Anakin couldn't believe this timing.
Seriously, the moment he got sent off world, that's when Padmé had to go into labor. The baby wasn't due for another three and a half weeks, and the second he leaves the system, her water breaks.
It wasn't even an important mission— they were sending supplies over to one of the medical facilities— they only had one ship, they were travelling on Republic hyperspace routes, there was literally no danger. Ahsoka and Rex could have easily run this mission without him, but Padmé had told him to relax, it would be fine, she still had a few more weeks— and now, as they were exiting hyperspace to make the rest of the crawl normally, as to not alert any separatists monitoring hyperspace travel in the region— now, he got a message from Padmé on his private commlink.
It was the dead of night in standard time— everyone was asleep except for the few clones overseeing flight paths— and Anakin was sitting in his cabin, on his stiff bunk, practically ripping his hair out. He knew that Padmé had said it would be fine, that the doctors were positive she would be perfectly alright, but his dream still nagged in the back of his head— her face contorted in pain, dying—
That was it. He was going.
Anakin silently crept to the hangar on board, locating his personal ship and boarding it. Not a minute later, Artoo came gliding into the hangar, squawking about how Anakin thought he was leaving without him. He laughed as the droid loaded on board, before easily piloting the speeder out of the hangar and into space.
The second he was clear of the Republic ship, the coordinates for Coruscant were programmed.
He was back on planet within a couple hours— daylight was just starting to break on the bustling planet, weak beams of sunshine glinting off the durasteel and glass and chrome. Anakin landed his speeder in the hospital's private hangar, and practically sprinted to the maternity wing.
He didn't even need to ask, he could feel where Padmé was, and he burst in the door unceremoniously, his hair a mess and his robes askew. The medical droids surrounding his wife immediately started beeping in outrage, and the actual sentient nurses helping her deliver started to speak to him in harsh tones, but Padmé's weak voice echoed, "No, let him stay."
He was by her side in an instant, holding her hand and pushing her hair off her sweaty brow, mumbling encouragements and trying to send waves of calm through the Force to her. It seemed like hours of waiting, but before midday, there were two squirming babies, faces red and wrinkled and little mouths pursed in utter unhappiness at being born, but Anakin and Padmé both cried, because they were here, and they were healthy, and they were perfect.
"How did we not know there were two?" Anakin mumbled, sitting on the bed next to Padmé, holding Leia in his arms, and she was so tiny, her little head tucked in the crook of his elbow, her big brown eyes— Padmé's eyes— blinking back unhappily at him.
Padmé shifted Luke on her chest, snuggling up to her husband, and resting her head on his arm. "I don't know," she said, exhaustion heavy in her voice. "But, Ani, just— look at them, they're perfect."
He smiled, kissing the top of her head gently, absentmindedly playing with his daughter's small fingers. He glanced down at Luke, curled up in Padmé's arms, and Anakin saw his own blue eyes staring back at him.
"What are we gonna do?" She asked quietly, her eyes meeting his, half awed but half terrified. "I— as much as I'd love to run away to Naboo, I know that we can't— I can't abandon this proposal I'm working on with Bail and Mon about ending the fighting, and you can't leave your troops, or Ahsoka—"
"It's okay," Anakin said soothingly, kissing her head. "I— I don't know what we're going to do, but we'll figure it out. For now, let's just keep like we've been doing, and keep everything a secret."
"Okay," Padmé said, her eyes sliding shut. "Okay, Ani."
"I love you," he murmured into her hair, and she sighed contentedly, sighing the same sentiment in response.
From the chair in the corner, where Anakin had dumped his outer robes quite unceremoniously upon arrival, his commlink beeped.
Anakin groaned. "Leave me alone, Obi-Wan," he mumbled at the thing.
"No, it's okay," Padmé insisted. "I'm going to take a nap, I think. And we can't let anyone know you're the father still— we have to act like everything's normal." She rolled her eyes. "Even though you did abandon your mission halfway through and left your captain and padawan to fend for themselves."
