(Total Fluff Piece – Fair Warning!)
2 and half years after the birth of Padme Jade Skywalker
Emperor Vader's Palace, Coruscant
Emperor Darth Vader, formerly Anakin Skywalker, had survived wars, lava pits, spaceship crashes, assassination attempts, and close encounters with corpulent Hutt gangsters.
Thus, his danger sense was well honed.
It was 3 p.m. standard time, in the midst of a dull meeting with the four members of his personal financial staff, when his danger sense prickled at the edge of his awareness.
He stopped mid sentence. His staff members froze in attention though not, he noted without regret, in fear. It had been almost 3 years since he had strangled one of his underlings and his subordinates had finally embraced the reality that he had changed substantially.
His new visual persona helped. Over the past 2 years, he had transitioned from the iconic black helmet to a partial mask that covered only his nose and mouth, plus a close cap to cover his bald head. A vocoder allowed him to speak loudly enough to communicate, but those few brave enough to say so (including his daughter) stated that being able to see his eyes made him much less menacing. He had also reduced his height through new prosthetics, and occasionally wore dark green or blue robes instead of black. Lastly, his voice through the synthesizer wasn't quite as deep and not as intimidating.
Indeed, as a famous Holonet news anchor had said more than once, the galaxy was seeing a "newer and kinder Emperor Vader."
Another sign that he had mellowed considerably is that that statement amused him rather annoyed him.
Still, he remained a warrior and powerful Force user, and knew that to ignore his danger sense was to invite disaster.
"I must go," he said abruptly, and was out of the conference room before his retinue had time to get fully to their feet.
Letting the Force guide him, Emperor Vader strode rapidly through the corridors of this, his palace on Coruscant, seeking the source of danger.
The Force led him up to the main elevator, up two flights, and then directed him to…the personal quarters of his son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter Padme.
He stopped, uncertain, at the front door. While Luke had graciously moved into the Palace at his father's (probably overly protective) request, Vader had always been careful not to barge into the younger Skywalkers' quarters without permission. He didn't want to overstep his bounds, but…the danger was still there.
He reached out through the Force tentatively, knowing that Luke, Mara, and even Padme would quickly sense his presence this way.
He frowned and reached out more carefully. He felt…
With a sudden manipulation of the Force, he entered the code to the door and dashed through it the second it opened.
Standing precariously on the island in the middle of the kitchen was a blond, blue eyed 13 month old girl, waving a sharp knife around in one chubby hand.
Her dark haired, dark eyed twin sister was standing on a box pushed up to the island, and she was struggling to climb up on the island as well.
Vader reached out a hand and carefully, with infinite skill, pried the knife out of Shmi Solo's small hand and floated it to the sink. Breha Solo, apparently noticing the new entrant to the room, turned around and promptly fell off the box, only to be saved by her grandfather's Force tendril.
"Mpa!" Shmi cried out in delight, and leaped to what would have been partial doom, only to be saved by Vader as well.
Vader took two deep breaths, staring in disbelief at his twin granddaughters happily floating in the air in the Skywalkers' apartment.
What was going on?
He lowered the twins gently to the floor, and both came rushing to him to grasp him around prosthetic legs.
He stretched out his senses. Luke wasn't here, but Mara was, with Padme.
As if to validate that, he suddenly heard screams of rage from Padme.
"No, no, no dip'r Mama! No!"
Vader picked the little ones up in his arms, and walked cautiously towards the bedroom.
"Mara?" he called out.
There was a pause.
"Vader?" Mara called back in surprise.
There was another pause, and then Mara came waddling through the bedroom door, holding a partially naked Padme Jade Skywalker, who continued to thrash and wail due to her mother's ridiculous insistence on putting a diaper on her.
Mara's eyes widened, "What happened to the twins?"
Vader explained about the island and the knife, and a look of horror crossed Mara's face.
"Oh no! Oh no! They were in their play area, I know they were! Padme got into the soap and spread it all over the bathroom floor, and I got distracted cleaning it up. And then Padme had a messy diaper. Oh, what will Leia say?"
