Padme’s always been the practical sort, even when royal, so she knows how to change a diaper and feed a child. She also knows how to fly the stolen ships Obi Wan and R2D2 hack into, how to bargain in thirteen intergalactic languages, how to spot a bounty hunter in a crowd, and how to shoot a blaster with deadly intent.
Padme was in love with someone who maybe never even existed– maybe once, there had been a boy who wanted to help people, who risked his life and his pod racer for someone else’s story, who made a young girl laugh in a sand-worn mechanic’s shop.
She had been chasing him for years, that once good heart, but now with these bruises purpling and fading around her neck, she stops waiting. She starts running. Every time Obi Wan force-moves something over the next few weeks, she has to bury a flinch.
But Leia is growing in fits and spurts, eating greedily and crying loudly. She stays in a sling on Padme’s chest when they move, Luke held snug in a sling around Obi Wan’s. Luke gets a whole head of thick brown hair while Leia’s is still patchy and bald, but he never matches his sister’s powerful lungs.
When Padme had been sitting in her high senatorial apartment on Corsucant, holding Anakin’s sweaty hand, she had never imagined she’d be murmuring desperately soothing noises to her fussy daughter while she shot around a corner at stormtroopers, while R2D2 meddles with a ship’s blast doors behind her.
Luke starts teething on a hot jungle planet where they hunker down for three weeks, sleeping in an abandoned old temple and catching the local wildlife for dinner. Leia takes her first steps in the belly of a Corellian freighter they’ve stowed away on. She wobbles between Padme’s outstretched hands and Obi Wan’s knees and boxes of smuggled luxuries. When she falls down, Obi Wan surges forward, heart in his throat, but Leia laughs.
Padme lost a husband, but Obi Wan lost a brother and his whole order– his world, his people, his family.
(One day, Leia’s whole home planet will vaporize and die under Vader’s–Anakin’s–command, and Obi Wan will find himself in the wreckage of it, the place Alderaan used to be, and he will recognize the sorrow shrieking into the Force.)
But for now– Padme watches Obi Wan win them funds in gambling halls, grin into the teeth of a good flyer chase, sleep with Leia strewn over his chest, and Padme wonders if he isn’t more heartbroken here over Anakin than she is.
Luke learns to walk a whole few months after Leia, but he falls less. He moves around the rim on mechanic’s shops, freighter cargo holds, makeshift camps on green planets, holding onto stable things and frowning seriously. Leia tries to leap from walking to running with no lead up time at all. She is not without scraped knees and scabby heels of her palms for years.
They manage to spend a whole eight months on a little Outer Rim planet in a sleepy agrarian settlement. Padme and Obi Wan repair farming droids while R2D2 plays nursemaid (both Leia and Luke will be fluent in droid by the time they’re six). Luke and Leia play rough-housing games in the dry dirt– this is the first time they’ve stayed anywhere long enough to learn other children’s names. On day two hundred and thirty six they hear reports of stormtroopers so they pack up and hop on a transport at the nearest spaceport, not even bothering to check where it’s going.
When they fly their own ships, they strap Luke and Leia into the same passenger’s seat and Padme and Obi Wan narrate. “Here you’ve got to always turn off the compressor before you activate the initiator…” “See the flashy blue light? Gotta have all the blue lights flashing…”
They hear reports of the empire growing. They see it– stormtroopers in more and more distant outposts, imperial ships passing them in the skies. Obi Wan lost the Jedi cloak years ago. They plate R2D2 in matte grey paint. Padme cuts her hair short and dresses in many-varied-layers like any refugee– because that’s what she is now, she and her little family.
Obi Wan has two lightsabers. He thinks Padme doesn’t know– he has the one he fights with, holding back stormtroopers and reflecting bounty hunters’ blaster shots, but he also has another one, tucked into the bottom of his pack.
“It’s Anakin’s, isn’t it?” Padme asks one late night, tucked in a stony sheltered hollow on a planet that storms warm rain thirty-eight hours out of the day’s forty-two. Obi Wan gives a soft laugh and puts his hand over his eyes as Padme goes on, “The saber you’re hiding from me.”
