For what seemed like an eternity, Anakin and Padmé looked at one another, neither of them speaking, neither knowing what to say. Their children, knowing that this was a significant moment, discreetly left them alone.
"Hello Angel," Anakin said, finally finding his voice. "It's good to see you. You…you look beautiful."
Padmé smiled. "Thank you," she said. "It's good to see you too. Leia told me you'd had your heart repaired. I think that's wonderful."
Anakin nodded. "Yes, figured it was about time."
For a moment neither said anything, and the room bristled with tension. Finally Anakin remembered the flowers, and picked them up. "I brought these," he said. "I remember how you liked them."
Padmé accepted the flowers with a smile. "I do," she said, smelling them. "Thank you. You know there is a lovely garden here. I spend a lot of time there, actually. Would you like to see it?"
"Yes," Anakin said. "I'd love to."
"Come with me," Padmé said. She almost reached out and took his hand, but stopped. She wasn't there, not yet. Being with him again though was exciting to her, the scent of him, his smile that had always had the power to make her weaken; there was no doubt that the attraction was still there.
As for Anakin, he was simply enjoying being in her presence. He wanted to say so much, to show her how he felt; but knew that she was not ready. It would be Padmé who dictated how things went from here on in. She was calling the shots. How beautiful she is, he thought as he admired her. The thin, frail woman he'd left four months earlier was gone. In her place was a stronger woman, a more confident woman. No, she wasn't the woman he'd married, not quite; but she was close, so very close.
"This is magnificent," Anakin said as they reached the gardens. It featured a waterfall in the centre, with a wide variety of fauna, not all of which were native to Naboo. "No wonder you like it here," he said.
Padmé nodded. "I feel at peace here," she said, brushing her hand over a fern.
Anakin watched her, sensing that she was at peace, finally. "I was so happy when Leia told me that you'd asked to see me," he said as they sat together on a stone bench. "Quite honestly, I couldn't sleep last night."
"Why not?" she asked.
Anakin shrugged, and looked down at his boots. "I was afraid," he said.
Padmé frowned. "Of me?"
Anakin looked up at her. "Of what you would say to me," he said. "That you'd push me away for good."
Padmé shook her head. "I'm sorry," she said, reaching out and putting her hand on his. "I feel horrible about the things I said to you."
"Please, don't do this," Anakin said. "You never need to apologize to me, Padmé. Never."
"But I do," she insisted. "Please let me. I …I was in a very bad place when is lashed out at you. I know that now. But I see things clearly now, I know that you were victimized as much as I was. You were used, your love for me twisted. I can't imagine how you suffered because of Palpatine."
Anakin fought hard against the tears, her words undoing him slowly. "Padmé," he said. He picked up her hand and kissed it softly. "I've missed you," he said.
Padmé was overwhelmed with emotion, his touch electrifying her senses. It would be so easy to give in to the way he made her feel, but she knew that she wasn't ready for that just yet. Anakin sensed this, and released her hand.
"Luke and Leia have been wonderful," she told him, feeling it prudent to change the subject.
"They are remarkable, both of them," he said. "They love you both so much."
Padmé smiled. "I know they do," she said. "Luke has told me that he's been involved in the initial stages of a new Jedi Order."
Anakin nodded. "Yes, we've been making some preliminary plans," he said. "Obi-Wan, Yoda and Ahsoka have all been involved as well."
"I'm so glad she came back into your life," Padmé said. "She's a good person. She'll be a wonderful Jedi master."
"I agree," Anakin said. "She's grown up."
"Everything all right?"
Anakin and Padmé looked up to see Dr. Riker standing there.
"Yes," Padmé said. "Everything is good," she said, looking at Anakin.
"I'm pleased to hear it," Riker said. "But it's time for your session, Padmé. I'm sure your husband understands how important that is."
Anakin was disappointed to hear it, but knew that therapy was still an important part of Padmé's life. "Of course," he said, standing up. "I don't want to stand in the way of progress, after all," he said, looking down at Padmé with a smile.
Riker was pleased that things were going so well, and it encouraged her that the day when Padmé would be able to rejoin her family was approaching rapidly.
"I'll walk you out," Padmé said to Anakin as Riker left them.
"I'm glad you came," Padmé said as they walked through the wide corridor together. "I have to admit, that I didn't sleep much last night either."
Anakin smiled. "I see, so I wasn't the only one who was nervous," he said.
"Not at all," she said. They reached the visitor lounge, where their children were waiting. "Thank you for coming, Anakin."
"Thank you for seeing me," Anakin said. "Does that mean I can come again tomorrow?" he asked hopefully.
Padmé smiled. "Yes, I think it does," she said. "If you wish."
"I do wish," he said, taking her hands in his. "I'll see you tomorrow," he said, kissing her cheek. "And the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that…."
Padmé laughed. "I get the idea," she said. "Goodbye, Ani."
"Goodbye Angel," Anakin said. "Until tomorrow."
Padmé nodded, and then left him with Luke and Leia.