"Rex and Ahsoka are more than capable of taking care of themselves," Anakin mumbled, looking away from his wife. "Are you sure it's okay if I go?"
"Yes," she insisted. "I'll see you after whatever briefing they put you through, okay?"
"Okay," he murmured, kissing her quickly and placing the now-sleeping Leia in one of the hovering bassinets next to the bed. "I'll be back."
"Where were you?!" Obi-Wan all but yelled, his arms crossed and his eyes fiery. "You just abandoned your troops in the middle of a mission for no reason?!"
"Okay, I think you're not giving Rex and Ahsoka enough credit here," Anakin retorted. Ahsoka crossed her arms, raising an eyebrow at him. "It was a basic supply run, and I'm sure they handled it perfectly well without me. Right, Snips?" He asked, turning to his padawan.
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, after we blasted all the Separatist ships waiting for us at the hospital, it was a walk in the park."
Anakin winced. Luckily, his padawan was smart and there hadn't been any casualties, but that could have been a real disaster.
"What in the nine Corellian hells compelled you to abandon your position in the middle of your mission?" Obi-Wan demanded.
Anakin winced. "Pad— Senator Amidala had the babies."
"What?" Obi-Wan stuttered at the same time that Ahsoka went, "Babies?"
Anakin chose to answer Ahsoka's question first. "Yes, she had twins," he told her. He was about to continue when Obi-Wan's glare stopped him cold.
"So— you're telling me that you abandoned your mission and disobeyed direct military orders because the senator went into labor?"
"Yes," Anakin said hesitantly. Obi-Wan looked ready to explode again.
"May I ask why?" The older man asked.
Anakin shrugged. "Well, she's my friend," he said. "And I didn't want her to go through that alone."
Anakin was sure there was steam pouring from Obi-Wan's ears. Ahsoka just looked amused.
Anakin's commlink beeped, signaling him off to a different meeting. "Excuse me, Master, I have to go," Anakin said, relieved, and before Obi-Wan could get a word in edgewise, Anakin was gone, retreating down the long halls of the temple.
"He's acting strange," Obi-Wan said to Ahsoka, watching Anakin's retreating back.
She snorted. "You think?"
A week later, Padmé was back home and Anakin had finally convinced Obi-Wan to come see the babies— though it wasn't that hard, seeing as the Senator was his friend and he did want to see the children— not enough to abandon a military mission halfway through, though.
Padmé let both of them into her apartment when they rang, gushing over the flowers they had brought her, and the two little stuffed Loth-cats, one for each baby.
"Shh, they're sleeping," Padmé told them, ushering them into the living room. Two bassinets hovered by the sofa, and she led them over to the cradles. Anakin tried to pretend he hadn't seen them a million times since they were born, hadn't already memorized every detail of their tiny faces.
"They're beautiful, Padmé," Obi-Wan said, smiling at the senator. "Congratulations."
"Thank you," Padmé responded, glowing, just as Luke began to squirm in his crib. Padmé picked him up immediately, holding him against her chest and smoothing his back. He didn't cry— Leia had the largest pair of lungs they'd ever seen, and when she was unhappy, you knew, but Luke hardly ever cried, perfectly content to stare at the world around him and blink owlishly at his surroundings.
"Want to hold him?" Padmé asked, and before Obi-Wan could protest, the infant was in his arms. Luke blinked up at Obi-Wan with his wide blue eyes, cooing as the man smiled at him.
Luke's alertness seemed to set off Leia, as the baby girl began howling from her crib. Padmé picked her up quickly, rocking her back and forth and whispering at her.
"She sounds like you," Obi-Wan joked to his former padawan, and Anakin rolled his eyes.
"Very funny, master," he quipped, glancing at Leia with concern.
"I'm going to take her outside," Padmé told them. "The fountain and the fresh air calm her down. You can stay here with Luke, though," she told them, taking the crying baby out onto the balcony of her apartment, leaving Anakin and Obi-Wan alone with Luke.
