Anakin woke up with a vague feeling of restlessness. Blinking
and squinting in the soft light filtering through the windows of the bedroom, he tried to concentrate on where that elusive
feeling came from. Its source was his sleeping wife beside him, so he turned about, rising on one elbow, and studied his beloved
Padmé. He reached out with the Force, but he found nothing. His wife was sleeping peacefully on her back, slightly turned
on to her left side, facing him. No nightmares disturbed her deep sleep.
His gaze was immediately drawn to her protruding belly. From
her fourth month of pregnancy, Padmé had found it pretty uncomfortable sleeping on her stomach, so she had to sleep either
on her back or on one side, none of them being her favourite sleeping position; but she had no choice. It took some time,
but now she managed to fall sleep with a minimum of twisting and turning before she found the perfect posture.
Anakin’s heart filled with pride and love at the beautiful
sight, and with a soft sigh, he lay down again and closed his eyes.
A heartbeat later, he felt it again. A vague feeling of fear
and anxiety that tugged at his heartstrings.
Suddenly wide awake, Anakin rose on his elbow again and searched
his wife’s aura, trying to pinpoint where the feeling was coming from. His eyes instantly settled on her belly. Yes.
That was most definitely the source of those emanations.
Moved beyond belief, Anakin slipped down in the bed very carefully,
so not awake his precious angel, until he was level with her stomach. Reaching out slowly, he rolled up the top of the two-piece
light blue nightdress she wore, just enough to reveal her belly.
As it always did, the sight of it brought tears to his eyes.
The miracle of life. Life the two of them had created and it was growing now, steady and strong, ready to bring light and
meaning to its parents’ lives.
Padmé had been so understanding, Anakin thought, not for the
first time. As a woman, she was the only one experiencing it all. The physical and emotional changes, the strain on her system,
but also all the joy and magic of bearing new life inside her. But she didn’t want to keep it all to herself, quite
the contrary. She wanted her husband to participate in the process. She knew how much Anakin wanted this, how much having
a child meant to him, so she eagerly encouraged him to feel it all, as much as possible. She welcomed his touch, his
help, drinking from all his love and support.
She had woken up accidentally and discovered him touching her
belly, and even talking to their child in the middle of the night. He had blushed like a little boy caught with his fingers
in the cookie jar, but she had just smiled and nodded at him, going back to sleep again, leaving him alone to enjoy these
priceless bonding moments with their baby.
Anakin stared at the prominent stomach for a while. Then, he
closed his eyes, trying to get in touch again with the strange feeling that had awakened him. There it was. He could swear
it was directed at him personally. An indistinct fear, disquiet, that cried out to be soothed and comforted.
"What’s the matter with you, huh?" he whispered softly,
his voice dripping with love. "You’re supposed to be sleeping, or sucking your thumb, or kicking, and things like that.
You shouldn’t worry about anything else. Let us do all the worrying. You only have to make sure you have five fingers
on every hand and five toes on every foot. Your mother and I will take care of the rest." He smiled, trying to picture the
final image of his child in his mind. "Go to sleep now, all right?"
Then, he saw it. A small bulge appeared next to Padmé’s
navel, and then disappeared.
Anakin’s eyes opened wide, in awe. He had felt the fetus’
movements and kicks through his wife’s clothes, but it was the first time he saw it through her naked flesh.
Accompanying the kick, a surge of unease filled Anakin’s
mind again. And it wasn’t his own. His heart broke.
"What is it, angel?" he found himself asking through misted
eyes and inching closer, protectively. He blinked back tears and pulled himself together. "Don’t tell your mother I
called you that, or she could get jealous, you know?" He took a deep, shaky breath. "I don’t know if you’re a
boy or a girl, and I don’t care. You’re my little angel anyway." He drew a pattern on the soft belly with his
forefinger, deep in thought. And then, words started flowing. "I’m scared too. I’m scared of so many things. And
I also feel guilty, because the world you’ll see in a few months will be a bloody, ugly and evil one. But you know what?"
He smiled knowingly. "I have the feeling that you’ll make this universe a better place to live in. I hope that your
mother and I will raise you to love, not to hate. I hope I can purge from me all this anger I feel inside more and more lately.
