"There she is," the pilot says. "Our Alderaan."
The lurch out of hyperspace still pulls Luke's heart through his stomach, but his white-knuckled grip on the armrest doesn't diminish the awe in his eyes at his first glimpse of another planet from space. It's nothing like Tatooine's dull yellows and rusty orange hues; Alderaan hangs in space like a soap bubble, glittering blue and white.
He can't break his eyes off the fast approaching world to see if Leia is as captivated by its beauty as he is. All he can do is wonder aloud, "It's so blue!"
Beside him, Leia smiles, amused but also touched. Surely he must have seen images of other worlds, even if he'd never left Tatooine? Unfazed by their change in speed as she is by the vista before them, Leia nonetheless can't help but be charmed by this beautiful boy's sincere awe. Why are your eyes so blue? she thinks, but then says aloud, resting the palm of her hand on the back of his, "It's the oceans. Alderaan's surface is mostly water and ice--over eighty percent."
"Many worlds are covered in water, Luke," General Kenobi chimes in from Luke's other side. "Typically, humans don't settle on planets as arid as Tatooine, not unless circumstances make it a necessity."
"I knew that," Luke says, unable to take his eyes off the glittering planet. Of course he knew that. He'd seen pictures and holovids and read all about other worlds. But knowing a whole world could be covered with water doesn't compare to actually seeing it. "Who owns it?" he asks. "Do you think they'd let me see the ocean?"
Leia suppresses a smile. She doesn't want him to think she's making fun of him. "No one owns it. Not really. It's the property of the Crown and the people of Alderaan, and almost all beaches are open to the public. Of course you can see it. I'll take you." She turns his hand over so she can interlace their fingers. "You can't claim land or water on Alderaan unless it's actively being used. Otherwise it's public property--there are millions of square kilometers of wilderness I could show you with lakes, rivers, mountains covered in snow...."
At last Luke looks away from the vista before him to stare at Leia, entranced immediately by her deep, dark eyes, and the kindness in her voice. His heart skips a beat. "I'd like that..." He stares at her a moment longer, but then has to look back at the world looming ever larger before him. "Snow...." He's only even heard of it.
"There will be plenty of time for sightseeing later," General Kenobi says, his voice a bit sterner than before. "You need to focus on your training, young Skywalker. Don't let pretty thoughts turn your head. We're at war."
Leia wonders if General Kenobi saw her take Luke's hand, and she doesn't roll her eyes, but she wants to. Everyone needs time off to recharge, especially after losing their family, and there's nowhere better to do it than in nature. It probably wouldn't do to contradict Kenobi right now, though, so she says, "There's snow at the Winter Palace, where we're going. It's not Alderaan's capitol--that's Aldera, a big city--but it's where I grew up, and my father and I live there most of the year. You'll see snow," she promises.
They start their approach, and the continent that fills the viewport is patched with white, some on high inland planes, some on rocky peaks edging the coasts. Leia's heart soars to be home at last, and she can't wait to show it all to her new friend.
She and Luke have only known each other a few days, but in that short time they've become closer than she thought was possible. She feels as if she's always known him, as if she'd been feeling his absence before they met. At the same time, the two come from such different backgrounds and had such different lives, that a lot can get lost in translation. He's never been off Tatooine. Never seen an ocean or snow. He's probably never been kissed, she thinks.
That will have to change.
As if reading her thoughts, Luke glances at her, smiling shyly, but eager. The last few days have been tumultuous for him--losing his aunt and uncle to the Empire most of all--but somehow in Leia's presence none of it weighs him down. Everything is new and exciting. He feels as though his life has only just begun, and that he wasn't alive before leaving Tatooine.
Kenobi pulls on his robe before the ship has even landed. "I'll need to speak to your father straight away," he informs Leia. "You're certain he knows to expect my arrival?" They've been purposefully traveling without communications out of fear of being tracked. "Bail and I were friends once, but... that was a very long time ago."
"He sent me to find you specifically," Leia reminds him, straightening her rumpled white dress as the ramp lowers. "We need you in order to continue the efforts of the Alliance. Artoo is carrying information vital to the survival of our cause. My father will explain the rest."
"So you've said," Kenobi muses, watching as she steps off, her shoulders straightening naturally as she does, making even her rumpled dress look regal. "But things are not always what they seem..."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Luke asks, stepping up beside Obi-Wan.
Kenobi shakes his head, folding his hands under his robes. "Nothing for you to mind your head about. Come on, my boy. Your destiny awaits."
The company that greets the Tantive IV is small but official-looking--a half-dozen courtiers and their aides and droids, headed by a tall man with dark features like Leia's, dressed in fine clothes and a regal cape. Leia smiles at him and bounds into his arms. "Father!"
He hugs her close, not caring much for formality at the moment. Alderaani culture is old-fashioned and tends to stand on ceremony, but it is never stuffy. "Leia, I'm so proud of you," he says. "You succeeded."
At last he releases her and bows to the old Jedi Master before him. "General Kenobi. It's been so long--hard to believe the time has finally come. I'm glad you were able to make it here."
"Your Highness." Kenobi returns his bow, little more than a nod of his head. Bail Organa is Prince Consort of Alderaan, not king, and his rank does not necessarily put him above a Jedi Master, but there is respect on both sides. "Leia has grown up well. She's a credit to you and Breha."
Bail's dark eyes twinkle as he replies with a thank you, but they turn dull again with apprehension when they fall on the blonde boy at Kenobi's side. "This is the boy, then?"
"He is. Luke, this is Prince Bail Organa of Alderaan, Leia's father, and husband of Queen Breha. Bail, this is Luke Skywalker."
Bail's hand extends in reverent greeting.
"P... prince?" Luke says, looking from Bail to Obi-Wan and back. He stares at the offered hand, and upon realizing he's staring, he quickly shakes it. He's not sure if he should kiss it, or press his forehead to the palm, or...? "You're a prince?" He glances briefly to Leia. In the brief interaction they'd had on Tatooine, she'd never mentioned that her father was a-- "Then that means you're a..." He's not sure what it makes Leia, but his head is spinning.
Smiling kindly, Bail withdraws his hand. "You can just call me Bail. My house doesn't employ titles within its walls." His gaze is keen and seems to be studying Luke's features closely. "You're a welcomed guest here. You both are. I'm glad you didn't run into any trouble."
"None at all, thank the Force," Leia says, her relief apparent. Her mission had originally been only to bring Kenobi to Alderaan--how miraculous that the plans to the Empire's secret new weapon were able to be intercepted when she was in transit as well. Now, it's over, and while she knows they can never really let their guard down, she can relax a bit. Her father, Mon Mothma, and the other Alliance elders will take it from here, though Leia will be ready to serve their cause again however she can when she is needed.
Leia turns her gaze to the snowy mountain peaks framing the high valley which encloses the Winter Palace and its grounds. Old and fortress-like, the Palace itself rises from the valley floor a hundred meters distant, obscured slightly by fluffy snow flurries. It's good to be home. She takes Luke's hand again, leading him out from under the shelter of the ship's bulk, holding out her hand to catch the clumping flakes. She's delighted to have him here, her new friend, playmate, maybe more. "Look," she says happily, showing him the quickly-melting crystals on her palm. "Snow."
Bail gives Obi-Wan a somewhat stern look as Leia leads Luke off, but it's completely lost on the two young teenagers.
Luke stares up into the sky in wonder, but it's steel-grey with clouds so thick he can't even see the sun. It's utterly incomprehensible. He's never seen so many clouds before, let alone so thick, and the snow....
"It's so cold," he says, holding his hand out to catch the flakes.
"I think that's enough for now," Bail says, stepping up beside his daughter. "You've got an important mission debriefing, and General Kenobi and his new apprentice will want to rest after their ordeal." To Luke, he says, in a softer tone, "I just learned about your aunt and uncle. I'm so sorry."
Luke stares down at his feet, suddenly feeling guilty for finding so much new joy in the world; he should be in mourning. It isn't as though he isn't; it just all seems like a dream still, sometimes. "I want to join the Rebellion. I want to help defeat the Empire."
Bail looks around quickly, putting a strong hand on Luke's shoulder. "Quietly, my boy. Alderaan is a neutral world." He smiles over to Leia. "He certainly could use some tips in dignitary graces."
"Yes, Father," Leia says, at first solemnly, then smiling at Luke. "I'd be happy to help however I can, of course."
Bail gives her a knowing but accepting look and steps away. He trusts her to do what's best.
Leia looks apologetically at Luke for a moment, then leans in and kisses his cheek softly. "I may not be an Alliance leader yet," she whispers, her fingers trailing with obvious hesitation off of his. "But I do have responsibilities." She smiles, wanting to reach again for him, but holding back in this moment. "Go rest. Get some warmer clothes. You'll freeze." She rubs his arms a little, glad when he smiles back at her, then drops her hand. "I'll see you later. Tonight?"
"I'd like that. Tonight." He's somewhat terrified of being alone in this big, strange new world, but knowing he has Leia on his side, and Obi-Wan as well, helps make him feel slightly less out of his depths.
He watches her and Bail walk off together, and doesn't turn when he feels Obi-Wan step up beside him. The Jedi Master stands quietly for a while before saying, "You will find a good and loyal friend in her, but do not let yourself be distracted by her beauty. If you wish to become a Jedi like your father, you must focus yourself completely on the task. It is an undertaking that, under ordinary circumstances, would consume years of your time. We do not have that luxury. If you wish to be an aid to Alderaan, you must dedicate your entire essence into your training. There can be no distractions. Do you understand?"
Luke locks his jaw slightly as he watches Leia and her entourage disappear into the massive structure before them. "Yes."
"Good. Then let us relax tonight. Our training will begin in the morning."
Leia spends the next few hours in debriefing, sharing what she experienced with her father and the rest of the Alderaani nobility who are sympathetic with the Alliance. There's not much to tell, as the mission had gone off without a hitch. The plans of the unfinished battle station--the Death Star, the Empire calls it--are, of course, of utmost importance, but Leia can only explain where she got them, and nothing at all about the schematics.
