81 BBY

My first year of life was perhaps the most idly happy year of my existence. Happiness is a farce, and though I remember most of it, it was unremarkable. Cosinga appeased my mother that first year, I am certain. Where I was weak physically, she was weak mentally. Broken even, by my father's violent reaction to my arrival.

Did Cosinga feel guilt for his treatment of her? Do you jest? No. No, he was concerned that an unresponsive wife might reflect badly upon his career, which would be true. The Naboo placed such emphasis on appearances that their antics would put the Imperial Court to shame. Even the colors of our clothing carried different meanings!

Thus concerned, Cosinga sought to regain her full compliance by engaging me in father-son pursuits. He worked with me in beginning to crawl and walk, never coddling me with idiotic notions of infant-speak as I began to vocalize. He was unwillingly drawn to me in the absence of other options.

At least, until the birth of my siblings: a twin set of boy and girl. They came that year with fortuitous timing; I believe my father was beginning to believe his own lies and invest in me, the fool, to hope for that heir he so desired. I shudder to think what I may have become under his guidance. Or perhaps he only tolerated me. I still am not certain.

"Aulus! What are you chewing on now, blasted boy?" Cosinga caught up to his swiftly toddling son and swept him into his arms, turning him over and seizing the drool-soaked datapad. His child held on with his teeth, bright pale blue eyes laughing at his father. Cosinga pushed the jaws apart and extracted the gooey mess, realizing to his frustration that it was his political planner.

"You would, wouldn't you?" he glowered down at his son. "Incorrigible boy!"

Aulus smirked up at him. Barely a year and a half old and he was moving fast on his feet. He already carried himself with a confidence that his frail body still lacked, which meant that Cosinga and Bremé had to untangle him from countless messes around the stately home. Though the boy's movements were clumsy and he barely talked, his few words were unnaturally articulate and sharp, impressing the visitors who came to their home and encountered him. Throughout it all, Aulus watched and studied the adults, eyes flaming with some secret delight.

It unnerved Cosinga, but Bremé was very proud of her son's obvious intelligence. She had begun trying to show him the Nubian alphabet, though Cosinga scoffed at that because the boy could barely hold a writing instrument, let alone hold it steady. But he watched Aulus as the boy sat in his mother's arms and stared intently into the children's holobooks, and Cosinga had the impression that his son knew more than he showed.

In a way, he was proud of his son's progress too. Their relationship had tempered to a mutual and unsteady truce. Thank the fates, the boy's eyes were normal again even though he took after his mother and not Cosinga. Bremé's gaze had been something to fall in love with, a lofty coolness that well befitted an aristocrat's wife. But on Aulus, the gaze turned calculating and icy cold, sometimes gripping even his father in a dark sense of foreboding.

Now those eyes were fixed on him, waiting to see Cosinga's reaction to the stolen datapad. Cosinga just grunted and set the planner on a higher shelf. Then he moved to his favorite chair and resettled with his portable holonet screen. Ah, Bon Tapalo was making another visit to a nursing home, the benevolent man…Cosinga chuckled at the sight of so many holonet camera droids packed into the small room. The opportunistic poser, more like.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Aulus drifting closer, silent as a ghost. Cosinga held himself still and waited, curious. The boy usually never approached his father; he preferred to let Cosinga come to him, but now he was within a meter of the padded chair and drawing closer still. The noble held his breath. Perhaps there was hope after all.

Aulus stretched up a bony, delicate hand and rested it on the arm of the chair. "Father…" his voice was smooth, thin, as fragile as his body, with a small lisp of a child. "'Portant?"

"What?" Cosinga startled. Of course he was important, the nerve of the child! He was about to order Aulus to leave when he realized that his son was now looking at the stashed planner. He relaxed. "Yes it was important, but I'll buy another one. Never much liked it anyway."

"Buy?" Aulus cocked his overly large head on his thin neck.

Cosinga sighed. "Replace," he grunted, using the word that he often utilized when training Aulus to pick up after himself.

The scowl lightened on the young face. "See." Then Aulus turned slowly and wandered out of the room, and Cosinga breathed a sigh of relief. Before Aulus had begun talking, he had not minded the boy so badly. In fact, when taking care of the silent babe over the first months, Cosinga could almost convince himself that his family was normal. He would have a son to follow in his footsteps, to take to the games, to train up as a strong man. He spent hours with the boy teaching him to move and crawl and walk.

He congratulated himself as being a large part of the boy's early mobility. But Aulus did not gain much in height or weight. Stunted, Cosinga worried, perhaps another freakish mutation. He prayed daily to the fates that whole first year that this too would soon pass. He wanted no intellectual weakling for a son, but it appeared to be so.

At least Aulus was fairly self sufficient. He never cried. He did not purposefully throw himself into reckless danger like infants often did. He did not stick his fingers in the power sockets or bite into the Holonet wires. No, the harm he caused was mostly accidental and the product of uncoordinated movement, not idiocy.