This war is driving me to the breaking point, and I don’t know how long I’ll be able to hold on." His eyes darkened,
but a new surge of distress quickly brought him back. "You and your mother are the only light and hope in my life. I don’t
know what I would do if I lost you. There would be nothing good left in my life. I’d be as good as dead, then. Nothing
would matter to me ever again." He pressed down gently with his finger. "Please, don’t ever leave me," he begged. "I
know you need me, but I need you just as much. Even more." He bent forward and kissed his wife’s stomach. "Don’t
be afraid. I won’t let anybody hurt you. I’ll die first."
There was an intense silence in the room, as Anakin regained
control of his emotions.
"I’m so fortunate!" He murmured past the lump in his throat.
"Through the Force, I could sense your fear and I had the honour of easing it. At last, I have been given the opportunity
to feel useful in this pregnancy. Your poor mother’s doing all the work here." He looked up and smiled at his sleeping
beloved. "But when you’re born, we’ll both protect you and take care of you. You’ll never be unloved for
as long as I live; I promise that to you, my little angel. Now go to sleep and should you need me again, I’ll be here.
As if on cue, more bulges appeared on Padmé’s belly, and
Anakin smiled, just as reassured as his now content child. When one of those bulges stayed more than the others, the young
Jedi bent forward and kissed it.
An explosion of joy and ecstatic happiness filled Anakin’s
thoughts, and he knew they weren’t only his own. His child couldn’t think, but it could feel. They were communicating
Swallowing hard and trying to control his wildly beating heart,
Anakin struggled to hold his runaway emotions in check.
"We still have no name for you," he whispered, trying to bring
some levity to the moment. "Your mother and I have been thinking about some names, but somehow, none of them seem good enough
for you. It would help if we knew if you’re a boy or a girl." He chuckled, feeling playful all of a sudden. "You can
help us with that. Kick once for yes and twice for no. Are you a girl?"
A few seconds later, one bulge appeared on Padmé’s belly
and Anakin’s face lit up.
"Oh! A girl! A baby girl! I knew it, although something told
me you could be a boy, too." He kissed the soft flesh again. "You’re my baby girl, then?"
Anakin froze in his tracks and frowned.
"No? You’re not my baby girl?"
Two bulges appeared below Padmé’s navel.
"Are you a boy, then?" Anakin asked, in total confusion now.
"What is this? You can’t be a boy and a girl at the same
time. Are you having me on?"
Somehow, Anakin could picture his child giggling mischievously
in his mother’s womb.
"I see." Anakin pretended to get annoyed. "I don’t know
if you’re a boy or a girl, but you ARE a tease." He smiled happily. "But I love you anyway. I like sense of humour in
people, or in fetuses." He chuckled at his own joke, reaching out and drawing a straight line with his finger all across Padmé’s
belly, pressing down slightly.
When he moved his hand away, he saw a bulge drawing a mostly
straight line on the same spot, and almost of the same length as his.
Holding his breath, Anakin drew a "V" on his beloved’s
belly, and when he moved his hand away, a second "V" was drawn from inside Padmé.
Biting his lower lip, Anakin pressed down three times with his
finger. He got a mirror reply a moment later.
The young Jedi couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He
didn’t know if what was happening was normal and he didn’t care. All he knew was that something inside him was
reaching out desperately to the tiny being growing in his wife’s womb. And even if there was no distinct thought or
clear consciousness attached to the replies he was getting, he could feel an exact reflection of his needs emanating from
the depths of Padmé’s body.
A family. He belonged at last. He formed part of something bigger
than him, something that was of his own doing and that would go on living after he died. A fierce instinct for protection
rose inside him like a brutal wave, and encompassed all he was and all he would ever be.
Anakin reached up blindly and grasped his wife’s hand.
In her deep sleep, Padmé returned the pressure. Then, he reached out with his right hand, his mechanical hand, and hesitated
as he was about to touch the soft, vulnerable belly. With the utmost gentleness, he placed it there for the first time. The
warmth and love reaching out from inside that prominent stomach hit him almost physically, and Anakin felt as if an invisible
hand had taken hold of his heart and squeezed it unmercifully.
"Force, I can’t wait to look at you with my own eyes and
cover your tiny face with kisses!" he exclaimed softly, resting his cheek on the surprisingly hard surface. "My little angel,
my precious blessing, you and your mother are my reason to live. I loved you from the moment your mother told me you were
coming. Please, don’t ever stop loving me. I’ll need you for as long as I live. I’ll try not to fail you,
and if I do, don’t give up on me. I’ll always be with you. Always, no matter what."