"He is rather cute, isn't he?" Obi-Wan asked his friend, glancing from his face to the baby's. Anakin nodded, smiling, and Obi-Wan thought he caught a hint of pride in the other man's smile.
Obi-Wan had his suspicions as to who the mysterious father was of these children— he hoped his intuition was wrong, because he really wanted to believe that Anakin wouldn't do something so stupid, so foolish, but— looking down at the baby in his arms, it was hard not to notice that Anakin's blue eyes were staring right back at him.
"He looks like you," Obi-Wan said casually, looking at his friend's face for any hints of alarm. His eyes bugged a little, but then he regained his composure, looking back at the other man.
"Wha— really, you think so?" He asked.
"He has the same eyes as you," Obi-Wan continued. "And the same nose, and his hair is your color— a little lighter, but yours was too when we found you on Tatooine as a boy."
"Huh," Anakin responded, trying not to look as rattled as he felt— but then he looked at Luke, and his thoughts were derailed, captivated instead by his son's smile. "That's odd."
"There wouldn't be a reason as to why Senator Amidala's children look like you, would there, Anakin?" Obi-Wan pressed.
Anakin shrugged. "I don't know. My father was apparently the Force, and I don't look anything like my mother. Maybe the Force is their father too," he responded casually, only really half paying attention to his old master in favor of staring at his son.
"The Force is strong with them," Obi-Wan noted, glancing at the baby in his arms again. Anakin grinned at Luke, who had reached for Obi-Wan's beard.
"See?" Anakin asked. "The Force must have donated some genes to them too." He was so intent on staring at his son, acting like nothing peculiar was at play here, that he missed Obi-Wan's dramatic eye roll.
The babies were a month old, and Anakin had given up any pretense that he still lived in the Jedi temple. He had been sent on a few quick missions since their arrival, no long or grueling campaigns, but every night that he had been on world, he spent at Padmé's apartment, helping take care of the children.
Nobody seemed to have noticed that he was never in his quarters at the Temple— granted, before the babies were born, he'd barely spent any time in his small room either, but now, with the exhaustion of being a new father and staying up all night with not one, but two infants really made him abandon subtlety altogether.
Therefore, Anakin was surprised when he walked into the Temple's residence quarters to discover Mace Windu waiting impatiently outside Anakin's door.
"Uh, Master Windu," Anakin said hesitantly, hoping that Windu hadn't caught on.
"General Skywalker," Mace responded, clipped and cold, and Anakin could tell he was aggravated with him, though he couldn't imagine for what— he hadn't explicitly disobeyed any orders recently— had he?
"I've been looking for you for an hour," Master Windu responded, his tone still annoyed. "We just received new intel about separatist activity on Felucia, and I was trying to find you for a mission briefing, but you weren't in your quarters."
"I'm sorry, I was—" an excuse died in Anakin's throat. "Why didn't you just comm me?"
Mace rolled his eyes. "I did, but you didn't answer, as you typically don't on Coruscant."
Anakin froze, unsure what to say, but Master Windu continued. "So I decided to try your quarters, as Obi-Wan and Ahsoka hadn't seen you either, and you also weren't here." Mace waved his hand, opening the door, and the small, dusty, barely slept-in chamber inside was revealed. "In fact, I don't think you've been here for quite some time."
"I—" Anakin started, but Mace cut him off again.
"So my question is, if you haven't been here, where have you been staying?"
"Well," Anakin responded, but Mace's eyes drifted down to Anakin's shoulder, and his gaze got even harder.
"What is that on your shoulder?" Master Windu demanded, and Anakin looked down in alarm, dread filling him as he realized there was baby spit-up on the shoulder of his robes. He thought it had been covered by his outer robes, but they had slipped off, revealing the mess from when he had been holding Leia this morning, trying to soothe her after Padmé fed her.
Judging by the look on Mace's face, he already knew what it was.
"Anakin," he said, and his voice sounded so tired. "Why have you been living with Senator Amidala?"
