She just had to ask him that. As if she couldn't guess just how very nervous he truly was.

They'd stopped their speeders just out of sight of her house. She was staring at him intently, her look partly amused, more than a little concerned. He was holding onto the speeder handles as if for dear life, flexing his grip, staring straight ahead, unmoving, as if his gaze could pierce through the tree line to the house. His stomach churned. The house where Obi-Wan and Yoda waited.

More importantly, the house where his children waited.

He felt like he was going to throw up.

"The first...and last...time I was here," Vader said, and he was horrified to hear how unsure he sounded. How terrified. To his own ears. So unbecoming of a Sith, or even a Jedi for that matter. "Things did not go well."

"That's an understatement." Padme snorted and rolled her eyes. She was already off of her bike, her pack slung over her shoulders. Waiting on him. Waiting for him to calm down so she could go home. So she could take him home.

"Do Obi-Wan and Yoda have to be…?"

"Yes." She cut him off. She'd made it crystal clear before they'd left for Tatooine that the Jedi remaining close by was nonnegotiable. "Don't worry. They'll be nearby only, not sitting in the house watching us literally." The implication was clear: They were nearby in case he reverted. In case he tried to kidnap his family. Again. In case he attempted to show the twins the Dark Side.

It both infuriated him and made him want to hide in shame. He sighed. This was her home. Not theirs. He was here on Padme's terms. Not his. If she didn't fully trust him yet with being near their kids, let alone being alone with them...then he had to be okay with that. Even if he wasn't. Besides, he didn't want to start another argument with his wife. Not over this.

It was too damn important.

Their joint mission had gone well, and now she was letting him see his children again, as she'd promised. The children she guarded so fiercely, so protectively. As she should. Just letting this meeting happen at all was a huge step in the right direction, as far as he was concerned.

So, yeah. He'd have to be good with the circumstances she allowed it under.

"And, before you ask, the rest of the family are elsewhere on the planet." Padme continued. "On vacation. So, really, it's just gonna be us here."

Again, this wasn't only for privacy's sake, he knew. It was just in case he snapped. So they wouldn't be anywhere near his fury. Still, he had to think positively here. She trusts you enough to allow you to see the kids. He reminded himself. For now, that's enough.

But, if he was honest with himself, he undoubtedly would have done the same thing if he were in her shoes. Thus, he really couldn't blame her for taking the precautions she had. So, he didn't respond to the set up issue.

"What if they don't like me?" He asked instead. "What if they remember me from the last time I showed up?" He frowned, a genuine look of concern on his face at this thought.

"You aren't in that suit, Ani." She motioned at his chest in a vague gesture, as if that was all there was to it.

"Yes, but my Force presence is the same. I can't change that. And, as Force sensitive as our twins are, they'll recognize my presence, Padme. And, I don't want to...to frighten them." His voice shook slightly as he said this.

Padme must have realized how vulnerable he felt now that he was here...and how legitimate his concern was because she was silent for a long moment, contemplating this. She wasn't Force sensitive, so he didn't think she knew exactly how to respond to that. "Look, you're here for a few days, Ani. It may take some time to get them to warm up to you. But it's going to be fine."

"Patience isn't my strong suit, Angel." Force, he was more terrified now than he was before. He was a Sith Lord, not some sniveling youngling fresh out of the creche! Kriff, he needed to get a grip on himself! Suddenly, the Force seemed to pulse ever so slightly at him. Think, Skywalker! Think! It seemed to whisper. He inhaled deeply...and did what the Force said. Ok. Well, Sith dealt with impatience through fits of rage and destruction. Through brute force and terror. That was a sure fire way to get his children to want nothing to do with him. To hate him. That was a demoralizing thought and would defeat his whole purpose.

And it would destroy any chance he had of reconciliation with his wife. Forever.

So, impatience was definitely out, which meant he had to try a novel approach here. Well, novel for him anyway...


Vader was jolted from his thoughts by his wife calling to him, and he turned to look at her. Padme hadn't quite approached him, but she was standing closer than before, just watching him. Sighing again, he couldn't help missing the closeness that had yet to be revived in their relationship. Another reminder of the consequences of his actions. He gave himself a mental jerk and focused on his wife's words.

"You are their father. As long as you can keep your temper under control, they will love you. Part of the problem isn't necessarily just the circumstances of the last time you saw them; though I agree, that probably didn't help. But part of it is that they're simply not used to new people. They've lived the entirety of their young lives since being born out in a cottage in the middle of a forest, in the middle of nowhere. Literally. So, don't take it personally if they don't immediately warm up to you. Give them time. They are only two. Bear that in mind."

