Vader looked up from the holo message screen; watching Leia squirm somewhat uncomfortably where she stood. She was tense, hands folded in front of her hips with her shoulders coming up. Her face was pale, and if Vader squinted, he almost thought he caught a sheen of cold sweat on her forehead. Eyes darting back to the blueish tinted image of the Moff of the Star System, he scowled under his mask.
"I shall return to our discussion, as soon as I have taken care of other, more pressing matters," he simply said and disconnected despite cutting off the Moff's attempt at protest.
Turning towards his daughter, Vader watched as she backed up against the wall a little bit. Confused, he hooked his thumbs into his belt, and stared her down. He'd wanted to opt for waiting patiently for her to speak up, he'd found that worked the best in handling her. He didn't know how to raise children, let alone little girls. But he was stressed, and under pressure. He had a tight time schedule to stick to. He needed to eventually get back to the Moff, unless he wanted Tarkin breathing down his neck, demanding answers.
"You may speak, little one," said Vader, when to his annoyance, Leia remained quiet with her big doe eyes glued to the ground.
Still, Leia said nothing. She simply gulped audibly and offered a tiny shrug, even tenser now if possible. A small knot of anxiety began to brew at the pit of Vader's stomach, but he dismissed it. She was just a child, it couldn't be anything that bad. She was healthy as a loth cat. Was she getting sick? He took a step towards her, noting that her lips were unusually colourless as well. And her eyes were glassy.
"Are you ill? If so, I shall have a medical droid see to you."
Vader crouched just a little, helmeted head tilted to the side as he scrutinized her round face. Her hair was hanging unkempt and undone over her narrow frame. Not that she never wore it down, but it looked a little messy? Greasy, maybe? Leia had always been keen to at least appear dignified. Her baggy, ill-fitting gown was another reason for alarm. It was too plain, and as soon as Vader took note of that - he recognized it as her nightie.
"Very well," he said, keeping the worries at bay as he began to pad over towards the response monitor to beep in a medical droid of assistance.
Stopping, Vader peered back over his shoulder - which was more like turning halfway around if he wanted to actually see his daughter - his index finger hovering over the controlboard.
"I... don't need a droid. It's not like that," Leia mumbled, clearly uncomfortable as her gaze flickered between looking right at her father, and at her own feet.
"Then, what is it like?"
"It's... you know."
Leia raised both fine eyebrows at him, giving him an intent look. And Vader just stood there, frowning as he tried to contemplate what she was hinting at. A million different thoughts flew through his head, and he wracked his mind for anything that may be appropriate. But she was a thirteen year old girl. That almost immediately eliminated every idea he could come up with. That didn’t rule out think like a ruptured appendix however.
"No, I do not know," he finally stated, once again padding over to his daughter and looming over her; watching her shrink back and then wince; a grimace of obvious pain etched onto her features. "You are in agony."
"No, it's not so bad. Really."
Leia shook her head, vehemently in denial. She tried to feign a convincing smile, but it was obviously strained. Also, she seemed to be pressing her little palms to her lower belly; faintly hunched over.
"Do not lie, Little One," Vader warned, hand coming up to point one glowed finger at her as he scolded.
And he could sense it through their Force bond, now. Leia was in pain; he could feel it like a dull, distant ache simmering through their connection. Now, he was indeed getting anxious; tapping into her emotions and feelings. There was some sort of shame, or embarrassment, and then the same throbbing hum of pain. Sometimes accompanied by a pang, or a stab to the abdomen, only to fade away into a rhythmic gnawing sensation.
"You are in pain, it would be wise of me to call in a medical droid," said Vader, determination in his voice but he did hesitate slightly to move away from his daughter.
She looked as if she was having difficulty staying upright, her legs wobbling under her tiny frame. Still, she shook her head again and teethed her bottom lip. When she finally spoke, her voice was soft and shy, barely about a whisper.
"It wouldn't help, and it's not necessary."
"If you are in pain, it is most imperative that I find somebody to assist you."
"It's not dangerous, Father," mumbled Leia under her breath, and rolled her dark eyes as her pale cheeks were stained a dull pinkish tone.
Was she blushing?
Again, the embarrassment bled through their bond. Vader folded his arms across his chest, and if he had possessed the ability he would have sighed in frustration. And confusion. Instead, he opted for tapping his foot a couple of times; watching Leia flinched as yet another surge of pain went through her limbs.
"I do not rely on that."
"It's not, I... it's normal, you know? I just... I don't know how to, you know," Leia shrugged, ducking her head as the flushed tinge to her face intensified.
"Suffering as your current experience would not qualify as normal, there must be a cause. You cannot be certain as to whether it is harmful or not."
"Yes there is a cause, that's what I'm trying to say! It’s not harmful! It'd be so much easier if you were a girl," Leia ran one small hand through her matted mane; then grit her teeth as she doubled over, eyes squeezed shut and she huffed.
Vader felt a bit scuffed, his pride wounded by that insinuation. Still, he brushed it off for now; a small suspicion beginning to creep up at the back of his mind. But wasn't she too young? He knew virtually nothing of that. It wasn't like he had asked Padmé about such private matters, although of course he'd listened to her rant about it. Still, Leia was just a baby, really.
"Do enlighten me, Little One," he finally relented, unwilling to guess and be wrong.
"It's... that week. You know? For, uh, girls... you know?" she finally managed to get out; ducking her head back down, hands still firmly pushing into her lower belly.
So that was it. Of course.
Vader had no idea women started having their monthlies as young as Leia's age. It wasn't like he'd seen many younger women, not that he'd known close enough to ask about that. It wasn't exactly the topic of the day at the Temple - don't think of that!