He nods, slowly, lets his hand fall. “I took it from him, when I left him for dead.”
“Not dead enough,” says Padme. “You’re keeping it in case yours gets lost?”
“Yes,” he says slowly. “Or in case… we might need another light saber, some day.”
Luke is bouncing a X-wing fighter toy along the wet pebbles. Leia is beeping something at R2D2, giggling over the rainfall.
“Hm,” says Padme. “We might need another two.”
Alderaan still becomes Leia’s home. At almost sixteen, spit-fire furious, thoroughly educated by both a Jedi master and her ex-queen/ex-senator/always-a-rebel mother, Leia sits firmly down at the table in the junk smuggling ship they’ve been living on recently and announces, “I want to go into politics.”
“I don’t trust politicians,” says Obi Wan, and Padme kicks him under the table.
They fabricate educational records and essay-writing contests, relying on R2D2’s hacking skills as much as Obi Wan’s powers of persuasion. Padme contacts her old senatorial ally Bail Organa and gets Leia a junior internship on his staff.
The Organas had once been willing to take in a girl-child and call her their own. They welcome this older, taller Leia with arms just as wide-open and she boards in their spare bedroom. Over breakfasts where Leia enthusiastically grills Bail about policies, bills, and negotiations, they never mention they were almost her parents. Their adopted daughter Isabel, who is a few months younger than Leia, giggles into her oatmeal while Leia leans forward and waves a spoon as she tries to make a point.
Leia has never lived more than nine and half months in one place, and never on a planet with a shorter than nine standard-month solar orbit– so she has never seen a season leave and then return.
She files papers and learns bureaucrat-speak and sits through meetings and helps plant saplings in a local park in a bit of community outreach PR for the senator’s campaign. A wet spring rolls into a muggy, ugly summer; then the fall cold cracks the air and thick purple and orange leaves cascade to the ground. All the climbing vines turn red and brown to prepare for hibernation.
Winter wreathes the place in frost and the occasional dusting of snow. Leia and her family once spent two closeted weeks on Hoth, laying low, so she scoffs at the layers and layers all her fellow interns are draping themselves with. She gets some waterproof boots, some good gloves, and forgets her hat with a stubborn, prideful constancy.
Then the spring comes in. The frost melts and the grass shoots up. Irises unfurl purple, and geryblums come in vibrant yellow. Leia walks to the senatorial offices in a vague drizzle, having forgotten her hat again, and gets there sopping wet and feeling like something is overflowing in her chest.
When she first stepped on this planet, the irises were uncurling, purple, white, frilled. They withered, browned, the seasons rolling on, but then the irises came in– came back.
Leia sends Luke video-messages across the empty silences of space, to whatever waystation he’s on now, repairing droids and ships. He’s always grinning, grease-stained, still baby-faced in ways that make Leia prod her own soft cheeks self-consciously. One day their cheekbones will come in and take the galaxy by storm, but even now Leia does not know she is beautiful.
Sometimes Isabel Organa catches the tail end of the calls. Luke waves a hello and goes back to describing a grumpy customer while R2D2 beeps commentary in binary from just out of frame. Isabel confides one disobedient night when they’ve stayed up late drinking hot cocoa in the Organa’s neat kitchen that she has a crush on Leia’s brother. “Ew,” says Leia. “But he never washes his face.”
When the twins were young teens, Padme had decided they were old enough to leave to their own devices now and then, and she had started taking on the occasional mission for the Rebellion. Obi Wan had been her right hand for more than a decade now, the only thing allowed in her blindspot, so he went with her. He goes by Ben and hides behind a roughly trimmed beard. Padme does not use her true name either, but that’s almost old hat. She misses her handmaidens like limbs.
Now, with Leia on Alderaan, they leave Luke at waystations while they steal secrets, disable ships and weapons, and ambush stormtroopers. Luke fixes droids, buries his hands in ships’ innards, and uses the Force to cheat when it comes to language acquisition. R2 follows him around like a loyal old tree stump, whirring and adding acerbic commentary and giving Luke a reputation for being kind of odd and given to bursting out laughing at peculiar moments.