Vader walked over to the small office area which now doubled as a child proofed play area for when the twins were visiting. The breakout was easily explained. Some careless individual had left a box of unopened diapers in the play area, and the twins had combined their intelligence and strength to push the box to the baby gate. From there, it was a comparatively simple (?) matter for them to climb on the box and help one another over the gate. They had then found another box of diapers (really, how many diapers did babies need?) and used it to climb onto the kitchen island, where a knife rack stood in all its tempting glory.
Vader stared dubiously at the girls in his arms. At 13 months of age, their escape really was quite a feat. But then their father, Han Solo, was skilled at getting into and out of sticky situations, and the twins' mother (and Vader's daughter) had escaped Imperial high security prisons and being chained to Hutt gangsters.
He lowered the twins onto the ground and ran prosthetic fingers through their curly hair.
"No harm done, Mara," he said, and turned to see his daughter-in-law collapsed on a couch, in unaccustomed tears.
"Mara?" he continued, totally befuddled. Jade Skywalker was as tough as they came, and he felt completely unprepared to deal with a hormonal meltdown.
At least he knew it was a hormonal meltdown. Enduring his daughter's twin pregnancy and then Mara's second pregnancy (this one was his first grandson) had shown him that women in the latter stages of gestation sometimes reacted in a bewildering manner.
"I can't believe I didn't notice they had escaped," Mara sobbed, "They could have been hurt so badly. Thank you so much for coming when you did."
Vader dimly perceived that, in the absence of his son, it was his responsibility to reassure his usually unflappable daughter-in-law.
"It was my pleasure, Mara," he said in a calm tone, "And be at peace, even if Shmi had succeeded in stabbing herself with a knife, our medical facilities are top rate and she would have…"
He trailed off as he realized this was not helping.
At the same time, he noticed that Mara, in addition to crying, was holding a hand against her abdomen.
"Are you all right?" he asked anxiously. The new baby was not due for another 6 weeks.
"I'm having a lot of contractions," she said wearily, "I never should have agreed to watch the twins but Leia had an emergency meeting with two senior members of the Smuggler's Alliance and Han is on Kashyyyk with Chewie and Luke is analyzing a potential Force sensitive…"
"Do you need to see a med droid?" Vader asked.
Mara shook her head and stood up.
"No, I just need to lie down. Luke should be back in less than an hour. I'll be Ok until then."
Vader took two deep breaths. He had never shirked his duty before and he would not do so now, though he was suddenly filled with a unique brand of terror.
"I will watch the children, Mara," he stated firmly, "Go lie down."
Mara's eyes widened, "Are you sure? I really should rest but three little ones are a lot."
"Certainly," Vader said. He sensed her indecision and said, "If I need you, I will summon you. And perhaps you and I could…completely dress Padme before you leave."
Together, the two wrestled a crabby Padme into a diaper and outfit, and then Mara, with a dubious backwards glance, disappeared into the bedroom and firmly shut the door.
Vader stared in dismay at his three grandchildren.
Well, first things first. Define the problem.
Small children like to get into trouble. The fewer dangerous paraphernalia within reach, the better.
Using the Force, Vader lifted the twins, and then Padme, into the play area. He then lifted a large chair from the living room into the play area. He moved the diaper box out of the play area and into the living room. Last, but not least, he stepped over the gate.
Now there was one large former Sith Lord and 3 small granddaughters in an area the size of one of the high security cells in the now unused prison in the basement of the Palace.
With a sigh, Vader lowered himself onto the chair. He reached out a hand and a basket floated from one of the shelves on the wall. Inside were a pile of children's books – physical books as opposed to holobooks.
Vader had been surprised at his son's extravagance, as Luke had been resistant to embrace the luxuries expected of the son of the Emperor of the known galaxy. But when Vader had offered Luke and Mara a free hand and an unlimited credit chip at Coruscant's only store with physical books, the two had leaped at the opportunity.