She and her father eat dinner together--her mother is, as usual, performing her duties as a figurehead in the capitol while Bail conducts her bidding in the shadows--and then Leia retires to her quarters when he goes back to work. Alone in her spacious apartment, she pulls out her personal comlink and connects to Luke and Kenobi's room, asking the old man to be allowed to speak with the boy.
Obi-Wan's voice is somewhat resigned, but he does as he's asked. "It's the princess."
That serves as a stark reminder of the gulf between them, and sobers Luke slightly before answering. "Your... Highness?"
Leia rolls her eyes to herself, hearing how he answers the call. "It's Leia. Nothing's changed." She pauses, swallowing her anxiousness into herself and replacing it with hope. "I'm off duty now, for the rest of the night. Can you get away?" Her heart pounds, waiting for his answer.
Luke glances to Obi-Wan, who has clearly been listening. The Jedi Master raises a hand dismissively. "I am not your father or your uncle. You are a man now, capable of making your own decisions... however, we will start our training promptly at sunrise."
Luke smiles brightly, and into the comlink says, "I'm free. Where should we meet?"
Leia smiles in excitement. "Come to my rooms." She gives him directions, makes sure he has them, and then disconnects the call.
When he arrives, she's wearing a lounging dress with a plunging neckline and bare feet. Her main suite is dimly lit, and a fire is roaring in the fireplace, rugs and cushions and a small tray with wine and fruits before it. She pulls Luke into the room, saying, "I was worried we wouldn't get any time together."
Luke's wearing what he was wearing before, having had no time to go shopping or find something else. He expected to go out and see the world, so he's a little surprised when she pulls him into her chambers. It's toasty inside, and he's been cold since they landed, so he finds himself drawing to the hearth. Even an open fire is something of a wonder to him; there wasn't much need of such things in the desert. "I could tell Ben didn't want me to leave…." He glances at her, at her plunging neckline, then back to the fire very quickly.
She notices his wandering eyes, and she warms, but hides it. "I get the feeling he doesn't approve." As if hearing his thoughts, she adds, "We'll go see the ocean in a few days--and I want to take you to see glaciers, too. Forests. But it's too late tonight, and I had to see you." She crosses to the doors of her expansive balcony and opens them. The rooms are too warm to be cooled by an open door--in fact, they might be a little too warm--so she lets some snowflakes drift inside for Luke, watching them melt as they hit the marble floor. "What have you been up to?" she asks, pulling him to the cushions in front of the fire.
Luke swallows as he settles on the big cushions. They'd spent the last few days orbiting each other on the Tantive IV, but it feels like this is the first time they've been able to spend alone. Truly alone. He feels suddenly very out of his depth. "I, uh," he takes a calming breath. "Not much, to be honest. I ate dinner with Ben... General Kenobi," he corrects, knowing he's going to have to let go of the name he's used for years now that they're in the Core. "He told me his plans for my future... training me to become a Jedi Knight, like my father was."
Leia nods solemnly. "It's a noble and ancient calling--one that the Empire has abolished, because they know it threatens them." She pours them each a glass of wine and hands one to Luke. "You'll be a great help in the war effort." She sees his discomfort. "This has been a lot for you. How are you holding up?"
Luke stares at the wine, and the elaborate glass it's offered in. "It's a lot to take in... everything is so different. This wine... this cup, the fireplace, this room, the planet...." His eyes drift from object to object, settling on her. "You." He takes a big gulp of the wine. It burns much more than the fermented Bantha milk he'd had on occasion back on Tatooine. "It feels like a dream. Or something out of a story."
She sighs. She'd meant to give him a comfortable room to relax in, but she forgot how outside of his experience... everything is. "I'm the same girl you helped find Ben," she says, intentionally using Luke's name for Kenobi in an attempt to set him at ease. She sips the wine slowly. "But... I felt out of place on Tatooine, you know. Like I was doing everything wrong. Like it was obvious I was an off-worlder. This is my home. I spent most of my childhood here, in this palace." She watches him carefully, and he isn't looking at her. "Maybe I should have told you I'm a princess."
Luke is watching the firelight reflecting in his wine. "No... it's better you didn't. I wouldn't have...." He shakes his head and looks up at her, losing his thought the moment their eyes meet. It takes a moment for his brain to reengage. "I would've acted even more foolish if I'd known. It's better that you didn't say anything." He glances around the room again. Palace, she'd called it. "And I'm sorry if I did say anything stupid... I really appreciate all you've done for me." Though perhaps he'd still have an aunt and uncle if she hadn't come to Tatooine....
"I like you," she says suddenly, sincerely. "I... began my political career young. I don't get many chances to just be... a kid. But when I'm around you...." She sets down her wine and looks back into his eyes. "You make me feel free, and accepted, and understood. Like an old friend, but one I'm still... trying to get to know." She reaches for his hand.
"I like you, too," Luke says, holding her hand when she takes his. His heart is beating rapidly, and he'd be lying if he said he wasn't afraid. "There aren't any girls like you on Tatooine... maybe not in the whole galaxy...." Though he admittedly has seen very little of it to know.
Leia smiles. She wants to kiss him, but she doesn't want to scare him away, so instead she just squeezes his hand. "I'm here, okay? If you need to talk. If things are ever too much for you. I'm on your side."
Luke manages a smile. He's terrified of her, but he trusts her absolutely. He's not sure he's ever trusted anyone so much before in his life. Certainly not as quickly. "Can you tell me more about the war? Obi-Wan says the less I know the better, but I don't agree with that. Your father says Alderaan a neutral world, but... that's just for show, right? Can we talk about it? I want to fight the Empire."
Leia sighs carefully. "It's politics. We're officially neutral, though we do fall under the jurisdiction of the Empire like the rest of the Core. Remaining a neutral world and staying out of large disputes allows my mother to keep the Empire away while my father leads the Alliance. You know that being trained as a Jedi is an act of defiance on its own, right? And that Ben is grooming you to be the Rebellion's secret weapon." They need him--of course they do, and of course she wants him trained and on their side, but she worries that he doesn't understand the magnitude of what he's getting himself into, and sometimes it seems that Kenobi wants it that way.
"'Secret weapon?' Are Jedi really so powerful?" If so, then why doesn't Obi-Wan stop the Empire himself? Why did all the other Jedi disappear?"
Leia lowers her voice. "Vader and the Emperor both have Force abilities. That's confidential--everyone knows about Vader, but not the Emperor. I only know because my father told me. He was on Coruscant when it all happened. When the Emperor came to power, he and Vader killed all the Jedi except Kenobi. They decided to hide you in the desert to keep you safe from the Empire--you're the son of Anakin Skywalker, Luke. If the Empire knew you were alive...." She shakes her head. "You're not just a farmboy from Tatooine. You're... practically the Jedi equivalent of a prince."
Luke stares at her. It doesn't seem like this day could get any more outrageous. "You knew my father?" No, she didn't. She couldn't have. She's too young. "I mean, you know about my father? My uncle wouldn't say anything... only that he was a skilled pilot. Obi-Wan told me he was a Jedi, I had no idea... and that Vader killed him." He shakes his head. "If my father and Obi-Wan, with years of training, couldn't stop Vader and the Emperor... What hope do I have?"
Leia shakes her head. She doesn't claim to understand it. "I think it's because your father was so famous for his actions during the Clone Wars, but I'm honestly not sure." She's scaring him. Probably better to choose a new tactic. "Do you want to go for a walk? I could show you around...."
Luke likes it by the warm fire, alone with her, but maybe that's not such a bad idea. Just hearing about the Clone Wars, and his father's potential involvement in it is making his head spin. "I don't know what I should do."
Now she's making him nervous by giving him too many options. If only she could help him relax. Maybe the direct course is best. Leia takes a chance and leans in and touches her lips to his, just a touch, then pulls back and looks into his eyes to gauge his reaction. "Don't worry," she says softly. "We're going to take care of you. I'm going to take care of you."
Luke's eyes are wide with surprise, and he can't decide if she kissed him because she likes him like he likes her, or because it's something they do on Alderaan. He hopes the firelight hides how hot his face suddenly feels. "Thank you," he finally manages to squeak out. "For everything. I'm usually very independent. I'm embarrassed how... helpless I feel."
She shakes her head. "Don't be." She moves a little closer to him, cups his face in her hands, and kisses him again, lingering this time.
There can be no mistake about that one, and after a moment of surprise, he closes his eyes and kisses her back. The sensation is unreal compared to the feeling when he'd stolen kisses from girls back on Tatooine. There's something electric in kissing Leia; something magnetic.
Before Luke returns her kiss, Leia knew he was special, both to her and in his own right, but she hadn't expected kissing him to be any different from kissing boys from school or dances.
She had been wrong.
Luke's pull on her intensifies when he starts kissing her back. It's as if every other kiss she's had in her life had been missing something essential. She hadn't known. Kissing Luke is... the most exciting thing she's ever done. It's also like coming home.
She pulls him closer still, almost frantic to feel his body against hers. She has to remind herself not to move too fast, not to scare him, because her instinct is to push him onto his back on the carpet and straddle him. She contents herself, for now, with her arms circling his neck.
Whatever Luke had expected to happen tonight in the Princess's quarters, making out was not on the list. Perhaps he had fantasized about it, but he never dreamed it would actually happen, not even if he thought Leia had some interest in him. Now that she's taken the initiative though, he finds it difficult to stop. Her arms around his neck feel warm and inviting, and soon her tongue is shooting sparks all through his body as she deepens the kiss. Luke's almost afraid he's going to get overly excited just sitting there.
His hands finally move up, going to touch her hips, pulling her closer, and the moment he does, the chime to her room sounds.
"Mistress Leia!" Threepio's voice rings out, muffled by the doors. "Mistress Leia! Oh, I do hope she's home..."
