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An Alternate Path

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A few days after her Day of Demand and the day after Leia’s failed mission to Wobani saw Leia drinking caf and wearing all-terrain gear as she headed towards the mountains on a suborbital jumper.

After Wobani, Leia had been craving a more physical, material challenge. Her first pathfinding class, taking place among Alderaan’s mountains, would help her with that. Success and failure would be as solid as the rock beneath her feet.

The jumper reached the coordinates and Leia hopped off, pausing a moment to take in her surroundings, the weight of her backpack on her shoulders, before joining the other students that had already arrived.

A slim, dark-skinned boy with aquiline features raised an eyebrow. “Wait – aren’t you the princess? How did you end up flying here in that old barge?” He spoke with an aristocratic accent.

While none of the royal family stood on ceremony except when diplomatic protocol demanded it, proclaiming that she was not too good to be riding on a jumper was basically the same as indicating that she was. Instead, Leia simply shrugged. “They were heading this way. And yes, I’m Leia Organa.”

“Chassellon Stevis of Coruscant.” Leia laughed as he bowed in an overly elaborate fashion, twirling his outstretched hand at the wrist. “My mother heads our diplomatic legation, as you probably know – and now you and I follow our parents into the family business.”

When Breha Organa had arranged this class, she had invited a number of the other new members of the Apprentice Legislature to participate, the rationale being that Leia get to know a few people her age outside of Coruscant’s sparkling, but artificial, social whirl. To Leia, it felt more like her mother was hurriedly trying to find her daughter some friends, so she did not have to feel guilty about ignoring her. That was assuming she even did feel guilty.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Leia said with what she hoped was ease. The diplomatic polish her parents had still eluded her from time to time. She did know the exact moment to turn to the next person though.

And so, Leia started making the rounds, introducing herself and memorizing her classmates’ names and faces. It was nothing new to her, though there was nothing that stood out to her about anyone she had met so far.

But then she turned to the next student and froze.

She was human, that much was certain. She was tall and gangly, her hair an acid green making Leia wonder briefly if she was from Iloh, but her outfit screamed that she liked to stand out. The bright clash of colours paired with the pink antique goggles made Leia want to squint but had also apparently rendered her speechless. She was uncertain whether it was due to shock, or intrigue.

Finally, Leia managed to get herself to say something. “Hi, I’m Leia Organa.”

“Of Alderaan,” the girl finished. Her tone was curiously even, but not unnerving Leia found. It certainly added to the intrigue she was feeling.

“Um, yeah.” Leia cursed her awkwardness for a moment. “And you are?”

“Amilyn Holdo of Gatalenta.” That even tone of voice staying steady. “Thank your mom for inviting me to the class.”

Okay, a normal conversation, Leia could do this. “Are you looking forward to trying pathfinding?”

“Definitely.” Leia caught herself noticing how pretty her smile was and wondered what was wrong with her. “I hope it’s dangerous! I want to get more comfortable with the nearness and inevitability of death.”

Now Leia was not certain if she was more intrigued or concerned, she just knew that this was the second time in less than five minutes this girl had rendered her speechless which was unheard of, usually she was quite eloquent. She just smiled and nodded, thinking that she would just observe Amilyn from afar today, where she did not have any control over Leia’s climbing ropes.

The arrival of the final students and the instructor then caught Leia’s attention, and among them she noticed the one person it was most important she know, or at least get along with. She approached him, “you’re Kier Domadi, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Your Highness.” Kier spoke with the deference that Leia was quite accustomed to. She also noticed that, while a bit different looking, Kier was fairly handsome, but that was an afterthought.

“Looks like we’re to be podmates in the Apprentice Legislature, I guess we’ll be spending a fair amount of time together.” They would have to collaborate a lot. Leia was praying that she had made a good first impression, she wanted this to as painless as possible.

“I look forward to it,” Kier was hard to read but Leia sensed he was being sincere.

Leia smiled, it looked like this would be painless. “I’m glad to see it looks like we’ll get along. I’m lucky to have you as my podmate.”

“Luck didn’t have anything to do with my being here.” His gaze was intense, and starting to make Leia feel a bit uncomfortable. “I guess it didn’t have anything to do with you being here either.”

Leia had to restrain herself from recoiling, did Kier not think that she had earned her spot in the Apprentice Legislature? She wanted to argue that she had interned with her father for two years and was intimately familiar with the workings of the Senate, that she worked just as hard as anyone and even harder than most. But Wobani still haunted her thoughts, keeping her silent.

Kier’s expression clouded, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything –”

“It’s fine,” Leia interrupted him. She turned away and pushed away her self-doubts. She knew she would have to work things out with Kier if they were to cooperate during the Apprentice Legislature, but she would be damned to let him believe that he could make her upset. Thankfully the instructor had just called them to attention.


Several hours later, and Leia was starting to question why she had chosen the Challenge of the Body that she did. Looking around at her classmates she saw several sitting on boulders or leaning against trees. Including Kier, Leia noticed smugly. At least he knew that she was not weaker than him. There were only two students that seemed unaffected were Sssamm of Fillithar.

And surprisingly, Amilyn Holdo. The intrigue that Leia had been feeling before reappeared and she wondered how this one girl could keep inciting this feeling from her. These thoughts stayed in the back of her mind as Chief Pangie addressed the class.

At least until they were given four hours to return to the chalet.


Leia did not know what the intended exercise Chief Pangie had in mind was, but what she did know was that it was turning into an utter disaster. Everyone was getting annoyed with each other, tempers were starting to flare, and they were still ways away from the chalet.

The only person whose mood seemed to remain unaffected was again, Amilyn, who was currently perched upon a stump looking for snow owls. Leia made a note to bring her back up here sometime – with a hoversled – so they she may see one. Again, what was with this one girl -

At that point, Harp fell over a drift and broke her ankle, and half the class opted to go out without helping her. Leia’s thoughts would have to wait, they now needed to find a way to help Harp down the mountain, and she had four people looking to her to be their leader.


“I’m sorry you’re hurting,” Amilyn said as she pulled the makeshift travois Kier had constructed. “But there’s a bright side too. Who would’ve guessed we’d encounter mortal peril so soon?” Leia felt a brief flash of concern coupled with that intrigue come over her.

Harp made a face, “I hope this isn’t quite ‘mortal’ peril.”

“It will be if we stumble into a crevasse!” Harp looked around nervously while Leia grimaced, good thing she knew where those were located, and they would avoid them. She looked at the sky, they might not make it back before nightfall, but at least Harp would be safe. But if she was expelled she would fail her Challenge of the Body, and she did not know what would happen after if she did.

“I’m sorry everyone.” Harp appeared to be fighting back tears. “I’ve always done everything to be at the top, but making a stupid mistake like this… I guess I’m not used to failing.”

“Then this is the best class you’ve ever had,” it was Kier that spoke. “Nobody learns anything new without failing the first few times they try. You have to face that and figure out how to get back up again. That means learning how to fail is the most important lesson of all.”

Leia, who had identified with what Harp had said, let that absorb. Maybe she could learn to think of failure as something positive. But right now, she had to keep going.

“The others probably aren’t that far ahead of us,” Kier had fallen in next to her. “We might make it by sundown.”

“I guess it’s possible,” Leia doubted it though. “Thanks for doing the travois by the way.”

He shrugged, “it wasn’t a big deal. My historical anthropology teacher always made us do these things by hand, so we could see how much intelligence they take. If you ever need a flint knife, I can knap one for you.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope we won’t have need for one. Still, I appreciate it, you didn’t have to stay and help.”

Kier glanced at her, “but you did.”

“What?”

“Have to stay.”

“Why? Because of my status?” Was he trying to make working together difficult? “That has nothing to do with anything, I’d always stay with someone in need of help.”

“That’s not what I-” Kier paused, avoiding Leia’s eyes. He was shy, she realized, not standoffish. “I’m sorry, I’m not always the best at saying exactly what I mean.”
Leia felt calmer now, and also a bit curious. “Well why don’t you try to explain what you mean?”

There was a long pause, “I guess that what I meant is quite similar, but status wasn’t the word I had in mind. I meant your royal role means you have to stay.”

Yep, no difference. But for the sake of their cooperation in the Apprentice Legislature she decided to hear him out. “Because people hold a princess to a higher standard.”

“No, because you hold yourself to a higher standard.” He glanced at her, likely gauging her reaction before continuing. “We hear a lot about how the House of Organa dedications everything to the good of the people.”

“We do.”

“And it’s not just propaganda on Alderaan like it would be much everywhere else. Therefore, you don’t really get to choose between staying or going. Like you don’t have a choice in whether to be in the Apprentice Legislature or not.”

“You think I got stuck with that?” Well, better the he think this than he think she did not rightfully earn her spot there. “Trust me, I can’t wait to get back to the Senate.”

Kier looked at her curiously, “really? Or do you just think you should?”

“I understand my own motivations perfectly well, thank you very much.” Leia could hear the angry edge to her voice. The ability to choose her own future was alien to her, but that did not mean that she did not enjoy what she did.

“Well,” Kier smiled at her. “Looks like I got the best possible partner to work with then.” Leia relaxed and smiled back, maybe they could be friends.

“Look at this,” Amilyn called from the front of the group. They had come out of the forest to a clearing, ending in a steep slope.

Leia looked around and easily spotted the path they had taken west of them. “That’s the path we came up.”

Amilyn had shrugged off the straps of the travois and was digging in her pack, “when I was a girl I used to love tobogganing.”

Under the right circumstances that sounded like it could be a lot of fun, but Leia was not understanding the relevance at this moment in time. “Once we get back on the path it’ll be too uneven for the travois.” She looked around, “Kier, do you think you could carry Harp?” He nodded, though he looked quite wary.

Amilyn spoke up again, “what I loved best about tobogganing is how fast we could go.” Leia was about to ask what she was going on about, when Amilyn pulled something out of her pack. She tossed it on the ground and it popped up into an emergency tent. She stepped on a corner and bent to tether two of the flexible poles together. “See, if we can flatten it out -”

“- we’d have a toboggan big enough to carry all of us,” Leia finished. “Amilyn, that’s brilliant!” Amilyn smiled at her and Leia felt a flutter in her stomach – wait, what?

Her thoughts were interrupted by Kier, “it’s too dangerous.” He knelt next to Amilyn and shook his head. “We’d pick up speed quickly, and with that much weight on board, it would be hard to steer. If we crash we could all end up with broken ankles, the field generators can only protect us from so much.”

Sssamm had slithered closer as Kier spoke. Now, he curled onto the tent-toboggan, expanding to hold out the edges and lifting the last unfastened flap into a sail. He tested out the steering, proving that it would work. A smile spread across Kier’s face, and Amilyn started clapping.

Harp finally spoke, “can we try it?”

They all looked to Leia, she really should have said that they did not need her permission. Instead she started laughing, “let’s do this.”

The decent was a blur. There were a couple of moments where Leia thought they would topple over, or where Harp yelped in pain, but mostly everyone was laughing. Leia could not remember the last time she had had fun like this. And having like this with people her own age? She realized that she may never have.

Of course, the satisfaction of seeing the other team’s faces as they returned to the chalet was also a very nice bonus. As they were given their extra duty she high-fived Kier, smiling at Amilyn as she caught her eye.


Leia returned to the palace, elated from the day, her cheeks sore from all the grinning. She immediately went to tell her parents about her day, only to be informed that they were in a conference about their next banquet and were not to be disturbed by anyone. Including Leia.

She deflated, feeling her good mood vanish. She was forgotten yet again.

.

Chapter Text

Leia’s gloom had stuck with her.  Even her return to Coruscant that she had so been looking forward to could not fully lift her mood.

She had cut it a bit finer than she had intended, slipping into her pod just as the first fanfare was playing.  Kier looked over at her as she took her seat, “I was beginning to wonder if you weren’t coming.”

She leaned a bit closer to him so he could hear her, “why wouldn’t I be?”

“You weren’t early, in fact you’re barely on time,” he observed.

Leia looked down, “normally I would be.”  As if sensing Leia’s mood, Kier patted her wrist comfortingly instead of questioning why she would not be early in this case.  The first speech began, and the pair fell silent for the duration.

Leia pretended to not notice Kier’s lack of applause.

 

There was an informal reception afterwards, meant for the members of the Apprentice Legislature to mingle and meet people they had not previously met, but the members of Leia’s pathfinding class came together anyway.

“Good to back in civilization, don’t you think?”  Chassellon Stevis greeted her with a broad smile.

