart thundering inside his ribcage.
“Sit by her,” he heard his mother say from within the room. “Talk to her. Your children are being stubborn.”
He brushed past the midwife and inside the room, occupying a seat next to the bed where his wife laid, hair sticking to her forehead due to the sweat of her effort and he searched for her hand. “I’m here,” he said quietly, giving her a gentle squeeze.
“Anakin,” Padmé whimpered, the returning squeeze nearly crushing his hand. “It hurts.”
“It’s almost over,” he winced at her strength, and pushed her hair back from her face. “You’re almost there.”
She laughed somewhat deliriously. “They said that hours ago—” the sentence was cut off as she doubled over in pain.
“The first one is nearly here, darling, just a few more pushes,” Shmi urged.
“See?” He brought her knuckles to his lips, dropping a simple kiss. “Almost over.”
“I’m sorry,” Padmé whispered as she struggled to breathe and push the child out. He looked down, observing how much bigger she had gotten from the last time he had managed to glimpse at her. “I’m so sorry. I love you, I’m sorry.”
“We can talk about it after this is over,” he stated, dismissing the subject. It was not something that they needed or should discuss while she was giving birth. “All that matters now is that they are safely delivered.”
“One big push now,” Shmi instructed, and with a scream, Padmé obeyed, trailing off into a gasp as the baby slipped free and its cries replaced hers. “It’s a boy,” Shmi announced breathlessly as one of the apprentices cut the life-cord and took the baby from her for swaddling. “It’s a healthy boy, gods be praised.”
Anakin released a breath he didn’t know he was holding as he heard his mother’s words and as he heard the baby’s cries. “Just one more, Padmé, and it will be over.”
“Breathe, dear, the twin is not far behind,” Shmi coaxed, and Padmé shook her head violently.
“I want to see him first, you have to let me see Luke.”
The midwife looked unsure, but a firm nod from Shmi made her cradle the squirming and whimpering baby in her arms, to bring him around the bed, so his mother could see him. “He’s healthy, my lady, the gods have blessed you both,” her eyes drifted from Padmé to Anakin and the Lady of Winterfell again.
“Luke,” Padmé whispered, reaching out to touch the baby’s still sticky head. “Oh, my little Luke. Anakin, look at him.”
“I am, he’s beautiful,” Anakin whispered, mesmerized by the movements of the small baby as he started to calm down from his initial cries. Padmé groaned, her head tilting back as she expelled the second twin from her womb unbidden.
“A girl,” Shmi reported as she caught the baby. There was a long moment of silence before the younger twin began to bellow even louder than her brother had. “Who seems to have her father’s lungs.”
“You did very well,” Anakin whispered and leaned down to kiss Padmé’s forehead. “I’m proud of you.”
Padmé’s gaze drifted to Leia wistfully as she sighed weakly. “Everything hurts.”
“You’re not quite done,” Shmi explained, taking a moment to look at one of the apprentices. “You, go tell them to ring the bells for the newest members of House Stark.”
“Do you want me to leave, mother?” Anakin asked her quietly, knowing that the second half was focused on taking care of the new mother.
“Stay.” Padmé grabbed his hand and his blue eyes drifted towards her. “Stay with me.”
He nodded, brushing his thumb along her knuckles. “Alright. I’ll stay.”
“Give me my children.”
“My lady, you cannot hold them until you’ve finished—”
“I said, give them to me!” Padmé snarled, baring her teeth at the midwife who was holding Luke.
“They need to be cleaned and dressed and you still have the afterbirth,” Anakin explained, having a midwife for a mother made him learn a thing or two about the process. “They will bring the twins in after you are changed from the bloody nightgown and sheets. They are not going anywhere.”
“But I want them now,” she pleaded. “Don’t you want to hold them too?” Anakin sighed and nodded at the midwife who was holding Luke, a subtle order to give the child to his mother. The woman obeyed, hesitantly placing the baby into Padmé’s arms. The little boy immediately quieted as Padmé held him close and the smile she gave Anakin was the most beautiful he’d ever seen. “He’s perfect.”
“I know. He really is,” Anakin whispered, reaching out to gently trace the baby’s cheek with his index finger.
“M’lord?” A midwife at his right prompted and when he turned, he saw her holding a squirming Leia. “I thought you might want to hold your daughter.”
He nodded silently and opened his arms to receive the baby, the midwife adjusting his position so that he was supporting Leia’s little head and back. Her lips were pursed and her forehead was creased in a frown, as she still whimpered and sniffed. He leaned down to kiss her forehead, soothing whatever tension she had created from being born into one of the most horrific nights of the North he had experienced. Having her in his arms was surreal. A blessed weight from the gods. His children were healthy and his wife was still with them. He couldn’t be more thankful.
