|Twins3: Hijacked Honeymoon
Author: KittandChips PM
AU. Anakin and Padmé's attempt to have a romantic holiday is thwarted by their eight year old twins.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Humor/Romance - Anakin Skywalker - Chapters: 2 - Words: 15,189 - Reviews: 42 - Favs: 67 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 04-01-04 - Published: 03-30-04 - Status: Complete - id: 1796151
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Summary AU. Anakin and Padme's attempts to have a romantic holiday are thwarted by their eight-year-old twins.
Author's Note: This fic is third in the 'twins' series, but is complete unto itself. The backstory is simply that Anakin did not turn and lives with his family on Naboo.
Modified: 25 March 2008
Twins3: Hijacked Honeymoon - Part One
"I'm only trying to -"
"Help. I know - I've heard that one before."
Anakin tossed the spatula away in frustration. It bounced off a pile of dishes, causing half of them to crash into the sink.
Padmé jumped at the sound, and then turned angrily to Anakin. "Do you have to throw things around like a three year old?"
"Oh, so now I'm being immature!"
"Yes, you are," Padmé said, "I asked you to go and change the coolant in the ship; that's all."
"You're implying that I can't cook!" Anakin said, "How do you think Obi-Wan and I survived all those years in the field, huh? On takeout?"
"You probably argued with each other so much, the heat from your tempers cooked all the food," Padmé said, "And stop distracting me, before I burn these cookies."
"You wouldn't burn them if you let me help!" Anakin insisted, "And Jedi don't have tempers!"
Padmé burst out laughing, leaving Anakin fuming.
"Fine," he said, coldly, "Maybe I'll just go and sleep in the ship tonight if it's that important to you!"
"Sure," Padmé said, flipping one of the half-cooked biscuits, "Just don't forget to change the coolant while you're there."
Anakin turned away, intending to storm off to the hangar, when he was drawn up short. Two wide-eyed, gaping twins stood in the kitchen doorway.
"What the?! When did you two get home?"
Padmé whirled around in surprise, just as the twins suddenly turned and ran. Anakin winced with every bang of their feet against the stairs, until the sound of a door sliding closed marked their retreat into the safety of a bedroom.
"Wait!" Anakin called, running to the foot of the stairs, "Leia! Luke!!"
Padmé appeared by his side, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Here," she said, passing him the spatula, "I'll go talk to them. You take care of the cookies."
"They seemed pretty upset," Anakin said, miserably, "I can't believe we were fighting in front of them!" He turned to Padmé. "Do you think ... do you think we've scarred them for life?"
Padmé hid a smile. "No, they'll be fine - they just need reassuring that we're not planning to move to opposite sides of the galaxy and give them away to my sister."
"But I read this article in one of your fashion holo-magazines that said -"
Padmé looked up in surprise. "You read my fashion magazines?!"
"No! Well ... sometimes, if they have interesting articles ... anyway, that's not the point! The point is -"
"That I'm going to handle it," Padmé said, silencing Anakin with a kiss, "Just keep things under control here. Use your Jedi field skills."
Anakin sighed as he watched Padmé leave the kitchen, and banged the spatula against the palm of his hand in frustration. He shouldn't have been arguing. He couldn't even remember how it started. It just seemed so silly now - arguing over cookies like the two of them were the eight year old members of the family. It was his fault the twins were upset, and he wanted to be the one to fix it.
But he'd learnt a long time ago, that sometimes it was better to simply step back, and let Padmé take care of everything.
Later that night, Anakin turned from side to side, and wrestled with his pillow, before finally throwing it out of the bed all together. A minute later, he used the Force to retrieve it, having changed his mind about needing it. It wasn't until he started rearranging the blankets that Padmé finally rolled over.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, stretching an arm across his chest to prevent any further restless fidgeting.
"I'm just thinking about the twins," he said, staring at the ceiling. "Are you sure they're okay?"
"No, Ani," she said, in an overly serious tone, "They were mildly devastated. That's why they staged that cookie eating contest, and laughed and screamed while they soaked you with the hose. I hope you actually managed to change the coolant in all that mayhem, by the way."
"They seemed happy," Anakin admitted, "But maybe this is going to come back and haunt us one day when they're teenagers. Stars, Padmé, I can't believe we were fighting in front of them! Over cookies!"
"They've already forgotten about it. Besides, we're going to have a lot more than this to worry about when they're teenagers. Such as when Leia brings home her first boyfriend -"
"Don't remind me!" Anakin complained.
"And when Luke is brought home by traffic security for illegal racing."
"Hey, now, that's not fair," Anakin said, "Let's just worry about when Leia is going to start asking us if she can be the next queen."
Padmé was silent for a moment. "The answer is no," she said, finally.
Anakin laughed. "As long as I don't have to tell her." He turned to look at his wife, suddenly serious again. "I'm so sorry about this afternoon. It should never have happened -"
Padmé reached up to put fingers over his lips. "Shhh. That's the tenth time you've apologized."
"I know. I just wish I could go back in time and ..."
Padmé raised her head to stare at him through the darkness. "Ani, it was barely even an argument ... you should have seen some of the rows my parents used to get into. Arguing is human. I'd be worried if we didn't argue from time to time ... it would mean we'd stopped talking to each other."
Anakin sighed. "You're always so sane and rational," he said, "What would I do without you?"
"Dash around the galaxy acting on feelings alone," she suggested.
