"Adventures in Babysitting"
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to George Lucas and I'm not making any money from this or anything else I post here. The story belongs to me.
"I hope you don't mind that I volunteered our services as babysitters," Sabé murmured as she kissed Palpatine. "Padmé and Anakin wanted to have a peaceful night out for a change." Smiling, Palpatine stared down at the two Skywalker children standing behind Sabé.
"Oh, I don't mind at all," he said, bending to greet them. Leia ran to him for kisses, while Luke, ever reserved, hung back. "Don't I get a hug from you as well?" Palpatine asked him.
"Mummy and Daddy went out without us," he announced sulkily. "They said they're going to a grown-up restaurant and we have to stay with you and Aunt Sabé. It's not fair."
"Oh quit being such a baby, Luke," Leia scolded her brother. Luke hung his head.
"Sorry," he muttered. Leia glared at him.
"Why don't you come inside and we'll see what sort of fun things we can think of to do," Palpatine suggested cheerfully. He put his arm around Sabé and escorted her inside, the children trailing behind. Luke was lugging a large bag behind him. "What have you got in there?" Palpatine asked him. Luke shrugged.
"Stuff," he replied. Palpatine glanced at Sabé.
"Toys," she told him, rolling her eyes. "They could not agree on what to bring, and so to cut short the argument…" Her voice trailed off, and she shrugged elaborately. He nodded. She looked up at him. "We have a long night ahead of us," she said quietly.
"Really, Sabé," he murmured. "How difficult can it be to look after two children for an evening?" Sabé stared at him in disbelief; she could not have been more surprised if he had suddenly grown a second head. "What?" he asked, puzzled by her reaction to his words. She merely shook her head.
"Let's play something," Leia said suddenly. "Let's play house."
"I don't want to," Luke said. "You always make me be the baby." Leia thought for a moment.
"We'll be the mommy and daddy, and Aunt and Uncle can be our babies," she said. Palpatine and Sabé exchanged amused smiles.
"I want to be a Jedi," Luke whined. Leia sighed, clearly exasperated.
"OK, you can be a Jedi but you're the daddy too." Luke appeared mollified. "And I'm the Queen," Leia continued as Luke began rummaging around in the sack of toys. "Now," she said, turning to Palpatine and Sabé, "you two children have to sit right here and be very quiet, because Mummy is going to have an Important Meeting With The Governor." She pointed at the sofa, and the two "children" sat down obediently. Luke produced a toy lightsaber from the toy bag and began waving it around.
"I'm going on an adventure," he told Leia. "See ya, baby," he said casually, sauntering off in the direction of the kitchen. Palpatine and Sabé laughed.
"I told you children to be quiet!" Leia scolded, shaking a finger at them.
"Sorry, Mummy," Palpatine said, trying unsuccessfully to stifle his laughter. He suddenly had an idea. "It's her fault," he said, pointing at Sabé.
"My fault?" Sabé protested. "How is it my fault?"
"I don't care whose fault it is, you have to be quiet!" Leia told them gravely. "Or there will be no dessert!" She searched the toy bag until she found a play make-up kit. "Now, I have to go get ready for my big meeting. You two children be good! I don't want any fighting while I'm gone!" She gave them a final stern look for good measure before going up the hall towards the bathroom.
"You heard her, no fighting," Palpatine murmured, putting an arm around Sabé and pulling her close.
"I shall try my best," she agreed, snuggling up against him. "I have missed you," she said quietly.
"I have missed you too," he said, smiling. He bent his head to kiss her. They were so engaged when Luke came tearing into the living room, brandishing his "lightsaber" and yelling at the top of his lungs.
"AAAAUUUUUGGGHHH!!!" He stopped short, frowning at Palpatine and Sabé. "You're not supposed to be doing THAT, you're the kids!" he chided. Leia appeared from the hallway. She had painted her face white and applied bright red lipstick to her cheeks and mouth with a very free hand. "You look like a clown!" Luke told her, laughing. She glared at him.
"I do not! I look beautiful like Mummy! And anyway, what are you yelling about? Jedi are supposed to be brave and strong. They don't yell."
"That was my battle cry," Luke informed her smugly. "And you still look like a clown. Look at your mouth."
"Now children," Palpatine began.
"Make me," Luke said, moving to stand nose to nose with his sister.
"Children!" Sabé said loudly, standing. She folded her arms across her chest and glared down at them. "There will be no fighting or we will go back to the hotel and you will both go directly to bed." Two subdued children looked up at her contritely.