He understood that, and yet… "What if I'm a terrible father?"

Padme sighed, laughing a little under her breath, shaking her head. "Everyone feels that way before they have kids, Ani. I certainly felt that way before becoming a mother. Besides, I'm not about to let you do anything that would harm them." Then her voice grew serious, and she glared at him with steel in her eyes. "If you do try anything, it won't be the waiting Jedi you'll have a problem with. Just so you know."

He gulped. "I know." He could deal with the Jedi. He wasn't afraid to hurt them. His wife? That was another story entirely. She didn't need any of her considerable physical assassin skills to take him down a peg or two. Her deadliest weapons against him were simply her words and the way she reacted to him. No way in hell was he willing to risk destroying the repair he'd done on their relationship, small as it still was. Not if he wanted his wife back. Not if he wanted his family.

The fire in her eyes melted away, and she smiled softly as she inclined her head towards the house. "Come on. I'd like to see my kids, even if you suddenly seem frozen." She arched a brow at him in challenge.

"I'm not frozen." To prove his point, he got off the speeder bike. He didn't miss the knowing grin that spread over her face - or the twinkle of amusement in her eyes. Yeah, she still knew how to play him to her tune alright.

"Good. Then let us go, shall we?" Without waiting for his response, she turned and began hiking through the trees. He followed her with his eyes, lingering on her lithe form, before shaking his head and following after her, slinging his own pack over his shoulder.

He would never know how she did it.

They walked silently through the forest for a few minutes before they emerged into the clearing. Waiting outside, in front of their own simple cottage a few paces behind the main house, were Obi-Wan and Yoda, sitting casually in wooden lawn chairs. Vader scowled, especially as the little green toad slipped off of his seat and began hobbling over, gimmer stick in hand. Reluctantly, Obi-Wan heaved a sigh of resignation and followed. Vader could feel his apprehensiveness through their flickering bond. A bond he still wanted nothing to do with.

At times, I agree with you. Obi-Wan simply arched his brows at him and crossed his arms over his chest, as he continued his slow pace toward him.

Hearing that the feeling was at least semi-mutual didn't make him feel any better. His lips twisted, an acerbic comment just on the tip of his tongue.

However, before he could respond either verbally, or through their bond, his wife grabbed everyone's attention.

"I'm going to bring the kids out." Padme said, turning to stop him. "Wait here."

"I thought you said…" he frowned, pointing at the two Jedi walking toward them quietly.

"Yes, but I'm sure they want to tell you that themselves. Among other things." Padme winked, grinning. He glowered back. She was enjoying this way too much, dammit. But before he could stop her, she turned and sauntered away, heading for the front door of the house. The little minx even had the audacity to sway her delectable backside in just such a way to render him speechless, knowing he would be watching her every move, and he had to bite back a groan of equal parts want and frustration.

Vixen. Instead of Angel, I swear I should've picked Vixen. It suits her. He huffed.

He continued to watch her even as Yoda and Obi-Wan cautiously approached. Or, rather, Obi-Wan cautiously approached. Yoda didn't seem particularly bothered by Vader's presence one way or the other. "Skywalker, Welcome."

Vader's head whipped around, his eyes shooting down to the little green Grand Jedi Master before narrowing. He crossed his arms over his chest. "That isn't my name."

"Isn't it?" Yoda did a strange little laugh that somehow sounded a little crazier than the last time he'd seen the Grand Master. "Come here as Luke and Leia Skywalker's father, did you not?"

Vader opened his mouth, then closed it. Damn. Yoda had him there."It doesn't matter what you call me. I'm here for one reason only, and it's not either of you." Stubbornly, he turned his face away, waiting for his family...and ignoring his former colleagues.

"Hmmm...Matter, names do." Yoda insisted, nodding his head slowly, his bat like ears twitching. "Was it not you who insisted this very thing when brought before the counsel you were?"

Vader clenched his teeth till he feared they would crack. Yes. He remembered. Anakin Skywalker. He'd insisted to anyone who would listen. That's my name. I'm important. He'd been so concerned, and rightly so as it turned out, that he would be seen as the poor ex-slave boy, thrown into a situation he understood nothing about. "I was a child. One that got taken advantage of. So, again, it doesn't matter."

"Much wisdom there is in children." Yoda insisted. "See this, you will."

Inwardly, he groaned. The miniature green goblin was still just as cryptic and off his rocker as ever. "What do you want, Yoda?"

"Mmm. To say hello. Nothing more."