"Sounds perfect," Anakin said, leaning over to kiss his wife. Their tender moment was just that though - a moment. An incessant beeping broke the silence of the night air, causing Padmé to groan in annoyance.
"Who would be calling at this time of night?"
"Another galactic emergency," Anakin complained, "The usual story - you go to sleep for a few hours and the galaxy falls apart. Let's just let it beep."
Anakin relented, and stretched out a palm in the direction to the portable holocom. It floated through the air until it was resting on his chest. When the image flickered into existence, it caused the room to take on a dull, blue luminescence.
Anakin blinked at the small figure, until he recognized his best friend, Jedi mentor, and the closest thing he had ever known to a father.
"Master?" Anakin said, sleepily, "What's wrong?"
"Hello, Anakin. How's the Droogan Subsidary research coming along?"
"Droogan ... research ... oh, I'll get right on to it. You're going on the mission next week, right?"
"Yes, but its been moved forward a few days. The situation is deteriorating."
"How bad is it?"
"Anakin!" Padmé complained. "Tell him it's one am and I'm trying to sleep."
"Shhh," Anakin said, hastily. It was too late, though. Obi-Wan had heard.
"One am? Ah, my apologies. I can never keep track of the time difference when I'm off Coruscant. I shall call back at another time."
"Take care, Master," Anakin said, "I hope you're not hanging off the side of a building, or stranded on some asteroid. That's what you're usually doing when you call me."
The hologram of Obi-Wan glanced from side to side in an appraising manner. "I'll spare you the details," he said, finally, and cut the call. The hologram blinked out, and Anakin tossed it on the floor beside the bed.
"Sorry," he whispered to Padmé. "But I don't want him to think I'm getting soft. A Jedi is supposed to be ready for action at any moment, day or night."
"Mmm-hmmm," she mumbled, head under the pillow.
"I just had a crazy idea," Anakin said, slightly louder.
"Unless it's a crazy idea for getting to sleep, I don't know if I want to hear it," Padmé said.
"Yes, you do," Anakin insisted, "I read in your magazine about couples taking second honeymoons. I know you've been under a lot of stress lately at work. I was thinking we should get away ... just the two of us. In the lake country, sleeping under the stars ..."
"Sounds wonderful," Padmé said, sleepily.
"Then how about we leave tomorrow?"
"What ... what about that large stack of ... datapads on my desk?" Padmé mumbled.
"Forget them," Anakin said, "I can use the Force to make them accidentally slip into the waste disposal. And the twins can stay with your sister. She won't mind - it's just for a few days."
"And what about ... Obi-Wan's ... research?"
"It can wait," Anakin said, "He owes me after calling at one am."
There was silence from the other pillow.
"So, it's all settled then?" Anakin asked.
Only a gentle snore answered him. He smiled, and gently wrapped his arm around his wife. This was going to be perfect.
"You mean you're leaving us?" Luke said, his blue eyes wide with shock.
"What did we do?" Leia asked, sounding on the verge of tears.
"Nothing!" Anakin insisted, pouring himself a large bowl of cereal. He joined the twins at the breakfast table, trying to act casual. "You guys are going on holiday. You love holidays, don't you?"
Luke folded his arms, clearly not buying it. "But why can't we come on holiday with you? Don't you love us anymore?"
"Do you think we're a pain?" Leia asked.
"Is it because we soaked you yesterday?" Luke suggested.
"I'll clean up my room!"
"No, it's none of those things," Anakin said, putting a weary hand on his forehead. He glanced at the ceiling, wondering when Padmé was finally going to come down. This was going to need the combined power of two parents. "We love you. More than anything in the galaxy ... in the universe even!"
"Then why can't we come?" Luke asked.
"Because you'd be bored," Anakin said, "You'll have far more fun with your cousins."
"But they're so much older than us," Leia said.
"Yeah, and they're always on the holocom!" Luke added, "Always! I want to be with you, Dad."
At that moment, Padmé entered the kitchen.
"Mom!!" the twins whined in unison.
Padmé leaned over to give both twins a good-morning hug as she passed by.
"Your father and I need some time alone," she said, "Next time, we'll all go away together. Agreed?"
The twins nodded, and went back to their breakfast, leaving Anakin sighing with relief. There was something about that tone Padmé used that squashed all arguments. He should know - she used it on him, often enough.
"I'll help you two pack after breakfast," Anakin said.
"Can we take a tent?" Luke asked.
"Sure," Anakin said.
"No!" Padmé called.
"No," Anakin agreed, hastily.
"But we'll have to sleep in Ryoo and Pooja's rooms," Leia said, "And they play horrible music!"
"And leave their underwear everywhere!" Luke agreed, "Its gross!"
"I'm not sure your Aunty Sola would be thrilled at the idea of you two sleeping out on the lawn," Padmé said, returning to the table with a hot drink.
"But can we take one just in case?" Luke said, "Pleeeease!"
"Wizard!" Leia said, jumping up, "I'm going to go find it in the garage!"
Luke ran after her, leaving an annoyed Padmé in his wake. "What about your breakfast?!"
"I'll eat it," Anakin said, shuffling around the table. "I'll need the extra energy to get all your luggage down to the speeder."
"It's only three bags," Padmé protested.
"Only three!" Anakin said, with a smirk, "You mean you're only taking ten pairs of spare pajamas?"
Padmé flicked a crust at him, and Anakin used the Force to toss it back. "No food fight," he said, "We're responsible parents now, remember?"
Leia came rushing back into the kitchen then, grinning excitedly. "Dad, can I take the super soaker water gun?"