Still, what had Padmé told him back in the day? What necessities would she sometimes send him out to fetch, when no other option was available? Pads were a necessity, weren't they? Painkillers, or would a bacta spray be enough? After a long moment of silence - Vader's respiratory breathing the only sound in the room apart from Leia's shuffling feet - Vader let his arms drop slack to his sides.
"So, it is your... monthly. I shall send for adequate assistance."
"I... don't need that, Father. I just... need something so, you know, I won't get... blood everywhere," she bit her lip again; gaze wavering
Vader was wondering how long she'd been going around without some sort of pads, sensing another harsh stab to the abdomen through their link. Was this what the cramps did to a woman? No wonder Padmé had been willing to rip his head off once a month; if he didn't set the table just right for dinner, or make the bed in the exact right shade of blue.
"Very well. The... assistance droid will see to that, as I... lack equipment in that particular department."
If he could have blushed, Vader would have beneath his mask; a small quiver to his tone. This was not his lane. He moved a little closer to Leia, eyeing her night gown but thankfully not spotting any blood stains. Or, he thought he didn’t, but he couldn’t very well ask her to turn around for him to take a proper gander. At least, he saw none from the front angle. He wouldn't want to give the crew the wrong impression, neither did he want Leia to feel ashamed in front of possible staff.
"Do you wish to return to your bunk?" he asked, reaching out to place his large hand gently on Leia's little shoulder.
Leia seemed to hesitate, then she nodded weakly and looked up. Her eyes were indeed glassy, as if she might be tearing up or about to cry. No wonder, given the still humming throb of pain radiating from her. It was impressive that she had managed to stay on her feet for this long.
"Yes. But... I need some painkillers. It's... a bad one."
She winced, swallowing hard and Vader gave her shoulder a supportive squeeze before withdrawing.
"Indeed. May I now advice you to accept the medical droid as appropriate consort for this particular matter?" he inquired, as he once again returned to keep his hand looming over the console; ready to make the connection.
"Yes, but... please, send it straight to my room?"
"I will not see you walk back on your own. I would preferably see it collect you here," Vader stated, placing his free hand back on his belt; refusing to let her suffer further.
Leia's shoulders sagged, her legs visibly wobbling beneath her now. He could tell her cramps must be getting worse. Vader pursed what was left of his lips under the face plate.
"If you will not allow the droid to escort you, I shall carry you."
Leia's eyes went wide at that, panic visible in her dark orbs and the pale complex even whiter now. She stared at him, in what resembled mortification, and Vader found himself once again confused.
"No! I - you can't go in there!" she gasped, looking as if she may want to say something else but shutting herself up.
"That was not an offer. You are in pain, you will not walk the distance on your own."
"But..." Leia tucked her hair behind one ear, eyes darting across the room as she seemed unable to even glance at her father's visage. "You'll see..."
Vader huffed, his patience beginning to wear thin. He flexed his fingers; tapping them against the upper edge of the control board. Ready to just press the correct button and be through with it. To sweep Leia up into his arms and carry her back to bed, so she may rest the worst off. Padmé had used to do that at least a couple days a month, when her position allowed it. Otherwise, she'd just be unusually snappy in Senate. Or unusually brutal in blasting separatist droids to shreds.
"Well? I must return to my summit as soon as possible. It cannot be postponed much longer."
He didn't want to press her any further, but he was getting stressed; peering at the holo pad as it was blinking blue for incoming call.
"There's... it's a lot, this time. There's... blood. A lot. On my bed. The sheets," Leia finally whispered, and the blush was back.
"I wanted to... wash them, before you saw..." she added, fumbling with her fingers and Vader noticed her hands were trembling now.
"It is of no concern to me. I have seen blood before."
Hesitating only for a short moment; Vader pressed the assistance monitor's button.
Making quick work of the task, he ordered in a medical droid as well as a cleaning droid for his daughter's bunk. In the most dignified tone he could muster, he added that Leia's urgency was her monthlies; grateful for the fact that the droids wouldn't question him or retort. He constantly kept his attention on Leia, on their Force bond. She was still suffering, struggling with her pain. But she wasn't as embarrassed, more relieved. Which in turn made Vader relax, only now realizing he too had been tensing up as his shoulders unwound. At least, she wasn't in any danger.
As she'd said.
Finishing the request, he watched Leia lean subtly against the wall for support and strode over to her. As carefully as possible, he scooped the girl up into his arms. She whimpered and flinched; but settled and let out a long sigh. She shut her eyes, pressing her soft cheek into the smooth mantle of Vader's cape. Ignoring the hard, crude armour hidden beneath. One hand still pressed to her belly, the other clinging to Vader's inner robe; her tiny trembling fingers lacing into the fabric for support.
She moaned weakly, eyebrows still furrowed from strain and forehead still clammy. Vader loosened his grip slightly, to make sure he wasn't adding further discomfort as they exited the holo communion office. He ignored the odd look from one of the cadets he had the misfortune of bumping into on the way to Leia's room, down the twists and turns of the long corridor. He'd see to that boy later.
"Father?" murmured Leia, when they were about halfway there.
"What is it?"
Vader's ears perked, his attention fully back on her as he glanced down at her troubled expression where she was snuggling into his chest.
He felt a pang of guilt, knowing the chest monitor must be rubbing against her sore form. Still, he left that unsaid. But when Leia spoke, Vader felt a small flutter somewhere deep within his darkened soul. Something that made him wish he had his own limbs, his own hands to stroke her dark hair or cup her cheek and feel it. All he could do was attempt to be a somewhat pitiful excuse for a father.
"Thank you," was Leia’s reply.