Actions

Work Header

The Babysitter

Chapter Text

“Mrs. Amidala? Is that you?”

You descended the set of carpeted stairs that led from the upper floor to the living room of a pretty, suburban home. It was the same as all of the other homes in your neighbourhood, including your own. You’d lived there your whole life, so this house was nearly as familiar to you as yours, and you felt perfectly comfortable navigating it.

You peeked around the corner at the bottom of the stairs, looking for the busy mother who had hired you to babysit her two young children. They were twins; a boy and a girl, and while sweet, they were active and mischievous. It was nearly eleven at night, and you’d only just exited their room after getting what felt like a thirtieth glass of water for each of them.

As your head came into view, a deep but quiet voice that you hadn’t been expecting answered you instead of her’s, “No— she’s not home yet.”

You came around the corner at the bottom of the stairs, and looked into the foyer beside the living room.

Standing there was a man, wearing a dark suit. He was tall; six feet or thereabouts, with imposing shoulders and a wild mop of golden hair hanging just past his ears: It stood out to you especially, because it seemed so very incongruent with the rest of his highly-polished style.

He was older than you— by perhaps fifteen or even twenty years— but his face projected a grave handsomeness that made you stop in your tracks to examine him. You did just this before saying, “Oh,” and pausing— because ‘oh’ was all you had.

He was angular and serious-looking, but suddenly you understood where his small son had acquired the pretty, blonde charm that had made you let him get away with breaking minor rules all evening. You felt your face flush, but ignored it in the hope that it would go away.

He sighed; began to kick off a pair of shiny dress shoes, and continued, “She was supposed to drive you home, wasn’t she?”

You stepped closer; nodded. You’d never met him before, but this must have been Mrs. Amidala’s husband. You had heard her mention him, but not by name.

“She might have forgotten— I have no idea, honestly. I don’t have my car, though. I—“ He stopped; didn’t continue. As he steadied himself against the wall and took a very deep breath, you hazarded your own guess as to why he hadn’t been driving that night.

You weren’t sure what to do just now— you lived fairly close-by, but not enough to walk home at this time of night. You hadn’t even brought a jacket. “It’s alright,” you decided to say. “Is it okay if I— um, well, if I wait for her?”

He looked over your face, let go of the wall, and shrugged. “It doesn’t matter much to me. You might be waiting a while.” He paused. “Are the kids okay?”

You smiled, “Yes— finally both asleep.”

He chuckled, indicating to you that he knew his children well. “Good. Thanks.” He entered the living room now, and removed his jacket. He tossed it on the couch and walked over to a small chest with a door, out of which he retrieved a half-full bottle of what a black label indicated was dark, spiced rum. He opened it, and poured a generous portion into an already-waiting glass atop the surface of the chest.

There were more glasses beside it; empty, stacked. He looked back at you and asked, “Would you like some? While you wait?”

You were taken aback. He must have already had more to drink tonight than he was betraying with his relatively steady gait. “I— uh, I’m only 18, Mr. Amidala.”

The mildest hint of annoyance as he corrected you, “It’s Skywalker. Amidala is my wife’s name.” Then, in a less brusque manner, “I’m sorry— I knew you were in college; I assumed—“

“—That’s okay!” You interrupted him. Then, you thought: You were in college. You often did not feel like an adult yet— it was all still new to you— but the fact of it was that, now, you were one. Something in your head registered this with a tinge of rebellion, and you replied, “If it’s alright with you, I’ll have some anyway.”

He tilted his head, seeming to think. Then, he shrugged again in the same manner he had in the foyer, and in a way that told you he bartended for himself often, flipped a second glass over to fill it with rum for you.

You walked up to him, took it with a smile, and said, “Thanks.” You added as you looked up, “I’m sorry I got your name wrong.”

“It’s alright— almost everyone does.” He tossed his head back and took his entire drink in a single, smooth gulp. Then, he poured another and sat down in the middle of the sofa with it. The room was dimly lit by a lamp in the corner, but besides that, the house was mostly dark and quiet.

You stood, holding your glass— not sure what to do. Graciously, he motioned beside himself for you to sit, too. The only free spot was immediately next to him; the other end of the couch was taken up by his jacket, which you did not want to move. So, you sat down close to him; closer than you normally would have. It made you tense, slightly— you didn’t like to invade others’ space if you could help it. You apologized again, but he didn’t say anything that time.

Sitting beside him, you noticed two new things— first, that Mr. Skywalker was very formidable. The way the fabric of his plain office shirt wrapped around his arms and stretched over his chest and back told you that he was not built like the other dads in the neighbourhood— he was neither bony nor portly; you were rarely so close to men who looked like this. The second thing you noticed was the way he smelled, which was incredible— some likely-expensive cologne, mixed with a more natural scent that you knew belonged only to him.

It was lovely, it distracted you, and he noticed. “You alright?” He asked, as he stared out the front window to his house and held his own glass close to his lips.

“I’m fine,” you said, and took a sip. It was difficult not to recoil at the strength of it, but you tried.

A chuckle from beside you told you that you’d failed. “You don’t have to drink that, you know.”

“No, it’s— nice.” It wasn’t, really, but it made you feel like an actual grown-up. You wondered, briefly, how used to drinking it he was to have just thrown it back down his throat the way he had. “Thank you,” as you caught his eye with yours, and looked at one another’s faces. He smiled back, finally; that put you more at ease.

You both sat in silence for what felt like many minutes, and then Mr. Skywalker turned back to look at the window. He finished his second drink, and put his glass down on the floor by his feet. You continued to sip at yours tentatively, trying to catch up, but stopping each time the warmth beginning to spread through you became a bit too much to handle. You felt a bit awkward, but less and less tense as the moments ticked by.

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” he said finally. He was still looking out the window.

“That’s okay.” You moved your head to look at him again, but found that even seated, you were a bit wobbly, now. The edges of the objects in the room seemed to blur around you; instinctively, you reached out and grasped the first solid thing you felt. That happened to be Mr. Skywalker’s right forearm.

“What the...!” You began to exclaim. Something about it didn’t feel right. You pulled your hand back, turned your body in his direction (making the blur worse, of course), and looked up. You tried to focus your vision.

A wry smile spread over that hardened, handsome face of his as you did so, and he laughed loudly before confirming, “It’s not real.”

You panicked; you hadn’t meant anything by your reaction, but you realized at once how insensitive you’d been. Through a thin, fresh, rummy haze, “I’m so sorry! I was just surprised; I—“

He turned to you, and placed his left hand— the one that had not alarmed you— on your shoulder; seemed to know it would silence you. “Relax. I’m used to it.” Before you had a chance to really register the touch, he ceased it. Then, he pulled the sleeve of his right arm up a bit to expose a tiny sliver of a sleek, metallic-looking prosthetic arm. In the dim light, you hadn’t noticed the short, black glove he was using to cover the hand.

Embarrassed, intrigued— and now definitely a bit tipsy— you offered, “It’s cool.” Realizing how very much your own age you had just sounded, you added, “It looks complicated,” which you guessed really didn’t help.

He chuckled; quietly this time, and said, “It is.” He must finally have begun to feel the effects of his own drinking about then, because he rubbed his eyes with his ‘real’ hand, and proceeded to rest his arms on his knees as he hung his head.

Less inhibited in your concern thanks to the small amount of rum you’d consumed, and still facing him on the couch, you (foolishly) placed your hand on his back. You felt him tense, briefly, but he soon relaxed again.

Seemingly out of nowhere, he mumbled, “At least it’s not just me.”

You hadn’t been sure if that had been directed at you, but you asked anyway, “What?”

“Nothing.” He sat back up; took a deep breath. Your hand ended up on the small of his back, very close to his belt, but you didn’t move it. He seemed to change his mind about what to say, then, and continued after a pause, “My wife forgets about me a lot.” He looked down at you; grinned lopsidedly. “But she forgot about you, too, so that means it’s not me, right?” He laughed again.

You weren’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not, so you laughed too, albeit more nervously. Your hand was still on his back. He sighed and his face seemed to fall, so you said in the hopes of lifting his mood, “It’s not you. She seems pretty busy,” which was certainly not a lie. Mrs. Amidala was a member of the state Senate; it was all you really knew about her, but you had an idea of what the job entailed.

Somewhat depressingly, it was conceivable that she might be in the habit of forgetting about people— even people like her husband. (Although to look at him— and to hear his voice— you, personally, couldn’t imagine ever not realizing he was there.)

He leaned back into the couch, so you pulled your hand away from him before it became trapped. You were just about finished your own drink, now, so you placed your glass on the floor the way he’d done with his and put your hands in your lap.

Looking at the ceiling, he said without much expression, “You’re right. She is busy.”

You sat in silence for another little while this way: Him leaning back with his head up; you sitting up straight with your body turned to face him. Between your lack of tolerance for rum, and the fact that he wasn’t looking at you, you felt somewhat emboldened in running your eyes up and down his body.

As before, you examined the way his shirt covered him; tried to discern the details of his musculature through it, somewhat shamefully. You traced his neck and jaw with your eyes; looked with fascination at a few scars and marks you now had time to notice. Somehow, he both did and did not look his age; somehow, you were completely overcome with an urge to touch him.

Embarrassment and anxiety made you tense up at that thought; rum and youth made you reach out to place your palm on the upper part of his leg. It was hard, thick, and warm— you looked at your hand, now, instead of his face.

“What are you doing?” In his rich and captivating voice, from several inches above you.

“I— um, I just wanted you to know... well, I’m just trying to say, you know— it’s okay.” Incoherent, but he seemed to understand well enough.

“Thanks.” He didn’t move his leg, or your hand.

“Mr. Skywalker?”

“It’s Anakin. Just Anakin.”

“Oh. That’s nice. Anakin.” You’d never heard a name quite like it; it was handsome. It suited him. It felt awkward to say it, but you were both adults, you reminded yourself.

Just as your fingers began to squeeze his leg, headlights shone suddenly and arrestingly into the window before you. He moved his head to peer out, and then stood slowly as your hand fell from him. You stood, too, and were very careful in your movements as you went to retrieve your bag and get ready to leave.

You pretended to rummage through your things somewhat sloppily as the door opened, and Anakin’s wife started to berate him about having been inconsiderate to you. You also pretended not to hear as you steadied yourself, but it was impossible not to.

“Have you ever heard of a taxi, Anakin? You take them all the time. I know that the kids are asleep, and that you... ’can’t drive’ most evenings anyway, but this girl has school; how could you make her wait up for me like that?”

“I’m sorry.”

Mrs. Amidala sighed audibly. “That’s it?”

“I think I’m going to lie down...”

“Go for it, Ani. I’ll drive the babysitter home.” You turned to look just in time to see her shake her head at him. Clearly fed up, she walked quickly out the door; you knew to follow with your things. She looked back at you briefly, and said, “I’m sorry you had to watch him, too,” before briskly leading the way back to her car.

You looked back as well, before you left, to see Anakin standing on the bottom step of the staircase, watching you leave. With his gloved hand— that cool, modern-looking prosthetic— he gave a tiny wave. Then, he pulled his phone from his pocket, unlocked it, and began to look at one thing or another as you smiled and closed the door behind you.

The car ride home with his wife was mostly quiet, and very short— after all, you did live close by. This was good, because you were still feeling the effects of your glass of rum, and you didn’t want to betray even a hint of drunkenness in front of her. (Particularly given your age, and what you’d just witnessed.)

She was cordial as she dispatched you to your own home, and you thanked her for hiring you to watch her kids; made sure to mention they had been lovely.

On your way out of the vehicle and up your own family’s driveway— as Mrs. Amidala was pulling away— your phone buzzed from inside your pocket, and you pulled it out to look.

thanks for being nice.

You were slightly taken aback. There was no name attached to the number, but you knew who the text was from. You hadn’t been that nice, you’d thought. It felt good to be thanked for it anyway, though. You stopped, looked around (uselessly), and thought before typing back with unsteady fingers, np thanks for the rum. You cringed as you sent it, and comforted yourself by picturing him deleting it.

You were already in your room beginning to undress when your phone finally buzzed again; this time, the screen blinked with a simple, any time.

Eyes very heavy, you decided to wait to respond to that, if you responded at all. You laid down on top of your comforter in just your underwear, and wondered with a hazy, tired mind if Mrs. Amidala would forget about you again the next time she called you to babysit.

Chapter Text

any time.

You had been picking up and staring at the message often (too often) for several days, but you hadn’t answered it yet— nor had you replaced the number that had sent it with a name.

any time.

You knew you were giving it an undue amount of attention, but you couldn’t stop reading it. Worse, every time you did, you read it in his voice— that deep, rich timbre that you were keen to hear again, lest you run the risk of forgetting it.

any time.

Had he meant it, or had he just been being kind? Most likely, he’d had an inebriated lapse of judgement and regretted ever sitting with you, or texting you after the fact.

any time.

Maybe he’d simply forgotten he’d ever sent it. It was likely he deleted those messages very soon after writing them, and why would he even remember after sobering up?

You’d already been called back by his wife to babysit again— it had been Thursday the last time; it was quickly approaching Thursday again. You were relieved, because up until the time she’d phoned, you’d been half-seized by a fear of Mr. Skywalker— Anakin— having left your empty glass or his blinking phone out somewhere silly.

He hadn’t, clearly, and you were very grateful.

That should have been it, but you weren’t that wise. You had eagerly agreed to come by again— so eagerly that you’d felt ashamed as you’d hung up the phone. What business did you have, trying to sneak another peek at her husband?

You weren’t being inappropriate, you rationalized, to wonder if he was okay after the way you saw him last time. You wanted to make sure it was a one-off; an anomaly.

You cared, and that was nice, right?

He had thanked you for being nice.

any time.

You looked over and over; however, you did not end up answering the message before it was time to return to the Amidala-Skywalker household. You arrived just on time: On Thursday, right before dinner. The kids had just come home, and they were happy to see that their mother had hired you to watch them again.

They were both smart and spirited, and they really were a delight. You loved children, especially sweet and fun ones— these two were just that. The little girl, Leia, was an avid reader and loved to share things she’d made or learned; her brother, Luke, was a shy-yet-rambunctious little ball of energy and charm. Again, it was difficult to enforce rules on him. You were happy to know, now, where he’d acquired the tendency to get you to shirk your better judgement, but it didn’t make it any easier to be stern with him.

After a long (although enjoyable) evening of wrangling the two kids, you finally were able to put them to bed in much the same manner as you had the week before. This time, they brushed their teeth with a little less fuss; even fell asleep a bit earlier.

This made you feel accomplished, but also ashamed— because as soon as you knew the two would not wake for many hours, you retrieved your phone from the kitchen and typed (you were a little bit tentative, at least), really? before hitting ‘send’.

Your heart jumped and your stomach knotted; you’d been waiting all week to do that.

You wondered for a second if maybe a week had been too long, when the immediacy of your phone’s buzzing response gave you goosebumps:

really.

Well, alright. even now?

A slightly longer pause— although not much longer— and then, sure.

You took a breath and put your phone back down on the counter. Had you really just called him home to pour you rum? You were happy he hadn’t forgotten, as you had feared he might— although part of you was already wondering if it wouldn’t have been better if he had.

You decided to take a few minutes to sort out your thoughts, since you had time (you didn’t know how long). Why did he make you feel so nervous? And if he made you feel nervous, then why did you want to be near him? Was it the way he looked? If you had simply wanted to look at him, you surely could have found a photo somewhere: In his house; online.

You thought about where you should be when he entered; you decided to sit on the couch so as not to give the wrong impression. But... what was the ‘wrong’ impression, and what concerned you about it...? There were too many questions of this nature in your head, so you buried them. They were uncomfortable.

Soon— sooner than you expected— you saw headlights flash and heard the faint thump of a car door shutting. You took a breath, and changed your mind about sitting down. Instead, you walked to the front door, and looked out the window.

It was him. Exiting a taxi, which pulled away, and then walking in what looked like a cool and calm manner up to his own house— and you.

The door creaked open. You were far enough away from it that it didn’t hit you (although you were still probably too close) as Anakin stepped inside. He closed it behind him, looked at you, and said, “Well, hi,” followed by a short pause; then, “I thought I’d scared you off,” as he smiled. Was that a joke, or was he upset you hadn’t answered him sooner?

“No way.” You cringed internally and corrected yourself, “Not at all.” Then, finally smiling back, “It was nice sitting with you.”

He seemed to consider that for a moment; then, “I liked sitting with you, too.” He sighed after that as he looked past you and around at his house. Then, he gripped the wall to kick off his shoes as he had the last time, and walked by you to get to the living room. You turned to follow him; watch him.

When he approached the chest with his rum inside, he flipped an extra glass over for you right away instead of asking, which you appreciated. You stepped up close to grab it once it was poured, but then you didn’t know what to say or do.

Luckily, once you each had a glass, he motioned toward the couch to indicate that you should sit. You did, this time before him. Still standing, he threw his first drink back quickly, just the same way he had last time. You realized this was likely nightly behaviour, and considered that he hadn’t driven home. How much did he drink? Then, you felt guilty for wondering.

He rolled his shoulders, put down his glass, and filled it again.

Before picking it up, he took off his jacket; tossed it on a chair on the other side of the room this time. It was nice to watch him slip it off from your seated position— you hadn’t quite realized how much you’d been craving another look at him, but the way you stared betrayed you— to yourself, if no one else.

He retrieved his new drink and sat down beside you. You were not quite as close to one another as last time, but you weren’t much farther apart, either. You were quiet for a long time, as before. He drank, and so did you, although your pace was slower.

Once you’d finished about half of the small glass, you were starting to feel a bit looser; a bit less apprehensive. Again, you weren’t sure why you were doing something that made you so nervous to begin with, but also again, you couldn’t seem to help yourself.

You looked beside you, and remembered why you wanted to be here. You told him, “Thanks,”

He looked back, offered a smile, and answered, “Any time,” which made you giggle, because of how many times you’d imagined him saying just those words.

He seemed to have an idea as to why that made you laugh, because his smile spread into that same lopsided grin from the week before, and he laughed too. After going quiet, you both just sat, staring.

That smile was captivating.

You didn’t say that; instead, admiringly, “Your little boy looks a lot like you.”

He didn’t look like he knew what to say to that. “...I know.”

“He’s going to be handsome.” Stupid rum.

“I— um...” If the room hadn’t been so dim and Anakin hadn’t been so close to your own father’s age, you would have sworn you saw him blush.

“I’m sorry! I just meant—“ This was almost as bad as when you’d noticed his arm, you thought.

“No, it’s okay.” His smile returned, he looked in the direction of the window, and continued, “You’re being nice again. It’s...” He struggled to find a word; settled on, “...good.” Then, he shrugged to himself— at his own ineloquence?— and added, “I like it.”

He finished his glass; placed it at his feet, as before. You looked inside yours; saw there was a generous splash of liquor left, and bravely finished it in one swallow.

As you suppressed a gag, he said, “I told you, you don’t have to drink that.”

“No, I’m... enjoying it.”

He laughed. “Don’t say that.”

You insisted, “No, really, it’s—“

He leaned in close and finished for you, “—Gross. Don’t worry. I know.”

You knew better than to ask why he was drinking it anyway. You didn’t know what to say to that, really, so you took advantage of the loose warmth spreading through you, and put your hand on his leg. You put it in just the same spot as it had been the last time you’d sat together like this— you waited for headlights, but none appeared, so you proceeded to squeeze gently with your fingers.

He was still leaning in, so he asked in a very quiet voice, “What are you doing?” Much like last time, but with less surprise.

“Um... I’m... well, I’m touching your leg.” What the hell kind of answer was that? A tipsy one, obviously. It was somehow both correct and stupid.

“Oh...” He got up; probably too quickly, because your eye caught him nearly faltering as he came to his feet. Without turning to look at you, he steadied, and walked back over to his chest— and his rum. He didn’t try to retrieve his empty glass from the floor; just flipped over a new one, and poured. “You too?” He still didn’t turn back.

“I... I probably shouldn’t.” You finally withdrew your hand; you’d left it hanging in the air after he’d gotten up. A breath, and a long pause, then, “But, yeah, one more. If it’s okay with you.”

“It’s okay.” A quiet chuckle, although you couldn’t see his face. “I shouldn’t, either.”

A couple of clinks, and then he turned and walked to face you, holding two fresh drinks. You reached for the one clasped in his gloved hand; said, “Thanks.” He sat back down beside you, which you were grateful for. You should never have tried to touch him, and you knew it, but the liquor quelled your embarrassment. It also enabled your mind to linger on the warmth and solidity of his leg, so you were quiet again, now, as you sipped a bit more.

He was silent too, for a time. Until out of nowhere he blurted, “I’m sorry.”

Slowly, so as not to make the room spin, you turned your head to look at him. “What for?”

He waited to answer; then, “For— this. You shouldn’t be sitting with me. I’m sorry I bothered you.” He was staring out the window again. You wondered how often he did just this— drink, and stare. You’d been enamoured by his physicality, at first, but you were beginning to understand that last Thursday hadn’t just been one ‘bad night’ for him.

Another sip from your glass. He was sad, you realized, and it was catching. You were still— somehow— glad to be there with him, though. You decided you’d better say so— you didn’t want him to be sorry. “I like sitting with you,” you said.

He laughed again; drank some more.

You decided to continue, “I’m sorry I—“

He cut you off, “—Don’t be. I’m just...” He breathed deeply. “I’m not used to this.” He was finally starting to really seem drunk. You didn’t know what to do with that any more than you knew what to do with his melancholy.

“Used to what?”

He was still looking at that window— in the darkness there was nothing even visible outside it. He drew his mouth into a thin line; breathed deeply again. “Sitting with someone.”

You put your hand back on his leg, and then the two of you were still. “It’s okay.”

“Thanks.”

“Is this alright?” You tried squeezing your fingers again.

He sighed. “No. But it’s nice.” He finally looked back at you. His eyes were glassy; he looked tired. He was still so handsome. You still didn’t regret texting him back.

Butterflies that should not have been there at all flitted about senselessly in your stomach. You asked quietly, “Can we do this again next time? If I come back to watch your kids?”

He paused for several moments, and then for several more. He almost-but-didn’t-quite finish his drink— his third since arriving home, and he’d had a head-start before then, too. A deep breath— shaky— then, “I’d like that.”

“Okay. Thanks. I’ll—“ you started to tell him you’d send a message.

“Shh.” He placed his hand— the gloved prosthetic— over yours so they were both resting on his leg, seeming to send his own message with his body language. You didn’t flinch, this time, at the unnatural hardness of his palm; the rigid thinness of his fingertips. You simply let him lay it there, and enjoyed the uniqueness of the sensation.

You sat this way for an amount of time you couldn’t begin to determine. As your eyes began to feel heavy and your body began to lean into the utterly enrapturing (and much older, although you’d ceased to register this for now) man beside you, you heard (and felt) a buzz— it wasn’t yours.

“Mr. Skywa— um, I mean, Anakin?”

“What?” He’d been nearly asleep; the last of his drink was threatening to spill, and he seemed a bit jarred.

You both removed your hands from their position on his leg, and after placing his glass on the floor, he reached around to grab his phone from his pocket.

“Oh.” He shifted; sat up, blinked as he studied the screen from up close. Then, he looked at you. “It’s past twelve. I’ll... well, I’ll never hear the end of it if you’re still here when she comes home, and she’s on her way. Would you mind if I—?”

“I’ll call one, it’s okay.” You smiled, tiredly, and stood up unsteadily to retrieve your own phone. It felt strange to walk drunk, you thought, as you collected your things and dialled a taxi.

He continued to sit while you readied yourself; as headlights flashed and a horn beeped, he got up. From several feet away, you saw him pick his glass up off the floor and finally finish it before walking over to you.

When he did, he stepped in far too close. Your face came up to about his collarbone; you breathed in, and caught both his cologne and that natural scent of his that blended so well with it. You looked up, and then you could smell rum too, but that was from both of you.

He peered back down at you, and said, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” You reached up to put a hand on his shoulder— it was a lot like his leg in its warmth and strength. You added, “See you next time, right?”

A small smile pulled at the corner of his mouth, but he also looked a bit bewildered. “If you want.”

After taking your hand off of him, but before you turned to exit the house, he waved at you, just like last time.

You felt your face flush as you turned and shut the door. You rationalized it as just you being drunk, as Anakin’s sad smile lingered in your blurry mind.

Chapter Text

It was another few days before you heard from Anakin’s wife again. You had been at school— your first year of what would hopefully turn into a minor degree— when your phone caught your attention. It was a text message, which she didn’t usually send:

Please call me. I need to talk with you! Thanks.

You stopped in your tracks; almost got bumped into from several different directions as other students shuffled around you. Phone still in hand, you retreated to a bathroom to catch your breath.

Your mind raced, but with only one thought: Did she know?

After several moments of this, you realized: There was nothing for her to know.

In quick succession, you remembered that you’d held his hand; then, you mused how people that much older than you probably didn’t think holding hands amounted to much, which was certainly a rationalization— but it calmed you.

What had you done, without even doing anything?

You spent the rest of your day in a bit of a panic, but you made it through, and managed to get home when it was done. Your own parents were still working, then, so you went straight to your room. You weren’t hungry.

You unlocked your phone; sat on your bed. You pulled up Mrs. Amidala’s number, and hit ‘dial’.

It rang once, twice, three times— then four— and finally, she answered.

“Why didn’t you call me sooner?”

You felt like you were in trouble. “I— uh, I was in class...”

“Right! I’m sorry! I really needed to talk to you.”

“O-okay.”

“Can you come by on Friday evening? For just a couple hours?”

Relief washed over you, but after having spent all day completely wound-up, it was enough to make you feel like you’d been punched in the stomach. After recovering briefly, you answered, “Of course. Yes. That’s no problem.”

