Chapter Four

Padmé hurriedly hopped out of bed with unusual energy for the time of night and grabbed her nightgown from the floor, tugging it over her head.

"Stay here, I'll be right back," she directed.

He nodded and sat back as the door slid closed behind her.

She grabbed her robe from the decon unit and hurried back into their apartment.

Meed, one of the twin's carers, stood waiting with their daughter.

"I'm going to take her next door for a little while. Don't worry, I'll put her back to bed myself. Is Luke awake?"

"No m'lady," came the reply.

"Ok, you can head back to bed. Thank you."

Padmé grinned down at Leia and ducked into her bedroom, searching one-handed through the cupboard and coming up triumphant with a pair of Anakin's old sleep pants. Then she removed herself from the apartment all together.

"I have someone I think you should meet more properly," she lovingly smiled down at the little bundle.

She came back to where Anakin was waiting and ducked back into the decontaminator with Leia. Placing her daughter down she unravelled the baby from her blankets as hungry whimpers started to turn into cries.

"Okay, okay," Padmé soothed gently as she slipped out of her own nightgown once more.

She waited the pre-requisite amount of time then wrapped Leia back up, rushing to get back to Anakin. She threw a quick glance to the floor and decided to leave her nightgown where it was. It was impossible to feed in it anyway, so she just tugged her robe around her.

"Okay, ready to see daddy?" she happily asked their grizzling princess.

Padmé pressed a few buttons to set a timer on the wall panel then hit the entrance button and a slight hiss of air reminded her to move in quickly.

She moved her eyes up and smiled at Anakin who suddenly gasped in understanding. Throwing the pants at Anakin's unmoving form she watched him hurriedly tug them on and jump up to meet his girls.

"Oh Leia," he breathed. "Are you sure she can be in here?"

"Yes. In a few months when they start interacting with other kids they can't because they're more susceptible to disease and can hurt you, but for now they're fine. Five minutes max they're allowed. I told you, your doctor and I have had a very thorough discussion."

Padmé sat down on the bed and manoeuvred to make herself comfortable then slipped open the folds of her robe.

Unexpectedly, two arms now encased in familiar gloves slipped up behind her and encompassed them both.

It caused Padmé to sigh in a contentedness she'd not experienced previously.

"Hi you," Anakin greeted his daughter as he looked down at her over Padmé's shoulder.

Leia looked up at him with wide curious eyes as she greedily fed.

"Even though I don't look the same I'm still your daddy. Yes I am."

Padmé smiled and closed her eyes briefly as Anakin gave them both a gentle squeeze.

---

"You're so beautiful my princess."

Leaning forward and pressing a kiss to Padmé's cheek he added on an afterthought "as are you m'lady."

Padmé didn't do more than smile. She didn't need to.

Anakin's happiness filled the room as he saw his daughter without distorted vision for the very first time. At the thought that she could hear his voice as he spoke it, for the very first time. So he kept talking to make her remember his voice. Just nonsense words.

A lullaby his mother had used to sing to him when he couldn't sleep started to come out of his lips and Padmé turned to look at him in surprise.

He met her eyes and smiled at her then returned his attention to Leia.

---

She'd never heard him sing. She supposed it was probably impossible in the helmet. But hearing him sing a lullaby, it filled her heart up and made it pulse in time to his soft deep notes.

And it occurred to her just how much they were missing out on. Cut off from him as they were by that ever-necessary mask he was going to miss everything. Everything in their lives and so much more. It hadn't occurred to her to think beyond getting him out of the blasted suit, no matter how injured and broken his body was. And now that he was, she didn't ever want him to go back. She wanted his voice to sing lullabies to Luke and Leia every single night. And she wanted him to hold them and touch her and never disappear from them again.

"Those are some pretty morbid feelings, Padmé. What's wrong?" Anakin asked lightly, still sending big smiles in Leia's direction.

She briefly considered hiding her feelings, then reasoned that there was no point in not sharing. Maybe she could put a more positive spin on it though.

"We're going to have to do something about your lungs."

He gave them another squeeze.

"Oh yes?"

"Yes," she said firmly. "Cloned organs or a different artificial setup. Something. We simply can't live with you like that anymore."

She kicked her foot in the direction of his discarded helmet.

"Not a problem before now," Anakin said softly.

They knew he hadn't wanted to rely on an all-encompassing suit to keep him alive, and so removed from Padmé and the twins, ever. But the necessity had been understood.

"I forgot what we were missing out on," Padmé quietly answered him.

He leaned down and kissed her neck cheekily. Then did it repetitively until she squealed in delight.

"Leia's watching!" Padmé reminded him as he teased her.

"I know that. Leia, you should know your mother tastes very very nice. Although I'm sure you know that since you live off of her," he smiled down at the baby then continued ravishing Padmé's neck, despite her emphatic protest.

"You're being light-hearted, I'm being serious."

---

"If I'm not light-hearted it will hurt to admit how much I hate it. I want to be normal again. Of course I do. But I don't know realistically how much we can rely on that. Palpatine wanted me as his second, wouldn't he have given me the best?"

A small rhythmic beating started sounding from the door.

"That's the timer, five minutes is up," Padmé told him sadly.

And inside his chest his heart groaned in agony. No no. He wanted more time with her. Padmé hadn't even finished feeding her yet.

"I'll be back soon, okay? Stay," Padmé gently told him, and he got up to follow them to the door.

"Good night Leia," he whispered to her softly, leaning down into Padmé's arms to touch his lips to her forehead.

And time stopped. Her soft baby skin was warm beneath his lips. He could hear her sucking her dinner out in clear, untainted waves of sound. He could look into her curious eyes and see her.

"I'll be back soon," Padmé quietly told him, placing a hand on his shoulder.

He understood what she meant. Leia had to go.

Nodding he stood up and took a step back from the entrance as the door opened and Padmé stepped through it. He raised his hand in a silent goodbye to his baby girl and watched forlornly as the door snapped closed once more.

How much he missed. How much he needed to see them, and have their tiny ears hear him. Properly. And know that though he looked and sounded for all intent and purposes like an aggressive monster, he wasn't. He loved them both so much. Yet the best way for him to show it was using the force to move those shapes when they fell asleep. If something wasn't done soon that would be their memories of him.

The frightening creature who protected their mother.

He returned to the bed dejectedly, sitting on the side and cradling his face in his substitute hands.

Padmé was right. Something had to be done. He couldn't live like this.

The thought of having any part of him cloned was frightening. An entire clone running around could be twisted and manipulated to become what Darth Sidious had intended for himself. A thermal detonator of yet-to-be inflicted pain just waiting to go off.

But he couldn't even hold Padmé properly to his chest without the controls to his lungs getting in the way. And the twins would spend most of their time seeing him as that threatening dark figure.

Yes, she was right. Something had to be done.