The Journey Home
Chapter 5
by indie

***

The way her face lights up is nearly fatal to his already battered heart.  Clutching Leia tighter, Anakin descends the gangplank, forcing himself to concentrate on his steps, on the beating of Leia’s heart, on anything except his wife joyously bounding across the landing platform toward him.
 
“Anakin!”  She’s breathless, smiling from ear to ear.
 
He looks at her and he knows the turmoil in his heart and soul is clearly etched on his features.  Her smile falters for a moment and then fades entirely.  “Are they okay?” she demands, immediately looking at the children.  She takes Luke from Aube’s arms, cuddling him near, inspecting him for injuries or illness.
 
“They’re fine, Milady,” Aube answers brightly.  “They’re beautiful children.  Such blessings.”
 
Padmé seems relieved by Aube’s answer, but her questioning gaze immediately returns to Anakin.  “I don’t understand.”
 
“Master Skywalker,” Aube says, bowing.  With her quiet grace, she ascends the gangplank and disappears inside the ship.
 
Anakin stands there, mute.  He didn’t bother to correct the way Aube addressed him.  Though technically incorrect, he suspects she did it for Padmé’s benefit, so his wife would know he was still a Jedi and Aube was his subordinate.
 
Anakin’s gaze searches the horizon and he is unable to take any comfort in the fact that he is in a place he has always loved.  The blue skies and verdant lushness of Naboo do nothing to calm his turmoil.  “Can we go somewhere?” he asks quietly.
 
***
 
“Surely it’s frowned upon for Jedi to steal,” Leia says pointedly.
 
Obi-Wan smiles at the young Queen as they walk down the residential lane.  “What makes you think we’re going to steal something?”
 
She gives him a knowing look.  “We’re stranded on a planet with no credits.  It’s obvious whoever is following us has access to our supposedly secret travel manifest, so contacting anyone for help is a dangerous prospect.  I can see the tops of the shipyards over these houses so I know that’s where we’re heading.  Unless you have some great friend who conveniently happens to work there and owe you a pretty big favor, we’re either going to steal a ship or sneak aboard and stow away.”
 
Anakin coughs quickly to cover a laugh.  He schools his attention straight ahead, not looking at either Obi-Wan or Leia.  “She has a point, Master.”
 
“Ye of little faith,” Obi-Wan admonishes, but Anakin knows from the tone of his voice he is most amused by Leia’s argument.
 
***
 
Anakin glances around the small apartment, shamed his family is forced to live here.  Though it is far more luxurious than any accommodations he had as a child, by the standards to which Padmé has become accustomed, it is a hovel.  He hoped she would be staying with her parents or her sister, but he knows why she chose to take this small apartment after resigning her Senate seat.  She hoped he would come home to her. 
 
“You’re not staying,” Padmé says.
 
He looks at his wife and then at his daughter still resting contently in his arms.  He shakes his head.  “I can’t.”
 
She nods, blinking quickly to stave off tears.  “I knew …  I mean I always knew it was a possibility,” she says.  “We never planned to have children.  We agreed we wouldn't.  I knew it  would be complicated –
 
“I don’t regret it,” Anakin says, interrupting her rambling speech.  She looks at him and he holds her gaze.  “I don’t regret it,” he repeats.  “None of it.  I love you.  I love Luke and Leia.”
 
She is silent for a long moment.  “But you’re leaving us.”
 
Leia starts to cry and Anakin tries to shush her, but he is so agitated he only makes it worse.  Padmé sets Luke on the floor in the midst of his toys and takes Leia from Anakin.  Leia continues to wail, but the volume and insistence decreases. 
 
Anakin watches his wife and children.  They’re so close, mere steps away yet he feels irreparably separated from them.  “I have to,” he whispers.
 
Padmé looks at him and there is no anger in her gaze, only sadness.  Her understanding wounds Anakin even more.  He wants her to be angry with him.  He wants her to blame him, to rage at him. 
 
“Will we ever see you?” she asks.  “Will the children know you?”
 
“I don’t know,” he answers with brutal honesty. 
 
***
 
“Do you think they’re all right?” Leia asks.
 
Anakin looks at his daughter.  He knows she is concerned about Bail, Typho and her handmaidens, but she has shown such resilience since the attack he forgot how young she is.  “I don’t believe any of them were wounded in the ambush.”
 