“Okay, thanks. I have to leave overnight for work. My husband will be there, but he’s too... tired to do much with the kids at night by the end of the week.” You understood what she meant right away, but at the same time, you felt an urge to defend Anakin— which didn’t make sense, because you didn’t really know him. However, it still stung to hear her talk about him that way.

You were happy that his wife could not see you shift uncomfortably before you offered, “It’s okay. I get it. So, Friday— around when?”

“Six or seven. Around dinner. Just make sure they eat and get to bed.” She paused and added, “Just... don’t mind their dad. If he’s not feeling well, he’ll just sleep.” That stung you, too.

“Oh. Alright, then. I won’t see you Friday, but I’ll talk to you again soon, I guess?”

“Definitely. Luke and Leia really like you.”

Finally, something that didn’t make you sad. “I like them, too.”

You could hear the smile in her voice as she said, “Thanks. I’m glad it’s working out with you guys— babysitters can be hard to keep.”

You, too, smiled as you responded, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Glad to hear it. I’ll text you Friday morning, just in case.”

“Sure. Bye.”

And you swiped the call away.

You tried to swipe the entire thing out of your mind by turning on some music, and settling in with a book you needed to get read for one of your classes, but it didn’t entirely work. Between songs and paragraphs, you wondered what was wrong with Anakin for him to act— drink— the way that he did. Then, you wondered what was wrong with his wife (who you liked, and who seemed to like you) to make her act more annoyed with him than concerned for him.

Then, you felt guilty for the whole thing.

That was Monday.

 

...

 

Friday came both achingly slowly, and terrifyingly quickly. You were nervous and excited and ashamed in turns, over and over. You would try to put the whole thing out of your mind— Anakin himself in particular— and fail miserably, only to begin the cycle again.

You were grateful when the end of the week finally came, but at the same time, you were nervous. You didn’t have a reason to be, really, and it bothered you. However, a tiny part at the back of your mind recognized what it was: Your nervousness came in large part from knowing Mrs. Amidala’s headlights would not be shining through that front window at any point on Friday night.

You didn’t have to leave. You would, of course, but you didn’t have to, and that was something that weighed on your mind.

 

...

 

It was six-thirty— exactly halfway between the two times Mrs. Amidala had suggested— and the sun was still out as you walked down the street to her house. It was nice to walk there, when it wasn’t too cold or dark.

Before you saw them, you heard the sounds of Luke and Leia playing and laughing in the yard— followed by another voice you knew well, yelling words of encouragement at his son as his daughter cheered them on.

As they came into view, you couldn’t help but grin. A sense of relief washed over you as well, when you witnessed Anakin: Steady on his feet, smile on his face; he was seemingly instructing Luke on how to use a long, wooden staff to beat a figure that looked as if it were made of rags.

Leia noticed you walk up. She skipped up to you and said proudly, “Dad’s teaching us how to use his Kendo stuff! Come see!”

Kendo? Japanese sword fighting?

That was pretty cool.

You followed Leia up to the top of the driveway, just in front of the garage, which was wide open. Anakin was in a fighting stance until he noticed you, and even though he was still wearing his office clothes (with the exception of his jacket), his appearance was enough to make you need to collect your thoughts.

He was standing tall, holding a length of well-shined bamboo with a black leather handle— you noticed offhandedly that the leather matched his glove. He was somehow very tense and at the same time incredibly calm-looking. He wore a patient smile on his face as he watched his son try to copy him.

The smile turned to a look of surprise as he registered your presence. “Uh... hi?”

... Had she not told him you were coming?

“Hi!” You looked around. “That looks like fun.”

Luke piped up, “It is! Watch this!” And he struck his father’s training dummy as hard and high as he could.

“Wow! You’re fantastic!” You told him as you grinned.

You looked up at Anakin, then, who seemed to be looking through you instead of at you. The smile left his face, and his shoulders dropped. He handed Leia his stick. Finally, he focused on you, and asked flatly, “Did she call you over?”

You couldn’t imagine her not having told him. You immediately thought that he must have forgotten, but you didn’t dare to suggest that. “Well... yeah. She just said she wanted—”

“—Wanted you to check on me, because I can’t do anything right— even this. I get it.” He clenched his jaw, turned, and walked back inside through the open garage.

You and both of the children stood stalk-still for a moment, before Luke called out, “Dad? Come on, we weren’t finished!”

He turned briefly, revealing a softer expression. “Later. I promise,” and he kept on walking into the house.

Leia looked up at you. “Don’t worry,” she said, and she smiled more bravely than you thought a kid in fourth grade should have to smile. You felt angry with Anakin for a minute, and then with his wife. If she’d told him when he’d been drunk...

“Can we go inside now, then? I’m getting cold,” complained Luke. The sun was setting.

“Sure, if you help me get your dad’s stuff back into the garage.”

“It goes in the basement,” corrected Leia. “With the rest of dad’s stuff.” You winced at that, and hoped she didn’t notice.

“...Let’s just put it in here for now,” you said, as you ushered them into the house along with the equipment.

 

...

 

Once you got inside, you were grateful to see that Anakin had already given the kids dinner.

You thought it was cute that he’d ordered a single pizza with two completely different sets of toppings to satisfy the twins. You noticed not much of it was gone. “What did your dad have?” Anakin was nowhere to be seen.

“Nothing,” said Luke.

“He’s fine,” added Leia. “He says so.”

“Oh. Okay. Do you guys want to watch a movie before you have to go to sleep?”

They agreed to that happily; thankfully, they also agreed on what to watch. You sat them down with it in the living room, and retreated to the kitchen. You wondered where Anakin had gone, but didn’t feel you should go looking.

It was quiet where you were; even the children were quiet. All you could hear was the movie, and it wasn’t loud.

The hacking cough that rose from the air vent in the floor near the window stood out to you.

You whispered his name to yourself, then looked around. Kids content, you walked down a short hallway to a door that you knew (again, all of these nice houses were identical) led to the basement.

You knocked; nothing. Again, and still nothing.

You opened the door a crack. There was a dim light emanating from somewhere out of your view, but no sound.

“Anakin?” Not too loudly; you didn’t want to speak over the movie. You heard the sound of him clearing his throat, but no words. You whispered to yourself, “Okay...” and against your better judgement, began to descend the narrow staircase. He was worrying you, and anyway, you wanted to apologize for being there.

You wanted to acknowledge to him that he’d been doing wonderfully, no matter what his wife had assumed. You felt guilty, now, because everything had been fine until you’d shown up.

Once at the bottom of the stairs, you walked down another short hallway; encountered a half-closed door, and the faint smell of smoke— cigarette, you knew from your brother sneaking them in his room.

You knocked on it— predictably, nothing.

So, you took a deep breath, and opened it.

He was already glaring at you, but he didn’t do anything else. He was sitting on a large, grey-green trunk underneath a small, open window. He was holding a cigarette between the gloved fingers of his right hand; a tiny ashtray in the other. He stubbed out his smoke carefully and set the ashtray down before getting up to approach you.

He looked angry, then, and the way he walked up to you did make you feel frightened. You must have displayed this fear, because he slowed his pace and crossed his arms in front of his chest, as if to indicate he was not planning on using either of them.

By the time he was about a foot away from you, his scowl had turned more neutral and his glare had softened into what you might have interpreted as a pleading gaze, coming from anyone else. He looked down at you for what felt like forever (it was likely only seconds) and asked, “Is Luke okay?”

You couldn’t suppress a small but warm smile. “He’s fine— they’re both okay. They’ll be ready to go to sleep in an hour or so.” You paused. “Are you okay...?”

He looked at you as though you’d asked a stupid question.

You hesitated before trying, “...I can go home, now. You were fine on your own, and I’m sorry I messed up your night with your kids. I— I thought you knew...”

“I know that I fuck up everything I try to do,” he said flatly. His voice caught in his throat as he continued, “I know that’s why she called you.” His jaw trembled as he ended in almost a whisper, “And to be perfectly honest— since you already know what a piece of shit I am— I don’t actually remember if she told me. Why would I?”

There was a lot there, so you answered quietly, and as gently as you could manage, “I don’t think you’re a piece of shit.”

“You probably should.”

You shook your head; stayed silent a minute. Then, “Do you want to come upstairs? Put the kids to bed?”

He sighed. “I’ll try again another time.”

“Okay.” You nodded. He started to turn away, so you added, “I’m going to go clean up— once they’ve gone to sleep, I’ll call for a ride.”

He stopped at that. You got the impression that he had something to say, so you waited. He looked at the floor; then back at you— unmoving.

Finally, he said in what sounded like a cautious tone, “You can stay for a while.”

“What?”

“I told you,” he said. “I like sitting with you.”

The stupid butterflies again. “I like sitting with you, too.”

“So...”

“Sure. I’ll come back down.”

He went quiet once more; looked to be considering something deeply. “I’ll come up. I want to say goodnight— to the twins.”

Your smile returned. “Okay.” After looking at him for another moment, you turned to go back upstairs. “See you soon, then.”

You heard him walk back to the window, followed by the sound of a lighter clicking, and then a slow exhale. You thought about how bad that was for him, and then you realized that he was sacrificing his usual coping mechanism to be there for his kids, and you switched your judgement to a simple admiration.

This was clearly hard for him, but you were starting to get a sense that most things were.

You looked forward to him coming upstairs to see his children off to bed, but if you were being honest with yourself, you were looking forward more to spending time alone with Anakin.

Everything about him that should have made you stay away was, instead, making it that much more difficult to do so. It certainly didn’t help that he was beautiful.

You ascended the stairs and tried to prepare to be stern with the kids, but your mind was— now, especially— fixed intently (and a bit shamefully) on their father.

Chapter Text

Everything had gone smoothly, when it had been time for the kids to go to bed. Anakin had come upstairs just as he’d said he would, and while you tidied up after them, he did the work of putting them to sleep.

He was obviously effective, because although he was gone for a little while, you didn’t hear arguing or whining from either of his children. You thought about that admiringly, and then a pang of guilt shot through you; again, for being there when it was clear he’d have been fine on his own.

You wondered about what could have made his wife think he really couldn’t take care of them.

Then, a bit more guilt as you acknowledged that he’d probably forgotten being told about you, and that was enough by itself to warrant concern.

Finished your tasks, you sat down on a chair in the kitchen to wait for him. You’d started to flip through a week-old newspaper without really looking at the words when you heard footsteps coming from upstairs. You stood, and made your way to the bottom of the staircase— very near to where you’d seen him for the first time, you noticed, except now your positions were reversed.

As he came into view, you asked him, “How’d that go?”

Looking past you again, “Well enough. They seemed happy.” Then he really did look at you, and added, “Thanks. For your help.”

“You didn’t need me,” you said with confidence.

He sighed, but didn’t respond. You stepped a bit closer to him; waited, but he was still quiet. So, you continued, “I’m sorry, again— for showing up, and—”

“—Stop. It’s okay.” He added less abruptly, “It wasn’t your fault.”

Again stuck with nothing to say, you stood and just looked at him while you tried to come up with something. You attempted not to linger on the outline of his chest; on the bit of his shirt that had come untucked from his pants, or on what you were now noticing were very tense, very pretty muscles in his neck. You didn’t have much success with that.

You looked at his eyes, finally, and noticed that they were still fixed on you too. After standing and staring this way for a few seconds, he motioned to the living room. You nodded, and he slipped past you to lead the way.

You sat down on the couch; he began his nightly ritual at the little cabinet with his liquor. Again, he poured a glass for you without asking. You put out of your mind the fact that Anakin’s drinking seemed to be his biggest problem. If you didn’t, you guessed, he would just go do it by himself in the basement. You didn’t like the thought of it.

He turned to face you, handed you your drink, and sat down beside you. You felt much more comfortable all of a sudden; realized you had very quickly become used to sitting with him like this. You weren’t sure how that made you feel.

You sipped your drink; looked out the window. Then, “What you were showing Luke outside earlier— it was cool.”

“Yeah.” He sipped, too; stopped. Was he trying to pace himself for you?

You asked, “How long have you been doing it?”

“A long time. Since I was the twins’ age.” A brief pause; then, “I used to compete.”

“Why not anymore?”

He held up his gloved hand, looked at you, and made its fingers clench and unclench. He didn’t say anything.

“Oh.” You felt especially stupid, after that. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” He gazed out the window too, at the darkness.

“How...?”

“It was my fault. I was stupid.” He said decisively.

“I’m sure it wasn’t—”

“Trust me. It was.” Then he drank some more.

You wanted to know more about it, but you were afraid of upsetting him. So instead you just said, “It must have been hard.”

He shrugged. “It’s been a long time.” If he had been trying to drink slowly for you before, he’d given up on that pretence quickly, and emptied his glass. As he stood to fill it again, “I barely remember being any different.”

“So you were young? When it happened?”

He laughed as he poured himself a second. “Younger than I am now.” Then, he came back to sit with you. He ended up a bit closer than he’d been before, but you didn’t move as your leg pressed against his. You looked at each other’s faces, now, and after studying yours, he added, “I was about your age, actually.”

“Wow.” You tried to imagine yourself missing a limb, but it was difficult. You had a sudden urge to sip some more rum, at that, so you did. Then, very tentatively, “...Did it happen at work? Or...?”

“Yeah, I was at work.” He breathed in deeply; pursed his lips. He was still looking at you, but he was difficult to read— he could have been scared, angry, sad, or even all three. He looked as if he might be trying to decide how much he could trust you— and, if he did, how much he was willing to recall to satisfy your curiosity.

You started to apologize, but he interrupted you.

“Like I said: I was stupid.” He looked away from you, now, back out at the darkness through that window. “They tell you what to look for, and I thought I didn’t have time to look for it.”

You felt that, maybe, you were beginning to understand. Carefully, “Where...?”

“Afghanistan.” He finished his glass off.

“Wow.”

“It’s not safe there— or it wasn’t. And there’s too much fucking sand.”

He got up for more liquor; you were quiet. Of all the ways you would have guessed he lost his arm, that would have been pretty close to the bottom of the list. You watched him; thought. You were feeling your drink, now. You were impressed, too, so you said, “That sort of makes you, like... well, a war hero, then, right?”

He turned his head back to look at you and warned, “Don’t ever fucking call me that.”

“Sorry.” You sat still and quiet, putting together everything you already knew about him with everything you’d just learned. It— he— made a bit more sense to you, now, than he had a few minutes ago.

Thinking about that made your butterflies come back, for a reason you couldn’t begin to discern. You finished your own glass; set it on the floor. He sat back down, then— still close enough for your legs to touch.

“Thank you,” you said. You appreciated his honesty; his willingness to share his pain with you, even a bit. He didn’t have to.

“You deserve to know, I guess,” he said gently.

“What makes you say that?”

“You don’t seem to mind putting up with me.” He smiled. “I... know it’s not easy.”

You shrugged, in the same way he often shrugged, and said, “I like you.”

He laughed— his loud one; the laugh that came out when you said something he thought was absurd. You were beginning to recognize it, along with other little things about the way he spoke and acted— it made you feel a tinge of pride.

You insisted, “I do!”

Playfully, he leaned down close and teased you, “No one likes me, dummy.”

His face was very near to yours now; so much you could feel his breath— which, although it was all cigarettes and rum, drove those butterflies in your stomach wild. He didn’t really believe that, did he? He was so easy to like, in spite of everything. And he was beautiful.

You leaned in, too, and tilted your head up. As you closed the remaining distance between you, his lips brushed very softly up against yours. You both stopped; he breathed deeply and clutched his glass tightly. Neither of you moved.

You asked, “Is this alright?” A stupid question; this was worse than last time.

“No,” he said, in barely a whisper.

“Should I leave?”

“No.” He leaned down; put his glass on the floor. Then, he reached up with his left hand. He flinched when the warmth of his own skin met your face, but added, “Not unless you want to.”

Your heart was racing, but your own hand found its way to his leg. You squeezed it; relished how it felt, then looked at his eyes. You saw pain and fear swirling around amongst perfect blue. You wanted so much to make him feel better— you loved to see him smile, you realized.

“I don’t want to leave, Anakin.”

He stroked your cheek with his thumb when you said this, and you both leaned in again, but this time your lips did more than brush wistfully: They pressed together, and they pressed hard. You closed your eyes as you savoured him.

Another sensation on your neck as he brought his other hand up and used rigid, gloved fingers to trace lines down to your collarbone. You gasped against him at this, but pressed harder too, and parted your lips. Tentatively, you prodded with your tongue until his lips opened as well, and you were able to snake eagerly into his mouth.

There was liquor and smoke with hints of mouthwash and the scent of his now-familiar cologne— he both tasted and smelled delicious to you. You ran your hand along his leg; the smooth, thin fabric of the pants he wore to work allowed you to feel lots of him through them.

Carefully, you raised your other hand and placed it at the base of his skull. Fingers nestled in his hair, you held his head in your palm. He let his own tongue dance happily with yours, for a time, and then he carefully pulled his head back a few inches.

Husky and quiet, “Do you understand what we’re doing?” You couldn’t discern the emotion in his question, although you knew it was there.

“I understand,” you answered plainly, if not entirely truthfully.

He was quiet. Then he said, “Good. I’m not sure I do.”

“I’m kissing you,” you offered. True, but stupid— you were good at that.

“You shouldn’t kiss me.”

“I know, but I want to.”

Genuinely bewildered, “Why?

“Because I like you,” as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Nobody ‘likes’ me.” He wasn’t teasing you, this time. He looked like he might cry. You wondered how long it had been since he’d been kissed, before now. Likely too long. It wasn’t any of your business, and you knew that, but it didn’t stop you from wondering.

Anakin made you do a lot of wondering. After tonight, you realized, you would have to wonder a bit less. You felt grateful for it— and you still wanted to be here.

You pulled him in by the back of his head; he took his hand off of your face and used it to wrap you up into an embrace instead. He toyed at your earlobe with the gloved fingers of his prosthetic, as if to show off its dexterity. This worked to impress you in more than one way, and you moaned softly as you leaned into him.

Enveloped by his arm, you ran the hand you’d placed on his leg around to his back. You searched along his belt for that piece of shirt you knew was untucked, and when you found it, you wiggled your hand up inside. He was warm, smooth, and very solid— however, he gasped at your touch, and pulled his head back; nearly seemed to flinch again. He was still holding you; still playing with your ear and now your hair, but he looked unsettled.

“You... uh... I’m sorry,” he decided on saying, “It’s...”

“What?”

“It’s been a while.”

“I don’t care.” You didn’t.

“Okay.”

He leaned back down, but instead of your mouth, he began to kiss at your jaw. You gasped and whispered his name, and he continued on to your neck, until he reached the collar of your shirt, where he stopped.

You ran your fingers around the skin on his back as he let his lips linger on you, and then you felt emboldened. You gripped the back of the couch with the hand that you’d used to feel his hair, and you clambered up to stand on your knees.

He snaked his right arm around your back now, too, and you could feel the contrast between his two hands as they held you closely. You didn’t know why, but you especially loved this.

Your face level with his now, you looked at his eyes again. Less sadness, but a bit more fear, you noted. You wondered what he saw in yours.

He didn’t offer any hints about that.

You pulled back a bit from him now. He let go of you, and you brought your hands around to the front of his shirt, where you began to toy with the top button.

He began, “I don’t know if you...”

“What?”

He shifted uncomfortably. “It’s not what it used to be.” What did that matter?

“I don’t care.” You smiled at him, now, and started unfastening. You’d taken boys’ shirts off before, but they had been boys— Anakin, for all his troubles, was a man— the kind you’d fantasized about lots, but never been close enough with to touch. Perhaps he didn’t understand that, but you didn’t feel you had time or words to explain.

One, two— then three, four, five; and finally the rest, as you pulled the hem out from his belt. Shirt open now, you ran a hand down his exposed chest; let it trail over his stomach. You found that the feel of his leg had been a very good indication of what the rest of his body had in store; he was hard, tense, and very warm all over.

He seemed nearly frozen, though. Surely he had done this many, many more times than you had—? But, then, this was a very unique situation. You didn’t let your mind stay with that thought, however— instead, you grasped his open collar on either side and began to slide his shirt off over his shoulders. He helped you, albeit slowly, and eventually you dropped it onto the floor by his empty glass.

He winced, but you could not help but make a hungry, happy noise— as though you were looking at fine food, or an expertly-crafted piece of jewelry. Then, “Anakin...”

He was even more lovely under that shirt than its fit had led you to believe, and you placed your hands on his chest because you simply couldn’t resist it, now that it was exposed to you. You gazed first at that handsome face marked by turmoil; then, at wide, pale shoulders and a collarbone that begged to be kissed and licked.

His biceps were thick and well-hardened; the left one led to a sinewy arm and the warm, broad hand he’d used to pull you closely to him. The other ended abruptly in a swath of black; captivating in the way it seemed to suit him, and descended into black powdered steel and hard, dark plastic casing until it reached his glove— no less dark, but a bit softer to the touch.

Scarring pocked what remained of his natural arm; lightened by time, it faded as it extended over onto his chest and segued back into the smoothness over which you’d dragged your hand after unbuttoning his shirt.

He still was not moving much, so you stopped examining his body and looked back at his face. You couldn’t read him, so you asked quietly and a bit nervously, “Are you okay?”

He shook his head, “No.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll stop—”

“No,” he repeated, and he put both arms around you again. “Please. Don’t.”

You had an urge to place your own arms around him the same way, so you did, and you pulled him into you closely. You kissed at the side of his neck and whispered into his ear, “What should I do, then?”

He began to play with your hair again using what you could tell were not the fingers he’d been born with— you were impressed; wondered how that worked, but decided not to ask yet. Instead, you waited; finally, he said to you between trembling breaths, “If you want to— only if you want to— we can go somewhere a bit more comfortable and...” his eyes shifted guiltily, “...private.”

You thought about the twins; nodded. “Please. Yes, please.” You knew you had been attracted to him, but tonight had veered wildly off of the path you’d been expecting. You rose from the sofa together, took a long time to stop touching one another once you did, and then he held his glove out to you. You took it in your hand, and he turned to lead you to the door to the basement.

You hadn’t realized he had a bed down there; if you had seen it earlier, it probably would have made you feel sad.

Now that he was about to show it to you, you were anything but sad.

Parts of you wanted to feel guilty, but all you could muster was crackling, electric excitement. It shot through your whole body, and you couldn’t have stopped it if you had tried.

You trailed behind him, holding onto him, as you approached the door you’d knocked on so gently earlier that evening. You had been sure— sure— that this wasn’t going to happen. You’d never planned on doing anything more than sitting with Anakin; drinking, maybe talking to him a while.

You’d planned being warm and drunk, and on taking a cab home.

You had expected not to feel completely fulfilled, but had also counted on being fine with that. You hadn’t had any expectations when it came to Anakin; you weren’t that foolish— you were just here, you realized, to take what he would give you, as awful a person as you knew that made you. You thought that would end with liquor and comfortable silence together, but instead, it had quickly become so much more.

You descended the stairs with him, feeling as though you were also walking into a part of his mind— perhaps parts of his body— that had been left unexplored for a torturously long time.

Excitement and attraction overwhelmed any sense of guilt or hesitation inside you— and it wasn’t because of the rum.

He didn’t think enough of himself to know it, but this was all because of Anakin.

Chapter Text

You woke curled up closely to Anakin. His bed in the basement was small; meant for a single person, so after climbing down off of him last night, you had tucked yourself in tightly against his body. He hadn’t seemed to mind.

You lifted your head from his chest, now, and looked up at his face. He was just beginning to stir— his eyebrows knitted and he grimaced briefly before pulling his lids open to look at you, too.

“What time is it?” The first thing he said, in a voice that sounded like gravel.

“I have no idea,” you nearly mumbled, still tired and with the slightest of hangovers. You pushed yourself up into a seated position, looked down at Anakin, and couldn’t help but smile at his appearance laying back on the bed— you couldn’t get past how lovely he was.

Then, in the same way in which he’d asked the time, “Fuck. I have to go upstairs. Be quiet.

You nodded as he sat up and stood on his feet. His brusque attitude stung you a bit after what you’d shared, but you understood. You should never, ever have fallen asleep together— but, you had. There were other things, too, you did that you shouldn’t have done, but they’d also already happened. You decided to take Anakin’s lead, and worry about the present.

Quietly, you told him, “Bring my phone down, if you can. You can say I forgot my bag, but probably not my phone. Just grab it for me.” You shouldn’t have left your things in the kitchen, either.

He nodded as he grabbed a t-shirt and plain black sweatpants from the floor, slipped them on, and ventured upstairs. You didn’t often pray, but you said a prayer as he went that you had not just made his life infinitely worse with your lack of judgement.

You couldn’t hear anything from where you were, but you could see through the narrow windows that the sun had come up. You decided it would be best if you got dressed, so you did. As you put your clothes back on, you looked around at the basement room in daylight.

It was sparse, large, and mostly undecorated— unfinished, too. Insulation was exposed between wooden beams along the walls, and the floor was plain cement. You noticed that the primary light source was a single bulb hanging alongside a string, as if in a closet.

In the corner there was a punching bag that looked as though it had seen far better days, and a single large barbell. Mmm. Well, that explains his chest, you thought crudely.

On a tiny table next to the bed was a plain notebook, which you did not open, and a half-empty pack of what you recognized— thanks to your brother— as very cheap cigarettes, along with a red lighter.

His ashtray was still sitting on the large, dull green trunk under the window at the other side of the space. You wondered, now, what was in it— a uniform? Medals? Weapons, even? Maybe nothing. You didn’t know, and as with the book, you didn’t look.

Once dressed, you sat back down on the edge of the bed and waited. You could hear footsteps, but not much else. You were anxious, but still, your thoughts wandered to the night previous. Since you’d only had one drink, it was mostly clear in your mind.