Vader glanced down at the ground, inhaled deeply, then very evenly stated, "Hello." Then he shot a pointed look at Obi-Wan.

Can't you get him to leave?

I can't get Master Yoda to do anything he doesn't want to do. You should know that by now.

Can't, or won't? He narrowed his eyes and glared at his former mentor.

Obi-Wan shrugged unhelpfully.

Yoda did that weird crazy laugh again while shaking his head in apparent amusement. "Such fun, Skywalkers are. Yes, yes! Enjoy your time with the twins, you must! Talk again soon, we will."

Please no. Vader didn't reply verbally, just watched as Yoda turned and hobbled back the way he'd come. "Look out for Bob the Frog, you must!" the little green troll cackled over his shoulder when he was a fair distance away. All Vader could do was stare after the Grand Master in stunned silence.

He didn't even want to know.

"Has he been drinking that rather wretched Corellian Brandy you've always liked?" He turned back to the auburn haired Jedi still before him, a quizzical look on his face. "That'd be a first, to be sure."

"We will be around. Watching." Obi-Wan awkwardly reminded him, choosing to ignore his former padawan's comment about the booze. Though it was meant as a warning, he sounded more sheepish than anything else. Vader only glared back in response, and Obi-Wan sighed. "This would be a lot easier if you weren't so...ornery."

"Only when you're around. You bring out the very worst in me." Vader snapped. "But I get it. You're the babysitter; however, you have nothing to worry about. I wouldn't harm my own children." He gave him a pointed look, a look that clearly said, They're my kids. Not yours. That's right. His. Not Obi-Wan's. And, he'd make damn sure his children knew that before he had to leave again to rejoin his fleet.

Obi-Wan frowned. "I do hope so, Vader. I want this to go well. For Padme...and for the kids especially. They really are delightful children and exceptionally bright lights in the Force."

"I know that." He could feel it from where he stood. "Now could you go, please? I would rather not be in the direct presence of my enemy when my children walk out that door."

"Is that what we still are?"

"I don't know what we are, but right now, you're annoying me, so yes. Go."

Obi-Wan sighed. "Well. At least you aren't trying to kill us."

"Don't make me change my mind."

Obi-Wan gave him a long face and raised his hands in surrender, then turned and walked back the way he'd come.

Just in time, too. The door to the main house opened, and out stepped Padme. She wasn't in her Nightblade outfit now. She wore something more akin to what she'd worn when she'd come to see him on Mustafar, a loose comfortable tunic in a light lavender shade, paired with tan leggings and soft tan leather flats. Her hair tumbled freely down her shoulders in a wave of mahogany curls. So beautiful. And clinging to her sides were…

Luke. Leia.

Time slowed to a stop. He stopped breathing for several heartbeats. He simply stared at the two little beings who, without them knowing it, had become his entire universe, along with their mother. Sure, he'd watched them on his holofeed. Sure, he'd met them once...and terrified the shit out of them in the process. But now…

Now, they stared at him, partially hidden behind their mother's legs. He could sense apprehension from both of them-more so from Luke. There was also curiosity. More so from Leia. And even some wary recognition-again, mostly from Leia. But there wasn't outright terror, not like that first meeting. Thank the Force. Perhaps Padme was right-without the mask and the mechanical breathing that only served to terrify his victims, the twins seemed wary, but...open. More so than before.

Well. It was a start.

They were so close. Yet so far. Vader was rooted to the spot and seemed helpless to bridge the gap first.

So, as usual, his wife took charge of the situation and bridged it first.

Padme took their little hands in hers. "Come on." She soothed, gently, and pulled them forward onto the porch. Leia followed easily, her big brown eyes glued to Vader. Luke resisted some, but he followed nonetheless.

He felt like he was falling. Was it suddenly hot? No, it was late afternoon, the sun setting, with the air cooling down, but...he felt like he was standing on Tatooine in the middle of a blistering heat wave. It didn't ease as Padme led them off the porch and into the wildflower-covered meadow that was their front yard. They looked like Padme had dressed them in their very best clothes. At least, it wasn't outfits he'd seen them in before, and they weren't stained in grass and mud from playing outside all day. In a way, it felt too formal, but at the same time, he appreciated the gesture. She wanted their children to recognize the importance of this moment, even if they didn't fully understand yet. He would have kissed her for it, if she'd have let him.

Too soon, they were standing right in front of him, at arm's length. Padme stopped, gave him a reassuring smile, though her eyes still spoke of caution. Then, she looked down at their kids. "Luke. Leia. I'd like you to meet someone very special."