"Sure," Anakin said.
Leia left before Padmé could protest. "Responsible?" she said, raising an eyebrow.
Anakin shrugged, grinning. "Well, you are."
An hour later, the Skywalker family was jammed into an over-packed speeder, and on their way to the outskirts of Theed. The twins were surprisingly quiet in the backseat. Silence usually meant trouble, but Anakin couldn't see anything amiss as he studied them in the rear-view mirror. His Force-sense told him they were somewhat miserable. After the excitement of packing had worn off, they had entered a joint mood that wasn't boding well for the time when they would have to say goodbye.
Still, Padmé was looking relaxed. If only she didn't have the comlink in her hand ...
"Who were you talking to?" Anakin asked, after she'd finally disconnected the call.
"Oh, no one."
"It was work-related, wasn't it?"
"Just leaving some last minute instructions."
"If I see that comlink again, I'm going to smash it," Anakin said, "Then I'm going to toss the pieces in the afterburner. Then I'm going to use the Force to turn the cinders into dust. Then I'm going to kiss you."
"How about we just skip to the last part?" Padmé suggested, "In case we get lost and need to call for help. Besides, I like the last part."
"Ewwww," Leia complained, from the back.
"See now that's why you guys won't have fun if you come with us," Anakin said, "You'll be going 'ewwww' every time your mother and I want to share a romantic moment."
"But if we come, you won't have time for that," Luke suggested, "We can do better, more fun things! Like go swimming and build sandcastles."
"I hate sand," Anakin mumbled, darkly.
"We could fly kites!"
"And roll down the hills 'til we're dizzy!"
Padmé smiled at Anakin, who was sighing in exasperation. "We can do all that some other time," Anakin said, "But this weekend, I'm going to have fun alone with your mother."
There was silence from the backseat, and Anakin glanced in the mirror again, just in time to see Leia lean over to whisper something to Luke. Luke frowned, and turned to his sister. "No way!!"
"That is not true!"
"Yes it is! Yissa at school told me."
Anakin frowned, not liking the way this conversation was sounding. "What exactly did Yissa-at-school tell you, honey?" Anakin asked.
Leia folded her arms, and smiled in a satisfied way.
"I'm curious myself," Padmé said, glancing back.
Luke was shuffling from side to side, looking like he was sitting on a very big secret. Finally, he burst out with: "She said that if moms and dads kiss too much it means they'll be another baby! Are you guys bringing back a baby from your holiday?!"
Anakin nearly swerved the speeder off the road in shock. Padmé, however, simply laughed.
"Never, ever talk to this Yissa girl again!!" Anakin insisted.
"Quiet, Ani," Padmé said, "Luke, we won't be bringing back a baby. I promise. And Leia - don't believe everything you hear at school, okay sweetie? Especially about moms and dads. There are a lot of made-up stories on that subject. But I'm sure your father is planning to sit down and explain everything as soon as -"
"Hey, look, there's your Aunty Sola's house!" Anakin interrupted, swinging the speeder around and bringing it to a halt. "I made great time, didn't I? Time to unload, little Skywalkers."
Leia groaned. "Don't say that, Dad."
"Yeah, it's annoying," Luke agreed, "I'm not little! Where's my snorkel?"
"Why did you bring your snorkel?" Padmé asked, climbing out of the speeder. "They don't have a pool, do they?"
"It's just in case," Luke said.
Padmé glanced at Anakin, who shrugged in confusion. He reached up to grab the twins' substantial luggage, which more than rivaled their mother's, and followed them up to the front door. Leia jumped up to hit the door-com, and they waited patiently. From deep within came a dull thudding noise, which caused the walls to tremor.
"Are they renovating?" Anakin asked, as Padmé climbed up to join them.
"Sola hasn't mentioned it," she said.
"Maybe they can't hear us through all that thumping," Anakin said, pressing the door-comm again, "I can sense they're inside …"
Two minutes later, the doors slid open, revealing a beaming Sola. "Well, if it isn't my favorite niece and nephew!"
"Hi Aunty Sola," Luke said, happily.
"Thank you for taking them at such short notice," Padmé said, embracing her sister as they entered the house. Anakin carried the luggage down to the back hallway, following the thumping noise to its source. His instinctive curiosity was getting the better of him.
"I know what it is," Leia said, close behind him. She pointed to a door covered with 'keep out' notices. "That's Ryoo's bedroom."
"It's her music," Luke explained.
There was a crash from the depths of the thumping room, and suddenly the doors slid open.
"You Shaak-butt!!" came a shout.
Two teenage girls came spilling out, slapping and pushing each other the whole time. Then they started using language that caused Anakin to recoil in shock. He instantly closed the distance between him and his fighting nieces, and used a combination of the Force and his own substantial physical strength to drag them apart. He held them in the air for a few seconds, seeing as he was far taller than either of them, before releasing them to stand in front of him.
They met his gaze, looking surprised and embarrassed all at once.
Anakin favored them with his most intimidating Jedi stare, one he'd spent many years perfecting.
"Don't use that language in front of your cousins," he said, pointing at them.
"But Uncle Anakin," Ryoo started, with a slight whine, "She tore my Kyan Mikely poster out of my magazine!" She held up the magazine and pointed, like it was exhibit A in a court trial.
"You said I could have it!" Pooja insisted.
"I said you could look at it!"
Anakin held up a hand, instantly silencing them. He stretched out a finger towards a roll of sticky tape he'd spied on the lounge table, and it shot through the air towards him. He then took the magazine from Ryoo, and made a hasty repair job.