Something goes wrong on a repair on one of the big ships. A man (whose name Luke will never ever give to his mother or to his sister) didn’t rig something up right and Luke loses a hand. By the time Padme and Obi Wan get back from the intelligence run they were on, Padme incandescently furious and Obi Wan adrift in all the ways Luke resembles his father, Luke has already taken apart the prosthetic they put on him and put it back together better.
“With one hand?” Obi Wan asks, impressed.
“Well,” said Luke. “R2D2 helped. And, you know, the Force?”
Padme asks again, dangerously low, about what idiot caused this, and Luke talks cheerfully over her about his plans to build another hand from scratch. Maybe a couple different ones for different uses. “I could have one that doubles as a welding torch!”
Leia works a year as a junior intern under Senator Organa’s staff, then a real intern, then a researcher, a fulltime staffer, a speechwriter. She moves out of the Organa’s spare room eventually, but gets a little flat with Isabel, who is studying music at the university. Isabel wants to rescue dying songs– instruments people are forgetting how to play, lyrics whose last speakers have no one to sing to, music forgotten on decaying vellum.
They stay up late, Isabel studying, Leia reading over speeches and PR proofs. Leia teaches her the lullabies from Naboo that her mother had sung to her in the bellies of freighters and temporary camps in forests, deserts, caves, jungles. They give each other hair tips, brushing out their long straight hair in the morning. Leia teaches Isabel the looping braids Leia learned from her mother, and Isabel teaches her the large coiling buns she learned from hers.
Leia follows the senator to the republic’s off-world meetings, to diplomatic missions, but they always come back. She sees the spring rise up and flower every year, except her eighteenth, when they get stuck in a giant diplomatic headache in Corsucant that keeps them gone four months. Isabel sends her a video recording of the fields just outside the capital city, all green and purple and white, blooming.
Padme and Obi Wan move to the rebel base full-time. They have been fighting for the rebellion for years now. They fly X-wings and use blasters, though Obi Wan keeps his saber with him for emergencies. Padme insists on officially entering the rebellion at the lowest rookie level, determined to be fair, so the leadership rolls their eyes and waits for the promotions to come speeding up the pipeline.
After a long talk with his mother where Padme repeats over and over that this does not have to be his inheritance, Luke moves into the base, too. With a speed that will outstrip even his mother, he rises through the ranks of the maintenance staff. He becomes almost legendary in his ability to listen to the hum of an engine or a droid or an air conditioning unit and then find just the thing ailing it. He grins at people when they ask and says, “My Uncle Ben taught me something about, uh, listening. I just get a feeling.”
A troupe of women walk into the rebel mess one day, clearly just back from a mission. Padme is eating with some of the other pilots– Obi Wan is sleeping after a late shift and Luke got dragged away by some tech emergency or other. The women are all in high spirits, bleeding the afterbuzz of adrenalin and success, fresh bandages wrapped over cuts and blaster burns.
They are all about the same age, same build, same complexion– Padme’s age, Padme’s build, like they had been chosen, once, for that– for their faces, for their bravery, their intelligence, and their dedication.
“They’re one of our best recon squads,” says one of the pilots Padme is sitting with, who’s seen her staring. “They all showed up in a group, in the first days, right after the fall of Jedi temples. They’re ace shots, all of them, and have inside jokes in about ten different galactic languages.”
The ex-handmaidens of the ex-queen of Naboo have stuttered to a stop, too, seeing Padme sitting there in a pilot’s gear, staring back at them.
“You know them?” says the pilot.
“They’re my sisters,” says Padme. She pushes her chair back and they surge forward and they meet somewhere in the middle, hands curling around shoulders and ribs, noses pressed to brown hair, foreheads buried in the sides of necks.
“You’re alive,” one of them says, looking like she’s about to cry. Padme takes as many hands as she can hold and abandons her breakfast to drag them down to the main hangar where Luke has got motor oil in his hair.
“Luke!” she calls to him. “This is my son, Luke. Luke, this is–”
She’ll have to reintroduce them later because this is drowned out in questions– “All this time?” and “Oh he’s, he’s–” and “Does He know?”