But Cosinga wondered if having an intelligent child was a good thing, for even at this age, Aulus was beginning to show signs of having his own mind and ideas. He occasionally ignored Cosinga's orders, and Cosinga hated it. It galled him that his own son and heir challenged him as he did, much as he had with the planner just moments ago. The irked father would call for Bremé to take Aulus away and put him in his room, a task she performed quickly and without complaint.

Bremé swept into the family room at that moment, her comely face turning from side to side in search of her son. Cosinga stared at her. "He left. He just chewed my planner to bits."

Her eyes widened in alarm. "Did you - ?"

"I didn't hit him, if that's what you're scared about," Cosinga muttered. "Why does he do this to me? He doesn't treat you like this. I think he's doing it on purpose, defying me."

"Perhaps…" Bremé hesitated, then plunged forward. "Perhaps if you spent more time with him like you did earlier, treated him kindly…" She quailed back under the fierce glare that he pinned on her.

"He doesn't need kindness! He needs discipline!" Cosinga retorted. "You indulge him too much." He saw the shiny edge of a tear forming in her left eye, and he felt a twinge of guilt. "But that is to be understood, I suppose. You are a woman, and he is your only son." He stood and crossed the room to stand before her, taking her slender hands and placing them over her thick midsection.

"But this will not last. The children you carry now will train you to be a better mother. They will be perfect where Aulus has failed us. I regret that he was firstborn, but we can work around that." He watched her blinking back the wetness and sighed. "Stop that."

Her lips stiffened. "Yes, Cosinga. I am sorry. I will try to be a better wife and mother." As he gathered her into his arms, he missed the single tear that slid down one high porcelain cheekbone.

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Bremé found the birth of the twins to go much more smoothly than Aulus's. She barely even felt the pain as the pair slid from her drugged body, for she looked into the matching eyes of her oldest son as she did, and she was mesmerized, frozen in place as a baby shaak freezes before a waiting veermock. He always had that effect on her.

Aulus stared at her during the whole birth from his place at her bedside. Cosinga lurked just beyond in the waiting room, his hopes high once again in the light of new beginnings. He had wanted Aulus removed, but Bremé had begged him in her delirium, and her husband consented. A rare blessing, to be sure.

Her son waited faithfully at her side, clinging to the bed to support his small top-heavy frame, but she sensed a turbulence in his body, a dark regret that she understood all too well. He was dreading the arrival of his brother and sister. Even though he was not yet two years old, he knew of his father's impatience for this moment, and he was uncertain of his own future.

When the new arrivals had been cleaned and placed side by side in a clear bassinet in the corner of the room one hour later, Bremé demanded to see their faces. She struggled to sit up as the children were presented by two medical droids. Beside her, her eldest son waited and gently laced his fingers in her gown at knee height.

Bremé's relief was unparalleled as she gazed down. Two beautiful, normal human faces reflected back at her. She could see the rich brown of Cosinga's eyes, the soft curves of her own nose, the unfocused and newborn confusion as they yawned and lay content in the warm blankets. Cosinga would have no cause for worry or complaint this time. The children were perfect. Perfect. "Perfect," she whispered.

Aulus looked up at her, confused. Bremé instantly felt the sting of guilt that swept away her joy. "You are perfect too, my son," she added hastily. "These are your siblings. Your father chose their names in the ceremony last month. Do you remember?"

It would have been beyond the hope of any other mother for a normal son so young, but Aulus slowly nodded. "Maree. Nadmé."

"Yes," she smiled at the two now-sleeping forms. "Your father will be so pleased."

Aulus looked decidedly unpleased. She ignored the tiny scowl of concentration and waved the medical droids away, who replaced the snoozing children in the bassinet. Bremé called the nurse and requested that Cosinga be informed of the children's arrival. "Tell him he will not be disappointed," she whispered to the nurse while watching Aulus study the children.

Her son was curious about the two, stumbling in a rough circle around the bassinet and taking in every feature. Every so often, his cold gaze would switch from them, to himself, then back again, pondering some closely guarded thought.

When Cosinga arrived, he was indeed pleased, and his hawk-like face took on a satisfied glow. He even bent down and swept his lips across Bremé's in a chaste, warm greeting. She felt the tension draining from her, joy filling her from his acceptance. Perhaps everything would be all right now. The noble moved across the room to the children, reaching down and catching up the male, Maree.

"Maree. 'Correction.' Yes indeed," he rumbled and laughed at the child's blank look. "My son." Bremé shivered when she spotted Aulus just below, coldly glaring up at the infant as Cosinga replaced him and took up his new daughter. "Nadmé, 'beautiful heart.' You are aptly named, for your beauty might exceed that of your own mother." Her husband glanced at Bremé and laughed again.

Bremé glowed with unusual happiness at her husband's teasing, and blushed when he rejoined her at the bed. The nurse smiled at the tranquil scene, ruffled the red hair of their eldest son – who ignored her – and exited the small room.

Aulus remained next to the low bassinet and peered through the clear sides at his two siblings. His eyes narrowed thoughtfully. Then he turned back toward his father, who still embraced his wife. "'Portant?" he asked softly.