"Sorry, Aunt," Luke said.
"Sorry," Leia agreed.
"Now to each other," Sabé instructed. She watched as the twins made rather unconvincing apologies to one another. Sitting back down and glancing over at Palpatine, she remarked, "We must try to maintain at least a semblance of civility." He laughed. "Now, come here, Leia, and we will see about braiding your hair and fixing your make-up." The little girl hurried over, excited by the promise of undergoing the same beauty rituals she had seen her mother enact so many times. Sabé tipped Leia's face up and critically appraised her make-up application attempt. With her little finger, she smoothed the white face paint so that it was more evenly applied. Retrieving a handkerchief from her pocket, she wiped off the red lipstick and reapplied it correctly. Next, she removed the pins from her own hair, allowing her thick brown hair to spill down and hang loose around her shoulders. She spun the toddler around, divided her hair into sections and quickly braided it with deft fingers. Pinning the braids up, she gave the impromptu hairstyle a final look, leaning forward to re-pin a braid that showed signs of slipping free.
"How does it look?" Leia asked.
"You look lovely, Mummy," Sabé assured her, slipping back into their game.
"At least you don't look like a clown anymore," Luke said snidely. It was as close to a compliment as he was willing to give. Leia glared at him.
"You're the Daddy," she reminded him. "Your job is to fight bad guys and then come home and tell me how beautiful I am. Now, I'm going to look in the mirror," she told them. "Thank you, Aunt," she added, almost as an afterthought. Luke made a face behind her back as she left. Palpatine smiled knowingly.
"Girls are yucky, aren't they?" he asked Luke conspiratorially.
"Yeah," Luke agreed readily. "They're yucky AND they have cooties. I'm NEVER kissing a girl, never EVER."
"Wait a few years," Palpatine advised him dryly.
"Daddy said that when you kiss a girl, the cooties go into your brain and make you do stupid things like spend all your money on jewelry and expensive dinners."
"That sounds like your father, all right," Palpatine said, laughing.
"But is it true?" Luke asked, frowning. Grinning, Palpatine glanced over at Sabé.
"It's as good an explanation as any I've heard," he told Luke seriously.
"Men do stupid things all right," Sabé agreed acidly. "But I think the cause is anemia, not cooties."
"Anemia?" Palpatine asked curiously.
"Yes, you men have only got enough blood to operate one thing at a time, and so your brains stop working when all of your blood goes into your – "
"Sabé!" Palpatine exclaimed, laughing. Leia reappeared from the bathroom.
"What's so funny?" she wanted to know. Luke shrugged, shaking his head.
"I don't know. Must be grown-up stuff."
"Grown-ups think the dumbest things are funny," she agreed. "So how was your adventure?"
"I killed three dragons and rescued the beautiful princess from the bad guy," Luke said proudly, brandishing his lightsaber.
"Oh," she said. They were silent for a moment.
"I'm hungry," Luke announced.
"Me too." Leia looked over at Sabé and Palpatine, who were still laughing and teasing one another. "Hey, we're hungry," she told them.
"Oh," Sabé said. "Well, what would you like to eat?"
"McDiarmids!" they shouted in unison. Palpatine groaned.
"Welcome to McDiarmids, may I take your order?" the Rodian behind the counter asked.
"I want a Mickie Meal!" Leia exclaimed.
"Me too!" Luke said.
"All right," Palpatine agreed. "Two Mickie Meals and – "
"What's the toy this week?" Leia interrupted.
"I dunno," the Rodian said, shrugging. "Some action figure from Force Wars, I think."
"Ooo, I hope it's Wedge Antlers with Super Death Grip," Luke said.
"So that's two Mickie Meals…" the Rodian prompted Palpatine in a Can we please speed this up? tone. The manager, a short, pudgy human who looked like he was a bit overly fond of the greasy fast food served at his restaurant heard him and hurried over.
"That's the Supreme Chancellor!" the irate manager hissed directly into the Rodian's earstalk. The Rodian shrugged.
"So don't rush him!"
"Yeah, whatever," the Rodian agreed, sounding bored.
"I am SO sorry for Gordo's rudeness, Chancellor," the manager apologized obsequiously, bowing deeply.
"I am used to it," Palpatine replied. "As I was saying, we'd like – "
"And if there's anything else I can personally do to make your visit to McDiarmids more pleasant, just ask and I will be at your service," the manager continued fawningly. Palpatine smiled thinly.