Leia breaks the kiss and sighs in exasperation. "Hold that thought," she instructs Luke, then rises, clearing her throat and straightening her dress. She answers the door to find Threepio standing there, his arms raised in his agitation, and says patiently, only a hint of disappointment in her voice, "Yes, Threepio--what is it?"
"Oh, you are home! Thank the maker! I've spent the last hour trying to track you down. Now that the nasty business of my debriefing is finished, Master Kenobi insisted that I make myself your personal attendant. What a welcome change that will be! And not an astromech in sight!" He straightens, peering inside the room. "Why, Master Luke!"
Luke bashfully rubs his neck. "Evening, Threepio." He gets to his feet with a sigh, going to stand beside Leia. "Chaperone, huh?"
"I certainly didn't expect to find you here! Oh, isn't the palace wonderful? The corridors are so spacious, everyone is so polite, and there's hardly any sand at all...."
"Kenobi sent you here?" asks Leia, then drops it. The Jedi knows she has feelings for Luke—he must. It's probably no coincidence that Threepio turned up when he did. "Thank you, Threepio. And I'm glad you're enjoying the palace. We're happy to have you." She turns to Luke, who's still blushing. "I suppose... you have an early morning, tomorrow...?"
"We're supposed to start training at sunrise," he says, running a hand through his hair.
"In that case you had better get to sleep, Master Luke," Threepio helpfully says. "Although it's snowing, dawn on Alderaan at this location at this time of year comes at four-thirty-seven in the morning."
"Thanks," Luke says with a sad smile. He starts uncertainly edging past Leia. "This was... this was nice," he says, wincing at how pathetic it sounds. "Hopefully I can see you again soon..."
Leia senses his uncertainty but doesn't know to what it pertains. She proceeds carefully. "I have duties to attend to during the day, during your training, but I'll be free in the evenings. And... somehow I'm going to convince Kenobi to let me take you to see the ocean. I promise."
He goes silently, and she feels like a piece of her leaves with him. She has trouble falling asleep that night. Somehow, knowing he's across the palace from her makes her restless. So close, so far. She awakes at dawn as he does, which is not her habit.
After Leia's had breakfast sent to her rooms and dressed and tended to some pressing government matters, she scribbles out some orders and gives the piece of flimsy to Threepio, asking him to take it to her father's tailor. In a few hours, the tailor's made up some warm clothes for both Luke and Kenobi. For Kenobi's, Leia ordered the tailor to make copies of Kenobi's habitual brown and cream robes, but in wool. For Luke's, Leia requested a handful of tailored white wool tunics, free of ornamentation but well-cut, becoming of a young Jedi without looking too like Jedi robes, and pants to match, with a brown leather belt and tall boots--Luke's cloth leg wrappings won't help him on wet, often-frozen Alderaan. She also sends him a white wool cloak with a large, warm hood. She doesn't realize until Threepio has already left with her notes that she's dressed Luke more or less like a masculine version of herself.
Threepio takes the clothes, protected in dark garment bags, to the old Jedi and his young protégé, explaining that they are gifts from Princess Leia. Upon seeing the fine white tunics for Luke, Ben looks at him knowingly and sidelong. "A thoughtful gift, and practical," he says. "I think, Luke, that it may be time we discussed Jedi views on attachment."
Luke fingers the fine wool cloak in wonder. He's never seen anything so wonderful at all in his life, and he can't believe Leia just gave it to him. Of course, she's a princess. She has more credits than Luke could ever earn in a lifetime, but it still feels incredible. How can he ever possibly repay her? Without looking up from the clothes, Luke makes a slight, "Mm?" to Obi-Wan, only half paying attention to what he said.
Obi-Wan purses his lips a little. "Desire and attachment to those desires can lead to dark things. If you have or want something, and you cannot have it, or it is compromised or taken from you, how do you feel?"
Luke blinks a few seconds, finally taking his eyes off the clothes. He lets his brain replay the complicated question. "Frustrated, I guess. Angry."
The old master nods solemnly. "You have good instincts, Luke, and a clear awareness of your emotions, which will work in your favor. But you must beware of forming attachments to your desires. To have a desire is natural--we are living things, and we need to want to survive, so it is essential that we experience hunger, thirst, the desire for companionship. It is when we don't get what we want, or when that thing is taken from us, that we are in danger of becoming angry, and anger is a sure path to the dark side of the Force. It is better to let it go."
This is part of training, Luke realizes, and he sets the clothes aside. "You mean I shouldn't want the new robes? Or that I shouldn't want revenge for my aunt and uncle? I shouldn't want to defeat Darth Vader?"
Obi-Wan sits heavily on a bench. He'd hoped this would not have been a problem with Luke as it had been with his father--never mind the specific object of these feelings. "I mean that the Jedi have always foregone emotional attachments. Romantic attachments."
That causes Luke's whole body to straighten up, as though he'd just been slapped. The memory of Leia's mouth against his last night floods through him; the feel of her hands against his skin. He positively aches at the thought that it's something he's not allowed. The way Obi-Wan is looking at him now, Luke knows the old man already knows, or at least suspects. "What, you mean not ever?" During training, he might understand, but to swear off love for the rest of his life?
That sends a pang of sorrow through Obi-Wan, and he remembers well the same look on Anakin's face so many times, all those years ago. "It must be willing, on your part, of course," he says with gentle firmness, "Otherwise it's much the same as loving and losing. Your commitment to the Jedi path must be absolute, and that means willingly abstaining from all passion, all attachment to desire. All love."
Even if Leia hadn't been there as an obvious choice he could pursue, Luke thinks this would be something he would struggle with. After all, he grew up an orphan, raised by and aunt and uncle. He always desired a family of his own; a chance to provide to his children that which he never had for himself. He swallows hard, lost in his own thoughts for a considerable time, wondering how anyone could possibly make that choice.
He looks up suddenly, realizing someone he knows had made that choice. Obi-Wan. He is proof of the concept. "Is it worth it?" he asks, all at once.
No one had ever asked the Jedi that before. Never. He hesitates. For himself, it has not been worth it. But if he hadn't stayed on the Jedi path, it is likely that Luke and Leia would both be dead or worse, casualties of Anakin's fall. For this boy, it has been worth it. "Jedi do not live for themselves, Luke," is all he says.
It's not a satisfactory answer, but it does leave Luke something to think on. His revenge isn't just personal against Darth Vader. It's to end a galactic war that has been growing for years--decades. He isn't becoming a Jedi just to avenge his father or his aunt and uncle. He's doing it for the benefit of the whole galaxy.
"After the war," he begins, tentatively. "When there's peace..." He's not sure what he wants to ask. "I want to do what it takes to stop the Empire. To defeat Vader. If that means swearing off love, for now, I am willing. To dedicate myself to the cause... but with the knowledge that someday... after it's all done...?"
Obi-Wan hangs his head a little, sighing. "You must do what you feel is right. But your career as a Jedi will not end with the war." He weighs Luke with his eyes again, and the sadness in the child's face breaks his heart. "I will not guard you, Luke. The choice is yours. But remember that great love leads to great pain, very easily, sometimes for reasons we did not foresee."
Luke sets his jaw and nods, but his mind and heart are heavy.
She's already informed him she arranged them passage to an ocean, after all. If he's not able to pursue a romance with her, he needs to tell her face-to-face, as well. Perhaps she'll help him make sense of it.
On the airskiff to the ocean, Leia sits close to Luke, telling him about the beautiful rocky cliffs they'll see, the flying fish, the salty smell of the ocean breeze. She's missed him terribly, but since they haven't interacted much in two weeks, she keeps her hands to herself. He'd seemed so embarrassed when he left her rooms, and for all she knows he's been deliberately avoiding her. The fact that he accepted her invitation is a good sign, but it's possible that he only wants to spend time together as friends. Leia keeps a respectful distance, but her heart is thrumming with anxiety.
"You look well," she says, pausing in her excited narrative. "Strong. I suppose there's something to all that exercise and meditation. Waking up early and going to bed early." It's true. He looks almost radiant in the bright sunlight streaming through the transparasteel windows. They're flying over the lowlands now, and, in the geographical change, the winter has given way to spring.
It feels good to be out of the palace; to spend a day doing something other than training and meditating and looking at Obi-Wan's stern face. He keeps his eyes on the beautiful, ever-changing view before them, aware that Leia's looking at him, and keeping herself more restrained than she wants to. It makes his heart ache, and he finds his own feelings greatly in conflict. They'll have to talk about it eventually, but not now. Not with the ship crew and Threepio lurking around. "It's exhausting, but it will all be worth it in the end." At least, he hopes. "It's too early to really tell if I have any skill…. So far it's been strength training and a lot of meditation. I'm not very good at it."
She almost touches his arm, but she holds back. "Meditation is a skill like any other. So is patience. They'll both get easier as you practice." She smiles gently. "I think you'll be a very great Jedi."
He keeps his eyes on the horizon. "Did you... ever know any Jedi? Other than Obi-Wan, I mean."
She shakes her head. "No. I'm nineteen, I was born right around the time they were all killed. But my father talks about them all the time. It was always important to him that I knew their history, and... talking about it is forbidden by the Empire, so no one learns in school anymore. Luke... what does it feel like? To feel the Force?"
Luke shakes his head. "I don't know. I've only felt maybe the slightest...." He shakes his head. Nothing he's done with Obi-Wan so far has felt even half as incredible as the kiss they shared that night. "It's too soon, maybe." Or maybe whatever power his father had didn't pass on to him. "It seems like such a monumental task. If these trained Jedi, bound together, couldn't defeat Vader... what hope do I have?"
"Don't worry about that, now. Just let Ben guide you," she says, partially because she doesn't know the answer any better than he does, and partially because she thinks it's probably best for him to just focus. "Besides, you'll never be alone. You have the whole Alliance behind you. You have Obi-Wan and my father. And me." She smiles at him.
