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Untitled Document

The Sapphire Shaft.

And your eyes hold the blue-bird flash,
The sapphire shaft, which is truth.

Amy Lowell, A Dome of Many Coloured Glass.

Part 28: Fonder the Heart During Absence, Is.

In contrast to the usual settings when such meetings took place, Cantham House was unusually quiet and devoid of all but the regular attendants. A substantial apartment in the building of Five Hundred Republica, the diplomatic residence for Alderaan was an old presence in the political district of the Core, home of the Organas for at least a millennia.

Bail Organa was a more recent addition to the line, taking the title of Prince Consort when he and his wife married, Senator and Queen as much of an oddity as an union as Senator and Jedi. Despite the many agendas which could be made from it, the marriage was a love match, marred only by the desire to have a family sabotaged by fate.

Breha's determination to have a child of her own flesh and blood knew no bounds and Bail's devotion to her was profound and steadfast. Until she was ready to give up, neither adoption or surrogacy would be considered. Each time she quickened, hope rose within their hearts, making sadness all the more poignant when the babe stilled. Such news was kept from the HoloNet as much as possible for their views on the matter would only cause the grieving couple more stress. Their friends would come into their confidence however, for such unwavering support was always welcome.

Padmé felt uncomfortable about her attendance today, for this would be the first meeting where her own quickening would be visible, a sight Bail did not need to see at this time, for their last expectations ended tragically only a standard week ago. But he had requested her presence in order to persuade another to their cause.

He greeted her as she came in, one glance direct at her normally slight figure enough to realise her state. He raised her proffered hand to his lips.

"Congratulations," he uttered sincerely. "I hope your expectation proves fruitful. And do not worry on my account. It was just not meant to be."

"How is Breha?" Padmé asked as he ushered her to a chair.

"Recovering," Bail replied, a sad smile gracing his refined features. "And Obi-Wan, how did he take your news?"

"He found out before I was even aware of it," Padmé revealed, her smiling glow twinge by the sadness of his absence. She had not seen her husband since just after their return to Coruscant, Obi-Wan and Anakin being posted to the front as soon as their leaves were over.

Bail sobered as he descried the concern hidden in her seemingly light hearted reply. "Do you know where he has been stationed?"

Padmé shook her head. The Clone Wars had started too quickly for everyone's liking, delaying the ritual traditions of the Order, causing Obi-Wan's and Anakin's promotions to be postponed in the favour of their duty to the safety of the Republic.

"Well, I'm on the Strategic Welfare Committee," Bail reminded her. "I'll see what I can find out."

"Thank you," Padmé returned gratefully.

"I see despite all, some things have not changed," an elegant voice said as its owner entered the room.

Bail raised his head to acknowledge the new arrival. "Greetings Finis," he remarked. "I trust your journey here was uneventful?"

"If by that inquiry you mean to ascertain that I wasn't followed, then, yes," Senator Valorum replied.

Padmé turned round and made her way over to the former Supreme Chancellor. "I am sorry for my actions concerning you during my reign. If I could go back in time and alter them, I would do so, believe me."

"You had my forgiveness a long time ago, Padmé," Valorum replied, his tone softened. "I do not blame you, we were out manoeuvred by seemingly trustful colleagues."

"That is what we are here to talk to you about today," Padmé revealed.

When Padmé returned to the penthouse apartment that was the official residence for the Senator from Naboo, the orbital receptors were long past over the yardarm. Darkness was gradually falling across the planet, but the lights from the numerous buildings that conquered the land of the Core still continued to glow, betraying various displays of occupation.

As for their own quarters, the rooms were bathed in the softness of candlelight, the artificial wall pods adjusted to deliver the same romantic setting in every room, which harmonised perfectly with the Nubian decor. Searching her memory for the time she could have remembered to program this lighting setting before she left this morning rapidly provided a negative, leaving her to conclude that Dormé had ensured the mood for the evening.

Hope rose within her breast. Did that mean she might finally be reunited with her husband? Obi-Wan was called to the front barely a night after they returned to Coruscant from Naboo, his departure the latest in a wake of Jedi Masters and Padawans, promoted to General and Commander respectively in the minds of the Clones under their command. A kiss and a meaningful look was all time would permit them before he submitted to the orders, and the Senate was recalled from recess not long afterwards. Padmé did not dare to even call his name out loud, fearing her heart would be disappointed.

"You're half right," his familiar warm, charming, cultured tone remarked, alerting her to his presence on the shrouded balcony.

Padmé stepped forward to join him there, blinking at his preference to remain cowled in the shadows, a potent reminder to the enemy of his Jedi heritage. As her brown eyes adjusted to the darkness surrounding her husband, she could not fail to observe the solemn, haunted look which marred his features. Her hand came up to cup his face, relieved when he did not shy away from her touch, a flinch she was expecting to come into play. Instead he leaned into the tender caress, an arm tentatively emerging from his brown cloak to wrap around her now rounded waist. His hand tensed as it came to rest on her swollen belly, the child within acknowledging the presence of its father as well as his mood through the Force.

"She senses your concern," its mother now confirmed, causing him to raise his eyebrow curiously at her. "As do I," she added.

Now he was deeply intrigued. "I had no idea that was possible."

"You are in good company," Padmé revealed. "Neither did the healers at the Temple. But then I believe mothering from those outside the Order is still new to them."

He nodded absently, his mind focused on the first part of her previous reply. "How do you know it's a she? I thought we were letting this be a surprise."

A teasing small smile graced her features. "Motherly intuition. And that scene my mind saw on Naboo. The two girls playing with a boy. One of them was older, while the other two appeared to be the same age."

"I think you'd remember one of Master Yoda's most used dictums," his voice changed to resemble that of the revered Jedi. "'Always in motion the future is.'"

"Funny," she murmured. "You never let that piece of sage advice bother you when a vision crosses your mind."

He pulled her closer to him as his equanimity slowly returned. "Well it was either that or 'listen to your husband,' and I know better than to instil such values into our family."

"Good, its' nice to see you realise who rules the roost," she remarked, leaning against him as his other arm embraced her, enfolding her within the warmth from his cloak and from himself.

"Always you," he replied, turning to kiss the palm which still caressed his face. "Always you, milady."

She titled her face so their lips could touch, another affirmation of the love which along with the Force ensured this union. The joining rapidly turned passionate, causing her to adjust herself so she could face him, the motion allowing him to let his hands travel, one upwards to tangle itself in her elaborately styled henna tresses, the other in a continuous sensuous caress of her clothed figure.

