The young man was gasping, stunned. "Padmé, what are you saying? What are you trying to tell me?"
Anakin Skywalker had had a pretty good day: he'd rescued the Chancellor by crash-landing half a ship into Coruscant. The enemy Separatists' General Grievous had kidnapped the titular head of the Republic, and Anakin and Obi-wan Kenobi had been recalled from battles in the Outer Rim to save Palpatine. Anakin was a hero!
But the best part of the day was seeing Padmé again! And she had huge news for him: she was pregnant! Anakin was going to be a father!
He told her it was the happiest day of his life, and he meant it. He went back with her to the apartment suite at 500 Republica and couldn't wait to be with her, not even to take time to clean himself up ... now he was lying on Padmé's bed in post-coital bliss, when she told him something she'd learned from her grandmother, many years ago.
Padmé told him that she remembered her old, wise grandmother talking about a past Princess Consort of Naboo who was known to have sexual affairs outside of her marriage bed. Yet all of her children strongly resembled her husband, the King, "because the Princess never took on new passengers unless her cargohold was already fully loaded."
Then, Padmé turned to him but didn't say anything more. Her eyes were filled with tears and pleading ... he felt guilt and pain emanating from her emotions, but he didn't understand ...
"Is the baby ... is the baby all right?" Anakin's exhaustion from his long day was put on hold. "What are you saying, Padmé? The baby ... it's ... it's mine ... isn't it? I know it is!"
Tears welled up large in the senator's big brown eyes. "Yes, Ani ... I'm carrying your baby. I swear it!"
Hearing her oath, Anakin's heart started pounding so hard that his vision started to blur. "How could there be any doubt? Padmé! There's someone else! Who is he?" His voice was louder, filled with dry grim grit; jealousy filled his head as he gripped his wife's shoulders tight, making her vibrate and shake between his hands!
"Ani! Stop! You're hurting me!" She started to cry, the tears flying from her eys with the violence of her husband's passion.
The sight of tears dissipated Anakin's rage. He softened his hold on her, but didn't let go. "I'm sorry ... I didn't mean to hurt you, Padmé. I'd never do that ... but please, tell me plainly. My heart is breaking!"
Padmé drew closer to her secret husband and kept weeping, but she slowly confessed. Anakin listened, though he couldn't believe the words coming from her lips.
* * * * *
Padmé had worried that Anakin would hear that she was keeping company with someone else and that he'd come to the wrong conclusions. That's why she decided to tell him immediately once she saw him; it wasn't something she could put in a transmission holomessage. Anyway, he was off at war and she didn't know where he was, exactly.
Well, those conclusions wouldn't be completely wrong ... she was deliberately dating human men in Anakin's absence. But she wasn't staying with any one of them exclusively. Hopefully, Anakin would understand that she had work to do and her being sighted with one man or another didn't mean she was being unfaithful to him.
But ... she was being unfaithful. She had an excellent reason for making her husband a cuckold, and she had prayed that Anakin would understand. She hoped that Anakin would not abandon her once he got the news.
She was doing it for him. She was doing it because Anakin was a Jedi Knight, yet he was her husband in every sense of the word, legally and emotionally ... secretly and with great tragedy!
Padmé Naberrie Amidala Skywalker was married to a man who's career forbid him to marry. They had married secretly two years before, at the very start of the Clone Wars. In all that time, she was physically with him for less than a total of four or five months. The rest of the time, she was required on Coruscant as a senator, and he was a Commander in the war, being fought far, far away.
The times they were together were very intense and very physical! They truly were lovers and in love; perhaps their enforced separation made their times together so wonderful?
But they had to be careful; if it became known that Anakin was married, he'd be disgraced and expelled from the Jedi Order. If anyone discovered Padmé was married to a Jedi, she would be forced to resign her senatorial commission and leave Coruscant.