"There, good as -" he started, handing it back. He broke off as the cover swung into view, flashing with multiple holo-projections. The words and phrases caused him to hastily roll it up.
"You can have this back after the twins have left," he said, "And remember what I said - no bad language. No fighting, either."
They nodded quickly, and then disappeared back into Ryoo's room. Shortly afterwards, the music was turned down.
"Sorry about that, Anakin," Sola called, "They've been a handful lately."
Anakin left the luggage in the hallway, and returned to the lounge, picking up Leia on the way.
"What's the problem?" Padmé asked, looking at her sister with concern.
"They've been fighting over the holocom all morning," Sola said, "I told them we'd get another channel installed if they could learn to share it for a week. That has yet to happened."
"They need to spend some time on an island with no technology," Anakin said, "Obi-Wan and I once had to survive for a week in a remote colony which had a religious objection to all technology."
"Believe me, Anakin, I'm just about ready to try that," Sola said.
"Come on now, you and I used to fight," Padmé said.
"Did we? I must call Mom and apologize."
"Aunty Sola, is it okay if Leia and I sleep on the lawn?" Luke asked, tugging at his aunt's sleeve, "We brought a tent!"
"Sorry about this," Padmé said, "They're a little disappointed they're not coming with us."
"Yes, you're welcome to camp on the lawn," Sola said, glancing down at Luke, "On the condition that I can join you if things get too bad in here."
Padmé laughed. "Well you can always comm us if anything should happen," she said, "We'll call every day."
"We'll be fine," Sola said, "You two have fun. Anakin, see that my sister doesn't start suffering from 'work-withdrawal'."
"She won't have time for that," Anakin said. He bent down to release Leia onto the ground, and gave her a hug. "Bye sweetie," he said, "Be good."
Leia returned the hug, and then went over to her mother. Anakin beckoned to Luke, who trotted over looking somewhat miserable.
"Miss you, buddy," Anakin said, pulling Luke into an embrace.
Luke didn't reply; he simply clung to him, until Anakin stood up, ruffling Luke's blonde hair in the process. Luke gave a half-smile, but Anakin could sense that all was not right with his only son.
"We'll be back before you know it," he insisted.
"What are you thinking about?" Anakin asked, holding the speeder controls somewhat loosely. He was driving slow enough that he could pilot almost unconsciously.
"Oh, nothing," Padmé said. Her head was resting on her elbow, watching the scenery stream past.
"Really nothing, or you just don't want to tell me nothing?" Anakin asked.
"You're welcome to try a mind trick."
"You know they don't work on you," Anakin said.
"You're piloting very slowly," Padmé remarked, "For you, at least. What's our ETA?"
"Soon," Anakin said.
"Maybe a little later than soon."
There was a moment or two of silence, before Padmé spoke again.
"Any particular reason for the leisurely crawl? Not that I'm complaining, but I think I saw a Shaak pass us twenty minutes back."
"No reason," Anakin said, "My mind is wandering, I suppose. If Obi-Wan were here, he'd be giving me a lecture about focus. By the way, you didn't really mean that thing you said, earlier, did you?"
"About me talking with the twins about ... babies."
Padmé smirked. "You don't want them learning about it from Yissa, do you?"
"I don't want them learning about it at all! They're too young!"
"No one's talking about giving them a medical encyclopedia's worth of information, Ani," Padmé said, "But when kids are curious about something, they're going to find out, one way or another. And we don't want them running around thinking babies are fished out of the lake. You just need to answer their questions, that's all. Anything more can wait until they're older."
"But why me?!" Anakin complained, "You'd be better at that kind of thing than me! I wouldn't know what to say ..."
"Why, didn't Obi-Wan ever -?"
"You've got to be kidding," Anakin said, "He came in one day, and said, in a serious voice," Anakin paused, and switched to an impression of Obi-Wan, "'Padawan ... Qui-Gon used to embarrass me by talking about the facts of life, so I've decided to spare you the same embarrassment.'"
"I'm sure his heart was in the right place," Padmé said, hiding a smile. "What about your Mom?"
"I don't really remember," Anakin said, frowning in contemplation, "I guess it must have come up at some stage, me not having a father and all ... but on the streets of Mos Espa, it was pretty hard to be innocent. You know, maybe you're right ...I don't want them feeling like they can't ask us questions ...and I guess this whole 'holiday without them' issue has got them confused. Blast it, why do they have to grow up so fast? There should be a law against it. I can't believe they're eight. Already!"
"Feeling nervous after seeing our future in Ryoo and Pooja?" Padmé asked.
"Don't scare me like that!"
"Relax, Ani - the twins did have a father, remember. Its not all from my side of the family."
"That isn't very reassuring," Anakin said, glancing over at his wife, "Just ask Obi-Wan."
"Besides, it's nice to see Ryoo and Pooja - and our children, of course - having a chance to be children and teenagers. When I was that age, I wasn't particularly interested in being young."
"I couldn't wait to be grown up," Anakin agreed.
There was a drawn out silence as Anakin thought back.
"Luke seemed a little upset as we were leaving," Anakin suddenly remarked, "I feel kinda sorry for the little guy. All that assertiveness being tossed around ... he'll be overwhelmed. And they were right about the music," Anakin added, "It was awful! I haven't heard it that bad since visiting Herrata Nine. Music there sounds like fingernails on metal."