Her own hands were by no means idle, one traversing the toned planes of his chest as well as one could when they were buried beneath a Jedi tunic, while the other threaded itself into his trimmed beard and red gold hair. In unison their mouths opened to let their tongues duel. A gasp escaped her lips while something half way between a moan and growl slipped out of his as he pulled her even closer. Beneath the layers of clothing that barred their flesh from touching something twitched in readiness, the movement intent on being granted consent to continue.

Without a word or parting, she backed them towards their bedroom. Obi-Wan followed her willingly, all previous preoccupation forgotten. Layer after layer of clothing was gradually removed until nothing separated their bodies from that most intimate union. Carefully they fell upon the bed, caution observed now another was growing within her. He took her so gently, so tenderly, drawing out the bliss for as long as they could bare, the moment when it came at last leaving them boneless.

Afterwards as they lay side by side he fell into the embrace of the Force, seeking out the current that was their child. The signature glowed brightly, welcoming its father into a bond far more profound than any he had ever known before, save with its mother. Words failed him as he observed the connection in all its glory, the ancient being wrapping itself around their future first born, loving the child as much as it loved the father who half gave it life, or so he was led to believe by many of his mentors within the Order. He felt the fond gaze of his wife beaming down on him as he nestled next to her rounded belly, and raised his eyes to catch her own in his.

"Hello, wife," he uttered. "I apologise for the odd greeting earlier."

"You were preoccupied," Padmé returned, shaking the apology away. "As for what it led to, you'll never need forgiveness for that." she smiled and her hand reached down to caress his beard, the expression widening in pleasure as he leaned into her touch. "But I still wish to know what kept you to the shadows when I came home."

He bowed his head, refusing to meet her eyes for a time. "The war," he replied simply, "and all its horrors. Geonosis was bad, but compared to what Anakin and I have faced recently, it was nothing."

"And how is Anakin?" She asked. "Is he seeking solace?"

"I left him with Qui-Gon," he replied. "But I doubt if he's broken his silence. I don't believe he ever will. Something's changed him, Padmé. He's suddenly older, mature, every inch the Jedi the Council could wish for."

Padmé studied his thoughtful, conflicted features. "You don't trust it?"

"I try to," he confessed. "But as we are reminded by Master Yoda, there is no try, only do. And there's something I never told you. What happened on Tatooine wasn't a fluke. He's fallen before." Slowly he told her what took place after the mission to Zonama Sekot. By the end of the tale pulling the blankets which covered their bed over them both did nothing to sever the shivers that the tale had induced. Yet Obi-Wan used the Force to do so anyway, waiting anxiously in the silence which followed for his wife to speak.

"Why did you never tell me this?" Padmé asked him at last.

"At first, I was not allowed to. The Council classified the event. I debated on telling you when I called you, after that fight with Qui-Gon, but I didn't wish to worry you. It was a bad time, not just for Anakin, but for myself as well. I thought I had failed him as his Master, and Qui-Gon as a Padawan. I did not want to burden you with such a web of selfish guilt."

"Obi-Wan," Padmé sighed, causing him to blink as he looked at her. "You don't need to put before me the compassionate, humble, perfect Jedi all the time. I have been your confidant for over a decade. Remember I handled my world being invaded during my first days as Queen. I think I could handle knowing about what you wrongly believe are your failures back then just as well." She smiled and added another before he could utter the thought himself. "And don't think of apologising for burdening me while I'm in this condition, either."

A rueful expression grazed his features. "I thought you liked my chivalry."

"I do, certain aspects of it at least. Just don't forget who I am." She paused to smile at him. "Lord Kenobi."

Obi-Wan grimaced. "I hate that title. Why some of your colleagues chose to address me by that honorific as opposed to the ones I have earned, Force only knows."

Padmé laughed. "Which is why we rarely associate with the ones that do. It's reassuring in a way, you know. Our allies are the ones who treat you with the respect that is due to those of the Order."

"Speaking of which, how did things go with Senator Valorum?" Obi-Wan asked her, having been aware of the plans to invite the former Chancellor to the meetings taking place at Cantham House.

"Very well. Bail was wise to include him." Padmé paused as she tried to search her husband's serene composure for clues regarding foreknowledge of her next inquiry. "Have you heard about Breha?"

"Mace sent me the news before Anakin and I left the front." Obi-Wan sighed, his sorrow for their friend deeply felt. "I did think fate would be generous this time."

"As did I," Padmé bowed her head in mutual regret. There had been an idle fancy of hers that their own child would have a playmate in the form of the next Organa. Now that was no longer to be. Brushing aside the selfish wish, she summoned her courage and asked the question whose answer she least desired to know. "When is your next posting?"

"I wish I knew," Obi-Wan murmured. "The sound of the comlink is now a thing I dread to hear."

Padmé silently nodded, her own relief denied by the uncertainty as to when this time together would be paused by the war. A part of her was fearful to leave their bed, as if it had become a cocoon from the war torn universe, but this was the life she now lived, it was pointless to run from it. Cowardice did not become her, it never had. "Are you hungry? If you left Dormé in charge of the light theme, she probably prepared something for us."

Obi-Wan smiled at her teasingly and leaned over her, half prepared to pounce. "Not for food," he remarked.

She returned the expression, let him come a little closer, then rolled away to rise from the bed, letting him fall face flat upon the mattress. "I'm eating for two now, and I did hear of your fondness to inhale."

He watched her as she pulled a dressing gown from the wardrobe to cover herself, then rose also, taking a cloak from his own to appear decent for the meal. "You've been spending too much time with Qui-Gon."

"Not just Qui-Gon," Padmé added, as he followed her into the dining room, "Master Yoda, and Mace also had their own stories to add."

"I knew it was a mistake to let the Grand Masters of the Order remain off the frontline and present for the Cantham House meetings," Obi-Wan mocked moaned before graciously moving her chair away from the table to seat her first. "You'll discover all my failings."

"And you have presented a new subject," Padmé continued. "According to those at the Temple, you don't have any."

"Oh, I have many," he returned dryly, "but let's turn to something to else, for I have no desire for my wife to feed my ego tonight."

He sat down across from her, and for a while there was a comfortable silence, as the couple broke their fast to enjoy the meal which her thoughtful handmaiden had left for them.