That's why she had taken to dating other men. Anakin had been away for over a month when she discovered her pregnancy, and Padmé knew she had to divert attention from him. It would only be a matter of time before people started connecting the dots that lead from her to him!
She was beautiful and desired by many men, young and old. She had no shortage of offers for "dinner and an opera" ... and for the first time in many years, she allowed those men to take her to bed ...
These men, no matter what their fortune or position, were always keen to dispense with pleasantries and get down and dirty, and she allowed it. She did so without passion, though she faked it well enough to excite the man she was with at any given time. Whether they used birth control or not, she didn't ask; she had no fear of becoming pregnant.
She was already pregnant. With Anakin's child!
As the senator worried about the ramifications in her own mind, that's when she remembered her grandmother's tale of that long-ago Princess from Naboo, who had had love affairs only after she had been impregnanted by her husband.
Padmé had thought it over for a long time, and realized she could use the same tactic, for the reverse reason. In this case, Padmé could "take on new passengers" to muddle the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy. Her child's paternity would then not be made clear to anyone.
She knew, of course, that the child was Anakin's, and she hoped he'd know, too. She hoped he'd know she was whoring herself to other men for his sake!
She didn't care who people thought might be the father of her child, as long as they didn't think it was Anakin.
* * * * *
Anakin, who had not slept in several days, found he could not sleep tonight. First, came the revelation that his wife had been sexually active with other men during his absence. He understood that she did it out of love for him, but he told her he didn't like it!
"I don't care if they know, I don't want you seeing other men!" Anakin was crying now, too.
"I won't, Ani ... now that you're back, I won't be with anyone else ... and the damage is already done. I'm starting to 'show' now ... you should hear the tongues wagging about who the father might be!" He thought he heard his wife giggle amidst her sobs, as if she were pleased that her plan had come about as she'd wished.
He wanted to press her so close to him, to crush her to him! He wanted them to become one flesh, literally! "Why hadn't you had the handmaidens play decoy and sleep with these men in your place?"
Padmé sighed. "They'd offered ... I just thought it was so wrong to ask them to whore themselves for my sake ... to fake orgasms ... they know about the baby, they were worried for it."
"I am, too!" Anakin's voice was full of anguish and pain, "Why would you risk the baby just to confuse its paternity?"
"I did it for you ... none of it was easy, Ani. Not the dinners, the small talk, and the sex was terrible! Ani, I did it for your sake!"
Anakin found himself smiling, knowing he was genuinely Padmé's best lover.
They, at last, become too exhausted to stay awake any longer and fell off to sleep. But in Anakin's case, his sleep was disturbed by a dream ...
Padmé would die in childbirth!
His heart was breaking, his mind was exploding ... what had he done to the woman who meant the whole galaxy to him? All the things she'd done for him, they were endangering her now ... the stress of being married to a Jedi was causing her senatorial decisions to be skewed ... she was carrying his child, which forced her to whore herself so that no one would think Anakin was the father ... and now, the Force had revealed that she would die attempting to deliver his child!
Anakin's anxiety could not be conveyed to anyone!
It was all his fault ... everything that had happened and will happen to his beloved Padmé was due to him. That might have made him happy when he was a less mature and more romantic man, but all the things he'd seen in this war had given him empathy and showed him the true nature of fear for others.
He accepted and wore his fear like a suffocating mantle, now.
He couldn't allow it ... even if the Force had shown him the vision. The Force had never lied to him, not ever. And anything he dreamt tended to come true! "But not this time," he whispered to the Force. "This is a warning of what might be ... I won't let this happen to Padmé! I can change this!"
Anakin's life and thoughts were already overloaded, but this was a responsibility he had to take on ... He'd find a way to stay on Coruscant, he'd never leave her alone again! With him around, she would always be protected.
How to protect her? He didn't know ... could he trust the Force? Would it guide him to do the right thing by her?
A full load ... Anakin didn't even feel the tears dripping down his face. He'd make sure she stay fully loaded ... with him!
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