"Yes, I appreciate that," he said diplomatically. He was silent for a moment, anticipating another apologetic outburst from the manager. When none seemed forthcoming, he decided to try again. "Sabé and I would like – "
"Sabé!" the manager exclaimed, turning to scrutinize her. "This is Lady Sabé?" Palpatine and Sabé exchanged looks. "She's so… young," the manager said, sounding disapproving. "Wouldn't you rather date someone your own age?" he asked Palpatine.
"Everyone HIS own age is dead," the Rodian deadpanned. Palpatine laughed.
"Gordo!" the manager exclaimed, appalled. "That's it, you're – " Tired of being ignored, Leia finally spoke up.
"I'm Leia," she announced. "And this is Luke. And we're hungry!"
"Mickie Meal, Mickie Meal, Mickie Meal!" Luke chanted.
"Is it too much to ask that we be allowed to order our food now?" Sabé asked over Luke's voice. Soon Leia's voice joined her brother's.
"Mickie Meal! Mickie Meal! Mickie Meal!" the children chanted.
"Will you both please be quiet?" Sabé said to the children.
"Mickie Meal! Mickie Meal!" Palpatine closed his eyes and rubbed his temples.
"Be quiet!" Sabé commanded. "Or we will return to the hotel RIGHT NOW and there will not BE any Mickie Meals!" The children immediately fell silent.
"What sweet children," the manager said insincerely.
"Look, would you please let me handle this?" the Rodian asked the manager, looking embarrassed.
"Yes," Palpatine agreed. "Please. If we have any problems, we will let you know."
"Right," the manager said. "It is such an honor to have you here in our restaurant!" he gushed. "And remember, I'm right here if you need me," he reminded Palpatine, bowing repeatedly as he backed away. They were all silent for a moment.
"That was… bizarre." Palpatine said.
"Yeah," the Rodian agreed. "He knows everything about you," he told Palpatine. "He has a crush on you."
"He WHAT?" Palpatine asked, incredulous.
"Oh, you are irresistible, Palpatine," Sabé told him, giggling.
"Evidently," he said, sounding bemused.
"What's a crush?" Luke asked curiously.
"It means he's in love with Uncle," Leia told her brother. Luke frowned, thinking about it.
"That's funny," he finally said.
"Perhaps he wishes to avoid getting cooties from kissing a girl," Sabé suggested acidly. Palpatine laughed.
"You guys are weird," the Rodian said.
"I could say the same of the people who work here," Palpatine retorted.
"Yeah, you have a point there," the Rodian agreed.
"What a wonderful evening I had, Anakin," Padmé said as they approached the door to Palpatine's apartment. "We must do this again soon."
"I had fun too," he agreed. He turned and put his arms around her. "Let's enjoy our last few seconds of freedom," he murmured, kissing her.
"Such a vulgar, tasteless public display of affection," she said, winding her arms around his neck and pulling him closer. They kissed for several minutes. "We'd better go retrieve the children," she finally said breathlessly. He nodded.
"Yeah," he agreed. "We'll get 'em into bed as fast as we can, because I want to get their mother into bed!" She laughed and rang Palpatine's doorbell. After a moment, the door opened and Luke appeared.
"Mummy! Daddy!" he exclaimed. Leia came up behind him.
"You are late," she scolded, holding up her wrist and tapping the face of her chrono meaningfully. "You promised you'd be back fifteen minutes ago." Anakin and Padmé exchanged an amused look.
"We got caught in traffic," Anakin told them.
"Where are Aunt and Uncle?" Padmé asked. Luke smiled.
"They're having naptime," he said. Padmé's eyebrows went up.
"Oh?" she asked, immediately jumping to the wrong conclusion.
"Yeah," Leia agreed, leading her parents into the living room. Toys were scattered all over the floor. The holovid was on with its sound turned all the way down. Palpatine was sitting on the sofa, his head back, his mouth open, snoring loudly. His arm was around Sabé, whose head rested on his shoulder. She slept soundly, her face pressed against him, soaking his shirt with a small pool of drool. Padmé looked up at Anakin, and they both laughed. "Shhh," Leia admonished. "You'll wake them up."
"We had lots of fun," Luke told his parents quietly. "First we played house. Then we went to McDiarmids. We got Mickie Meals and the new Wedge action figure with Super Death Grip. After that, we went to the park."