Leia came to stand directly next to her mother, staring up at Vader expectantly. Luke stopped just behind Padme's leg, cerulean blue eyes darting between him and Padme. They were less twins in appearance to one another, but rather each a mini twin of one of their parents. It was as unnerving as it was beautiful.

"Kids, this is Anakin Skywalker. He's your father."

He gulped. His knees felt weak. Yeah, it was definitely hot out here.

Leia looked up at her mom, her face scrunched up in confusion. "What dat?"

Well. At least he now knew they didn't view Obi-Wan as a father figure. Relief swept through him, and he felt his shoulders sag a little as he exhaled a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. Force, he'd been so terrified of the very idea of that. Yet, they didn't even know what a father was. But, he would change that. For the better.

Padme tilted her head, considering how to explain it so that a two-year-old would understand. "Well, Sweetie. Do you know how Mommy loves you two very much? And how I always take care of you?" Leia nodded, her mahogany curls bouncing around her chin. Luke listened intently. "Well. That's what a Daddy does, too. He's supposed to help me take care of and love you."

A very simple explanation, but anymore complicated and he didn't think they'd understand. Works for me.

Leia looked back up at him, a frown on her face. "He look like Luke. All growed up."

He couldn't help it. He smiled, charmed by his rather forthright daughter.

Padme laughed a little. "Yes, he does look like Luke, Sweetie. Just like you look like me."

Leia let Padme's hand go, then approached him, slowly. Step by little step. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had the odd thought that this two-year-old little girl was braver than most of the men serving under him. But that wasn't really it. She was innocent. Both of them were.

She stopped directly in front of him, looking up at him, her brown curls framing her cherubic little face perfectly. Force, if he thought Padme was an Angel, Leia was...was…

His little princess.

"You're Daddy?" She asked, bluntly, reminding him just a little bit of himself as a child.

By some miracle, he remembered how to work his voice. "Yes." Then, he added softly, "I'm your Daddy."

His heart was swelling, felt too big for his chest, and was there enough oxygen on this planet?

"My Daddy." she echoed, tilting her head, pointing a tiny finger at her chest. Then, she gave another look at Padme. "My Mommy."

"Yes, Sweetie." Padme smiled encouragingly, nodding her head at their daughter. It was at this point Vader noticed Luke had left the shadow of his mother and stood beside her, watching his sister.

Leia noticed. "Luke!" She shouted, much louder than was necessary, but he doubted children noticed such things. Then, she pointed up at him. "My Daddy!"

"He's Luke's Daddy, too." Padme reminded her.

"Oh. Like Mommy." Leia nodded, accepting the information as a fact. Vader wasn't sure she fully understood, but...she didn't seem afraid of him. Just curious. Amazing.

And, by default, because his sister showed no fear, Luke let go of Padme's hand too, carefully, gingerly, making his way over to stand with his sister. "Daddy?" Luke tried the word out.

"Yes, Luke." Vader agreed softly, smiling and nodding down at his Mini-Me. "I'm your Daddy, too."

Then, suddenly, he felt something small and warm wrap around his leg. Astonished, he looked down to find Leia had thrown her chubby little arms around his calf, hugging him as tightly as she could.

If he could melt through the soil, he would. His knees suddenly couldn't support him any longer, and he collapsed onto his butt. Leia squeaked as she tumbled over with him, but didn't let go. "Leia." Her name was a prayer on his lips, and he held his arms out wide to her… "Luke…" He implored, also reaching for his son who was standing beside his sprawled sister now, staring wide-eyed at him.

Then they were both in his arms, cradled against his chest, and his face was in their hair. At long last! He breathed in their scent-an earthy smell mixed with some sort of fruit, probably the last thing they'd eaten-and their little arms were wrapped around his neck, hugging him like they hugged their mom. If their dad was like their mom, then to them it made sense to hug him like they hugged their mom and…he soaked it up and relished in it, hugging them back as tightly as he dared, not wanting to crush them.

His chest heaved with the swell of emotions rising within him. His precious twins!

Their Force presences, bright as the Tatooine suns, merged with his, and he let out a sob, holding them closer. It felt...it felt like two missing pieces of a puzzle he didn't know he was putting together were fit back into the right position. It felt like they eased a tightness in his chest that he wasn't aware existed. It felt...it felt right. It felt wonderful. It felt…

Like home.

He was theirs, and they were his.

And in that moment, he got it. He finally understood. He understood why Padme did what she did, putting herself in harm's way. He understood why she was so reluctant to let him have this meeting with his children. He understood why she agreed...with conditions. He understood why there were two Jedi masters protecting them, even now, willing to do so even from him.