"I just hope Ryoo and Pooja don't decide to take Leia under their wing," Padmé said, "I've told her she's too young for make-up, but if Ryoo and Pooja start offering to give her a new look, she's not going to say no."
Anakin turned to Padmé, and they shared a worried gaze for a moment. Anakin suddenly jammed on the brakes.
"When you said you'd be back before we knew it, I didn't know you meant this fast," Luke said, surprised.
"We were missing you too much," Anakin said, helping to reload the speeder with the twins' luggage.
"I know what you're thinking," Padmé said to Sola, who was standing nearby with a knowing smile on her face, "But we're not as crazy as you think."
"I don't think you're crazy," Sola said, "I think you're nuts. But then, you are my sister."
"I already knew you were coming back," Leia said.
"You did not," Luke protested, "You were talking about how they might not come back at all."
"That's because I knew they were coming back," Leia insisted.
Anakin rolled his eyes, reminding himself that it wasn't too late to change their minds yet again. After all, Sola already thought they were a few sand grains short of dune ... it wasn't as if they could convince her they were any crazier.
"Love you, Daddy," Leia said, hugging him as she walked past to climb in the speeder.
"This is going to be the best holiday ever," Luke insisted, leaning over the back, "Now that we're with you, Dad."
Anakin smiled at his children, feeling his heart melt. "I don't know what I'd do without you womp rats," he said, reaching down to ruffle Leia's hair.
The Naboo lake country was perfect for a family holiday, with acres and acres of gently rolling hills, dotted with sparkling lakes, portals to the subterraneous liquid core of the planet. A sheltered valley, parallel to a lake-side, made for an ideal camping spot. About a two hour speeder ride out from Theed, there was one such lake-side valley that the Naberrie family used to visit quite often when Padmé was little, and she had suggested it earlier this morning as a nice location for a second honeymoon.
Anakin had convinced her otherwise, insisting the only appropriate place for a second honeymoon would be the lake retreat where they had shared their first kiss and exchanged their vows. But now that 'second honeymoon' had undergone a last minute rewrite into 'family holiday', so too had the lakeside valley become the new preferred destination.
The twins were so thrilled to be with their parents they didn't care where they were going, and had begun pitching their tent before the heat from the speeder's repulsorlifts had cooled. Anakin had left them to their excitement, preferring a more focused, mechanical approach to pitching a tent. Within an hour, though, the campsite was complete.
"Looking good," Anakin said, hitting the side of the tent as he ducked through the entrance, "It may not come falling down on us at four am. For once."
"How are the twins going?" Padmé asked, unpacking food into a storage unit.
"They're going, going ... gone," Anakin said, throwing his outer cloak in the corner as he emphasized the last word, "They pitched their tent and ran off to explore."
Padmé looked up, eyebrow raised with concern, but Anakin placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"I told them to stay within sight of the camp. Besides, they'll be back when their stomachs start complaining."
"Which should be any minute now, considering they only ate half their breakfast," Padmé added.
"Then that gives us a minute or two alone," Anakin said, crouching down and giving Padmé a playful tickle. "This is as romantic as it's going to get with the scamps around."
"Better make the most of it, then," Padmé said, smiling as she stretched her arms around Anakin's neck. They soon rolled over onto the air-filled camp bed, laughing playfully.
"Speaking of romance," Padmé said, after a lengthy kiss, "I found a magazine while I was unloading the speeder." She reached over Anakin's head to retrieve it. "Teen Romance?"
"Oh that - I confiscated it from Ryoo," Anakin explained, "'Yissa' probably reads the same magazine."
Padmé spread it out on Anakin's chest, and then rested her head on her elbow.
"Ten ways to please your man," Padmé read from the cover, in an affected voice.
Anakin laughed. "Okay, let's hear them," he said, gazing up at Padmé.
"Number ten," Padmé read, "Feed his ego by praising everything he says."
"Hey now," Anakin complained, "What are they trying to say? That men can't see through false flattery?"
"Oh Anakin, that was so articulate and ... uh ... eloquent," Padmé said, smirking.
Anakin groaned, and Padmé read on. "Number Nine: Offer to dress up as one of his fantasies."
"Okay," Anakin said, "How about you dress up as a beautiful galactic senator from Naboo?"
"As long as you dress up as my handsome Jedi Protector."
They were about to share another passionate kiss, when the sound of a precocious eight-year-old clearing her throat came from the tent opening.
"Our children have returned, my lady," Anakin whispered sadly, meeting Padmé's eyes with an intense gaze.
"The Jedi Protector will have to be patient," Padmé agreed.
"Oh brother," Luke said, rolling his eyes.
His sister nodded in agreement. "Mom, can we go down to the lake?" she asked.
"Please, can we?" Luke added, "It's not that far."
"Yes, Mom, can they?" Anakin said, winking.
Padmé made a slight noise of exasperation, before rolling off Anakin and getting to her feet. "After lunch," she said.
"Wizard! I'll go get my snorkel and change into my togs!" Luke said, running over to the other tent. Leia sprinted after him, leaving Anakin shaking his head in disbelief.
"Togs?" he said, standing up to assist Padmé in setting out lunch, "Why did they bring togs?"
"Looks like they brought more than that," Padmé replied, glancing outside the tent. "Leia has flippers, and Luke has a blow-up water toy."
"They knew," Anakin said, "Somehow, they knew they were coming with us."
"Well they do have that mysterious connection to the Force," Padmé said, "Who's to blame for that, hmm?"
"That great, great aunt you never talk about?" Anakin suggested, with a smirk.
