(This is a considerable AU)


Chapter One:

Beru lay in bed, trying to maneuver her pillow so that it covered both her ears. The baby had been wailing continuously for nearly two hours. She wondered when he found the time to breathe. She also wondered how long if would take before she strangled him. Her nerves were definitely beginning to fray under the unending barrage of noise and the pounding of his Force-sense in her brain.

There was a soft knock at the door. Sighing, Beru got up, pulled on a robe, and answered it, though she knew who it was, and didn't particularly want to deal with it. She discovered Dr. Sydos leaning against the door frame, a baby in his arms, and an apologetic look on his face. Beru didn't need to look to determine which of the babies it was. The noise level alone indicated that it was the boy. She looked at Dr. Sydos tiredly, indicating by a wave of the hand that he should enter.

He came into her room furtively and sat down, the baby balanced awkwardly on his lap; the little boy stiffened his back and literally screamed with rage. Gritting her teeth, Beru took him from Dr. Sydos, placed him over her shoulder and began walking back and forth with him. It didn't stop the noise, but the volume did go down somewhat. He liked movement. As far as Beru could determine, it was the only thing in his world that he did like.

"Well?" she said to Dr. Sydos.

He shook his head. "She won't feed him. As a matter of fact, she won't even hold him."

"Maybe she's afraid of going deaf," Beru muttered.

Dr. Sydos gave her a reproving glance. "It's not an uncommon phenomenon with twins," he said, "especially after a difficult labour. And he has the colic, which doesn't help. She only has the energy for one child."

And you're not it, kid, Beru thought to herself, as she paced. Your first lesson in life. It isn't what the rich call fair, but it's your lot. She rubbed his skinny back. The people who liked to say that no baby was ugly had never encountered this one, she thought ruefully. He was tiny, with stick-like arms and legs, a bald head, bleary red-rimmed eyes, and toothless gums--much displayed since he was always yelling.

"I'll talk to her," Beru said heavily, handing the baby back to Dr. Sydos. "See if you shut him up. It might help me with her. Won't he take a bottle?"

Dr. Sydos sighed. "I've tried and tried. He eats a little--sometimes. But it takes hours. He's really, really stubborn." He looked down at the little boy ruefully.

Beru forced herself to smile. "Well," she said. "I'll see if I can't arrange something more palatable for him."


For the thousandth time, Beru wished that she hadn't allowed Ben Kenobi to persuade her to nursemaid Amidala and her children. Of course, he'd used the word 'guard', but nursemaiding is what it amounted to. So she was stuck on this Force-forsaken Outer Rim planet with her royal Highness, whose state of mind left very much to be desired; the royal doctor, and the royal twins, one of whom was a serious contender for the Psycho Baby of the Year Award. But, hey, good old Beru could always be depended upon, couldn't she? She had never turned down or flubbed any assignment Kenobi had given her. So far. Everyone had their limits, of course, and she was fast reaching hers.

Nineveh was a planet that had parlayed a salubrious climate and numerous hot springs into a thriving business of health resorts, private hospital and spas. It had seemed like a perfect place to hide a woman about to give birth to twins; it had excellent medical facilities, and the private hospitals never asked embarrassing questions. Though the childbirth itself was long and painful, Beru was more concerned about Amidala's emotional state than her physical condition. The female twin was born first, and as far as Amidala was concerned, that was that. In fact, the boy had arrived ten pain-filled hours later. But after the first birth, Amidala had become completely apathetic, and did not even attempt to help with the second delivery. Only Dr. Sydos' skill had saved the young Queen's life, not to mention her son's, and the child was eventually born safely. His mother did not welcome him, to state the situation mildly. Since then, she had refused to hold, feed or even look at him.

Beru found Amidala sitting in her bedroom, nursing the other twin. Except for the boy's muffled howls of rage in the background, it was a peaceful scene. Amidala's long dark hair fell over her shoulders and veiled her face. She was gently rocking the child in her arms, humming under her breath.

Beru did not like Amidala, but she could not say that the young Queen had ever given her any genuine reason for her attitude. She can't help the way she looks, Beru thought ruefully. Or regulate the fact that her Inner Rim exquisiteness makes me feel like a clumsy frump. Or that every man that crosses her path wants to gratify her tiniest whim. Beru grimaced to herself. Keep your eyes on the road ahead, stupid, she told herself. If you want to sleep tonight, or at all, you've got to persuade this woman to nurture her own son.

Nor was Beru deceived by the young Queen's show of serenity. She could feel Amidala's distress clearly, even across the room. Beru could not read direct thoughts like some Jedi, but she had always been able to accurately discern emotions from other humans and humanoids.

"Don't bother," Amidala said, not looking up. Amidala *could* read thoughts.

Beru didn't answer. She sat down in a chair facing Amidala, and waited.

"I don't have enough milk for two," Amidala said, still staring down at her daughter. Beru leaned forward and looked at the child. The female twin was a completed contrast to her brother. She lay placidly and quietly in her mother's arms. She had quiff of dark hair, rosy cheeks, and chocolate-brown eyes. Beru had never had an opportunity to examine her closely, though. She was rarely out of her mother's arms. Beru searched her memory for the name Amidala had given the child and finally remembered it--Leia. The male twin had remained unnamed until she herself had pointed out the lack to Ben Kenobi. At first, he asked Amidala to name the boy; she had simply turned her face away without responding. Kenobi knew better than to insist, and after considerable hesitation, he had chosen Luke as the boy's name. It meant 'light' in the ancient Jedi language, in Beru's opinion a classic example of wishful thinking. She sighed as she turned to Amidala.

"If you don't have milk for two, we should try her on the bottle--I'd bet she'd take it," Beru said, "He won't."