These children...they were everything. They were the center of the universe. They were innocence, and light, and everything good and just. They were everything right. He knew, in that moment, that his own mission had changed. Well, it had always been about getting his family back. But this was more. He would do anything to make the galaxy the place it should be for them. He would die to protect them, to protect all of them. He'd crawl on hands and knees into the Nine Corellian Hells to save them, if need be.

He was theirs. And they were his.

He held them, rocked them in his arms and breathed them in, cried tears of joy, sorrow, hope, into their hair, for a long, long time, tenderly whispering how much he loved them, peppering their heads with soft kisses.

He wasn't aware of his wife watching them, silent tears tracking down her own cheeks at this first embrace between her husband and their children.

He wasn't even aware of the two Jedi Masters watching this tender moment from afar, a knowing smile on the aged Grand Master's face, silent astonishment on the younger Master's, wondering at the Sith Lord who held his children close as though they were all he had.

Marveling at the magnitude of the shift they could feel in the Force because of it.

Will you look at that, Master! It's incredible, the transformation!

Mmm...told you, I did, Obi-Wan. Wrong we were about a great many things.

Yes, we were, Master.

Redeemed, he will be. Help him, we must.

Yes, Master. I-I see now you were right. Forgive me.

Nothing to forgive, Obi-Wan. Much you and Skywalker both still have to learn.

I guess we'll learn it together then.

Yes, you will. On this, the galaxy depends.

They exchanged a glance between them, then turned to go back inside their cottage, leaving the Skywalker family alone to their reunion.

Just as it should be.

"And, who is this, Son?" Anakin asked, leaning forward in interest as Luke carried over the Loth cat he'd seen so much of on the holofeed. The cat squirmed in Luke's arms, but made no attempt to get away from the boy.

They were in the house, sitting in the living room, having just finished a delicious and relaxed dinner complete with dessert not long ago. Their first dinner as a family. A very dysfunctional family, to be sure, but a family nonetheless. Padme could hardly believe it had happened, that this whole meeting was happening. Not that long ago, she'd convinced herself that her husband was dead, taken over by a monster. Yet here Anakin sat, patiently being introduced to each of the twins' favorite toys. "Itty." Luke told his father, holding the cat out for inspection.

Unlike the twins, who now seemed more delighted with their newfound father than scared, the cat didn't seem to agree. The moment it saw Anakin, it hissed, wiggled free, and bolted out of the room on silent paws, probably to go hide in a deep dark corner of her closet, it's current favorite hiding spot. Luke watched after it, a frown on his little face.

"We just kept it simple at Kitty." Padme corrected with a smile.

Anakin arched an eyebrow. "I see. I assume this beast was from the Lothal mission."

Padme shrugged, then smirked in amusement. "Yes. Obi-Wan felt the need to remind me that this is a rebellion, not a petting zoo. I simply reminded him that I am first and foremost a mother. Besides, they say having a pet teaches kids responsibility."

"It looks more to me like it's teaching them how to smother the poor thing."

"Well. That, too."

He grinned, and it was so natural, so charmingly boyish with that teasing quality that always made her weak in the knees...she couldn't help it. She smiled back, feeling her heart fluttering madly in her breast all the while.

Watching Anakin with the kids...she didn't know why he was so worried in the first place. The kids took naturally to him, in a way she hadn't seen them do before with anyone else. Maybe to Yoda and Obi-Wan, but even then, Luke was always reserved, merely following Leia's lead. But now, both were equally participating in the "show Daddy everything we own" game.

And Anakin was eating it up. He didn't seem at all bored. In fact, when Luke showed him his toy ships, he made sure to comment on each one, giving specific examples of which ship was better suited for what. She was quite sure most of it went over Luke's head at his tender young age, but he was enthralled nonetheless. Anakin went so far as to make several of them zoom about the room with the Force in a mock air battle. He even made the appropriate sound effects, much to the handclapping delight amidst squeals of joy from the children.

Padme couldn't deny cracks in her determination where her husband was concerned eroded even further at such an enchanting scene between father and offspring.

And, he was equally attentive to their daughter. When Leia showed him her dolls...well, he wasn't much into fashion or playing with dolls, she was sure, but he named things he liked about their outfits, asked what their names were, and what she liked about each one of them, delighting in her simple childish comments with an almost comical display of reactions, complete with gasps and tsks and a few winks thrown in for good measure. And when he called her 'Princess,' the toddler positively beamed.

