Freefall 1, Anakin
He was falling, from what or where he didn’t know… but… falling.
He was dreaming, there was no other explanation for it.
Any moment now, he would awaken in his familiar bunk in the Jedi Temple. Obi-Wan
would be calling to him to get up before lunchtime…
The sheets were too soft.
Anakin struggled against the pull of the dreams, but sleep wasn’t ready to
relinquish its hold on him just yet. He groaned, feeling pressure on his chest and his… his…
Gone, lost to Dooku…
He snapped himself awake, sweating. There was pain in his arm… or where his arm
should have been. Angry, sharp pain, almost unbearably so. Only the pressure on his
chest distracted his attention from it. Pressure caused by…
He lay there for a moment, almost afraid to breath, lest she vanish into the haze of
sleep and dreams when suddenly, with an unladylike grunt and sigh, she rolled off of
him. Fully awake now, as dream women certainly did not ‘grunt’, Anakin lay there for a
little longer, watching her breathe.
The memories came flooding back in a rush. They had traveled to Geonosis, to save Obi-Wan… there had been a terrible, terrible battle and her pledge of love. He had nearly lost her, not to the arena beast, but to an accident of war…
In his heart of hearts, he knew that despite Obi-Wan’s admonishment, he should
have gone back. Had he known for sure that Padmé had been safe, he would have been
less out of control when they had confronted Dooku. Less…
Unable to save his real arm, he healers had been quick to fit him with the prosthetic.
He flexed the fingers experimentally and winced as the pain shot through the remainder
of his upper arm. He briefly considered the Force-infused pain medication the Healers had given him before they had left yet set the thought aside for now. He wanted his head clear for at least a little while and although he knew he would need to take it very soon, it could wait a little longer.
Padmé. She had been briefly admitted to the Healers Ward to tend to the wounds from the Nexxu, but as soon as she had been able, she had insisted on assisting the beleaguered Healers. He knew that it was, at least in part, an excuse to be near him but her innate kindness and need to serve were so ingrained into her very being that she would have insisted on being there in any circumstance. He stroked the top of her head with his real hand, savoring the sensation of her hair against his fingertips. The very nearness of her was almost too much to bear, and although it was now his very right to touch her, he found himself almost… No. Right now, but for the very real need to get up and relieve himself, he would have been content just to lie here next to her and watch her sleep.
Sighing, Anakin disentangled his long legs from Padmé’s (who had immediately wrapped her ankles around his the moment she had resettled.) and got out of bed. Out of comfort rather than any false sense of modesty, he picked up the silky robe that had been flung haphazardly over the chair the night before. As he had done with her hair only moments before, he lightly traced his fingers over the veil of her wedding dress before making his way to the fresher.
As he came out, he paused again, just to take in the vision of… her. She lay there, blissfully unaware, with one arm cuddling her pillow close, the other tucked under her head. Her hair was a tousled mess, so unlike her normal stately bearing yet he found this much more alluring. Once again he found himself questioning how or what he had done to deserve the love of this woman. His Angel…
Snapping him away from his reverie, his arm suddenly flared in pain and he bit back the scream that wanted so desperately to escape. Anakin gripped the side of the chair, willing the pain to subside long enough for him to hold it in and after what seemed like an eternity, it released its hold at last. Reluctantly, he wandered over to the dresser to reluctantly prepare the infusion that would ease the pain, but rob him of any lucid thought for the next several hours.
Stirring the powder into a glass of wine, he let his thoughts drift back to the journey back to Naboo. They had traveled using a small chartered ship, unescorted and quite alone. The fact that the Separatist movement had escalated into a full scale war had not diminished the danger, yet all available fighters had been assigned to other sectors. The Chancellor, once again proving his faith in Anakin, had assured the Council that the young man was more than capable of completing his assignment. If Obi-Wan had had any reservations, he had mercifully kept them unexpressed, perhaps even understanding that Anakin needed this expression of confidence from himself as well.
The trip itself had been an almost dreamlike experience. The pain from the implants had been unbearable at times and it had been only at Padmé’s insistence that he had taken the infusion that he was preparing for himself again now. The fear had been palpable for him. To take the sedating medication was to render himself helpless, a thought that absolutely horrified him. To relinquish control, to be at the mercy of everything else… Anakin shivered at the very memory. They had argued passionately about it… a ridiculous fight that belied their real fears yet in the end, as he had know would be inevitable, he had capitulated to her. It had been when he had been in that drug induced stupor that they had summed up the courage between them to discuss their future; how fraught and unsure it was, how one could not bear to live without the other… The discussion that had brought them here. To this point. Joined.
Anakin stood at the window and sipped the drink slowly. The clouds that had gathered and stormed last night (almost in tandem to their lovemaking, he thought wryly) had slowly dissipated and the Naboo sky was full of stars. When he had been a child, he had told anyone who would listen that one day he would visit ‘every one of them.’ Ironically, as a Jedi Padawan under Obi-Wan he had visited many of them but now as an adult, it no longer held the allure it once had. Now, on the cusp of war and separation and adventure, he only wanted peace, and stability, and Padmé. He had the one; surely now the rest would follow eventually.