She studies him carefully for a moment.  “You can’t just … tell?
 
He raises an eyebrow.
 
“You’re a Jedi.  Can’t you use the Force?”
 
His brow furrows and he smiles.  “I’m not omnipotent.  I can't dip into the Force and feel how any random person is doing.”
 
She frowns and sighs heavily, using her foot to make patterns in the dirt of the small alley where they wait for Obi-Wan.  Without looking at him, she says, “I can … sense you.  When we were on the ship, even when I was in a different room, I knew where you were.”  She looks up at him.
 
There is a warmth in his chest, pride in his daughter's abilities.  He doesn't know how much Padmé might have told the twins about him – if anything.  He doesn't know if Leia understands he is her father.  But he hopes the significance of their bond isn't lost on her.  “The Force is like that sometimes.  For certain people with certain connections.  Especially in close quarters.”
 
She holds his gaze for several long moments before looking away.  “Luke does freaky stuff like that all the time, but it’s never happened to me.  Not before today.”
 
“You can feel your brother through the Force?”
 
“Well, yeah.”  She shrugs.  “But he’s my twin.  I figured it was mostly him doing it.  Not me.  He’s much better at that stuff than me.”
 
Anakin nods, unsure of what to say.  He is delighted to find his children share his abilities.  And he is ravenous for the intimate details of their lives. 
 
“I thought the Jedi Order took Force-sensitives to the Temple to train them,” Leia says warily, watching him closely.
 
“They do.”
 
She nods, suspicious.  “So why didn’t they take Luke?”
 
Anakin meets Leia's gaze without flinching.  “What makes you think they would have taken your brother?”
 
“They would have.”
 
He can't resist baiting her.  “How do you know?”
 
“Because I’m not stupid.  Luke was meant to be a Jedi.”
 
Anakin can’t help but smile at Leia’s rationale.  “The Order can’t take children.  Parents have to consent to their children’s training.”
 
“Why wouldn’t my mother have consented?”
 
Anakin waits a moment, then another.  “Maybe it wasn’t your mother who didn’t give consent.”
 
***
 
“You don’t want them trained?  Are they not Force-sensitive?”
 
“They are very strong in the Force,” Anakin confirms proudly.  It’s difficult, of course, to tell with infants so young.  But his connection with Leia and Luke is so strong he knows they have abilities far beyond those of normal children.
 
“You told the Council no?”
 
He nods. 
 
She sits down on the floor with the babies, but looks up at him.  “Why would you refuse to allow them to be trained?”
 
He paces around the room and then stops, looking at her.  “The Council’s stance on training children hasn’t changed.  If we consent to allow Luke and Leia to become part of the Order, they will separate them – from each other and certainly from you and me.”
 
Padmé stares at him blankly for a moment, then looks at the children.  She reaches out and touches each of them as if to reassure herself they are really with her.  She shakes her head, still watching the babies.  “I don’t understand.”  She looks up at him.  “You saved the Republic.  You killed Palpatine.  Why would they treat you that way?  Why would they – “
 
“A Jedi shall not know anger.  Nor hatred.  Nor love.”
 
Tears glisten in her eyes.  “Surely they can’t think that after everything you’ve done that attachment is dangerous –
 
“I almost did it!”
 
He doesn’t mean to yell and it startles all of them.  He swallows thickly, looking at his wife and children.  “I almost did it,” he repeats, this time softly.  “I almost saved Sidious.”
 
She shakes her head.  “I don’t believe it,” she says vehemently.  “You’re a good man, Anakin.   You were confused.  We all were.  Palpatine played with your emotions and fears.”
 
“I almost fought Master Windu in order to save a Sith Lord,” Anakin insists quietly.  “I almost did it because he convinced me that only he had the power to save you and the children.”
 
“Oh, Anakin,” Padmé quickly rises to her feet and crosses the small room to him, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist and resting her head against his chest.
 
Though he knows the danger, he cannot push her away.  He wraps his arms around her, hugging her tightly, burying his nose in her hair.  He wants nothing more than to stay here with his wife and children.  But he understands the danger.  Padmé can deny it as much as she wants, but Anakin knows the truth.  He knows how close he came to turning to the dark side.  He knows Padmé has always had far more faith in him than is prudent.
 
Maybe one day he will truly be as strong as she thinks he is.

***


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