Anakin let the sun plant kisses on his face, relishing every moment of it. He was alone, for the first time in a while. The mask was secured to his face, the tubing running into a hovering IV unit. The breeze played with the hem of his thin gown. This tiny balcony was secluded and out the prying eyes of the rest of Coruscant. His hands gripped the fencing that kept him from falling over the edge. He was shocked by the cold feeling of the metal his synth skin could project. Taking the time to absorb the sensations, he relished in all he had missed. Traffic buzzed by far below him. Anakin couldn't wait until he was free from the medical centre.
With a deep sigh, he peered down and flexed his cybernetic hand. It looked so real, down to the ridges on the nail, but he knew that there were cogs and screws deep within. His legs looked incredibly life like. He'd woken and gotten startled many times over. Part of him felt like it was all a crazy dream. That one day he would wake up and be trapped in his suit whilst being called to do the Emperor's bidding. His grip on the fencing tightened when he though of all the terribly things he'd done for that man. That creature. Guilt swelled within him, drowning him. He could see so many faces twisted with grief. So many voice screaming for help. So many people begging for mercy. A mercy he never gave.
Pressure built behind his eyes. He was unworthy of the love and care his friends and family had given him. They should have been slaughtering him along side the Emperor. For six years he'd rained terror down on the galaxy, not caring about who or what he had to destroy to get what he wanted. He hadn't been human. He'd been a creature with no remorse.
Behind him, the door whooshed open. A calming light poured out onto the balcony. Anakin tensed slightly, his eyes focusing on the traffic below. Obi-Wan stepped up to the fencing beside him. He too stared out at the traffic, his brown robes blowing in the wind. "It's nice to see you up and about again," he commented, folding his arms. "Though I would recommend not just vanishing without a word. I think you nearly gave poor Padmé a heart attack."
"Sorry," he responded gruffly. Anakin had just needed a moment to steady his mind and thoughts. He'd been drowning in guilt and no amount of smiles or gentle touches could distract him from the awful things he'd done.
A silence fell over them. Both men shifted, clearly uncertain of what to say. Anakin was pressed by the urge to apologise. When he'd been on the verge of death, it had been so easy because he wouldn't live to see the consequences. Now, he found his tongue limp in his mouth. Squaring his shoulders, he decided to take inspiration from the twins. They had apologised so easily and they were only six. "Obi-Wan?" Anakin began, his heart hammering in his chest. Obi-Wan turned to him slowly, his face genial and his presence encouraging. "I'm sorry," he spoke abruptly. "For everything. For all of it."
"You have a lot to atone for... but I know you will," Obi-Wan responded, a sad smile curling his lips. Anakin dipped his head, a cold feeling pressing down on his chest. He didn't know if he ever would be able to make up for all the wrong he did. There might not be enough breath left in his body.
“I will do my best to fix what I can,” Anakin spoke.
“That is all we need,” Obi-Wan responded, placing a hand gently on Anakin’s shoulder. He seemed to immediately regret it, drawing the offending limb back into his body. Anakin hadn’t minded, but he could feel through their bond that Obi-Wan feared he had overstepped his boundaries. “Although I cannot apologise for trying to stop you, I will for giving up.” Anakin was startled, his brows lifting. “Thankfully Padmé never did.” Anakin felt a smile tug his lips. Yes, she had been loyal to him in a way he could never repay.
“I understand why you did it,” Anakin sighed. “I think it may have been the best of several possible outcomes.” Obi-Wan cocked his head curiously. “Had I won that duel, I would have made sure you were dead.” The Jedi’s face paled. “If you had finished the job, we wouldn’t be here today and I’d have never met the twins,” he explained, letting out a long rush of air. “I think there will always be a part of me that is bitter, but I understand why you did it anyway,” Anakin added, glancing over at his former master.
Obi-Wan nodded slowly, shifting his weight. “I am so very glad you are back, Anakin,” he said. “I missed you greatly.” The sincerity of his words rang through the force. Anakin felt his heart touched. Even after everything. After all he had done, his master had missed him. A wry grin twisted his lips. Grabbing Obi-Wan’s shoulders, he pulled him into a tight hug. In the past, they had never hugged. It was against the Jedi code of attachment, but the Jedi order was no more. It had gone extinct for a reason. If it was to overcome, it had to adapt.
Obi-Wan was stiff at first, but he slowly loosened of. He returned the embrace and warmth lit their bond. His soft hair brushed Anakin’s scarred cheek. They stood there for a short while, neither one particularly willing to pull away. The door whooshed open and Ahsoka stepped out onto the balcony. Both men parted, though still standing close like they used to. “Sorry if I interrupted something,” she spoke with a wide smile. “The medical droids want you back in the room now,” she said to Anakin. He held in a groan. They were like blood sucking flies. They never left him alone. Then again, they were the reason he was still alive. He shouldn’t complain.