If they cared to ignore the view of the cityscape which the apartment offered, this moment could be in the house at Varykino far away from the war and all its sobering horrors. For Obi-Wan, it was a haven away from the perils of the battlefields and the increasingly empty Temple, for only Junior Padawans and the younglings with their Masters were in residence now, the rest called to serve the Republic in some backwater planet usually located in the far flung reaches of the galaxy.

Fighting a war which he knew the Republic was manipulated into, did not sit well with him, especially as so far they had been unable to secure firm evidence of this engineered scheme. Order sixty-six was not enough, the wording subtle and conveniently vague to be vulnerable to dissembling. Count Dooku's assertion that the Senate was under control of a Sith Lord could be counted, but only if the law courts would be willing to hear the testimony of a traitor to the Order and the Republic. This was why they established the Cantham House meetings in the first place, to gather the evidence, the only drawback was that it was not coming quickly enough. They needed time, and the ever constant concern of those in attendance upon the Organa residence was that time would run out before they had anything substantial.

Consciously he shifted his focus from that subject back to the woman sitting opposite him. Senator, wife and mother, three vocations which Padmé seemed to carry off effortlessly, though he knew his absences must be a heavy burden to bear.

He had not meant to add to her concerns by his behaviour upon her return to their apartment, drawn into the shadows first by his experience on the battlefield, saddened by the amount of lives he felt loathed to take, the darkness he was exposed to by the trials of this war. Yet he'd been unable to move from the shadows, struck by how the light flattered her beauty, adding another layer of softness to the glow which the quickening gave her. He dare not voice the hope that he would be granted leave when the time came, nevertheless it was present in his mind, that now fervent prayer that the Force would be generous enough to bestow another blessing.

Family was something he never expected, even when his former Master succeeded in haranguing the Council to extend the Corellian experiment. Yet now he knew it, his heart was anxious to savour it, not as an attachment or possession, but to give as much as had been given to him in return, the very essence of love.

Padmé raised her glass and uttered a word, the sound of her beautiful voice enough to break his introspection. "Cordé," she uttered, airing the name for consideration.

Obi-Wan followed suit, acknowledging the name with a sip of the Nubian Shiraz. It was an exchange began when they first learned of their expectation, an effort to distract their minds from the national troubles to the simple joys of their growing family. He offered one of his own. "Benumi."

The topic continued throughout dinner, as they threw names back and forth, until nothing remained of the meal but the table dressings, and the memory.

Part 29: The Essence of Titles.

At the Jedi Temple, Master Obi-Wan Kenobi was known for serenity. The perfect image of a man who is adored by the light side of the Force. Whom every good Padawan acknowledges as the role model they should aim to resemble. His pace is measured, his movements precise, his words crafted by efficiency and succinctness.

Even in battle this understated elegance never gives way to irritation or speed. The Negotiator, as he was becoming known thanks to the HoloNet, would not let the slightest hint of vulnerability show itself to the world, as he talked sword drawn enemies out of bloodshed. Rhetoric was his skill, his persuasive way with words considered an art form by Senate as well as Temple. Politicians would scorn, those tainted by rumours of corruption or unsavoury alliances, but all would admit, in private at least, that Master Kenobi could beat them in debate, without seeming to even to try.

For those fortunate or unfortunate to witness him in battle, when negotiations entered the aggressive phrase, they saw the same art practised with the lightsaber. Defence held until it became an advantage, the enemy remaining ignorant of his defeat, only to realise at the last that their surrender, whether mortal or no, was foreseen from the moment they drew his laser blade upon themselves.

Therefore, those who claimed they saw Master Kenobi running from the enormous grand entrance lobby of the Temple all the way to the Healer's Ward, were widely treated with disbelief and derision. Nevertheless, it was true, and he had the best reason in the world for abandoning his usual grace that day.

Master Windu was there to greet him at the threshold of the Ysalamiri barrier, and even the solemn Korun could not restrain himself from smiling in bemusement at the sight of his friend coming to a sudden halt before him.

"Is she?" He asked, the end of the sentence he dared not to think, let alone speak.

His future fellow Councillor put him out of his misery. "They're both fine, Obi-Wan," he said, placing his hands about midway on Soresu Master's arms. "Infact you only just missed it." Mace withdrew his hands and turned aside to let him pass.

Obi-Wan resumed his usual pace once more as he navigated his way through the reception area to the room from where he could sense his wife's unique signature through the Force. There was another present too, no longer muffled, further evidenced by the bundle in Padmé's arms, from whom the Senator looked up to welcome him inside.

Words failed him as he reached her, leaning over slightly to brush her lips with his own, before turning azure eyes to the babe in her arms, who regarded him calmly, the bond of fatherhood long established. Tentatively his hands reached out, one to touch the soft small cheek, the other to the tiny hand, whose grip encircled a finger instantly.

"How are you?" He asked at last, turning to her, the apology written in his eyes.

"I am well," Padmé assured him, smiling. "It happened so fast, too fast for you to arrive in time. A hour earlier, and it would have been the floor of the Senate which witnessed the birth."

"Wonder what the HoloNet would have made of that," Obi-Wan murmured. "Did I arrive in time for a name?"

"Unless you want to keep Baby Girl Kenobi," Padmé returned.

Obi-Wan pretended to think about it. "Hmm, no, I think we'll go with the one we decided on."

"Then prepare to hold Cordé Amidala Kenobi," Padmé said, and he adjusted his arms, carefully slipping out his captured finger so he could take the babe from her.

"Hello, little one," he murmured as he held her, recalling his days from volunteering in the Crèche. Another image passed through his mind as Cordé's dark blue eyes returned his gaze; a surgical room, the feeling of tragedy, his wife's eyes forever closed.

But then he glanced at Padmé, and the vision faded away.

The rituals for knighting are relatively simple. After a night spent alone in meditation, the Padawan would walk to the Knighting hall, where at the beckoning of his Master, they would enter that grand room to kneel before twelve Masters of the Order, whose ignited sabers pointed to the floor in a glowing, humming circle of light.

Master Yoda would say, "We are all Jedi. The Force speaks through us. Through our actions, the Force proclaims itself and what is real. Today we are here to acknowledge what the Force has proclaimed." His gaze would then land upon the initiate before continuing with, "Step forward, Padawan. Anakin Skywalker, by the right of the Council, by the will of the Force, I dub thee, Jedi Knight of the Republic."

The braid would be cut as the rank was pronounced, whereupon another Master, usually a Council Member would say, "Take up your lightsaber, Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight. And may the force be with you."