"Padme is destructive," Luke had explained, "She'd probably bash a holobook against the furniture and break it. Or hit herself in the head with a holobook. She can't do much damage with a real book."
Padme had apparently learned to love books, as she promptly climbed on Vader's lap and pulled out a favorite, indicating she wanted him to read it.
Vader complied by reading The Wondrous Wanderings of the Woolly Bantha Cub.
Then he read it again.
Then he read it one more time.
Just about the time he was ready to lose his mind, the twins distracted him by going from peaceful gurgling to full blown squabble in 30 seconds flat. Shmi had succeeded in obtaining a book of her own, and startled him by firmly ripping a page out of it. Breha than grabbed the ripped page and tried to take it away from her twin, resulting in a tug of war.
Before Vader could react, the page tore in half and both twins had fallen backwards on padded bottoms.
Their grandfather stared at them in disbelief. Both babies had their mouths wide open and were wailing with little tongues trembling in distress.
Padme was howling as well, "No, Shi, No Bre, don't bweak buk!"
Vader sent a frantic Force tendril Mara's way, and was relieved to discover she remained sound asleep. Apparently mothers learned to tune out screaming before they went entirely mad.
More deep breaths. He had battled droid armies and landed half a ship on Coruscant. He could handle crying grandchildren.
With the Force, he picked both babies up and bounced them gently, even as he twined a physical arm around Padme.
"All is well, children. Do not be distressed. The book can be fixed."
Padme settled first, and reached for The Wondrous Wanderings of the Woolly Bantha Cub - again.
The twins' crying diminished to minor sobs, then hiccups, and then they started sucking their thumbs as their eyes drooped.
Were they tired?
Tentatively, Vader lifted both babies into a portable crib at the side of the room. To his astonishment (and profound relief), Breha and Shmi promptly lay down, put their arms around each other, and drifted off to sleep.
Padme got one more round of her favorite book, and then Vader insisted on picking another book to read. Padme was less excited with The Exquisite Angels of Iago, but she put up with it because her grandfather was holding her in his lap. She snuggled close to him and grabbed a section of his cloak in one hand.
When he finished the book…
"'gain, Gmpa," Padme murmured, now with her own thumb in her mouth.
He read The Exquisite Angels of Iago once more and looked down at Padme's little red head. She was now leaning against his chest and breathing steadily. She too had fallen asleep.
Vader thought about all the work he had to do, the reports to be read, the subordinates to direct, the tinkering to be done on his own private spaceship.
But if he moved, Padme would probably wake up, and possibly the twins as well.
And Mara really needed her sleep.
Apparently, he couldn't move.
He would just have to sit here with his sleeping grandchildren until Luke or Leia came home.
Sometimes he just had to suffer for duty.
An hour later, a weary Luke Skywalker trudged through the door. His trip home had been delayed when a rancor on the way to the Coruscant Zoo escaped its transport and started rampaging through the streets. As likely the only individual on Coruscant to have had personal dealings with a rancor, he had felt obligated to help recapture it.
He had been worried about Mara, knowing that with the new baby due in 6 weeks, she had a hard time some days with an extremely active toddler. However, when he had had a spare few seconds, his questing Force contact with Mara revealed she was asleep.
So perhaps Padme had blessed her mother by settling for a nap as well?
When he walked through the door, their quarters were almost unnervingly quiet. The strong Force presence of his father, daughter, wife, and twin nieces shouted out to him, making the silence even more amazing.
He walked over to the play area and stared , first in surprise and then in delight. The twins were cuddled together in their portable bed. Padme was curled up against her grandfather. And Darth Vader himself sat quietly on a chair with his eyes closed.
As Luke looked on at this domestic scene, his father's eyes opened. At first, Vader looked slightly embarrassed. Then, apparently deciding to abandon all pretense, Luke saw a slight smile appear around the lower mask on his father's face.
Thank you, Father, Luke sent.
It has been my utmost pleasure, his father replied.