At this point, it would have been a lie to say you regretted it. He had turned out to be just as incredible, physically, as you’d already thought he was. His method in bed, too, made your thighs clench happily just to think about it. He had been slow; careful— he’d said beautiful things, and treated you in a way you thought men only treated women in movies. He had been creative, and obvious in his skill.

He had kissed you; run his hands over you— both of them— endlessly. He’d used his lips and tongue, too, to great effect; had seemed utterly invested in your enjoyment, and had expressed that investment adeptly. By the time you had climbed atop him and begun to rock the both of you into a shared bliss, nothing could ever have stopped you. You could, you thought, have touched him forever.

It never would have occurred to him, but he really had been perfect.

With some guilt, you thought of each night he’d likely spent down here alone, and lamented the waste of it.

Then, you thought about how you might be able to manufacture another encounter like this one. It was wrong and deeply unwise, and the thought of ‘next time’ should not have been in your mind. If anything at all, this should be written off as a mistake and never repeated. You knew that.

You found, however— to a deep pang of fear— that you couldn’t quite bear that thought. So you put it out of your mind, for now.

Luckily, this was when you heard footsteps on the stairs— Anakin’s.

He came into view; then, “You need to call my wife.”

He handed you your phone; you looked at it to see two missed calls from her number, and a new text. You also noticed that it was a bit after eight in the morning. You unlocked your phone; the text was recent, but just said, ‘call me’. You looked up at Anakin confused; he shrugged, and motioned for you to get on with it.

You did.

“Thank goodness!” From the other end of the line.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“I’m running late— really late. I won’t be home until this evening, and it would really help me relax if you’d go check on the kids. I’ll count it as a whole extra day when I pay you next; you don’t have to even stay long. I’m so sorry to ask.”

“Oh.” You looked up at Anakin; knew he’d heard it. As you watched his mouth twist into a scowl you said, “Sure. Yeah— no problem.” You didn’t like how that came out, so you added, “I’m sure everything’s fine over there.”

Anakin’s wife was quiet for a moment. “I’m sure you’re right. It would just make me feel better.”

“Okay.” You really, really wanted to hang up. “I’ll let you know how it goes. ...Bye.”

She answered, “Thank you!” as you swiped the call away and continued to gaze nervously upward.

“Anakin...” you started.

“Fuck!” He was looking past you yet again, eyes fixed on the wall— or on some point far beyond it.

“Anakin, she just—”

“She just knows me better than you do.” Without looking at you, he walked to the side of the bed to retrieve his cigarettes, went over to the open window above his trunk, and sat down on it to light one.

“Well, yeah. She does,” you conceded, which left you feeling a bit cold— even if it was true.

A long, hard inhale; then, “I told you I was a piece of shit. I’m sorry.”

“...I still don’t think that.”

“You should.”

You began to feel frustrated. “I don’t have a reason to.”

His scowl intensified; he looked at the ceiling as smoke swirled around his head, floated above him, and was drawn slowly out the window. He waited. Finally, “If you stick around me long enough, you will.”

That sounded like a promise. Like so many things about him, it made you sad, along with perturbed. You waited to answer, too, before saying, “I guess we’ll find out, then.”

He shook his head. “Don’t be stupid.”

“What?”

“Don’t go fucking around with someone like me.”

At a loss now, you tried reminding him, “I like you.”

He sighed dismissively. “Do me a favour, then, and go check on the kids. I gave them breakfast; they should be playing in the back yard— or in the living room, if it’s too cold for Luke.”

You smiled, because you couldn’t help it. He loved his kids, and from nearly every indication, he was good enough at taking care of them. Was it his drinking that she’d been worried about? That was reasonable, you thought, but he’d been sober when you’d shown up. You decided that you wished she trusted him more: It clearly hurt him that she didn’t.

“Okay. I can do that. Just...” You wanted to tell him to feel better, but it would have sounded superficial. Instead, you walked over to him, and placed your hand on his shoulder. You didn’t finish what you were going to say, and you didn’t touch him other than that.

He didn’t really respond, but he did seem to lean into the support— although you might have just imagined it. You turned again, then, and walked up the stairs, but not before sneaking a last glance at him on your way. Even right now, you couldn’t seem to stop doing that... although it probably would have been very smart to begin to try.

You thought as you walked up the stairs that if you could, maybe, speak to Mrs. Amidala about him alone you could understand her concern a bit better... but, since sleeping with her husband, you were not exactly looking forward to the next time you were going to have to face her. Anyway, at this point, it would feel like a betrayal to talk about Anakin behind his back, and that gave you pause on its own.

You shook your head at all of this as you arrived on the main floor; it was too much to process so quickly. You could hear the kids in the living room, so you did a bit of Anakin’s thinking for him by very quietly padding out the back door while they were distracted. You walked around the side of the house— there was no one in sight— and re-entered through the garage, to which you’d received a lock code from Anakin’s wife.

To the kids, it would look like you’d just shown up.

A part of your brain that you were not proud of reminded itself to keep this manoeuvre in your toolbox for next time. Then, harshly, you chided yourself again for thinking in those terms at all. Anyway, you would have time to fret about Anakin later, when you were alone— for now, you had been given a job to do.

So, you smiled for Luke and Leia, and hoped that their father would come upstairs and do the same very soon. You liked to watch him do lots of things, and from your limited experience in that regard, being a father to his children was one of them.

You rationalized that it was probably one of the more innocent things you could appreciate about him as you pretended, clumsily, to be only just arriving at his house.

He didn’t say much to you before you left that day, and you didn’t catch him alone again, but you enjoyed every minute you got to spend with your eyes on him. You left feeling appropriately terrible about that.

 

...

 

At home, much later, you lay stretched out on your own bed. There was an unopened text message on your phone that you knew was another “thank you” from Mrs. Amidala, but you couldn’t bring yourself to do anything with it just yet.

She had absolutely nothing to thank you for, even if she thought she did.

With time to linger on this thought, you contemplated the nature of your encounter with Anakin. It had been the wrong thing to do, and you knew it, but again— you couldn’t force yourself to regret it.

Aside from the pleasure you’d derived from his body, you thought about the glimpse he’d given you into his heart. It was lovely, too, but a darker and more frightening shade than his winsome, blonde outer beauty. You’d learned lots, but there was still so much you did not know.

This scared you, because you really had no excuse to go about satisfying that curiosity: Anakin was not your enigma to decode, as much as you enjoyed him.

You wished you didn’t.

Something occurred to you, then, and you did grab your phone. Swiping away the unread text, you opened your browser, and with a somewhat tentative thumb, you typed his name into the search bar.

No social media, predictably.

But, there was news.

Two survive IED blast killing 9 infantrymen in Afghanistan.

Nineteen-year-old soldier lucky to survive losing arm in desert attack.

The human cost of war: Life and limb.

There was more, and there were pictures, too. You clicked the first one— he was in a group, but easy to pick out. Your heart skipped; not because he was so much younger in the photo, but because of his smile. It was like nothing you’d ever seen on him before. He would have looked like a different person to you, if you hadn’t come to know his face so well.

You looked at the date at the bottom. You’d been a baby, then. That thought made you pause, but not for long: There was another photo beside the group shot; one that was just him— so you clicked it, next.

He was standing, in that one, holding a long rifle. He wasn’t looking at the camera; instead he was turned to the side, aiming at something not visible in the frame. You could barely see his face, but you’d have known those shoulders and that tense, hard jaw anywhere. You noticed no trace of his missing arm; you also noticed the date, which was very close to the one on the group photo.

You continued to click through; next, you saw a version of him that was a bit closer to the one you’d come to know: He was wearing a military dress uniform, which was not far off from the dark suit you were used to. His right hand was covered, here, by that black glove you had also come to know, and the expression on his face was cold; hardened. What by now looked like faded pockmarks, then, were still red and angry wounds snaking up his neck from under his collar— they stood out especially against the paleness of his skin, and the ice of his eyes.

After gathering your thoughts— you’d looked at that one too long, you realized— you clicked back to the news articles, and began to skim them. He was only ever mentioned, it appeared; never interviewed. That made sense to you: He didn’t seem like the type of person who enjoyed speaking at length about much of anything, really.

You learned that he’d been driving something like a Jeep that had run over something like a bomb, and that the bomb had killed nearly everyone inside the Jeep— but not much else.

You scrolled further once you’d read the news, but after turning into long, scanned lists of youth Kendo competition placements from before you’d been born, the results became irrelevant: It seemed Anakin did not have much of a presence online. Not that you’d expected him to, really.

You hadn’t learned anything about him that he hadn’t already told you, necessarily. However, after seeing his picture and experiencing him this way, you were overcome with an urge to communicate with him. You didn’t know what you wanted to say, just that you wanted to say something.

You closed your browser; went back to your inbox.

As you’d thought, you found that the text from Anakin’s wife had indeed been another ‘thank you’... which did make you feel guilty. What made you feel even worse was your disappointment at her not having given you a date or time at which you should come back.

You thought to yourself that if you wanted to see Anakin outside of your babysitting duties, you would have to find a way to make it happen yourself. You were not prepared to do that— not right now. So, you would wait.

Anyway, you had no idea if he would even be receptive to any kind of advances from you, if you could override your sense of decency enough to make them. (You were starting to really understand the appeal of that rum.)

For all you knew, he regretted every second of the night before. For all you knew, he wasn’t planning on ever speaking with you again— which of course, would have been perfectly reasonable.

You wondered if you could, maybe, go back to just sitting with each other. You didn’t want to lose him altogether.

As if on cue, your phone buzzed, then. This time it was from a number you could recognize from how often you’d stared at it not long ago, along with that other message, any time.

Now, it blinked: I’m sorry.

You thought. for what?

everything.

Oh. don’t be.

He didn’t answer that, but you could picture him shaking his head; smoking a cigarette— going to bed, alone.

You felt a burning need to see him again, but didn’t know when you would be able to, or if he would even speak to you when you saw him. No one would have believed you if you’d told them, but it wasn’t simply that you wanted him in bed again. Even in your foolishness, you knew the chances of that happening again were, realistically, very slim. (That thought still unjustifiably terrified you, and it was no small effort to suppress the fear, but you didn’t have a choice.)

There was a strong urge, too, to speak with Mrs. Amidala— you wanted to know things about him that neither he nor the internet would tell you. You wanted to know why she didn’t seem to trust him. (You trusted him, you had decided— certainly without knowing enough.)

You would have wanted to put the whole thing out of your mind, but you weren’t that wise yet. You thought that you would have had to wonder less about him after all he had told you, but now you were more curious than ever.

Anakin’s wife would have to be the one to bring you together again before you would learn anything more, and you would have to wait for her to do it unknowingly.

It was disgraceful, but you were willing to take whatever you could get when it came to him... and you hoped against hope that he had more to give you.

Chapter Text

You waited a week with no word from either Anakin or his wife. You had started to become nervous; started to think that perhaps he had said something to her to make her stop calling you. It wouldn’t have been unreasonable, but it also wouldn’t have been an exaggeration to say that ending things with him in such a way might have driven you crazy.

Something about Anakin had worked its way deeply under your skin, and you couldn’t stop thinking of him, particularly in moments where your mind was otherwise blank. You immersed yourself in schoolwork, stayed out very late with any of your friends who would accompany you, and even helped your parents with the house far more readily than you normally would have— but nothing you did completely removed his presence from your mind.

You were immensely relieved to see, mid-weekend, a phone call pop up from
Mrs. Amidala.

“Hi! I need you on Tuesday!”

“Tuesday?”

“Yes, I have a special event to attend— I’ll be pretty late. Is that okay, or...?”

“Yes!” That was too enthusiastic, but it didn’t register to her.

“Great, I’ll see you then.”

You didn’t think to ask about Anakin or anything else. You assumed that Tuesday evening would be much like the others you’d spent there. (With the exception, of course, of the most recent one.)

You slept better that night, although you woke feeling ashamed of your dreams.

 

...

 

You arrived just after dark. When you rang the front doorbell, Leia answered with a grin. “We’re gonna play Guitar Hero tonight!”

You smiled. “Sounds awesome! Why don’t you go set it up? I have to go to the bathroom, then we can start.”

“Okay!” And she darted off, yelling to her brother that you were here.

You laughed at how cute she was, and went off to use the washroom on the main floor.

It was quiet when you got inside and closed the door, and before you could turn on the fan, you heard voices coming through the vent:

“Just promise me. Please?”

“I’m an adult, and I know how to act like one.”

“I need you to promise!”

“Those people are going to be crawling up my ass, Padmé.”

“I don’t care what you do to yourself when you come home, just please do not drink at dinner tonight.

“Fuck!”

You realized what you were hearing, turned on the fan, and had a very awkward time trying to pee with your hands over your ears (not to mention humming a tune as you used the sink) before exiting the room to meet Leia.

You tried to shake the whole thing off— it was just something else that was not your business— but it was difficult. Leia’s enthusiasm for the guitar game helped, as did Luke’s eagerness to show off his aptitude for a few of his favourite songs.

You played with them for a little while, and then you heard footsteps descending the stairs.

“Luke! Leia! We’re ready to go! Did you show the babysitter your game?”

The twins ran to greet their parents, and you followed.

A nonsensical pang of inadequacy shot through your bones as you watched Mrs. Amidala (you knew her name was Padmé, now, which you thought was lovely) come into view.

She looked unlike any other time you’d ever seen her: Instead of a pastel suit or plain black skirt, she was dressed tonight in a magnificent emerald evening gown, with jewellery and shoes to match. Her hair was falling over her shoulders, and looked to be professionally styled. Perfect make-up completed the look, and all of a sudden— although she was likely more than twice your age— you felt as though you looked like a wooden post in comparison to her.

Not, of course, that you should have cared about that.

Anakin’s appearance behind her graciously distracted you from your insecurity; to you, he looked even more incredible than she did: To your great surprise, he was wearing that impossibly well-tailored, dark-blue dress uniform you’d seen him wear in the picture you’d found online. His shoulders stood out to you more than ever, the row of shiny buttons running down the front of him seemed to beg to be undone by your fingers, and the array of gold and silver pinned to his chest was both captivating and impressive. His hair was combed away from his face, but he hadn’t cut it. He had what looked to you like an especially ornate police cap tucked under his arm.

There was a lot you wanted to say, so you settled on, “You two look incredible!”

Padmé smiled. “Thanks— we’d better. We’re going to a big fundraiser.”

You nodded. “Wow... it must be pretty fancy.”

“It is.” She paused. “I’m not always a fan of these, really. But it’s part of my job.”

It was, indeed. You looked up at Anakin, who was now quietly standing behind his wife in the foyer. He looked at you, too, but he didn’t have an expression on his face.

Luke piped up, “Haha, you hate wearing that thing, don’t you, Dad?” Leia giggled, too, at this.

Your heart leapt as Anakin grinned unexpectedly— gorgeously— and answered, “Yeah, I do. But it’s for your mom.”

“I think it’s handsome,” said Padmé, and although she sounded distracted, your insecurity jabbed you in the side.

“I think it’s hot and itchy— I’d just as soon wear a normal suit,” her husband replied plainly.

She argued, “Then no one would know what you’ve done!”

He looked like he wanted to say he’d like that, but instead he put the cap on his head and crossed his arms over his chest. “Let’s go, then.”

Padmé smiled again at this. “Thank you.” She sounded as though she meant it.

She led the way out the door to the car, with her husband trailing behind her as the twins ran back to their video game. Before Anakin closed the door, however, he turned to look at you. He didn’t smile, but he did touch the shiny, black brim of his cap with his leather glove and nod at you. He seemed, again, like that nonexistent movie-man he’d somehow emulated the night you’d had him in his room.

You were certain— hoped, at least— that he saw the hunger this brought out in your eyes.

 

...

 

CRASH!

“Uh-oh.”

“What was that?”

“Nothing!”

“Seriously, Luke— what was that?”

“Umm...”

You walked into the living room briskly, and your stomach dropped.

“Luke! What were you doing near that?”

“I fell! I was doing a move!” A ‘move’? Probably imitating his father’s Kendo, which was sweet, but this certainly wasn’t.

You suppressed your panic. “It’s okay. It’s just that this stuff is expensive— and it stinks when you spill it!”

“I’m sorry! Is my dad going to be mad?”

You looked at the broken bottle of rum soaking into the area rug and spreading across the hardwood floor. You peered into the cabinet door that had fallen open when Luke had bumped it; saw extra glasses— toppled— but no extra liquor. Maybe he didn’t usually drink on Tuesdays, you rationalized.

“No... no, he won’t be mad. But you should let me clean this up. I don’t want you to cut your hand on the glass.”

“Okay.”

“Why don’t you go get Leia and tell her it’s time for you guys to brush your teeth?”

“Aww, but...!”

“Luke...” It really was hard to be tough on this kid.

Okay.” And he ran off to follow your instruction.

You took a deep breath, and swiftly dealt with the mess, opening the window to air out the smell in spite of the evening chill. You decided that the most tactful way to handle this would be to tell Anakin privately, if you could. You didn’t know if he’d be especially upset, if he’d need a drink upon coming home, or if he had more elsewhere in the house. You knew only what having it there meant to him, and you wanted to spare him from reacting poorly in front of Padmé if it were at all possible.

After the living room was tidy, the kids were falling asleep in their beds, and the house was dark and quiet, you sat down in your usual spot on the sofa in the draught created by the open window. You thought that the room felt very empty.

A bad part of your brain wished, for your own sake, that Luke had not spilled his father’s drink.

 

...

 

The sound of the door opening gently, followed by Padmé saying, “You could have been a bit friendlier.”

“Well, you said I couldn’t—” Then they noticed you, and they both stopped.

Padmé smiled diplomatically. “Hi! I’m sorry we’re so late! But I’m exhausted, and I’ve got to get out of this stuff.” She looked at Anakin, “Can you please drive her home, tonight, before you...”

“Yes!” He interrupted— but he was annoyed, not excited. He looked insulted, too, perhaps justifiably.

Awkwardly, you stood. At least you’d be alone with him a few minutes, and you’d have a chance to tell him about his cabinet.

“Come on,” he said abruptly, as he grabbed a spare set of keys off of a hook and led the way back out the door.

He hadn’t waited for you to grab your things, and was standing outside the car smoking when you appeared in the driveway.

“Have fun?” you asked him.

“No.” He took a long draw off his cigarette, and turned around to look up at his own house. You let your gaze follow, and the two of you could see Padmé’s silhouette disappear from the upstairs window as the light inside was flicked off. He sighed, and turned back around. “What about you?”

“I probably had more fun than you did,” you started. “But, one thing did happen that I should let you know about.”

He sighed again. “Fuck. What?”

You shifted uncomfortably on your feet; he was clearly in no mood for this.

“Luke knocked your cabinet and spilled the bottle.”

He looked relieved for a minute, as though that wasn’t as bad as what he had thought you were going to tell him, but then did he seem mildly annoyed. “All of it?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh well. I guess I’ll have to make an extra stop after I drop you off.”

“It’s almost one o’clock in the morning.”

He tossed his smoke to the ground, stepped on it with the heel of what you now realized was an extraordinarily shiny black boot, and shrugged.

You walked around to the other side of the car, and the two of you got in. He took off his cap, and tossed it into the back seat.

Once you were sitting beside one another, he paused before starting the car, and looked over at you. You tried smiling at him, but he didn’t smile back. He contorted to reach around with his left hand in a way that seemed awkward, but indicated that he was used to doing so. He turned the key roughly in the ignition, and pulled away.

He drove you in silence until you reached the curb in front of your house, and idled. You wanted to say things; a bunch of things, but you didn’t have the words or the confidence, so you were quiet.

Finally he said, “This is where you get off, isn’t it?”

You sat and stared out the front windshield. “I guess so.” You didn’t move yet.

He was silent for a time, and then he sighed again. Finally, “...Want to take a drive into town instead?”

“Yeah. I do.”

“Okay.”

And he drove the car off down your street— out of the neighbourhood and away from the identical houses; off a ramp and onto the highway, for a short jaunt to where there were stores that would sell him liquor in the middle of a Tuesday night.

 

...

 

“I really am sorry, you know.” He was still staring out the windshield; so were you. You were parked behind a small convenience store, now, in the downtown of the city. It wasn’t far from where you lived, but it seemed so. It was quiet and dark, except for occasional barking dogs and far-away sirens.

“You really don’t need to be,” you reiterated. It was a live-action repeat of your text conversation from the weekend.

He shifted. “I really, really do.”

You started, “I’m the one who should be...”

“No!” He realized he’d said that a bit too loudly. He evened out his tone. “It was me; I shouldn’t have—”

“Nothing would have stopped me,” you admitted, interrupting him.

He paused at this.

You continued, trying to sound very adult about it, “I’m sorry I took advantage of the situation.”

That loud, halting laugh of his; followed by, “I think you’re mixing things up a bit, here.”

You looked at him, finally— admired the outline of his jaw, the way his hair was beginning to come loose of its style, and the fine point of his nose as light from outside the car bathed his face softly. You looked at the collar of his uniform shirt; stiff and straight like the muscles you knew were concealed beneath it.

How could you have been expected to keep your hands off of him, really? That thought was wildly irresponsible, but you were already here, so you verbalized it: “I needed to touch you. I shouldn’t have done it— but I needed to.”

He laughed at this, too, but more gently. “Thank you for saying that.”

That annoyed you. “You think I’m doing you a favour...?”

“I can’t understand it any other way.” Another long silence. “You have me all fucked up.” He turned to you after he said this and grinned anyway. It was beautiful.

It was your turn to laugh, now. Still, you simply answered, “I’m sorry.”

He gave you a look you couldn’t discern, and shook his head. It occurred to you that he was entirely sober right now, and that you’d never spoken to him at length in this state. He gazed for a moment; then, “Don’t be.”

You’d just completed a fairly pointless circle together, you realized. Carefully, you ventured, “What should we do, then?”

Now another sigh. “I don’t know.”

“It’s okay.” You swallowed hard at a lump that had just begun to form in your throat. “I... I understand if you... well, if you don’t want to talk to me anymore. If you can’t.”

“That’s the problem.”

“What?”

“I can’t talk to you anymore, but I also can’t not talk to you.”

“I don’t understand.” You thought you did, but you had to be wrong.

He made a noise; a frustrated one. Then, he said it in your own way: “‘I like you.’ ...Remember?”

“Of course I remember.”

“Well, then you understand.”

“I guess I do.” There was another long silence after you said that, and then a buzzing noise. “Oh.”

Did my husband drop you off at home? You both thought she’d gone straight to sleep. Maybe she’d woken up and noticed his car still gone. You looked back up at him; turned the screen so he could read it, too.

You both hesitated for a very long time; then, slowly, Anakin nodded his head in the direction of the phone. No one could have heard him, but he mouthed the word ‘yes’ silently.

You nodded back, and typed in that dishonest answer, along with an expression of false concern. It was probably the most egregiously despicable thing you had ever done.

Will you tell me if you hear from him?

Of course!

You turned the device off, now, and tucked it into your bag on the floor of the car.

Your stomach dropped the way it had when Luke had bumped the cabinet. This had officially become a complete and utter mess— more so, even, than when you’d shared that night in his bed.

At least, you thought, you were in it together.

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry for calling you over here without much notice.”

“It’s fine.” It really was. You stepped into the house; greeted Padmé. “What’s up?”

“I have to go back to work,” she told you, as she gathered things she would need from the foyer and kitchen. It was close to six in the evening. She added, “It feels like I’m always having to go back to work,” more to herself than to you.

“I’m sorry,” you began, but she stopped you.

“It’s okay. It is what it is.” She smiled. “I just need someone to make sure the kids get to bed.”

“Is their dad at work, too?”

She was silent; looked for a moment at the floor. “No.” Then, she sighed, as if she were reluctant to continue but knew that she should. “He’s asleep. Just leave him.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“I do mean leave him— don’t try to wake him, and don’t let the kids bug him.” Well, alright, then.

You hesitated. “Is... well, is he okay?” She’d texted you when he’d finally arrived home on Tuesday. It had made you feel awful to do it, but you’d feigned both relief and ignorance as you walked into your own home, from his car.

She pursed her lips and shook her head. “You’ve been very polite about him.” Polite wasn’t quite the word, you thought. She looked you in the eye. “I’m sorry.” She hadn’t answered your question, really, but you understood. You wished she wouldn’t apologize for him.

“Um... it’s okay.” You shifted. “He’s... well, he’s... downstairs?” That he stayed there was a secret which couldn’t be kept from someone who had spent as much time in this house as you had by now, and she knew that.

“Yes. Like I said, just keep the kids out of there. If he wakes up, he’ll ignore you— don’t worry about him.” You hoped he would not ignore you, and you did worry about him. You wondered after her adamance about not waking him, but you also figured he was probably legitimately tired. You realized you didn’t know what he did for a living, now, but it did seem he was often working late. (Surely he didn’t stay just to drink...?)

You blinked those thoughts away; all of them, and replied, “No problem... when do you think you’ll be back?”

She sighed. “I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I’m on my way.” You ought to have thanked her for that, but it would have felt strange.

“Okay.” You tried to think of something else to say. You couldn’t, so you just smiled, albeit a bit stiffly.

“The kids are upstairs; they’ll come down when they’re hungry. Like I said, don’t worry about anything else.” ‘Anything else’ being Anakin— this was one of those times she sounded more annoyed with him than concerned. You were in no position to judge, and you shouldn’t have— but part of you still wished she seemed to like him more.

She was ready to head out the door by now, so she called a final goodbye up the stairs to Luke and Leia, and smiled back at you on her way out.

You watched her car pull out and drive away.

 

...

 

By the time nine o’clock had come and gone, the children were in bed, and Anakin was still asleep, too. In spite of how much you craved seeing him, you did not want to bother him if he genuinely needed to rest. You’d been there for more than three hours by then, and you likely could have gone home, now that the whole house was unconscious.