A general salute would then follow, as the Masters present acknowledged the newly fledged knight and his great achievement.

For Anakin Skywalker, the ceremony was no different, except in its delay, the ceremony postponed frequently due to one far flung planet battle or another. Nor was the ritual any different for his Masters, whose own ceremonies had been conducted with just as much understated pomp and circumstance, the last twelve years ago.

Obi-Wan could not sense his now former Padawan's thoughts concerning the long awaited for ceremony, for Anakin kept himself shielded most days, the war making openness in bonds a rarity. Aside from his trials, the Negotiator and the Hero With No Fear, as the Chosen One was now called by an adoring fan base, had not been apart in serving the Republic, standing side by side on those far flung planet battles which delayed this important rite of passage. Until his marriage, Obi-Wan had been able to discover most of what his apprentice was thinking, but since Anakin came to know of his mentor's feelings for the woman he loved, a distance was observed, which not even little Cordé could conquer, though she was spoiled rotten whenever her 'uncle' came calling.

Thus he could only speculate as to what his Padawan thought of this ceremony, contrasting such deductions with what passed through his own mind twelve years ago. Master Yoda had resided over it, bemused by a pupil's insistence to take another trial when he had killed a Sith on Naboo barely a month ago. Yet he knew Obi-Wan would not want to be singled out or regarded as the new standard to which every Padawan now needed to aim. So Kenobi took another trial, passed it with distinction, and afterwards bestowed his braid to Qui-Gon, sending the beads to Padmé. Quietly he wondered what Anakin would do with his, holding no expectation to receive either, considering the recent distance between them.

So he was not surprised when the newly fledged Knight dropped the braid into the hands of Qui-Gon Jinn. The Chosen One had always been closer to the now frail Master. His illness was suspected of being in its final stages, though the Healers still possessed no idea as to when said stage would end, or if a cure was not beyond the realm of possibility. Qui-Gon left it to the will of the Force, teaching at the Temple when his health permitted, or receiving visits from his colleagues and friends when it did not. He had been Temple bound since the beginning of the Clone Wars, his strength no longer able to withstand combat, unable to avoid the frequent seizures. Yet the Living Force resided with him, allowing him to remain in the here and now, for the present.

"And these are for you, Master," Anakin said, causing Obi-Wan to come out of his introspection in time to catch the beads poured into his free hand. Gratified, he wordlessly closed his hand around them, before taking his apprentice in an embrace, the distance healed over by this one simple gesture.

Padmé came home from the Senate one afternoon to discover a sight not witnessed outside the Temple walls. Dormé beckoned her in with a nervous expression, unsure if her mistress would permit the visit before she returned home, a worry the Senator quickly put to rest with a few comforting words and a quiet nod, before walking further into the living room of the apartment. Respectfully, she bowed before the Grand Master, who had turned from his young pupil to acknowledge her arrival.

"Senator Amidala, pleased to see you, I am," he greeted.

"Master Yoda," Padmé returned, before bending down to take her daughter in her arms. Cordé was just over a year old, with her father's shade of hair and her mother's eyes, possessing a serene disposition and a compassion which rivalled both her parents. Rising back up to her full height, she added, "what brings you here?"

"Requested at the Temple, yours and Miss Kenobi's presence is," Yoda replied, resting his hands upon his gimmer stick. The revered Master was an unofficial tutor while Obi-Wan was serving on the front line, and Cordé one of the few younglings to receive her first lessons outside the Temple.

"What for?" Padmé inquired, curiously.

"Surprise, is all I will say," Yoda answered, before walking towards her.

Padmé let the Master pass by her, then fell into pace behind him. Silently she followed the Jedi to the turbolift, where they took one down to the path level of the Core. Around them Coruscant's populous gave the procession a respectful berth, the Grand Master using the Force to divert any deep degree of interest until they reached their destination.

Keeping a tight hold of her inquisitive daughter, Padmé followed Yoda through the grand entrance of the Temple and into another turbolift. Only when she reached their destination did she at last realise why he had invited them here.

Neither Senator nor youngling were startled by the darkness surrounding the humming glow of lightsabers, the blades angled towards the floor, encircling a kneeling Knight of the Order. Yoda took his place as the presiding Master, and gestured with his hand for Padmé to stand in the space behind himself and Mace Windu, the Korun Master acknowledging her presence with a smiled glance before turning to the kneeling figure in the centre of the twelve being circle.

"We are all Jedi," Master Yoda announced. "The Force speaks through us. Through our actions, the Force proclaims itself and what is real. Today we are here to acknowledge what the Force has proclaimed." His eyes turned to the Knight kneeling before them. "Step forward, Knight." the man rose from his knees, took a pace forward, then knelt down once more, this time to receive the saber as it passed above his shoulders. "Obi-Wan Kenobi, by the right of the Council, by the will of the Force, I dub thee, Jedi Master of the Republic."

"Take up your lightsaber, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master," Master Windu requested. "And may the force be with you."

Obi-Wan rose from his knees and unclipped his blade. Igniting the weapon, its blue glow travelled from the floor to the ceiling, as he acknowledged the Masters before him with a return salute. He then powered down the blade as the lights were waved back on, before smiling at his wife and daughter.

Padmé stepped forward and wrapped her free arm around his waist. "Thank you, for this surprise, Master Kenobi."

"My pleasure, milady," he replied, bending his head a little to kiss first her, then Cordé. "I had to spend a night in meditation, which is why I didn't let you know I had returned."

Padmé nodded. "I'll let you off, just this once," she smiled at him. "Do you have time to for a celebration with us?"

"Of course," he replied, stepping away to turn to one of the Masters to alert them to their departure.

"Not so fast, Master Obi-Wan," Yoda declared, causing all eyes to turn to him. "One thing more to give you we have."

The Masters led the family into the room next door, and the Councillors among them took their customary seats, leaving a few places empty.

"Take your place, Councillor Kenobi," Master Yoda requested as he indicated to one of them.

The being who greeted Padmé and Cordé in the entrance lobby of Cantham House was not one of the household staff, or one of the trusted aides. Instead it was a scruffy dark haired youngling, about seven years old.

"Hi, Senator," he greeted, sketching a brief bow before running out of the door. Padmé turned to watch him go, curious at the sight and manner of the stranger.

"I see you've met Han," Senator Garm Bel Iblis remarked as he joined her at the threshold, causing Padmé to turn to face her Corellian colleague.