The sun was shining, the temperature was rising; it was a perfect day for a swim at the lake. The twins ran ahead as Anakin walked with them down to the water's edge, racing with each other all the while. Padmé had decided to stay behind and nap.
Anakin had initially thought to stay on the bank, and supervise from there, but the cool water and happy screams of the twins soon had him stripping down to join them. Time always seemed to go so fast when in the water, and it wasn't long before the sun started approaching the horizon.
Typically, though, the twins didn't want to get out, despite their fingers and toes being more wrinkled than Yoda.
"But Daaaad," Leia complained, as Anakin scooped her up, "Can't we just stay in five minutes longer?"
"You said that five minutes ago," Anakin said, "Now, where's your brother?"
Leia giggled, pointing at a snorkel protruding from the water. It was heading determinedly away from Anakin.
Anakin sighed, and released Leia back into the water.
"Go and dry off - I left towels under the tree," Anakin said, pointing, "Remember - last one out is a Devorian slime worm."
Leia hastily swam for the shore, while Anakin dived under to hunt down his son. He dodged several schools of curious fish, before spotting his prize and closing on it with unbreakable determination. A few seconds later, he broke the surface with his son hanging under his right arm.
"Aw, Daaaad!" came floating up from the open end of the snorkel.
"Aw, Luuuke," Anakin imitated, striding out of the water and onto the shore. He set Luke back on his feet, and picked a strand of seaweed out of his hair.
"Ha!" Leia said, as they reached the tree, "You're both slime worms and I'm not!"
"Who says?" Luke asked, pulling off his snorkel and picking up a towel.
"Dad. He said the last one out was a slime worm."
"Takes one to know one," Luke countered.
Anakin dried off his hair, only half listening to the twins' bantering. Down below, he could see two boats coming in, while a gungan waited to drag them up to shore. The creamy shades of the hulls caused the boats to resemble graceful water birds, gently paddling into shore. The stern on the nearest one rose up from the water into a streamlined curl, while the bow fanned out like feather. A perfect combination of beauty and practicality, like all Naboo designs.
The first boat held two adults, and was very close to the shore. The gungan was already wading forward to drag it in. Anakin squinted until he managed to identify the occupants as Loylian. The grey, gangly species was quite a rare sight on Naboo. They must be tourists, enjoying a family holiday.
The first Loylian to disembark immediately started shouting to the occupants in the second boat, which was still a fair way from shore. He spoke an alien dialect, but the intent was clear enough to Anakin - he wanted them to hurry up. Another father trying to get his children out of the water. Anakin could readily identify. Even more so when it soon became clear that the reason the second boat was taking so long, was because the occupants were arguing with each other.
He shook his head, glancing down at his own offspring, who were currently playing tug of war with an oversized towel.
"Come on, womp rats," he said, "Time to go wake up your -"
Anakin abruptly broke off, and stared blankly with an expression as if he'd been slapped.
"What is it, Dad?!" Luke asked, nervously.
"Don't move," Anakin said, with a hint of dire consequences should he not be obeyed. But he didn't wait to make sure his words were clear - time was critical. He turned and sprinted to the water's edge, unconsciously enhancing his speed with the Force. By the time he dived, disappearing under the water's surface, he was moving too fast to be seen. To Anakin's ears, the screams of the parents had been drawn out into a low-pitched groan.
The capsized boat soon became visible through his shimmering, watery vision, and he extended his hands towards the struggling children trapped beneath. Their long gray limbs closed desperately around his wrists, and he dragged them down, straining against the boat's pull. Once they were free of the boat, he kicked down and they shot upwards, breaking the surface amid gasps of much-needed oxygen.
Anakin smiled with relief as he felt the Force settle to a peaceful ripple. The danger had passed.
The journey back to shore was a slow one, as Anakin was weighed down with two frightened children clinging to him with long, spindly appendages. He had tied the boat to his ankle, with the intention of dragging it back to shore with the children sitting in it, but it had become clear early on that no one would be getting back in the boat anytime soon.
When the water became knee high, Anakin glanced over his shoulder at his passengers. "We're in shallow water now," he said, "You can let go and walk to shore."
They only squeaked in response, and Anakin wondered if they didn't understand basic, or whether that was their way of saying no.
"It's only knee high" Anakin insisted, "See?"
He stood up, expecting the children to land on their feet. Instead, he glanced down to find them still clinging to his torso, like he was a teapot and they were the handles.
"Ohhh," Anakin said, resisting the urge to gag, "Suction, huh? Clever."
As long as it's not permanent. He briefly imagined what Padmé would have to say if he walked into the tent looking like this.
The sound of feet splashing into the water caught his attention away from his payload, and he was relieved to see the parents of these two adhesives rushing towards them. They were gushing thanks and adulation, but Anakin quickly tried to brush it off. He understood their fear and subsequent relief, but he had yet to be reassured as to the safety of his own children. A quick glance towards the tree had revealed no twins.
A panic began to rise in his chest, until he saw his son and daughter chatting happily with the gungan dock minder. He smiled in relief, and reached down to help detach the Loylian youngsters from his torso. Once they were safely in their parent's arms, he walked hastily over to the twins, curious as to what information they were divulging to their minder.
Leia passed him his towel as he arrived, which he took thankfully.
"Dank yousa, sir," the gungan said, bowing slightly, "Yousa avertin' a tragedy."
"No problem," Anakin said, drying off, "Thank you for watching my children."
"Dey told mesa that yousa are a Jedi Knight."