You stood alone in the kitchen and faced the sink. You filled a glass with water; drank a bit, and put it down. You looked out the window at the mostly uninterrupted blackness of the street; breathed in deeply the cool air that was blowing in. You liked open windows, you thought for no particular reason.

As you decided to text Padmé and ask if it was alright to leave, a noise from behind you startled you.

You jumped a bit as you heard a heavy step, followed by a groggy and gravelly, “What time is it?” (It had also been his first question the last time you’d been there to see him wake up, and that made you wonder if it wasn’t always his first conscious thought.)

Having put your initial surprise behind you, you turned around and got another: Anakin, pleasantly, was shirtless; dressed in only those black sweatpants you had seen him toss on in a panic before. Somewhat jarringly— albeit in a way that also fascinated and endeared you— he was also not wearing his right arm. He rubbed his eyes with the hand he could not take off as he walked into the room.

You were very glad to see him, but you answered his question before telling him so: “Getting close to ten.”

His hand came off his face quickly; he looked up at you with surprise upon hearing your voice. “What are you...?”

“I think your wife thought you needed to rest, so I just came by to put the kids to bed.” You let your eyes glide across his chest and stomach; tried not to let yourself be distracted by that. “She got called into work.”

“Oh.” He seemed like he was simultaneously insulted by and grateful for her actions. He looked at you, which appeared to soften his demeanour a little bit, but then he gripped the remainder of his right arm with his left hand and started to apologize, “I’m sorry I’m not exactly—”

“—You’re perfect,” you interrupted. A smooth, pale, sudden end to his limb near the elbow became, as your eyes crept up it, the same kind of faded scarring that snaked partway up his shoulder and neck. It was different, and to you, exquisite. Every part of him was, somehow.

His expression was still one of immense discomfort; however, and he laughed a little at your comment. “Not even close.”

You walked up to him, now. You wanted to touch him, but didn’t know if he’d be receptive. So instead you said, “Well, I’m happy to see you.”

He hesitated. Then, he let go of the remnant of his arm and let his hand fall to his side. With a guarded smile, “I’m happy to see you, too.”

You were close enough, so you dared to grasp his fingers, now that they were free. As you turned your head up to look at his face to discern a reaction, he leaned down very tentatively.

Then, he kissed you.

You’d never been quite so fond of fresh smoke, or of old rum, both of which he made seem simply delicious.

 

...

 

“You don’t have to do this with me,” in a rough but sensuous whisper from atop you, right into your ear. You were laying in Anakin’s small bed, underneath him this time. He had been kissing at your jaw— you loved that— when he decided to remind you of this.

“I want to, Anakin,” you answered as you ran your hands along his back. If you didn’t want this, you wouldn’t be here. You wished he understood the strength of his own charms.

“...Is your phone turned up?” It was smart of him to ask.

“Yes, I brought it down this time. I’ll hear it.”

A chuckle. “Just don’t make too much noise, then.”

You beamed. “I’ll try.”

It was an effort, but you managed, as Anakin kissed his way down your neck and chest. His lips moved over your stomach and thighs, too, and all the way down one of your legs to your ankle, before taking a similar journey back up the other side. You reflected on your previous evaluation: Boys did not do this; only men— and you were more than thrilled to have a man like this one.

He met you at your centre; worked there skillfully with his tongue for a long time, until your fingers dug into his mattress and he realized your voice was becoming too loud.

He pulled himself back up the length of you; kissed your face, and then, “Shh.”

You giggled, “It’s not my fault!”

He laughed, and propped himself up atop you. It impressed you to no end that he could do it one-armed. You watched his hair fall into his face; admired his chest as it tensed, and enjoyed the way your legs felt wrapped around his powerful calves. He grinned— you loved to see that— and said, “You were noisy last time, too.” He shifted so that you could feel an especially firm part of him press into your leg.

You squirmed, and made a hungry noise.

“Oh? Did you want me to...?” He liked to tease you.

“Of course I do!” You’d been, frankly, dying to have him this way since almost the moment you’d crawled off him before.

With a wry smirk, he asked, “Are you going to be loud?”

“I don’t know... am I?” It was fun to play at teasing him back.

Shhh!

At this, you reached down between your bodies and guided him. He lowered himself very carefully so that you were much closer to one another as he eased inside, and the two of you forgot who and where you were for a while as you joined in mutual ecstasy.

Again, he was perfect— as you clashed happily with him, you ran your hands slowly and deliberately over every impossibly rigid muscle, and somehow utterly mesmerizing scar. You grasped at him; tried hard not to scratch with your nails— because even in this moment, you knew that would be deeply unwise.

When he fell to your side and kissed you some more after you had both been too loud, you became almost relaxed enough— and almost foolish enough— to fall asleep with your arms wrapped around him again.

But, thankfully, not quite.

 

...

 

You had just finished getting dressed; Anakin had replaced his right arm (it was fascinating to watch it come to life), and begun using it to hold a cigarette as he sat on his trunk beneath the window, in his usual spot.

“Can I ask you something?” You thought this was as good a time as any.

“Depends what you want to ask,” after a long drag of his smoke.

“What do you do?”

“What?”

“At work, I mean.”

“Oh. Well,” he let go of his cigarette, clasped it between his lips, and extended his right arm. He wasn’t wearing his glove at the end of it right now, and you could see every detail of the intricate joints that connected the sleek palm to thin, robotic fingers which possessed an equally glossy sheen. It was jet-black, and it still looked to you like something from a movie.

After turning it so that you could look, he continued, “I make these. Or, I design them, now.” He pulled it back toward himself and deftly took his cigarette between its fingers again.

“Wow.” He made you say that a lot. “So yours is...?”

He smiled to himself. “It’s mine. Not real— but mine.”

“That’s incredible!”

He looked at you with an expression that told you he, perhaps, hadn’t heard that for a while. “Thanks.”

Your phone’s familiar buzz snapped you out of your little bubble in Anakin’s basement room. You retrieved it; looked. With hesitance and a virtually imperceptible bit of cheekiness, you asked, “Anakin? About what time would you say I left to go home?”

His face fell a bit; he thought. “Not long after I woke up. Around ten.”

You nodded; answered the text from Padmé. “I guess I should leave for real, now.”

He nodded, too. “Yeah.”

You walked home that night, because you thought you needed some time and space to clear your head. Instead, you just ended up replaying your time with Anakin in your mind.

It was wonderful.

 

...

 

Going over things that the two of you had said and done in your head was an enjoyable activity, but it was also distracting, and very addictive. You craved so much more time with him than you could get, and this fuelled your fantasies.

Of course, the more you fantasized about being with him, the more you craved it.

This was beginning to make you want to do things that were stupid, like send him text messages when you weren’t sure he was alone, or try to get him to take you for another drive into the city, where you could sit in his car by yourselves.

You didn’t do these things— not right now— but you certainly couldn’t get them off of your mind.

Finally, late one week during which you felt you had not seen nearly enough of him (what would have been ‘enough’?), Anakin acted for you.

are you awake? It was after eleven.

yeah.

A very long pause; you nearly began to put the phone down.

do you have a car?

Your parents were asleep, and typically didn’t mind you using their minivan. sort of. ugly & not mine. but i can use it.

end of my street. End of his street? Oh.

Okay... ok. Then you checked, everything alright?

fine. just come.

Nervous but excited, you left a note for your parents on the fridge. The note, of course, contained a lie.

You did not think enough about how very easy that was for you to do: Your mind was focused instead on other things, as you eagerly left the house to meet Padmé’s husband.

Chapter Text

"What's going on?" 

Anakin clambered into the passenger's seat; slammed the door shut a lot harder than he had to. 

"Nothing. Just drive for a bit."

"Um... did you have anywhere in mind, or...?"

"Could you please just start driving?"

"Okay!" 

So, you drove away from his house; you didn't want to pass it. You turned, left your neighbourhood, and ended up on the same offramp to the city that you'd been on the night Luke bumped the cabinet.

Anakin was silent the entire time. At one point you thought he had fallen asleep, but he was staring out the front window when you glanced.

By the time the buildings around you became taller and the lights became brighter, he still hadn't said anything, and you began to worry more than you already had been.

Your sense of unease was building as you approached the spot he'd driven you last time, and you simply blurted out, "Does she know?"

"No! Fuck."

"Then what?" You pulled over; you were distracted.

He finally looked at you. You'd barely seen him all week, and right now he looked more tired and worn than you'd ever seen him. The bones in his face stood out to you just a bit more than they ought to have, his eyes were wide but sleepy, and his hair was more out of place than it usually seemed. He was dressed for work, but his clothes appeared as though they'd been worn just a bit too long. 

After a few moments, he answered you, "Just a fight. I needed to get out of there." He looked down at the mat on the floor of the car and near-mumbled, "And I don't have my wallet."

You tilted your head. "You called me because you don't have your wallet?"

He sighed. "Who else would I call?"

Something in your chest swelled at this, although you found it odd that you were really the only person he could think to call. So, you answered simply, "Touché, I guess,” as you pulled away from the curb, having calmed your nerves.

You kept driving for a while, in silence again. Soon, you asked him once more, "Are we going anywhere in particular...?"

He sounded frustrated. "No. No, I just— I'm sorry."

You offered, "I could stop for food."

"I'd rather a drink."

Of course. You knew he'd already had a head-start. "Are you sure that's...?"

He rolled his eyes. "Please not you, too."

"Anakin, what happened?"

He shifted in his seat. "Nothing that hasn't happened before." He patted the front pocket of his shirt; pulled out a pack of those cheap cigarettes he seemed to like so much.

"Um... you can't smoke that in here... my dad..."

"Oh. Sorry." He put one in his mouth, but didn't light it. 

"It's okay." You pulled the van into a parking lot; you didn't know where you were, really. You noticed a fast food restaurant close by that was open; you decided to try something. "I'm hungry. I'll be right back. What do you want?"

"Nothing."

"Okay, chicken it is."

He shook his head and made a noise as you exited the car and crossed the parking lot.

By the time you returned to the van, he was sitting with his head back; arms crossed in front of him. He still held his unlit cigarette in his mouth as he stared at the ceiling.

"Here." You tossed a sandwich onto his lap.

"I don't want that."

"I'll buy us a drink if you eat it."

For the first time since getting in the car, he smiled. He looked at you through his hair, tendrils of which were falling into his eyes. Even in this state, he was painfully attractive to you. He waited, then said, "Fine. You win." He started to unwrap the food.

You didn’t want yours either, after the amount of anxiety you’d experienced driving here, but objectively, he looked terrible— and you didn’t want to make him do something you weren’t willing to do, too.

You ate in silence. He handed you his trash; you threw it into the back seat.

When he finally spoke, he said, “I’m going to get out for a minute.”

“Alright.”

He opened the door; stepped out. He shut it with a more reasonable level of force, this time, and stood staring across the parking lot as he lit the cigarette he’d been waiting for.

You watched him, thinking. You’d barely seen him all week, and it was Friday, now. What had happened between last weekend and this one? You thought, perhaps, that maybe it really was just a normal occurrence for Anakin and Padmé, but that thought made you feel sad.

After sad, it made you feel guilty, because their relationship certainly couldn’t have been improving since you entered the picture. You’d rationalized before that it was already deeply dysfunctional. After all, if it had been good to begin with, you would not have been able to build a connection with Anakin at all.

Now, though, you wondered if you hadn’t actually made it worse, even without Padmé knowing.

You let guilt swirl around your mind as you watched smoke swirl around Anakin’s head. Briefly, you wondered if he wasn’t actually as sad or vulnerable as he seemed. For a moment, you wondered if he’d put you on to get you downstairs with him— if he’d done this with other girls.

You dismissed this idea before it began to make you feel hurt and angry, but the thought lingered in your mind that he must have done something to inspire the level of distrust his wife seemed to have in him.

When he turned back to the window, however, guilt washed over you at the sight of his face: This was not someone who was manufacturing his pain... was it?

You wished you could get to the bottom of this; all of it— while at the same time being acutely aware that it was not your place.

He got back into the car.

“Sorry.”

“It’s alright...” You hesitated. “Do you think you could tell me what happened, now?”

He sighed. “It’s nothing new. I shouldn’t have bothered you, but I had to get out of there.”

“Why?”

More silence, now.

“Anakin?”

“...I just got too worked-up.”

“What were you fighting about?”

“Everything.”

“How long has it been...?”

“Since before the kids were born.”

“Wow.” You didn’t say it happily, this time. “Well... why are you two still—?”

He shook his head, and cut you off. “I love her.”

“Oh,” was all you had to say. He looked at you when you did with eyes that you could only have described as apologetic. Before he could say anything else, you confirmed, “I understand.”

“I’m sorry—”

“Please. Don’t be.” It was very, very difficult not to speak a bit more abruptly, now. You ruminated for a moment on your previous thoughts; decided you were brave enough to ask, “How often do you do this, then?” You hadn’t wanted to be right. He’d been such a gentleman— or as much of one as a married man could have been to you. You felt stupid.

“What?”

You narrowed your eyes at him. “How many other babysitters? Or do you normally find them at work? Or...?”

He drew his shoulders back; looked down on you with a mixture of shock and sudden disdain. “What?

You could feel tears building in your eyes, although you were more angry than hurt now that he was playing dumb. “You heard what I said.”

“Yeah, and it was fucking stupid.” He clenched his left hand into a fist; it was trembling. “Who do you think I am?”

“I don’t know!” You shouted this at him; slammed your own fists down on your lap.

He leaned in close. “Do you really want to know the truth about that?”

He was seething, you realized. You began to feel frightened. “Y-yes. Yes. I do,” you said decisively.

He took a deep breath; then spat out, “There was her, and then there was you.”

It was your turn to say, “What?” You genuinely didn’t understand.

He reiterated, “Her. Then you.”

“Do you mean...?”

“That’s it. Two— you two. My whole fucking life. I’ve known her since I was a kid. Do you see why I said you fuck me up?”

Your hurt and anger left you immediately, but were replaced by a guilt even you found oppressive— and you’d felt a lot of guilt lately. “Anakin, I’m sorry.” You reached out to grab his arm; the real one, because it was closer. “I’m sorry. I... I couldn’t have known that.” You really wished you had— Anakin was neither your first, nor your second. You’d made a stupid assumption.

“Well, now you do.” He seemed to calm down a bit. He sat back in his seat and looked out the window, but he didn’t pull his arm away from you.

You started, “I just thought that because...”

“Because what?” A hint of remaining anger.

You smiled, because it was funny to you that he really didn’t get it. “Have you ever looked in a mirror?”

“What are you talking about?”

You were embarrassed to have to say it to him so plainly. “You’re handsome, Anakin. Incredibly handsome. Kind, too— and smart. You’re nice to be around. It’s not so far-fetched to think...”

He laughed; the laugh that he liked to use to say, ‘that’s stupid’.

“It’s true,” you said flatly.

He shook his head; smiled uncomfortably, and looked out the windshield. “I guess I don’t really see it that way.”

“Well, why did you think I...?”

“I thought you felt sorry for me.”

You shook your head; now you felt insulted. “I’m not like that, Anakin.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know.”

You sat quietly for another long while. You were getting good at that, together. Finally, Anakin said, “You said if I ate that sandwich we’d get a drink.”

You had, indeed, said that. “Well, I did mean it, but— um, I can’t buy drinks. Not for another three years.”

He laughed again. “Don’t remind me of that.”

It made you laugh, too. You looked at each other again; you were both still a bit wired, emotionally, from your discussion. You said, “So... I don’t know. Why don’t I just send you into the store? With some cash?”

He looked like he was deciding whether he should actually take liquor money from an eighteen-year-old. Eventually, “...Sure. That works,” alongside one of his shrugs.

You were grateful. You just wanted him to feel better, now— you felt awful about the things you’d implied. So, once he agreed, you started up the van and pulled out of this parking lot on your way to the next— you had passed it before, in your anxiety.

Anakin gave you directions, and as you drove, you held his hand.

 

...

 

Later that night, you sat with Anakin on a bench. It was positioned in front of the playground at a school near your homes; the school Luke and Leia attended, and the one you had gone to when you were their age, too. Between you was an open bottle. You’d chosen this spot because you could both walk home from it, and you knew your family’s van would be safe. You could excuse it being there later.

“Anakin, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

“I was wrong,” you insisted. “I should have known.”

He smiled gently and placed his hand on your leg; this time, his prosthetic was closer. You smiled, too, at the feel of it. Then he said, “There was no way for you to know. I spend so much time inside my own head. I really don’t think about it— how anyone sees me.” He chuckled. “I mostly figure they don’t.” Then wryly, he added to that, “Sometimes I count on it.”

You smiled now, too, and took a drink from the bottle. Then, you handed it to him; he did the same. “I see you, you know,” you told him.

You felt the fingers on his hand squeeze your thigh softly. You had to ask him how he did that, sometime. He replied, “I know now.”

“I still like you, Anakin.”

“I still like you, too.”

You drank until you began to feel sick. Then, you each got up to walk home unsteadily— and in opposite directions. On the way, you both made up different stories to tell your families about what you’d been doing— because you had to.

When you arrived at your respective homes, you texted, so that each of you would know that the other was okay.

That was Friday night, and you didn’t know when you would see each other again.

At least you knew you would, even if you didn’t know anything else.

Chapter Text

As usual, a few more days passed before you had cause to arrive at Anakin’s house again. He was not home— you’d only come to watch the twins briefly after school. Their mother, to their delight, had left work on time, and was actually able to stay. You were happy for the kids tonight, but it was becoming more difficult for you to be separated from their father— you wished he would come home, and then realized anew how awful you were for having that thought about someone’s husband, and tried to abandon it.

As Padmé began to make dinner, she invited you to eat it with them. You wanted to say no, but Luke and Leia were excited at the prospect of you joining in, and you didn’t want to seem rude (a ridiculous priority, all things considered), so you conceded.

The kids went off to watch television as you sat in the kitchen. You offered to help cook, but Padmé refused, saying you were welcome to just sit and relax. She didn’t realize, of course, how very difficult it was for you to do that— or why.

You were mostly quiet as she worked, until she reached under the sink and exclaimed, “Oh!” Followed by, “Damnit, Ani,” in just a whisper.

You loved her nickname for him, you thought. You’d heard her call him that the first night you’d met him, too, and you had liked it then as well. Now, you felt you understood him a bit better, and realized how much it really suited him. He said he had known her since he’d been a kid— how young did he mean?

The nickname suited her, too, when she said it... and so you resolved not to use it yourself.

“Hm?” You made an inquisitive noise. You were curious about what she was reacting to, even if whatever Anakin had done wasn’t your business.

She stood up straight and held up the remnants of the bottle you’d shared with him on the park bench. She made a face, dumped it down the sink, and placed the bottle in the trash. “It’s nothing new,” she said, in the same way he had said it about their argument.

You thought a minute, but all you could say was, “Oh. I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to be.” She took a deep breath, then smiled kindly. “Like I said, you’ve been very polite.” You wished she wouldn’t be so nice.

“It’s... well, it’s fine. Everyone has... stuff,” you said clumsily. You weren’t brilliant with words by any means, but even you normally weren’t that bad.

She laughed quietly. “‘Stuff.’”

“Well, I don’t really know him,” you said carefully. “I only ever see him come and go.” That was a lie, of course, but you didn’t have a choice.

“Sometimes I feel that way too,” she said. She was still smiling, but there was sadness in her voice.

You wished more than ever that you could leave to go home, then.

 

...

 

please don’t hide stuff under the kitchen sink.

what?
oh.
shit.

don’t worry. You hesitated, then added a second message, i don’t think she’s mad. You didn’t tell him she’d said it was normal.

You were walking home, now. The sun was setting, and it was cool outside, but still nice. You’d felt awkward all throughout dinner, and to be honest, you had texted Anakin your piece of advice more for yourself than for him. You didn’t want to feel that way again, if it could be helped. (You could have helped it by leaving him be, of course, but that barely occurred to you anymore, by this point.)

After a long pause, he sent back, sorry. And after that, guess we just need to finish it off next time.

You laughed at that. Cute. guess so!

After a few moments, you slipped your phone into your pocket and kept walking.

Then, it rang.

“Where are you?” Anakin asked before you could greet him.

“Walking home. From your house,” you told him.

“Okay. Keep going.” Then, he hung up. What was that about?

You arrived after just a few minutes, to see his car idling at the curb. You walked onto the street to look in the driver’s side window. “What are you doing here?”

“I can’t go home yet. Not until she goes to bed.”

“I told you, she wasn’t mad.”

He laughed his laugh. “Trust me. She’s mad.”

You thought to yourself, maybe you should go and talk to her, then, but you said, “Well, okay,” and walked back around the car to get inside.

You sat with him for a minute, then he asked, “Was everything okay on your end? After the other night?”

You nodded, “Yeah.” You’d told your dad that you left his van parked at the school because your brother had blocked the driveway, which wasn’t inconceivable.

“Good,” he said, as he pulled off down the street.

When you looked in the passenger’s side mirror, you saw a glimpse of your house, including your brother— he was hanging his head out his window, smoking. You didn’t think anything of it.

 

...

 

“Where are we, exactly?”

“Somewhere I like to go by myself.”

“So why bring me?”

“I like you, remember?”

You were sitting on a bench; it was a lot like the one at the kids’ school, except it was close to the bank of the river that ran through the town, instead. It was dark and cool, and there were lots of trees— they were still green, although fall was quickly approaching.

He continued, “It’s too cold to sit here very long during the winter. I miss it.”

You smiled. “Thanks for bringing me before the snow, then. I like it.”

Finally, he smiled too. Maybe he was relieved you were happy to be here; you couldn’t really tell. “Thanks for coming with me.”

You thought for a moment. “Any time.” You meant that, or wanted to.

You sat in one of your comfortable, shared silences for a little while. Carefully, at first, you leaned into his shoulder. He leaned against you, too, and you looked at the water. It was cloudy that night, so there was no moon to reflect on its surface— it just looked dark.

You started to feel a bit forlorn, there. Between the darkness of the riverbank at night, the circumstances of your connection with Anakin, and the time you’d just spent with his wife, you couldn’t help it. Your thoughts wandering, you asked— likely without considering your words quite enough— “Why doesn’t she trust you?”

“Huh?” He’d been distracted as well, or too calm, maybe.

“Your wife... she... well, she doesn’t seem to trust you. I sort of thought it had to be other girls.” You continued carefully, “It isn’t that, and I don’t think it’s all about drinking, either. So...”

He sighed, as if he knew it had been coming. “I don’t want to talk about this.” You had expected him to be offended, but he just seemed... guarded.

You knew he didn’t want to talk about it, and you didn’t want to hurt him, but it was weighing too heavily on your mind for you to ignore it anymore. You looked up. “I know. But I can’t stop wondering.” More gently, “You can tell me.”

He moved uncomfortably. “I’m an ass, sometimes.”

“That’s it?”

“I have... I don’t know. Moments. It was worse after...” He put visible effort into keeping his voice steady, “...after I came home.” You knew that he meant after nearly getting blown up on the other side of the world.

You didn’t say anything.

He continued nervously, although nervousness was unlike him, “She has every reason to feel the way she does. I’m lucky she’s still around. But...” he paused for a very long moment, “...It’s not the way it used to be.” He laughed; added, “Obviously.”

“I’m sorry,” you said. You were still wondering lots, but this was an admirable amount of openness from Anakin, all things considered. You didn’t want to push too much and end up with less.

“It’s been this way a long time. Like I said— before the kids,” he shrugged, but stiffly.

“What are you going to do?”

“What do you mean?”

“Fix it? End it?”

He clenched his jaw. He looked frightened, but spoke sharply. “Nothing.”

You sat up straighter; gave him a confused look. “Nothing?”

“There’s... no fixing it. It’s as good as it’s going to get. If I do anything, I’ll lose something. I can’t lose her; I can’t lose my kids. Now, I have to worry about losing you, too.”

Butterflies in your stomach, where (and when) they didn’t belong. “Oh,” you said. “Well... don’t worry. About me, anyway.” Why on Earth did you say that?

He looked doubtful. “What do you mean?”

You took a deep breath. “I don’t mind doing this with you. I...” You paused before you continued, “I want to keep sitting with you.”

He looked down guiltily. “What about...”

You whispered because you felt ashamed, too— of your answer, of the fact that you already knew what he meant, and of having had the very same thought. “I want to keep doing that, too.” You resumed leaning on him.

He sighed; sounded relieved again. It could have been your imagination, though.

“Don’t thank me,” you said anyway, before he could.

“Okay.”

You were quiet again after that for another long while. While you sat, you thought about what you were doing. You thought about how you felt about Anakin; how you figured he felt about you. You thought about what he meant when he said he had ‘moments’. You thought, naively, about what you might do to help him.

You didn’t realize the depth of the trouble in his marriage, or in his mind.

You just wanted to be with him, even though he was not meant for you. So— perhaps foolishly, although you couldn’t have known— that’s what you decided you would do.

 

...

 

“Anakin!” You giggled as he nipped at your neck.

“What?”

Through a smile you said, “I have to go home soon...” ...And so do you, you thought. But you didn’t say that.

He moved to kiss your ear and whispered, “Just a little while longer. Please?” He was being movie-man, again, now— you never knew what to do with this much charm, other than enjoy it.

“Okay. Just a little...” And you slid your hand up under his shirt to feel his chest.

You were back inside his car again, leaning over the console between the front seats to be closer to one another. He stroked your face with his left hand; his right rested on your leg. You had climbed back into the car when the chill in the air became too much for both of you. You hadn’t intended to be this physical with him tonight, but it was happening anyway.

You felt conflicted, but you really couldn’t get enough of this. That made you feel stupid and irresponsible— although, he was here too, you rationalized. You wondered if he was ever still intimate with his wife, but put that swiftly out of your mind, as you didn’t like the way it made you feel.