"She needed help with the babies," he said brazenly. "She has so much work to do, with working on the Republic negotiations, and I was just being helpful."
"Skywalker," Mace started, sounding irritated, but Anakin kept going.
"She really needed help keeping track of the two of them, and it's a Jedi's job to be selfless, and help other people—"
"And I have experience with children— I have to look after Ahsoka on missions—"
"Padawan Tano is seventeen, General Skywalker—"
"And she's my friend, and if I help out with the babies, then she can focus on the senate too, and work on negotiations for ending the war—"
"Skywalker!" Master Windu cut in. "Enough."
"General Skywalker!" Anakin heard someone call across the hall, and he turned, coming face to face with Master Secura. "You're needed in the mission briefing. Everyone is waiting for you."
"I'm so sorry, Master Windu, I have to go," Anakin said hurriedly, turning back towards Mace, before hurrying after Secura's retreating back.
Mace stood in front of Anakin's chambers, shaking his head to himself. Skywalker had always been reckless and foolish, but this— Mace hoped upon the Force that despite how strange his claims were, Anakin was telling the truth— because the alternative was even scarier.
This war just would not end.
Anakin supposed he should count his blessings— in the past three months, he'd been sent offworld for extended periods of time very rarely— the fighting seemed to almost be reaching a stalemate, as neither side were really positive about what they were fighting for anymore. Padmé had made progress in the senate with her propositions to move away from fighting and back to diplomacy, but for now— they were still stuck in the trenches.
Anakin had been signaled to a meeting this morning, and he had a bad feeling about it— Separatist were trying to retake Ryloth, and Cham Syndulla had contacted them for help, which he wouldn't do unless they really were concerned. Anakin and the 501st were being deployed out there soon, and now they were in the process of lots of planning and lots of tactical meetings.
Anakin was exhausted when he walked into the meeting— Leia had managed to catch something, and she'd kept both him and Padmé, as well as Luke, up all night with her distressed cries. Padmé was concerned enough about having one sick baby, but she was even more scared of Luke catching whatever his sister had, so the healthy baby was strapped to Anakin's chest now, fast asleep in his carrier. He'd raised quite a few eyebrows on his walk into the temple, but he had gotten about thirty minutes of sleep last night, and about an hour the night before, so he didn't really care.
Ahsoka gave him a strange look, and Obi-Wan only sighed, dropping his head into his hands, but Anakin ignored them, promptly launching into the meeting. He recapped intel they had from Syndulla, went over strategical plans (that got an eye roll from Ahsoka, because she knew how often they adhered to those), and planned a mission start time. By the end of the briefing, Anakin had practically forgotten about the baby on his chest, until Luke shifted, yawning hugely and gripping his father's robes in his tiny little hand. Anakin smiled fondly at the baby, before the sound of someone clearing their throat snapped him out of his reverie.
"Uh, General Skywalker?" Rex asked, his helmet off, giving his commander a strange look.
"Yes, Captain?" Anakin asked, wondering what Rex could be concerned about. He thought his briefing had been fairly thorough, and the 501st rarely went into missions this well prepared, anyway.
"Uh— if you don't mind me asking, why do you have a baby strapped to your chest?"
"I was wondering the same thing, actually," Obi-Wan cut in, appearing beside Rex, Ahsoka with him. They all looked at him expectantly.
"Leia is sick, and Senator Amidala didn't want Luke to catch it," Anakin said easily. Technically, he wasn't lying. "I'm babysitting."
Luke squawked from his carrier, looking up at his dad with big blue eyes and a pout on his tiny face. Because of their Force-sensitivity, Anakin could generally tell what his children wanted or needed from their Force-connection with him, which made things much easier on him and Padmé. "You hungry, buddy?" Anakin asked the baby, smirking fondly down at him. "Let's get you some lunch; I think your mom gave me some stuff." He turned to his friends. "I'll see you later, okay? Go over that intel we got, Ahsoka," he instructed his padawan before turning and leaving the room, still cooing at the baby.