"Han?" Padmé queried, bending down to let Cordé walk into the apartment, for the youngster was now quite adept at the newly acquired skill.

"Han Solo," Garm explained. "I met him during my schools lecture tour back home in the last recess."

"He must be an intriguing pupil for you to take him on so early," Padmé mused, inviting the Senator to continue.

"Yes, he asked me two irreverently phrased yet highly pointed questions," Garm continued as they arrived at the living room of the apartment. "The first regarding the ethics of the anti-alien bias starting to creep into the legal structure of the Republic, the second about some very specific instances of corruption involving some of our colleagues in the Senate."

"Not the sort of questions you'd expect from a seven year old," Padmé remarked, and her companion nodded.

"Which is why I offered him a job. He has no family, no credits to his name, and was in enough trouble with the school that they were almost relieved to rid of him." Garm smiled. "They have no idea of the true worth of the pupil they're abandoning. He's become my courier and unofficial informer. The last person anyone would suspect."

"So we are making progress at last?" Padmé asked.

"Not as much as we would like, " Bail answered as he greeted her, "but some." he handed her a datapad. "This is what we have so far."

Padmé sat down and scanned through the information. When she reached the end of the evidence, she raised her thoughtful gaze to Bail. "Why is it that now we have just enough for the Courts, he controls a super majority which will prevent us from charging him?"

"Same reason as always," Finis Valorum replied, "they're anxious to end the war. Or to acquit themselves of responsibility within the matter."

Padmé returned the pad to Bail, her thoughts inevitably focusing on her husband, and his possible whereabouts now. Despite his appointment to the Council, Obi-Wan's negotiating skills, both rhetoric and aggressive were still demanded upon the battlefield, in a war which the Separatists were doing their level best to intensify recently.

"In other quarters," Mon Mothma said, breaking the silence and rousing Padmé from her thoughts, "work is at last complete. When you next visit, you can tell them they may begin when they feel ready."

"That is a relief," Padmé remarked. "The propaganda has been increasing of late." As she spoke her gaze settled fondly on her daughter, who abruptly stilled, a small smile stealing across her face. "If you'll excuse me, Senators, I believe my husband has returned."

Mon Mothma turned in the direction of her friend's glance and smiled. "It's extraordinary how well that bond works, considering her age."

"The Force runs strong through the Kenobi family," Padmé revealed, as she lifted her daughter into her arms, "according to Master Yoda."

Inclining her head in farewell, Padmé departed from Cantham House and took the turbolift to the penthouse residence for the Senator from Naboo.

"Obi-Wan?" She called after entering the apartment. Her husband appeared from his hiding place on the balcony, unable to hide the happiness he felt at seeing them, though a sheepish expression fell across his daughter's face.

"I see I shall have to stop letting her know if I want to surprise you," Obi-Wan murmured, wrapping an arm round Padmé's waist before leaning down to brush his lips against hers. The passion and emotion within the exchange took his breath away, causing him to pause before deftly taking his daughter into his arms to greet her. His blue eyes met the brown gaze of his love with an eloquent unspoken promise of what was to come.

"How long do you have?" Padmé asked.

"A month," he replied, causing her to let loose a grin. "I thought we could spend it on Naboo. Everything's packed aboard the ship, waiting for you to say yes."

Her reply was just what he desired.

Part 30: Arrivals of Power.

Padmé turned her face away from the sky, though the horrifying image continued to haunt her mind. Smoke trailed from scorched buildings, bombarded by the Separatist gunships which took part in a raid upon the Core, their merciless destruction intended only to serve as a distraction for the real motive behind their attack; to kidnap the Supreme Chancellor. A major coup for the alliance and something of a mixed Sabacc pot for those in the Cantham House Committee. Though Palpatine's absence could grant them permission to conduct a search of his office, the propaganda created via the HoloNet would only serve to increase the now unofficial dictator's popularity amongst the ignorant or corrupt masses.

Few citizens in the Republic suspected the real truth behind the Clone Wars and those that did were fast becoming aware of the need to conceal such knowledge and concerns, while those who were corrupted by the insidious scheme cared little for the civilian casualties that Coruscant would suffer today.

Inwardly she flinched as her ears caught the sound of yet another medic ship heading towards the scene of yet another injury stricken being. Today's raid had come too close to home, forcing an evacuation of the Senate, which was not without bloodshed, as she and her colleagues were constrained to use their blasters to fire upon the droid army that attacked the arena in order to seize the Chancellor. In a way she had been thankful for her previous experience in facing such close quarter conflict, resulting in a greater accuracy than most Senators who claimed knowledge in weaponry. She was also thankful that Cordé had been safely out of harms way in the Temple crèche, for Five Hundred Republica had not escaped a scorching either.

Which brought her back to the surroundings she was encircled by now, the Healers Ward within that building where her husband was raised and where their daughter had been safely protected during the raid. And the thought of her husband brought her to seek a further assurance from the patient she was visiting.

"Do you really think they will send for them?"

Qui-Gon's gaze was the perfect mixture of serenity, compassion and understanding. "Who else could they count on to succeed? His team has the highest ratio of success."

"It's just been so long, Qui-Gon," Padmé murmured with a sigh. "Five months spent fearing the truth in the worst rumours, the constant struggle to keep Cordé innocent from them and therefore content. And then there's the politics. Every move I or Mon, or Bail, or Garm, or Finis make, he is three steps ahead of us, carving more and more power away from the Senate and into his own control. Opposition is no longer effectual, there are too many self serving fools concerned about their own survival before that of the people we serve." She paused to ask him something else. "Has Mace discovered anything?"

"He's tracing the source as we speak," Qui-Gon replied. "Though the word of a Jedi is no longer held in very high regard any more. Few of those fools will be surprised if we announce our suspicions because relations with the office have become... difficult."

"There's rumours that the Order collaborated with the Separatists to bring this kidnapping about," Padmé revealed in disgust.

"Such news does not surprise me," Qui-Gon returned. "Whatever advantage this move has gained us, we lose in the face of public perception and belief. His moves will also become harder to predict."

Padmé frowned. "By this reasoning then we have to let things play out as he wants them to?" she queried, her companion's nod a confirmation she feared would be the case.

Qui-Gon inclined his grim face. "It may be our only hope."

"You coming?"

Obi-Wan forced himself to muster the usual trace of a smile. "I haven't the courage for politics. I'll brief the Council."

