Eight months! Eight months since his secret wedding to his beloved angel and at this first opportunity to be together for any real length of time, Anakin was sick.
He had secured a fifteen day leave with the promise to report to Arbra at its end. As Arbra was only a short journey from Naboo, he would be spending his free time there. In his heart, it had always been a place of refuge. Never mind the fact that it was also the home of his ?friend? Senator Amidala. It was just a fortunate coincidence that they happened to share the love of her home world. That was the ?official? word, at least, and it worked for those who would be concerned about such matters. Indeed, Obi-Wan had raised nary a cynical eyebrow when Anakin had told him of his plans. The fact that the Senate was in recess and that Amidala might be there? well, as was already mentioned, it was her home world too? what of it?
Oddly enough, his plans had originally included spending a great deal of time in bed. Of course, Padm? had factored rather prominently in those ideas, but most decidedly not as a nursemaid! So here he was, lying in the guest room of the Naberrie household. While the rest of the family was preparing for the lawn party that they would be holding in three days, he, Anakin Skywalker, Jedi and hero of the Battle of Geonosis, was lying in a sick bed floored by a simple cold. Obi-Wan would have been pleased.
Things had started off well enough. Padm? had met him at the Hotel Ennui in Theed and they had managed to spend at least one night in each other's embraces before returning to her family home, where a slight sniffle that had been echoed from Padm??s niece Pooja, had, for Anakin at least, turned into a raging head cold overnight. The Healer had come and gone, prescribing bed rest and a sleep-inducing tea that seemed (in Anakin?s eyes) to have been made from Bantha urine. (On second thought, Bantha urine would probably have tasted better and been just as effective, but rather than risk the considerable wrath of his wife, Anakin took the remedy without comment.)
Slowly, even with his senses dulled by illness and sedation, Anakin became acutely aware of an increasingly painful pressure on his? well, his groin. He opened his eyes to find that Pooja had set up a little picnic on his lap complete with a brightly coloured blanket, sandwiches and cups with saucers, and the inevitable teapot which was resting right on his?
?Perhaps we should move this, little one,? he said as calmly as he could, gingerly moving the very full (and very hot) pot to the side table. ?And what brings you here?? He gave her a bleary wink. ?Does your mother know you?re here??
?Momma is out in the garden with Auntie Padm? and Granma,? Pooja said petulantly. ?And Ryoo told me that I was just underfoot and that it was my fault that you would miss the party and that you would hate me forever ?coz you only see Auntie Padm? every once in a while and it?s my fault that you?re sick?? Her brown eyes, so much like her aunt?s, welled up with tears.
Almost fully awake now, Anakin cupped her chin in his left hand and gently lifted her face up to meet his eyes.
?Neither your Auntie Padm? nor I could ever hate you, little one,? he said softly, and smiled.
Relieved that the world wasn?t going to come to an end after all, she smiled, sniffing back the tears.? ?Since you?re too sick to come to the party I thought I?d bring you a lawn party on your bed!? She smiled broadly and handed him a cup and saucer.
More alert now, he quickly made for the teapot and poured some first for Pooja and then, tentatively, for himself. To his surprise and delight, the tea wasn?t the Bantha piss that the Healer had forced on him, but instead a pleasantly minty-smelling concoction. He took a hesitant sip and was relieved to find that it was actually as tasty as it smelled - and cleared his head a little in the process.
?Thank you,? he said softly, nodding his head. ?This is quite lovely.?
?It?s what Momma gives me when I?m sick,? Pooja replied, beaming. ?R2 helped me make it!? She lowered her eyes a bit. ?Can you keep a secret?? she whispered.
Anakin nodded, wondering what this little girl could possibly hold so secret.
?I?m going to marry him,? she said quietly, blushing to the roots of her curly hair.
?Are who?? Anakin repeated, perplexed.
She blushed even more furiously. ?Ar-Two! Either R2 or Altain? I haven?t decided yet.?
?R2?? Anakin considered this. ?But who is Altain??
?Promise not to tell?? she implored him again, eyes wide.
?I?m honor bound not to,? he reassured her gently. ?It?s against the Jedi Code to betray your niece?s trust. I promise. So who is this young suitor that would win you away from?? he bit his lower lip back, trying to hide his smile, ?R2??
Pooja sighed. ?He?s a boy who lives down the street.? She pulled a face. ?But he?s icky! Like all boys!?
Anakin, grateful for his years of Jedi training, managed to keep his face straight.
?Are all boys? ?icky??? he asked, trying to be diplomatic.
?Well? mostly,? she admitted. ?Uncle Ani?? she asked, her face again becoming a mask of seriousness. ?Did you ever think girls were icky??
Anakin paused, thinking.
?Well, until I met your Aunt Padm?,? he began thoughtfully, ?I thought girls were just like boys? you know, okay, so some of them couldn?t run as fast, but others, like Ekba, she could kick your?? he trailed off, seeing that the conversation might be a bit too mature for Pooja. ?Your Aunt Padm? was special?? he trailed off wistfully. ?I wanted to marry her the day we met. I was all of nine, I think.?
?Nine?? Pooja echoed. ?That?s a long time away for me, isn?t it??
Anakin nodded. ?But you don?t want to get married right away, do you??
?No.? She shook her head. ?I?m not ready for all that adult stuff yet.?
Anakin felt the colour rise in his cheeks. He knew the Naboo were, well, ?forward thinking? and told their children the basic facts of life as soon as they asked, but he had been seven when he had found out about such matters and this little girl was all of what? Four?
?I like to be cuddled,? she admitted, her thumb creeping towards her mouth. ?But I don?t think I want to learn to cook just yet.? She sighed, and her eyelids began to droop.
Anakin carefully began moving the party implements to the nightstand, after which he lifted the sleepy little girl onto his lap. She promptly closed her eyes, thumb firmly entrenched in her mouth. Anakin, who was also beginning to feel sleepy again, rested her against his chest and lay back on the bed. He began stroking her hair gently, sending waves of comfort through the Force.
?Auntie Padm? won?t mind you cuddling me?? Pooja asked, her voice thick and sleepy. Anakin kissed her forehead lightly and continued stroking her hair. Within moments, they were both asleep.
?Ryoo, how many times have I told you not to tease your sister like that?? Sola sighed, exasperated as she walked into the house, her elder daughter and sister following close behind.
?But Momma!? Ryoo whined. ?She did make Uncle Ani sick??
Sola thought she saw Padm? suppress a smile as she passed the two of them to check on her ailing husband.
?Pooja?? Sola?s voice echoed throughout the house, and for a moment she panicked. Her daughter was nowhere in sight. She was about to fly into a fearful search when she saw her sister standing at the doorway to the guest room, a small smile on her face.
Padm? just nodded and gestured to her sister to join her.
When Sola beheld the sight before her eyes, any lingering doubt about her sister?s choice of a husband vanished. There was her daughter, cuddled in the arms of Padm??s Jedi protector and husband, both as content as any beings could ever be. Both fast asleep, with the cares of the rest of the galaxy far away and forgotten. Yes, Padm??s husband, Anakin Skywalker, was a good man and a good husband. Perhaps someday soon he?d make a good father as well.
Original cover by DarthBreezy. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.