Bremé watched her husband swell with genuine pride as he slid from the bed and came to hover over his children, cautious and watchful. "Yes, of course!" Cosinga rumbled. "Immensely important, and you must be careful!"

Aulus placed one thin palm against the glass. "'Portant buy," he muttered.

"What are you blathering about now?" Cosinga snapped. "Speak up or hold your peace."

Bremé flinched. Aulus shifted, snakelike, to look at his father again. His face carried an unusually open, apprehensive fear. "Replace?" he touched his chest and flickered his gaze to his mother. Bremé felt her mouth grow dry in an instant. No! she wanted to cry. I will never replace you. But she feared her husband, and so she remained silent.

Cosinga stared blankly before his lips drew down into a heavy scowl. "Replace you? No. But listen to me. These are your brother and sister, and you will give them the respect they deserve, do you understand? Or you'll wish you were being replaced."

The fear in Aulus's face dissolved into stony indifference. Bremé looked into the empty face of her son and despaired. She feared he had already been replaced. She feared he would soon not care. And she feared – no, she knew she was too weak to help him.

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Cosinga cooed down into Maree's face and watched in pleasure at the infant grinned back. Now, this was a son, a connection of wills and purpose between generations. Maree was powerfully built even as a newborn, all thick limbs and broad shoulders. There was no mistrust in the eyes that matched his own, just a natural, warm, intelligent cheerfulness.

Maree would cry, and Cosinga would come to him. Dead of night, middle of the day: it made no difference. When not engaged in his political duties (and sometimes when he was), he was there for his boy, medical droid complete with bottle tagging along behind him. Cosinga supposed the servants could have taken care of everything. After all, he was a busy man, but Cosinga also felt like he had a new lease on life.

Maree did not study him with condescension or anger. He did not deliberately try to move away, avoid, or shun his father. Aulus and Maree could not have been greater opposites.

Nadmé was also a blessing, granted. Even as an infant, she was a beautiful blend of her mother and himself. She would be breathtaking once she grew up, and he was certain that a carefully chosen marriage would lead to significant benefits. She was also quiet and graceful, traits that Cosinga considered essential for the women of his household.

But Maree was the son he had been long seeking, ever since the shock of seeing his firstborn. Speak of the boy, there he was, lurking in the door of the nursery, dark-clothed body blending into the cool stone framework behind him, red hair faintly glowing in the light from the room. Cosinga fully turned to face him, Maree cradled in his arms.

"Why are you out of bed, boy?" he demanded.

Aulus silently moved into the room, unafraid. "See Maree."

"Your brother?" Cosinga was suspicious. Aulus rarely exhibited interest in other people. The few times he had interacted with children had resulted in isolation of Aulus's own choosing. But the child ignored his demand for clarification and only stepped closer.

"I want to see him."

"For a moment only," Cosinga relented, as his eldest seemed innocent enough tonight. He sank into one of the soft chairs and lowered the small infant to Aulus's height. Maree grinned at the older boy; Aulus stared back unsmiling. He never smiled, Cosinga grumbled to himself, unless he was enjoying some humiliation of his father's.

"Maree?"

The quiet question startled his father. Cosinga looked closely at Aulus and noticed that the boy had gained one of his signature looks of deep concentration, disturbing, intense, unforgiving. Cosinga shoved his discomfort down as a rare chance to lecture his son surfaced. "Maree means correction. We Naboo choose names for our children very carefully. A name holds the hopes and dreams of the parents, and the child should do his best to live up to it."

Aulus perked up at that. "And my name?"

Cosinga experienced an unusual moment of softness. "Aulus means palace. You had great potential. At one point I had high hopes for your future, boy." And curse me, I may still.

Aulus smiled suddenly, a lopsided faint grin, and an embarrassed and raging anger surged through Cosinga's body. His eldest son dared to mock him even now! After all he had done! He stood up abruptly, handed Maree to the nursing droid, and seized Aulus's thin arm, ignoring the short glare from his eldest and propelling him out into the hall.

When he caught sight of Aulus's personal nursery droid, hovering just outside the room and appearing almost ashamed in the way its claws twisted, Cosinga shoved his son into its arms. Aulus pulled himself up and settled there with practiced ease while he eyed his father with an unfathomable expression. Not anger, not fear, not anything a normal child should have, just an empty awareness that continued to deride its recipient.

Cosinga, uncomfortable and impatient to return to Maree, only hissed, "Go to bed. And try to stay out of trouble, if you can."

Palpatine had at least 4 younger siblings (at least 2 brothers and 2 sisters) according to Darth Plagueis.

"I was born mature, Father, fully grown, and you hated me for it, because you grasped that I was everything you can never be." – Palpatine, Darth Plagueis

There is definitely some miscommunication between those two. I have purposefully made Palpatine more advanced than typical human beings his age, based off the above quote from DP.

This chapter is a bonus/compensation for the fact that I will have no internet for several days and therefore cannot update any stories in that time.

Read and review! Reviews are the catnip of authors everywhere. :)