The shuttle ride from Leia's address back to their apartments at 500 Republica was strained by a thick, stony silence. The usually brief jaunt seemed to last for hours, and Luke could not even escape to the cockpit—not when his sister had them riding in a formal Republic vehicle with its own driver.
"This is idiocy," Leia snapped. She didn't move from where she sat, stiffly pressed against the exit hatch (and as far from their father and she could physically be) but her eyes glinted like laser fire.
"In two hours, the only thing we accomplished was inciting a full-scale riot and creating a mess that Tal'na in Public Works will have my head for—and they were peaceful protestors! Imagine if we had another Corellia Square incident…" She punctuated this uncomfortable scenario by pulling stray eggshells out of her hair, and in a childish fit of pique threw them at her father.
"You're not even listening to me!"
"That is untrue," Anakin Skywalker rumbled, breaking his statue-like stillness to brush remnants of a rotten muja fruit off of his usually immaculate white boot. "It is impossible to drown you out. I have tried."
Leia's eyebrows shot up, and her lips thinned into a very small pink line.
"I 'm not the one starting riots," she shot back, making no effort to hide her frustration behind her serene Senator's mask.
"And I am not the one suggesting that you drag me before the general public when you wish to cut ribbons on whatever new credit-sink the Senate has dreamed up this time!" Anakin snapped. Luke sighed heavily, feeling only the smallest twinge of guilt for not immediately trying to mediate the growing argument. He had tried before—Force help him, he had tried.
"You are a public figure! You have to address the public at some point! You can't just hole up in the War Room and avoid answering people's questions—you are the emergency acting Secretary of Imperial Relations and the people have a right to know what you're up to!"
"I am not 'up to' anything! I did not want this position, and once a successor is found and the crisis is over I will never hold public office again! This is exactly the kind of attitude that constantly bogged down the workings of the Old Republic—it rotted and decayed while people dithered over speeches and public appearances—"
"That is how democracy works, Anakin! This isn't the Empire anymore, and you can't just send out your boogie men in black cloaks under the cover of night—"
"That's funny," he hissed, leaning forward abruptly and shoving the grill of his mask into her face, "because the New Republic seems insistent on dragging its new boogie man with a change of wardrobe out in broad daylight—with disastrous results."
Even today, in the era of a reformed Darth Vader working alongside the heroic Luke Skywalker, being faced with this display of the Dark Lord's ire was enough to make most sentients excuse themselves quietly to go sob with relief over still being alive. Leia rolled her eyes.
"Of course this is only about you—this has nothing to do with the duty you have to those people and the responsibility you accepted after your former henchmen blew up all of our staff-"
"I had nothing to do with it!" Vader barked, and Luke sensed that their daily spat was about to boil over into something ugly. Truth be told, Leia and their father had been butting heads more and more often after the crisis- which the media had gleefully dubbed 'The Remnant Negotiations Meltdown'. A radical splinter group of the Alliance to Restore the Empire (" 'radical' is redundant when you're talking about those idiots," Leia would seethe) had managed to bypass security at the Office of Intra-Republic Relations and plant a massive amount of explosives directly beneath the ambassador's desk—before he was scheduled to have a meeting with a handful of more cooperative delegates from the Imperial Remnant. The resulting explosion took out more than three quarters of the New Republic's experts on the Empire and threw Coruscant into a lockdown for three days as the Senate and Chancellor Mothma scrambled to contain the damage. After the dust had settled (more literally than figuratively), almost the entire chain of command in the Office of Intra-Republic Relations had been wiped out—leading to mass resignation among various underlings who had never intended to find themselves in a position of real importance or were completely and totally unsuited to the job. In an effort to prevent full-scale war and public upheaval, Mothma appointed the one person most feared by both the Remnant and the Republic to the position of Acting Head of the Office of Intra-Republic Relations and Secretary of Imperial Relations to provide the illusion that everything was under control— the former Darth Vader.
'Under control' could only describe the total opposite of the result of Anakin's appointment.
"Father, Leia's just trying to say that while things are…touch and go, you need to be a little calmer and…"
"Don't you dare put words in my mouth, Luke!" Leia snapped, while Anakin shouted for her to "refrain from speaking to your brother that way". They turned to glare at one another, and Luke longed more than anything for quiet, non-stressful Tatooine. Fortunately, their shuttle set down with a gentle whine of decelerating thrusters and Leia stormed out onto the landing pad at 500 Republica.