Anakin frowned. "Shouldn't I be there too?"

"No need. This isn't the formal report. Besides," Obi-Wan gestured at the large number of journalists and cameras that hung around the Senatorial docking, eager to congratulate the heroes who rescued the Supreme Chancellor from the clutches of General Grievous and Count Dooku. "Someone has to be the poster boy."

"Poster Man," Anakin retorted, pained.

His former Master could not help but let loose a chuckle. "Quite right, quite right. Go meet your public, Poster Man."

The Jedi Knight took a step towards the crowd, then turned back as a thought occurred to him. "Wait a minute. This whole operation was your idea. You planned it. You led the rescue. It's your turn to take the bows."

"You won't get out of it that easily, my young friend," the Councillor returned with a shake of his head. "Without you I wouldn't have even made it to the flagship. You killed Count Dooku and single handedly rescued the Chancellor, all the while, I might be forgiven for adding, carrying some old broken down Jedi Master unconscious on your back. Not to mention making a landing that will be the standard of Impossible in every flight manual for the next thousand years."

"Only because of yours and Qui-Gon's training, Master," Anakin started to say.

"That's just an excuse," Obi-Wan cut him off. "You're the hero. Go spend your glorious day surrounded by politicians and journalists."

"Come on, Master, you owe me," Anakin protested. "And not just for saving your skin the tenth time..."

"Ninth time," Obi-Wan corrected. "Cato Neimoidia doesn't count, it was your fault in the first place. I'll see you at the Outer Rim briefing in the morning."

Anakin took another step, then the real motive for the Negotiator's hesitancy finally became clear. "She's at the Temple, isn't she?"

Obi-Wan nodded. "It's where we agreed to meet if Coruscant was ever raided."

His former apprentice frowned. "And I thought we no longer had secrets any more?"

"There are some things between a husband and a wife which will always remain private," Obi-Wan replied. "Now go."

He watched the Hero With No Fear walk away from the shuttle, the hatch cycle close, and then he waited for the craft to lift off before he turned to face the other occupant and R2, the smile upon his face fading away. "You wanted to speak with me."

Mace Windu rose from his seat to observe the scene on the docking platform, a frown forming across his features as he observed the Chancellor put his arm around the Chosen One's shoulder to pose for the cameras. "It's Anakin. I don't like his relationship with Palpatine."

"We've had this conversation before," Obi-Wan pointed out. "It's usually you and Master Yoda who counsel my own concerns on this friendship."

"There is something between them. Something new. I could see it in the Force," Mace replied grimly. "It felt powerful. And incredibly dangerous."

"I trust Anakin with my life," Obi-Wan replied carefully, waiting for his friend to confess more of his concern.

"I know you do," Mace added, turning his eyes to him. "I only wish we could trust the Chancellor with Anakin's."

"Yes, Palpatine's policies are questionable," Obi-Wan continued with a frown. "To me his doting on Anakin like a kindly old uncle to his favourite nephew always seemed a deliberate relationship on his part."

"The Chancellor loves power," Mace confirmed. "If he has any other passion, I have not seen it."

Obi-Wan sighed as the view at last betrayed the outline of the Temple, from which he could sense his wife and daughter, waiting for him. He had hoped for a private reunion, some time away from the present strife in the Republic. Now from the sound of things that was not to be. "What would you have me do?"

"I am not certain," Mace admitted. "You know my power; I cannot always interpret what I've seen. Be alert. Be mindful of Anakin and careful of Palpatine. He is not to be trusted and his influence on Anakin is dangerous."

"I know all this, Mace. I haven't missed that many meetings at Cantham House." Obi-Wan shook his head. "Have you managed to confirm that the capture was an inside job?"

"What else could it be, the timing was too much of a coincidence. We traced the Sith Lord to an abandoned factory in The Works, not far from where Anakin landed the cruiser. When the attack began, we were tracking him through the down level tunnels. The trail led to the subbasement of Five Hundred Republica."

"And who's handling the investigation?" Obi-Wan inquired. "I'd be happy to sit in, I know my perceptions are not so refined as some, but..."

Mace shook his head. "Interrogate the Supreme Chancellor's personal aides and advisers? Impossible. Palpatine will never allow it, though he hasn't said so."

"But he doesn't have the authority to interfere with a Jedi investigation..." Obi-Wan started to say, only to falter. "Does he?"

"The Senate has surrendered so much power, it's hard to say where his authority stops," Mace replied. "And with Anakin's instability rendering him ineligible for Mastery, his relationship with the Chancellor is no longer considered the asset it once might have been." He sighed. "You haven't been here, Obi-Wan. You don't know what it's been like, dealing with all the petty squabbles, the special interests, the greedy, grasping fools in the Senate, and Palpatine's constant, cynical, ruthless manoeuvring for power,- he carves away chunks of our freedom and bandages the wounds with tiny scraps of security. And for what? Look at this planet, Obi-Wan! We have given up so much freedom- how secure do we look?"

Obi-Wan felt his heart seize inside him, not even the signature of his wife and child a comforting balm any more. He recalled the last happy days he spent with them, at the villa in Varykino, five months ago. It had been the first time he experienced the normal day to day of family life, with nothing to care about except the happiness of Padmé and Cordé, as their baby girl became familiar with the splendour of Naboo's Lake Country and the extended family from her mother, spoiled by visits of grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins, who were more than willing to keep the crechling occupied while her parents enjoyed a second honeymoon.

The temptation to stay there forever, and never return to Coruscant was as potent then as it felt now. But equally present was the hope that somehow, the Republic would see what was wrong with the Chancellor's rule and unite to overturn it once more. Current plans from the Cantham House Committee were not so optimistic, waiting for Palpatine to play his Sabacc hand before they showed theirs.

"Mace, we'll go to Yoda together, and among the three of us we will work something out," Obi-Wan at last replied. "Some way of forcing Palpatine's hand. A very, very wise Jedi once said to me; 'we don't have to win. All we have to do is fight.'"

"I seem to have forgotten that particular Jedi," Mace answered slowly. "Thank you for reminding me."

As they entered the Temple, Obi-Wan sank into the embrace of the Force, seeking the precise location of his wife and daughter, trying to ignore the guilt which pressed on his mind caused by his five months absence spent fighting in the Outer Rim. He found Cordé first, the distance leading him to deduce that she was in the crèche with the younglings. For a moment he savoured the bright Force signature of his daughter, which seemed to him to be like a beacon in the darkness that surrounded the Jedi, his hope for a better future.