“I like this better than being stuck halfway up a mountain, if that’s what you mean,” Leia smiled back.

“Isn’t this exciting?” Harp was practically bouncing on the spot.  “Senator Lenz says he’ll even introduce me to Grand Moff Tarkin personally, later on.”

“Your senator came?”  Leia’s stomach dropped, her father had never mentioned the possibility.

“He said he wanted to get me off to a good start,” Harp glanced around and pointed out Senator Lenz who was speaking to a military official.  Looking around, Leia saw a number of senators mingling in the crowd.  Her stomach clenched, her father could have been there, he just did not think it was important.

Kier interjected, “it’s all good, Senator Organa got our princess off to a good start a few years ago.”

“He could have come here for you,” Leia pointed out, trying to stamp down her bad mood.

“Hey now, I’ve got you for that, don’t I?”

Leia was saved from having to respond by Amilyn walking by and acknowledging them, “we meet again.”  Her hair was pale blue with orange tips this time, her outfit just as colourful as her pathfinding one.  She did not stop to chat, but rather went on to the snacks.  Leia could appreciate a girl who knew her priorities.

Kier leaned over to her and muttered, “that’s definitely not the preferred scarlet cloak of Gatalenta.”

“She just goes her own way, nothing wrong with that.”  Leia spoke honestly, from a galactic perspective there was no such thing as weird anyway, and Amilyn obviously had no issues being herself.  She appreciated that in a person.

“So, how much do you think we’ll get to do in the Apprentice Legislature?  I know we have a few real tasks put before us, but how much do you think the Empire will listen to our recommendations?”  It was Harp that spoke, likely to cover up the silence that had fallen over the group.

“Probably about as much as they listen to the Imperial Senate.  In other words, hardly at all.”  Kier scoffed.

“Hey!”  Leia protested, “we work hard in the Senate.  My father puts in ten-hour days sometimes-”

“Senator Lenz does too!”  Harp added in.

Kier held up his hands in defense, “let’s just say I have more faith in the viceroy’s leadership on Alderaan than I do any leadership on Coruscant.”

“Don’t go sounding like a radical, it’s so gauche.”  Chassellon said.  Leia refrained from adding that it could also be dangerous, and looked around quickly for an escape.

“I suppose we should work our way around to the guest speaker,” Leia nodded towards Tarkin.  “Might as well get that over with.”

“Sounds like a bore,” Chassellon shrugged indifferently.  “We should ditch this place and find ourselves some real fun.”

Kier shook his head, “nah, I need to get settled in my dormitory room.”

Amilyn had drifted over to them again, “I want to keep soaking up the atmosphere here.  If you don’t let the gases in a new planet’s air sink into your skin organically, it can cause disturbances in your dreams.”  Leia did not know what half that meant, but she was glad someone would still be around, and that that person was Amilyn.

“Well, I’d best introduce myself to the Grand Moff, my father would expect me to.  I guess I’ll see you all later.”  Leia went to join the receiving line, ignoring the voice in her head telling her that father would not have a clue whether or not she had introduced herself.

 

Leia stood in the crowd after speaking to Tarkin, unmoving and unspeaking, not certain what to think.

“Are you okay?”  A voice broke into Leia’s reverie.  She turned her head to see a concerned looking Amilyn at her shoulder.

“I’m fine,” Leia said shortly.  As much as she was glad to see Amilyn, she did not wish to talk then.

“You know, usually when someone says they’re fine, they’re really not.”  Amilyn certainly was smarter than first impressions would make it seem, Leia noticed.  And definitely very observant.

“I don’t know what I am right now,” Leia confessed.  “But I think I’m going to head back the apartments.”

Amilyn nodded and patted Leia’s shoulder, “well if you figure out what you’re feeling and want to let it out, you can find me here and there.”  Leia gave Amilyn a small smile before she drifted back into the crowd, leaving Leia with her thoughts once more.

 

Leia had stayed up late hoping to see her father to no avail.  She guessed that he must have returned to Alderaan briefly or was offworld on a fact-finding mission, opting to not ask her to go along with him since she would be busy with the Apprentice Legislature. 

As such, she was surprised to see him at the table having breakfast the next morning.  He looked up and seemed just as surprised to see her.  “Leia?  You’re here on Coruscant already?”

“Of course, the Apprentice Legislature came into session.”

“Wait, I thought that was…” He paused and then grimaced, “yesterday.”

“Yeah,” the fact that he felt bad made her feel a bit better but not a huge amount.

Bail sighed, “well I can’t say I’m sorry to have missed the speeches.  But I’m sorry I wasn’t there with you.”  He gestured for her to sit down, and began slicing her a few pieces of the fruit bread sitting on the table.  She grabbed a cup of caf and sat down.  He raised an eyebrow, “they say caf stunts your growth.”

“My growth is already stunted.  If I’m stuck being short, I might as well have the caf.”

Bail laughed, and Leia could not help but smile.

“Well we don’t have a lot of time, but tell me about the other apprentices.  There must be a few who stand out.”

Leia decided to start with her partner, “well there’s Kier Domadi -”

“The other representative from Alderaan?”  Bail interrupted her.  “His mother’s a professor who teaches at Archipelago University.  What about him?”

Leia shrugged, “I thought he was standoffish at first, but really he’s just shy.  He’s definitely shaping up to be a good partner to have in this though.  And then there’s Chassellon Stevis, from Coruscant, who’s totally full of himself.”

“Shocking,” Bail deadpanned.  The two had the same opinion of most Coruscant natives.

Leia continued, “and there’s Amilyn Holdo, of Gatalenta.  She’s,” a fond smile crossed Leia’s face as she searched for the right word.  “Different.  Not afraid to be herself.  She comes across a bit odd, but I quite like her so far.”

“Well I’m glad you’re not writing her off too quickly,” Bail said affectionately.  “You really are growing up.”  With that he stood, draining the rest of his caf.

“You’re leaving already?”  Leia could not hide the disappointment in her voice, it had felt like so long since she had gotten to talk with her father.

“I have a meeting with Mon Mothma first thing this morning,” his tone of voice told Leia his head was already there.  “Then the session, and afterwards I’m taking the Tantive IV on a fact-finding mission for a week or two.”

“That’s a long time.”  Leia had stayed in the Coruscant apartments on her own before, but only for a night or two and even then 2V had always been with her.

Bail put a hand on her shoulder, “you’ll be just fine here.  No wild parties while I’m gone though.”

The thought made Leia laugh, but Bail’s attention was already elsewhere.  He absentmindedly kissed her forehead before quickly exiting the apartment.  Leia looked around, the apartments had always felt small when compared to the palace she had been raised in.

But when she was alone, they felt too big.

 

The Apprentice Legislature’s first real session began with introductions.  Leia thanked the gods that only forty worlds sent representatives, as she paid careful attention to each.  Her head was already beginning to hurt, she could not imagine having to go through this with thousands of people.

Chassellon Stevis had talked about restoring antique landspeeders to luxury standards and how it could take a while to hunt down the right parts.  Leia noted with surprise that he was more patient than she would have thought.

Amilyn had woven feathers into her blue braids, “I like comparing different planets’ traditional astrological charts to see if they agree on the influences exercised by various stars.  The parallels are uncanny!”  Leia could not possibly think of a more suitable hobby for this girl, and briefly wondered what Amilyn could tell her of the similarities of their two planets before going back to paying attention to the introductions.

Eventually they reached the Alderaan pod and Leia gestured for Kier to go first.  “I plan to be a historian, specializing in the Clone Wars era, so I take part in Clone Wars reenactments whenever I can.  I usually play a clone SCUBA trooper whenever aquatic battle comes up.”  This surprised Leia, she had known he liked history but had imagined that he would spend his spare time bent over books.  She noted that while he came across as shy and silent, he had a fighting spirit.

The lights fell on her and Leia stood, thankful for her public speaking experience.  “I’m Leia Organa, princess of the ruling house of Alderaan, heir to the crown, and now a member of the Apprentice Legislature.  Since I expect to be involved with the Imperial Senate throughout my life, I’m glad to be able to make a start here, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you all.”  There, she mentioned the royal status, but had essentially glossed over it so that hopefully no one would dwell on it.

“Say something personal,” Kier whispered.  She glanced at him, and he simply gestured for her to continue.

Leia quickly took a deep breath, steeling herself to say… she did not know.  Until that moment, she had not realized her lack of personal interests, everything was about her duties or her future.  Finally, she said, “I like storms.  Thunderstorms I mean.  I like to watch them.”  She sat down and groaned quietly as the next pod began their introductions.  She caught Kier looking at her, “mine was the dumbest one,” she murmured.

Kier shook his head, “what yours was, is honest.  Everyone here is puffing themselves up, myself included.  We all just want to seem better somehow, while you spoke from the heart.  That takes courage.”  Leia gave him a small smile, he may be awkward but Kier seemed like a nice guy, and hopefully a good friend.  She turned back to the introductions, picking up each little clue about a person she could.

What would anyone be able to tell about her, from the fact that she liked thunderstorms?

Chapter Text

Maybe Leia could be a courier in her parents’ rebellion she thought.  If she was somewhere offworld where nobody knew she was a princess, no one would pay attention to her because they would think she was too young to be doing anything of importance.  She could deliver critical secret messages without anyone noticing -

“Watch it!”  Kier yelled as Leia slipped on her foothold.  Leia was able to compensate in time, but hearing rocks rattle down the mountainside her pathfinding class was practicing rock-climbing on was sobering.

Amilyn, who had been dangling from a climbing rope a couple of metres away, swung over towards her, now purple hair poking out from under her climbing helmet.  “I understand the urge to explore extreme terror,” she said in her peculiar monotone, “but maybe this isn’t the time.”

“I got distracted,” well it was not a lie.  Amilyn gave her an airy smile before swinging back to her original place, Leia attributed her heart rate to the near fall, it was definitely not because of this girl.

“Pull it together over there,” shouted Chief Pangie from the back of the group.  “We need to end this trip with the same number of princesses we started with!”

“Sorry!  It won’t happen again,” Leia called back.

“Yeah, it will,” Kier muttered.

Leia looked at him, “excuse me?”

His face was impassive, but his eyes were curious, “it’s true.  Your head’s been somewhere else all day.  I can appreciate that whatever it is is probably important, but you may want to focus on not falling down this mountain right now.”

“I don’t see how it’s any of your business how I climb,” Leia insisted.

“Maybe normally it wouldn’t be, but right now we’re roped together,” he pointed out.  “If you fall, I’m likely going down with you.”

That snapped Leia completely back to their present surroundings.  A fall may not be fatal thanks to the force fields projected below them, but she was not about to put anyone at risk, even if she did find Kier slightly annoying at times.

Upon finally making it to the top a short time later, Chassellon spoke up, “we’re taking a hopper down from here, aren’t we?  Right?  There’s got to be a hopper.”  He was covered in sweat and his usually well-tended hair was a mess.

“Weak, Stevis.”  Chief Pangie already had her lunch out, “can’t act weak if you want to be strong.”

He folded his arms, “I’m rich.  I don’t have to be strong.”

“You never know when you’re going to lose all your money,” Amilyn pointed out as she removed her helmet and shook her purple hair free – Leia again felt that, now familiar, stomach flutter.  Chassellon just looked at her like she has described the end of the world.

Leia took a seat at the far edge of the plateau, she knew she was filthy, but she felt exhilarated.  If she could show her parents that she was not afraid of risks, maybe they would let her try.  But she remembered how afraid they were for her and did not want to push them.

But how could she not stand against the Empire?

She felt someone come up next to her, “can I sit here?” 

Leia turned to see Kier, standing next to her.  She shrugged, “I don’t own the mountain.”

“That’s right, we’re not on Alderaan anymore.”

She sighed in exasperation, “I don’t own the mountains on Alderaan either.”

He didn’t look up, “no, they own you.”

Leia was starting to get annoyed.  “What are you getting at, Kier?”

“On Alderaan, you’re stuck being a princess all the time.  On Coruscant, you’re a senator in training.  But here, when we’re climbing – I think that’s when you most get to be yourself.”

Damn Kier, she had not thought of it that way before.  “Why are you so worried about whether or not I’m happy being a princess?”

It was not exactly what Kier had in mind, but he rolled with it.  “Well you are the future ruler of my planet.  I guess I’m curious about what you’re really like, and now I have to chance to learn.”

“I guess that does make sense,” Leia admitted.

“That’s not your only reason,” came Amilyn’s voice.  Leia turned to see her sitting on a boulder that loomed over the ridge.  So, she was observant and stealthy, interesting.  “But it’s a good excuse.  Maybe go with that.”