But Padme smiles, because Luke is blinking up at them, young and safe enough and happy enough. She had never realized how much Luke looked like her until one of her handmaidens was standing at her shoulder in a rebel base, a nasty old scar on her beautiful face, fresh bandages all up her arm, crying about Luke’s beautiful life.
“Nice to meet you, ma'ams,” says Luke and the subsequent awwws get him teased for months.
Padme does not use her old name, her old history, but she is still a queen, a senator, a leader of sentients and that is something she could never hide. She rises through the ranks and it’s almost nostalgic to have all these lives under her responsibility. She never stops going on field missions, no matter how important they tell her she is now.
Obi Wan has wars written into his bones, sleeps with his saber under his pillow, and so he volunteers for the training staff. He teaches new recruits to fly, to stay alive, to listen to the universe– but every time Padme goes out into the field, he goes with her. He has been at her shoulder too long to leave her right shoulderblade unguarded– except when she’s sent out with the handmaidens. He knows when he is not needed.
Padme relearns her handmaidens and they relearn her, years and years out from the times when they knew her every tic and mannerism and could live in her skin at will. They curl up in the cramped but homey rebel barracks to tease her and ruffle her shorn hair, to barge in on her video-calls to Leia and meet her daughter.
“She reminds me of him,” her oldest handmaiden tells her, quietly, privately, once. Padme goes very very still and the handmaiden goes on calmly, “The good parts. The reasons it was worth it. She got the best of both of you– they both did.”
Her handmaidens were there for the first time she fell in love. She was there for the first time they did– and she is pleased to see that the two who had been stuck in a mutual pining that was the exasperated despair of the rest of them had finally figured their shit out. The pair holds hands in the mess hall and blush prettily whenever any of their friends tease them about it. (Padme also sees these two shoot men dead with calm faces– saw that when they were all young teens, dolled up pretty with a world’s fate resting on their shoulders– but somehow the contrast never really strikes her as odd).
Her handmaidens were there for the trials of ruling, then the verbal combat on the senate floor. Some of them have died for her– died in her name. Others have died since she had left them, and Padme listens carefully to those stories of firefights and sacrifice and one ugly illness.
She tells them about running, about Leia learning to fly and Luke’s ineffective tantrums. They tell her about helping build the fledgling rebellion, about what Corscant had looked like in the days After, the crumbling of the senate.
They tell her about weird foods they’ve eaten on dirty spaceports, practical jokes gone wrong, flings with disreputable pilots with excellent hands. They tell her they have missed her and she takes their hands in hers and kisses their cheeks.
It is not all just them, though, insular, murmuring in a home tongue that Padme has mourned for years. They adopt Obi Wan easy as blinking, tease an old war ally to furious blushing while Padme laughs. Some of the rebel pilots are young– young as Leia, as Luke– and Padme remembers being that young and certain. Others though saw the Clone Wars, the Senate’s fall, Palpatine’s rise. They share stories, names, talk about their children.
Padme is used to having friends who would die for her– Obi Wan, her handmaidens, every last one of them. She looks around the rebel base and realizes that really hasn’t changed much here.
A senator now in her own right, a rebel since she was old enough to know what the word meant, Leia tries to carry the plans for the Death Star home to her mother. Her shuttle is overtaken (R2 is on base with Luke; they never met C3P0) and Leia stands with her spine straight straight straight when black fabric and white armor sweep onto her ship.
She burned the plans the moment capture was inevitable– but her childhood was forged in strategy and emergency. She has three other copies of the plans heading home in trusted hands. They will get to the rebellion because that was the objective.
She knows who her father is. Leia spent an ugly night, after her mother had told her where the other half of her had come from, reading everything she could on Vader with Luke peering over her shoulder. Leia went paler and paler, reading back through ugly history. Luke went stiller and stiller, her fidgety brother burying his hands under his thighs and barely breathing. They read about Order 66, the massacre, the children, and then Leia went and threw up while Luke held back her long hair.
