"Anakin, come here for a moment."
Anakin looked up at Padme from the pile of ties and bow ties he was sorting through; to the side, there was the sound of running water as Obiwan fixed his hair in their walk-in bathroom. "Hm?"
Padme turned her head, waved a hand at the unfastened back of her dress. "A little help, please?"
"Oh, right, sorry." Anakin stood up, several ties falling to the ground as he walked over to her. He reached down, fumbling for the tiny zipper on her dress. "Dammit, why do they make these things so small," he muttered. He got a grip on it, and tugged it up and closed. "Not to mention, clothing that needs someone else to help you put it on is ridiculous."
"Mmhm." Padme kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you."
"I mean," Anakin continued, "it's practically endorsing the continued use of personal slaves, despite the fact it's illegal in most of the Republic!"
"Domestic servants, maybe," Padme said. "But I'm pretty sure there are many more leading factors even in that than zippers on dresses." She turned, raising a hand to caress the side of his face. "Nervous?" she murmured.
"A bit," he admitted. "I hate these fancy dinners. They're awkward, and everyone's tiptoing around trying to cosy up to the people with the most money, and nothing gets done."
The sound of tapwater stopped. "Plenty gets done," came Obi-wan's voice, "there are often assassinations at this sort of thing."
"Don't tempt me," Anakin called back.
Padme laughed. "And that's why you're not a politician. Don't worry, no one's expecting you to say much. Just smile and make small talk, and it'll be over before you know it."
"I hate small talk," he grumbled.
"Go finish getting dressed, dear." She reached for her jewelry box, then paused, glanced in the mirror at the colourful assortment of patterned ties on their bed. "Anakin, you're not wearing one of those hideous things, are you? Where's your black tie?"
He shrugged, sorting through them with one hand. "In the closet, maybe. What do you think, tie or bowtie?"
"As long as it isn't striped or checkered, either is fine," she said.
"Hm. Obi-wan?" he called, walking toward the closed bathroom door. "Tie or bowtie?"
"That depends," came Obi-wan's voice, and the door opened. "Do you want to match?"
Anakin glanced down at the black bowtie Obi-wan was wearing. "I honestly can't tell if you're being serious, so I'm just gonna go with a tie."
Obiwan shrugged. "Suit yourself. I personally find it infinitely entertaining when people ask if we're brothers. Matching bowties would certainly add to the effect."
"Brothers, my ass," he said, tugging Obi-wan by his pristine white collar to kiss him.
"Mm." Obiwan smiled as he stepped back into the bathroom. "Of course, you do love to play the annoying younger brother," he said, looking down at his now-rumpled shirt, "Anakin, I just ironed this shirt."
"Obi-wan, no one's going to notice," Anakin said, smirking. He went to the closet, sifting through hangars to find a tie. "When's Ahsoka supposed to be here, anyway?"
"Any minute now," Padme said, touching up her lipstick. "Did you put the twins in the playpen?"
"Yes, of course."
Obi-wan stepped out of the bathroom, straightening one of his sleeve cuffs. "Did you make sure to lock it? You know they'll get out if you leave it―"
"I know, I know," Anakin said. He pulled a skinny black tie around his collar, deftly pulling the longer end around into a quick knot. "But if it makes you feel better, I'll go double check."
As Anakin left the room, he saw Obi-wan gave Padme a kiss, heard his murmured remark: "At the rate they're developing Force sensitivity, they'll be unlocking doors before they learn to walk."
He felt a stirring of pride in his chest, tempered slightly by the nagging fear that when that time came he might be unable to take care of them properly. Or now, he thought ruefully. One thing at a time.
Anakin took the stairs down to the sitting room two at a time, slowing as he reached the landing. In the middle of the room, past the couch, was a large empty playpen.
Empty. "Kriff," he spat, striding forward, blood thundering in his ears.
"Anakin?" Obiwan called, and he could feel the other's concern, drifting on the ebb and flow of the Force.
They got out, he thought, not bothering with words, and he felt Obiwan's spike of panic, knew that he was, at that moment, relaying his message to Padme.