“Can’t ‘go with’ it if you’re blowing my cover,” Kier grumbled good-naturedly.  Amilyn simply shrugged and went back to her lunch.  Leia wondered if Amilyn meant what she was thinking she meant.  Kier was a nice guy, if a bit annoying sometimes, and Leia thought of him as a friend, but she hoped that he was not hoping for anything more.  She would have to set the record straight soon if that was the case.

So, when Kier offered to help with sharpshooting, she accepted.  She knew he was making an excuse to spend time with her, but she had to find out his motivation.  Besides, she wanted to be friends, and this seemed like a good way to get to know him outside of the Apprentice Legislature or pathfinding.

 

Back on Coruscant, two days later, Leia and Kier walked into a target practice area for their first sharpshooting session.  Leia was a bit wary, but she would be lying if she said she was not looking forward to it.

She noticed the floor was springy beneath her feet, similar to a gymnastics mat, and bounced on her heels slightly.  Kier chuckled, “you can request a softer surface, so you can get used to judging your terrain without relying on a flat, solid floor every time.”

She nodded, “let’s do this.”

“Show me your firing stance,” he said, and Leia went into the position she had seen the guards take several times.  Kier appraised it for a second and raised his eyebrows, clearly impressed.  “Okay, so you’ve got this part down already.”

Leia shrugged, “I’ve observed the guards take this position many times in my life, I was just copying what I saw.”

“Still,” Kier replied.  “Let’s try a simulation.  Run simulation one.”

A small polyhedron appeared overhead, on Kier’s side of the arena.  He immediately fired at it and it “shattered”.  The transparent scoreboard hovering above them showed ten points.

“Wait, we’re scoring this?”  Leia adjusted her grip.

“Yep, unless you’re not up for the challenge of course.”  Kier smirked.

Not one to back down from a challenge, she pointed her weapon and fired at the next floating polyhedron, clipping it.  She fired again and finished it, scoring five points.

“Oh, it’s on.”

The next hour passed in a blur of polyhedrons and blaster shots.  Leia could only wing her targets at first until she realized she was leading left.  Once she was able to adjust for that, her scores began to rise dramatically.  When the lights came up, she noticed she had significantly closed the gap between her and Kier, though she was still thirty points behind.  “If I’d had just a few more minutes,” she panted, “I would have caught up to you.”

She expected him to argue but instead he said, “yeah, you would have.  I think you’ll have to add this to your long list of talents.”

Leia raised an eyebrow, “well we’ll just have to practice again so I can beat you.”

Kier grinned, “you’re on.”

No closer to figuring out Kier’s motivations, she decided just to ask.  “Why did you offer to tutor me in sharpshooting?”

Kier looked down, seemingly avoiding her eye.  “It seemed like fun.  And a good way to get to know you better.”

“In what way?”

Kier looked up, “as a friend,” he reassured her.  Looking down again, “and as an ally.”

This confused Leia, “an ally?”

Kier almost seemed to shrink, “I guess I thought that if the Princess of Alderaan accepted me for who I am, it would be easier to tell my parents.”

Leia had an idea of what he meant now, but asked him anyway.  “Easier to tell your parents what?”  Kier hesitated.  “I promise I won’t judge.  Well, unless your secret is that you killed someone, then I’m required by law to judge.”

The joke had its intended effect, Kier seemed to relax for the most part.  “I thought that if I could confess to you that I’m gay and you accepted it, it would make it a lot easier to tell my parents.”

Leia could only react one way, she hugged him.  After a second to get over the shock, Kier hugged her back, Leia could feel the relief radiating off him.  “Thank you for trusting me with this.  But I have to ask, why me?”

“Well logically, you’re the other Alderaanian in both the Apprentice Legislature and in the pathfinding class so we see a lot of each other.”  A mischievous smile crossed his face, “besides, I’ve seen the way you look at Amilyn Holdo.”

Leia was taken aback, “what do you mean by that?”

Kier’s smile grew.  “Take it anyway you want.”

 

 Leia took the Polestar back to Alderaan that night, her mind swimming with thoughts of target practice, Kier, and what Kier had said to her.  Of course, this being the first time in months Leia came in without wondering where her parents were or if they would notice her return, they were waiting for her when she entered the library.

“We were hoping you’d be here for dinner, it’s been too long since we ate as a family.  And you look hungry.”

Was that what she looked like?  She would have thought she looked more thoughtful than that.  She sat up straighter in the chair she had been slouching in, trying not to look like anything.

She failed.  “Really?  To me she looks happy.”  Breha was only a few steps behind Bail.  “What did you do today?”

“Sharpshooting.  Kier and I practiced together.  It’s something of a hobby for him, and I thought it sounded like it could be fun.”  Probably best not to mention that it also sounded like good practice for combat.

Her parents exchanged a glance.  “Kier?”  Bail asked.  “As in Kier Domadi from the Apprentice Legislature?”

“And from the pathfinding class,” Breha added.

Leia held back the smirk that threatened to cross her face.  Best to let her parents think whatever they were thinking for now.  “Yeah that’s him.  He won this time, but I nearly caught up to him.  I think I might be good at this, at least enough to best him next time I hope.”

“We might have a target shooting champion on our hands,” Breha said to Bail, wide smile on her face.  “Do you think she could compete incognito?”

Until she wins her first major match,” Bail pulled Breha close.  “Then we have to announce our daughter’s latest brilliant talent.”

After so long without her parents’ approval Leia felt like she could drink up the warmth it made her feel.  “By the way, I’m leaving for my next humanitarian mission tomorrow.”

Breha folded her arms across her chest theatrically.  “Nowhere dangerous, in any sense?”

“Onoam,” she answered.  “It’s a moon actually.  Mining conditions there are rough, so I’m taking them new safety equipment.  That’s all this time, I promise.”

Breha relaxed, “that should be fine.”

Bail’s brow furrowed in thought, “Onoam.  I think I’ve heard of it – years ago, maybe -”

He was interrupted by the appearance of Captain Antilles.  “Viceroy?  Your Majesty?  We should speak in your office.”  He had the tense, distracted look that Leia was starting to recognize.  Her parents walked out without another word.  Leia was not offended this time.  She knew what this was about, and she knew she had to earn her way into those conversations.  Her humanitarian trip was a critical step towards that goal.  What place could be further from anti-Imperial activity than Palpatine’s home planet?  Her parents would be joyed to hear of her trip to the Naboo system.

Still, she lied in bed that night wondering about the whole thing.  But more so, she thought of what Kier had said to her about Amilyn Holdo, and why it could possibly be weighing on her mind so much.

Chapter Text

Leia’s next, fully approved, mission had been a success and had left her with a story that she could not wait to tell Kier.  She wondered briefly, if she might be able to get a laugh out of Amilyn with it as well.

When she entered the antechamber of the Apprentice Legislature she quickly spotted Kier and went to make her way towards him.  Until Amilyn appeared in front of her, her hair now green, and a tragic expression on her face.  Leia felt a rush of concern, there had to be something she could do, she hated seeing this look on Amilyn’s face.

It suddenly hit Leia what Kier had meant.

“It’s a time of great mourning.”  Amilyn said, taking Leia’s hands.  She ignored the jolt that went through her, now was not the time.  “I know you grieve even as I do.”

“Did someone die?”  Leia hurriedly glanced around the room.  No one seemed to be missing.

“Leia,” Kier had made his way over, his voice barely above a whisper.  “I tried to reach you earlier, I didn’t want you to find this out in public.”

Leia’s stomach knotted, “find out what?”

“The Apprentice Legislature received a special commendation for recommending Arreyel for the new academy.”  Amilyn said, still holding Leia’s hands.  She felt confused, how was that bad news?

Kier put a comforting hand on her elbow.  “The first engineers who scouted the site found a radiation source well beneath the surface – shielded by rock, but that rock’s about to be blasted away so Arreyel can power massive new factories for the Empire.  As in, planet-wide factories.”

“They’re giving the populace six weeks to evacuate,” Amilyn added.  There was a sorrow in her eyes as she spoke.  “No compensation.”

Kier’s eyes narrowed in anger.  “Apparently Grand Moff Tarkin informed them that they were lucky not to be fined for concealing this from the Empire all along.”

Leia was horrified, but she suddenly saw clearly what was going on.  “It was a trap,” she whispered.  “They suspected the power source.  They knew we’d wind up picking Arreyel for the school.  Then they’d be able to use that excuse to run the intensive scans they needed to confirm what was under the surface.”  She almost felt sick.

“Probably,” Kier said.  “Leia, it’s not your fault.  I know it’s hard but don’t be upset.”

“It’s so not your fault, nobody else would ever blame you.”  Amilyn added, squeezing Leia’s hands.  “But you will, because that’s how you are.”  Leia knew silently that Amilyn was right, not that she was going to admit to it.

“I’m not upset,” Leia said.  And that was true, instead she was furious.  She had been tricked into doing the Empire’s dirty work for them.  Never again, she silently swore.

 

Leia felt as though she was in a haze.  By all official metrics, her first session of the Apprentice Legislature was a complete success.  But Amilyn was right and she could not stop blaming herself for the undoing of an entire world.  A number of the others had stopped by the Organas’ apartments a couple of times to try and drag Leia with them on one of Chassellon’s nightlife excursions but she turned them down each time.  It did not seem right to be going out and celebrating in light of what had occurred.

Kier tended to stay in with her, the pair watching mind-numbing holovids in silence.  Thankfully Kier seemed to know when Leia had no desire to talk.  It was the second night of watching holovids in silence, when the credits were running that Leia finally said something.

“I figured out what you meant.”

Kier looked at her questioningly.  “Figured out what I meant about what?”

Leia felt herself blushed and wished there was some way she could turn that off.  “What you meant when you told me that you’ve seen how I look at Amilyn.”

A knowing smile crossed Kier’s face.  “Oh?  And what led you to figure this out?”

“The day we found out about Arreyel.”  Kier did not quite wince, there was a lack of fond memories of that day all around.  “She just had this look on her face, like the most tragic thing had happened.”  Leia took a deep breath, “and I hated it.  In that moment all I could think is that I would do anything if it meant it wiped that look off her face.  That’s when it hit me.”

Kier was quiet for a moment, and then he let out a low whistle.  “Girl, you’ve got it bad.”  Leia laughed.  “Now there’s a sound I haven’t heard in a while, I was almost beginning to forget what it sounded like.”

Leia smacked him with a throw pillow, “be serious.”  She sobered, “so what do I do?”

Kier gave her an incredulous look, “what do you mean what do you do?”  As soon as he spoke he realized something.  “This is the first time that dating’s been a real possibility for you, isn’t it?”

Leia nodded, “the pathfinding class and the Apprentice Legislature are the most contact I’ve ever had with other people my age.  I thought it would be nice to spend time with people my age, make some new friends.  But I never expected this.”  Leia steeled herself for ridicule.  She had never been this honest with anyone outside of her parents, but somehow it felt right telling Kier this.

Kier’s response surprised her.  “Do you want to know what I think you should do?”  Leia nodded.  “Well, you’re spending your evenings holed up in here watching horridly bad holovids to keep your mind off things, right?”

“Okay first of all, they’re not horridly bad,” Kier raised an eyebrow.  “They’re mind-numbing, there’s a difference.  Second of all, not seeing the relevance.”

“Well the next logical step is to find a way to hang out with her.  Ask her what she does when she wants to clear her mind or take it off of something.  I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to show you.”

Leia nodded, “okay.  I can do this.”  She smirked, “so, anyone in the Apprentice Legislature catch your eye?”

Kier laughed, “oh no.  Right now is about getting you your girl.”

Leia laughed with him, “okay, I’ll bite.  But we are so coming back to this topic.”

Kier groaned, “fine.  But no setting me up.”

“No promises.”  Kier whacked her with a pillow and they dissolved into another fit of laughter.  Leia really was glad to have a friend like Kier.

 

Luck was on her side, and Leia managed to run into Amilyn the next day.

“Amilyn!”

She turned, “Oh, Leia!  It’s so good to see you.  How have you been since, well, everything?”

Leia grimaced, “if I’m being honest, not great.  That’s actually kind of why I wanted to talk to you.”

Amilyn smiled airily at her.  “You wish to know what I would do to cleanse my mind of such negative thoughts.”

Leia was taken aback a second, could Amilyn really read her that easily?  “Actually, yes.  Think you could help me?”