Right then, he felt something pressing up against his cheek.
Anakin closed his eyes and immersed himself in the contact with everything he was. They were touching. His child and him were
touching, with only a few centimetres of flesh separating them. The tears finally escaped his eyes and fell on Padmé’s
belly. Clumsily, Anakin wiped them away with his fingertips, as a warm cocoon of love surged up from inside his wife and enveloped
him in the sweetest embrace.
Anakin’s insides churned with a throb that turned them
inside out. It was hot, a heartbeat later it was cold, and the embers that remained where lukewarm. It was like floating on
a sun-warmed pond, surrounded by the shielding embrace of the waters, knowing that you’d always be safe.
An ecstatic smile lit up Anakin’s features, and bestowing
one last devoted kiss on the welcoming belly, he moved up again, gathering his wife in his arms and spooning her. He rolled
down the blue top carefully, but kept his palm on the cherished stomach, unable and unwilling to relinquish the bond between
him and his child.
"Padmé," he softly called, whispering the beloved word into
her ear. "Wake up just a moment, my love," he asked.
"Mmmm, wha-?" She mumbled, stirring a little.
"There’s something I have to tell you, and it can’t
wait," Anakin whispered into her ear again, excited like a little boy. "I just know what our child’s name will be, if
it happens to be a boy."
The absolute joy in her husband’s voice awakened Padmé,
and she half-turned in Anakin’s arms, trying to see his face. She couldn’t quite manage it, so she limited herself
to rest against his strong chest, feeling completely loved and sheltered. She could believe that nothing bad could happen
to her, to them, as long as they had this.
"Really?" She asked, her own voice full of curiosity and expectation.
"Luke," he said, uttering the word with such reverence that
it felt like a liquid caress.
Padmé’s heart skipped a beat at the sound of the name.
Nothing had ever felt so right to her. The name reverberated all over her body and settled in her very core, filling it with
lights and colours.
And just like that, she knew what the name of their baby would
be, if it happened to be a girl. Anakin triggered it with the mere mention of the boy’s name.
"Anakin, it’s beautiful!" she exclaimed, in awe. "It’s
more than that. It’s perfect!"
"Yes, it is," he nodded against the side of her head.
Padmé trembled when she felt him kissing her cheek.
"And I just know what we’ll call it, if it’s a girl,"
she embraced the arm wrapped around her belly.
"Yes? Tell me!" Anakin could barely hold back his excitement.
Padmé shook her head.
"I’ll tell you after our child’s birth."
"That’s not fair," Anakin complained immediately. "If
it’s a boy, I’ll never know."
Padmé smiled to herself. In some aspects, Anakin would never
grow up. And she prayed he never did. Both of them were losing so much! Everything they knew and believed in was falling apart
around them. The price they were paying was too high, and it was taking its toll.
"Don’t worry, I’ll tell you anyway," she promised
him. "Besides, if we have a boy now, the next one will be a girl."
"The next one?" Anakin’s eyebrows skyrocketed.
"Or the next after that," she said, unflappable.
"The next after that?!"
Padmé had to chuckle at the accent in her husband’s voice.
What would she give to see his face now! Pity that her belly didn’t allow her now the agility she used to have.
"How many children do you want to have?" she asked.
"I- I don’t know," the question took Anakin by surprise.
"I never thought of that before. As many as you want, I guess. I’ll love them all just as much as I love this little
angel here," he didn’t bother to disguise the love in his voice, as his palm cupped the rounded stomach with a passion
he had never known to possess.
The endearment to their child warmed Padmé’s soul to bursting.
It didn’t matter how hard their life was after the child was born. He or she would never lack the love and fierce protection
of their parents, forever.
"Your little angel, huh?" she almost purred, snuggling back
"Yes," Anakin nodded, holding her more securely. "You’re
my angel, and he or she will be my little angel. My guardian angels all of them." He looked into the distance and his face
became deadly serious. "My entire life." His body shuddered and he quickly buried his face in the long brown curls, sniffing
at their soft, comforting scent.
"Just like you are ours," Padmé whispered back, bringing Anakin’s
hand to her lips and kissing it with something akin to despair. Then, she brought it back down and placed it on her belly.
They interlaced their fingers and cradled Padmé’s midsection
and the precious life growing inside.