Neither of Anakin's children needed to ask him how things had gone, for the look on his face told it all.
"I told you it would go well!" Leia said as she hugged Anakin.
Anakin hugged her back, his feet a meter off the ground. "I'm afraid I'm going to wake up and find this is a dream," he told them.
"It's not a dream," Luke assured him. "I'm happy for you, Dad. I'm happy for you both."
Anakin nodded, the smile on his face growing. "I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, but I think your mother will be coming home very soon," he said.
"I hope so," Leia said. "This family needs to be together."
"I couldn't agree more," said Anakin.
Dr. Riker's office
"Well?" Dr. Riker asked as Padmé sat down across from her. "Looks like things went well with Anakin."
Padmé smiled. "Yes, they went very well," she said. She rubbed her hands together. "I was so nervous!" she said with a laugh. "But so was he. He told me he couldn't sleep last night," she said.
Padmé nodded. "Yes, imagine that? The great Anakin Skywalker, as nervous as me! He brought me flowers," she said with a smile. "They grow in the meadow behind our lake home – he remembered. Can you believe that? He remembered!" She stopped as she realized that she was rambling. "I'm sorry, I'm going on like a giddy school girl."
Riker smiled. "It's good to hear you going on like a giddy school girl," she said. She looked at Padmé. "Clearly you love this man very much."
"I do," Padmé said. "I can't remember a time when I didn't love Anakin."
"He's coming back tomorrow, then?" Riker asked.
"Yes, and the day after that, and the day after that," Padmé said with a smile. "That's what he said."
"Well I don't think that will be necessary, do you?" Riker asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I'm thinking that it sounds like you're ready to go home," she said.
Padmé looked at her with surprise. "You do?" she asked. "Really?"
"Yes really," Riker said. "The question is, do you feel ready?"
Padmé thought about it, her feelings still mixed. On the one hand, the thought of home excited her; and yet…
"The fact that you have to think about it tells me that you are still unsure," Riker said. "And that's perfectly okay. Take your time, Padmé, that's my advice to you. I'm sure Anakin will wait."
Padmé smiled. "I'm sure he will too."
Luke flew the speeder north up to the Lake District, leaving Leia behind in Theed. Anakin sat at his side, quiet and contemplative.
"That went well, don't you think?" Luke asked. Anakin did not respond. Luke turned to his father. "Dad?" Luke smiled when he noticed that Anakin was fast asleep. "Sleep well, Dad," he said softly, and continued on their way.
Anakin did not remember going to his room when he awoke that evening. He sat up in the bed and stretched, feeling as though he'd slept for ten years. He smiled when he remembered how pleased Padmé had been to see the flowers he'd brought her. She's her old self again, he thought. I didn't think it was possible, but she's back…my angel is back.
Anakin got out of bed and had a quick shower before contacting Obi-Wan to update him on Padmé's progress. He was eager to learn of the progress he'd made in restoring the Jedi Temple. I'm going to have to face that place eventually, he reflected as he sat down at the communication station. Obi-Wan's face appeared in a moment. He looked someone tired and a bit disheveled.
"Did I wake you up?" Anakin asked with a smile.
Obi-Wan laughed. "Do I look that bad?" He asked, running a hand over his thinning hair. "This is young man's work, Anakin. I'm not a young man anymore."
"I know," Anakin said. "Hopefully I'll be able to help you out soon," he said.
"Oh? Has something changed?" Obi-Wan asked.
"I saw Padmé this morning," Anakin said. "She has come a long way in four months."
"That's wonderful," Obi-Wan said with a smile. "I know how relieved you must be."
"Relieved, elated, excited…yeah, you could say so," Anakin said. "I'm hoping that she'll be able to leave the facility soon. And when she's ready, we can come to the capital."
"Excellent," Obi-Wan said. "We could use your help here. And I know that young Luke is eager to continue his training."
"He is," Anakin agreed. "I'm still hopeful that Leia will want to train as well. She has so much potential, it would be a shame to let it go unrealized."
"I agree," Obi-Wan said. "But perhaps her destiny lies along a different path. And who knows? Perhaps one day she will have children who will have the same abilities she and Luke have."
Anakin frowned. "I can't think about Leia having children," he said. "She's just a girl."
Obi-Wan smiled. "If you say so. Please keep me updated on Padmé's progress. I'm looking forward to seeing you all very soon."
"Let's hope it is very soon," Anakin said. "Be well old friend. May the Force be with you."
"And with you, Anakin," Obi-Wan said, and then closed the transmission.
A few days later
"This was a wonderful idea, Anakin," Padmé said as they sat in an outdoor café. She looked around at the busy marketplace, excited to be out in the community.
Anakin smiled, enjoying her excitement. "We haven't been here in years," he said. "I thought it was about time."
Padmé looked at him and nodded. "I'd have to agree," she said. She looked down at her plate and pushed her salad around a bit as she put her words together. "Ani, Dr. Riker asked me a few days ago if I was ready to go home."
Anakin looked up at her. "Did she?" He asked.
"What did you tell her?" He asked.