"Oh," Anakin laughed, "Kids say the craziest things!"
Even as the words left his mouth, he knew he wasn't going to get away with it.
"Retired Jedi Knight," Anakin reluctantly admitted.
"He retired cause he fell in love with our Mom," Leia explained.
"She's the senator of Naboo," Luke explained.
"That's enough, kids," Anakin said, wary of having his entire life story divulged in the next few seconds.
"Yousa are marriin' to Senator Amidala?" the gungan said, sounding more interested by the second.
"Anakin Skywalker," Anakin reluctantly admitted, extending his hand.
"Dess Karpsals," the gungan replied, shaking Anakin's dripping hand. "Mesa honorin' to meet yousa. Are yousa holidayin' hereabouts?"
"We're camping down in the valley," Anakin explained. "Just for a couple of days."
"Mesa live down dere," he explained, gesturing at the lake surface.
"There's a city?" Anakin asked.
"Ya, a small village actually. Mesa retirin' myself, but mesa watch da boat dock on weekends. Stop by tomorrow and mesa'll give yousa one for da day for free. Mesa way of saying dank yousa."
"That's very kind of you," Anakin said.
"Mesa tellin' you - when da boat be capsizin', mesa fearin' it was da leviathan! Mesa heart was dumpin' like cawazy, and mesa startin' runnin' for da water, but yousa were already dere. Amazin'!!"
"I'm sorry - leviathan?" Anakin asked, squeezing water out of his hair.
"Oh, yousa no heard da legend? Never mind - it isn't awful interestin'... just a local myth ... tello da children like to tell eachother. Mesa no dink dere's any truth to it."
"What does the legend say?" Luke asked. Leia, too, was looking up with interest.
"Yousa don't wanna hear dat ... don't wanna make yousa scarin' to be swimin' in da lake."
"I won't be," Luke said, "No story can scare me."
"Me neither," Leia insisted.
"And then he goes on to tell us the local legend about a monster in the lake," Anakin said, picking a marshmallow off the end of his toasting stick. "They call it 'the leviathan'. Apparently its twenty meters long and has teeth the length of tree branches."
"Let me guess - some tourists saw it just last week?" Padmé asked, stirring a spoon in her mug.
"You betcha. We might see it tomorrow, when we go sailing." Anakin glanced across the fire, where Luke and Leia were sitting, side by side. "Right, kids?" he called.
They nodded, somewhat subdued.
"You two have been quiet," Padmé remarked, studying the twins.
"They're just tired," Anakin said, standing up, "Too much excitement."
"I'm not tired," Luke protested.
"Neither," Leia said, immediately.
"I'll race you to the top of the hill then," Anakin said, gesturing, "Then I bet you'll be tired."
Luke and Leia immediately leapt to their feet, up for the challenge. Despite his longer stride and Jedi training, his children proved a match as they ran up the steep surface, and if they hadn't slowed themselves down with giggling and tripping, they might even have beaten him.
"I need to get back in shape," Anakin complained, as he collapsed onto the grass at the top.
Luke and Leia fell down on either side of him, panting for breath. Down below, Anakin could see Padmé silhouetted against their camp fire, and he waved both arms, even though it was probably too dark for her to see them. The twins joined in, until Padmé waved back, causing them all to laugh.
"Tired yet?" Anakin asked.
"No," Luke said, lying flat on his back, "I want to look at the stars."
Anakin looked up, and lay back, stretching out his arms to give the twins a headrest each.
"They're so bright!" Luke said, "And there's so many of them!"
"It's because we're away from the city," Anakin explained, "The lights of the city make the night sky harder to see."
"How many have you been to, Dad?" Leia asked.
"Oh, I don't know." Anakin tried to make a guess, but then gave up. "Too many to count. "
The gazed in silence for a moment, and Anakin thought back to the number of times he had done this with Obi-Wan. And Qui-Gon, that one eventful day. Hard to believe he'd only been a little older than Luke and Leia were now. He unconsciously wrapped his arms around his children, cuddling them closer.
"Don't ever grow up," Anakin said, suddenly, "Stay exactly as you are right now. Deal?"
"What's that got to do with stars?" Leia asked, tilting her head back to look up at him.
"Well stars don't grow up, do they?" Anakin suggested.
"Sure they do," Luke said, "They get older and older and then they go supernova. Boom!!"
"That isn't reassuring," Anakin mumbled.
"But I want to grow up," Luke continued, "So I can get my pilot's license. And a really fast speeder."
"I wouldn't count on that even when you are grown up, buddy," Anakin said, frowning.
"Why don't you want us to grow up, Dad?" Leia asked.
Anakin sighed, knowing he was on the losing side of this argument. "Because ..."
"Because your father thinks you're perfect right now."
Anakin looked up in surprise. Padmé was standing a short distance away, smiling at them. His Jedi senses must be getting rusty.
"Mom!" Leia said, giggling, "You scared us!"
"And you took the words right out of my mouth," Anakin added.
"I've heard them enough," Padmé said, coming closer, "When you first laid eyes on them, that's what you said, as I recall. 'They're perfect! We can't let them grow up!'"
"And even then, they didn't listen to me."
"It's not like we can help growing up," Leia protested.
"I know, sweetie," Anakin said, kissing her head, "You two better go to bed before I start reminiscing about your babyhood."
Luke hastily jumped up, running to Padmé for a goodnight kiss.
"Mom, can I roll down the hill?" he asked, pleadingly. "Dad said we could."
