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Chapter 4 – Sleep tight and don't let the Sith bite

Palpatine could only demand the twins' service as long as he was awake; his post-dinner nap freed them in more ways than one. Tucking themselves inside Leia's pink play tent, Luke unpacked the junior chemistry set he'd received for their last birthday. Leia held a flashlight over the instruction booklet as she flipped through the pages.

"Have you used this before?" she asked skeptically.

"No, but it can't be that hard," Luke unscrewed a bottle, sniffed it, and quickly replaced the cap. "I'm a grade ahead in science at school."

"But you've never done your own experiment before! Mrs. Nolak isn't here to tell us what to do!"

"Shh, just find a recipe in the booklet."

"I don't think they're called recipes!"

"Okay! Just pick one that sounds gross!"

Mumbling to herself, Leia browsed a little longer. "What about this one?" she rotated the page so Luke could read it.

"Perfect!"

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Anakin and Padmé were bent over a pile of bills at the kitchen table when the twins slipped out thirty minutes later. Household chores really were the glue that held the children's plans together. Without those chores, they'd have long been caught by a vigilant parent.

Through the crack in Palpatine's door, they could hear him still snoring. Luke nodded to his sister and they ducked inside, clutching pouches of powder in their fists. Luke knew his way around the furniture even in the gloom. And from their brief yet hilarious episode earlier that morning, he remembered the location of two key belongings of Palpatine's.

The first they encountered was a crumpled pair of pajamas on the toy chest. Wasting no time, Luke untied his bag and shook its contents over the fabric.

"Mmm… who's there?"

The pair froze, petrified. How could they have possibly woken him?

"Is that you… Sy Snootles?"

They both sighed in relief. The Sith was just talking in his sleep.

"Oh, I like that… yes… how you tease me, Sy…" he giggled from the bed.

Luke pinched his sister, who strained a neck muscle keeping her laughter in.

"Who's Sy Snootles?" she whispered, eyes watering.

"I don't know, but we have to find the bottle of sleeping pills. Come on."

To the nightstand they crept, trying to ignore Palpatine's dream-induced ramblings. Luke gingerly felt around for the pill bottle. Upon finding it, he unscrewed the cap ("childproof" was an obsolete concept in a Jedi household) and sprinkled in the remaining powder.

Seconds later, Leia was turning the door handle when they overheard one last utterance from the bed.

"Jabba… oooh Jabba… I could watch you eat frogs all day…"

Bolting from the room before they burst, the mischievous pair ran back to Leia's room and slammed the door, collapsing on each other in hysterics.

"He… dreams… about Jabba the Hutt!" Luke held his sides.

"And likes it!" Leia pounded her fist.

"He keeps getting weirder and weirder!"

"Just wait til he takes those pills!"

"I hope it works!"

A knock on the door made them jump. Thankfully, it was only Padmé, announcing that Palpatine was up from his nap and ready for family game night.

Typically, game night for the Skywalkers was a cheerful event with simple fun and good-natured competition. Not with Great Uncle Palpatine participating. Charades were uncomfortable at best; the Sith chose the most obscure things to imitate, from a rock to road kill, and then threw tantrums when the others couldn't guess.

After several dead-end rounds, Anakin tried to redirect the Sith. "How about a board game? We have several –"

"OH, yes! A board game!" Palpatine scurried to his room, returning with a tattered box. "I almost forgot I brought this! It's my favorite!"

Everyone peered silently at the cover. Within seconds, they all looked ill.

"It's 'Dismemberment!' You know, the opposite of 'Operation,'" Palpatine explained excitedly. "We each get mini plastic lightsabers to chop off –"

"Good heavens, look at the time!" Padmé suddenly blurted. "Bedtime already!"

"Eh? It's only 1900 hours," he squinted at the clock.

"I'm sorry we forgot to tell you – we all go to bed early on Tuesday night."

"What? Why?"

"No time to explain," Anakin started pushing him out of the living room. "Hurry! It's urgent!"

"Strange people," he muttered, shaking his head as they vanished to their rooms. Then, remembering his pact with the twins, he pounded on their door. "Not so fast, you two! You need to help me with my nighttime routine!"

Trying to look reluctant, Luke and Leia dragged their feet and followed him down the hall.

Palpatine rubbed his chin while pondering what task to give them. "Drat, I don't really have much of a bedtime routine," he admitted to himself. "All I need is a cup of water to take my sleeping pills. Fetch me a glass!"

They were only too willing to comply. With impressive willpower, they managed to watch him swallow the pills without laughing.

"Here!" he thrust the empty glass at them. "Now begone, so I can change into my pajamas."

"Yes sir!" they saluted in tandem. "Sleep well!"

"Bah, I will once I stop hearing your pesky voices!"

Leaving him to don his sleepwear patterned with skulls and crossbones, the twins stood in the hall and waited. The timing was about the same as the spicy denture reaction. Palpatine nearby tore the bedroom door off its hinges as he charged down the corridor.

"AAAGHH, get it off, GET IT OFF!" he wailed, tearing at his silk pajamas like they were on fire. "It burns! It itches! Make it stop!"

Anakin and Padmé were a little delayed in exiting their room; their hair and clothes were conspicuously tousled when they appeared. Blushing, Padmé hastily smoothed her locks.

"What's the matter?" Anakin fumbled to tie his robe.

"Witchcraft! Sorcery! Voodoo!" the Sith was a jitterbug, trying to scratch his entire body at once.

Anakin turned a weary eye to his children. He didn't even have to ask.

As if the itching powder spectacle wasn't enough, Palpatine's shouts soon grew increasingly incoherent.

"The purple iguana! I found it!" he stared wildly at the ceiling. "Garlic clouds! Floating bus stop! Cactus alphabet! Marshmallow tap shoes!"

"Palpatine, snap out of it! You're hallucinating!" Anakin took him by the shoulders.

"Midget walrus! Twice-baked tree stump! Three-eyed cabbage!" the Sith flung Anakin off, thrashing down the hall. "Mutant waterfall! The square root of potato!"

Out the back door and into a twilit copse of trees he stumbled. The family followed at a fascinated but safe distance, running after him as he approached a shuttle parked behind the trees.

"I – I just remembered, I left a pot of beetles boiling on the stove," he blathered to himself like a mental patient. "Have to get home! Don't want it to burn down! All my heritage furniture… my fine china and tapestries… oh dear…"

He'd locked himself in the cockpit by the time they caught up. Eyes darting frantically and hands pressing every button on the control panel, the Sith engaged the engines. The craft lurched into the sky like a drunken flying dinosaur. Luke and Leia waved cheerfully from below.

"Is he all right to fly?" Padmé sounded dubious.

"Oh, he'll be fine," Anakin dismissed. He was waving too, following the shuttle's path with envious eyes. "Nice ship! It's amazing what some people can afford on government assistance."

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The end! I had way too much fun with this. I lost track of how many times I degenerated into mad fits of laughter. Nothing like an inane escape to forget your troubles!