Amilyn’s smile broadened, “I know just the thing that will help.”

Chapter Text

Leia was beginning to wonder what she had gotten herself into.

“Imagine you’re carved of wood!”  Amilyn was holding herself firmly in the splits – something that Leia was finding a tad distracting – despite being suspended in midair by colourful scarves she had acrobatically twisted around each leg.  “Unbending!  Unyielding!”

“Okay,” Leia said uncertainly.  She had only just managed to wrangle herself into a seated position where she did not feel as though she would fall four metres to the floor at any second.

Amilyn’s mind-cleansing activity for Leia was apparently a Gatalentan calisthenics practice known as skyfaring, which was said to make their entire world stronger.   Supposedly so that advanced practitioners could meditate in place, “unmoored to the ground,” and so enhance their spiritual well-being and that of those around them.  Leia was starting to question if it was really more a question of survival of the fittest.  She was not sure if she would fit into that category.  So far as she could tell, skyfaring mostly involved pale blue leotards and a disregard for human life.

“All right, one leg out, you can do this.”  Leia muttered to herself as she awkwardly reached out with one foot trying to snag the nearest scarlet scarf.  Meanwhile Amilyn had easily unwound herself from the splits, keeping one leg tethered as she let her body fall until she was suspended upside down.  Amilyn’s long limbs often made her a bit awkward (endearingly so if you asked Leia), but in the air she was the epitome of grace.

“Remember, you’re made of wood.  Strong but organic!  Life force-made material!”

Leia kept repeating that to herself as she bent her knee and made a circle with her leg, capturing the scarf just right.  Encouraged, she eased herself into one of the lunging stances.  Her sides ached, but she could keep her balance.

“That’s it!”  Amilyn clapped her hands, magenta hair steaming down from her head like another scarf.  “You’re getting there!”

Leia felt a grin cross her face at the praise, giving her a rush of confidence.  She extended her arms to complete the pose –

- and then spun out like a cyclone before tumbling to the floor.  Fortunately, the floor was springy, contributing to a soft landing, but Leia still groaned as she flopped down, limbs splayed wide.

Amilyn quickly and elegantly spun out of the scarves and down to Leia, flowing into a kneeling position beside her.  “You didn’t hurt yourself, did you?”  She quickly scanned Leia for any injury.

Leia resisted the urge to put her arm over her eyes.  “I’m fine, I only drank deeply from the cup of humiliation.”

“Don’t be humiliated.”  Amilyn gave her a crooked grin, pulling her into a sitting position.  “You did very well for your first time, especially as an offworlder.  Even natives don’t get the swing of it until they’re five or six sometimes.”  Leia felt a sudden flash of concern for Gatalenta’s child mortality rate.

The skyfaring room was part of the Gatalentan senatorial complex, something they considered important enough to maintain along with their offices.  Leia supposed that made sense if this is what Amilyn immediately thought of when Leia went to her about mind-cleansing activities.  The Senate could be stressful, meditation was not really such a bad idea.

“Why don’t we try some floor stretches?”  Amilyn said, “to get you more used to the muscle combinations involved.”

Leia had the sense that she was being coddled somewhat, but her desire to avoid another tumble from the scarves overrode it.  “Let’s try that.”

Even so, Leia had to work to keep up.  Leia may have been lithe and flexible, but she had nothing on Amilyn, who could twist and turn her limbs in ways that seemed as though they should be impossible for species with a skeletal structure.  But she was good at suggesting modifications for Leia, and helping find the right mental state, despite Leia continuing to be slightly distracted by the way that Amilyn could twist her body.  “Any imbalance we carry within us, we carry into the sky.  You have to be firmly grounded before you can try anything in the air.  Would some more incense help?”

If anything, Leia thought they could do with a bit less incense, it hung thickly in the air.  “I think we’ve got that covered.”

“Then maybe you need to talk through the imbalance.”  Amilyn took a different pose, on one foot, that seemed easy enough.  “If you wish not to reveal too much you can speak in metaphors – there are many who find that enlightening.”

Leia hit the same pose and found it easy enough, but it required concentration to keep.  “I can’t come up with metaphors and do this at the same time.  But there are a few things I can talk about.”  Leia trusted Amilyn and bottling it all up was not helping.  Still, there were a few things Leia would not touch yet.

“All confidences during skyfaring remain in the room to dissipate with the smoke,” Amilyn promised.

“May I ask you something first?”  Curiosity flashed in Amilyn’s eyes, but she nodded.  “Why do you dress the way you do?”  Leia bit her lip, hoping the question did not come across wrong.  She honestly liked how Amilyn seemed to not care what others though, and was not afraid to be herself.

Amilyn looked thoughtful for a second.  “On Gatalenta, everyone wears the same scarlet cloaks and their clothing is all pale grey or white.  It’s supposed to be soothing and tranquil, which I guess it is, but it’s tiring.  And that’s not who I am.”

“You’re expressing your individuality,” Leia said.  She honestly liked most of what Amilyn wore, though she was not certain she would like it on anyone else, probably because it seemed to reflect something within Amilyn.

“Exactly.  I want to be the exact opposite of Gatalenta.”

Leia dropped the pose, there was no way she could put enough concentration into it.  “No,” she shook her head.  “If you strive to be the opposite of something, then you’re still letting it define you.”

Amilyn too dropped her pose.  “I never thought about it that way.”

“Dress however you want to dress.  Be the person that you truly are inside.  Not whatever they are on Gatalenta, or whatever they aren’t.”

Amilyn nodded, sliding gracefully to the ground and taking on a simple cross-legged meditation pose which Leia easily imitated.  “Now, what about you?  What’s been weighing so heavily on your mind?”

Leia sighed.  “It’s like my parents and I don’t understand each other anymore.  We’ve always been close, but lately it’s like we’re worlds apart even if we’re in the same room.  Sometimes it feels as though they don’t even realize I’m there.”  Leia, of course, knew in part why that was, but that knowledge had yet to ease much of the hurt she often felt.

“That’s the evolutionary principle at work.”

“Come again?”

“If the young of the species don’t have motivation to leave the care of their parents, they’ll never lead an independent existence, which means they’ll never reproduce.”  Amilyn explained.  “The species would soon die out.  Ergo, the last stage of life before adulthood always involves conflict between parent and offspring.”

That made sense, Leia thought, but it certainly did not explain everything.  Or really make it better. “I’m also frustrated by how little we can accomplish in the Apprentice Legislature.  The Senate has more power, but even they’re subject to the Emperor.  My whole life, I’ve expected to go into politics, to try and make the galaxy a better place.”  She looked to the ground.  “Now I wonder if that’s even possible.”

Onoam.  Arreyel.  Wobani.  All three still weighed on her mind.  Her parents had not wanted what had occurred on Onoam, but where else were plans like theirs going to lead?

“The Force gains strength from our intentions as well as our actions.  We must try to stand and succeed, but we must never fail to stand.”

Leia shook her head, “Good intentions aren’t enough though.  They may not be meaningless but that’s where we need to start.  Not where we end.”

“That’s a good point, actually.”  A wrinkle appeared between Amilyn’s eyebrows as she considered it, Leia thought it was quite cute.  “On Gatalenta we try to lead the life of the mind, and in our culture intentions can have great influence – we discuss them, judge by them – but in the galaxy at large, things are – well – less pleasant.”

Leia gave her a sympathetic smile, “unfortunately, yes.”

“This will be the focus of my next meditative trance.”  Amilyn shifted positions into a backbend that seemed so spine-defying that Leia did not even attempt it.  “You’ve already given vent to your frustrations.  Now speak to the joy in your life.  What makes you happy, here and now?”

“Can it be morally right to feel happy when there’s so much injustice all around us?”

“Of course.  Happiness is our moral imperative.”

“That sounds like hedonism.”

“Not at all.”  Amilyn resumed a sitting position.  “Great evil can only be fought by the strong.  People need spiritual fuel as much as they need food, water, and air.  Happiness, love, joy, hope – these are the emotions that give us the strength to do what we need to do.”

Leia relaxed, “I guess all that meditation really pays off for you guys.”

“Well there’s that.  And there’s all that time you’ve been spending with Kier.  You might as well use that energy, you know?”

“It’s not like that you know, we’re just friends.” Leia insisted.  “He’s become this sort of safe place, like he’s one of the only people that I can just relax around and be myself.  It’s a bit of a mutual feeling, I think.”

Amilyn smirked, “beware words like ‘only.’”  She wagged a finger at Leia, “don’t let your head be turned by the most dangerous substance known to exist.”

“Which is?”

“A pair of pretty dark eyes.”  She thought about that for a moment.  “Or more than a pair if you’re into Grans.  Or Aqualish, or Talz. “Or even-”

Leia laughed, “That’s all right!  We’ll be here all night if you list all species with more than one pair of eyes.”  The pair giggled for a moment, “so the most dangerous subject known to exist, huh?”

“Why else would you need to beware them?”

“It really isn’t like that at all between me and Kier.  He’s a friend, nothing more.”  Leia gave Amilyn a mischievous smile, “so are pretty dark eyes your downfall?”

“They have been known to be on occasion.”  Was that nervousness Leia was sensing?

She drew closer, “what if I told you that my current downfall is a pair of pretty blue eyes?”

Amilyn gulped, but kept her eyes firmly on Leia’s.  “I would ask how you plan on harnessing that energy.”

Leia said nothing, but instead closed the distance between them, catching Amilyn in a soft kiss.  Amilyn responded nearly immediately, wrapping her arms around Leia and pulling her closer.  After a moment, Leia pulled back and rested her forehead against Amilyn’s.  “Does that answer your question?”

Amilyn’s cheeks were flushed, “I’m not entirely certain.  You might have to run that by me again.”  Leia laughed, kissing Amilyn again.  They broke apart in a fit of giggles, Leia resting her head on Amilyn’s shoulder as she held her tight.

“Can I confess something?”  Leia asked.  Amilyn nodded.  “That was my first kiss.”

Shock clouded Amilyn’s face, “you’re not serious?”

“I’m completely serious.”

“Was it – was it good for you?”

Leia found Amilyn’s sudden shyness endearing.  She gave her another quick peck, “it was perfect.” 

The galaxy may be a large place, Leia thought as she held Amilyn, and she was thankful to have found someone so extraordinary in it.

Chapter Text

Leia still did not go out much the following days, but her mood had been lifted somewhat.  Kier would still stay with her sometimes, the pair making fun of crappy holovids.  Other times it was Amilyn, the pair spending their evenings curled up on the couch, Amilyn teaching Leia about astrology.  Leia still found the whole topic questionable, but it was Amilyn’s passion and she loved hearing her talk about it.

Leia went out just once, for Harp’s seventeenth birthday.  Winmey Lenz had reserved a water park, several metres above the tallest skyscrapers as a gift.  She would have reveled at such a chance months ago, but with everything that had happened she felt more or less as though she was just going through the motions.  Amilyn and Kier had both tried to lift her out of her funk, but with minimal success.  Though Leia had greatly enjoyed tacking Amilyn into the water and seeing her still magenta hair fan out under the surface.

Despite the company, the Coruscant apartments always felt lonely.  Bail almost spent more time offworld than on Coruscant, and even when he was there he rarely acknowledged Leia’s presence.  Apparently, he had yet to forgive her for the trip to Onoam for reasons she could not figure out.  Even Breha, who in the past would call Leia at least every other day while she was on Coruscant, only called her once to inquire when Leia planned on returning to Alderaan next.

“In three days time,” Leia had answered.

“Good, you’ll be back in time for the next banquet.”

Leia winced, “I invited Amilyn to come back to Alderaan with me.”

“Well then, she’ll just have to join you.”

Which is how Leia had found herself onboard the Polestar with Amilyn, apologizing profusely about the banquet thing.  Amilyn just shrugged it off, “don’t give it a thought.  I knew that your appearances and other duties were part of the package before entering a relationship with you.  And honestly, I don’t mind at all.”

Leia sagged in relief, “have I told you that you’re wonderful lately?”

Amilyn chuckled, pressing a kiss to Leia’s temple, “not for a couple of hours.  I’ve reserved a room in town by the way.”

This confused Leia, “why would you do that?  There’s plenty of room at the palace.”

“Actually, I was planning on camping just outside Aldera, there’s a really good location for looking at the stars.  A room in town is a much more convenient base of operations.”

It was such an Amilyn thing to do that Leia laughed, “well let me know if you change your mind.”

“I was kind of hoping you might wish to come with me,” Amilyn gave Leia a hopeful look.