Luke glances at her, matches her smile, then has to look away before he gets drawn into her gaze. He wanted to wait until later, when they were alone, to have the conversation, but perhaps it's better to do it now, before she gets any ideas. He doesn't want to ruin the day, but…. "Obi-Wan said something that's been troubling me," he starts. "About Jedi and attachments…." Maybe she already knows?
Leia doesn't like his tone, but she nods at him, gently asking him to go on.
Luke clenches and unclenches his jaw, not sure how to approach this. Perhaps he's being too assuming anyway. Perhaps Leia's interest in him is only superficial... Still, he has to say it. "Obi-Wan says Jedi don't form attachments to things they want... things that, if they lost them, would cause them to turn to the dark side. They don't have families... they don't fall in love…."
Leia's heart feels like it drops all the way through the skiff's hull and onto the forest floor far below them. But then something starts bothering her about Luke's words, and she can't help but saying it out loud. "Your father was a Jedi."
Luke stares at her, then blinks a few times. That's true, and isn't something he'd really reflected on before. It makes his brow furrow. His mind has always been on who his father became, but not who he was... or who his mother was. "Perhaps... perhaps that's why he was defeated?" What a horrible thought....
She shakes her head. She doesn't know. "I always thought that... passion keeps people dedicated to their cause. Maybe your father fought harder because he loved you and your mother. That's how it is for me."
"Perhaps so...." Luke thinks that's how he would be, too. "But if the one I loved was killed or lost... if my family was taken from me...." He shakes his head. He can see both sides of it, and how that moment of weakness could be enough to fall to the dark side, or let the enemy take a final killing blow.
Leia looks out the viewport. The skiff is starting to fly lower, approaching a ribbon of white sand on the horizon. "Is that why you haven't come back to my rooms? Because...."
"No... I've been so exhausted every night after training. I've wanted to see you, but... I think Obi-Wan suspects that we... that I...." He's not sure what exactly he feels for Leia, or what she feels for him, only that there's something. "I think he's trying to keep me busy." A flash of brightness in the distance catches his eye, and the glances up, squinting as the gleam of white begins to spread, stretching on and on into the horizon, turning into a vast, glassy expanse of blue, the ribbon of light the sun glinting off the sea. He straightens up, leaning forward. "Is that... ?"
Leia puts her hurt away to be tended to another time. Luke’s excitement is why she brought him here, and she wants to cherish it. She nods, smiling brightly. “That’s it!”
The skiff flies out over the ocean for a moment, and Leia excitedly points out to Luke the deep blue and silver flashes of a school of flying fish. Momentarily, their transport turns around in a graceful arc to land on a flat expanse of beach.
Leia grabs Luke’s hand and pulls him down the exit ramp, and they are met with an immediate blast of beautifully warm sea air. They’ve left their wool cloaks aboard the skiff, and their clothes blow deliciously in the wind. Leia wishes her hair could be loose like Luke’s, so she could feel the wind there, too, but she’s a grown woman, and her long hair needs to be braided at very least, or preferably up in braid crowns or buns, for her to be decently dressed on Alderaan. Maybe someday she’ll let Luke see her hair down, she thinks, her heart pounding with anticipation.
"It's incredible," he gasps. "I've never seen so much water!" His thoughts and fears have evaporated it the surf, and the roar of so much water as it endlessly crashes into the sand. He puts his hands on his head, in awe of the vast sea before him, then turns a full circle, standing in one spot, until he finds Leia. "It's unreal! Look at it!"
She nods, and she can almost taste his excitement, takes it on almost as if it’s her own. “I have so much to show you!” She laughs.
Threepio shuffles off the skiff with a large metal cooler container full of provisions for the day, along with the rest of her staff. But Leia is nineteen years old and she doesn’t need to be babysat. She rises herself to her full height--which is, unfortunately, not much, but the posture is still commanding. “That will be all,” she says to them, her hands neatly folded.
“But, your Highness--" begins the protocol droid.
“Threepio, I’m sure you’ll be happier out of the wind and sand.”
“Oh! Yes, naturally I would, and it’s quite considerate of you to remember the nature of my joints and servos, but Master Kenobi--"
“Is not your master,” Leia finishes for him. “You are assigned to me.”
“Quite right, however--"
“Threepio, please get back on the skiff. That’s an order.”
Luke smiles, taking pity on the poor neurotic droid. "We'll call you if we need you, I promise."
"Oh... very well... If you're sure." Threepio says.
"I'm sure. Go on," Luke says gently.
Threepio nods, but he dances in place for several seconds before, at last, turning and making his way back onto the skiff.
Luke chuckles softly once they're alone again. "Well, now you know why Ben's got him watching me…."
Leia shakes her head. “He should trust you,” she says softly. “It was me who....” She cuts herself off and licks her lips, suddenly embarrassed.
Threepio’s left the small cooler, and Leia picks it up. “Come on. I want to show you the tide pools.” She leads Luke without touching him, worried she’s made him uncomfortable, and hoping to fix the situation by impressing him.
The tide pools are shallow at this time of day, but later the ocean will reclaim them and they will be nearly invisible. Now, little green crustaceans, shellfish, and glowing saltwater amphibians are all visible, along with huge, exotic flowers, which bloom at low tide before closing in a tight bud again when the water comes back in. A large, furry winged mammal swoops down from the skies and drinks nectar from one of the blossoms, then jumps back into the air when it catches sight of Luke and Leia.
There's more life in the little tide pool than on all of Tatooine, Luke thinks. It's not true, but it feels like it. There's nothing comparable, and how could there be? The water is life, and there's none of it on his barren, desert world. How incredible to think this sort of thing is happening the whole planet over, every moment of every day, while Tatooine blisters in the heat of twin suns. "It's beautiful... I never even imagined such things could exist…."
Encouraged by his wonder, Leia tells him what she knows about the various species, shows him which ones he can touch, gazing at his bright smile and flashing blue eyes when he dips his hand in the water. Her breath catches a little, but she doesn’t act on her feelings. He’s made himself clear. They’ll have to just be friends.
They splash in the tide pools for an hour before settling on the sand. Luke just wants to watch the sea. He wants to take a ship out and just fly as straight as possible to see how long it'd take to get to the other side. Ten minutes? An hour? Longer? It's unfathomable. "Thank you for bringing me out here," he says, drawing his knees to his chest. Not only is the sea beautiful and majestic to look at it, but being alone--or nearly alone--is almost nice too. He has hardly relaxed since arriving, feeling he has to always be on his guard.
Surprisingly, he doesn't feel that need around Leia, though perhaps he should. She's the one he most wants to impress. Taking his eyes off the vast sea at last, he settles his gaze on Leia. She's so beautiful too, and looks even more gorgeous with the wind pulling at the loose little hairs by her face. "Have you had... lots of boyfriends?"
Leia hadn’t been expecting the question, and she starts a little, but hides it with practiced poise and dignity. “No one special,” she answers. It’s true. There have been a lot of boys, but no one she’s felt inexorably drawn to like Luke. No one with whom she’s felt electric, magnetic. There’s been fun, but not a single gram of magic. “I’ve had boyfriends, but... I haven’t been in love.” She runs her fingers over the sand beside her, meeting his eyes with hesitation. “I don’t suppose there were too many girls to choose from where you grew up.” She hopes that doesn’t sound critical.
Luke runs his hands over the sand too. It feels different here than the sand on Tatooine; coarser, more gritty, less fine. It's dry this far up the shore, but it still feels wet compared to the dust-like sand back home.
"No, there weren't too many girls to choose from where I grew up." It's not really home anymore. Luke's not sure he'll ever go back. Why would he? "Lots of people my age are married back home. Back... on Tatooine. My aunt thought it was a good idea, but my uncle was against it. He needed me on the farm... and it's not like there were a lot of choices. Even the women there were weren't very interested in someone like me." He picks up what he thinks is a rock, and is about to throw it into the sea when his fingers tell him to look at what he's holding.
It's a broken piece of a shell abandoned long ago by some crustacean, the interior glitters pearlescent in the sunlight and Luke thinks it's absolutely beautiful. He closes his fingers around it, unable to throw it. "Maybe it was for a reason?"
“Let me see,” Leia says gently, reaching for the shell, gazing at it with Luke when he opens his closed hand. “It’s a beach snail shell. They don’t live in the water, just in the sand. That’s a pretty one, even if it is broken--hold onto it.” She looks up into his eyes, and his face is a little closer than she’d expected. “For a reason,” she echoes carefully. “You... you mean because of Jedi not being allowed attachments?” Does he feel it too? The electricity passing between them at this close range almost makes her shiver. It’s unmistakable. What if she’s the only one who feels it? She’d feel so foolish. She realizes she’s trembling a little after all, and lets her fingers fall away from the shell where they had held it in the light together.
Luke finds that the way their bodies are angled together they make a little wind break, and it's quieter somehow. The roar of the sea is calmed, the wind is softer, and his heart is beating much louder. His fingers close around the shell, his thumb pressing into the smooth, flat iridescence. It feels absolutely insane to be sitting on a beach, looking at a beautiful princess that he kissed only two weeks ago.... no, she kissed him. "I don't have to, you know..." he starts, uncertainly. "Become a Jedi, that is…." It feels like his destiny; like something the whole universe expects him to do. It's something he expects himself to do, too. But three weeks ago he didn't even know what a Jedi was. He's just a farm boy from Tatooine.
But then, maybe she wouldn't be interested in him at all if he wasn't a Jedi-to-be. What had she said? He was practically the equivalent of a Jedi prince? Without the Force behind him, he's just a farmboy from nowhere. And yet....
Leia’s sense of duty, encouraged and insisted upon by her parents for her whole life, kicks in. Luke does have to become a Jedi. Her father says the Alliance depends on it. “You do have to,” she says softly. “But... I’m not sure that....” She swallows. “I’m sorry. This isn’t my place at all. But maybe Kenobi’s rules... maybe they’re not the important part of being a Jedi. They’re traditions, formalities. Maybe....” She looks back into his eyes.