Darth Vader does not know his childrens’ names. If some recognition sparks in his chest when Leia lifts her chin, he thinks he is just remembering another brave senator, something buried. Before Obi Wan taught the twins anything more than how to sense a blaster bolt’s trajectory, he had taught them to hide their strength inside themselves, bury every hint of Force deep in their liver, their lungs, all glimmer and darkness.
Leia watches the black shape move down the corridor, the whirring of his breath, and tries to see something in there that her mother might have loved. She tries to spot Luke’s fidgets in the curl of their father’s ugly fingers. She wonders what she would do if she did see something. It is better than wondering how she is about to die.
She takes a deep breath and lets it out. She says, “Lord Vader, I should have known. Only you could be so bold. The Imperial Senate will not sit for this, when they hear you’ve attacked a diplomatic…”
Padme and Obi Wan are out on a mission– completely out of contact, knee deep in silty water and mangrove roots, staking out an imperial base. Luke is out on a parts run, dropped off on a waystation to listen to a bit of gossip and to barter for some replacement parts and maybe a few new droids if he can find something worth repairing.
Luke’s transport freighter is supposed to come back in a few hours to fetch him, but the third piece of gossip he hears cements the “I have a bad feeling about this” that’s been lurking in his chest. The Empire has taken a junior senator from Alderaan to their new battle station.
Luke makes a last run through the market for supplies in case hot-wiring a speeder, hacking an Imperial security or comm system, or breaking through blast doors is a needed activity in his near future. He whistles for R2D2, palms his lightsaber, and heads to the loading docks.
He spots the sort of “piece of junk” ship that obviously can outrun most customs officials and has eight million hidey-holes for the times it can’t. The pilot and his Wookie co-pilot are bound for Tatooine but Luke’s always been good at conjuring credits out of nowhere, when he really puts his mind to it.
He asks the pit of his stomach and the curls of Force that live there where Leia is. He says, “Set course to– wait, what’s your name again? Ok, Mr. Solo, set course to Alderaan. No, you don’t get the other half of the payment till I get where I’m going.”
They beam out of hyperspace before Alderaan dies, but not by much. The bulk of the planet floats in the distance; Luke has never visited but he’s seen it through vidscreens for years. “That moon there,” says Luke. “Get me there and then you’re done. I’ll get my own ride off.” There is something roiling and roiling in his chest.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Han says and Luke peers at him interestedly.
“Do you?” he says. “My Uncle Ben says–”
On the surface of Alderaan, Bail Organa is taking a surreptitious nap in his locked office, between meetings. Isabel is having lunch with her mother, hands waving as she talks about chord shifts and melody, both of them worried about the lack of news from Leia and trying to hide it. There is light sparkling in their water glasses. There are irises blooming in the yard outside.
Leia is standing in the chill air of the Death Star and they are asking her for the location of the rebel base. She has lived under so many skies, the gravity on each holding her bones a little differently, but she grew from child to woman on the blue-green planet that is laid out at their feet.
She went on this mission willing to die. She will never be willing to lose them.
There is a war on. Leia has lived in it since birth, running, an eye on the back door of every room she steps into. She knows you do not get to decide what you are allowed to keep.
Leia knows it is spring on Alderaan because she had videoed with Isabel a week before. Isabel had told her about how one of her papers had been accepted to a academic journal, “the one on uses of the pentatonic scale in the Gyn Dynasty, remember, I read it aloud to you and you fell asleep–” Isabel had had a vase of purple and white flowers on the table behind her, the ceramic chipped, the iris blooms unfurled.
Tarkin makes the order. Alderaan burns. Leia does not weep in front of the enemy. She can feel a billion lives snuffed out, screaming through the force, because Obi Wan taught her how to listen. She can feel the cold sucking vacuum of her father next to her, because Obi Wan had taught her how to listen. She does not cry in front of the enemy. Her mother taught her to be brave.
The tractor beam pulls the Falcon in. Chewie pries up the floor boards for them to hide under while Luke calmly explains to a furious (read: terrified–a planet just blew in front of them) Han that he’s rescuing his sister. “My baby sister,” he says. “But don’t tell her I said that, she says I’m the baby.”