Leia hesitated, camping with Amilyn sounded as though it could be fun, but she was not certain about it so soon into the relationship.  “It’s probably best if I stay at the palace tonight, I’m hoping to talk to my father at some point about everything.”  That much was true at least, if not Leia’s full reason for saying no.  Thankfully Amilyn just nodded and accepted her reasoning.

 

“How many dinner parties does that make this year?  A dozen?  Twenty?”  Leia groused as 2V put a soft blue wrap around the shoulders of her white gown.  Amilyn had left her at the spaceport to go check into her room and get ready there.

“Fourteen.  Now hold still, these are the pins that can still stick you.”  2V fastened the wrap in place.  “I think two side buns tonight.  Do you agree, Your Highness?”

“Whatever.”  As the droid got to work, Leia contemplated her reflection in the mirror.  When she was younger she used to look for proof that she resembled her parents, despite knowing that she was adopted and that shared traits would only be a coincidence.  Still she had wanted to see some of her mother’s wisdom and beauty, or the kindness she had seen so easily in her father’s eyes.

Now it was like she hardly knew them at all.

Yet, despite all that was going on, they still found time to throw their idiot banquets.  Wait a second…

Leia thought about the guests.  While she never attended the banquets themselves since was not yet invested as heir, she always put in an appearance at the receptions.  Which meant that she knew who the guests usually were.  And they were all known to oppose Palpatine’s harshest policies.

These were not banquets.  They were strategy sessions.

 

Leia hurried down to the reception, going out onto the terrace to see a number of guests already mingling.  Her father was not there yet, which was odd.  Perhaps he was having a private conversation in the library with another guest about one of the things Leia was not supposed to know.

“Princess Leia,” Mon Mothma came up to Leia, smiling pleasantly.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“You too, Senator Mothma.”

“Please, call me Mon.  You’re very nearly a grown woman now.”  For once that sounded sincere and not creepy.  “Soon to be invested as heir to the throne.”

“If I fulfill my challenges,” Leia said, purposely avoiding using any term of address.  “I’m not sure how well that’s going.

“Which one has turned out to be most difficult?”

“The challenge of the mind, I guess.”  Pathfinding was tough, but she could overcome that and while her mercy missions had their own set of complications, Leia did not think that was her fault.  “After interning for my father in the Imperial Senate, I thought the Apprentice Legislature would be easy.  Instead it’s turned out to be … let’s say, slippery.”

Mon Mothma frowned and nodded, “go on?”

Leia had not yet shared this with her parents.  After the last few blow-ups, she did not wish to share another mistake with them.  But it felt good to finally tell someone what had happened with Arreyel.

Mon Mothma’s response was even better.  “Try not to be discouraged.  Officials with decades of experience have fallen into similar traps.  Palpatine knows how to bait his hooks.”

That statement further proved that these banquets were really strategy sessions.  No one would be so openly critical otherwise.  “You think Palpatine himself was behind it?”

“Probably not.  But he’s taught his moffs and admirals to follow his example.  I’ve been tripped up by his machinations before.  It’s been a while since the last time he caught me, but I’ve never let down my guard.  That’s the most any of us can do.”

Leia felt a surge of hope.  Mon Mothma had spoken to her like she was an adult, and trusted her with her real opinions on the Imperial hierarchy.  Maybe if one of their allies believed that Leia could play a meaningful role in their efforts, she could convince her parents.

“Forgive me, everyone,” said Bail as he came out onto the terrace.  “Am I the last to arrive?”

“Actually, I believe that’s me,” Leia turned to see Amilyn come through the doors.  “My apologies, I got a bit turned around on my way over.  I do hope I’m not too late.”

Leia quickly strode over to her and took her arm.  “You’re right on time.”  She turned to the other guests.  “Everyone, Amilyn Holdo of Gatalenta.  She’s another member of the Apprentice Legislature.”

A chorus of acknowledgments went around the crowd and Breha came up to address Amilyn.  “Miss Holdo, I’m so glad you could make it.  I know that these events can be a bit lonely for Leia.  So, I’ve arranged for a wonderful supper for the two of you, the droids will set up a table here.”

Amilyn curtsied, “Thank you for having me and for your hospitality, Your Majesty.”

Behind Leia, she could hear her father greeting Mon Mothma.  “Was Senator Lenz not able to make it?”

“Winmey sends his regards.  But of course, I’ll meet with him upon my return.”  There was another point to these being strategy sessions.

It suddenly occurred to Leia, that the reason her mother was so glad Amilyn was there, was that she could be a distraction, so Leia did not acknowledge what was really going on.  If so, this was the first time Leia had gotten one step ahead.

 

The banquet began, and the other guests departed along with the musicians, leaving Leia and Amilyn alone with only the servitor droids who were swiftly setting up the terrace for their dinner.  Amilyn took the opportunity to drop a kiss on Leia’s cheek and tell her, “you look beautiful.”

Leia returned the kiss, “and you look stunning.”  She really did, Amilyn had paired her now pale blue hair with a simple plaid dress of dark blues and purples.

“You think so?”  Amilyn looked down at her dress.  “It isn’t quite like anything I’ve worn before, but I thought about what you said, and I liked it when I saw it, so I decided to go for it.”

“I’m glad you did,” Leia said sincerely.  “There’s still colour, but not as loud.  I think it suits who you are perfectly.  And I’m glad you kept the hair, it’s my favourite part.”  Amilyn beamed.

The pair sat down for their dinner, Amilyn admiring the view from the terrace.  “So, do you not get to attend banquets despite being the princess?”

Leia took a sip of her wine and shook her head.  “Not until I’m invested as heir.  I don’t usually mind, but there’s been so many lately that it’s starting to get irritating.”

“Why have there been so many lately?”

Leia took a bite a chewed thoughtfully for a moment.  “What’s your opinion on the Empire?”  She finally asked.  Amilyn balked.  “Remember that my father is one of the Emperor’s most open critics, and we share most of the same opinions.”

Amilyn stared into her goblet as though it would suddenly give her an answer.  “I don’t like how their corruption is everywhere, that they allow entire planets to suffer while those high up in the Empire prosper.  The Emperor is cruel, and not what a true leader should be.”

“You don’t really believe in the Empire, do you?”

Amilyn shook her head, “I know all governments have their issues, but the Empire’s are beyond anything that a good government would have.”  She paused.  “I’m often glad that I was born on Gatalenta.  It’s not a core world and often overlooked by the Empire, and our culture helps shelter children from the cruelty in the galaxy until they’re ready to face it.  We’re much freer than many planets, and I wish others could be the same way.”

As Amilyn spoke, a plan formulated in Leia’s head.  She had thought she would have to leave it for another time, but she now knew she could trust Amilyn.  “Did you know that the most ancient parts of this palace are more than a thousand years old?”

Amilyn raised an eyebrow at her, “I knew that the great palace of Alderaan has been built over a long period of time, but I didn’t realize it had been more than a thousand years.”

Leia nodded, “the banquet hall is one of the oldest rooms of all.  At that point, everything was lit with lamps and candles, and there were no droids – only human servants.  If you wanted to listen in without being seen, you couldn’t plant listening devices, you had to use other methods.”

Amilyn looked astonished.  “Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”

Leia nodded, “but you have to promise me.  No matter what you hear tonight, it goes no further than this palace.  You never mention anything to anyone but me, ever.  I don’t want to reveal my parents’ secrets.  I just wish someone else to know.  But you have to swear on your life.”

Leia could not think of a time she had seen a more serious expression on Amilyn’s face.  “I swear,” Leia could hear the solemnity in her words.

“Okay.”  Leia shivered, either in fear or anticipation.  “Follow me.”

 

“Were humans smaller back then?”  Amilyn wondered as she and Leia crawled along through the passageways.  In the past, espionage had been conducted the old-fashioned way, so artisans had carefully crafted the walls so natural indentations or shadows hid tiny openings in the stone, angled to amplify sound from the room into the very small passageways between the carved screens and inner walls.

“Probably.”  Leia found the passage a bit of a squeeze but not too uncomfortable.  She knew that Amilyn’s height was probably making things a bit difficult for her though.  They finally came to a tiny chamber, big enough to sit down in, though Leia was practically in Amilyn’s lap.  Not that she really minded.

A voice floated through the wall.  “The soup is delicious.  Really, Breha, your chefs have outdone themselves.”

Breha’s voice came next, “why, thank you.  I shall be sure to share your compliments.”

“I don’t know Leia, I think we have a real scandal on our hands here.”  Amilyn whispered.

“Just give it a moment,” Leia was certain she was right.  But that did not mean that they were not already done talking about their plans for the evening.

Amilyn observed the chamber they were in.  “Do you hide out here and listen in often?”

“I used to sneak around in here more often when I was younger, but it’s been a number of years since the last time I did.”  The last time she had overheard things between her parents that she had never wished to hear in her life, and the memory had been enough to keep her from entering these passageways again until now.

“Did you not find it lonely, growing up here?”

This caught Leia off guard.  “I don’t really know,” she confessed.  “I have nothing to compare it to, but I did have fun growing up.”  Amilyn rubbed her arm as she spoke, but was interrupted from speaking by a servitor droid rolling close.

“ – and so I said, if that’s the shortest route you can find, never mind.”  A melodramatic sigh.  “It’s not like traveling around the various restrictions isn’t hard enough already.”

A thump on the table, “and the situation’s only gotten worse after that fiasco on the moon of Naboo.”

Leia sucked in a sharp breath.  Amilyn did not know of her trip to Onoam, but had clearly heard of Moff Panaka’s death, and she gripped Leia’s hand.

The conversation in the banquet hall turned to Saw Gerrera and his partisans, and then finally to war.  Leia and Amilyn listened intently, Amilyn holding Leia’s hand tighter as Bail spoke of needing to steel themselves for war.

“Do you hear yourselves?”  Came a voice Leia did not recognize.  “We hate the Empire’s cruelty and violence.  How can we claim to be morally superior when we stoop to violence ourselves?”

It was Mon Mothma that replied.  “There comes a time when refusing to stop violence can no longer be called nonviolence.  We cease to be objectors and become bystanders.  At some point, morality must be wedded to action, or else it’s no more than mere … vanity.”

Further conversation in the banquet hall was halted by the return of the musicians.  Leia looked at Amilyn, who nodded and began crawling back out of the passageway, Leia following.  Neither speaking until they were back on the terrace.  A servitor droid brought out more wine.

“When did you find out about all this?”  Amilyn looked into her goblet as she spoke.

“Not long ago,” Leia trusted Amilyn but decided against giving her specifics since that would endanger her more.  “I want to support them, but I don’t know what to think after what happened on Naboo, whether they were involved or not.”

“I guess it’s about time that someone take action against the Empire.  But your parents are risking a lot by holding these meetings here.”

Leia frowned, “what do you mean?”

“Your parents just being involved puts your planet at risk, but having Alderaan as a base of operation makes the situation even worse.  If Palpatine were to find out, it wouldn’t just be your parents that face his wrath, it would be your entire planet.  Conscription, work camps, who knows what they would face.”

Leia’s worst fears for her parents resurfaced and made her feel sick.  Almost as bad were the images of Alderaan in the same conditions she had seen on Wobani.  She took a deep breath.  “Alderaan is a key Core World, which means we have power, money, and influence.  We shouldn’t hide behind those things.  We should use them for common good.”

“Alderaan is a safe place for so many, millions of children, elderly, refugees.  There’s a lot more at risk here than there would be on other planets.”

“I agree,” Leia said slowly.  “But something has to be done.”

Amilyn nodded, “there’s no question about that.  It’s just hard to see what we heard as a political movement rather than bits and pieces of a plan that they are unable to agree upon.”

Leia said nothing, moving to the edge of the terrace, looking out over the city.  “My parents are clever.  They know how to cover their tracks, my father fought in the Clone Wars.”

Amilyn wrapped an arm around Leia’s shoulder, “I’m sure it will all work out in the end.”

“I know you promised before, but I need to hear it again.”  Leia shifted so she could see Amilyn’s face.

“I swear on my life.  Everything here stays between us.”

They broke apart as the terrace door opened and Leia’s parents and their guests came back out onto the terrace acting as though there was nothing on their minds other than the beauty of the night and the sweetness of the wine.

If she were not so tense, Leia might have even found it amusing.

Chapter Text

Leia paced the length of her room, where she and Amilyn had retired to once the banquet was officially over, unable to stop thinking about what they had overheard and what it meant for Alderaan.

“You need to relax, darling.”