Rex, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan all watched him go, thinking the same thing, none of them wanting to be the first to say it.
"He, uh... seems really attached to those children," Rex said finally, almost hesitantly. Obi-Wan and Ahsoka nodded in agreement.
"Do you really think it's because he's trying to be helpful?" Ahsoka asked skeptically. She had seen Anakin's interactions with Senator Amidala, on Coruscant, on missions— that time they all got captured on Mon Calamari, that time the Senator got poisoned on Naboo— she had always suspected there was something more to their relationship than what Anakin and Padmé let on.
"I hope so," Obi-Wan said, sounding at wit's end. "Because I don't even want to consider the alternative reason."
Anakin wouldn't have taken this mission if he didn't really like Obi-Wan.
Mandalore was being terrorized by Death Watch again, this time with probable backing by the separatists, and after a desperate plea for help from Duchess Satine, Anakin and Obi-Wan had been sent to investigate.
It was just them and Ahsoka— no Rex, no backup, no star fighters in case things got ugly. Knowing Death Watch, they probably would.
Anakin had a feeling they wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for Obi-Wan's friendship with Satine— which he had a hunch was much deeper than they let on, though Padmé laughed at him and reminded him that not all Jedi were as blasé about their lifetime commitment to the Jedi ways as Anakin was.
Regardless, the three of them had arrived on Mandalore and immediately been welcomed by Satine, where she had let them in on everything that Death Watch had been doing lately. Not even halfway through her debriefing, one of the palace windows exploded and a series of blaster bolts had been fired at her— which luckily Obi-Wan had deflected with his lightsaber— before Anakin and Ahsoka raced into pursuit of the Death Watch attempted assassin, leaving Obi-Wan to guard the Duchess.
Now they raced through the streets of Mandalore, trying to find the culprit, though they had lost sight of him a while ago. Using the Force, they tried to feel him out, but it was difficult in the heart of the city, where the sheer amount of sentients around disrupted their tracking abilities.
They had paused next to a length of storefronts, catching their breath from the long chase.
"He can't have gotten that far," Ahsoka insisted. Anakin nodded in agreement.
"No, he's nearby," he agreed. He surveyed their surroundings, when something caught his eye in the window of the store next to them. It was a toy shop, and on display in the window was a plush X-wing fighter, made of soft fabric, brilliant colored details along the sides and the wings.
"What?" Ahsoka asked, on alert. "Did you see him?"
"No, no," Anakin said absentmindedly, still staring at the store window. "I just— look at that toy X-wing," he said, never looking away from the toy— naturally, then, he couldn't see the deranged look his padawan was giving him. "Luke would love that," he continued, moving towards the door. He had to get it for him.
"Luke would— I'm sorry— what?" Ahsoka sputtered, following after her master as he entered the shop. "Master, we're— we're in the middle of a mission!"
"Listen, Ahsoka, Luke and Leia will love these," he insisted casually, spotting an adorable stuffed baby nerf toy that Leia would adore. She already loved her stuffed Loth-cat to pieces, with its soft, fluffy fur, and Anakin could just see her squeezing this one to death, her little face lit up in excitement—
"Why exactly is it so crucial that we stop in the middle of a mission to buy toys for the senator's children?"
"These were meant for Luke and Leia," Anakin told her, bringing both toys up to the register and handing the clerk some credits. "Don't worry, our guy is still out there. We'll get him after."
The clerk handed Anakin a bag with his new purchases in it, and Ahsoka just groaned dramatically, burying her head in her hands.
"This is ridiculous!" Master Windu exclaimed, pacing through the Jedi council room. "He was supposed to be here an hour ago!"
"I'm on your side here, Mace," Obi-Wan reminded the other man gently.
"It's not like Anakin to be this irresponsible," Ahsoka said, which earned her a couple mild looks from the other council members. Sure, her master had— unorthodox methods, but he was good at what he did, and she had learned a lot from him.
"Could we do this without him?" Master Luminara asked. "Could someone else lead the mission?"