"I didn't tell her anything, actually," she said, looking up at him. "Quite frankly, I didn't know," she said.
"That's not surprising," Anakin said. "That's a big change."
"I suppose so," Padmé said. "The thought of going home excites me, though," she said. "I'm just not sure if I'm ready to stay. Does that make sense?"
"Yes," Anakin said. "Why don't we do an experiment, then?" He said.
"An experiment?" She asked. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, why don't we take a trip up there, right now, just to see how it goes?" Anakin said. "If you're not comfortable, we'll come back immediately. No obligation to stay, just a short visit. What do you think?"
Padmé thought for a moment, his suggestion both surprising and exciting her.
"Do you trust me, Padmé?" Anakin asked, reaching out and picking up her hand.
Padmé looked at him, seeing in his eyes the depth of his love for her. "Yes," she said. "I trust you."
Anakin smiled. "Then what do you say?" He asked.
"I say, let's go," she said with a smile.
The trip up to the Lake District brought Padmé more joy than she'd felt in ages. The familiar landmarks of her home were like a tonic on her soul, rejuvenating her, strengthening her. She turned to look at Anakin by her side, watching him as he flew the craft with skill and ease. How I've missed him, she reflected, examining his face. This feels right, she told herself. I'm ready…
The gondola trip to the house brought a fresh flood of memories to Padmé; happy memories, memories of the times shared with Anakin, moments of passion. She turned to him and touched his face. Anakin turned to her, the very memories she'd been contemplating reflected in his eyes.
"Welcome home, Angel," he said, taking her hand and kissing her palm.
Padmé smiled, and drew his face to hers, needing to show him just how much she needed him.
Epilogue (Contains my ideas about new characters- no need to flame if you disagree)
10 years later….
"Slowly, Ben, take your time," Anakin said, watching his grandson as he built his first lightsaber.
7 year old Ben idolized his grandfather, and had shown remarkable Force sensitivity. His progress as a padawan learner had impressed the fledgling Jedi Council.
"Like this, Grandfather?" Ben asked.
Anakin nodded. "Yes, that's it," he said. "Use the Force to guide you."
Ben focused, and, under the watchful eyes of his grandfather, successfully placed the kaiburr crystal. He looked up at Anakin, who simply smiled.
"Your grandmother is expecting us for dinner," Anakin said as he and Ben made their way to the hangar. "We don't want to be late."
Ben laughed. "I remember the last time we were late," he said. "She was pretty mad, wasn't she?"
Anakin smiled. "No, she wasn't mad, not really," he said. "She just likes to tease me sometimes."
Ben frowned. "Really? Mom gets mad at me if I tease Rey."
"Well Rey is only a baby," Anakin said. "That's different."
Ben didn't really understand, but didn't say so.
Padmé met Anakin and Ben at the door, with baby Rey in her arms.
"Well? How did it go?" she asked.
"He did very well," Anakin said, putting a hand on Ben's shoulder. "A fine Jedi he'll be."
Ben smiled up at his grandfather, the pride fairly bursting from him. "Grandfather showed me how," he said. "He's a good teacher."
Padmé smiled. "He certainly is," she said. "Are you hungry?" she asked Ben as she passed the baby to Anakin.
"Yes we are," Anakin said, taking Rey from his wife's hand. He kissed her on the cheek as she reached for his nose. "Are you hungry?" he asked her.
Rey smiled, not really understanding but happy to have her grandfather's attention nonetheless.
"Are Mom and Dad back?" Ben asked his grandmother.
"Yes, they just arrived," she told him, putting her arm around his shoulders. "I know how much they've missed you two since they've been away."
Ben smiled, knowing that there was no doubt his father had brought him some very cool souvenirs from their trip.
"Dad! Mom!" Ben said as he ran to meet Han and Leia.
"Kiddo!" Han said, opening his arms to his son.
"I missed you guys so much!" Ben said as he hugged his father tightly. Rey, on the other hand, was eager to see her mother. "I did it, Dad! I finished my lightsaber!"
Han smiled, and exchanged a look of pride with Leia. "That's fantastic, son," he said.
"We're very proud of you, Ben," Leia said, touching her son's face.
"Let's eat while it's still hot," Padmé said, taking Ben by the hand. "Luke will be here shortly. Obi-Wan is already here."
Later as the whole family sat around the table, eating, laughing and talking, Anakin looked around at the members of his extended family. It seemed hard to imagine that there was a time in his life, not so very long ago, when his life was nothing but darkness, when he was a slave to the evil thing called Palpatine. But all that had changed, quite unexpectedly, when the child he'd thought long dead entered his life. If I hadn't been there, if I hadn't brought her ship on board, none of this would have happened, he reflected. I would have spent the rest of my life in darkness, never having known this incredible family that I was blessed with. And Padmé, he thought, looking at his beautiful wife next, my angel…the Force is good indeed to have brought you back to me. I am the luckiest man alive.
"Dad? Everything okay?" Leia asked, putting her hand on his arm.
Anakin nodded. "Yes, everything is perfect."