Leia was thrilled. Her mother equally so.

She had a feeling her daughter would have Anakin wrapped around her little finger in no time. Luke as well. She'd need to control that to keep the twins from being too spoiled, but...for today, she watched from her recliner, knees curled up against her chest, enjoying the moment immensely.

Tonight was special, and no way was Padme going to dim that for any of them any sooner than she had to.

But, eventually, little bodies get tired, and as much as she wanted to let the moment last forever, she also needed to be the responsible one here. "Alright, children, it's way past your bedtime."

Both Luke and Leia whirled. "NO!" Luke shouted, and Padme could hardly breathe from the adorableness as he instantly grabbed hold of his father's leg, jutting his little quivering lip out in a pout that would rival his sister's any day.

Oh, she would definitely need to control this in the future. Otherwise, they'd learn that by being adorable, they could get whatever they wanted out of their parents. And that wasn't happening.

"Your daddy will still be here tomorrow. You don't want to be grumpy for Daddy, do you?" Padme pointed out, hoping it would work. Logic often didn't with toddlers.

Case in point, Luke immediately shook his head, but hugged Anakin's leg tighter as though she were about to pry him off herself. Leia had gone into "pretending she hadn't heard her" mode, playing with a doll and pointedly not looking at her mother.

Anakin raised a brow at their antics. "Now, now, children, when your mother says you have to do something, you have to do it." He reached down and picked Luke up before standing. "How about I put you to bed tonight? Would you go then?"

That got the twins' attention. "Read story?" Leia clarified, eyes narrowing. Padme smirked. And everyone thinks Obi-Wan is the great Negotiator. He can't hold a candle to my daughter. Padme leaned back in her recliner and watched the tug of stubbornness unfold between father and twins.

Luke gasped. "Stowy!" His eyes were big as saucers.

"If you promise to go to bed afterwards." Anakin conceded with a nod.

Truth be told, anytime someone else offered to put the twins to bed, she was more than happy to oblige. Putting the twins down was a nightmare every single night, especially when stories were involved. They couldn't ever seem to agree on what story they wanted, so it ended up in a fight most of the time. So Padme snorted and shook her head, folding her arms up behind her head, throwing her legs over the arm of the comfortable recliner in a pose of extreme ease. "Good luck with that."

"I got this, Angel." Anakin smirked as he walked down the hall towards the twins' bedroom, Luke in one arm while Leia trailed at his heels. "You just watch."

"Uh huh." She muttered, even when he'd left the room. She was certain he'd hear her anyway. "I'll be the judge of that."

He would see. Children weren't easy. Especially twins.

Especially highly Force sensitive Skywalker twins.

She was certain she heard his soft laugh from down the hall. I'll be the one laughing in just a few minutes, Ani. Just wait and see. You have met your match in those two.

She waited, listening with glee as Anakin attempted to get the twins through the setup process. Sure enough, the chaos began.

"I'm fairly certain that isn't how you brush your teeth." Anakin.

"Yes, huh." Leia.

"...Here, let me help you…"

"NO! I growed up!"

"Halp me, Daddy!" Luke. She could practically feel the relief from her husband from where she sat.

There was the sound of water splashing. A lot of water.

"Leia, you don't need to splash so much." Padme grinned. She could hear the note of incredulity in his voice. "Force, your mother is going to kill me…."

"What was that?" She sang, completely unable to hide the glee from her voice.

"Nothing! Everything's fine!" Everything was not fine, and she was thoroughly enjoying it.

Eventually, the sound of water stopped. Then she listened as he attempted to get the twins dressed. "No. Stop that. Do not resist. It is inevitable. You are getting in this onesie and that is final…Uhm, Padme? Is it acceptable for the twins to sleep in their diapers?"

"No." She called back, laughing.

"...But why not?"

"Because, Ani, then they'll pull those off and streak through the house naked. Trust me on this one!"

"...Yeah. Ok. This is sound reasoning."

She had to slap her hand over her mouth to keep from bursting out in a fit of laughter, as she listened to him continuing to wrestle their toddlers into their PJ's for several long minutes.

Maybe she should be recording this, she thought, amused. It would make one hell of a blackmail case against him, should she ever need it.

And blackmail had its uses, to be sure.

But even as she thought that, the house became suspiciously quiet. She frowned, sitting up, swinging her legs down from their perch. Anytime the house went quiet, she was automatically suspicious, not to mention on guard. Quiet twins were either: A) Sleeping. Too soon for that. Or B) Getting into trouble. Much more likely scenario.

If Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader was involved, then she was triple suspicious.

Feeling it prudent to investigate, she stood, softly tiptoeing down the hall to the kids' room and peeked in.

Sure enough, the bedroom floor was strewn haphazardly with clothes, the dresser drawers left cracked open, more items spilling out of them. No surprises there. She was almost afraid to look into the bathroom after all that splashing she'd heard. Again, though, she'd seen them drench every surface in there before. But what really shocked her was the scene before her. Luke and Leia, dressed (correctly) in their jammies, each in their respective bed, eyes wide, jaws hanging open, watched Anakin intently, entranced by what he was doing.

He was levitating more ships with the Force, swirling them around one of Luke's balls. Anakin was intensely describing what she quickly recognized as the star battle for Naboo. His very first battle. The battle that had determined the fate of her homeworld.

Padme smiled and quietly leaned against the door frame, listening to him retell it. He told it more from a tactical standpoint, different than when he used to describe the battle. But she could see why he chose it. It had flying and space battles (which Luke loved) and it had a queen in it (who Anakin also described thoroughly, much to Leia's delight). It also helped that he had visual aids that entranced the children more than pictures on a holopad ever could. He never directly said the main characters in the story were their parents, but it was heavily implied. She doubted the twins picked that up, however. Not that they seemed to care either way.

It was perhaps a bit excitable for bedtime, but she'd let him learn. After all, it was his first time doing this. She could cut him some slack. Besides, the twins seemed eager to please. Perhaps tonight they'd be satisfied with the story and go to bed.

He ended the story with the celebration on Theed. "Then the absolutely gorgeous, sexy...ahh, that is...beautiful," he amended quickly when Luke and Leia just blinked at him, "queen turned around and her eyes met those of the hero of the hour, and he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that one day he'd marry her." At that, Anakin, having sensed her presence, shot her that same, cocky half-grin he'd given her that day so long ago. Back then it had merely been adorable, now...it made her toes curl and heat explode in her belly. Just like before, it managed to put a bright smile onto her face. "But, that's another story for another day. Now, it's time for you two to close your eyes and go to sleep."

"No, more!" Leia insisted. Luke nodded, agreeing.

Anakin looked at them seriously. "No, you need to go to bed now. If you don't and we keep talking all night, then the story monster will come get us."

The twins' eyes widened and they glanced at each other in concern. "Stowy monstew?" Luke whispered, his lower lip trembling.

"Yup. It only comes out when little children are still listening to stories after their parents tell them it's time for bed. We wouldn't want that, now, would we?"

"No…" Luke frowned, shaking his head.

"Good. Then, lay down and close your eyes, little ones."

Amazingly, they both did. Anakin leaned down and tucked each twin in, giving them each a tender kiss on the forehead. Then, he slowly began backing out of the room. "Sweet dreams, my little ones. Goodnight." As soon as he reached her, they both backed out of the room, and he silently closed the door. For a few breaths, they listened.

It was silent.

Anakin grinned at her. "Piece of cake." He whispered, cockily.

She raised a brow. "Oh, really?"


"Hmm. I give it thirty minutes tops."

The grin slowly disappeared and he stared at her, frowning. "What does that mean?"

"It means that you may have stopped them from fighting over stories, but they'll find another reason to come out or stay awake. Believe me, Ani. I know that of which I speak. " She laughed softly, shaking her head, as Anakin gave the twin's door a horrified look. "Welcome to my life! Now, do I want to look into the bathroom, or do you want to clean it first?"

"Uh...I'll clean it first." He replied, sheepishly. "Just, uh...go relax. I'll be out soon."

"Ooookaaay." She said, turning around and sashaying back to the living room. "Call me if you need any help."

But, he didn't call. She went back to her spot on the recliner, once more snuggling up, and waited. About fifteen minutes later, Anakin returned, some water stains on his black tunic. "I, uh, think I got it, Angel."

"I'll trust you." She said as she watched him take his place back on the couch.

They fell into silence, a silence that was both comfortable and awkward at the same time. Comfortable because they'd spent many nights like this in the past, simply enjoying each other's company. Awkward because...well, as much as she'd decided to view him as Anakin Skywalker, he was still struggling with his identity as Vader. It felt quite literally like she was having a relationship with two different men in the same body. One of them she loved so dearly, the other she'd sworn to kill. Now? She didn't know what the hell she was doing, or how to react anymore.

To say they were in uncharted territory was an understatement.

Things felt brand new all over again and yet, far more complex. Which, if she was honest, was basically the truth.

"So?" She asked. "What are you thinking?"