You needed to remember that he did not in any way belong to you. He had made himself available to you, but he was essentially on loan, as terrible as that sounded.

Unfortunately, you had quickly become desperate for Anakin, with little recourse. You could, objectively, never be anything more than his secret— or he yours.

You were being selfish, but he was being selfish, too— although it often felt like even more than that.

You stopped thinking altogether, now, because it was not helping you, and instead leaned into his touch. You raked your nails as softly as you could manage over that big, strong chest, and kissed him. He moaned, and so you reached down with your other hand, eagerly.

In spite of yourself, you did take much longer, now, than you had intended: Unable to quell the urge, you freed him, and bent down low to get between his legs.

You had been wanting to return a certain favour that he had, by now, done you more than once.

Part of you felt guilty for it, but more of you simply thought, as he gripped your hair and gasped loudly, that he tasted incredible.

You were getting dangerously used to this kind of inner conflict— comfortable with it, as you were comfortable in your silences with Anakin.

This likely should have worried you much more than it did— but you weren’t worried, as your mouth enveloped him warmly. You had already decided not to think.

 

...

 

When you arrived at home, you were surprised to see your brother sitting on the front step. You had let Anakin drop you off in front of your house, because of how late it had been. Your brother, anyway, had work in the morning; he should have been asleep. You said as much as you prepared to walk by him into the house.

“Hey. Wait.” He stood up.

“What? I’m tired.” You were.

“Who’s the old guy?” Your brother was a jackass.

You felt defensive. “He’s my friend, and he’s not that old.”

“Too old for you.”

Okay, maybe. Not that you cared about that. “We’re just friends.”

“Where’d you meet him?”

“Nowhere.” A dumb answer, but even if you could have told him, your brother didn’t deserve to know. You didn’t dislike him, but you weren’t close. He was older than you by five years, and you often wished he would move out already.

He scoffed. “Where’s that?”

“School,” you lied. You just wanted to go inside.

“What does he teach?” Your brother laughed.

You rolled your eyes at him and continued, but briefly, he stopped you.

“Wait. Seriously— don’t be stupid, okay?”

You took a deep breath. He did care, and you knew that. “I won’t. I promise,” you said. You tried to make it sound good— and it did— but it, too, was just another lie.

You continued on into the house, went up to your room, and fell asleep quickly to shameful thoughts of sneaking into Anakin’s basement with him, even if it was just so that you could rest with your arms wrapped tightly around his body.

This fantasizing helped you to ignore the way you were beginning to feel when he wasn’t close to you... especially at night.

Luckily, you did not remain awake long enough, this time, to truly contemplate the implications of that particular feeling.

Chapter Text

You walked into Anakin’s house with Luke and Leia. You had picked them up after school, and taken them out for dinner afterwards— it had been nice, but it was evening by now, and getting dark. Padmé was at work, and would be for a while yet. You noticed that her husband’s car was in the driveway, but also that the house was very quiet.

You remembered what she had told you about him sleeping— and that you shouldn’t wake him.

“Quiet, ok, guys? I think your dad is asleep.”

“We know,” said Leia.

They hadn’t bounced into the house shouting, you realized, so perhaps they didn’t need to be reminded.

Then Luke spoke up, “I kind of want to tell him about my thing at school.” You didn’t know what ‘thing at school’ he meant, but you thought it was nice that he wanted to tell his father.

Still, you were about to insist that he wait, when Leia said for you, “No, Luke... Or I’ll tell mom you woke him up.” She didn’t seem like she was teasing him.

Luke looked up at you, “Can you go wake him up then? I don’t want to forget.” Leia looked at him as though he’d broken a window.

You just shook your head, although you felt bad for the little guy. “Nope. Why don’t you write it down so you remember? Maybe he’ll wake up on his own before you go to bed. ...Do you have homework?” You changed the subject.

“Yeah, but...”

“Okay,” You cut him off as gently as you could. “Go start it, and we’ll see what happens. I’ll help you in a few minutes, if you want.”

Luke shrugged— a bit like his dad, you noted. “Fine,” he said, as he meandered off up the stairs. As his sister followed, she gave him a small, irritated nudge. You didn’t say anything about it.

Turning on the lights as you walked into the kitchen, you were very quiet— you wanted to see if you could pick up the sound of Anakin through the vent. He didn’t know it, as far as you knew, but you had acquired a habit of listening to his movements this way, when you could detect them.

You’d heard him cough while he smoked, and even turn over in his sleep, you were sure. Often, you had heard the sound of him beating that old punching bag of his mercilessly, and wondered how it was even still hanging. You never heard him speak to himself down there, however— if you had, you liked to believe you would have stopped listening.

Anakin, though, was not much of a talker. You began to think about how very much like pulling teeth it sometimes was to get things out of him, when Leia came down the stairs. You looked up from the countertop and at her; you’d nearly gotten yourself completely wrapped up in thoughts of her dad.

You asked her, “Hey, does Luke need help?”

“Not yet. He’s sulking.” The way she said it was cute.

“What’s the matter?”

She hesitated, but not for long. “Just dad.”

“Oh.” You weren’t sure what to say. He had never shown any indication of being especially stressed out by his current job; if anything, it was one of very few things he seemed proud of. But, you needed to say something, so you came out with, “He works really hard, you know.”

She nodded. “Yeah. I know.”

You continued, “My dad used to work really hard when I was little, too. I know it’s not easy.” You wanted her to feel better without— frankly— having to talk about this with her for too long, or in too much detail.

She threw a wrench in that by asking, “Did your dad live in the basement?”

“Well... no. No, he didn’t. But—”

She shifted; almost seemed embarrassed, but interrupted, “I used to think everyone’s dad lived the basement.”

“Every family is different,” you tried. You were running out of things to say here, and quickly, although you wanted Leia to feel better. After thinking a minute, “Your dad really loves you, you know.” That was a clear truth, at least.

She sighed, but smiled just a bit. “I know.” She looked like she wanted to say more, but didn’t quite know how to say it to you. If you hadn’t known they were twins, you would have sworn that she was older than her brother. She was too smart.

“Good. Do you have homework?” It was always safe to think about school, you thought. It was where you’d been burying your own self lately, whenever things in your head had become too much for you.

“No. I already did it.”

“Oh, okay. Well, what do you want to do?”

“Guitar Hero?”

You smiled, relieved. “Okay. Why don’t you tell Luke to leave the homework for now and join in?” No use leaving him to pout.

“Sure!”

That was a good choice Leia had made, you thought— just about as safe as school, for thinking about.

She really was a very clever kid, but you sort of wished she didn’t feel she had to be, as she went upstairs to get her brother.

 

...

 

It had taken a while to get the kids to sleep that night, but you managed. It was very late by the time you reached the kitchen by yourself, and with no word from either Padmé or Anakin, you weren’t quite sure what to do. You thought he would have woken up by now, but he hadn’t, and it was approaching eleven o’clock.

You listened through the vent, but heard nothing. Part of you started to worry.

After standing and considering for what seemed like a long while, you decided to just knock on the basement door. You wanted to see if he was alright— and anyway, it had been a few days. You missed him. Maybe, you thought, he missed you too.

He didn’t answer, so you tried again, a bit more loudly. Still nothing.

You breathed deeply a few times; looked around you at the door frame, and the walls, and the ceiling. You knew that if you descended the stairs without any indication from him, you would be crossing a boundary you shouldn’t. Somehow, it felt like a bigger deal than sleeping with him, or playing around in his car.

You wanted to see him, you did have to acknowledge. However, it would not have been dishonest to say that you were also concerned: You didn’t know how long he’d been asleep. What if he was sick? Or even just sad?

What if, you thought in your typically naive way, he needed you?

You couldn’t shake that thought, now that it had taken root in your mind.

So, against your better judgement— and against both Padmé and Leia’s advice— you descended the staircase to see if there was anything you could do for Anakin.

Step-by-step your anxiety grew, and when you heard him breathing softly from his bed, you should have gone back upstairs.

This was Anakin, though, and you weren’t smart enough about him to do that.

You stepped quietly down the short hallway, and to the door that contained his space. You knocked on that one too, but there was still nothing but his breathing. You pushed it open very softly, and walked over to where he was laying.

He was on his back; beautiful, as he always was. He was wearing pants, but not his arm; he didn’t have a blanket, either.

After admiring him a minute, you leaned down and placed your hand on his chest very gently.

“Anakin...” He didn’t stir, so you tried a little louder, “Anakin?”

It happened before his eyes opened; before he sat up, and before you could fully register what was going on.

You knew he was strong, and you knew he was fast, but you had never expected to be on the receiving end of the type of force he used to grasp you around the neck with his hand— his only hand; a hand that had never seemed quite so broad or powerful to you before.

You tried to say his name, but you couldn’t move air in or out of your lungs. His fingers began to squeeze and you kicked the frame of his bed as hard as you could as you, uselessly, brought your own hands up to try to pry his one away.

Finally, by the grace of something, his eyes shot open. He saw your face twisted up in fear, and he let go of you. You fell to the floor panting; watched the colour drain from his skin as he realized what he had done.

Neither of you spoke. You kept trying to catch your breath, but it was especially difficult. You realized you were shaking, and then that he was, too. You stared at one another, open-mouthed. You felt dizzy.

He broke the silence first, but barely, as he whispered, “I’m sorry.” He said it again, “I’m sorry,” as you slowly rose to your feet. Those impossibly strong and beautiful muscles had never frightened you before, you realized, as you watched his chest heave. They also had never harmed you before.

You just breathed back at him, and stared. You brought your hand up to feel your neck; it was only just beginning to really hurt. He had squeezed incredibly hard.

“Anakin,” you started, and when you realized how hoarse you sounded, you stopped. The last thing you wanted to do right now was cry, but tears formed in your eyes anyhow. You didn’t want to hear yourself, and you didn’t know what to do with him, so you did the only other thing you could think to do: You turned, climbed the stairs, walked into the living room, and sat.

You sat on that spot on the couch; your spot, the one you’d grown comfortable in.

You didn’t feel comfortable now.

You wanted to run away from the house altogether, but his children were upstairs, and you didn’t know who their father actually was right now. You knew Anakin, you thought, and that hadn’t been him.

But it had been.

You sat in silence, unable to collect your thoughts. You wished his wife would call or text or come home; at the same time, you hoped desperately that she wouldn’t, because you felt that this was entirely your own fault.

If you would have just listened to her...

...Oh.

So, this was why she had been so adamant about disturbing him. Had that been one of his ‘moments’? What else was he prone to doing during them? How often? Did they always need a trigger? You’d just wanted to see him; just wanted to be nice... and you had also been warned.

He could have killed you, you thought.

He could have killed you.

Finally— you didn’t know how long you had been sitting there— you heard footsteps, coming up from the basement.

You wondered if you should run; decided you couldn’t.

Tentatively, you heard him say, “Are you still here?” He spoke softly; there was a quiver in his voice.

You sat very still; didn’t answer. Did you think you were hiding?

He stepped into the room; saw you, but kept far back from you. “You are.”

You looked at him, but only briefly. He was fully dressed, now, right down to his arm. You turned your head down and stared at your lap, instead. You still didn’t say anything.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated, without coming closer.

The tears in your eyes began to run down your cheeks, but you were still quiet; still stared down at your legs.

He was silent too, for a while. Finally, “I told you.”

You looked up at him, now.

“I told you I was a piece of shit,” he reminded you in a whisper. He looked like he was going to cry, now, too. He still stayed far away. Very quietly, he repeated, “I’m sorry. ...I’m sorry.”

You didn’t know what to say. To say it was alright would have been a lie, but there was just nothing else there.

You were tired of lying, especially in this moment.

So, you put your hands over your face and then you weren’t quiet anymore— you began to sob, and you didn’t know how you were going to stop.

Anakin just crossed his arms, blinked his own tears away, and watched you— he clearly didn’t want to scare you any more than he already had.

You didn’t think it was possible to be more scared.

Chapter Text

You had just woken from a fitful sleep, and now you couldn’t quit looking in the mirror, even though you wanted nothing more than to stop seeing yourself.

You stared at your reflection anyhow; touched the marks that wrapped around your neck. They were already fading from an angry red to bluish-purple; by the next day, they’d be edged with yellow and light-brown. They would still hurt, but you’d ignore that.

You took a deep breath, now, and sat back down on your bed to think about what sort of scarf you might like to wear that day. You would do this every morning until the bruises were gone, but thankfully, they would fade relatively quickly. It was getting colder outside anyway: Nobody would notice, except for you.

For once, you did not want to think about Anakin. You did anyway, of course— but you didn’t know what to do with those thoughts, now, and they seemed to paralyze you. You would think about him pulling you closely; kissing you. You would think about sitting with him, and the feeling you used to get when you would lean on one another, drunk. You would think (and then feel guilty) about the feeling of joining with him in his bed; of his lips and tongue gliding over you in ways you could nearly feel by yourself if you thought about them long enough.

Then, you would think about the way he had frightened you. The way he’d hurt you, however unintentionally. You thought about the panic and pain you had felt in the moment he’d closed his hand, thought about the warnings you had been given, and how you ought to have heeded them. You weren’t angry, except at yourself, because you wished every day that you had listened.

Whatever way your thoughts veered, Anakin was always on your mind— that hadn’t changed. You were scared to see him, now, but part of you was even more scared of not seeing him. It made you feel ashamed and even a bit angry with yourself to admit it, but it was the truth: You missed him.

You missed him very, very much.

You continued to babysit his children, but he began to stay out past the time Padmé would normally come home. Other times, you would hear him sleeping through the vent in the kitchen, when everything in the house was quiet.

You didn’t see him at all— only ever his car, and often not even that. You knew this was intentional.

It continued for more than a month. You thought you should feel relieved, but you didn’t— you felt depressed, and somehow also restless; as though you couldn’t relax. You felt lonely in a way you hadn’t before meeting Anakin, and— to you, anyway— every inch of your skin felt perpetually cold.

That might just have been autumn setting in, or it might have been that you missed the way he touched you. You couldn’t actually tell.

You also couldn’t imagine anyone else ever touching you quite like that— like him— ever again.

Luke would mention to you, periodically and in passing, that his dad was asleep or gone a lot more than usual, and that it made him feel sad or frustrated. You would comfort him, distract him, and try not to make yourself too upset while you did so.

After all, you thought that this was all your fault.

Leia didn’t say much about it at all, but you knew it bothered her a lot to essentially have Anakin go missing— and to see her brother suffer for it, too.

Anakin himself hadn’t reached out to you since you had left his house that night, on foot. Very soon after he had come upstairs, Padmé had texted that she was on her way. At that you’d nearly bolted, as you simply couldn’t stay another minute; not that night. As you left, Anakin had been silent, and still.

Since then, there had been no texts, and no calls. No drives by your house, as far as you knew; no nods, or waves, or secret glances. (No wonder you were suddenly so lonely.)

You had thought about sending him something, but you were still afraid. Not afraid that he would hurt you, exactly. You knew he’d never have done what he did intentionally— but, still, the idea that something in him was liable to snap or burst that way again made you feel deeply uneasy.

Somehow even more than that, though, you were afraid of him simply refusing contact with you. Right now, you felt you had just the tiniest bit of control over the situation— if you gave it back to him, and he rejected you, you didn’t know what you would do.

You were ashamed of missing him, but in spite of your fear, you couldn’t stop it.

So, you stayed feeling frozen. All of a sudden, you felt as though you had a bit more insight into why Anakin had been so keen not to do anything at all with his own situation.

You wished, now, that you hadn’t rocked the boat.

The way things were before you’d been (especially) stupid hadn’t been ideal, but you’d been happier, at least. Anakin had been happier, too— and so had his kids. You didn’t know how all of this was affecting Padmé, if at all, but you were not about to ask her. Anyway, you couldn’t imagine her appreciating Anakin’s disappearing act very much, either— even if she was no longer prone to paying him much mind. (Perhaps she had decided a long time ago that she couldn’t afford to— which made you feel nervous.)

You decided, eventually, that you had to do something— you could not feel this way forever, and even rejection would, at least, be closure. You hadn’t enjoyed lying, but hanging was proving to be infinitely worse. With that in your mind:

are you okay? It had been weeks. What else would you have said? You sent it one late night, right after leaving his home. You knew he’d been there.

You sat down on the front steps of your own house after walking, alone and in silence, from his. You waited.

Finally, a very simple, are you?

Butterflies in your stomach again— more like frogs this time, actually. i miss you, you wrote, which both was and was not an answer. It was also stupid... and true, too.

Minutes passed. You got up to go inside. Then,

i’m sorry. You knew that already.

You hesitated this time, but ventured, can we sit?

Another very long pause. You were getting cold. are you sure? Was his eventual response.

no. but i want to sit with you. You really, really did.

twenty minutes. You knew that meant he would come to you.

You sat back down on the steps, put your arms around your knees, and waited for Anakin.

You didn’t really know how you felt.

 

...

 

You climbed into his car quickly, and without saying anything. He began to drive right away. He turned out of the neighbourhood; toward the city. You looked at him, and immediately wished that you hadn’t. He was dressed for work, as usual, but he looked gaunt to you; dehydrated, and hungry. He seemed restless, but also tired; a lot like he had when you’d come to pick him up at the end of his street. Still, you enjoyed taking in the sight of him— he was still himself, after all.

That was why you wished you hadn’t looked so soon. You still didn’t say anything.

“I’m sorry,” was the first thing he finally told you.

“I know you are,” you said quietly.

“Are you okay?” He sounded like he really wanted to know.

Were you? “...No.”

“I’m sorry,” he repeated.

“I know,” you said again.

You were both silent for another while, but by the time you were leaving the offramp that would take you downtown, you couldn’t help but ask him, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

He knew what you meant. “I hadn’t planned on getting so close to you.” That was honest, at least.

“But you did,” you pointed out.

“I know.”

You stopped talking again until you really were in the city. Anakin pulled over into a parking lot; the parking lot with the liquor store that was open late.

“I’ll be right back,” he said.

“Where are you going?” He wasn’t really going to buy a bottle, was he?

“This is hard.”

“Okay.” It was hard. You didn’t say any more as he left the car, and while he was gone, you just stared out the window. There was a bag of garbage, a fence, and a bicycle bound with a chain to a metal post.

When he came back with what you knew was his preferred rum tucked under his arm, he told you, “It’s for later. For me.”

“I get it.” You had no idea what things had been like for him at home recently, because you hadn’t seen him while he’d been home.

“Thanks.” He was relieved; happy you weren’t going to argue.

More silence. It wasn’t as comfortable as it used to be, but it also wasn’t unfamiliar. It wasn’t bad. You shifted in your seat.

“I should have told you,” he admitted finally. “I’m sorry I didn’t.” He turned his head to look at you.

You looked back, seeing his face in full for the first time since entering the car. Yes, it was definitely him. You said, “It hurt for days.”

He sighed. “I thought...”

“What did you think?”

“I thought you were going to kill me,” he answered.

You hadn’t really considered this. Maybe you should have, but you hadn’t known to, then. “What?”

“If you’re there when I fall asleep, it’s fine. If you’re not, I don’t know who you are, and...” He didn’t finish, but he didn’t have to.

“It was my fault,” you said.

“No! It’s not.”

“She warned me, Anakin. Her, and your daughter, too. They both told me not to wake you.” This time you felt it was you who was making an admission.

“They didn’t tell you why?”

“No.”

He shook his head. He began to move his arm to place his hand on your leg, but he stopped himself. “It’s just something else you couldn’t have known. I... should have let you know myself, when we...” He paused, “...got closer.” You knew you were terrible for thinking about how grateful you were that he didn’t sound like he regretted that. He continued, “I... didn’t understand what we were doing. Like I said before, I thought you just...”

Your hand moved, too, but like him, you stopped it— for now. “...I know,” you said, so he wouldn’t have to finish that sentence. You still didn’t feel sorry for him. In spite of everything that was wrong inside his head, you were too impressed by him— charmed by him— to pity him, at least most of the time.

You looked one another in the eye, now. “I missed you, Anakin.”

“I missed you, too,” he answered. He spoke very quietly.

“I don’t want to miss you anymore.” That was foolish and wrong to say, but you meant it. You hated missing Anakin. You knew that the two of you could not evade the reality of what your relationship was forever, but you had done it so far, and surely a bit longer wouldn’t hurt, would it?

You realized that you understood why Padmé did not trust him, and that you should likely stop trusting him for the same reason. That you should remove yourself from the situation (and from their marriage), because you should have had the same response as her— along with a lot more respect.

This was not like you, normally. You had never ignored the difference between right and wrong quite like this for anyone before, but you had been doing it endlessly for Anakin. You had been doing a lot for Anakin.

You considered this as you stared into his eyes for the first time in what should not have, but did, feel like altogether too long. You repeated yourself in a whisper, because the words were still running through your mind, “...I don’t want to miss you anymore.

He took a deep breath. Finally, “I don’t want to miss you, either.”

You let your hand move, now. It moved up, until it was touching his face. He covered it with his own; the one you could feel his warmth through. He finally did put the other one on your leg, and you felt relief wash through you at its thin, rigid familiarity.

You sat this way for a while, and then you said, “I had a chance to stop doing something I know I shouldn’t do.”

“You don’t have to do this. Especially now.” He stroked your hand with his thumb; squeezed your leg gently with black leather and matte steel.

You just repeated, “I don’t want to miss you anymore.”

He leaned in to kiss you, then. He went more carefully, slowly, and tentatively than he ever had before. You leaned into him, too, and soon you were connecting in a way that you had become very used to. You let your tongues mingle a while; when you pulled away, you could see him blink something out of his eyes. You understood, because you felt just the same.

You rested your forehead on his; your noses nestled beside one another. You went quiet again, but even without words, you knew that you were now committing a new transgression. It was worse than the first time, when you had lied about Anakin dropping you off at home, and it was worse than any time you’d reached down between his legs to give yourself fulfillment.

More than Anakin’s marriage; more than the woman (and children) who had trusted you and welcomed you into their lives and home, you were now betraying yourself.

You knew that as much as you loved to be with him, you might not always be safe with him. His wife had realized that long ago, evidently, and had seemed to have taken every precaution against the danger he could pose.

You realized, now, that your drive to be with him was too strong for you to make a similarly wise decision.

Guilt and fear surged inside you, but so too did affection and excitement. You moved to kiss Anakin some more; he moved his hand away from yours to touch your hair, and so you slid your own down the firm, familiar landscape of his body. Eventually, it reached his leg, and you squeezed him reassuringly.

It felt wonderful and terrible to have him back.

Chapter Text

You hadn’t really planned on this at all, but your plans had been blowing up on you a lot lately. You looked to the side; Anakin was next to you, on that bench at the kids’ school playground. It was later that same night, very cool outside, and quiet. You sat close to one another.

“More?”

“Please,” you answered. You had not done this for several weeks now, and you hadn’t realized quite how much of a tolerance to Anakin’s liquor you’d built up, until you had lost some of it. You were already feeling fuzzy (and warmer than you really were) but you didn’t care right now. He passed the bottle back to you; you drank some, and held it loosely in your lap.

“I’m still sorry,” he said.

“I know.” You smiled, this time. You shouldn’t have. Then, you looked at him again. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For coming to get me,” you said. You weren’t considering your words as carefully now, so you continued, “I needed to have you back.”

You felt him tense up a bit at this. His thinking was not as fuzzy as yours was, yet. He didn’t answer right away; when he finally did, he just said, “I needed you back, too.”

“I’m sorry.” You were sorry— if it hadn’t been for you, you would not have gone so long without seeing each other.

“Stop being sorry.” He sounded annoyed for a second. “It’s me,” he finished more quietly. Then, he reached over and took the bottle hanging in your hands; had another drink.

You thought, as much as you could think. “Have you ever... I don’t know. Talked to anyone about it...?”

He laughed his ‘that’s stupid’ laugh, and interrupted you. “Lots. I’m not exactly proud of it, but this is about as good as I get.” He held the bottle between his legs a minute to reach under his jacket. He pulled out his cigarettes, and plucked one from the package. You watched his face glow in the tiny flame of his lighter as he ignited it. After putting the package and the lighter away, he continued, “It was a lot worse , before.” He had told you that. “I tried for a long time, and it only ever got so much better.” He shrugged; then, another drink before passing it back to you.

You drank again, too. Why not try harder? That was somewhat naive. You didn’t say it. Instead, “How much worse was it?”

“Enough that I’ll never earn back her trust— ever. I’ll always love her, but it is what it is, now. I blew it. I get to see my kids this way, at least.” He sighed; looked up. “I love them, too.” You knew that very well.

It stung a bit to be reminded that he loved his wife, but he was supposed to love her, you thought to yourself. You paused for a minute. “What did you do, Anakin?”

He didn’t answer or look at you for a few drawn-out moments. Finally, eyes still fixed upward, he answered, “Same thing I did to you.” A deep, smoky breath. “She was pregnant, though. With the twins. They almost— well, she...” He stopped and shook his head. He settled on, “She wasn’t there when I went to sleep,” instead of recounting the aftermath of it.

You didn’t know what to say to that.

No wonder she didn’t trust him.

“Fuck.” Usually he would have been the one to say that, but this time it was you.

“Told you. Piece of shit.” He smiled sadly and took the bottle again.

“No, you didn’t mean to—”

“It doesn’t matter what I meant. She never trusted me again, after that— no matter who I talked to, or what I did. The kids were a surprise, though, so I guess she felt...” It hurt him to finish, but he did, “...stuck, after that.”

So you asked, “What do you do now?”

“What?”

“To feel better.”

Another shrug, and he stubbed out his cigarette on the bench before letting the butt fall underneath. “Drink. Hit things.” He chuckled as though that were supposed to be a joke, but it wasn’t funny to you. His tone turned a bit more serious again when he realized his humour hadn’t quite landed, and he added, “Lately, I do this.”