"No," Mace growled, rolling his eyes. "No one knows Tatooine like Skywalker. It would be foolish to send anyone else."
"Find him, we must," Yoda said from his seat, his head bowed. "The only one suited for this mission, he is."
"I don't know, I think generally candidates for leading missions are on time to meetings," Plo Koon threw in. Obi-Wan groaned.
"Have we tried comming him?" Fisto asked— he himself had been a little late, having just returned from Kamino, checking on the newest batch of clones.
"Of course we've tried, but his blasted comms don't ever seem to work on Coruscant," Obi-Wan said irritably.
"So let's just go find him," Ahsoka interjected. "Where could he be, other than here?"
Obi-Wan, Mace, and Ahsoka looked at each other as it dawned on all of them. Where else would he be?
Fifteen minutes later, the three of them were pounding on Senator Amidala's door chimes. Threepio opened the door, quite surprised to see a herd of aggravated Jedi on the doorstep.
"Master Jedi, let me see if the Senator is welcoming to visitors currently—" the droid started, but Obi-Wan waved his hand, pushing the droid out of the way with a gentle shove of the Force, the three of them entering the apartment, the protocol droid shuffling behind them.
"Senator Amidala," Obi-Wan said, stepping onto her large balcony, before freezing at the picture before him. The senator was sitting on the rounded sofa by the large fountain, Luke snuggled up in her arms, sound asleep, and— Anakin was beside her, Leia in his lap, giggling at the man holding her and trying to grab his fingers as he waved them in front of her little face. Padmé's head rested on his shoulder, her dark curls spilling over the shoulder of his robes, a serene smile on her face as she watched Anakin and Leia. Obi-Wan saw the children frequently— generally because Anakin was so attached to them, but— he couldn't believe how big they'd gotten already. In the seven months since they'd been born, they had changed so much— Leia's happy gurgling sounded the same, but the little girl's smile was bigger, eyes brighter, dark hair longer— they were growing up so fast, in the midst of this terrible, endless war.
"Master Kenobi," Padmé said at Obi-Wan's words, her head immediately snapping off of Anakin's shoulder. Her eyes fell onto Master Windu and Ahsoka as well, and her eyebrows furrowed. "Is everything okay?"
"Yes, Senator, everything's fine," Mace assured her. "Except for the fact that you, Skywalker—" Anakin's expression turned guilty— "are now an hour and a half late for a meeting about a mission that could impact the future of the galaxy."
"Well, that doesn't sound high stakes at all," Anakin said, standing up and shifting Leia to his hip— and he did it so casually, like it was second nature. This charade he was putting on was getting harder and harder to ignore. "I'm so sorry I forgot," he apologized sincerely. "I'll come right now."
He went to put Leia down next to her mother, but the little girl squawked at being passed off, and Anakin stooped down, looking her right in the eyes. "I know, sweetheart," he said, tickling her nose. "I'll be back later. Be good for your mother." Leia pulled a pouty face, but Anakin stood and left with the other Jedi.
They all rode back to the temple in silence— Mace, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka all were thinking the same thing, but none of them really wanted to be the first to speak of it. As they walked down the hall to the council room, Mace cleared his throat.
"Okay, Skywalker, this is getting ridiculous," he said, turning to look at Anakin.
Obi-Wan nodded as well. "Anakin, I know you're good friends with Senator Amidala, but the amount of time you spend with her children— you're not only doing this to be helpful."
Anakin frowned. "I think you're overestimating how much I care about them."
"Master, you made us stop mid-mission to buy them toys," Ahsoka butted in.
"We're all sick of this charade," Mace continued. "We know you're the father."
Anakin laughed as they reached the door of the council room.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, shrugging his shoulders, before pushing the door to the hall open and waltzing in. Mace, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka shared glances with each other. Anakin could deny it all he wanted, but they weren't fools. "Sorry I'm late, everybody," Anakin apologized, taking his place in the middle of the circular room, surveying the council of Jedi Masters before him. "Now, about this mission..."