Luke finds himself lost in her eyes, forgetting the topic for a moment. It takes a second to let himself pull back into his mind. That magnetism is still there between them, humming louder and louder. He lowers his gaze. "I really like you," he admits, shyly. To say he feels trapped would be an understatement.
Leia licks her lips. “I want you,” she whispers. It’s more forward than she’d meant to be, but she feels he needs to know. What she’s talking about may be more than what he’s talking about, and she needs him to know this isn’t a crush to her, and her desires are not innocent. What if she’s too grown-up for him? “I’m not just talking about sex. I want you.”
Little bolts of electricity shoot through Luke at her words. It's almost too much for his poor farmboy heart to take in all at once. He's afraid anything he says will damn him one way or another, but knowing she wants him more than he can bear. Maybe it's what Obi-Wan was warning him about; the desire to throw reason and duty out the window in order to embrace passion. "Leia," he begins, still not looking up, knowing if he does he'll be lost in her eyes.
“Look at me,” she asks, almost begs. She needs to see his eyes. Needs to read him. She knows this is the first time something like this has happened to him, and she wants to make sure she doesn’t do anything he isn’t ready for. But she can’t tell with him looking away. Carefully, she reaches for his hand.
Luke lets the shell go so he can lace their fingers together. Her hand is welcoming and warm, like coming home more than any home ever felt. Slowly, he lifts his eyes and meets hers, feeling that electric pull magnify the moment he does. It's not a trick or his imagination. It's real. It's like a physical bond pulsing between them.
She has to clear her throat a little to speak. “I feel something, when we’re like this. The reason I asked you what the Force feels like is because, I thought....” She breathes carefully. Just talking about this, just touching his hand, is getting her excited. “I thought I was maybe feeling the Force... through you. Do you feel it?”
Luke nods, unable to speak for a moment. "I feel something... something different. I've never felt anything like it before... if it's the Force..." He laughs, a little breathless. "If it's the Force, then it's more effective than any meditation I've done so far with Obi-Wan..."
Leia laughs in turn, and it feels good to laugh with him, holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes. She sobers a little, leaning closer to him. “Doesn’t life create the Force?” she asks softly.
Luke nods. "That's what Obi-Wan says... the Force is in all living things, created by life... I'm just an apprentice…."
“Then how could two living things loving each other be wrong?” She asks. Her lips are so close to his that she can feel the heat of his breath.
Obi-Wan's words echo through Luke's head. He won't guard him. The choice is Luke's... but great desire leads to great suffering…. Is he to already fail at being a Jedi after only two weeks? Or is he to try and juggle both, to prove to Obi-Wan than both are possible? And what about his beloved father, who must have found some form of love if he had a son? All of the emotions and thoughts conflict through Luke, dulling some of the pull. "I want you," he whispers, at last, his eyes not quite closed. "But I don't know what I should do...."
With anyone else, Leia would just grab him by his tunic and kiss him with everything in her heart, everything making her body quake, but if she ever hurt Luke she’d never forgive herself. But in that moment she’s sure she’s sure of her feelings for the first time. For the first time in her life. “I love you,” she gasps.
Perhaps it's already too late, Luke thinks. Obi-Wan's warning would have come too late if it had come the moment Luke saw Leia and her droids standing lost in that Anchorhead bar. He doesn't mean to kiss her, doesn't mean to give into his feelings, or the pull between them, but he does. It happens, like two drops of water coming together in the evaporator, melding into one as he kisses her.
Did he kiss her, or did she kiss him? She’s not sure, and it’s the same either way--they seem joined in their movements, now, and before long they’re rolling in the sand, driven on by conscious desires and unconscious awarenesses. If she’d ever been unsure of his feelings, she’s not sure how. She sees clearly now the extent of their mutual adoration, the intense heat between them, the electricity that cannot help but pull them towards one another. She wonders distantly if anyone could see them from the landed skiff, a quarter kilometer distant. She doesn’t think so, but if anyone could, she would still be powerless to stop. She dips her head after a long while, nipping at his neck. His body against hers is the greatest thing she has ever felt in her entire life. “I want to be your first,” she breathes, then wonders if she’s offended him. Should she pretend she can’t tell?
Luke's breathing is heavier than he thinks it's ever been, and his hands tentatively go up to feel her body, his palms against her cloth feel so hot, as if he's touching her very flesh itself. "I'm yours," he confesses, helplessly, without thinking about it. It's true, as much as he might wish it weren't. He's hers completely, and it doesn't matter if that damns his soul anymore.
She’s straddling him now, and pulls away a little so she can smile down at him. He’s so flushed, his breath ragged, but he smiles back at her, absolutely radiant. “Not...not like this,” she says, surprising even herself. With anyone else she would have fucked him right there on the beach, or maybe found the shelter of a cave or a rock--but this is Luke. This has to be... perfect. “I can’t. I love you. I....” She ducks down and starts kissing his neck again, helpless. “Come to my room tonight. Please.”
Luke is breathless and perhaps already too close. He just pants for a bit while she kisses his neck, his hands just holding her close. "I will," he gasps, and he thinks he knows what she intends and it makes his whole body shiver with anticipation. "I will. Oh... oh, Leia…."
She kisses his lips again, not even meaning to, just needing him to an extent, a depth she’s never felt before. His body responds, pressing into her hips, and she knows she has to get off him or he’ll end up finishing from just the friction through their clothes. She dismounts him, aching because of it, but kisses him awhile longer, lying by his side in the sand.
Luke's still panting, holding her, touching her, utterly mesmerized by her. He wants to run his fingers through her hair, and kiss her more. Kiss all of her. He wants to stare into her eyes until he forgets the rest of the world. He wants to bury himself in her, and the thought makes him blush. "I didn't know I could want someone this much." His fingers touch her face, ghosting over her soft skin.
“Neither did I,” she admits. “Like I said--no one special’s come along. I want you so badly I ache for you, Luke....” If he weren’t so naive, she’d tell him where.
She pulls reluctantly away and sits up, taking breaths to try to calm herself down. The sea air, so much warmer than the weather up in the highlands of the palace, is still infinitely cooler than her skin, and it helps a little. “In a couple months, it will be warm enough to swim,” she says, by way of distracting them, but also because she’d already meant to tell him earlier.
Luke barely hears her, so lost in the way she looks, and the thoughts filling his head... that she wants him as much as he wants her. Maybe more, since she's so much more worldly and confident. "Swim?" He props himself up on his elbows, glancing dubiously at the sea. Of course, he knows the meaning of the word, but the thought of going into such a vast and ceaseless ocean is frightening.
She sees his hesitation and smiles gently. “It’s okay. I’ll teach you.” As soon as the words are out of her mouth, she realizes it could apply to what she wants to do tonight, and she blushes deeper, covering her face with her hands as she laughs at how uncharacteristically nervous she is. But Luke is special. She doesn’t want to mess this up. “I will,” she reinforces. “I’ll teach you anything.”
Luke sits up, smiling, bashful, loving how she's looking bashful too. She's so worldly, but something here is still overwhelming even her. It makes him feel a bit more at ease. "Tell me more about you," he suddenly says. He's ready to marry her and spend the rest of his life with her, but he doesn't even know her favorite color. "I want to know everything."
Leia smiles even brighter at that. “I....” She shakes her head, almost laughing at his question, or at how taken aback she is by it. She’s not very interested in herself. “I was born in Alderaa. I went to the university there. I got my doctorate in political science last year--my parents said it was imperative I went into politics as soon as possible, to fight the Empire. And I’ll be queen when my mother dies, assuming I’m still around.” This isn’t what he cares about, she knows, but she’s not sure what else to say. “I like snow, and animals, and fruit, and wine. I like to feel I’m making a difference in the lives of others. I like you.”
"Queen...." He's proud of her, though he's really only just met her, and she probably doesn't have any choice in becoming queen. She's suited for it, though. He can tell she'll be a wonderful queen... but the thought sobers him, as well. How can she possibly be with someone like him? A penniless farmboy from another world? One who is breaking Jedi code just kissing her. "Would your family... I mean... a queen must marry, you know... a prince, right?"
“No,” she says. “No, there’s no law like that on Alderaan. I might be asked to marry to make a political alliance, but....” She shrugs. “I don’t think that my parents would ask me to deny my heart.”
Luke still feels silly and shy assuming anything, but it's a comfort to know that perhaps it's possible... at least on her end. "I have to talk to Obi-Wan. I don't think he'll be happy..."
“It doesn’t sound like he would be.” She weighs him with her eyes. “But... you and I... we want the same things, I think....”
Luke nods, still hesitant, but open and honest. "I love you," he says, and he realizes only then that he hadn't said it back to her yet. He'd been too overwhelmed; felt it too strongly without saying it. It's only been a month since they met on Tatooine, and yet he knows she's the only one for him. It's as if he has been missing her all his life, and it's terrifying and exhilarating and he wants to spend the rest of his life getting to know her.
Leia stares at him, realizing how deeply he means the words, knowing he hadn’t said them lightly. She trembles from her very core with happiness, in more reverence of this moment than she’d expected. She always knew Luke wasn’t just another boy, but she hadn’t expected them to fall in love so completely, so fast. Then again, how else could it have happened? She knew the moment she saw him. “Hold me,” she breathes, moving closer to him again, nestling herself into his arms.
Luke gathers her in his arms and that's almost just enough. He wants more, but it's better than not holding or touch her. It's intimate without being inappropriate, and he holds her and watches the sea, and swears he can feel the planet spinning beneath him, through space. He holds her for several minutes, until their hearts calm, and their breaths even out. "Maybe it's silly," he murmurs after some time, "But I think this is the happiest I've ever been."
Leia wraps her arms around his waist. She’s never felt this comfortable being held by a boyfriend. Is he her boyfriend? “It’s not silly at all,” she says softly.
That evening, Leia brazenly visits Luke at his and Obi-Wan’s rooms after dinner. She doesn’t care what the old Jedi thinks of her when he answers the door, even though he looks at her with some disapproval. “I was hoping Luke was free to take a walk,” she says, looking past Kenobi for the boy. “The sunset over the snowy peaks is lovely.”