The problem was, when a normal pair of human children were let loose on a moderately neat house like theirs, there was always the danger of them trying to eat some forgotten knick-knack fallen out of sight, or hitting themselves on a sharp corner. With Force-sensitive children, however... Anakin checked frantically around the sitting room, behind furniture, moving into the hall. They'd tried their best to child-proof the house, but it just wasn't enough. Which was why, when Ahsoka let herself into the house with her spare key ten minutes later, she was entirely unsurprised to see a pile of toilet paper cascading out of the partially closed ground floor bathroom.
"You two are such trouble-makers," she murmured, setting her bag down before gently pushing open the bathroom door.
Inside, the toilet paper stopped in front of a mountain of towels, a small pale toddler sitting near the bottom, hugging a particularly fluffy towel to his chest. "Hello, Luke," she said, smiling, "where's your sister?"
He made a happy gurgling sound, the Force dancing with contentment.
"I'm happy to see you too, buddy," she said, reaching down to scoop him into her arms. She shifted him onto her hip and glanced around the bathroom, picking up several towels to make sure there wasn't a young girl buried underneath. When she was sure the bathroom wasn't harbouring a second infant fugitive, she stepped back out into the hall, and walked toward the sitting room.
She hadn't noticed when she'd first came into the house, preoccupied by her initial discovery, but now as she walked further inside she felt a sharp anxiety that wasn't hers, distress rolling on the Force. She reached out into the turmoil, finding Obi-wan first, his presence a bright light that never burned too dimly. I found Luke, she thought, and was promptly flooded with second-hand relief.
We'll be right there.
She drew back into her conscious thoughts, blinking as she looked down at the small boy in her arms. "You do know how to start a panic, don't you? Yes you do, you little trouble maker," she cooed, ticking his chin. He giggled, grabbing at her hand with chubby fingers.
Footsteps echoed down the opposite hall, and Obi-wan appeared, Leia in his arms, followed closely by Anakin and Padme.
"Oh, thank god," Padme said, spotting Ahsoka by the door.
"You always seem to catch us at the best time," Obi-wan said dryly, though the look he gave her was grateful.
"That's what I'm here for," Ahsoka said, smiling. "I found this little guy making himself a towel fort," she said, and Padme laughed, stopping in front of Ahsoka to kiss the top of Luke's head.
"These children are too clever for their own good," she said, smiling weakly. "Leia got into the library, somehow, even though I swear I closed the door."
"She was climbing bookshelves when I found her," Anakin said, smiling at her fondly. "My li'l adventurer."
"Just wait until she's older," Ahsoka said, grinning, "you'll miss the days when she was just climbing bookshelves."
Anakin shrugged. "I already had to put up with your acrobatics, Snips, how bad could she be?"
"Don't tempt fate," Obi-wan said, "that's like asking what could possibly go wrong."
"Besides," Ahsoka added, "when you look at some of the reckless things her dad's done, anything she could come up with will look tame in comparison."
"Oh, you have no idea," Obi-wan said, and Anakin grinned at him.
"Okay," Ahsoka said, "enough reminiscing. You three have a dinner to attend, and I have a date with two adorable children." She held out an arm, and Obiwan handed Leia to her, fitting her snugly against her hip.
"There's baby food in the fridge, and pasta salad you can heat up for yourself if you don't want to order food," Padme said. "Emergency contacts on the bulletin board, you know where the toys and blankets are―"
"Yes, I do," Ahsoka said, smiling. "I've done this before, we'll be fine."
"Call us if they're too much trouble," Anakin said, as they made their way to the door. "Or, you know, if you just feel like company, I'd love an excuse to leave early."
"Do not," Padme murmured, rolling her eyes, and Ahsoka grinned.
"Have a good time," she said.
"You too," Padme replied, pulling on her coat. "Bye, you two," she said to the twins, "have fun with Auntie 'Soka!"
Ahsoka looked down at the twins. "Wave to your mom and dads!" she said, bouncing them on her hips. Luke giggled, but Leia just watched serenely as they stood in the doorway, watching the trio get into the car.
Once they'd driven away, Ahsoka stepped back inside, closing the door behind them. "Alright," she said, using the Force to float her bag into the sitting room as she carried the twins down the hall. "What do you think, story time first, or toys?" She let her bag thump to the ground. "Toys," she decided, setting first Luke then Leia on the carpeted floor. "And if you're good, we'll watch Atlantis later."