An easy question, one she'd asked him many times before. This time, she didn't think there was an easy answer to give. For either of them.

Anakin tilted his head, his electric blue eyes meeting hers. Just as always, his stare was intense, taking in the full measure of everything she was. It almost made her shiver. "I'm thinking I almost killed them."

His voice was broken, and she blinked, for one second re-evaluating what she'd heard while he'd gotten the kids to bed. But then she realized what he was talking about.

Mustafar. She swallowed, feeling the ghost of that invisible hand wrapping around her throat, even now, two years later.

"I always felt terrible at what I'd done to you. It's my biggest regret, and I hate myself for it. But now...now that I can actually see them, see how beautiful and wonderful they are…" he trailed off, not looking at her. He was staring at his clasped hands in his lap, a haunted expression on his face. "How the hell did I even get here?"

That last question was muttered more to himself than it was to her. She sat there, hugging her legs to her chest, frozen. It felt as if a pit had opened up in her chest. It was one of the rare occasions where she had no words, not even a pretend answer.

"There was a lot of wrong done to me, Padme. Everything I told Kenobi was legitimate. But I still made that final choice. It was to save you, yes, and yet, if I'm honest, it was also because...because the Dark Side feels good. Powerful. Very powerful. And that selfishness...It hurt, knowing I lost you and our child. But it's worse now that I know, really know, what I almost killed. What I lost."

Her chest hurt, her throat tight. But she stood, crossing numbly to the couch and sitting next to him. He didn't look at her. Hesitantly, she reached out and touched his face, turning his head gently, forcing him to meet her eyes. "Where are you right now?"

His brows knitted in confusion. "I'm...what?"

"I asked you where you are. Right now."

She listened to him breathe softly as he thought of how to answer that question. "I'm here. With you." A hesitation. "Home?"

She nodded. "Home. You definitely screwed things up. We've established that. But you're still here. Home. Trying now. That's what matters right now. That's what matters to your children right now." She inclined her head towards their room. "That's what matters to me." She said softly, staring him in the eye. "But...it's not going to be an easy road, Ani. I'm going to be honest and not sugarcoat this for you. And I'm not going to always have all the answers for everything...I mean, I can't tell you all the reasons we ended up here. I'm definitely not a therapist."

"You'd probably make a good one." He muttered, his lips twitching, his gaze still locked with hers.

"I'll consider it once this war is done." she said, dryly. Then, "But I do think we're headed in a good direction. Finally. This," she motioned between them, "this is that honesty I wanted from you before. Do you remember?"

"You asked me once when I'd start being honest with you." He recalled, nodding.

"And you weren't. Not fully. You shut me out."

He closed his eyes. "I'm tired of shutting you out. I'm tired of you shutting me out. I just want my family back. I want you back, Angel. I-I've missed you more than I can say."

And that brutally honest admission told Padme more about the man before her than anything else could. "I know. We'll figure this out, Ani. Together, this time."

He leaned his forehead against hers. It wasn't that he was making a move on her. It was just natural. Something he'd done numerous times before and, she hoped, would do so numerous times in the future. It was their thing. They'd done that since their courtship, and it felt right to be here, together, like this again. She couldn't help but notice how close they were, how their breath mingled. Though Anakin was making progress like she'd never dreamed possible, everything was still complicated. Once she crossed that line…

"Together." He promised, and she could hear that honesty in his voice. He meant it this time.

So close. Their breath mingled. All they had to do was lean in and…

There was the soft, familiar click sound of a door being opened. From the corner of her eye, she watched Leia streak naked into the kitchen, trying (and failing) to be quiet as she did so.

Padme and Anakin stared into one another's eyes. "Did our daughter just escape naked into the kitchen?" He asked, incredulously.

She was trying, and failing, to hold back her laughter. "Yup."


"I find it best not to ask logical questions when it comes to toddlers, Ani. Especially ours."

"That seems wise." He leaned away with a sigh. "I'll take care of it."

As she watched him get up and walk away, she quickly glanced at the chrono on the mantle.

Forty-five minutes. Close enough.

She shook her head, smirking as she heard a high-pitched squeal, followed by, "Just what do you think you're doing, Princess?!"

Welcome to parenting, Ani! She thought with a laugh as she got up to chase after a now naked Luke bolting out of their room to try and join his sister. Because this is where the fun begins!

I really enjoyed writing that chapter. Actually, I always enjoy writing Vader/Anakin reuniting with his family. He may be a murder muffin to the extreme, but he always loves his family.

The song for this chapter is Remember Me from Coco.