"Indeed it is, but I think you've monopolized my pupil for long enough today," he says in such a kind voice, with such a sweet smile it's hard to be angry with him. "There will be other sunsets other days, wouldn't you agree?"
"But I'd like to go tonight," Luke says, appearing from behind the Jedi Master.
"As would I... perhaps then we should all go together?"
Leia steadies herself. “Master Kenobi,” she says carefully, “Luke is an adult and he’s able to attend a social function on his own. I would appreciate your presence at a future date.”
Obi-Wan's eyes narrow just slightly, but he nods. "Very well. Remember, Luke. Training starts at dawn."
Brightening up, Luke immediately prepares to head out. "I'll be there."
Once the two teenagers disappear down the corridor together, Obi-Wan's neutral expression fades. He pulls out his comlink. "This is General Kenobi. Put me through to Bail Organa." When the transmission clicks, he says, "We need to talk about the children."
Bail takes the transmission, and sighs. He trusts Leia completely. “Master Kenobi, they’re not children....”
"Not over the com, Bail. Meet me in the Queen's Gardens in fifteen minutes." He signs out, gathers his cloak, and begins the walk. He doesn't probe, but he keeps a careful watch on Luke's feelings and emotions, and the longer he spends with Leia, the more concerned Obi-Wan grows.
Bail is unconcerned, but he does as the Jedi asks, as he always has, and meets him in the gardens. “They’re not their parents,” he says very lowly to Kenobi as soon as they’re in close enough proximity. “Leia is level-headed and dedicated to her cause. If she’s drawn to Luke, it’s understandable....”
"He is a Jedi. The last. He must not follow his father's path. There can be no distractions. I think it will be best to keep them apart. Their infatuation with each other is not only distracting for his training, but dangerous. It cannot be allowed to grow."
“From what you’ve told me, Anakin turned due to fears he would not be allowed to be with Padmé,” Bail says, his voice lower. “Wouldn’t keeping them apart cause similar fears?” Bail pauses, steps closer to the Jedi Master. “Kenobi, I might prefer telling them the truth to forcing them apart. It’s natural for them to feel as they do about each other. They’ve unconsciously felt each other’s absence their whole lives.”
Obi-Wan shakes his head. "No. It is still too soon. With Luke here now, his identity has a greater chance of being discovered. If that happens, we do not want Leia to be involved as well." He crosses his arms, staring out over the gardens. "They're developing inappropriate feelings for one another. It shouldn't be allowed to continue."
“Inappropriate because of their true relationship, or inappropriate because Luke’s to be a Jedi?” Bail asks. “I’d like to avoid breaking Leia’s heart, Kenobi. She meets someone who understands her so rarely."
"Both." Obi-Wan studies Bail keenly. "If you wish to spare the girl's heart, you should help me crush this foolish infatuation now, before they become dangerously attached. Luke must concentrate on becoming a Jedi and defeating Darth Vader. There can be no distractions. No love. Perhaps if he thinks he can pursue her after the war, by which time we can tell them the truth... that may suffice."
Bail crosses his arms. “You propose telling Luke he can be with her later, and then, when that time comes, telling him the truth? That hardly seems fair.” He sets his jaw, turning just in time to see two teenagers in white run hand-in-hand past a window in one of the palace’s highest towers, trying to reach the top before the sunset. He knows Leia, and he knows how lonely she’s been, especially as she grows up and all the boys she’d once had to keep her company become increasingly aware of the ways in which she outshines them. He also knows that she, always and without fail, gets any boy she wants. If she wants Luke, she will have him, if he’s at all willing. “Very well,” Bail says. “Tell Luke what you must. I’ll encourage Leia to focus on her work.” She works too hard already, he knows, and the little time she already takes for herself is more than earned, but he knows she’ll respond with a renewed sense of duty, as always. “And to allow Luke to focus on his own. She’ll understand.”
"They must understand. Their whole lives have been cruel; this is just one step more. We may be seen as villains someday, but we have done it all to protect them... and to fight the Empire. Let him hate me for it someday, so long as we win."
“In the morning,” Bail says. “Just let her be happy tonight.”
Obi-Wan purses his lips, his eyes raised again to the tower, worried that already it's too late, but he doesn't protest any further.
Luke is out of breath by the time they finally reach the top of the dusty old, rarely used tower, but true to Leia's words it's high above almost all the other structures in the city and provides them an unparalleled view of the gorgeous majesty of the setting sun. There's only one sun, which Luke has always thought would look less special, but the clouds on Alderaan are painted brilliant pinks and oranges in a way that Tatooine's skies never are. It's absolutely gorgeous.
“I love the snow, but I’m glad it let up,” Leia says, admiring the way the fading light catches the sparse clouds. The snowy peaks glow faintly pink, and Leia smiles in satisfaction. This was definitely the right place to bring Luke. She turns to him, slipping her arms around his waist and leaning her head on his shoulder. “I felt like I was apart from you for ages,” she says, laughing a little at herself. The time between their parting, when they returned from the beach, and their reunion was less than two hours, but it really had been difficult for Leia to get through.
"What happened to waiting until tonight?" he murmurs, pressing his cheek into her hair. He puts his around her too, and feels the same way, as though being apart for those two hours was unbearable. "I thought Obi-Wan wasn't going to let me go... He knows. I know he knows... He's going to try and keep us apart...."
“I know,” Leia grumbles. “But he doesn’t have to know, you know. We can sneak out at night. You can slip in and out of my room. Or we could meet in the forest. I don’t care. I’m not letting anyone keep us apart.” She looks up at him, sees his already gold complexion and hair made even more brilliant by the setting sun. “You’re gorgeous.”
Luke laughs, embarrassed, but it doesn't dim his smile. "He can sense when I'm somewhere I shouldn't be. It won't be easy to sneak out without him knowing... but I'll try. I want to be with you." The sun is setting, brilliant and colorful, but Luke's eyes are on Leia, and his hands drop to her hips, pulling her close. "I need to get my own quarters... then you could just come to me...."
Leia lets out a small sound of pleasure and surprise at his words, at his hands on her hips and his body close to hers. “I’ll assign you your own room,” she says. “Really. They’ll probably run it by my father, but he won’t say no.” She tilts her head up and kisses him, at first soft, then more insistent. His reciprocation sends jolts through her whole body.
The sunset is nothing compared to the way it feels to kiss Leia and feel her mouth against his, her hands on his body, her heart beating in her chest. She can get him his own room. Obi-Wan won't like it, but what can he do if the royal family decrees it? "I might not be able to visit you tonight," Luke breathes, breaking the kiss just to nip at her neck. "Since he let me go now...we should make good use of our time..."
Leia bites her lip. This boy learns fast. “Mmm,” she whimpers, “Okay. Yes. Oh....” Her hands roam his body, exploring the increasingly muscled arms and torso. “Do... do you want to go to my room now? No one will notice us....”
"Are you sure?" He kisses her ear. "What if Obi-Wan sees us? Or Threepio..." It feels safe, somehow, up in the tower. Even if someone came, it would take them a long time to get all the way up here, and they'd be sure to hear them coming.
He’s right. “Here’s fine,” she replies frantically, reaching for his belt, kissing his neck in turn. “Tell me if I go too fast....”
"You won't," he promises, knowing now without a doubt that he wants everything she does, and more. "Only...." He's already hard, embarrassingly, so, and he knows he won't last. "If you...." He glances behind him, finding an old bench that he navigates them toward. "If I...." He licks his lips. "If it happens too fast," he finally manages, "it... probably won't happen as fast the second...." His cheeks are bright pink now.
She smiles. “I know. Don’t worry. Making you feel good could never make me anything but happy,” she says, pushing him over onto the bench and climbing on top of him, so he’s lying flat on his back and she’s straddling him as they kiss. “Don’t worry about anything. I love you.” It still feels strange to say it, but it becomes more true every moment that Leia’s alive.
Luke gasps, feeling as if he could come just from this alone. In fact, he knows he could, and it's almost frightening, but he doesn't stop her. There's a fire in his veins, and the knowledge that Obi-Wan would stop them if he was there that fuels him. Something burns inside him needing to make this connection with Leia as soon as possible; waiting any longer isn't an option. "Leia," he gasps, touching her hips, her waist, worshipping in his own clumsy way, wanting more but not quite sure how proceed. "I want you," he whispers.
She shouldn’t keep him waiting. She sits up tall, kneeling over his waist, and takes her belt off, then pulls her dress off over her head, revealing there was never anything under it. She guides Luke’s hands to her breasts. “Touch me,” she whispers.
Luke gasps, and lets her guide his hands. His palms ghost over her nipples, and when he does, his hips surge in sync with hers. The magnetism between them is only increasing. "You're so gorgeous," he whispers. They're the first breasts he's ever seen in person, let alone touched, and he doesn't think there could be a better pair in the universe.
She smiles warmly down at him, then stretches out along his body again, kissing everywhere she can reach. “Your turn,” she breathes, pulling his tunic up. “I want to see you so badly....”
Luke laughs self consciously, but he doesn't think he could deny her anything. Holding her against him, he sits up just enough to pull his tunic off. He tries desperately to remember some of his meditation techniques, not just to keep himself calm, but in an attempt to keep Obi-Wan from knowing what he's about to do. He tosses his tunic aside and looks up at Leia, certain he can't possibly look as delicious to her as she does to him.
Leia feels like this is the first man she’s ever seen, and she knows for a fact nothing else in the universe could ever be as beautiful as he is. She gasps a little, running her fingers over his chest. “Oh, Luke....” She starts kissing his neck again as she reaches down and unfastens his pants. “These, too.”
"Help me with them," he gasps, and between his fumbling and her hands, they pull his pants off, and what little he's wearing beneath. His cocks springs forward, almost fully hard, leaking and flushed. He's shy about it, but excited, too. It's like that because of what she's doing to him, after all.