Leia paused her pacing and turned to look at Amilyn, who was calmly sitting on Leia’s bed, legs crossed and leaning back on the palms of her hands.  “I don’t know how, I can’t stop thinking about it all.”

“I think I know how I can help.”  There was that sparkle in her eye that Leia loved to see.

“You do?  How?”

Amilyn sat up slightly, uncrossing her legs and beckoning Leia closer, who gladly let herself sink into Amilyn’s warm and comforting embrace, relishing her calming presence for a moment before tilting her head up to catch her in a kiss.  Leia hummed in content as the kiss grew deeper, Amilyn’s hand tangling as best it could with her hair up in the buns.

“Leia?”

The two sprang apart, practically ending up on opposite ends of Leia’s bed.  She could only stare at her father with undisguised horror as he took in her appearance: hair slightly mussed from Amilyn’s attempt to tangle her hand in it, swollen lips, her flushed complexion.

Bail’s expression was unreadable, “and just what, I ask, is going on here?”

Leia gulped, glancing quickly at Amilyn who, it seemed, knew to stay silent. “Dad, I can explain.”

“And I’m sure your mother and I would love to hear it.” Still unreadable.

Amilyn stood, “perhaps I ought to go, I sense that my presence isn’t helping the vibes in this room.”

Leia concealed a wince, but Bail did not seem phased by Amilyn’s way of speaking.  “Yes, perhaps that is a good idea.”

Amilyn gave a slight curtsey before turning back towards Leia, “I’ll see you later.”  Leia could only nod, the lump in her throat growing as Amilyn made her way out of the room.

Bail waited for a moment before speaking again, “my study, five minutes.”  And then he too was gone from the room.  Leia paused for a second to fix her hair before getting up and heading towards her father’s study, head held low.  She had been scolded as a child of course, but never had she felt anything like this.

She entered the study and stood before the desk, hearing her parents enter a moment later.  Leia turned to look at them, her father’s expression was still unreadable, but her mother looked confused. “Leia?  What’s going on?  I thought your friend Amilyn was here.”

“That is exactly what needs to be discussed.”

Breha’s confusion only grew, “what do you mean?  Amilyn’s a nice girl, maybe a bit odd but certainly not someone to be worried about.”

“Except for the compromising position I found her and our daughter in when I entered her room.”

“Compromising position?” Breha turned to address Leia, “what in heaven’s name is he going on about?”

Leia felt as though her entire face and neck were on fire, “it was just a kiss, nothing more.”

“Entangled on her bed they were,” Bail muttered.

“Dad!”

“Wait, is this all this is about, a kiss?”  Bail and Leia both nodded and Breha burst into laughter, “and here I thought it was Kier you liked.”

Leia smiled slightly, “Kier has become a good friend, but nothing more.”

Breha moved closer to Leia, putting an arm around her shoulders.  “So Amilyn Holdo, huh?  I can’t say as though I saw that coming.  Why didn’t you tell us?”

Leia shrugged, looking down again.  “You’re always so busy these days, it just didn’t seem that important.  Besides, I wasn’t certain how you would take it.”  No sense in lying this time.

Her parents’ expressions turned to ones of pain.  Breha gently pulled Leia against her chest while Bail moved closer to them, reaching a hand out to rub Leia’s back.  “Oh sweetheart,” Breha murmured. “I know we’ve done a lousy job of it lately, but we’ll always find a way to make time for you.” Leia said nothing.  “But what do you mean by you weren’t certain how we would take it?”

Leia sighed, “I know that it’s not unheard of on our planet, people taking partners of the same gender, but there’s never been mention of a princess or even a queen doing so.”

“Yet,” both Leia and Breha turned to look at Bail who shrugged, expression much softer than it had been before.  “There’s no law or anything that would prevent a princess or a queen from taking a spouse of the same gender, it’s just never happened.”  He pulled both women into his arms, “I know everything that’s been happening as of late will make this feel untrue, but you know you can always come to us with anything, right?  I may not always be able to guarantee our reactions, but I can guarantee that we will always love you.”

Leia turned so that she could hug her father.  She knew that things between them weren’t fully mended yet by any means, but this was a step in the right direction.  “So, you don’t mind that I’m seeing a girl?”

“Of course not,” he paused.  “Though, I would prefer not to walk in on you in such a position again – that goes for anyone that you date.”

Leia laughed, “well then knock next time.”

“Oh no, that door is staying wide open when Amilyn’s over young lady.”

“Bail,” Breha interjected.  “She’s fine, there’s no need for her door to stay open and you can knock.”

“What?  Are you not concerned about,” he stopped abruptly, and Leia felt her face getting red again, she did not want to have this conversation.

“I’m not actually.”  Bail gave her an incredulous look.  Leia did not like where this was going.  Breha sighed, “I’ll just be blunt then.  Unless Amilyn has some large secret I don’t know about, there’s no way she can get Leia pregnant or vice versa, therefore there’s nothing to be concerned about.”

Bail turned scarlet.  Leia did not know if her face could get any redder, “what will it take to get this conversation to end?”

“Okay, door does not need to stay open and I knock,” Bail’s face was still a brighter red than Leia had ever seen before.  “And the next time I see her, I suppose I owe Amilyn an apology for what just transpired.”

“Yes, you do.  Now, you are free to go.”  Leia perked up at the chance to escape.  “Not you Leia, just your father.”  Leia slumped back down again, while Bail looked at Breha in confusion.  “The next conversation is a mother-daughter one, therefore you leave, and she stays.”  Bail nodded, already slowly backing out of the room.  “And if you could, send a droid up with some tea.”  Bail nodded once more and then vanished from the room.

Breha lead Leia over to the small couch and the two sat down, Leia still tucked under Breha’s arm, and stayed like that for a moment before speaking.  “Did you really feel as though you couldn’t come to us?” Breha’s voice was quiet but Leia could hear the pain in it.  Before Leia could answer though, a droid entered the room with the requested tea, which it quickly set up before exiting again.

Leia stared into her cup for a moment before answering, “it seemed so trivial compared to everything going on.”  She refrained from mentioning that she thought that if her parents were not going to make time to talk about her humanitarian missions, she doubted they would to talk about her love life.

“Your happiness is never trivial.  Whoever makes you happy, your father and I want to hear about it, no matter what gender they are.” Breha took a thoughtful sip of her tea, “out of curiosity…”

“I like girls,” Leia said slowly.  “But I also like boys, does that make sense?” She looked up at Breha hesitantly.

Breha’s response was to kiss Leia’s forehead, “it makes perfect sense.  And as first romances go, Amilyn’s a good choice.  She may be a bit quirky, but she has a good heart and that’s what matters most of all.”  Leia sensed a ‘but’ in her mother’s tone of voice and raised an eyebrow at her.  Breha laughed, “okay, you got me.  Maybe I had a tiny bit of hope that your first romance would be a bit of a scoundrel.”

“Wait, what?”  That was not the answer Leia had been expecting.

Breha smirked, “let’s just say it can be good for a girl to fall for a bit of a scoundrel now and then.”

Leia stared at her mom, aghast.  “Mom, you would never,” she trailed off.

“Let’s leave that as a story for another time, shall we?  Maybe Amilyn would enjoy it as well.”

That reminded Leia of another question she had wanted to ask, even if she knew talking about it was going to be awkward.  “Mom,” she took a deep breath.  “Earlier, you said that weren’t concerned about my door being shut if Amilyn is over, why?  Aren’t there rules against -” she stopped and wondered for a moment if this was how her father had felt when this had come up earlier.

“Against pre-marital sex?”  Leia felt her face go red yet again.  “Technically yes, but those were put in place as way of preventing a child being born out of wedlock, that’s more what it was about.  Obviously in the case of you and Amilyn that isn’t an issue.”

“So, if I were seeing a boy instead of a girl my door would need to stay open then?”

Breha shook her head, “no actually.  Technology’s improved since that rule was set, there are other ways of preventing pregnancy.  My plan always was, the first time you told us about a boy, to take you for a birth control injection.  Waiting for marriage is quite outdated, and I’d be a fool to think that you would just because it’s supposedly a rule.”  She let Leia absorb that information for a moment before speaking again.  “By the way, have you and Amilyn?”

Leia looked slightly horrified but answered, “no we haven’t.  Actually, what Dad walked in on is about as far as we’ve gone.”  She winced at the memory.

Breha nodded thoughtfully, “well make sure you’re absolutely ready before you do.  And, while I doubt you’ll take me up on this, I’m here if you ever want to talk about things.”

Though Leia also very much doubted that she would, she gave Breha a hug.  “Thanks Mom.”

“Anytime sweetheart.”  She returned the hug for a moment.  “But of course, as your mother, I want to make sure you’re prepared.  There’s a datapad I want you to read, I’ll have a droid put it in your room.”

Leia’s horror was back, “you can’t be serious?”

“Would you rather me summarize it for you?”  Breha deadpanned.

Leia shook her head furiously, “no thank you.  I’ll read the book.”

“Good choice,” Breha laughed at Leia’s horror pertaining to the whole thing.  “Now, what are the chances that Amilyn is still on planet?”

Leia relaxed finally, “pretty high.  She wanted to go camping somewhere just outside Aldera, she was trying to convince me to go with her, but I wasn’t certain.”

“Understandable.  Why don’t you send her a message and invite her to breakfast tomorrow?  For one, your father does owe her a bit of an apology.”

Leia let out a bark of laughter, “I will.  And Mom?”

Curiosity filled Breha’s face, “Yes?”

Leia hugged her, “I love you.”

Breha kissed her temple, “I love you too.”

Chapter Text

Leia’s mood was much improved the next time she returned to Coruscant, despite the apparently useless information she had brought to Mon Mothma in hopes of getting more involved.  But her relationship with her parents has improved somewhat and Mon Mothma’s affirmation that Leia was already an ally was enough to keep her mood up.

As soon as she got back to the apartments, she called up Kier to see if he was up for a sharpshooting session.

“Absolutely.  You ready to go down again?”

“As if!”

A couple of hours later, the pair looked up at the score, panting, to see that Leia had won by five points.  “Ha!  I knew I could beat you!”

Kier high-fived her.  “The student has bested the teacher, guess I’ve taught you all I can.  But we still need to practice together so I can beat you again.”

Leia laughed, “deal.”

They started putting away their equipment.  “So,” Kier said, “how are things with Amilyn?”

Leia smiled, “really good.  Thank you, by the way.  I don’t know if I would have gotten up the nerve without a push.”

Kier clapped her on the shoulder, “I’m happy for you.  Now, tell me everything.”  With another laugh, Leia told him about her and Amilyn’s skyfaring session, leaving out the confidences that had been exchanged.  Kier grinned, “wow, you really did fall for her, didn’t you?”

Leia shoved him, “oh, shut up!”

“So, have you told your parents about Amilyn at all?”  Leia winced.  “Oh no, what happened?”

“It wasn’t so much that I told them as much as it was that they found out.  My dad walked in on us kissing on my bed and kind of freaked.”

Kier burst out laughing.  “I’m sorry,” he said breathlessly, wiping a tear from his eye.  “I know that was super awkward, but gods, it’s hilarious.  That’s one hell of a way for your parents to find out.”

Leia groaned, “that’s not even the awkward part.”

“Oh hell, there was a sex talk, wasn’t there?”  Leia groaned again.  “You poor soul.”

“It was horrible.  But somehow it didn’t end with me having an open-door policy, so I guess it was a win.”  Though admittedly, that was part of what had made the conversation so awkward.

“Still though,” Kier tossed her a water bottle.  “I don’t envy you.  Though, I’m glad your parents were so cool about it, they seem pretty great.”

Leia smiled, not all was well between her and her parents by any means, but, “they have their moments.”

 

The next session of the Apprentice Legislature had to be about this.

“The issue before you today is to advise on sanctions against the planet Lolet,” relayed the RA-7 droid.  “Their planetary government stands in violation of Regulation Sixteen-ME regarding supplying fuel as necessary to Imperial pilots.”

Leia felt almost numb, listening to the Empire’s version of the events.  According to them, Lolet had selfishly failed to assist a stranded TIE convoy, but it was easy to see the half-hidden truth.  Leia’s mind flashed to the information she had brought Mon Mothma only a couple of days before.

That TIE convoy would have been left there for only one reason: intimidating the local population.  They had resisted against refueling the ships, and now everyone would suffer.  And the Apprentice Legislature had been given the honour of deciding the form the suffering would take.