“I’m sorry,” Padmé said again, causing Anakin to hesitate.
“I don’t want to speak about that now,” he whispered after a few moments, joining his forehead with Leia’s, eyes closed as he took in a completely new, amazing comfort.
“But I want to,” she insisted weakly and he gave a small sigh. “I was… so worried. I thought deciding their future meant we’d never be able to truly enjoy the present, and because of that…” She clutched Luke a little tighter.
“Don’t,” he interrupted, preferring to observe Leia become comfortable in his arms, her breathing becoming even as she fell asleep. He didn’t want to think about how he didn’t had the chance to enjoy the past few months of her pregnancy due to his wife’s self-confinement brought up by his own decisions. “Let’s enjoy their first moments. That is what matters now.”
“I love you. I love you all so much.”
“I love you too,” he whispered, smiling briefly at her, before he focused again on the little girl in his arms, snoring softly.
“Sit by me,” she whispered. “Let me see our girl.”
Carefully not to joust Leia awake, he moved from his seat to join her on the mattress. “She’s asleep. Her brother is nearly asleep as well,” he whispered, watching Luke in Padmé’s arms drifting to sleep just like his sister had done. “You should take this chance for the midwives to take care of you.”
“Only if you take them both.” She adjusted Luke in her arms, holding him for an easier transition.
“I will take them to the nursery, so they can be watched over,” he nodded and with some effort, managed to bring Luke into the crook of his other arm, while keeping Leia secured and asleep. “After you’ve had your rest, the midwives can place their cribs in your chamber so they’re near you, every day.”
“Our chamber,” she corrected. “If… If you’ll have me back in it.”
Anakin paused, looking from the babies to her face, and slowly nodded. “If that is what you want after your recovery is complete, I don’t oppose.”
“Ani, we really need to finish here,” Shmi said, speaking up for the first time. Anakin stood with both babies in his arms, his mother coming to stand next to him, peering at her grandchildren. “They are secured?” He nodded with a peaceful smile. “Good,” she kissed each twin in their foreheads. “I’ll take care of her now.”
“Padmé will be along in a moment,” Sabé announced as she entered the chamber, holding one of the babies in her arms. “Leia needed a moment for feeding, and you know how Padmé refuses a wet nurse.”
“Thank you, Sabé,” he smiled, as he set down the two pups he had been petting. On the same night Leia and Luke were born, the direwolf he had rescued during his short hunting trip, had given birth to only two pups. He had named them Artoo and Threepio. Artoo because he could only bark in twos and Threepio because he had three shades of gold to his fur. The mother, he decided, would be Twilight.
They had taken residence in his chamber and he didn’t have the heart to send them back to the cold, stale stable and besides, he has enjoyed their loyal company.
Twilight observed Sabé as she stretched out in bed, covering half of it. A potential claim of what she saw as hers now.
“You might want to see about building a kennel for her and the pups,” Sabé remarked neutrally. “If you ever want to have more children.”
“I don’t think anyone is thinking about any other pregnancies for now, Sabé,” Anakin snorted. “A kennel is already being discussed, but we are focusing on arranging what the storm destroyed first,” Anakin shrugged.
“Whatever you say, my lord.” She placed Luke in the cradle nearest her. “I’ll be going to bed now, if there’s nothing else.”
“Not from me, no,” he said, peering down to smile at Luke, beaming as his son was quick to wave his arms and legs as he recognized him. Twilight leaned forward, sniffing at the unfamiliar shape of a human baby.
“Seven hells, she won’t eat him, will she?” Sabé gawked
“Yes, Sabé, she eats babies, that’s why she sleeps in my chamber,” he rolled his eyes and Twilight sneezed. “Twilight is just memorizing his scent,” he shook his head, amused, as one hand came to scratch the wolf behind her ears, Twilight yawning, showing her perfect predator teeth. Sabé shook her head and left with a huff.
With the stranger gone, the direwolf pups got up from the pile of furs by the fire to try and see what had their mother so enraptured, Artoo trying very hard to climb up the cradle. Anakin snorted and picked the unruly pup in his arms, letting him sniff Luke, who squealed at the sight of it. Artoo let out a bark twice and licked the baby’s face, before Anakin pulled him away, shaking his head. Picking Threepio with his other hand, he placed both of them in their pile of furs by the fireplace. They tried to leave, but Twilight let out a low howl and they were suddenly lying down, ears perked. “Good girl,” Anakin whispered with a grin.