Anakin was about follow Ahsoka as she turned away, when he halted. If he was apologising to people, then he definitely owed her one. “Ahsoka,” he spoke, she froze, glancing back at him from over her shoulder. “Padmé told me you were keen to help her redeem me. Even after I tried to kill you.” She turned to face him, offering a sheepish shrug in response. “Thank you... and I’m sorry.” Her face stretched in shock. After blinking the surprise she offered him a warm smile.
“I was just following your teachings, Skyguy,” she teased him. He shot her a dry glare.
“You follow them a lot better than I ever did, Snips,” he responded with a chuckle. Before Anakin knew it, she’d wrapped him in a hug so tight that he feared she would bend his cybernetics. He was quick to return it. She reached a hand out, dragging Obi-Wan in to for a huddle of hugs. It seemed, they had forgiven him.
* * *
Padmé was lying back onto Max, staring up into the darkness of the sky. His chest rise and fell in gently rhythm. Stars twinkled in the inky blackness. Tall grasses rose all around her, swaying in the warm breeze. Insects of the underbrush chirped and sang. Not far away, on the hill behind her, was a little cottage that glowed with warm light. The only light in the bumpy, grass covered ground. Lying next to her was Anakin. His hand was intertwined with her own. It had been covered in a layer of synth skin that was soft, warm and scarily human beneath her finger tips. With her thumb, she carefully traced circles on it because she knew how much he enjoyed it. The easiest way to calm him when he was upset was simply to take his hand.
Letting out a contented sigh, she smiled at the stars because they were free. They were all free. The empire was dissolved and power had been returned to the senate. The galaxy had been shocked, but it seemed to lapse into happiness and relief. Now, they were going to have to work on straightening out the senate itself. That however, was a battle for another day. For now, she was going to enjoy her holiday with her family. They needed time to relax together and really form that family connection.
"Padmé," Anakin spoke. She turned to look at him. He was half submerged in Max's black fur, but she could pick out the pale glint of his skin and the twinkle in his eyes. She let out a low hum of acknowledgement. "I love you," he whispered to her. It was such a relief to hear that voice. His voice. To see his face and know what he was feeling. Her lips curled up into a wide smile. She gave his hand a strong squeeze.
"I love you too, Ani," she responded, feeling her heart swell with the truth of the statement. Lifting herself from Max's warmth, she curled herself over Anakin and hovered her face inches above his own. He smiled up at her with that dazzling smile she knew so well. The one that had comforted her in her darkest of moments. It made her heart hammer within her chest. She'd been giving him time to adapt to his new cybernetic system. It had been at least a few weeks and she could tell he wanted to be closer than holding her hand but he had no idea how to approach her. All of his people skills needed to be retrained and she was more than happy to help.
Padmé peered down at his lips than glanced up at his eyes. They were alit with anticipation. She closed the distance and pressed her lips against his. Goosebumps erupted over her skin, racing down her spine. His hands gently gripped at her sides, trailing up towards her shoulder blades. Her breath hitched. She was thrown back years in the past. To the times they snuck desperate kisses whenever no one else was watching. She wanted to freeze the moment in time. To live it forever with him.
The noise of a door slamming and childish giggles filled her ears. Pulling away she let out a breathy chuckle. "I think we have incoming," she told him. He let out a low hum of agreement. His glittering eyes were locked on her own. Lifting a hand, he tucked a loose curl behind her ear. She pecked his forehead once more and laid back down on Max's side. The sound of thundering footsteps drew closer. She practically blinked and there was a child sprawled across her lap. "Hello Leia," Padmé greeted her daughter. Luke threw himself into his father's waiting arms. Chasing behind them came two Lupus pups. One black and one white. They were now the same height as the children, their eyes wide open and their jaws filled with rows of little sharp teeth.
"We missed you," the twins spoke in unison. Max lifted his head, his muscles shifting beneath Padmé, to lick his children a ginger greeting.
"We saw you just a few hours ago," Padmé reminded them gently. The children burrowed in closer and lay down in their parents arms.
"I still missed you," Leia respond sternly. Padmé chuckled and ran her hands up and down the little girl's back. She placed a gentle kiss on the silky crown of her daughter's head. Anakin was gently toying with a strand of Luke's hair. The puppies dipped into a play bow and let out loud barks.
"Not now, Fluff and Tuff. Settle," Padmé spoke softly. The continued their barking, their tails frantically whipping behind their backs. Max let out a scolding growl, but they continued. It was a that moment a streak of white sailed over their heads and landed with a thump behind the twin Lupus. They let out yelps of fright as Willow bore down onto of them. With a gruff bark from their mother, their tails drooped and they padded over to curl into their father's side. Willow licked Max's muzzle, making his tail wag enthusiastically. With a chuff she lay down beside him. Once again, the family unit descended into silence. They were at peace. Finally and completely.