Leia’s rage and grief is roiling and roiling in the hollows of his chest, knocking his ribs about, churning his gut. It means Luke can tell even more easily where she is in the station, but it also means that if Han doesn’t stop whining and getting in his way Luke might do something violent to him and disappoint himself. He takes a deep breath and checks through his tool belt one last time. R2 whirs comfortingly at him, offering to jab Han in the side with something sharp and electrified, if he’d like.
“I appreciate that, little buddy,” says Luke. “…Maybe later.”
Padme and Obi Wan get back from their mission exhausted and dirty, feeling like mud has soaked all the way in through their skin. “If the water heater’s gone out again, I’m going to cry,” Obi Wan declares and then an officer runs up to them, flushed and terrified, and tells them the news.
“Fuel cells on that one aren’t full enough,” says Obi Wan when Padme turns back to the shuttle they just vacated.
“That one, then,” said Padme, already moving across the hangar. “You there, go tell someone we’re requisitioning this.”
“Sir, you need to ask–”
“I do not,” says Padme.
They come out of hyperspace in the wreckage of Alderaan. Obi Wan recognizes the way the Force is screaming– because it is the remains of the Jedi Temple, the younglings scattered at his feet, multiplied to billions; because it is Leia, somewhere near, trying to breathe through the pain. He has seen her hide a dozen injuries, a stubborn kid with a broken wrist she didn’t want to worry them with, badly hidden circles under her eyes while she smiled at them through the video screen. He knows this.
He can feel Anakin, somewhere near.
Sitting along in her cell, aching, Leia takes out her pins and lets all her long hair down. She brushes it out with her fingers, stroke by stroke, wincing, and then she coils it all up into the two big spiral buns that Isabel had taught her, that Isabel’s mother had taught Isabel before her. Her fingers move quick and thoughtless, heavy, like over prayer beads. It is as close as she will get to mourning before this is all over.
There is a whole world dead and gone. There is more than just one family or a few remembered hot cocoa midnights. There are fathers dead, and mothers, jerks, waitresses, dog-eared paperback books, thousand-year-old trees, purple and white irises– but a heart can only hold so much.
Leia keeps a handful of pins out. If there’s no blaster handy, stabbing someone in a bad place with one of these might just do.
Luke and Han get Leia– they leap for the trash compactor because R2’s on duty to open the doors for them inside. Leia felt Luke coming, because they spent their childhood learning to hide from everything but each other. They both feel Obi Wan when he lands, because Obi Wan wants them to, because he wants Vader to, because Obi Wan has always been willing to play distraction so that his family can get out safe.
“He won’t,” Leia whispers. Too much of her family has died today.
“We won’t let him,” says Luke. “C'mon, we’ve got to get the tractor beam turned off.”
The central line through all these stories has always been Anakin and the people who love him– their burned hands, their empty beds, their battered hearts.
When Vader pauses, leaves to track down a signature in the Force that he has not felt since lava and words screamed over ash, there are four heartbeats that were once his and beloved. He only hears one of them. He never learned how to listen.
Obi Wan fights him in the belly of that weapon. He is not rusty with a lightsaber. There is no sand grit in his joints. He is not willing to die, here. He has unfinished lesson plans left on his desk back on the base. He can feel Luke and Leia flaring like flames, no longer hiding, passing saber and blaster back and forth between them, their new friend Han yelping and cursing and contributing his own covering blaster fire as they make their way back to the Falcon.
Obi Wan remembers a burning planet, a burning man. Anakin is more machine than man now, but what does that have to do with anything? Luke built his hand himself. Luke repairs the thumping hearts of ships and Leia swears she can hear them singing under her when she takes flight.
Obi Wan fights his brother in the belly of a death trap, a battle station that just killed a whole planet. Leia’s grief is still screaming through the Force, drowned out by the shocking resonance of all that death– but it’s still Leia that Obi Wan hears most clearly. Obi Wan fights his brother, and he recognizes Anakin’s thrusts and parries because he taught them to him.