With the pain in his arm setting down to a dull ache that was fast dissipating, and already feeling sleepy, Anakin let the robe fall off and set the glass down. Slowly he settled back into bed next to Padmé. Although he tried not to disturb her she sighed, rolled over and finally propped herself up on her elbow. Despite his rapidly deteriorating consciousness, he found the sight of her bare body so close to his incredibly enticing. He slowly raised his leaden arm to clumsily try to stroke her cheek. Padmé looked up, saw the empty wine glass and smiled, understanding.
She slowly lowered herself down to cuddle next to him again. They shared a tender kiss and he closed his eyes. She whispered in his ear “Goodnight, husband…”and he smiled as he spiraled back towards the depths of sleep.
“Goodnight, husband…” She'd spoken the words not even knowing if he had heard her. Padmé placed her finger to his lips and he kissed it almost reflexively, most likely in his sleep, but she had to be sure...
“Ani?” She asked quietly, half hoping that he wouldn’t reply. He was emotionally and physically exhausted, and no matter what he had claimed the night before; the fact that he had taken the pain medication (with wine no less) in the middle of the night spoke volumes.
“Ani…Anakin,” she whispered once more, stoking the side of his head tenderly. Just as she was about to settle back down he gave a half-whimper, half-sigh and rolled on to his left side. His mechanical arm shifted and landed lightly on her hip and Padmé gave an involuntary shudder.
He had kept it hidden for the most part and even in their most intimate moments of the night before, neither had actually given it much thought. Now, here in the aftermath at the true beginning of their life together, she could begin her own acceptance of this… this new part of the man she loved. They were both uncovered, the ‘hand’ was meeting bare flesh and was surprisingly warm to the touch. Still she shivered again. The memory of being in the Healers’ ward and their brief discussion of this mechanical replacement burned in her memory, crying out to be addressed.
Anakin had been alternately horrified and fascinated by it. Carefully keeping his shoulder and lower arm covered, he had flexed and contracted the fingers. At last, and very reluctantly, he had allowed Padmé to take his hand in his own, watching her face for any sign of disapproval. Ever so carefully, she had taken his hand in her own and her eyes filled with love and compassion, met his.
“Gods…” he had gasped. “I can feel you…”
“The warmth… the sensation of touch… You…”
Before things could progress any farther, one of the healers had quietly informed them that Anakin was due for his therapeutic rehabilitation session and Padmé had reluctantly taken her leave. After that they had not spent any real time alone together until their journey back to Naboo and they had carefully avoided the subject in any real depth. Now; however, with Anakin deeply asleep beside her, she could examine her beloved; appreciate him, if you will, yet at the same time grieve for what was lost.
She shifted a little closer and he sighed again. He drew his arm up higher now so it rested comfortably across her waist, but this time she didn’t flinch. Instead her eyes followed a path that started at the tips of is fingers and worked its way up his arm. It was oddly skeletal, yet alive. Illuminated wires and circuits ran from the middle of the fingers all the way to the stump of his shoulder.
Gods, his shoulder! His arm had originally been taken just above the elbow, yet in order to accommodate the new mechanical prosthetic most of the remainder of his arm had been removed. At the place where flesh met machinery there was a band of metal, a barrier to separate the clean robotics from the sickly, all too frail human. His shoulder, what remained of it; was a sunset of bruises that continued down his entire left side. Although their vibrancy and intensity had obviously been far, far worse, the sight of them broke her heart a little. He had suffered and lost so much in the brief time that they had been together. She was determined to make this a new and joyous start for the both of them.
Snuggling closer to him, she realized that they HAD made a fresh start… together. As husband and wife, they had shared the mutual joy of expressing physical love for the first time last night. The first time. For both of them.
Once the decision had been made to formalize their commitment, she had tried to disguise her nervousness (to be truthful, outright fear) with humor. After all, the Jedi Order was no stranger to casual intimacy, why should Anakin be any different? She should have realized that in this, as in many things, Anakin was different from the average Jedi.
“I hope I can live up to expectations… “ she had teased him from the safety of his (fully dressed) embrace. “After all, our marriage bed… it’ll be my first…”
“Mine too,” he said softly. His eyes were closed and he began lightly caressing her cheek. “My mom told me that even as a slave, my body… given freely… was really the only thing I really owned. “ He sighed. “Never wanted to share it with anyone else…”
They lay together in a comfortable silence until Anakin had succumbed to his pain medication. The Healers had only released him on the condition that he would sleep through most of the journey, and Anakin had reluctantly agreed. However, once they had been planet bound, Anakin would only accept the draught on the condition that Padmé would stay with him. He needed her; she needed him. It was…it was right.
Padmé was dimly aware that she too was falling asleep. Anakin had been gentle and considerate, never asking for more than she was ready to give, and they had made love for a good portion of the night. Now however, she just wanted to lie here and be. Be his wife, be his lover.