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This Place Will Love You Back

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Ama,” Leia yells from where she’s perched at the top of a sand dune, her battered metal sled poised to bring her down. “Ama, I found something!”

“No, I found it,” Luke says, scrambling up the dune, kicking flurries of sand every which way. “She pushed me into some dirt!”

Padmé laughs at her children—it’s the only thing she can do. It’s the only thing she can ever do when she looks upon her babies. She’s never raised her voice, never spanked them. She simply doesn’t have it in her to do anything but love them. “Show me, and be careful, loves.”

The sun burns hot on Tatooine, but that’s not unusual. Beru is due over later with the weekly water rations, which Padmé pays for with paper and books. She took nothing but her library with her when she escaped to the desert planet she only knew so fleetingly so many years ago—chests and trunks full of words. They may be a lost art, but if anything can be used as currency, it is knowledge. While the babies sleep, she spends most of her nights transcribing them to data-pads and memory bases, making sure to preserve her planet’s history, even though she knows she cannot return.

She still has a duty towards Naboo, and even more than that, she has an intense love.

“Look,” Leia says, holding out a piece of shiny material in her chubby fist. “A jewel!” She sends her sled skidding beneath the lookout deck on their red-clay home, making sure it returns to the place where it is safest from thieves.

Padmé hikes Leia up on her hip, holding her close. “Bring it up to the light.” Luke clutches at her skirts, wanting to be held as well, but they’re getting too big to fit in her arms together, so Padmé sits down in the sand so she can be with them both.

“Is it priceless?” Luke’s stare is inquisitive and far too serious for a boy his age. His quietness perfectly matches his sister’s fire, and Padmé knows they will grow up to be a formidable team.

It is not a jewel—Padme knows that much. It is only glass, made from lightning-struck sand during the last violent storm. On its smooth surface, she catches a glimpse of herself. The sun has not been kind—she’s never tanned before, always hidden beneath the shade of veils and fans, and the sun turns her skin a painful red. Her hair is sheared short and covered in a cloth to prevent travelers from recognizing her, and her once-thin arms and legs are banded in muscle from walking the dunes.

But beneath the weather-weary face is something she hardly recognizes. Gone is the pain she felt for so long after her heart was broken; gone is the fear for her children’s lives. She still has those fears, sure. They’ll never dissipate, not as long as Darth Vader continues to fight away at Anakin Skywalker. But there’s a newfound peace inside of her—a peace that wasn’t possible when she once wanted to give up on life.

She has Beru, a strong and quiet woman whose life may be small but whose heart is fierce. She has Owen Lars, a gruff man who has seen too much pain for Padmé to ever understand, but who still comes by every day to kiss the children.

And she has her old friend watching her from afar, his sad eyes hidden by the hood of his cloak, his pain hidden as well as hers. But sometimes, when he thinks she’s not looking, Obi-Wan will smile at her, and the galaxy is a new and wondrous place again.

“Yes, it is,” she says, smiling at Luke, closing Leia’s hand around the polished glass. “It’s priceless.”