Obi Wan burns through the fluttering edges of black cloth, through the metal and plastic of Anakin’s left forearm, sparks flying and ugly back smoke hissing out, but it is Padme who kills him. Three blaster bolts to the back.
Anakin never learns his wife survives him. He never sees Padme’s face again. She does not feel guilty for it. She never owed him that. She had to raise her children in fear– in warmth, in love, in as much safety as she could fight for, but in fear.
She steps over Anakin’s body. She takes Obi Wan’s hand and pulls him through blaster fire and noise to the waiting Falcon. Han flies; Leia and Padme lay down covering fire. With the debris that once was Alderaan floating around them, they set a course for the rebel base that three of them call home.
Leia’s stolen plans made it home before she did, in other hands. Her life was always optional to everyone except her family– the plans were not. The rebels already have their plan of attack, but this time there is a different Force-sensitive young pilot to add to their ranks. Leia learned to fly from her mother. When her uncle’s voice sounds in her ears– trust in the Force, Leia– it is a memory, not a ghost. She is thankful. She has enough ghosts, now.
The scruffy nerfherder Luke picked up on the waystation keeps making noises about leaving, but Luke and Leia’s cheekbones have finally come in and they’re understandably distracting. Han disappears, but the Falcon comes back with covering fire at the last minute.
Leia fires the shot that takes down the Death Star with R2D2 riding shotgun. Luke built the engine of her X-Wing. They land among cheers and Leia tries to let the noise fill her, shove everything else out– irises, sunlight. She slaps shoulders and pats R2’s dome and lets the crowd swallow her. It works, filling that hollow with noise, until Luke finds her.
He saw her through scraped-knee childhoods and long-distance allnighters. They woke from the same nightmares on different sides of camps and beds and galaxies. When he reaches out she slams into him, head tucked into where his shoulder meets his neck. She wraps her arms around his breathing chest, his beating heart, the living warmth of him. She comes apart the way the planet came apart, the way it burned while men watched coldly around her, the way all Isabel’s careful notes went up in molten fire, lost.
Leia will sit down, after this, and write up everything she knew of them– the Organas, the other interns, the noodle shop down the road, the irises in spring. She will find every survivor she can: the bereft young adults who went off-planet for university; the vacationers, expatriates, and pilots with nowhere to go home to. She will find copies of every one of Isabel’s essays, sent to academic papers near and far, and she will sing Isabel’s songs to her children.
Luke holds her until she wipes her face and steps back. Then he takes his sister’s hand and pulls her away from the celebrating crowd, up silent empty hallways, to their mother’s room. They sit. Luke makes hot chocolate and Padme lets out all of Leia’s hair, brushes it, braids it up.
There are so many losses to mourn here and this is how: gentle hands moving in an even pattern and warmth pressed into empty palms. There is so much loss living on this family’s shoulders, but there are things worth holding onto. When Luke sits down on the bedspread next to them, Leia takes his hand and doesn’t let go until she falls asleep, and even then it’s with her head tucked into her brother’s shoulder.
Padme has been a widow for more than a decade now. She finds Obi Wan sitting on his unmade bed the morning after the battle, pale, eyes damp. “Sometimes I wonder,” he says without looking up. “If he left us, or the Code left him.” When he meets her eyes she remembers standing in the living room she had shared with her husband, refusing to believe when Obi Wan told her Anakin had Fallen. “He meant well, once,” says Obi Wan. “He loved us, once.”
Padme kisses him on the forehead and lets him cry, the same way she let Leia weep into her shoulder all the night before.
“I should’ve done it,” he said. “I shouldn’t have made you be the one to– after all this time… It should have been me.”
“No,” she says. Then she pulls him to his feet and takes him to see their children. Luke is showing Leia a new trick he learned with astrodroid circuits and Leia is trying to smile for him.
Padme leans on Obi Wan’s shoulder.
Maybe the Jedi failed Anakin. Attachment is forbidden, they said, and look what that had led to, after all– secret marriages and desperate lovers, things buried and buried until the pressure got too great. Padme knows Anakin Fell for her– her life, her safety, his fears.