Leia lets out an appreciative breath when she can finally see all of him. Her hand closes gently around his cock, not yet applying too much pressure so he doesn’t go off too soon. “Look at you,” she purrs. “Look how much you want me.”
Luke gasps, his whole body arching up into her touch. There's intensity there like he's never felt before, but also a complete sense of peace. His body is on fire, and Leia's hand is the coolness that will salve him. His fingers grip her needfully as she strokes him, his eyes riveted to hers. He thinks he's never belonged anywhere in the universe before now. He's standing on the cusp of understanding everything. "Leia," he manages to rasp.
She feels it, too--raw need, desperate but with a sense of comfort and belonging like she’s never experienced in her life. Is it because she’s already fallen so in love with him? “Do you feel how wet I am?” she whispers. “Do you want to be inside of me?”
Luke can only make a noise of pleasure at her words. He hasn't touched her yet, not the way she's touching him. He doesn't know quite how wet she is, or even completely what that means, but he wants to. He wants to be inside her. He's never had a more erotic thought in his life. "Yes," he finally manages, opening eyes he hadn't realized he'd closed. "Yes, Leia... please..." His fingers pull at her hips, needful, uncoordinated, but loving. "I need you, Leia." It's gone beyond want. His whole body aches for her.
“Touch me first. Here.” She takes his hand and shows him her nub, already erect like he is. “Touch me. If you come, I want to come with you....”
Luke lets out another breathy moan, touching the soft, almost spongey wetness between her legs, feeling her reactions to it almost as if he was touching himself. He's never even thought about this sort of thing in a fantasy before, but somehow his hand knows what to do, how to stroke her little nub, how to make her gasp. "Oh, Leia..." Obi-Wan would be furious with him right now, if he knew, and somehow that only makes Luke bolder, his touches more confident.
She could come from just this very easily. She’s never been touched exactly how she wants before, and in moments she’s moaning his name uncontrollably. At last, she can’t bear to wait anymore. She wraps her body around his hips again, taking him easily into her, making them both shudder.
Then, it dawns on her. That sense she had of feeling something like the Force when she and Luke touch is going to be stronger the more intimately they’re touching. And with him inside her, it’s like she can see the whole universe.
The sun has set, but to Luke the room is brilliant, brighter than any dawn. Connecting to Leia this way is as if a thousand closed, locked and rusted gates have suddenly burst open. A million withered bridges suddenly flourish with life. He sits up slightly, hands on her hips, guiding her as she rocks on him, and his body stretches and fills hers. "Leia," he gasps, again and again, rocking up into her, feeling every sensation where his body touches inside hers, and how it's all magnified somehow a thousand-fold by the Force or his love or something more. "Leia, Leia," he whimpers and worships, lost in her eyes, and the perfection and satiation he feels being inside her.
She almost asks him to warn her before he comes, but she realizes she’ll know. So she leans over him, kissing him as they make love, her hips working, demanding, against his. “You feel so good,” she laughs. “So good. Better... better than anything....”
Luke tries to voice his agreement, but every beat of her heart makes his cock pulse and he's lost on the sea of euphoria and pleasured connection. His fingers dig harder into her hips as he feels his end coming, fast like he knew he would, but with more insistence than he realized. It's not just the arousal that's demanding his body to action, but a deep visceral need to release--inside her. "Leia," he says again, this time more roughly, and his hands drag her down and down, holding her there. He lets out a low, guttural cry and erupts as deep inside her as he can manage, staring into her eyes as he does, knowing she needs it like this as desperately as he does.
Instinctively, Leia tightens her thighs around him. It becomes suddenly so, so, so important that he comes deep inside her, and her orgasm is microseconds behind his. She feels as if by making love with
him like this, now, she’s completing a mission she had never actually been handed, a mission of the utmost importance and secrecy. As true and real as that feeling is, she knows that her love for him is the driving force, that she had known at first glance but also built it intentionally with their every meeting. She wanted him. Leia Organa always gets what she wants. When she comes with him, she knows it’s he culmination of so many things, as if every moment of her life has contributed and led to it, and she gives herself over to helplessly pleasuring him in her throes. She knows how to make it good for herself, and it already is. She makes sure she makes it good for him, too, moaning his name, telling him how much she cherishes him, nipping his neck, rocking her hips with wild abandon into his.
"Yes," Luke manages to moan as he feels her coming with him, feels her sharing the passion and the need. Whatever is happening to him is happening to her too, and that just makes it twice as good. Her body and actions and movements draw his orgasm out longer and harder than any he's ever had before. Before this, he can hardly call what he had orgasms; this is the real thing, with purpose and drive. He continues to hold her hips down, keeping her in place as the last of his seed shoots out into her. There are stars in his eyes and in the stars he sees only her.
Leia lets herself practically scream his name before she collapses, still thrumming and shivering, into his arms. “H-hold me....” she gasps. His hands are still on her hips, but she needs his arms circling her, carefully guarding her. The intensity of what just happened is completely foreign to her, and she doesn’t know how to make sense of it.
Sensing she won't move off him, Luke slides his hands up her hips to wrap around her middle, holding her close to him, her breasts pressed to his chest, her head just barely tucked under his chin, their hearts pounding together, impossibly in sync, so close. He swallows hard, trying to stop the world from spinning. "I've got you," he finally, quietly whispers. "I'm here."
Maybe they were lovers in a past life, Leia thinks, unable to come up with any other reason they would feel so familiar to each other, why making love together would open up their minds and bodies and souls like it has. She tightens around him intentionally. She wants to be connected forever. “That was incredible,” she breathes, though it’s hardly necessary to understate their union like that. “It can’t be the only time.” She tilts her head up to look at him, kissing his jaw. “You have to find ways to get away. We were made for this....”
Luke laughs, because she stole the words from his mouth. "It won't be the only time," he promises, turning his face to capture her in another kiss. "Not even the only time tonight, if I have any say about it." If only there were a bed; somewhere soft to lay down with Leia in his arms. He could stay there forever... He takes a deep breath, holding her close, and it feels like he can breathe clearly for the first time in his life. Everything is brighter and more real, like he was only half-alive before now. "I didn't know it would be like this," he admits, somewhat shyly; there's so much he doesn't know. "I didn't realize it'd be so... intense..."
Leia doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “It’s not like this. Not ever.”
It surprises him to hear her say that, but in the same moment it doesn't. He knew it couldn't always be like this. That was something special; beyond normal. "Then... why...?" Is it because he's a Jedi?
“Because you’re a Jedi, I think,” she says, not realizing she's echoing his thoughts. “I told you, I thought I could feel the Force through you. But I don’t know. I’ve never even heard of anything like that happening. Maybe... maybe it’s just like that when you make love with someone you’re meant for.”
Luke pulls back just enough to look at her. It's as if she plucked that thought from his head, though perhaps she just arrived at it on her own. "Maybe. You're definitely meant for me... there's no doubt in my mind about that." Maybe all Jedi feel this way when they make love. Perhaps that's why they make them swear off it; it's so powerful and addicting....
Leia rises up a little so she can kiss him properly, full on his delicious lips, lingering a long time. “I feel like I looked for you every day until I found you,” she says, then kisses him again, already rolling her hips again a little. “Did you look for me?”
Luke stares at her, and he thinks she's right. "I didn't know I was looking for you when I stared into the sky and... ached to be out among the stars... but I must've known. I didn't belong on Tatooine, for sure. Kiss me again."
She smiles, then cups his face and kisses him with all her passion. “I always out there for you,” she whispers, kissing him between sentences. “And here I am, and I’m all yours.” She presses hard into him, feeling his cock twitching. “And I always will be.”
Luke gasps and kisses her back. "I promise... no matter what Obi-Wan says... I'm yours. Even if I have to deny you to finish my training, someday... after the war, if it has to be, we'll be together. And during the war, every night if I can manage," he says, laughing softly. He loses his hold on her just enough that they can move against each other again.
Leia moans enthusiastically as he starts making love to her for a second time. “Yes, Luke,” she breathes. “We’ll be together. We’ll find a way.” She bites his neck and leans closer to his ear. “I want you on top.”
The old dusty bench is really too narrow for them to be comfortable. Luke sits up, holding her in place, and carefully maneuvers them to the floor. It's carpeted and although dusty, not as cold or unforgiving at the bench. He carefully moves Leia on her back, moaning slightly at the movements and how that makes their bodies feel against each other. His hands slide down her hips again, to her legs, carefully pushing them back, opening her up so he can sink his weight into her. "Like this?" he breathily asks.
“Yes,” she gasps. It feels incredible. No one has ever made love to her this gently or passionately. “Are you sure you haven’t done this before?” she jokes, gazing up at him.
"Never," he gasps, rocking into her. He's not fully hard yet, but he's getting there fairly rapidly. "Only you." He stares into her eyes, feeling as his cock stiffens and fills her again; stretches her deliciously until he fits perfectly.
Leia licks her lips as he comes back to life, looking into his eyes with a kind of worship. “We have to be together,” she says, though they’ve already talked about it. The longer they’re together, the surer she is. It’s essential for her life to go on. “We can elope if we have to.”
Luke laughs, delighted, and kisses her. "Are you proposing to me, Princess Leia Organa?" he asks, rocking slowly and deeply into her.
She can’t believe it herself, but she nods. “I think I am.” She holds his face in her hands. “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but I want to marry you. Promise me we’ll do it, that we’ll find a way.”
Luke doesn't stop thrusting into her, and his answer is to kiss her and hold her back. "I promise. Yes. I'll marry you. I'm yours. I'm yours forever, Leia. Forever."
She gives out a helpless whimper of happiness in reply, holding him closer, opening her body to him more fully. She’d always thought if she married, the engagement would be decided in a meeting between her parents and the groom’s, as her mother’s marriage to her father had been decided. She expected to love her husband, but the all-consuming love she has for Luke had been completely unanticipated. Her heart is full to bursting, and her body is on fire with pleasure. “Forever,” she echoes, her eyes drifting shut in ecstasy.