“What’s ‘this’?”

He smiled and leaned down to say into your ear, “Sit with you.”

You smiled, too, and with a sidelong glance, caught his eye with yours. You knew there was more to this; you knew he wasn’t telling you everything he should be telling you. You were more acutely aware of his brokenness, now, than ever before. It wasn’t your place, however, to advise him on how to deal with things— it wasn’t even your place to be with him.

You didn’t have a leg to stand on, in any argument you might have with him about this— or anything else. It wasn’t your job to fix him, especially if he didn’t want that.

All you could do was be with him or not, and you’d already decided to stick around.

At a bit of a loss for what to say, you chose to just be honest. “You can always sit with me.”

“Thank you,” in a way that told you he really meant it.

You were quiet for a while after that, as the two of you often were. You both drank; he smoked, and when he could tell it had gotten too cold for you, he took off his jacket— that black blazer he wore for work— and placed it carefully over your shoulders. He didn’t ask first, but you wouldn’t have wanted him to, anyway.

You loved when he acted like movie-man for you; that nonexistent fantasy of yours that he happened to resemble so closely. In spite of himself, he was very romantic.

You closed your eyes briefly and breathed in the scents of cologne and smoke and him. You wiggled your shoulders in his jacket; it was far too big for you. You thought about how it felt to wrap your arms around him, and realized how long it had been since the two of you were that close. You thought about how small he sometimes made you feel, but how you didn’t mind it.

You didn’t think about anything else— right now, you couldn’t imagine him being anything other than the perfect (married) gentleman.

You nearly went unconscious, there, leaning against him, but he roused you. “Hey, don’t fall asleep— you’ll freeze.” He jostled your shoulder. “I can’t drive, but I’m going to walk you home, now. Okay?” He sounded so kind.

“Mmm. Okay,” you confirmed. You had become far too relaxed.

He stood before you did; picked up the bottle, and shook it. There was enough left that he wasn’t going to finish it. He tucked it under his right arm, and extended his left out to you. You took it, and he pulled you up effortlessly. You clutched his jacket around your body as you steadied yourself; he wrapped his arm around you protectively.

Once you were balanced on your feet, you started to walk. You were slow and deliberate; you’d had far too much to drink without realizing it. It was getting colder, and he was only wearing his thin, white office shirt— but he was patient as he guided you down the street.

Eventually, you came to the front of your house. He must have had a bit too much himself, because instead of stopping on the sidewalk, he turned you and walked you all the way up to your front step. You didn’t think much of it then.

You turned to face each other. He looked down at you, and smiled. “Guess I have to let you off, here.”

You giggled, for some reason. “I guess.”

“See you again soon?” He was definitely tipsy, just not as much as you.

“As soon as I can!” You grinned as you said this. Stupid. Drunk.

Without looking around, and apparently without thinking, he leaned down to kiss you goodbye.

You watched him for a moment as he turned to walk away, and then you finally went inside the house. Even though you now used both hands to pull it closely to your chest, you didn’t really register that you were still wearing his jacket.

 

...

 

“This isn’t really your style, sis.” Your brother picked up Anakin’s jacket from the back of your desk chair as he stood in the doorway to your bedroom.

“Duh. It’s not mine.” You had your back to him; you were filling your bag with the books you’d need that day. You had a headache.

“You came home late last night.”

“I sure did.”

“That old guy dropped you off again, hm?” You could hear the cheeky smile on his face without looking.

You hesitated, then grumbled, “Yes.” You were glad your brother did not know the Amidala-Skywalker family.

His voice went a bit softer and he asked, “Is he nice to you?”

You sighed. “Yes. He’s nice.”

More seriously, “Guys don’t change because they get older, you know. They’re still guys.”

You sighed. “I know.”

“Don’t let him hurt you, okay?”

Why wouldn’t he just shut up? “I won’t,” you lied.

“Okay.” Your brother turned to leave. Before he did, though, he stuck his head back into your room one more time. “...He’s not married, is he?”

Ugh. “No! Jeez! Can you go, now?” You felt and sounded exasperated.

He put his hands up. “Okay! Okay!” As he walked down the stairs to the kitchen, though, he called back up at you, “Just trying to keep you decent!”

Not your job, and besides, you suck at it, you thought.

“Thanks!” is what you yelled back sarcastically instead.

 

...

 

That same day, you picked up Luke and Leia from school, on foot. They had run up ahead of you, but you were close to their house, and you could hear them shouting and laughing as they played in the leaves. Once they were on their lawn, you stood at the edge of the grass and watched them, thoroughly entertained. You dropped your bag beside you on the ground, because you didn’t feel like carrying it anymore.

“Haha! Here!” Luke shouted at Leia as he grabbed her backpack from her, opened it, and stuck an enormous handful of leaves inside.

“Gross! Luke, they’re wet!” Leia made a face and tried to pull as many of them as she could off of her things.

“Your turn!” Luke ran up to you— he was so quick— and grabbed your bag, too. Before you could stop him, he had shoved a handful of leaves inside of it, just as he had his sister’s.

They were wet. “Thanks, Luke...”

He dropped your bag back on the ground and ran around to the back of the house. You sighed and shook your head at him. You almost didn’t notice Leia pick up your bag to try to get the leaves out for you— and you didn’t have time to stop her from pulling her father’s balled-up jacket out by accident along with them.

It fell to the ground, and unravelled about half-way. Leia picked it up.

“What’s— huh?” She looked at it. She knew it wasn’t yours, so she turned it over and examined it. Then, she looked up at you. “Is this my dad’s?”

You should have lied; might have gotten away with it, but fear gripped you for a tiny moment... enough of a moment that all you could manage was, “Yes.”

“What are—”

“Your mom wanted it dry-cleaned, but she didn’t have time. I was going to drop it off for her after dinner,” you interrupted. That wasn’t such a terrible story— you hoped you hadn’t said all of that too fast.

“Oh.” She paused. “Okay. Here.” She passed it back up to you, and made that face again at the wet leaves as she picked up her bag. Then, she ran off after her brother behind the house, still shouting at him.

You breathed in very deeply; took a long time letting the air back out of your lungs. That had felt very close— but hopefully, Leia would accept your story without thinking about how silly it sounded. She was smart, but not even ten years old yet.

You had loved waking up with his jacket around your shoulders that morning, but you now deeply regretted forgetting to take it off last night.

You started to search your brain for an activity— any activity— that would be fun and distracting enough for the kids that Leia would forget about her dad’s blazer.

Perhaps she would not feel the need to mention anything about it to her brother— or her mother— that way.

Chapter Text

You were finishing the dishes that you and the kids had left from dinner, more than a week after the blazer incident. (Nothing had come of it, at least not yet, and you hoped desperately that it would stay that way.) You were distracted, and you knew that Anakin was home, because he had been there when you arrived.

He had also spent most of the evening upstairs with you.

Watching him with Luke and Leia had been a treat, and they had been thrilled. He showed them both some of his Kendo moves, and as he did, you found just how much you loved to admire his stance when he held his shinai... along with the way he moved when he would swing it impressively with just his left arm.

To your surprise, he even joined you to eat— which you rarely saw him do, particularly with his family. You tried to gauge his mood, but it was difficult to tell if he was acting this way for his kids, or if there was something else making him come out of himself more than usual: After all, you’d only seen him once, so far, in more than a month.

Either way, you enjoyed it and very much appreciated it. Your evaluation of Anakin as a nice person to be around was proving absolutely correct, and you hoped he saw the same thing in himself, at least that day.

He really had been especially fantastic, and you’d definitely noticed— noticed so much that you didn’t even think about the reason it had been so long since you’d seen him, before the other day.

You let him have the job of putting Luke and Leia to bed; he had an easier time with it than you did. Again, there was no yelling or arguing, and by the time you had begun to dry the plates from your meal, it was quiet upstairs. You wondered how Anakin would feel when he came down— you hadn’t seen him since he had walked you home, and you also hadn’t expected him to be quite so happy and engaged that day. You hadn’t even discussed his jacket.

You figured he would have been upset that Padmé had still called you on a day that he didn’t have to work— but he hadn’t seemed angry about you being here. Maybe she’d been more honest with him this time— or, maybe he’d just remembered her honesty. You couldn’t know.

You were reaching up into a cupboard to place a glass on a shelf, when you suddenly felt a pair of hands— one warm flesh; one cool, smooth leather— take you around the waist. You jumped a bit, and nearly dropped the glass before registering what was going on. You let out a laugh; then, “Anakin!” You had been getting more used to exclaiming his name in this way, prior to the long break you had recently taken from seeing each other. It felt nice to shout it happily again.

“What?” You could hear the smile on him as he asked this.

“We’re in the kitchen,” you said as you leaned back into him anyway.

“Alone in the kitchen,” he corrected, as he traced the curve of your hip with his glove and gripped you firmly with his other hand.

“What’s gotten into you?” You didn’t move away, but you couldn’t help but ask. This— and his behaviour all evening— had been somehow both like and unlike him, all at the same time.

“What do you mean?” He rested his chin on the top of your head; continued to hold your waist and stroke near your hip.

You hesitated. “You seem...”

“Hm?”

“Well, you seem... happy.”

“I’m always happy,” he deadpanned.

You couldn’t help but laugh at that one; he chuckled, too. You then said, “No, I mean it. I thought you’d be upset that I came by tonight.”

His sensuous hold on you turned into a warm embrace as he pressed his front against your back and wrapped you up in his arms. Quietly and more seriously, “No. I’m not upset.”

“Then what...?” Your voice trailed off into silence.

He waited; waited a long time, just holding you. You let him. Finally, he answered in a near-whisper, “...I missed you. I’m just happy to have you back.”

You felt your face flush. “Oh.” You really hadn’t expected him to say something like that. However, you were happy to have him, back, too. “It’s nice not to miss you anymore,” you said.

He moved gently and slowly to turn you so that you were facing him. You looked up at him. What had gotten into him? He was smiling, but not his sarcastic little smirk, or his tipsy, lopsided grin. It was closer to the kind of smile he’d had while he was teaching the kids how to hold hold his swords, but it wasn’t quite that, either.

“It is nice,” he confirmed, and he leaned down to kiss you; the kiss was soft, long, and deep. You leaned into him, because what else would you have done?

Once he pulled back from you, you asked him gently as you looked into his eyes for hints, “Is that all?”

He sighed, and just pulled you close to him. Your head rested on his chest. No, you thought— this much open affection from him was unusual. He was acting strangely in his lack of reservedness, tonight.

There was no other way to put it: He was typically more appropriately guilty when he expressed his affection for you. Something was missing, here.

“Anakin?”

You could feel the words reverberate through his chest with your ear, “Come downstairs.”

You smiled; your butterflies (they weren’t frogs anymore) all took off at once. “Okay,” you said as you followed him. It was just like the first time, as you gently clasped a set of leather-clad mechanical fingers.

You didn’t speak as you descended the stairs, walked down the short hallway, or opened the door to his room. He led you to his bed, sat you on the edge of it, and leaned down to kiss you again. You reciprocated eagerly, but when he pressed on your shoulder prompting you to lie back, you broke away from him as gently as you could.

As your head landed just below his pillow, he put the arm he’d been born with beside it and lowered himself down carefully to meet you. You looked up as he lay atop you and asked him carefully, “What’s this about?”

He laughed, and smiled in a way that was beautiful, but also sad. “It’s nothing.”

“It seems like something,” you said quietly. You also wanted to say, this isn’t quite you, but you didn’t.

He sighed again, and leaned down to kiss your neck. Maybe you should have felt strange about letting him, but you didn’t. You placed your arms around him; pressed into the lithe flesh of his back with your fingertips through the fabric of his shirt.

“Please, Anakin?” You wanted him to tell you what was happening in his mind. You couldn’t quite figure it out.

He lifted his head; looked at you. He seemed almost annoyed, but you could tell he wasn’t, really. “Do I have to tell you everything?”

Incredulous, you answered, “You barely tell me anything!”

He knew that was true, so he sighed again. He was quiet for a moment, but he didn’t go back to kissing you just yet. After much hesitation, he said to you almost too quietly for you to hear, “I love you.”

“What?”

A bit more loudly, but he sounded nearly embarrassed, “I love you.

The butterflies in your stomach froze and seemed to fall, dead, into a heavy pile. “Anakin, I...”

“You made me say it,” he interrupted. “You don’t have—”

It was you who cut him off now to tell him, “I love you too.”

“Don’t say that.”

“You said it first.”

“I meant it.”

You were a bit offended at what that implied about you. “So did I.”

He smiled, now, but he said, “Shit.”

You laughed, and kissed him. Shit, was right.

You closed your eyes; he ran his glove down the side of your body languidly as he pushed his tongue into your mouth.

You didn’t talk anymore after that, but you communicated effectively anyhow. He was as attentive and skillful as he normally was. However, as he moved up and down your body with his fingers and his mouth, he seemed more present to you, now, than he had any other time before.

You wondered what had precipitated this change in his demeanour as the two of you shed your clothes and strengthened your connection. You wondered what had made him say he loved you.

It wasn’t as though you didn’t feel the same— you hadn’t admitted it, even to yourself, but you had felt that way for a while, now.

It was the reason you had been compromising yourself, and what you thought was right, for so long. It was the reason you ignored your conscience to accompany him into the city; put aside your principles to sit and drink with him. It was why you couldn’t keep away from him, even when you had realized the depth of his suffering, and that it could be dangerous to you.

It was the reason you moved with him so eagerly that night, explored him so hungrily, and let him do the same to you in return. You took your time with one another more than you ever had before; fulfilling fantasies, and satisfying desires.

Neither of your phones rang or beeped or buzzed, to your enormously good fortune... but if they had, you likely wouldn’t have heard them.

Eventually, you lay beside him with heavy eyes. You were exhausted, but in a way that didn’t bother you. He was laying on his left arm, so he lifted the right and placed it gently on your hip. He gripped it with the fingers softly.

Nearly asleep, you asked, “How does that work?” You had wanted to know for a while; you never seemed to have enough time with him— to do, say, or ask everything you felt compelled toward.

“Hm? Oh.” He smiled, raised it, and ‘cupped’ your face with a uniquely unyielding palm. He dragged the thumb across your cheek slowly; you gasped at the sensation. This made him chuckle; then he answered you, “Electrodes.”

“Huh?”

“Inside the sleeve— there are electrodes. They can sense when I move what’s left of the muscles in my arm; send signals down into the wrist, and to the fingers.” He smiled to himself again, the same way as when he told you he’d designed it. “It was expensive; hard to make it perfect— but I like it.”

You smiled back, sleepily. “I like it, too.”

He laughed again. “I’m glad.” He moved in closely, then, and kissed your forehead. Reluctantly, “You can’t fall asleep, you know.”

“I know,” even though you were almost already out.

He sighed, but his expression was still a happy one. “Rest for a just a bit. I’m going to come back and get you soon, okay?”

You closed your eyes; answered, “Okay,” and drifted off into a brief, light sleep as you felt him get up; listened to him exit the room.

You dreamed vividly, but in fragments, as your mind slipped between states of consciousness. The dreams were about what it was like to wake up with Anakin.

You’d only managed to do it once in actuality, but in your short and fractured visions here in his small bed, greeting the day curled up next to him seemed to you like something you did every morning.

Chapter Text

“Hey. Wake up.”

You opened your eyes to see Anakin sitting on the bed with his hand on your shoulder. “Hey,” you said back sleepily.

“My wife is on her way. She wants to drop you off at home.”

“Oh. I can take a taxi,” you offered, as you began to sit up.

“I suggested that, too.” He paused. “She said she wanted to do it.”

“Oh. Okay.” You stood, now, and started to dress. “What do you think that—?”

“I don’t know what it means,” he said. He squeezed your hand in his, then got up. His cigarettes and lighter were already on his trunk, beside his ashtray. As he started his ritual of opening the window, sitting, and lighting one, he started to add, “Please don’t—”

You already knew, so you interrupted, “Anakin, I wouldn’t.”

“Thank you. It’s not...” He sighed, and looked down at the floor. He was quiet for a minute, but then he looked up at you, and you noticed the glimmer of tears as he finished, “...I can’t lose my kids. Okay?”

“I know you can’t.”

“Otherwise...” He let his voice trail off, then sucked hard on the filter of his cigarette; rubbed his eyes.

“What?”

“This isn’t the time,” he told you. “Go upstairs and get ready— she’ll be here soon. If she asks you anything, just tell her you don’t know what she’s talking about.”

“Anakin—”

“Do you understand?” He gave you a very hard look.

“Yes. I understand.”

“Good.” His gaze softened; then, “Thank you.” He turned his head and looked at (through?) the wall, now.

You walked over to him; hugged him briefly. He sighed as he leaned into you, which you were grateful for. Then, you turned and exited the room— went back upstairs to wait for Padmé.

Your heart was racing.

 

...

 

“How were the kids?” She'd been quiet a little while.

“Oh,” you said, in a voice you knew sounded too faraway. “They were perfect.”

Padmé was in the driver’s seat. You were beside her, and she was looking ahead at the road. She drove slowly. “And my husband?”

“Huh?”

“How was he?” She didn’t look at you, but you tried to read her. Her face was pleasant, but you couldn’t decode it.

“Uh— he was fine. He showed the kids his Kendo stuff.”

“That’s nice.” She was quiet for several moments, and so were you. “Is his jacket ready, yet?”

The pile of dead butterflies in your stomach now seemed to turn into a brick of lead. “His what?”

“His jacket. Is it finished being cleaned?” Still very calm; still looking forward. Perhaps a bit less pleasant. When you were silent for too long, she added almost as if to remind you, “You told Leia you were taking it to be cleaned.”

“Oh, that.” The car stopped, now, in front of your house. You couldn’t think of anything to say.

“I thought I could trust you, you know,” she said quietly.

You considered what Anakin had told you, but also that he had likely not anticipated this. Very carefully, you began (foolishly; too casually) with his name, “Anakin...”

“...‘Anakin’...” She nearly hissed this; you realized she hadn’t ever told you his actual name. You’d heard her call him ‘Ani’— and that had been it.

You knew, now— if only by her tone— that there was no saving you. You went silent.

“What about him?” She prompted you— coolly, now. She still didn’t look at you.

“He...” you started, but got stuck. You reminded yourself, again, of what Anakin had said, but you also knew that you had lost any semblance you may once have had of plausible deniability.

“He what?” She was still calm, but obviously getting quickly fed up with you.

You took a very deep breath, and finally said, “You don’t trust him.”

She laughed at this. “Did he tell you why?”

Your hand almost shot up to your own neck involuntarily, but you stopped it.

“Did he?” She repeated.

“Y-yes...”

“Then you know how much I’ve given up to keep him with his family.”

You truly did not know what to say. You had never had a conversation like this one before. Carefully and slowly, you pointed out, “He... lives in the basement.”

“Yes. He does.” She finally removed her hands from the steering wheel and turned to look at you. She was small— and lovely— but in that moment, she terrified you.

Very, very quietly, you said— for Anakin— “I think you need to trust him more.”

“Did he tell you that?”

“No. But it hurts him—”

She interrupted you with another laugh; sharp, mocking. “It hurts him?”

You looked down at your lap because you couldn’t look at her anymore. You hadn’t admitted a thing, and yet you knew that you had said more than enough. You hoped that Anakin understood, later: She had already known. You wished that you had brought up that stupid jacket with him while you’d had the time.

Since you were still silent, she said to you, “You don’t know what you’re getting into, playing around with him.” This nearly made you laugh, because she clearly did not understand quite how well you did, in fact, know.

However, you didn’t laugh. Instead, “I’m not play—”

“I’m not stupid,” she interrupted.

“I know...”

She sighed, threw up her hands, and looked away from you. She stared back out the windshield. Decidedly, she said, “You’re not getting what you think you’re getting.”

“I’m not trying—”

“Just go.” She was finished.

“What?”

“Go— go inside. Go home. Don’t come back to my house, either.”

“What about—”

“I’ll find somebody else.”

You were starting to tremble by now; before you got out of the car, you started, “Please don’t—”

“Please don’t what?”

“...He’s always trying his best,” you settled on, instead of don’t hurt him. It wasn’t any better.

“Go,” she reiterated, as she shook her head.

So, you went. You exited the vehicle, and turned to walk up the pathway. As you did, you heard her call to you from across the car, out the open passenger’s side window, “You’re not equipped to handle him— so don’t try!”

You didn’t answer, and you didn’t look back. It sounded like both a threat and a warning.

You just kept walking, head down, until you were in your room. Once there, you sat on your bed and tried to breathe. It was difficult.

Then, you realized that you had very little time to warn Anakin of what was likely going to happen to him in a few minutes’ time, and with a shaking hand, you pulled out your phone.

Trembling fingers typed, i’m so sorry, she already knew. Then, to put that into context, your jacket.

what?
goddamn it.

You replied, i’m sorry, because there was nothing else to say.

You didn’t hear from Anakin again that night.

 

...

 

“What’s going on?” Your phone had rang, Anakin’s name had blinked across the screen, and you had run out of your lecture at school as quickly as you could without knocking over furniture. You hadn’t heard from him for two full days by that point, and you were in the hall, now, listening intently for his voice.

“It wasn’t your fault,” was the first thing he told you. You thought first about how kind that was; then, that he didn’t sound very good— maybe a bit drunk; maybe just exhausted. Wherever he was calling you from, it was very quiet there.

“It was my fault. I should have—”

He laughed flatly, and cut you off. “—You should have stayed away from me.”

“I couldn’t.”

He didn’t say anything to that, but you could hear him blow a lungful of smoke out of his mouth.

“Where are you? Did she...?” You hoped that he was at home, sitting under his window.

“Yeah... I’m not at the house. I’m going to text you an address. ...Okay?” He sounded nervous, for a very brief moment.

“Okay.”

You hung up, leaned against the wall, and waited for him to tell you where to find him. The message came quickly.

You felt both panicked and relieved, as you exited the building immediately to get into your family’s van.

You could get notes for the rest of the lecture from somebody later.

 

...

 

“Skywalker?”

“Yes. Anakin.”

The woman behind the desk at the hotel squinted as she scrolled through a list on a computer screen. “Room 213. Do you want me to call up first?”

“No. He knows I’m coming.”

She gave you a look. She didn’t know it wasn’t what she was thinking. “Alright.” She pointed at a staircase in the far corner of the lobby. “Up there, and to the left.”

“Thanks.”

As you ascended, you registered how very different this was from any other time you’d gone to see him, and it made you anxious.

You watched carpeted stairs— burgundy; ugly— turn into carpeted hallway. You looked up at the doors now surrounding you; turned left, as you’d been instructed. You scanned the side with the odd-numbers.

209, 211, 213... 213.

You stopped; took as deep a breath as you could manage given your anxiety— and the cigarette smoke permeating the corridor. Whatever he was going through in there, you felt that it was your fault.

You wanted to be there for him; you wanted to be there with him, too. Firstly because you loved him, as there was no escaping that, now. You also wanted to be there, however, because if it hadn’t been for you, his life would have remained the way it was: Sad, and comfortable— or at least familiar.

It would have stayed the same for him, and you knew how much he valued that. You hadn’t meant to take it away.

You stood up straight, raised your hand, and knocked on what you knew was Anakin’s door— it was not the first time you’d knocked on a door of his, of course, but you had never felt quite so apprehensive about it before... and that was saying a lot.

You heard slow, deliberate footsteps approaching, and you prepared yourself as best you knew how to take responsibility for at least some of your actions.

Chapter Text

Anakin didn’t say anything as he opened the door— just stepped aside for you to enter.

You did, and found that you could barely breathe through the thick haze hanging in the room. It was dark, with the lights out and the curtains drawn. No television or radio provided noise; all you could hear was the gentle buzz of the baseboard heaters. Through the smoke, you detected the vague scent of burnt dust: The heat had only just been turned on to compensate for the chill that had set in outdoors.

Scanning the room, you noticed the big, green trunk from Anakin’s basement pushed into a corner— closed, as you’d always seen it. The only other thing that belonged to him that you could see was a large, black trash bag. It was open, and filled with clothes.

Everything else was all the hotel’s: A big, old-looking television atop a desk, which had a wooden chair tucked (uselessly) in front of it, an uncomfortable-looking armchair perched under the window at the far side of the room, and two fully-made beds with nightstands. You could tell which bed Anakin had been using, because there was a nearly-full ashtray next to a nearly-empty bottle on its nightstand. He hadn’t untucked the blanket or sheets, but it was clear that he had been laying on them.

After surveying the scene, you looked over at Anakin. He looked tired, and both he and his clothes seemed rumpled. He was dressed in those same black sweat pants with a t-shirt to match, but his right arm ended just before the sleeve did; he wasn’t wearing his prosthesis. Even his hair, which normally was a bit out-of-place, was both sticking to his face and falling across it in turns.

It occurred to you, very briefly, that you might offer to trim it for him— but now was not the time.

He looked back at you.

You had no clue as to what he might be thinking, so you began with what you felt was a very appropriate, “I’m sorry.”

He shook his head, and sat down heavily on the bed he’d been using. After looking at the floor a moment, he looked up at you. He grinned.

He was definitely drunk.

“It wasn’t just the jacket,” he said. With a laugh, he added, “Even though that didn’t help.”

“What?” You were confused— a little by his demeanour, and a lot by what else his wife might have known.

He laughed again. “Leia.”

“What?”

“She wasn’t asleep,” he shrugged.

“You mean the last time I—?”

“When I came to grab you in the kitchen. She heard you call my name, and...” He chuckled darkly; grabbed his bottle. “...She thought I was hurting you.” He drank, then, and held the bottle out to you. You took it, but you didn’t drink. He added quietly, “She could tell I wasn’t hurting you, once she saw,” he finished, in reference to that wonderfully passionate kiss he’d given you. You lamented that you had not seen her, but you hadn’t been looking.