But Padme has watched her children grow up, Luke in Leia’s shadow, both of them clinging to Obi Wan’s hands, even when they were too old to need someone to scare away the monsters.
At nineteen, Luke reads every scrounged-up old Jedi text– but he also knows the name of every rebel pilot and tech and child on the base. He says hello in binary to every droid he meets and asks after their day, even the ones who he knows will just say ‘adequate’ every single time.
Attachment is forbidden. When Alderaan was lost, Leia’s heart broke. It is breaking. Leia is trying to smile for her brother, standing on the oil-stained floor of the main hangar, grease on her hands.
Given the choice, Leia would not have traded purple irises for anything, no matter how it ended. She would have saved them, if she could, but she never would have given them up to save herself this. Leia will carry the Organa’s sunlit breakfast table all her life, the warmth of that home. She will carry Isabel’s voice to distant stars. Her heart will break again and again. She will not Fall.
Padme has been stripping Anakin’s fingerprints from her heart for years, bundling up memories and locking them away, burning them in the remembered redhot rock of that last planet where she loved him. Attachment is forbidden. If they listened, if they were good obedient children, none of this would have happened. She would not miss him. She would not flinch when people brushed too close to her neck, even when it was Obi Wan, even when it was her children.
If they listened, Padme’s chest would not have felt hollow the first time Luke had looked at her with motor oil on his chubby young cheek, age eight, a fixed droid humming to life under his fingers, as she remembered a smile just as bright on a young boy on Tatooine who had only wanted to help.
If they listened, good obedient children, she would never have caught her breath and knelt down to scrub the oil off her son’s cheek and Luke would never have snuggled into her lap while he listed off all the things he’d learned that day. She never would have seen Leia learn to fly, her whole face lighting up with it. She never would have seen Obi Wan’s face in the glow of starlight, watching Leia’s hands on the controls, looking almost at peace.
Maybe the Jedi failed Anakin, but they had failed so many people. They had been wrong. They had failed Padme, queen, senator, mother, all her worlds abandoned; Qui-Gon, who had only wanted to do right by the children; Obi Wan, who had lost father and teacher, then brother, then world. They had failed these children. The Jedi would have left them orphaned no matter if Anakin Fell or Padme lived– they would have given them to teachers and masters, to a frigid code. The Jedi had failed them, but they had caught each other.
And they would have caught Anakin, if he had let them. Padme had been ready. She had met a boy in a desert. She had loved him in a meadow, all green grass and sunlight. She had married him on the shores of the lakes where she had spent her childhood running free, while he had spent his in a dry waste– he had grown up trapped, clever, loved, with motor oil on his palms and every calorie his mother could scrounge up ladled onto his plate.
Padme had lost him standing on stone, wreathed in fire, the red smell of lava in the air. Luke and Leia had been curled together in her belly, unnamed, and she had wanted to save him. She had wanted him to be worth saving so badly. She had wanted him to be worth her swollen ankles and the weight of secret years and the way Obi Wan had looked hollowed-out in their empty living room, telling her Anakin had Fallen.
She had wanted to catch him. She would have been ready.
Padme leans on Obi Wan’s shoulder. Luke has motor oil on his cheek and Leia is trying to smile for him. They are too young to have to carry these things, but they will carry them. They will carry each other through this.
In a few minutes, someone will come rushing in to beg Luke’s help on an exploded sink or a sad droid or a coughing engine. Leia will find some work to bury herself in until she has to come up for air, to remember, to learn to live through it.
Padme breathes in– oil and sweat, life smells, living smells. She has paperwork and missions, her handmaidens demanding a lunch so they can see how she’s faring. But for this moment, here they all are, standing here in the shadow of battered old X-Wings, something like victorious.
Her children learned to walk in fear, in the bellies of freighters, in camps on green planets and in buried homes on frozen ones. There are bits in Leia now that came from Alderaan, and things in Luke he found in the hearts of engines, the circuits of droids.
Padme ran, once, because her children deserved a universe, and here they have one. They will carry these things all their lives. They will carry each other, catch each other, and that will be enough.