“I don’t see any need to elaborate on the usual penalties,” it was Harp speaking.  “It’s not as if this was an especially egregious offense –"

“Any offense against the Imperial fleet is egregious!”  A representative from Arkanis protested, any other day Leia might have felt the urge to roll her eyes.  “And such offenses are becoming more common.  We need to draw a hard line, now, before more planets begin to believe they can get away with such blatant disrespect.”

Chassellon’s drawl was so casual it was cutting.  “Oh, spare us the patriotic drivel.  The standard procedure will be acceptable.  If it weren’t, do you think we’d have been sent the issue in the first place?  We aren’t sent work in hopes we’ll do something novel and creative, we’re sent work when the outcome’s already been decided.”

Leia’s heart sank even more.  She already knew this of course, but admitting that the Apprentice Legislature had little power meant that even here she was entirely helpless.  Lolet would far from the first planet to meet this fate, but the Apprentice Legislature was still both the audience and the props in the Empire’s puppet show.

The Gatalentan pod swooped down, bringing Amilyn into the spotlight.  Her hair and cloak were the same green today, though there appeared to be thin strips of silver tinsel woven into her hair, Leia thought it was quite a good look.  “If I may have this assembly’s attention – surprises are yet in store!”  She caught herself.  “I mean, I have some information that might shed light on this subject.”

Someone from the Glee Anselm pod muttered, “is this where she tells us how her dreams prophesy future fashion trends or something?”  Leia glared at them.

Amilyn brought up a set of three-dimensional charts.  “If you’ll look at this, you’ll see that it represents Lolet’s fuel reserves at the period in question.  Those levels are much lower than usual, to the point most planets would consider a state of crisis.  My research indicates that Lolet had taxed their reserves almost to the breaking point while evacuating one of their moons due to a major geological instability earlier in the year.  They didn’t give the Empire the requested fuel because they didn’t have it.”

It was like Leia had woken up from a nap she did not know she was taking.  She had been searching the furthest reaches of the galaxy for Imperial wrongdoings, yet Amilyn had turned up something right under their noses.  She was not going to let her mood make her so careless again.  She would also consult Amilyn in the future.

“They had it!”  Another protest from the Arkanis representative.  “The chart clearly shows they could’ve filled the quota

“Only by completely depleting their reserves.  Lolet would have had nothing to deal with any future emergencies in their system.  Imagine their -” Amilyn caught herself again, trying to act more normal.  Leia understood why, but she preferred Amilyn the way she was.  “No regulations require a planet to put itself at risk in that way.”

“No regulations say a planet can hold back fuel for that reason either.  If the Imperial Starfleet reported Lolet, and we’ve been assigned to levy sanctions, then that means planets are supposed to hand out that fuel when the Empire needs it.”

“Besides,” a representative from Glee Anselm joined the conversation.  “Why does Lolet have to worry about some hypothetical emergency that might never happen?  If something did come up, they could call on the Empire for help.”

Amilyn shook her head, “the Empire doesn’t always respond to those calls!”

Leia felt as though she had been punched in the gut.  It always felt like a risk, saying these privately among friends.  Only someone as guileless as Amilyn would ever speak such a truth in public, but in doing so she had Leia very concerned for her.

The Arkanis apprentice seized the opportunity.  “Excuse me?  The Emperor has made it clear that his concern extends to all his peoples and denying that is very nearly an act of treason!”

Or sedition.  Kier leaned in closer to Leia, “we better come up with a distraction or Amilyn is going to get dragged off by stormtroopers.”

He was right, but what could they do?  For a split second she considered pretending their pod was broken and driving it wildly through the air.

Amilyn either did not realize the danger or did not care.  “It’s a big galaxy!  Entire planets sometimes escape our notice!  That’s only natural.”

“Maybe it’s natural for you,” retorted the Glee Anselm apprentice.  “With your head filled with feathers – that’s why they’re always poking form your hair, I bet.”

Leia decided her rage at that statement would work perfectly fine for a distraction.  She got to her feet and raised her voice.  “That’s enough!  If you’re shallow enough to care about what anyone’s wearing, then maybe you need to go back to playing with the other children and leave governing to people who’ve grown up a little.”

They had the grace to look embarrassed, but the Arkanis apprentice only seemed to be goaded.  “So you think it’s appropriate to criticize the Emperor in public?”

She turned her glare on them, “I think criticizing other apprentice’s clothing choices in public demeans this entire assembly.”

Amilyn ignored the lifeline, “I just don’t think it’s right to penalize a planet for – for -” She struggled to find words that would not doom her, coming up short.

Kier cut in, “for lack of clarity in the law.  As you’ve said, no regulations clearly state what a planet is supposed to do in this situation.”

Leia seized it, “exactly.  What we need to do is recommend new language for the legal code, so no other world will make a mistake out of confusion, like Lolet did.”

The idea of recommending new code was novel for most of the apprentices, and exciting as it was a hint of real authority.  Immediately, the apprentices started chattering about who might draft it and how they would present it.  Even those who wanted to make an example of Lolet were eager to establish a new regulation that would turn their severity into law.

Lolet would certainly be punished anyway, Leia knew.  But at least they’d been bought some time, it was not much but it was something.

“That is Amilyn bought them that time,” Leia said to Kier as they left the senatorial complex.  “There was a weakness in the case, but she was the only one who noticed it.”

“Scaring you half to death in the process from the looks of things.”

Leia looked at the ground, “I know you share the same opinion, but as you know actually sharing it publicly is dangerous.”

Kier nodded, “she may have gotten away with it this time, but she’ll need to tread carefully in the future.  You going to see her later?”

“I am, she’s coming by the apartments in a bit.”  Leia frowned slightly, “I guess I better talk to her about all that.”

Kier patted her shoulder, “it’s for the best.  Besides, I’m sure she’ll avoid all mention of her true feelings if you tell her that it scared you.  I know I tease you about the way you look at her, but trust me, those looks are mutual.”

Leia smiled, “here’s hoping.”

 

When Amilyn arrived at the apartments later that afternoon, she barely had the chance to shut the door before Leia was tackling her in a hug.  “Don’t you ever do that to me again.”

“Yes, I suppose that the session could have gone a lot better, couldn’t it?”  Amilyn guided Leia, who was still clinging to her, to the couch in the living area.

“It’s not just that.  You scared me, Lyn.”  Leia confessed.  “Sharing opinions like that is dangerous, that session could have ended a lot better, yes, but it could have ended a lot worse too.”

Amilyn winced, “scaring you is the last thing I intended to do.”  She dropped a quick kiss on Leia’s temple.  “You know that, right?”

“Of course, I do,” Leia insisted.  “But I really wish you would be a bit more careful with what you say, you may not alone in your opinion of the Empire in that chamber, but voicing it is incredibly dangerous.”  She lifted a hand to cup Amilyn’s cheek, “promise me you’ll be more careful with what you say in the future.”

Amilyn gripped Leia’s wrist, “I will.”  She paused.  “On Gatalenta, we just let the words flow, we don’t put much thought into them.  I guess I’m so used to that, that I just spoke without thinking in the session.  But I realize now, that that’s not the best option, that I need to meditate on my words a bit more.”

“That sounds nice actually, there are times where I would love to not have to weigh every word I say.  But thank you, hearing that does give me a bit of peace of mind.”

Amilyn kissed the palm of Leia’s hand, “for you, darling?  Of course.  And around me, you don’t need to weigh your words, you can just be.”

Leia said nothing, instead snuggling closer to Amilyn.  If only that statement were completely true, there were still many secrets Leia was carrying she could not share quite yet.

Chapter Text

The next pathfinding class found Leia and the rest of the students knee-deep mud in the jungles of Felucia. 

“I suppose I should be glad we’re not climbing as much today.”  Chassellon was leading the humanoid members of the class.  “But even snow’s easier to march through than this much.”

“Our first cliffs are coming right up!”  Came Chief Pangie’s voice

“Kriff,” Chassellon muttered.  Leia would have laughed at him if she were not so close to agreeing with him.  Being as short as she was, the mud came higher than her knees, making the hike a tough one.

Still, despite her long legs that would easily allow her to go on ahead, Amilyn kept pace with Leia.  Kier had simply given Leia a knowing glance more moving ahead, easily falling in step near the front.

When Chief Pangie was busy wrestling a slimesnake, Leia took the chance to quietly whisper to Amilyn, “you heard about the frigate, right?”

Amilyn looked at her curiously, “Of course I have, but what of it?”

Leia glanced around quickly.  “It has to do with,” she made a hand gesture, hoping Amilyn would connect the dots to what they had eavesdropped on at the banquet.

Amilyn raised an eyebrow, “I wouldn’t have thought this the time or place.”

“It probably isn’t,” Leia admitted as the group came across the clearing containing their cliffs of the day.  They were not as tall or steep as anything they had dealt with in previous practices, but every stone was wet with either condensation or algae.

“Does it look slippery?  That’s because it is!  Fillithar boy, you’ve had it easy up until now, but you’ve got one hell of a slog ahead of you.”  Sssamm flickered his tongue nervously but nodded.  “That’s another thing you should be learning through pathfinding.  Every single one of you has unique skills and weaknesses.  Each of you is going to run across tasks you can do better than anybody else, and you’re also going to run into a few at which you are, let’s just say it, pathetic.”

Leia glanced at the mud that came up much higher on her than on anyone else, glad that if she had to be pathetic at something, it was this and not anything dangerous.

“I’m splitting you up into teams of two and taking you around to different bases from which to climb.  You won’t be that far apart, but good luck catching a glimpse of anybody else.  Coordinates for our meeting place have been auto-downloaded into your equipment.  You have to figure out how to meet in the middle.  Oh, and be sure to activate those anti-impact fields!  If you don’t have those on, your first slip on those cliffs will be the last of your lifetime.”

“Like you need to remind us of that,” Chassellon muttered, his field already up.

Amilyn leaned towards Leia, “for someone who grew up in a skyscraper, he’s really quite afraid of heights.”  Leia choked back a giggle as Chassellon glared at Amilyn.

Leia and Amilyn were paired together, to Leia’s delight.  She thought it might be a good time to discuss things further, but the slipperiness made for a difference in the climb that she had not anticipated.  Any other day they could have just walked the ascent, but the slickness of the surface forced them to ascend on all fours, with the only conversation pertaining to climbing.

“Okay,” Leia panted after a while.  “There’s a ravine or something coming up, it’s not that wide but we’d better use our ropes.”

“Sounds exciting!”  Amilyn responded from her position below Leia.  Leia rolled her eyes affectionately, observing the ravine as they got closer to it.  Three metres to the other side, they would need to swing across using ropes.  Challenging, a fair amount scary, but fun.

“I always like this part,” Leia confessed as they anchored their tethers to the stone.

“Right?  The potential of falling is just exhilarating!”

“Maybe because the anti-impact field protects you.”

“Just because we won’t die, doesn’t mean the danger isn’t real.”  Amilyn pointed out.

“Fair,” Leia conceded.  “But do take a moment to think about your first handholds on the other side.”  She observed the other side, found her potential holds, and then double-checked her ropes before pushing off as hard as she could.  The next couple of seconds were exhilarating, as she felt as though she were flying before hitting the other side, bracing herself and finding purchase.  She shoved a new bolt anchor into a crack in the stone until she felt secure enough to tether herself to that.

Panting, but smiling, she called to Amilyn.  “Your turn!”

Amilyn grinned, shoving off –

- just as Leia saw rock dust falling from her anchor, giving way before Leia could react.  Amilyn dropped out of sight.

Amilyn?”  Leia cried, trying her best to look around and spot her.  She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that Amilyn had made it to the other side, but barely, her hold on the rockface unsteady.

“I’m okay,” Amilyn’s voice sounded strange.  “Well, mostly.”

“What does ‘mostly’ mean?”

“I think I took my field generator out when I hit the other side.”

Kriff,” if Amilyn fell she would be killed.  And considering that she was completely untethered and not in a position where she could climb, the odds sent a near-paralyzing horror through Leia.  Yet, her mind cleared almost instantly, resolve focusing her better than anything else.  “Hang on, I’m coming down for you.”

“Leia, your rope might not be able to support us both.”

“It could,” Leia protested.  She knew she would be nearing the limit of her hold, but she could not leave Amilyn there.  She spooled out more rope to hopefully reach her and noticed Amilyn seeking a better foothold as if to climb up.  “Hold still!  I’ve got this!”

Leia pushed off again, in a steeper arc, back to the other side and immediately pushed back to the other side, landing right next to Amilyn.  Up close she could see that Amilyn was a couple of shades paler than usual.