Then he let go and searched for his wife. Quicker than he expected, the location presented itself to his mind, causing his feet to move along the corridors, pausing in turbolifts and passing through the Ysalamiri barrier which protected the healers ward, until he entered Qui-Gon's room.

Padmé moved from her place beside his former Master's bedside to embrace him, her slender arms wrapping themselves around his compact toned figure, her lips finding his for a fiercely passionate welcome home kiss. Obi-Wan let himself forget that they weren't alone and indulged in the pleasure of her touch, his own arms encircling her to tangle a hand in her hair and caress the smooth skin of her face.

As he savoured the embrace of his wife, secure in the knowledge that he would not be parted from her for a while at least, his senses detected something else which was waiting for him, something which five months ago was too small to detect. The sensation was familiar and yet new, the shock of it causing his hands to still, and his mouth to draw back from hers, as his eyes searched hers for confirmation. Her glistening glow and small smile was his answer, and he swept her off her feet to twirl her round in celebration, before gently setting her down to let his hand touch the evidence of her second quickening. Behind him Artoo beeped his own salutation, assuring his mistress that all was well with him also.

Then he drew back from her to speak to the other occupant of the room, wrapping an arm around her swelling waist while he did so. "Hello, Master."

Qui-Gon smiled at his former pupil, who despite his now superior elevation in rank still insisted on the old formality, a sign of the respect and attachment he felt towards the only father he ever knew. "Welcome home, Obi-Wan. I am relieved to see you visiting these rooms relatively unharmed for once." He paused to take a much needed breath before further inquiry, trying to ignore the sudden concern which appeared on the couple's faces. "How is Anakin? And I presume you rescued the Chancellor?"

"We did, destroying General Grevious' ship in the process. Anakin is well," Obi-Wan replied. "At present he is with the Chancellor, satisfying the vocal needs of the press." he paused to change his tone from light hearted to sombre. "He killed Count Dooku."

Qui-Gon bowed his head, the loss of his once former Master painful, despite the differences in their loyalties to the Force and the Republic. "I hope he will find redemption and forgiveness now he is at peace," he murmured. "Now, I'm sure you'd much rather be spending time at home than here."

"Master," Obi-Wan began to say, but Qui-Gon shook his head. "Mace or Anakin can fill me in on what else occurred. And briefing the Council can wait. Go."

In the end, Chancellor Palpatine did not lift martial law until the light started to fade from the orbital mirrors, causing Obi-Wan to deliver his briefing to the Council before he, Cordé and Padmé were able to leave the Temple for the privacy of their apartment in Five Hundred Republica. Together they put their daughter to bed, before shedding their robes of office and duty in favour of comfort for the night.

Padmé stood before the balcony rail brushing curls into her long brown hair while she waited for Obi-Wan to join her. Clothed in an ivory blue Nubian silk night gown, the material looped high over her chest to low down her back, secured by thin straps from a crystallised oval flourish below her slender neck, around which lay her purple necklace. The silk fell in gentle folds to the floor, concealing the recent changes to her figure. A smile caressed her face as her husband emerged from the shadowed lights of their living room to recline against the wall beside the threshold, his blue grey eyes fixed on her in open admiration.

"I'd like to have the baby on Naboo," she remarked, continuing to brush her hair. "In the Lake Country, away from everything and everyone. Those times we spent there five months ago have been on my mind ever since we parted."

"Mine too," Obi-Wan replied, while he stretched out with the Force to bond with the new signature growing inside her. Or rather, signatures, he realised in awe. "You mean babies, my darling."

She almost dropped the hairbrush. "Twins?" she queried, receiving a questioning nod in reply. "I didn't have the healer check, I just wanted to make sure everything was okay. I did think something was different, for my sensitivity seems stronger this time." Padmé paused, fingering a curling lock of hair almost absently. "We'll have to make some changes to the nursery there. If we can get away."

Obi-Wan nodded, running a hand through his hair with a sigh before he joined her at the balcony rail. "I hear from Mace that his power is increasing."

"There's little anyone can do to stop him," Padmé admitted sadly. "I ran a comparison between what laws we had with Finis and what Palpatine has now. The results were frightening. Soon he'll render the Senate completely ineffectual, and then only the Order might be able to stop him."

"Mace is not optimistic on that front," Obi-Wan confided. "Our allegiance is to democracy, to your body of governance. Once it is gone, it will be difficult to mount any legal move against him. He has our best fighters stationed at the furthest reaches of the galaxy, allegedly protected by legions of clone troopers. If the Sith Lord turns out to be someone from his office, then a coup will become our only option."

"And the war?" Padmé asked him. "How did Anakin kill Count Dooku?"

"I'm not sure," Obi-Wan replied. "His last attack on me left me unconscious. I only came round after we tried to leave the ship. Anakin seemed guarded in telling me how, while Palpatine was almost gushing with fatherly pride. But with him gone, there is only Grievous left. If we can take care of him, we can end this war."

"Who will the Order send?" Padmé inquired.

Obi-Wan shrugged. "Mace or Yoda, I think. Current strategy is to force the Sith Lord's hand, to make him declare his intentions. If the strongest of the Order, the Grand Masters, are out in the field, he might feel more confident in doing so." He moved to embrace her, gently resting her head against his chest. "Don't worry my love, I'm not going anywhere."

"It's hard not worry," she confessed as her face nuzzled against the warmth of him which she could feel through his tunic. "Everytime I'm parted from you now, I fear another Ventress will take you, and nobody will be able to come to your aid. Those months when there were whispers of your death..." she shivered, even as he tightened his embrace around her, knowing there was nothing he could do or say to assuage these concerns, for they were a by-product of being married to a Jedi, however unnatural or negative such emotions were.

"Do you want me to talk to the Council, ask for some leave?" he inquired, only for her to shake her head in a surprisingly resounding refusal.

"No, I will not have you give up your duties just to ease my worries," she added. "You are too good a Jedi for the Republic to lose right now."

He said nothing in response to the praise, but then he never required his ego to be massaged by her or anyone, which was precisely why he was so good a Jedi. Instead he bent his head to catch her lips with his, as they at last let themselves savour the pleasure of their reunion.

Later that night, while they slept, a beeping disturbed the silence of their bedroom, causing Padmé to rise from the sheets and wander into the living room. Carefully she navigated through the relative darkness that had settled upon the apartment, and sat down before the holo-emitter, her hand reaching out to press the receive icon.