"Yeah, I think they had more fun at the park than we did," Leia said, indicating Palpatine and Sabé. "Uncle pushed Aunt on the swings. I told him he was pushing her too high, but he wouldn't listen." Luke said something in Nubian.
"Luke!" Padmé scolded. "If you say that again, I'll wash your mouth out with soap!" Luke shrugged.
"But that's what Uncle yelled when Aunt swung back too fast and… she didn't mean to, but she kicked him right in his… in his… well, YOU know. " Padmé was trying very hard not to laugh. Anakin, on the other hand, was laughing so hard he could barely breathe.
"I TOLD him he was pushing her too high," Leia said smugly.
"Grown-ups never listen," Luke agreed.
"Then we climbed all the way to the very top of the jungle gym." Leia said proudly. "But Luke got scared and started crying."
"I was not crying!" Luke protested.
"You were, you big baby. Uncle had to climb up and get you," she reminded him. "Then Uncle fell off." Anakin laughed. "It's not funny," Leia continued seriously. "He fell on Aunt." Leia's brow creased. "She said a whole lot of words I never heard before." Now Padmé was laughing too.
"Then a man came up to me and started asking questions about Aunt and Uncle, but I told him I'm not allowed to talk to strangers," Luke said proudly.
"Very good, Luke," Anakin said. "Never talk to people you don't know."
"Yeah, but he turned out to be on the holonews," Leia said, her eyes wide. "He's a reporter and everything. He wanted to know if Aunt was Uncle's girlfriend."
"What did you say?" Padmé asked, dreading the answer.
"Well," Luke said, "I told him that Uncle says girls have cooties and the guy at McDiarmids has a crush on him." Anakin and Padmé exchanged a look.
"Does Uncle know about this?" Padmé finally asked. Leia shook her head.
"Nope. The man got really excited. He said we're going to be on the news tonight, and not to tell Uncle." She gestured at the holovid. "It's a surprise."
"Yeah, he'll be surprised, all right," Anakin agreed. Padmé sighed.
"I suppose we'd better pay a visit to that reporter and try to straighten him out before he goes on the air," she said. "Come on, children. Gather up your toys and let's go."
"What about Aunt?" Luke asked, pointing at Sabé, who continued to sleep peacefully.
"Aunt always stays here when we come to Coruscant," Leia reminded him. "I guess Uncle likes having sleepovers."
"I bet he does!" Anakin agreed, looking Sabé up and down and waggling his eyebrows suggestively. Padmé shot him a look. She caught her husband's eye, saw the teasing gleam there, and giggled. "You know I only have eyes for you, my dear," Anakin said mildly, putting his arm around her. He turned his attention to the children. "Do you have all your toys?" he asked.
"I think so," Leia said. Luke walked over to Sabé and Palpatine.
"We're leaving," he announced, giving Palpatine a poke in the leg. "Wake up."
"Leave them alone, Luke," Padmé said. Palpatine opened his eyes and sat up, waking Sabé.
"Aunt drooled all over you," Leia informed Palpatine happily, pointing at the wet spot on his shirt.
"Wouldn't be the first time," Padmé murmured. Sabé laughed sleepily and rubbed her eyes.
"Thank you for watching them," Padmé said as Palpatine walked them to the door.
"The pleasure was all mine, Your Majesty," he told her, giving her a tired smile.
"We're going to be on the news!" Luke said happily.
"Not if I can help it," Padmé told her son. Palpatine looked puzzled. "Never mind, Chancellor," she said, patting his arm. "Get some rest." She turned to her husband. "Come on, Anakin," she said, tugging on his arm. "See you tomorrow," she called to Sabé, who waved. The door slid shut.
"Alone at last," Palpatine said, taking Sabé's hand and leading her back to the sofa. Palpatine noticed the holovid was on, and began searching for the remote. "Ah," he said, locating it under a cushion. "Just in time for the news." They sat down together, and he raised the volume. Sabé snuggled up against him.
"Your shirt is all wet," she said, making a face.
"I know. You drooled on it."
"Perhaps," she said, grinning wickedly, "You should take it off."
"Do you think?" he asked.
"Absolutely," she replied, sitting up and unbuttoning it. She didn't stop with his shirt.
"What are you doing?" he asked suddenly. Sabé smiled up at him.
"Well, I kicked you earlier… I feel I should make certain everything still works." He thought about this for a second, switched the holovid off, and tossed the remote onto a chair.
"There's never anything interesting on the news anyway," he said.