“Why would she think...?”

“She knows about me.” He hadn’t wanted to let you finish asking the question. “She’s known a long time, because she asked her mother. She knew something... wasn’t right. Luke doesn’t know, because he trusts me. He’s so fucking sweet...”

His hand had started to shake, and he had begun to raise his voice, so you tried to tactfully cut him off with his name, “Anakin...”

”What?

“I’m sorry.”

He sighed, now, and settled a bit. “It wasn’t your fault,” just like on the phone.

Your stomach was in knots. “You were right. I should have stayed away,” you told him.

He retorted, “I didn’t stay away from you, either.”

You sat down on the bed next to him, slowly. You were both right.

You asked, “What now, then?” You held his bottle loosely in your lap.

“Well, if you’re not going to drink that, then pass it back.” He was nice about it, but he wasn’t joking.

“Oh. Okay.” You did. “Is that all?”

He took a sip; set the bottle down on the nightstand. Then, he opened the drawer, and fished out his cigarettes; lit one. “For now? Yeah, that’s it.”

You put your hand on his back. “Alright. Is it okay if I keep sitting here, then?” You couldn’t imagine why you’d want to right now, really, other than that you did love him.

He looked up from his lap at you, and smiled. It was that perfect, genuine one— the smile from the other night. You didn’t know how he had that in him right now, but it was beautiful. You were grateful, even though you hadn’t needed a second reason to stay.

“Of course you can sit with me,” he said. He leaned close to you; spoke into your ear, “Why do you think I called you?”

You smiled, at this, and snaked your hand around his waist, drawing him into a hug from the side. You were on his right, so he squeezed you back with the surprisingly strong remnant of his arm, and you sighed, momentarily content. You pressed your face into the side of his chest, and thought for a while.

Finally, “I still love you, you know.” You said it apologetically, and he noticed.

He laughed softly and answered, “It’s okay— I still love you, too.”

“Anakin?”

“Hm?”

“...Can I open the window? Just for a few minutes?” You suspected you’d never had so much nicotine in your bloodstream all at once; your head was starting to spin.

He laughed again, but this time loudly and heartily. “Yes— yes, go ahead. I’m sorry— I forget.”

You smiled and laughed a bit yourself as you got up to open the shades a little, and let in some air. “I can’t sit with you anymore if you kill me, you know.”

He was quiet for a minute, and you realized just how terrible that had sounded, given your shared history. You turned quickly to apologize, but found that Anakin had set his cigarette down in the ashtray and was holding his head in his hand— laughing, uncontrollably, now.

You laughed some more, too, and made your way back over to your spot beside him. With a little more light on him, and that smile, he looked almost like he was okay.

You placed your arm around him again, and you laughed together for a while as the air from the open window drew the smoke and dust into tiny tornadoes. They swirled around the room, and the two of you, too.

By the time you had both calmed down, you noticed it was approaching twilight, and the breeze was colder than it had felt not long ago. He looked up, still smiling. “I fucking hate winter, you know.”

“I think it’s pretty,” you said. “I like the snow.”

“It’s dark, and cold,” he answered.

“I’ll close the window, now,” you offered.

“No, leave it.” He hesitated. “I want you to stay.”

“Stay for how long?”

He shrugged. “As long as you want to.”

This almost made you laugh again. You wanted to stay all night. You’re eighteen, why can’t you? The thought floated through your mind. Because your family will worry, and you have school tomorrow. Those things were both true. You can text them— and if you drove here from school, then you can drive back the other way in the morning, too. Also both true.

You looked up at Anakin, considered for the briefest of moments, and then said to him, “I’ll send a text that I’m going to stay with a friend tonight. Okay?”

He looked relieved, but that might have been the hopefulness of your imagination. “Thank you,” was what he answered with.

His cigarette had gone out by itself in the astray, by now, and so he turned his body to face you, and wrapped his arm around you.

You would sit like this for a long time, until you both started to feel tired.

 

...

 

Much, much later, you woke up to find that you had, at some point, fallen asleep draped over Anakin’s chest. You looked out the window, which was still open just a crack, to see that it was very dark outside. The air in the room had cleared, but now it felt too cold.

As you sat up, you heard him groan. Nervousness overtook you for a moment, and you felt guilty for it. His eyes opened, but he remained laying on his back. You looked at the alarm clock on the other bed’s nightstand, and before he could ask, you told him, “It’s a little after midnight.”

“Oh... Thanks.” He almost seemed to miss asking. You’d let him next time, you thought; then chided yourself for thinking about ‘next time’.

“I didn’t think I’d fall asleep,” you said as he sat up, too. You were both still fully dressed.

He stretched, rolled his shoulders, and answered, “Neither did I.”

You both sat silently, after that, as you woke up. With nothing to immediately panic about, and no need to jump up to start to get ready, you weren’t quite sure what to say or do. This made you smile, and you looked at Anakin.

He rubbed his eyes with his hand, and then he focused his vision on you. “Good morning, then.”

“It’s barely morning,” you pointed out.

He shrugged. “I’m not going to work tomorrow.”

“I get it,” you said.

More silence; then, Anakin got up. “I’m going to grab a shower,” he ventured.

As he approached the door to the small bathroom near the entrance, he grasped the hem of his shirt in his hand and pulled it smoothly up over his head and arms. His back was facing you, and so you stared unreservedly at the sinewy expanse he had revealed.

You must have made a noise, because he chuckled and turned to face you— which certainly didn’t help, because as he did, your face flushed. He asked, playfully, “What?”

You smiled, “Shut up.”

He smirked, now. “That’s not nice. Do you want me to invite you to come along, or not?”

You stood up from the bed and walked up to him; placed your hands on his chest. You were nervous, for some reason— perhaps the jarring difference of the setting— but also excited. “I’m sorry,” you giggled. “Can I come, too?”

He leaned down as he put his hand on your hip and whispered, “Of course.”

You followed him into the bathroom, then, and shed your own clothes as he turned on the water. He moved to let you in first, and then he followed you as he stepped out of his pants.

Steamy water dampened your hair, warmed your body, and fell in streams down your back as Anakin put his hand on the back of your head, and pressed his body against yours. The space was delightfully small, and so you put your arms around him and craned your neck upward to see his face.

He smiled at you, and leaned down for a kiss.

Neither of you had been happy the day before; indeed, you likely would not be happy tomorrow. The reality of his situation and the objective immorality of your connection with him threatened to seep in and disturb you, not unlike the cold air from the window you’d left open.

However... at this moment in time, in the tiny shower in his smoky hotel room, you knew that each of you was perfectly content— and that was enough for now, if only because it had to be.

You ran your hands down that beautiful back you had just been admiring, and relished the familiar sensation of his muscles moving about beneath your fingers. He pushed himself into you a bit harder, until you realized that he had carefully backed you up against the wall.

You thought you knew what he was going to do, but he surprised you when he removed his hand from the back of your head and slid it down your chest and stomach, which were now warm and wet.

After stroking you for a time, he carefully lowered himself to his knee, and grasped your hip in his hand.

The wind, the cold, and the concerns of the outside world seemed to vanish for a while, then, as you did what you loved to do more than anything with Anakin.

You’d never been able to do it so freely.

For just a little bit, you hoped you could both simply be happy, and somehow willfully forget what that freedom had cost.

Chapter Text

As you moved through the lobby of the hotel the next morning, your mind was not quite with you.

You’d left Anakin to go to class, after having woken with him a second time in just one day. It had been even nicer than the first. You were satisfied with yourself, because you’d remembered to let him ask you what the clock was saying before you told him. When you had gone, he’d been smoking a cigarette while checking his phone, and brewing too-strong coffee in the room’s tiny percolator. You left him with a kiss, and although he had seemed a little bit distant, he smiled after returning it— and as he watched you go.

You thought about how you had run out of the shower with him last night and jumped underneath the covers of the bed to escape the chill in the room together; thought about how well it had worked. You never did manage to get back up to shut that window, but it hadn’t really mattered to you after that.

You were so absorbed in this recent memory that you nearly didn’t notice the voice at the front desk— it was familiar, and it was asking for Anakin.

“Yes, I would like you to call up first,” it said. Then, “Tell him that it’s his wife— and that she needs to speak with him.” Formal and decisive, and somehow still pleasant-sounding— you looked up to see Padmé, and immediately wished that you hadn’t.

You tried to walk by her quickly with your head down, but she noticed you easily in the emptiness of the large room.

“You’re kidding, right?” As she turned. Her arms were full, but you couldn’t tell what she was bringing him; to you it just looked like bags. The woman at the desk walked into an alcove, presumably to phone up to Anakin, and you felt as alone with his wife, now, as you had in her car.

“I’m...”

“You’ve done enough with him, haven’t you?” Quietly, and calmly, but not kindly.

“He asked me to—”

“I’m here to bring him some things he’ll need to go out with me later this week,” she interrupted. She didn’t seem to care much about what you had to say at this point, understandably. “He’s not welcome in my home, but he’s still my husband. I expect him to act like it. If he doesn’t, I’ll know whose fault it is.” She paused to allow those words to sink in. They did.

You didn’t have anything to say.

She added, “I’m used to not being able to trust anybody.”

You took a deep breath; swallowed at a newly-formed lump in your throat. She shook her head at you, and at your silence.

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” she finally finished, as she walked past you to take the same journey that you had taken last night: Up those ugly stairs to Anakin’s room. She hadn’t let you say a thing.

You felt frozen until her footsteps faded and the fire door at the top of the stairs clicked shut. Once it did, you found your feet, and left the lobby as fast as you could— ignoring the eyes of the woman at the front desk on your back.

Once inside your family’s van, you took very little time starting it and pulling it out of the parking lot. You felt ashamed of yourself all over again; not to mention guilty for apparently having pulled Anakin even farther away from his family than he already had been.

It hadn’t seemed, to you, that it could get much worse for him than being relegated to the basement. You knew, now, that you’d been naive: This was worse, and measurably. A hot shower and some time together under a blanket with you could not make up for what he was losing, here, you told yourself.

On the other hand, he had called you.

Whether he had also called her or not, he had called you— because he had needed you, or wanted you. You knew that didn’t absolve you of responsibility, here, but it did make you feel slightly less culpable.

As when you had begun to lie to Padmé so that you could have more time together with her husband in the first place, you felt conflicted and guilty— but, graciously, not entirely alone.

This was the thought you took solace in as you drove along. After that, you tried to focus more on the day ahead of you than on your night with Anakin, because that night was now quickly disappearing into your rear-view mirror— as it had to.

 

...

 

“Can I ask you something?” You were on the phone, with Anakin, the day after passing Padmé in the lobby. He was still in the same place, but you hadn’t seen him since that awkward morning. You had been thinking about him— of course.

“Depends.”

“Where does your wife need you to go?”

He laughed. “Nowhere. Stupid, fancy thing.”

“Oh, okay.”

“It wouldn’t be good for her career if I didn’t go.” You could practically hear him shrug.

You knew you had no right or reason to be, but you were just a little bit bothered at the image of the two of them smiling and linking arms all evening. You didn’t say so; just, “I get it.”

It must have sounded too flippant, because he sighed and began to apologize, “Look, you know—”

“It’s okay, I didn’t mean—”

“—I can’t just—“

”I get it.” You said this a bit more harshly than you had intended. He fell silent. “Anakin, I’m sorry—”

“It’s fine,” he said. “I’ve gotta go— I’ll talk to you later. ...Okay?”

“Okay.”

He hung up.

 

...

 

‘Later’ ended up being the next day. He had gone to work, and sent you a message upon arriving at his hotel room again. You were at home by then, too. You went to your room to answer him. He’d just sent a greeting; you sent one back.

can you come by?

sure. now?

if you can.

You could. You put on a coat, and grabbed the keys to the van. You didn’t ask, because only your brother was home.

It wasn’t his stupid van, but he stopped you on the way out anyhow.

“Where are you going?”

“Out for a little bit.”

“Out where?”

It really wasn’t his business, so you said abruptly, “Nowhere.”

He laughed. “Old guy?”

“Anakin!” You shouted it, because you were sick of hearing your brother call him that. Even when he was a smoky mess, he hardly seemed old to you.

“What? ...Oh. ‘Anakin’. That’s his name?”

You sighed. “Yes. I’ll be back later, okay?”

“What do I tell mom and dad?”

“Nothing. Okay?”

He looked uncomfortable. “...Okay. Remember what I said, though— about guys.”

You offered a small smile. “I will.”

“Thanks.”

And you left to go see what Anakin needed from you.

 

...

 

You knocked on his door, but he just called for you to come in.

When you entered, you saw him standing with his back to you, wearing perfectly-pressed dark-blue dress pants. He had a crisp, white shirt with a black tie tucked into them; only after a moment did you realize what he actually had on. Atop the bed was that impeccably tailored jacket which went with the pants, and the shiny array of military decorations that had so impressed you the first time you had seen them. His hat was on the desk next to the television.

It was all equally impressive to you now, too, but you had to ask him, “What’s going on?”

He turned to face you; he was clearly irritated. “First, these.” He held out his leather-clad hand and showed you a pair of cufflinks; you took and examined them. You looked up at his face quizzically. He registered your confusion, and said to you a bit more harshly than you were used to, “I can’t fucking put them on! I have to go soon. Could you, please?”

“Oh!” Sometimes he made you feel stupid. It was okay, you should have caught on. It was easy to forget that there was anything he couldn’t do, although he’d have laughed to hear you say it, so you didn’t. “Sure, I’m sorry!”

He held out his wrists for you, and you fastened a shiny, gold link onto each of his shirt cuffs. “Thanks,” he nearly grumbled.

“What’s next?” You asked, smiling. You didn’t mind doing this at all, you thought. He was lovely.

“The stupid buttons on the stupid fucking coat, and then the goddamn medals.”

“Luke wasn’t kidding about you hating this thing, huh?”

He gave you a look. “No, he wasn’t.” He put the jacket on half-way, and you lifted it so that he could slip his prosthetic into it smoothly. It was significantly heavier than a regular blazer. Once it was on, you began to do up the shiny buttons running down the front. Anakin continued, “I can get the ones on the shirt, but these...” He smiled, finally, as he shook his head. He didn’t finish his thought.

“It’s fine,” you said. Before you could stop yourself, you mirrored his wife’s own words, “I think it’s handsome.”

The smile left his face; he sighed.

“I’m sorry,” you said.

“It’s okay. Medals, now? I’m late already.”

“Oh. Sure.” You picked them up off the bed, and he instructed you on the order and method of applying them to his chest. It was a pleasant job.

“Padmé used to do this, every time,” he said absentmindedly.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It was the only time she would let me upstairs, for the most part.”

“All done,” you said. You didn’t know how to reply to his comment. He sounded sad, and so you felt sad for him.

He looked down at your work. “Thanks. Perfect.” He smiled; approving.

This made you smile back. “Have fun, I guess?”

He laughed a bit. “I never do, at these things.” He paused. “I’ll only be a few hours. I should be back before one o’clock.” It was just after eight-thirty, now. “...Do you want to wait for me? Here?”

The butterflies that you thought had died rustled about in the bottom of your stomach. You didn’t want to wait, really, but you had missed him. “...Sure. I wouldn’t mind.”

“Alright. She’s picking me up. I’ll see you later, then?” He grabbed his hat from off the desk, and finished the ensemble by placing it on his head. He’d already combed back his hair. You didn’t say so this time, but he really did look handsome.

You just nodded, and sat down on the edge of his bed. You were a bit tired anyway— you could read for a while, on your phone, and maybe wake up later to Anakin coming in to greet you. You loved seeing him in that uniform anyway, although again, you would try to remember not to tell him.

“Bye, Anakin.”

“Don’t go anywhere, okay?” He touched his hand to the brim of his hat, just as he had the first time you’d seen him wear it.

“I won’t,” you said, as you watched him slip out the door.

And you wouldn’t, except to wander over to the window to watch him get into his wife’s car, and drive off with her in it.

Again, this should never have bothered you, but it did anyway— just a tiny bit.

Chapter Text

“Goodnight.”

Your eyes popped open to the deep, but slightly faraway-sounding timbre of Anakin’s voice. You had fallen asleep in that small, hard armchair by the window, which was open again in spite of the chill. You could hear him clearly: He was outside, and doors to the main lobby were positioned just below his room.

You would have been ashamed to admit it, but you had been watching for his wife’s car when you had— apparently— been unable to stay awake any longer.

“Goodnight, Ani.” Your attention turned back to the parking lot. It sounded as though she had followed him up to the doors. You should have gotten up to turn on the television or use the bathroom; should have hummed a tune or looked for your headphones, but you didn’t— you sat still. She continued, “Thank you for doing this for me.”

You thought you heard his lighter click, and he was silent a moment. By the time you could smell a hint of his smoke wafting upward, he said, “Sure.”

They were both quiet; then Padmé again, “Remember what I told you?”

“Yeah,” He said.

“Well?”

“No. Not now,” in that brusque way he sometimes had. What were they talking about?

“I meant it, Ani— if you stop seeing her, you can come home.” Oh. Your stomach twisted up, a little.

“Come home, or come back to the basement?” He didn’t sound impressed. You thought he’d been happy with the basement.

“Ani...”

“I love you, Padmé.” This made your stomach twist some more, although it shouldn’t have. When she didn’t answer, he continued, “I’ve always loved you. Since the first time I saw you— when I was too young to even understand—”

“Please, Anakin, stop...” She sounded both sad, and as though she had already heard this. You could tell that he was getting worked up.

“No!” He shouted that— you were right. He might have had more to say, but instead of saying it, you heard him take a heavy step with one of those shiny boots of his, followed by a hard impact, and a tinny-sounding clatter. This prompted you to peek out below, but you couldn’t see either of them well from your angle.

What you could see was what used to be the ashtray at the front door to the hotel, now in pieces and spilling its contents into the parking lot.

Anakin!

“Fuck!”

“Ani, this is exactly what I’m talk—”

I love you.” He cut her off. It was nice that he was saying it to her, but you almost wished he would stop.

“I love you too, but—” she began to answer.

“—But it’s never going to be the same, is it?” He finished that for her, in a voice that had now started to waver. You wanted to stop listening, but couldn’t.

She was silent for so long after he said this that you thought she might have left, but finally, “It can’t be.”

“Then why?” he asked.

“What?”

“Why should I come back, then?” This made your heart jump— again, a response you should not have had: He sounded devastated.

“Because I always had hope— I thought you would hold on,” she told him. So she had taken him for granted.

“You let go of me a long time ago,” he spat back at her.

“...I know,” she confessed, after a pause.

“You need to tell the kids,” he said. He was often thinking of them.

“I think they already know,” she answered.

“You can’t keep them from me,” he said, as if to remind her. You hoped it was true.

“What would you even do with them, here, Ani?” You wished she wouldn’t have said that.

“Fuck!” He shouted again; you heard another heavy step, but he must not have had anything to punch or kick this time. Maybe he’d only been stomping out his cigarette, because he then said, “I can’t do this anymore right now. I’m going inside.”

“You can’t just—” she started, but he cut her off quickly.

“Goodnight,” he said. They were back, now, to where they’d started.

You heard Padmé walk away in one direction, and the doors to the lobby swing open from the other. You didn’t have much time to process what you had just heard, but you shouldn’t have listened anyway, you thought. You wondered if you might just pretend that you hadn’t— like so many things that had happened recently, you didn’t quite know how it made you feel.

You got up from the chair, now, so you could be standing to greet Anakin as he entered. It was not long before you heard his boots coming down the hall, and so you waited to hear the door click. It did, and he entered— the first thing he did was remove his hat, and place it on the desk.

He looked at you with no discernible expression, and said, “Help me get out of this shit, please.”

You smiled anyway. “Sure.” As you stepped close to him and began to undo the buttons on his jacket, “How was it?” Even though you were sure you already knew.

He just sighed as you continued your work. By the time you were finished sliding it off of his shoulders, he still hadn’t said anything more. As you turned back to him from placing it on the bed that he hadn’t been using, you tried, “Anakin?”

Standing now in that perfect, white shirt and jet-black tie, he extended his arms out and drew you in with them. You caught strong notes of his cologne and his smoke as you placed your own arms around his body, and your head on his chest. You sighed contentedly at the sensation. Then, you registered and enjoyed the now-familiar contrast of his two hands caressing you from behind in their own unique ways.

He rested his chin on your head, as he seemed to have taken to doing. He was entirely still for a few moments; then, very gently, “What are we doing?”

You listened to his heart beat just a bit too fast as you held him and asked, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, what are we doing?”

“Well,” you ventured, unmoving, “We mostly sit together, don’t we?”

He laughed, which you could feel through his chest, and you smiled. “I mean it,” he insisted.

You knew very well what he meant, because you had considered it, too.

“I like seeing you,” you decided to say.

He moved his glove up to the back of your neck, then, and let cool, stiff fingers trace lines at the base of your skull. His other hand pushed warmly into the small of your back.

You were scared to ask about what you had heard outside— part of you was still pretending not to have listened.

Finally, in barely a murmur, he said in return, “I like seeing you, too.” He waited after that, and then seemed to consider. Carefully, he followed with, “I love you.”

You knew that was true, and so it didn’t matter to you who else he also loved. You told him, “I love you, too.”

Unexpectedly, he came back with, “Really?”

Yes.” Why didn’t he believe you?

“Please be telling me the truth,” he whispered— more to some outside force, it seemed, than you.

“I’ve lied for you, but never to you,” you pointed out gently anyhow, without looking up.

He laughed again. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” you said. How many times had you two gone through these lines? He was so good at talking forever and not saying anything. You pulled back a bit to look at him, now. “What are you asking, Anakin?”

He stared down into your eyes, expressionless again— or so it seemed to you. “I’m asking if you’re still going to love me next week,” he said. “Or next month. Or...”

You interrupted him, “I don’t think I could stop if I tried.” That was foolish, but you meant it.

He sighed, and pulled you back in closely. He almost seemed to shiver. “I was afraid you’d say that.” Then, “I hoped you’d say it, too.”

“What are you going to do?” You asked this as you squeezed him as tightly as you could manage.

“I don’t know,” he said. “But now I know I can’t go home.”

You panicked, “Please don’t let me be the reason—” you began quickly, but he cut you off.

“You’re not.” He paused for another very long while; eventually, he finished quietly, “I haven’t been home for a long time.”

You didn’t say anything else after that. He began to cry, now, which you’d seen him come very close to, but had never actually witnessed. You didn’t know what to do, so you just continued to embrace him with all the strength you had. He squeezed you back. You both held on firmly, until heaving sobs turned back into subtle tremors, and he was nearly silent again.

You didn’t know what to say, so you said his name, which usually seemed to be able to call him back when he drifted away. “Anakin.”

“Yes?”

“Sit down with me.”

“Okay.”

You guided him to the edge of the bed, and you both sat down. You kept your arms around him as best you could. He took a deep, shaky breath. You wanted to tell him it was going to be okay, but you couldn’t make that promise, so you were just quiet.

Eventually, he broke the silence with, “Fuck.”

You put on a thin smile. “I know.”

“I want my kids back.”

Your flimsy smile went away as quickly as you had put it on. “...I know.”

His elbows rested on his knees, and his right hand hung as limply as it could for something that was mechanical, as his left held his face. You had one of your own hands on his back; the other was on his chest.

“I’m sorry, Anakin,” you said.

“Don’t be,” he answered, predictably.

You would sit this way until he felt he needed to smoke a cigarette; eventually, you would shed your clothes— his right arm would rest atop the pile, waiting for him to need it— and lie down together to try to sleep.

All you did that night, however, was hold him.

You didn’t know what else to do with this kind of pain.

 

...

 

“Dad wants to talk to you,” said your brother. You had just gotten home from school in the evening, after having had to leave Anakin very reluctantly that morning. You hadn’t wanted to even come home, but you’d been trying to avoid exactly what your brother was likely coming at you with, now.

“What about?” you asked. Your dad still was not home yet.

“I’m really sorry—” he started

“You didn’t!” He had said that he wouldn’t say anything...

“I said his name without thinking— it’s a weird fucking name. Dad recognized it. You’re dating a married old army guy?”

You felt panic set in immediately. “No! He’s not—”

“Not what?” Your brother was nearly yelling at you. “Dad says he saw him with his wife at a thing last night. He’s playing you.”

You’d had no idea what event, exactly, Anakin had been attending with Padmé the previous night, but you wished now that you had thought to ask. Your father’s profession necessitated that he attend all kinds of things you’d never cared about up until this moment.

“He’s not—“ you cut yourself off, then continued, “You don’t understand.”

He laughed at you, now. “Remember what I said?”

“He’s not like that. They’re not really...” You were getting frustrated; you shouted, “He stays at a hotel!”

Your brother’s jaw dropped. “Is that where you’ve been?”

You took a deep breath, because you could feel your hands starting to shake and your chest tighten. “Yes,” you said. “That’s where I’ve been. And it’s where I’m going now, too. Tell dad whatever you want.” You turned around, and walked back out the door the way you’d come. You still had the keys to the van, so that was what you took.

On your way out of the house, your brother yelled after you, “I thought I said not to be stupid!”

You ignored him, and drove away altogether too quickly.

You were only going where you wanted to be, anyway.

Chapter Text

“Who is it?” Anakin’s voice came, muffled, through the door.

“It’s me,” you answered. You shifted your weight between your feet anxiously as you waited for an answer.

“Okay,” you heard him say. “Come in.” You felt relieved to hear it.

You pushed the door open to the increasingly familiar scents of old smoke, and nice cologne— the cologne meant he’d been to work, you thought.

“You can open the window,” he told you from his spot on the bed, where he was seated.

“It’s okay. I don’t care,” you said, as you sat down gracelessly beside him.