"I did not!" Anakin protested.
"Yes you did - on the speeder ride to Aunty Sola's house," Leia said, standing up and brushing the grass off her back.
"Whatever your father may have said, the answer is no," Padmé said, rubbing dirt from Luke's face, "You'll dirty your clothes, and you won't be able to stop at the bottom."
The twins grumbled something to each other than Anakin couldn't catch, but they didn't argue.
"Sleep tight," Padmé said, reaching down to hug and kiss both twins. As they began to run down the hill, Padmé called after them, "And keep growing! Don't let your father stop you!"
"They never do," Anakin said.
"Unless you're giving them permission to roll down a hill," Padmé said, folding her arms and meeting his gaze.
"I never said they could roll down this hill," Anakin protested.
"I have this funny feeling that you would have, if they'd asked, Ani dear," Padmé said, reaching out to help Anakin off the ground.
Anakin took her hand, but instead of standing up, pulled her down on top of him. They shared a tender kiss for a few moments, then Padmé lay back, gazing up at the night sky.
"Did I mention that Obi-Wan called while you were at the lake?" she said.
"You didn't tell him we were on holiday, did you?" Anakin asked, his eyes growing wide.
"I told him you were out with the twins, and he didn't enquire further."
Anakin let out a relieved sigh. "Thank you."
"You don't have to lie to him, you know. That research is a favor. Isn't it?"
"Yes, but I owe him quite a few favors," Anakin said, "I promised him I'd do that research. Jedi's honor. If he finds out I'm on holiday, it will look like I've slipped into a life of peaceful domesticity."
"Galaxy forbid he should think that," Padmé said, squeezing Anakin's hand. "Everyone needs a holiday from time to time."
"Not Jedi," Anakin insisted.
"Is that why they're so focused and serious?" Padmé asked, turning to Anakin with a slight smile.
"I'm not going to dignify that with a response."
Padmé laughed, cuddling closer to Anakin. After a few seconds of peaceful silence, she stifled a yawn. "It's a beautiful night," she said, "But it's time for the Jedi Protector to carry his lady back to her bedroom."
"Can't we roll down the hill?" Anakin suggested, playfully.
"Maybe next time - when the kids aren't here."
"You'd have said yes when we were first married," Anakin said, hauling himself up off the ground.
"And what's changed since then, husband dear?"
"I know, I know - parenthood ... responsibility ..." Anakin scooped Padmé up, groaning with pretended exertion.
"Sounds like it's taken its toll on your muscle tone, too," Padmé said, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"You're right," Anakin said, jumping over a stone on the way down, "Careful - I might drop you."
"If you do, I think I'll need to advertise for a new Jedi Protector."
"No you won't. I can still carry one child in each arm," Anakin said, using the Force to slide down into the campsite. "That's all I need. Right?"
"I don't know how much longer you'll be able to do that for," Padmé said.
"Well if they get too tall and heavy I can always use the Force. Size matters not."
As if to demonstrate, Anakin focused on a container of water sitting next to the fire, and it rose into the air. He poured it over the ashes, dousing the last of the embers.
"I didn't mean because they'll get too heavy," Padmé said, brown eyes looking up with a knowing gaze.
"Oh, the growing up thing again. Let's change the subject."
"Or how about we don't talk at all?" Padmé suggested, as they pushed through the tent opening.
"Sounds perfect, m'lady," Anakin agreed.
Barely ten minutes had passed, before the Force alerted Anakin to a disturbance outside the tent. He looked up, listening carefully for confirmation.
"What is it?" Padmé asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I think we're about to have -"
Anakin groaned at the sound of the tent being unsealed, and he rolled over, reaching for his discarded shirt.
Leia was first in, and she ran over to the bed, followed closely by Luke. They jumped into the middle, unfolding sleeping bags and pillows with lightning speed.
"Hold on, hold on!" Anakin said, picking up Luke's pillow and tossing it back at him, "What's wrong with your own tent?!"
"She was scared," Luke said, pointing at his sister.
"He was scared," Leia insisted.
"You weren't telling ghost stories, were you?" Padmé asked.
"No. He said he could hear noises coming off the lake," Leia explained.
"They were really loud!" Luke said, "It's that monster! It's real!"
"There is no monster," Anakin insisted, "It's just a made-up story. You probably heard a bird calling."
"It was not a bird! It was loud and deep ... like this ... whoooooooooooooooo -"
Anakin cut him off. "Even if it was the lake monster, which it wasn't, there's no reason to be scared. What's it going to do? Crawl up on land, find its way to your tent, and eat you?!"
His children stared back at him with wide eyes, looking even more terrified.
"Come on, go back to your own tent."
They continued to stare at him, with one pair of blue eyes, and one pair of brown. Behind them, Padmé shrugged in defeat.
Finally, Anakin gave in, with a slight groan. "All right, you can sleep here. But just for tonight."
Luke immediately climbed into his sleeping bag, and then cuddled up next to Anakin. He felt his son pick up his right arm, and hug it close like it was a security blanket. Leia rolled over sideways, and pulled her mother's arms around her in a similar manner. Anakin remained silent, staring blankly at the tent roof, until he heard the twins begin to gently snore.
"My arm has gone numb," Anakin whispered.
"So's mine," Padmé replied.
"This is just how I always pictured a romantic holiday," Anakin said.
"I wasn't the one driving the speeder," Padmé whispered, sounding amused.
"You could have stopped me from turning around."
Anakin looked over Luke's hair, and shared a smile with his wife.