Epilogue: Holopics are Worth a Thousand Words
An hour later, Palpatine found himself falling into a slightly more familiar pattern, studying endless Senate requests and formal injunctions that he needed to authorize. The mindless repetition was soothing, but more so the absence of tiny voices lifted in merriment. A steaming mug of herbal tea sat at his side on the obsidian-lacquered desktop.
Sometimes, he truly wondered at the wisdom of his actions, tolerating the tiny terrors as he did, indulging their industrious mayhem. Still, both of the children nearly blinded him with their Force potential. As the reigning Sith Lord of the galaxy, it would be remiss of him to let such opportunity pass.
He pulled up a five hundred page discourse on the proper allocation of funds to the Outer Rim's refugees and was settling in for the long haul when a tiny knock rapped against the open frame of his office. Palpatine looked up to find Leia shyly standing in the door, one of the blankets wrapped around her head and shoulders and clutching GuGu tightly to her chest.
"I thought we had a deal, young one," he rumbled in soft warning, ignoring the growing headache behind his eyes.
Leia remained unfazed. "I tried. I couldn' sleep."
Palpatine raised both eyebrows high. "And what are you expecting me to do about that?"
Leia brightened, sidling into the office and glancing around her. "Mama sings to me."
Palpatine stiffened. "Out of the question."
Leia shrugged. She settled directly in front of the desk and peered up at him with bleary eyes. "Papa holds me."
"At three years of age, aren't you a little old for such things?" Palpatine tilted his head. Why would anyone want to be held, to be restricted like that? He certainly couldn't remember any such foolish desire in his own childhood.
"No," Leia said simply.
He stared at her.
She stared at him. "Hold me?"
"Utter foolishness," he muttered, and she lit up like a miniature sun, tripping sleepily around the corner of the desk and coming to stand at his knee.
He was not arrogant enough to deny his own defeat, but he did acknowledge it with a pained sigh as he set aside the datapad. "Only for a short time, Leia. I have work to do, and the entire galaxy cannot infinitely wait on the whims of a little… little…" She blinked at him. "…lady."
Leia giggled and scrambled up into his lap. The little monster certainly had sharp elbows and knees. "Gonna be queen someday, then they hafta listen."
He almost laughed at her sleepy ambition, her complete self-assurance. What an enterprising little firebrand she was. What a Sith Lady she would be… but first: "Younglings don't become queens unless they learn to sleep when they are supposed to."
In answer, she curled up against his chest, small hand gripping at his collar. He reached awkwardly for his datapad with his free hand and managed it without calling on the Force.
Seventy three pages into the report, and Leia still slumbered on his shoulder, blissfully ignorant of his irritation. And waking her up truly would be more hindrance than help.
This is not fair, he mused as she resettled and pulled her blanket tighter around her shoulders. He could not call on the Dark Side to keep himself awake, not when she slept so close. He needed to get this paperwork completed. Occasionally he needed to do something relatively charitable to keep up appearances, even though the Outer Rim fools had brought their misery upon themselves by courting the favor of the Separatists.
Two hundred ninety-four pages. Palpatine worked as long as he could.
He felt his eyelids closing, his hand drooping under the weight of the datapad. Just a few moments to collect his thoughts, that was all he required…
Anakin and Padme smiled at the Red Robes when they pulled up to 500 Republica in the early hours of the morning. As soon as their identities were verified, Padme took off down the long security hallway like a mother narglatch in search of her young. Anakin sighed and strode after her.
"Padme, I'm telling you, don't worry about it. I'm sure they're all absolutely fine," Anakin hissed to his wife as she tapped in a code at the main entrance to the living quarters. He peered over her shoulder, and his eyes widened. "Really? 'Voorpak'? I never thought the Chancellor really liked those little things, not since Leia-"
"Luke got into security and added an alternate passcode," Padme whispered, interrupting him.
"Aww," Anakin grinned, "He got my looks and my skills. I might as well retire from the Jedi Order."
Padme punched him lightly in the shoulder as they stepped into the dimly lit hallway and the door slid shut behind them. The suite was quiet, almost suspiciously so.