“What’s the problem?” He was wearing his arm, but not a shirt. He was using his right hand to balance an open can of soup on his knee, which he had apparently been eating with the plastic spoon he was holding in his left.

You gave him a look. “Are you going to heat that up, or...?”

He became annoyed. “With what?” He gestured around the room with his spoon; the only appliance was the coffee maker.

“Oh,” you said. It wasn’t your fist time feeling stupid, here. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine.” He put the spoon in the can, and the can on the nightstand next to his ashtray. He plucked a half-burnt cigarette out of it, lit it, and asked you again, “So— what is it?”

“I... can’t be at home right now. Is is okay if I...?”

“It’s fine. You can be here,” he said, before you could finish asking. You were as grateful for that as you were when you'd heard him saying that you could come in.

“Thanks.”

You were both quiet for a bit, now. He smoked, and you looked around the room. It was about the same as when you’d left it early that morning, but he had a light on now that it was evening, and you liked that.

“So,” he started again, “Why can’t you be at home?”

You sighed, because you knew he didn’t need this right now, but for some reason you really hadn’t thought he’d ask about why you’d come.

“It’s my dad— I think,” you shifted uncomfortably. In complaining about your father to Anakin, you suddenly felt the age difference between the two of you very acutely.

It didn’t seem to bother him, thankfully, as he prompted you, “What about him?”

“He goes to a lot of stuff— I didn’t know, but he saw you last night.” Anakin motioned with his cigarette for you to continue, so you added, “My brother saw you, too— with me, outside. I guess they put it together.”

He took a long drag, then, and said “Well, fuck.”

You laughed, but not happily. “That’s how I feel about it, too.”

He smirked. “You are actually eighteen, aren’t you?”

“Yes!” You sounded irritated, because that was insulting, you thought— to both of you.

“No, no—” he shook his head; clarified. “I just meant that there’s not a whole lot they can do about it, then, is there?”

You supposed not, in the grand scheme of things, but to you it certainly felt like there was a lot for you to lose right now. You lived at home to go to school— and you had just been fired from your only job.

You didn’t want to dwell on it.

“I guess,” you said.

“If you’re staying a bit, why not take your coat off?” It was nice of him to change the subject. You realized that, yes, you were still wearing it.

“Okay,” you said, as you slid it off onto the bed.

He was quiet a minute. Then, “I’m going to have a drink. Do you...?”

“Yes. Please.” It sounded like as good an idea as any to you.

He put out his smoke, and got up. From under the desk, he grabbed a paper bag, out of which he took a bottle: A large one.

“No glasses this time— sorry.” He walked back over to sit with you.

“It’s okay,” you said. You noticed your phone buzzing from inside your coat’s pocket behind you, so you rolled the whole thing up into a ball, and tossed it onto the other bed.

Anakin held the bottle between his legs and twisted it open. He passed it to you first. You took a generous sip, and before passing it back to him, you said of his politeness, “I like that about you, you know.”

“What?” He tilted it back and drank, too.

“You’re a gentleman.”

He laughed loudly. “You haven’t asked my wife, then.”

You were a little annoyed at that, too, and you hadn’t been in a wonderful mood to begin with. “Who cares what she thinks?” you asked rhetorically. You felt bad about it right away, though, so before he could say anything, you added, “I’m sorry.”

He shrugged. “No, you’re right.”

“I know you love her, and I shouldn’t—”

He shook his head and gave you back the bottle. “It’s okay. I can’t stop myself from feeling that way, but I really don’t care what she thinks, right now.”

You were more careful, this time. “It sort of sounds like she didn’t care, either, until you were gone.”

He paused at that. “She used to care. I can’t blame her for stopping, really— and I don’t want you to, either.”

“I just don’t think it was fair,” you replied. “The way things were.” Then, you drank.

Another one of those shrugs; then, “It was still nice seeing the kids every day.”

“They’re still your kids,” you reminded him, and drank again.

He sighed. “I’ll talk to her about it.” He chuckled, and took the bottle back for more. “They probably haven’t noticed me gone.”

You nudged his shoulder. “Don’t say that. Luke is always trying to be like you,” you said. “He always wants to show you stuff, too. It matters to him— what you think. And he thinks you’re the best.”

He shook his head again, and smiled. “At least one of them doesn’t know me yet.” Another sip, for him. “Maybe it’s better for them, if they see less of me.”

“Stop that,” you scolded him, and took the bottle back yet another time. You were getting more ahead of yourself than you were used to, but you didn’t care.

He had noticed, too. “Hey— slow down. I don’t want to be responsible for making you sick.” That made you want to point out that his fatherly instincts were clearly very strong, but it would have sounded strange even to you in this context, so you didn’t.

You said, “Sorry,” instead. You leaned against him a bit; let the sensation of what you’d already had wash over you. It was warm, and calm— things you also happened to like about Anakin. He always felt warm to you, and at his best, he was a very calming presence. Even now, he was making you feel significantly better— it certainly wasn’t just the rum.

“Don’t be sorry,” he said. “Just let me hang onto this for a while.” He took his rum back, drank once more, then placed the bottle on the nightstand with his soup and his ashtray. His pack of cigarettes was sitting out, too, and so he took out a new one of those and lit it.

Still leaning on him, you just said, “Okay.”

You let him finish his smoke this way; then, you noticed that you were, indeed, starting to feel especially hazy. You let yourself fall backward onto the bed. You were laying across it horizontally, with your arms spread out.

He looked down at you, and smiled. “What are you doing?”

“I don’t know,” you answered. “Laying down.”

He placed a hand— you couldn’t actually tell which, right at this moment— on your leg, and said, “I’ll be right back.”

You relaxed, and listened to his footsteps as he stood up, and moved about the room.

When you heard his voice again, it was closer, and so you pulled your eyes open— you hadn’t actually realized they’d closed. He was laying beside you, still with no shirt, and now with only one arm— the warm one; the one whose strength you sometimes simply couldn’t believe. His lips just brushed up against your ear as he asked very quietly, “So, you’re staying the night, then?”

Without moving except to look over at him, you smiled, “I think I am.”

He kissed your earlobe; you squirmed and giggled. “Good,” he said.

You rolled over to face him, now. Not only did the room spin around you, but you also suddenly felt very overdressed. He was grinning at you, and it made you grin back, too.

Sloppily, you pushed yourself up into a seated position. You grasped at the hem of your sweater, but you ended up with your head stuck inside, halfway through taking it off. You heard Anakin laugh at you, and then you felt him move about on the bed; he seemed to stand up on his knees. You lifted your arms straight up when you registered him pulling the shirt the rest of the way off for you.

You laughed, too, as he tossed it onto the other bed with your coat. “Thanks,” you said.

“No problem,” as he shifted to be closer to you. You moved nearer to him, too, and he lowered himself down from his knees so that he was sitting next to you on the bed again. With a tiny smirk, “Can I try something?”

“Sure.”

He reached around you with his hand, and found the clasp that was holding your bra together. You didn’t move. Deftly, he pinched it between his fingers and moved them in a way that caused it to pop open. The garment fell so that it was hanging loosely from your shoulders. He laughed, and then said with an uncharacteristic hint of pride, “Nice to know I can still do that.”

Your face went pink, and you slid it the rest of the way off. You tossed it aside, with the growing pile of your clothes. “Wow,” you said as you kissed him, now that you were close enough. He did have a tendency to make you say that.

“Lie down,” he commanded gently as he slowly pulled back from you. “I want to see if I can still do the other thing.”

“What other thing?”

He chuckled. ”Lie down,” he reiterated.

You did— the correct, vertical way this time— clad now in only jeans. He leaned down over your middle, again supporting himself with ease using only his left arm, and you felt goosebumps pepper you as his lips brushed against the skin on your stomach. “What are you—?”

He interrupted you by using his teeth to tug at the fabric loop holding the button on your pants in place. He twisted his head a little, and you felt them come undone as easily as your bra had fallen away from your breasts. You laughed as you said it this time, “Wow!”

You wiggled them the rest of the way off with his help; he sat back up, and moved to let you kick them— along with what you’d been wearing underneath— to the floor. Now you felt underdressed, as you looked up at him: He was still wearing his pants from work.

He looked down, and extended his arm to slide it down the front of your body. He went slowly, from your neck all the way down to your thigh. He rested it there and smiled handsomely as he whispered, “Beautiful.”

You felt your face redden some more; you sat up, too. He didn’t move his hand from your leg now that you were sitting beside one another again. You didn’t ever know what to say when he complimented you— it always made your heart race, and especially combined with the rum making your head rush right now, it left you with no words to answer him.

He slid his hand upward; up your thigh and around your body, and then up your spine. It travelled until it reached the back of your head, where he buried his fingers in your hair. He pulled you in this way and kissed you again; you closed your eyes and clasped your arms around him tightly— both because he was perfect, and because you had begun to feel that you needed the support to remain upright.

He must have recognized this, because when you broke the kiss, he asked you, “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” you said quietly. You brought one hand down to finger the buckle on his belt.

“Are you sure?” He stroked your hair, now.

You nodded and smiled at him with eyes that you knew looked a bit too glassy, and told him, “I’m sure.” You’d had tipsy sex with Anakin before, and although you— in your anxiety about your dad— really had gotten ahead of yourself with his rum this time, you truly didn’t care.

He must have, because he started gently, “I just don’t want—”

You cut him off with, “Please, Anakin?” You shifted your hand so that it rested on his zipper instead of his buckle— and the growing firmness beneath it.

He sighed, and shifted. He seemed to think for a long moment; then, “Not right now. You look like you need to sleep, first.” He was tactful, but that only made you want him more.

You squeezed what was now a prominent bulge, and almost whined, “But I want—”

He kissed your forehead. “I do, too.” Then, he got up from the bed. “But not when you can barely sit up.”

You thought briefly about arguing with him, but instead you fell back again, this time onto the pillow at the head of the bed. You thought about your conversation. “...See,” you told him, from your new position. “Gentleman.”

You closed your eyes as you heard him laugh at that again, and rolled onto your side as you acquiesced to both his instruction, and your own tiredness.

Maybe, you thought, he would offer to have a shower with you when you woke up.

You fell asleep easily, then, still wishing that he realized just how nice he really was to be with.

Chapter Text

“What is it?” Anakin had come to the door to let you in this time; he’d known you were coming.

As he stepped aside to let you enter, you answered, “Remember me telling you about my dad?”

He laughed. “Yes, but I’m surprised that you do.”

You laughed too, despite yourself. “Trust me. I remember.”

He wrapped his left arm around you, now. He wasn’t wearing the other one, although he did have on that black t-shirt and sweat-pants you’d become used to seeing him in, on his time off from work. They smelled like smoke and hotel laundry detergent, with vague hints of sweat and his cologne. You breathed this all in gratefully as he asked a second time, “What’s the problem, then?”

You sighed into his chest before pulling back a bit to look up. “It’s you.”

“That makes sense,” he shrugged, as he let go of you gently and stepped back toward his nightstand.

“What I mean is that I told him,” you said, as you followed a step or two behind. “How I feel about you, I mean.”

He was already lighting a cigarette. “I have to ask why you’d do that,” he said through his teeth, which were gripping the filter, as he flicked his lighter.

“Because he told me to stop seeing you.”

“Oh.” You almost lost sight of his face amongst the haze that enveloped it briefly, then, as the tobacco ignited and he took the first inhale.

You waited for him to say more, but he didn’t, so you said, “I told him I wouldn’t stop, and... now he wants to kick me out.” It felt like an admission of guilt. You’d spoken to your father, but he had been less than understanding. To put it succinctly, seeing Anakin in any capacity would cost you both your place at home, and your tuition for school— and your family wasn’t willing to compromise.

You had already decided that you were prepared to give it all up for him, but the reality of that was terrifying to you.

It must have been terrifying to Anakin, too, as his eyes widened and he coughed on the lungful of smoke he’d begun to blow out. Once he had caught his breath, he asked, “What do you mean?”

“He— well, he said I had to leave if I kept seeing you,” you explained. “So, I thought back to what I said to you, about how I wasn’t going to stop loving you. And I’m not, so I—”

He waved his hand in front of himself; he wanted you to slow down, and you knew that you needed to as well. Holding that cigarette for dear life, he sat down on the edge of the bed. You remained standing, still wearing your coat.

“Anakin, I—”

“Stop, okay? It’s alright. I just need a minute, here.”

“Okay,” you said, and you gave him time to smoke as you took off your jacket and shoes. You didn’t know what he was thinking about, but it was clear that he was thinking about it very hard.

You didn’t sit. You just waited for Anakin.

Finally, he spoke: “...I’m sorry.”

“Please don’t—” you started.

“No,” he interrupted. He spoke slowly, deliberately, and reluctantly. “I really am sorry,” he began again, “I think you need to—”

“I can’t!” You interrupted him back, perhaps more loudly than you had intended. You couldn’t let him finish that thought; it hurt too much to consider what you knew he was going to say.

He sighed, because he knew that you knew, and it hurt him, too. “You really don’t need me making your life harder, you know,” he said gently.

You hoped he wouldn’t be upset as you answered, “You were already making it harder.”

He smiled sadly. “I understand.”

You were both quiet a while; then finally, you decided to confess, “I heard you outside that night. With your wife.”

“Oh,” he said. “I... paid for the ashtray, you know.”

You had figured that. “Yeah... so, that’s why you asked, though, right? if I’d still love you, later?” You didn’t care about the stupid ashtray. “You needed to know whether you should go back, so you asked me if I’d keep loving you.” You were still speaking too quickly, and you could feel tears coming to your eyes. It was embarrassing, but not something that you could help.

Still seated on the bed, he put out his cigarette, but still didn’t talk. For some reason, you continued, “Well, it’s later. Not much later, but later. And I still love you,” as the first of those tears began to fall down your cheeks and drip off of your chin. “And that’s how I know I can’t go home, now, either. Just like you.” You were crying by this point, but you ignored it; simply crossed your arms in front of you as you went quiet.

Anakin only shook his head as he sat. He looked, still, to be deep in thought. As you waited for him to say something to you, a flash-flood of memories featuring him— and your time with him— invaded your consciousness:

First, sitting on the couch with him, in that living room that wasn’t his anymore, as you savoured his presence and yearned to touch him.

Next, undoing his shirt for the first time— admiring his strength and beauty, and also his scars, which you knew had been acquired horrifically and far away. You thought of wishing that he would tell you more, but caring about him too much to ask.

Then, the way he had always caressed you; not just once, but many times— and not only with hands that he’d been given. One of them was both utterly fascinating, and of his own design: Borne of the ingenuity and resourcefulness you knew he possessed, and that you admired deeply.

You thought of the way he put his children to sleep gently and lovingly; the way he moved so skillfully when you watched him teach them things he used to love.

You remembered the desperation in his eyes after he’d fought with his wife; the gratefulness with which he had looked at you, that night, after treating him kindly.

Several scenes played out of you expressing your affection for him physically; of kissing him, running your hands over him— of climbing up on him, and of him climbing up on you, too.

Of being stroked; entered.

Of being loved.

By the time this whirlwind of thoughts had ceased, finally, your face was in your hands and you were sobbing.

You almost didn’t realize that Anakin had come to you, and was holding you tightly to his chest again with his arm. You loved his warmth, but you needed to see his face, so you peered up as best you could at him without pulling back.

He was looking straight ahead, with no expression.

Arms still pressed between the two of you; tears still trickling down your face, you decided to give his name a try. “Anakin?”

He took a very deep, very unsteady breath. Finally, “It’s okay. It’s okay, but...”

“But what?”

With some hesitation, “I’m... a piece of shit. I told you, remember?” He absolutely was not. It had recently begun to make you angry that he so frequently thought so, but right now it was just scaring you. If that was how he felt, then you knew you didn’t have a chance. Did anyone?

“What do you mean?” You asked him this as you felt your stomach drop.

“I mean I’m sorry,” he said as he squeezed you. He sounded like he’d finished thinking, now.

Still shaky, but no longer sobbing, you asked, “Sorry for what, Anakin?”

He sighed, and leaned back from you to look at your face. You pulled your arms free, but he shifted uncomfortably as you linked them around his waist. Very quietly, now— as if hoping you might not hear him— “I’m just sorry.”

A lump formed in your throat; your eyes started to blur with tears again. You didn’t let go of him, because you thought you couldn’t.

“I should never have let this go so far,” he said. “But you just...” He sighed yet again; let his voice trail off.

You felt confused, and somehow more frightened than when you’d first entered the room. In a voice matching his in how quiet it was, you asked again, “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I don’t know what it is you see in me,” he said as he kissed your head, “but I’m so, so sorry that you see it.”

“You make it easy, Anakin..." You were still quiet, but you knew that a desperation was beginning to enter your voice. He was perfect. You’d told him so, and meant it. He had to know that.

“...I’m sorry,” he repeated, finally. He looked as though he really did not want to say any more (he rarely did), but also like he knew that he had to. In spite of his pain; in spite of how he had become accustomed to dealing with it, you’d quickly come to know that his sense of duty could not be easily overridden.

He’d have hated to hear you say it, but you knew that Anakin must have been an incredible soldier, when to fight had been his calling. That same sense of responsibility, you would later realize, was what fuelled his next words— which you did still have to draw out of him with, “Anakin?”

He seemed to come back from somewhere far away when you said his name, but as soon as he did, he told you in no uncertain terms: “You have to go home.”

“I... I told you,” you began. “I can’t go—”

He kissed your forehead again, this time in just the same way as he had when he’d turned down your drunken advances not that long ago. It worked to silence you now, too.

“Shh,” as he let his lips linger. A brief silence; then, “You’re a sweet, beautiful girl,” in a whisper before looking into your eyes. “You’ve been a bit like an angel to me.” He sighed, now, and the tiny, sad smile he’d been wearing left him as he finished, “You’re not an angel, though. You’re a person, and...” this was clearly especially difficult for him, “...you’re not equipped to deal with me.”

He didn’t realize that he was repeating his wife’s warning to you from inside her car, the night she’d cast you out from her home— or, maybe he did.

That, you’d never know.

He had told you before that he didn’t have a lot of self-awareness, but he was displaying such a high level of it right now that it pained you. The selfish parts of you wished he would knock it off.

“I love you, Anakin,” one of those parts of you said, as you dug your fingers into his back through his shirt. You didn’t want to let him go. “I don’t care— I don’t care about any of it. I’ll do anything for—”

Shhh. No.”

“But I—”

He pulled you in closely again with his arm; you soaked up those delicious scents of his and relished the hard warmth of his body, but he still interrupted you simply with, “No.”

This wasn’t like on the couch at his house.

This time, he really meant it.

You were quiet as he held you another while. Finally, “What do I do, then?” You asked the question into his chest, but he could still hear you well enough.

“You go home,” he repeated kindly.

“I can’t go home, I...”

“I love you too,” he told you. He already knew what you were going to say, and he was not going to let you take him in a circle with it. “But this isn’t about love.”

“Then what is it about?” You were still hanging onto him.

As he rested his chin on your head in spite of himself, “It’s about doing what you have to do.”

“You told me you couldn’t go home,” you argued.

“I can’t,” he said plainly. He almost shrugged. “But it’s okay.” You heard the smile come back to his face as he added, “That’s why I’m going to go back to the basement.”

Even you, apparently, had underestimated just how much his family meant to him. He must have taken into closer consideration what you two could give one another... and also what you had each nearly taken away. You tried one more time, “You can’t—”

“I have to,” he insisted. He looked down at the floor briefly before pulling back, focusing on you once again, and finishing decisively, “I can’t live without them. Any of them. And you can’t live with me.” You could tell that he didn’t want to hurt you, or them. He didn’t seem to care about himself at all— beyond his family.

You thought back to when he’d told you he just wanted his kids back, and realized that between his love and his pain, this couldn’t have ended any other way.

He was being your movie-man for you yet again, but in a way that made you want to scream, now. He was both romantic, and heroic: You had known all along that it wasn’t right for you to be together, and now you knew that he knew it, too.

He loved you so much that it had taken until now for him to do what was right... and he loved his family so much that he was still going to do it, in spite of the pain it would cause him. It was causing you pain, too: You’d both let this go on for far, far too long.

It all made you want him more than you ever had before— and that felt like torture.

He took pity on you (or what felt like pity) when he provided you, then, with a long, deep, and very familiar kiss. It was wonderful, and it hurt as though you’d stepped on glass.

You pulled back first, this time. “Anakin?”

“What?” He looked exhausted, and sad, but still perfect to you.

“One more time, then. Please?” You shouldn’t have asked, but you just couldn’t stop yourself. You never could, with him.

He gave you a pained look. You knew that your request was entirely unfair, but at least it was equally unfair to both of you: Neither of you would be alone in the hurt of fulfilling it, if you did.

This had all started in the first place because you couldn’t keep yourself from touching him— and so getting to touch him once more, to you, felt like a completely appropriate way to say goodbye.

Besides— he was going back to the basement, after all. Not to his wife’s bed upstairs.

He knew this, too. “Okay,” as he stepped back to pull his shirt off for you. You looked him over very carefully; you’d begun to take the sight of him for granted, by now— that brilliant chest, especially, had started to feel like it belonged to you (another mistake). Knowing you’d never see him this way again, you wanted to be certain that you did not forget his beauty.

As you removed your shirt, too, and began to tug off your pants, you asked him, “Are you sure?” You loved him, after all.

“No,” he said. “But I’m going to miss you,” as his heart and his honour clashed— you’d always be ashamed to be so grateful of their conflict, but you had so quickly fallen in love with him. You couldn’t have helped it.

You made your way to that hotel bed of his, now, before you could begin to cry— either of you. He sat you down on the edge; stepped out of his own loosely-tied pants, and then pushed you gently backward so that he could crawl atop you.

Neither of you said anything more as he positioned himself so impressively with that impossibly strong limb of his, and you guided him where you both wanted— needed— him to go. You let out a hungry groan. He looked more through you than at you, but you knew that he was there.

You’d done this before, of course— in both your love and your lust for one another, it had quickly become a very enjoyable habit. Too enjoyable, in fact... and altogether too intimate. Touching him in the first place had been a very big mistake, no matter how good this felt. It was a mistake that he was somehow being brave enough to correct, too— at least, after tonight.

For right now, you were soaked and he was hard, and there was an overwhelming, unspoken sense of urgency between you. You both needed to do this once more, and of course: It was good not to feel alone.

He thrust into you quickly and possessively, and you scraped your nails furtively against his flesh— perfect, like the rest of him. It wouldn’t matter if anyone saw later, both because they’d likely already know what happened, and because this was the end of it for the two of you. It felt like both the first and the last time, simultaneously; a beginning and an end, all at once.

It was incredible, and incredibly hurtful.

It was not nearly as long as it usually was before you collapsed beneath him and he atop you— the two of you were a sweaty, tired heap of love, fear, and pain.

You still didn’t speak to one another as, eventually, you untangled your bodies, slid underneath the covers together, and grasped each other tightly— stupidly— in the empty hope of getting some rest. You had both said everything you needed to say, and you each knew that the day ahead of you was likely to be one of your worst.

Not because you would have to explain to your families why you couldn’t go home to them, but because you did have to go home to them.

He loved his kids, but he didn’t love being chained in the basement like a dangerous dog. You knew that, and it was why you so admired the strength he was displaying in locking himself back up in his cage.

You, of course, had been fine with your life up until Anakin— and also in contrast with him, you’d have given it all up in a second if he would have asked. If only he would have asked. The reason you wanted him; the reason you’d fallen so deeply and quickly in love with him, was the reason you could never be with him:

Anakin Skywalker was a gentleman, and gentlemen did not leave their families for babysitters.

For a long time after, of course, you would lament this— but eventually, you would understand. Once you did, you would no longer feel sad about having let him slip from your grasp, because you would realize that he had never actually been in it.

You went back home the morning after being with Anakin that last time, as he had instructed. He did not kiss you on your way out, although you wished he would have. He just looked at you from his spot on the bed— smoking— and waved: A wave much the same as the one he’d given you at the bottom of the stairs in his family’s house, the first time you ever met him.

That was the wave that had sent your butterflies flying, and those had been the stairs that he’d told you he was hardly ever allowed to climb— for affection, or anything else. These thoughts hurt.

You waved back, then, before shutting the door to his hotel room. You hoped he understood what it meant to you.

You also hoped he understood what he meant to you, but despite his immense courage in letting you go, you highly doubted that he did. Anakin was skilled at many things, and although loving was perhaps what he was best at, you could tell that he had a lot of trouble loving (or seeing) himself. You’d been foolish to think you could change that, given the depth and longevity of his pain, but you would always be grateful to him for giving you the chance to try.

When you arrived at your house, you apologized to your father, and told him you’d simply made an error in judgment, although you didn’t really mean any of it. Later on, you might even consider giving your brother the satisfaction of telling him he had been— partially— right.

For now, though, you sat down on your bed, and unlocked your phone.

After scrolling through a few (not enough) pages of one- and two-word texts between you and Anakin, you decided that it would be worth it to torture yourself just a bit by looking up those grainy, old photos of him— photos in which he was smiling— from before his mind was ravaged by battle.

You’d have liked to look at something more recent, but there was nothing more recent to look at— you hadn’t taken a single picture, in the frenzy that had been the act of falling for him.

Anyway, you wanted to commit his face to your memory as well as you had the rest of his body. You’d often been too shy to look straight at it, and you had made the grave mistake of thinking that you’d have the privilege of seeing it for a long time to come.

You had been wrong, of course— his life needed to stay the same for him— but you’d been overtaken by your feelings.

So had Anakin, for a time: It was a time that would always mean so much more to you than anyone (except for you, and perhaps him) could ever possibly know.

You would stop missing him, eventually, because you would have to move on. However, you never stopped loving him, and when you paused to think about your time together, you liked to imagine that he never stopped loving you, either.