“I don’t think human babies are so easily trained,” Padmé remarked as she stepped in with Leia in her arms and a scroll in her hand. “I’d have made it sooner, but I was waylaid by Maester Yoda. A raven came from King’s Landing for you. I told him to give it to me, since I was coming to you.”
“Thank you,” he took the scroll from her hands and broke the seal as he sat near the fireplace, reading the message, his face becoming somber as he read the words.
“What is it?” Padmé asked as she set Leia down in the empty cradle and tried to move closer. Twilight let out a growl, causing Padmé to freeze as the direwolf leaned closer, sniffing and staring at her for a moment that stretched into an eternity. Then Twilight licked her face soundly. “Well, thank goodness she likes me.”
“Queen Breha gave birth over a month ago,” Anakin whispered. “She didn’t make it,” he said somberly. “The King explains that with his grief, and his daughter still fighting for her life, he chose not to say anything. But thank the gods, the little girl is doing better every day. Apparently, it was Breha’s dying wish to name her Winter, for her silver hair and the house she would marry into.”
“Poor little girl,” Padmé sighed, sinking next to him on the bed and holding him close as she examined the scroll. “And poor Bail. He and Breha were devoted to each other.”
“The Queen knew she wouldn’t survive the birth. I believe she tried to prepare him,” Anakin said. “I can only imagine his pain, though. No matter what, he is still a good man and they both deserved to live through this happy moment together,” he set the scroll down on the bedside table. His wife leaned her head into his shoulder.
“We will pray for them. All of them.”
“We will,” Anakin nodded.
“And we’ll write, and tell him of the twins. I think it will soothe him to know his wife’s wishes will be honored. And then,” she kissed his neck softly. “We will live our lives.”
“That is an excellent plan,” he smiled, turning his head to kiss her forehead. Twilight poked her muzzle between them lying across the bed in a way that would make it impossible for either of them to speak. “Jealous, girl?” Anakin chuckled, scratching her fur.
“Ani, what if she has a mate?” Padmé asked worriedly. “I’d hate for you to get hurt if he comes here thinking you’d hurt her.”
"He wouldn't have left her side. Most likely he died or he would already have made his way into Winterfell, after her and the pups," Anakin sighed as he nudged Twilight to join her pups near the fireplace. The direwolf growled lightly, not budging, and he clicked his tongue. Twilight sneezed, displeased, and jumped down to the ground, lying by the fire as her pups ran to snuggle between her paws, Twilight licking them lovingly. “They’re safe in Winterfell. I don’t think I could part with her, or the pups, anyway.”
“They are sweet,” Padmé sighed, knowing when she’d lost an argument.
"They are adorable, " he gushed.
“You do remember our own children are sleeping in this very room, don’t you?”
Anakin rolled his eyes. "Yes, they are adorable too. Jealous of some pups, my lady?"
“Of course not, Anakin, but the twins, I can’t speak for.”
"They're fine," he rolled his eyes. "I'm sure when they are older, they will love the pups. If you think about it, it's one for each."
“Let’s hope they can learn to share if they have more siblings.” Padmé slipped under the covers, pulling them up to her chin as she turned to look at the twins one last time. “Goodnight, my loves. I’m sure you’ll wake me up in an hour to nurse again.”
"Hmmm, when it comes to it, I'm sure they will," Anakin muttered and slipped under the covers next to her. "Goodnight, Padmé."
Although life in Winterfell looked like it had returned to normal after the storm and the birth of the two new members of House Stark, the truth was, it wasn't. Anakin knew it. He felt it. Padmé had decided to return to their chambers but he knew it was a decision made on the possibility of her dying and not on her total forgiveness of his actions in King's Landing. Anakin knew their fight was pushed back to put the twins first, but neither of them has forgotten the subject. He knew she still resented him. Like he resented her for pushing him away for the past four months, stopping him from living through the moments of their first pregnancy, something they had desired for a long time.
He understood her position as a mother. He did. At least, he tried to. However, did she understand him? A marriage contract was the most common practice in their world. No one married for love, they fell in love after.
Luke was promised to the future Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Their firstborn would be a Prince or Princess of Dragonstone. The Stark name would be associated with power not only in the North but in the South as well. The Targaryens were friends, allies, of the House of Stark for many years now. It was a marriage many would kill for, would go to war for. Their son would not need to leave their side until he was of age. He had a very secure life.
Although he did feel guilty for not consulting Padmé, he couldn’t feel guilty for giving his son, a bright future. A good match. Everything Anakin had dreamed before he had been legitimized.
Only time would tell now, how their relationship would grow, how much this small thorn in their side, would hurt.