"Anakin," she greeted as soon as the caller became visible. "Welcome home. Do you need to speak with Obi-Wan?"

"No, it's you I wanted to see," Anakin replied. "Are you alright?"

Padmé frowned at the inquiry, surveying his face and manner, deducing that he had not spent a restful night's sleep. "I'm fine, why, what's wrong?"

"I had a dream," he murmured. "It was like the ones I used to have about my Mom, before she.... died." He paused, raising his eyes to level with her own. "It was about you."

"Oh," Padmé uttered, unsure what to say. The very idea of Anakin dreaming about her after his confession on Geonosis was unsettling, let alone the theme.

"You die in childbirth," he continued, the words forced from his mouth, as if he didn't want to warn her, let alone fear the imagination of such an event.

She held back from sighing, knowing he would not take kindly to her scoffing at his prophecy. This fear was only natural for him, coming from Tatooine, where medical facilities were available only to those who had money, rendering death in childbirth common amongst the slavering community. "Ani, nothing will happen. I have regular checks at the Healers' Ward in the Temple, and a top flight personal medical droid is at my beck and call." Not to mention that Obi-Wan would know if something was wrong, and surely she would too, for the children would convey it through the only language currently open to them; the Force.

He seemed to shrink in his seat, the mechanical hand clenching so tightly that she could not help experiencing a flicker of fear. "You are pregnant then," he murmured, his voice full of dread, mixed with an unhealthy amount of anger.

Padmé held herself back from experiencing the same emotion, telling herself that he was still suffering from the effects of the dream, that he did not realise what he implying, or who he was angry at. "Yes, Ani, and I am perfectly well."

If the statement reassured him, there was no way to know, for a masked expression threw itself across his face as he replied. "Oh, well, congratulations. I guess I should go, let you get some sleep."

"Ani," she began to say, but the scene went blank, signalling the end of the call. Sighing, she moved to switch the device off, but then the machine admitted another beep, before filling with lines of coded Aurabesh, appearing to those who did not possess the decrypt as the endless repeat of three letters, grouped into three.

But Padmé knew full well what this message meant, and who was the probable sender. Her hand reached out to the touch screen and pressed the hard copy button, transferring the coded message to the datapad she used for the Cantham House Committee. The inbuilt decrypt automatically translated the seemingly endless gobbledegook into legislative phrasing, revealing itself to be the latest executive orders from the Office of Supreme Chancellor, regarding the Sector Governance Decree and the Security Act Amendment; Jedi Jurisdiction. The headings alone were enough to trouble her; as she read further into the message, her concern only deepened.

Rising from the chair, she returned to the bedroom, and found Obi-Wan sitting up, the lights a soft glow, highlighting his handsome features, adding another aspect to the blue grey eyes which were wordlessly observing her.

"Who was it?" he asked.

Carefully she climbed on to the bed, and he took her into his warm embrace before she replied. "Ani, and a message from Bail." she handed him the pad.

Being the husband of a Senator for over three years now helped Obi-Wan to become adept in reading political briefs, as much as he claimed to loath the concept and those who used it as their living. Since the beginning of the Clone Wars, even before, there were a few politicians who were the exception to his professed disgust, and not just the woman in his arms who sat patiently waiting for his opinion on the report before them.

"There it is," he murmured when he reached the end of the message, his tone one of resignation and regret. "In two acts of law he has effectively put an end to the jurisdiction of the Senate and of the Order."

"What do you think he will do next?" Padmé asked, trying to force aside the image of a offworlder arriving on her homeworld with a brigade of clone troopers in tow. The similarity to the blockade thirteen years ago was all too evident.

"My guess is he will put someone he can trust on the Council," Obi-Wan replied grimly, "which brings us back to our first caller. What did Anakin want?"

"Did he ever tell you that he suffered from nightmares regarding his mother?" she asked him.

"Yes, when we were assigned to protect you, and just before. I wish I had listened to them," Obi-Wan confessed. "Perhaps we could have saved her. From what I found out since, she was captured by the Tuskens when we took the mission to Ansion."

Padmé bowed her head, the possibility of the dream containing some truth within it occurring to her for the first time. "He had a dream about me dying in childbirth."

Instinctively Obi-Wan tightened his embrace, one of his hands slipping to feel the swell of her belly through the silk she wore. "It won't happen."

Despite voicing such defiance to Anakin earlier, Padmé found herself adding support to the Knight's nightmare. "But what if he's right?"

Obi-Wan shook his head. "The Force would not be so cruel." He raised his hand from her waist to her chin, turning her to face him. "It is just his anxieties, my darling. Everyone is putting a lot of pressure upon him to end this war, including himself. Anakin carries the burden of all our expectations. I honestly don't know how he deals with it, and I don't think he does either. He is fiercely loyal to all of those he counts as friends, and we are all pulling him in different directions, unconsciously demanding him to follow us. He's about to lose Qui-Gon, and he also is still learning to face the fact that you and I are married. Remember how he dealt with news of Cordé."

Padmé nodded, sighing as she released her temporary concern. Anakin was the first to learn of their news when they returned from Naboo nearly three years ago. He had been so concerned about her and so angry at Obi-Wan that for a while he refused to see or speak to either of them. Only through their combined patience together with the counsel of Qui-Gon did he at last make amends. But since then relations were always cautious and tentative, and the couple had taken care not to be too affectionate in his presence.

Her husband leaned forward to catch her lips in his, and she forgot the troubles which disturbed them from their rest. She turned herself round in his arms, her hands exploring the toned planes of his chest as he slid the straps of her gown down her arms, his mind stretching out within the Force to lower the light of the lamps until nothing but the lights of Coruscant's night sky played shadows across their sensuously moving forms, seeking the contentment reached by their unity.

Neither of them had seen each other since the night the twins inside her now were conceived, in a second honeymoon on Naboo. Tenderly, passionately, they took their time to acquaint themselves with each other's bodies, Obi-Wan sweeping a long, loving glance back and forth as he lowered the nightgown to reveal her flesh, his mouth dropping to take her nipples into his mouth one by one, sucking and licking while she pressed her hands into his red blond hair, keeping him there, until her need called his mouth back to her own, and their bodies came together in the ancient dance, instilling within themselves a heaven from the chaos which surrounded their worlds, a light within the darkness that was slowly sinking what was left of the Republic.

Volume Two

© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 2021. All rights reserved.