"You are not going anywhere! Don't you dare tell me you're going to go meditate in your little hidey-hole—"
"My meditation chamber! I am truly sorry that I have medical concerns that must be dealt with, and that it seems to be a source of annoyance for you—"
"I don't want to hear you weasel your way out of this—we are having this conversation! We are going to finish it once I check my holomessages and so help me, Force…"
She continued making very emphatic gestures, even as the turbolift to her apartments slid shut.
"She's right, you know," Luke said quietly, standing beside his father. The wind ran teasing fingers through his blond hair (it was beginning to get a bit unruly) and stirred his father's cloak as he glared off into the congested skyways.
"Have you two decided to work as a team now? Harassing me in shifts?"
Luke simply gave him a look handed down to him by Uncle Owen, Aunt Beru, and others—an expression of cool, unimpressed condescension that only that only those who had scrabbled for life on Tatooine and succeeded could muster. He folded his arms and tapped his foot for emphasis.
"Very well," his father replied, and stomped off towards his own quarters in a manner that reminded Luke of a sulky child. He sighed, shaking his head and taking his boots off. His father had told him time and time again that leaving them by the front door was an appalling habit only suitable for moisture farming peasants, but Luke had coldly replied that that was what he was at heart and stubbornly continued leaving his footwear wherever he pleased. After all, he had inherited that insufferable streak from the same man who thought that an excellent method for quelling rowdy protestors was to shout at them that they were all fools.
He walked to the holoterminal and idly began scrolling through his own messages- for various reasons, he shared an joint house-comm with his father in addition to their adjoining apartments. Luke loved his father very dearly, and could not believe how blessed he was to have a chance to know him, but he was beginning to look very longingly towards the day when he could turn his father out, leave him to his own devices, and trust him not to strangle some spam-holomarketer who got a hold of him with his mask off.
He was drawn from his reverie by a personal message sandwiched between his news feed and a letter of protest over Anakin's actions less than half an hour before. He opened it and the figure of a slim human woman sprang to life on the holopad. She had sculpted features, thick, curly hair that framed her elegant face like a halo, and was dressed in a professional manner that managed to compliment her figure without ever appearing anything less than refined.
"Jedi Skywalker," she said, severely. "I understand that you are currently occupied by the ongoing crisis, but it is absolutely vital that you contact me. I am making your father an offer that he absolutely cannot turn down without even considering it—and, if the elder Skywalker is listening in, I promise you that this is an endeavor worth your while. Again, my name is Espera D'tol, please leave contact me on either my work or personal comm."
Luke turned—his father must have emerged from his room while he was still occupied by the holo.
"There is no way I am consenting to some media puppet make a buffoon of me on the Holonet.
"It's only an interview, Father. You don't have to say yes, but-"
"But what? Should I parade myself in front of the whole Galaxy, rather than Leia's unruly masses? I can assure you, that is hardly behavior befitting a Jedi."
"—But," Luke continued, firmly, "You have to stop treating everything as though it's a direct insult or threat. She's probably just interested in your story-"
"I am not a performing animal. I do not tell stories."
"Well, then you are going to tell her that yourself," Luke said impulsively, tapping the glowing image of Espera D'tol and initiating a call.
"And you are going to be polite as well," Luke added, firmly. The holo barely had time to chime once before a slightly less-composed looking D'tol appeared.
"What—oh!" She looked at a point past Luke's head, apparently fixated on his father—to be fair, he was wearing the half-mask designed to allow him to move more comfortably around their apartments.
"Jedi Skywalker and Mister Secretary," she said, composing herself in one smooth moment, transitioning from slightly-harassed businesswoman to collected holotube personality in one fluid change of expression. "Have you decided to consider my offer?"
"Yes-" Luke started.
"What-" Anakin asked at the same time, thrown off by his temporary form of address.
"Excellent! Actually, I am in the area right now—would it be too much to arrange a private meeting at Republica Evenings? I can be there in twenty minutes—I'll have a table.
"Actually," Luke said, trying to edge in, "we just wanted to…"
"You are entirely correct, Jedi Skywalker, these sort of meetings are always more productive when face-to-face. I will meet you there in half an hour, and I assure you, my proposal will be as irresistible as the food. "
She flashed a broad grin before her image winked off, too quickly for either Anakin or Luke to make so much as a syllable of protest.
"…Well," Luke said, stunned.
"I am not going. You can tell her yourself," his father replied, dryly.