Leia looked around and realized how tough it would be to get out of the gorge, any outcropping would slice their ropes with the sharp rocks jutting out.  In fact, that would likely be the outcome of her original plan.  “We’re going to have to somersault or throw ourselves around the lip of the gorge somehow.  It’s the only way to get over.”

“Blind?  I mean it’s crazy enough that it just might work, but Chief’s always warned us not to.”

“Chief’s not here and we really don’t have another choice.  We can do this.”  Amilyn nodded a bit uncertainly.

Leia clipped their belts together, Amilyn meeting her eyes at the motion.  Leia saw a measure of pain in them.  “You shouldn’t be risking yourself like this for me.”

“Hey now, my field generator is still functional, remember?  I’m not the one at risk, no need to worry about me.”  Leia grinned at Amilyn, ignoring the fact that if she were to fall there was a good chance her field generator would be damaged as well.  Amilyn nodded and steadied herself as Leia slung an arm around her.

“Out and over?”

“On three, count it off for us.”  As she spoke, Leia felt centered in a way she had never felt before, almost as though she were a part of the planet herself.

“You’re positive about this?”

“Yeah, I have a good feeling about this.”  Leia was surprised at how much she meant it.

Amilyn nodded, “one.”

Leia shut her eyes and inhaled.  It seemed to her she could feel the shape and dimension of the rock around them, that she knew the location of every spar and outcropping as though they were a part of her.

“Two.”

Instinct told her to connect to the feeling, that she was a part of it, that she had been a part of this planet the whole time.

Three.”

Leia leapt at the exact moment Amilyn did, feeling a strength flowing through her limbs that she did think existed.  The pair swung around the outcropping, easily reaching the other side.  The instant they made contact, Amilyn shoved in a bolt anchor and clipped herself to it so Leia’s rope would not have to bear all the weight.

“I can’t believe we just pulled that off,” Amilyn panted.  “How did you do that?”

“I don’t actually know,” Leia confessed.  Already, the strange spell that had overcome her had worn off; a strange vital energy that had briefly sung to her and then become silent again.

Neither spoke again until they reached a small plateau where they stopped to rest and regroup.  Amilyn checked her field generator, declaring it dysfunctional before asking Leia, “why?”

Leia knew instantly what Amilyn meant.  “Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because you risked your life to do it.”

“I couldn’t let you fall,” Leia’s voice was strained.

“I’d rather you would over endangering yourself,” Amilyn’s voice was equally strained.

“But why?”  Leia did not understand.  “Even if you weren’t so important to me, I would try to save anyone.”  Well, maybe not Palpatine, he could fall off a cliff for all Leia cared.

“I’d really rather you not.  You are probably the most selfless person I know, and I love that about you.”  She raised a hand to Leia’s cheek, “but I wish you would have more regard for your own life.  Remember, there are people who care about and love you – who would be hurt if something were to happen to you.”

Leia had never thought about it that way before.  She thought about her parents, inwardly quailing at the thought, but they were the ones who taught her to be as selfless as she was, and she was not sure that this thought would have changed anything.  “I’d still try and save you, strange fascination with death and all.”

The quip did the trick and Amilyn giggled, “yeah, I think I got a bit too close with the nearness and inevitability of death there.  Why don’t we both avoid that in the future?”

Leia laughed, feeling genuinely relaxed for the first time since Amilyn first took that unsuccessful jump, “deal.”  Still laughing she pulled Amilyn into a kiss, fueled with the relief that they were both okay.

 

Inevitably, they were the last team to the rendezvous point, earning them a sound scolding from Chief Pangie before they explained what had occurred.  As soon as she had seen Amilyn’s field generator, her attitude changed so completely that she was promising the entire group an easier hike the next time.  This earned Leia and Amilyn a huge grin from Chassellon and a friendly tail rattle from Sssamm as they rode back to their ship.  But Leia paid little attention to them or to Kier’s sly grin as she and Amilyn sat, sides pressed together, taking in each other’s steady presence.

Chapter Text

Leia figured if she were to look for allies within the Apprentice Legislature, the most logical place to start was with her pathfinding class.  The most obvious choices being Kier, who was from Alderaan, and Harp, since Chandrila was strongly aligned with Alderaan.  From there everyone else could be assessed.

Luckily, Leia had managed to get on Harp’s team for the next pathfinding session, which took place in the marshlands of Chandrila, and was hopeful that they would get the chance to talk.  But apparently, her luck ran out at getting on the same team.

“This is disgusting,” Chassellon complained as they waded through the hip-deep mud.  “I thought Felucia was bad.  And I thought Chandrila was supposed to be a civilized planet.”

“It is!  We are!  But the marshes – well, they’re like this,” Harp deflated as she spoke. 

The marshes she spoke of were one the few wildernesses left on Chandrila; they were swampy and hot, opaque mists protruding from the twisty, blue-leafed trees that made up ninety percent of the landmarks.  Chief Pangie had told them that finding their way through the marshes would test their ability to observe and remember small details.  Leia realized she should have known it would include extra misery from the chief’s grin as she spoke.

“We’re running behind, I just know it,” Harp moaned.  “We’ll be the last ones to the rendezvous point.”

Leia forced a smile, “doesn’t matter as long as we get there.”

“Aren’t marshes supposed to be flat?”  Chassellon continued to complain.  “Because we’ve been going upward at a small incline for the past three hours and I’m bloody well sick of it.”

“We’ll get to the mud flats in a few klicks,” Leia promised.  Assuming she was correctly remembering the oddly splinted-together roots of a particular tree that was.

“Mud flats?  Mud flats represent our big opportunity for everything to get better?”

“You said you wanted to stop climbing!  Well, this is your chance!”

Leia wondered if she would fail her Challenge of the Body if she were to abandon two of her pathfinding partners in the wilderness.  But sure enough, when they got to the flats she was glad to see them.  They rose from the swamp in a series of plateaus that, while unappealing, were at least more solid than liquid.  Leia glanced down at her trek suit and sarong, which were both thickly coated in mud and wondered how covered in mud Amilyn was.  Likely not as much as Leia considering her height…

“Finally,” Chassellon said.  “All right, Harp, boost me up and I’ll pull the two of you after me.”

Harp crossed her arms, “why should I be the one to boost you up?  Why shouldn’t you boost me?  You’re taller than me; you’d be better at it.”

“Well I’m also stronger than you, so I’d be better at pulling you up, too.”

“You don’t know that you’re stronger.”

“Oh, please, Harp!  You hardly come up to my elbows.”

“That doesn’t make me weak!”

Force give Leia the strength to not actually murder them.  Her temples began to throb as their bickering combined with exhaustion and general grossness of the day stretched Leia’s temper until nearly its breaking point.  All she could think of was that she was glad she was a few paces behind them and therefore, not part of the argument.

“You’re just angry that you can’t buy your way to the top of the class, like you do with everything else!  Some of us actually care about doing the right thing!”

“Some of us just want to get out of the mud already!”

Leia was about ready to snap.  But then she heard a distant rush and felt a faint rumble beneath her feet.  She looked through the flats, and through the mists she saw … movement?

“Oh kriff,” breathed Harp, her eyes widening.  “Mudslide.”

It was as if hearing the name brought it into focus, and Leia was horrified to realize that half the hillside was now sluicing down toward them.  Anyone on the bank could run for it, but if anyone was still in the mud they were done for.

“Chassellon, you go first!”  He was right about being stronger, so Leia cupped her hands together and he instantly stepped on them, hurling himself onto the bank.  The mudslide was getting louder with every passing second.  “Harp, now!”

Harp took the step after that, reaching for Chassellon’s outstretched hands as he pulled her onto the bank.  He lunged forward, grasping for Leia –

The wave hit her like a wall, knocking the breath out of her lungs and blinding her.  She tumbled, suffocated by the surrounding mud, feeling as if death itself had swallowed her whole.

Pathfinding training kicked in.  She forced her hand down to her belt and hit her field generator.  She heard it activating and then startled as the mud popped out to the edge of the field, leaving her bobbing in an energy bubble.  With the dim light on her belt she could see the movement of the mud rushing by.

Panic tugged at the edge of her consciousness, but she kept still.  The bubble was strong but not impermeable and moving too much would compromise it, she had to trust it.  Air was lighter than mud anyway, the bubble would rise.  All Leia could do was wait it out, and hope that she did not run out of air.

Light began to filter in, rushing at her as the bubble surfaced.  Leia rolled sideways towards what constituted as dry land, turning off her field generator as she saw the wet, flattened grass beneath her and flopping onto the ground.  She was completely covered in mud and her breaths were coming too quickly, but none of that mattered.  All she wanted was to lie there, unmoving.

She could hear her name being called in the distance.  After a few more moments, she regained enough energy to both recognize the voices and care.

“Leia?”  Harp screamed, “Leia?”

“Your Highness!”  Chassellon had pitched his voice to carry, a surprisingly deep, booming shout.  “We’re looking for you!  If you can hear us, let us know where you are!”

It took a couple of tries, but Leia was finally able to take a deep enough breath to call back, “here!”  They ran up a moment later, so obviously terrified that Leia almost wanted to laugh.  “Field generator, remember?”  She coughed.

Harp collapsed next to her, “I forgot all about it.”

“You won’t next time.”  Leia coughed again.  Maybe she had swallowed a bit of mud at the beginning.

Chassellon pulled himself together and offered Leia his hand.  “Will you rise, my lady?”  Usually annoying, today she found his emphasis on her royal status almost a comfort, like being wrapped in a familiar blanket.  The world tilted oddly at first, but she quickly regained her balance, wet mud sliding down her body.  Chassellon put his free hand to his chest, “your royal robes are stunning, Your Highness.  Designer?”

This time Leia did laugh, “one of a kind.”

 

They were so late to the rendezvous point in the end, that Chief Pangie and the others had started organizing a search party.  As soon as they were in plain view of the others, Amilyn broke off of the group, going straight for Leia and sweeping her up in her arms, seemingly uncaring about the mud as she peppered a series of small kisses on Leia’s forehead.  The subtlety that they had tried to maintain was gone now, not that Leia could bring herself to care.

“Don’t scare me like that again, okay?”  Amilyn murmured, and for the first time Leia noticed the tremor in Amilyn’s arms.

Leia chuckled wanly, “trust me, once is more than enough.”

Meanwhile, Chassellon’s temper had returned and he directed it squarely at Chief Pangie.  “This is ridiculous!  Harp gets injured on Alderaan, Leia and Amilyn nearly fall to their deaths on Felucia, and now this?  Pathfinding’s supposed to be a learning experience, not survival of the fittest!”

Chief Pangie seemed to almost sigh, “field generators, Stevis.  You’re supposed to use the field generators so that nobody gets hurt.  You have to remember that.”

“Or else what?  We die?”

“Exactly.”  She let the shocked silence hang over the group for a moment before continuing in a more quiet, serious tone.  “Pathfinding can be dangerous.  Every single one of you knew that before you began.  Every singe one of you thought that danger didn’t apply to you somehow, because you’re young and stupid about that kind of thing.  You have to learn better, and I’d rather you leaned it out here with your field generators to save you, than somewhere else in the galaxy where you get no safety net, no teammates, and no second chances.  Pathfinding isn’t just learning how to find your way around.  It’s about learning how to think on your feet.  How to deal with real risks.  Even how to face the fear of death.”

A subdued hush fell over the group.  Leia wondered if her parents realized this before deciding that they must have.  Only Amilyn spoke.  “I knew it,” she muttered, more unenthusiastic than she would have been to find this out a few weeks previously.

 

Originally, Leia had planned to return to Coruscant with the others, but after the mudslide incident she felt the need to go home for a couple of nights.

“I could accompany you if you wish,” Amilyn had grasped both of Leia’s hands, pressing their palms together.  “And then we’ll just go back to Coruscant together.”

Leia shook her head.  “It’s alright, I just want to rest for a couple of days.  Besides you have that meditation session scheduled with your parents.”

“They wouldn’t mind.”

“I’m okay, don’t worry about me.”  Leia gave her a reassuring smile.

“If you insist,” Amilyn pulled Leia in for a hug, kissing the top of her head.  “I’ll see you in a few days then.”  She held Leia for a brief moment longer, before making her way to the transport.

That Leia wanted to rest for a couple of days was mostly true, but the experience had not shaken her enough for her to miss the opportunity that had been presented to her.  She might tell Amilyn about this eventually, but for now it would stay between her and Ress Batten.

It was time to investigate what was going on in the Paucris Major system.