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An Interlude (The Passing of Some Days)

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Bail's first instinct after Vader leaves is to comm Leia, who has no idea that the whole galaxy has just been turned upside down for her sake.

"Checking up on me?" she asks with a wry grin. "I promise I'm eating my greens and getting seven hours of sleep a night."

"I'm sure," Bail says, too relieved at how like herself she looks to call her out on such obvious lies. Even though the Imperial Senate is even less productive than the Republic Senate was, there are still appearances to keep up, and endless numbers of reports and position papers to read and absorb, cocktail parties and working lunches to attend and committee meetings to staff, and Leia's doing all of that right under the nose of the Emperor. He supposes they're lucky in a way that it's only Vader who's discovered her biological parentage, and that he's somehow still attached enough to Padmé to at least attempt to protect Leia from Palpatine.

And he's been silent too long. Leia's face shifts from amused exasperation to concern. "Is everything all right, Papa?"

"Of course, Leia." He smiles wistfully. "We just wanted to see your face."

"We love you very much," Breha interjects, "and we're very proud of you."

Leia blinks, her confusion clear even in the fuzzy blue light of the holo projector. "I love you, too. Now I've got to go. The Galactic Resources Committee is meeting in ten minutes and it's all the way on the other side of the building."

"Be careful," Bail says.

"Always," Leia replies, for once without her usual nonchalance, and then cuts the call.

Bail exhales a shaky breath and gathers Breha in his arms. "She's okay," Breha says. "He doesn't want to harm her."

"He probably didn't want to harm Padmé either," Bail says darkly, "but that didn't stop him."

"It's been seventeen years," Breha replies, voice muffled because she's speaking into his chest. "Surely he's learned some control."

He glances down and she raises her head and they share a look that is equal parts concern and skepticism. Vader's reputation is not one of self-control, after all. It never has been.

Bail is very good at reading people, but he doesn't have access to the Force. He can't know if someone's lying just by talking to them, and Vader's mask shows no expression at all, just the death's head meant to inspire terror. His body language had given away nothing but his own anger and impatience--he hadn't seemed any different from the other times Bail has had to deal with him. His unexpected words--his shocking behavior--has to be enough, and Bail is not quick to trust these days, and especially not where once he was betrayed.

Still, several weeks pass and all the intel Vader's provided them has turned out to be legitimate. The rebel cell Bail is most closely connected with experiences several small victories that may not look like much now, but will be meaningful in the long run. Bail has always known this is a marathon, not a sprint. He's also always known that Vader finding out was a risk, but he hadn't ever expected this.

He's torn at first, so he waits and watches without acting, but he's concerned Vader's growing impatience will lead to him telling Leia--or worse--and they have allies who need to be informed of the change in circumstance.

Bail uses the most secure and heavily encrypted comm unit he can lay hands on to call Obi-Wan, and surely it's only the distance and the blue wash of the holo projector that makes him look so old.

Obi-Wan wastes no time on pleasantries. "What's wrong?"

Bail sucks in a deep breath and lets it out in a rush. "Vader knows about Leia."

Obi-Wan shrinks in on himself, and Bail's sure that if they had full color comms, the man would be white as a sheet.

"And you're still alive?"

"Obviously." Bail huffs. "He did want to kill us, but Breha convinced him not to, at least for the moment."

The corner of Obi-Wan's mouth quirks. "Your wife is an amazing woman."

Bail smiles. "I know." Then his smile fades. "Vader has been providing us with intel on Imperial supply lines and troop movements."

"What?" Obi-Wan's voice is sharp and incredulous, his expression one of shock until he schools his face to more familiar Jedi impassivity. Spending seventeen years in the desert has clearly taken its toll.

"He plans to move against the Emperor."

Obi-Wan strokes his beard, then tugs on one end of his mustache. "It is the Sith way for the apprentice to try to kill the master."

"He said he wanted to do it for Leia. Or, for Padmé's daughter, to be precise."

Obi-Wan blinks, opens his mouth, and then closes it again. The silence stretches for a long moment before he speaks. "Well, that does put a different spin on things."

"It was not at all what I expected," Bail admits.

Obi-Wan laughs. "He always did have a way of surprising me. In good ways as well as bad." He sobers then. "I would take what he's willing to give for now, in terms of intel, but I wouldn't rely on his allegiance once he has what he wants."

"Leia will never agree to take Palpatine's place," Bail insists, feeling anew the horror of Vader getting whatever it is he wants from her, and the terror of his reaction when he doesn't.

"Of course not," Obi-Wan says, "and that will test the limits of Vader's supposed care for her." He glances away, no doubt remembering Padmé's condition after Vader had turned on her.

"And the boy?" Bail asks, trying to lighten the look on Obi-Wan's face.

That gets a warm smile. "He's doing well. He's a good boy, the best of all his parents." He inclines his head slightly. "As I'm sure Leia is, as well."

"Yes," Bail replies with a smile of his own. "I'll let you go now. We've already been on this frequency too long."

"May the Force be with you, old friend."

"And with you," Bail says before ending the comm. His anxiety and uncertainty are only slightly assuaged, but it helps knowing that Obi-Wan and Luke are out there, biding their time.

Leia is strong and brave and slowly learning to be wise. He can only hope it's enough in the face of the threat Vader presents.