"I love my son being tech-savvy and all, but seriously, isn't it against some rule to hack the Chancellor's privates suites?" Anakin asked, trailing behind her down the hallway. "And how does his security team not notice?"
Padme looked entirely too smug. "It's not the main security entry. Besides, there really are some things you shouldn't be teaching him yet. I told you so."
"It's R2's fault!" Anakin protested, but at her rolled eyes, he wisely chose to change the subject. "Hey, you know it's really quiet in here?"
"Nice try," Padme shook her head. "Yes, it's quiet. It's the middle of the night, Ani."
"These are our kids, Padme," Anakin replied, smirking.
She flipped her hair over her shoulder as she strode into the living room. "And whose fault is that, Mr. I-Can't-Breathe-Without-You?"
"Am I ever going to live that down?" Anakin mock-scowled and followed her through the empty room. He could see Luke's board game scattered across the far side, which honestly was a little reassuring. Messes meant normal.
"I'm not really foreseeing that," Padme said, the grin obvious in her voice.
Anakin chuckled. "Getting lippy with a Jedi Knight? You are a brave one." To his disappointment, she evaded his flirtatious reach and moved purposefully into the apartment.
Padme ignored him, now on her mission to locate her children. Luke slumbered in the first guest bedroom, startlingly loud snores emanating from the large bed. Her motherly expression tightened when the second guest room was empty, the bed unmade and rumpled like a small child had clambered out of it.
They located Palpatine's personal office next, and Padme entered first. She stopped with a small giggle, and Anakin craned his neck to see past her.
Palpatine sat in his office chair, silver hair slightly mussed and head tilted back and to the side and clearly asleep, something Anakin had never seen or expected to see. Draped over his left shoulder was a blanket-bundled Naboo princess, also sound asleep and snoring softly, tiny hands clutching at his shoulder and the small stuffed Gungan, drool seeping into the expensive robes beneath. The two of them looked like they had been there for some time already.
"Well, that's something else," Anakin grinned, choking back a loud chortle. "Still got the holocam?"
"Anakin, behave yourself," Padme shoved his shoulder without any heat, smiling widely as well behind a demure hand. "Poor man. You know how he despises drool." She bit her lip in indecision. "Should we wake them up?"
Anakin blinked. "I don't know about the Chancellor, but wake up Leia? After she's been asleep?"
Padme blinked back. "You're right. Not a good idea. So what's yours?"
The smile that beamed back at her was decidedly un-Jedi-like. "I noticed a nice couch a few rooms back."
Padme slowly backed out of the room. "Lead the way then, intrepid defender of the weak and sleepy."
They located said couch in the living room and settled on the far right end, the end that was not covered in multiple lightsticks. Padme leaned into his shoulder and drew up her knees to her chest, ignoring the wrinkles that were already forming in her expensive gown.
"Happy anniversary, Padme," Anakin whispered into her ear.
She didn't answer for the longest time. Then: "Are we getting old, Anakin?" Padme murmured sleepily against his chest. "We partied without the kids all night, and I'm still exhausted like I chased Luke and Leia the whole time."
"We're only as old as we think we are," Anakin started to say, and then he made the connection. "Well, now I know why Palpatine was sleeping." He laughed softly and kissed the top of Padme's hair as she cuddled into him. "The Senate can't stop him, the war can't shut him off, but our kids singlehandedly brought down the head of our government. That's quite a feat at the age of three."
"Anakin?" Padme murmured.
"Go to sleep."
"Fine." A long pause. "Padme?"
A sigh. "What, Anakin?"
"Are you sure we can't take a picture?"
And the main story wraps up with…More fluff. I think I'm trying to get it out of my system. :) Obi-Wan must have managed to escape earlier in the night, either that or he's crashed out under the kitchen table after uncovering Palpatine's Naboo blossom wine collection.
I'm thinking of adding some end chapters of random one-shots from this AU universe. Would you all be interested in something of that sort?
Apologies for any typos within, and leave a review if you can! I hope you enjoyed this silly little story.