Amidala stiffened and finally looked up. "No," she said.

"Amidala, he's in by far the worse shape of the two. Dr. Sydos tells me that he's lost weight since birth. He's got colic, which means he's in a lot of pain. He won't take the bottle. If you'd breast-feed him, it might help."

Amidala stood up and put her sleepy daughter into a nearby crib. She turned to face Beru, hands clenched into fists.

"I won't, and you can't make me," Amidala said, and then gave an odd spurt of laughter at how childish it sounded. She stopped abruptly. "I don't want him near me or the baby," she said in an expressionless voice, turning away to stare down at her sleeping daughter.

Beru was startled. "He's a baby, too, Amidala. He is also your son."

Amidala shook her head. Her long dark hair flowed from side to side. "He's Anakin's son, not mine."

"What do you mean?" Beru asked, though she feared that she knew.

"Haven't you felt it?" Amidala whispered. "His Force signature is almost the same. And Beru--he's a volatile. Like Anakin." Her voice rose. "He's just like him! It frightens me to death to be in the same room with him! She's normal, but he isn't! He isn't!"

"He might be, if you'd give him a chance!" Beru snapped back, her patience exhausted. "Stop being so dramatic and think about someone other than yourself for a change!" She regretted the words as soon as they were said. If she wanted Amidala's help with the boy, this was not the way to get it.

Amidala immediately switched into what Beru had privately dubbed 'her royal Majesty' mode. "You forget yourself!" she hissed . You peasant, Beru added to herself. "Leave me!" Amidala said, in her most commanding tone, turning her back.

"Very well," Beru said, wearily. As she came through the door, the boy's wails hit her ears with unpleasant force. He hadn't stopped for a minute. Beru motioned Dr. Sydos to follow her to her room. He sat down with the baby in his arms.

"No good," Beru said.

Dr. Sydos sighed. "After childbirth, some women can behave very strangely. They can reject a child; or they can smother it with attention. In this case, she's doing both. In the worse case scenario--" he stopped, confused.

Beru sat down beside him. She remembered that he was Amidala's longtime personal physician, and had probably served her for years. "Look," she said gently, "there's more to it than that. I can tell that she's upset and depressed. But she's also got the idea that he's dangerous."

"Dangerous? He's not even a month old."

Beru rubbed her chin. "Do you know anything about Force-adepts?"

"Just what I've read. I studied the subject when we discovered that her Majesty had the Force."

For a wonder, the baby had finally stopped yelling. He lay in Dr. Sydos's arms, sobbing quietly. Beru reached out and rubbed his cheek gently. Poor little devil, she thought, you don't deserve this, but you've got it anyway.

"Most Force-adepts are latent, that is, they need prolonged contact with another Force-adept to trigger the development of their full abilities," Beru said. "Amidala is like that, so is the other baby, and so am I. So are most of the Knights. He isn't. A small number of Force-adepts are able to use the Force fully without a trigger, right from birth. They're called volatiles. They are usually stronger in the Force than latents, but they tend to have control problems and they are far more likely to turn to the Dark side. At one time, there were whole Jedi clans in which volatility was genetic. Centuries ago, they were exiled into the Unknown Regions because of the consistent trouble they caused. Most of these clans--they are called the Lost Clans in Jedi histories--never returned, but a few of them trickled back and settled in the Outer Rim. General Kenobi believes that Anakin Skywalker was a descendant of one of these families.

"He was volatile, then?"

"I'll have to admit that I never noticed it in him," Beru said. "But General Kenobi believes that he was. And this baby is. I did notice it in him, right after he was born. So did his mother, unfortunately."

Dr. Sydos looked down at the baby. "What does it mean?" he asked. The baby hiccuped. No sense of occasion, Beru thought, repressing a smile.

"It means that when he screams, it's like he's hammering your brain with rocks, if you're a Force adept. So it's not just the noise that's bothering her. And she's afraid."

"That he'll go to the dark side," the doctor did understand.

"Yes--if he doesn't starve to death first. I think we're going to have give up on Amidala in that respect. Have you looked for a wet-nurse?"

"I tried. The locals have some kind of superstition about it. They say if one of their women nurses him, he will belong to her. They wouldn't let him go."

"Great," Beru muttered, "His mother might like that solution, but General Kenobi won't. Where does that leave us? Anywhere at all?"

Dr. Sydos gave her a furtive look. "Well, there is another possibility, if you would consider it--"

Beru's eyes narrowed. "What?" she asked warily.

"There's a new drug that allows women to nurse babies that aren't theirs. They don't even have to give birth themselves. You could--"

"Not a chance!" Beru snapped. She had done plenty of dirty work for Kenobi in the past, but this was different.

"Why not?" Dr. Sydos said. "It's that, or he'll have to go on i.v., and that's only a short term solution. How could it hurt you?"

Beru sat down and put her head in her hands. "When I was a kid, I was in a very serious accident. My parents and my two younger brothers were killed. I was injured--severely. The doctors told me that as a result, I'm sterile." It had been the day she turned seventeen, she remembered. Happy birthday, Beru.

Dr. Sydos came over and took her hand. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. But whether or not you can have children yourself won't matter--this drug would work despite that. And if you would do it, you'd help somebody who needs it. He's got colic, sure, but his real problem is failure to thrive. And that's because he needs to bond with someone."

But why, oh why, does it have to be me, Beru moaned to herself. The baby sobbed again. Beru looked at him, wondering if the doctor sensed that she often found the child as repellent as his mother did. I'm no better than she is, she thought, yet I sit here criticizing her.

"Are there any side-effects?" she asked in a thick voice. The doctor smiled victoriously.