Luke loses himself to her, in her, with her. They don't need words anymore. Their hearts and souls are singing, rejoicing in their union. It's all they need; the steady rhythm of Luke's thrusts, and Leia's hips gyrating to meet him, pushing him on, deeper. He lasts longer the second time, but not terribly much. Once again that all-consuming need to bury himself inside her grips him and he thrusts deeper than ever before, crying out into her neck as he releases another load, thick and heavy, with such force it makes his whole body tremble. "Take me inside you," he gasps, almost automatically. It's not a conscious thought; it's a primeval need in him. "Take it all inside you," he begs, shaking. "Keep me with you."
Leia squeezes her eyes shut until tears start forcing their way out. She comes with him without even meaning to, and she deliberately tries to take all his seed into her body, to hold it there, something she’s never before felt compelled to do. She needs him. Every part of him. All the time. For the rest of their lives. “I’ll keep you with me,” she whispers in a shudder. “You’re mine.”
Their bodies cool as they hold each other there, in the now-dark tower, tallest in the city, coming back to an awareness of their surroundings, of their lives. He stays inside her for a long time, and they hold each other close. “I meant it,” Leia says. “I want to marry you. I’m going to talk to my father about it.”
Luke cries softly, or maybe she does, but they're tears of happiness and contentment. Tomorrow will bring hardships, but Luke knows now, without a doubt, where his path lies: with Leia. He holds her until the tower grows cold, and then they dress in silence and sit on the bench together, staring out into the night talking about the future.
When he returns to his quarters much later that night, Obi-Wan is sitting up in a chair by the window, the only light in the room coming from the small lamp by his side. He doesn't look up from his datapad at first, but when he finally does, Luke feels his heart sink into his stomach.
He knows, or at least he knows something.
“I don’t disapprove based on any abstract morality or because of Leia herself. It is merely for the sake of your destiny that I must object to the course you are taking, young Luke.” He sets the datapad down with a small sigh. “I need your focus. Your utmost devotion. Being a Jedi Knight is not a job you can turn up for and then go home at night, leaving it behind you and forgotten until the next morning. It is your whole life.” He watches Luke with serious blue eyes, eyes that have seen too much, and are heavy now with worry. “Every moment, you are a Jedi.”
The smart thing to do would be to lie; to tell Obi-Wan he understands, and he'll put Leia aside, while in truth continuing to see her private. But Luke's never been a good liar, and has no desire to lie to his new master and old friend. He's not sure he could even do it. Helplessly, still feeling the touch of her hands on his body, Luke plainly shakes his head and says, "I love her."
Obi-Wan’s reaction seems to pass through his whole body, but he hides it, standing, straightening his robes. “Luke... tell me. What will you do if you cannot be with her? How will you feel?”
Luke shakes his head. He knows now why it's dangerous; why Obi-Wan warned him against it. Being away from Leia would be torture. "I'll stop Vader to be with her," he says, finding a kind of calm resolve in saying that. "I'll end the war myself. Bring peace so we don't need anymore Jedi, if I have to."
Ben sets his jaw and exhales. He’s torn--Luke could stop Vader, he’s certain, and maybe dangling his relationship with Leia in front of him as a reward could help motivate him. But not only can he not condone their relationship, he also can’t pretend to Luke that his duties as a Jedi will end when Vader is dead.
He makes his decision, and steadies himself to deliver Luke a partial lie--if it will ever matter. “If you love her, then dedicate yourself to her cause, the cause of her family. Maybe, someday when we have all reached our objectives... maybe then things will be different.”
Luke nods and remembers something Leia said; something he'd never considered. "My father was a Jedi... but he had a son. Me. Doesn't that mean he formed an attachment with someone, too?"
Obi-Wan feels suddenly cold. “He did,” he admits. “And it did not serve him well.”
Luke finds himself locking and unlocking his jaw. "Tell me," he says, though he's afraid of the truth. "What happened to him? To my mother?"
The old Jedi almost spins his protege a whole story of half-truths, but instead he shakes his head. “Another time, son. Get some sleep. As always, we begin again at dawn.”
Luke frets, but he nods. Another time. He turns to go, then stops. "I'm... I'm sorry I may not be able to be what you want. I love her, but I want to become a Jedi. I want to help stop the war. I don't want to let you down."
“I need your focus,” Obi-Wan reiterates. “Give me that, now. Perhaps later...but do not divide your attentions now.”
Luke nods, promising in his heart to do both. To love Leia and to become the best Jedi that he possibly can be. He nods, sad but resolved. It's a long, hard road, but he will succeed. He knows it.
In the morning, unaware of Luke and Obi-Wan’s conversation, Leia bathes and dresses and walks confidently to the office of her father, throwing wide the doors. “Father,” she says, beaming. “I know, at times, you’ve probably worried I would never settle down, but... I was just looking for someone who could keep up with me. I want to marry Luke. I’m sure. I’ve never been more sure of anything....”
Bail stares up at his radiant daughter, his stylus still in his hand from where he was taking notes on his datapad. His mouth opens to protest, then just hangs there a moment while he processes her words. "Close the doors, please," he finally manages. Once she does, he nods to the chair opposite his desk. "Sit down." He gets up and goes to sit in the chair beside hers. He manages a smile. "This is all a bit sudden, isn't it?"
Leia flushes, but her smile remains as bright and unabashed. “I don’t think so. How long did you court Mother before you stated your intentions? Six, eight weeks? If I wait a few more weeks will it appease you?” She’s teasing, and she makes it clear by again rising out of her chair, giving Bail a quick peck on the cheek, and facing the window, taking in the morning sun reflecting off the snowy peaks. “I just know. And he’s already said yes.”
Bail swallows hard, his eyes watching Leia as she restlessly, happily moves to look out the windows. He doesn't want to hurt her dreams, but.... "You must not let your infatuation distract you from your duties. Luke is a fine young man, but he's studying to become a Jedi. He can't think about something like marriage at a time like this... and neither can you. We're at war. You must keep focused."
Leia can scarcely believe her ears. “Father--I’m in love with him. You and mother found each other during the Clone Wars. How is this different?” She starts to panic as her body and heart ache for Luke, so recently found, but she maintains most of her outward composure. “I need to be with him!”
It's hard to believe his level-head daughter is acting like such a love-struck teenager. If only he could tell her the truth. He shakes his head. "If that's true, then being patient and waiting until after the war shouldn't be a difficulty. You both need to concentrate, Luke especially."
Leia stands facing him, her arms crossed over her chest. “I’m not being reckless, Father. I know what I want. I understand the difficulties.” She scoffs. “You don’t actually believe that about Jedi being... destroyed by forming loving relationships?”
"I didn't say you were being reckless... and I don't know what I believe about the Jedi. I do know that Luke may be our only shot at defeating Darth Vader, and so we should take as few risks with that as possible." He gets to his feet, stepping towards her. "Don't be angry with me. I want your happiness. I only ask your patience."
Leia sighs, feeling like she must be acting like a foolish child for her father to talk to her this way. “So you're asking me to wait until the war’s over?” she asks, looking at the floor.
"Yes," he says. "That doesn't mean you can't feel the way you feel... only that for the sake of the whole galaxy we must be cautious." He smiles sadly at her. "Hate me if you must, but you will understand one day."
This isn’t like her father, to not only deny her something she wants, but to be willing to let it ruin their relationship, if it comes to that. “I don’t hate you,” Leia murmurs sadly, then finally looks up at him. She could never hate him.
She almost says more, but Bail’s made himself clear, and Leia prefers not to argue with him, of all people. Besides, she knows neither of them will budge. He's raised her in his image.
She finds herself wandering the corridors looking for Luke. They have to figure something out, and it seems terribly urgent. He's nowhere to be found.
He's planning something though--something that requires him to charter a ship. It's during the meeting wherein he negotiates with the council for its use that Luke manages to sneak away. He's been keeping tabs on Leia through the Force as best he can--so long as he concentrates on her, he can find her spark anywhere in the palace.
He hurries to her now, knowing he'll soon be missed.
Leia is in the office in the administrative wing of the palace that she uses when she needs a more formal setting than her chambers, but she’s hardly been concentrating on the research before her, and she knows she won’t finish reading it time for a meeting this afternoon. Gazing out the window, all she can think about is Luke, and how she hasn’t heard from him or been able to get a message to him in days. She’s wilting, and she feels that she may never be revived.
Until Luke bursts through the door without knocking, his beautiful face flushed and smiling. Leia doesn’t miss a single beat, but rushes straight for the door first, closing and locking it, and then throwing herself into his arms, kissing him with all the frustration and fear and love in her heart. She pulls his hair, she grinds her body close to his. She needs every square millimeter of him.
"Leia," he gasps, holding her, kissing her, not realizing how parched and deprived he was until she's in his arms, flooding his system with her passion. "I'm sorry I couldn't come sooner. Obi-Wan's angry with me." His next words are lost as he kisses her again. "This is the first chance I've had," he breathes, kissing her neck. "He'll know I'm gone soon."
“I was worried you changed your mind,” she gasps, her arousal mounting just by his proximity, though his tender and hungry kisses help, as well. “My father doesn’t want us to marry--he says we have to wait until after the war....”
"Ben, too. He wants...." It's so hard to talk, to focus. He knows that they may only have minutes alone, but it doesn't matter. He starts lifting her skirts. If this is the only chance they get, he needs to take it. They'll be able to think more clearly once they're joined. It feels rushed and forward, but he can sense how much Leia needs it, too. "Hurry," he encourages, fumbling with his trousers.
Like all of Leia’s world, the room is lavish and well-furnished, and she pulls Luke to a large sofa across the room from her desk. “Hurry,” she agrees, pulling her dress up over her waist and lying back on the couch, her legs already spread and pushed up for him, her boots still on. She practically tears his pants, unfastening them.
Luke doesn't undress all the way; doesn't deal with the complication of taking his shoes off. He just gets his trousers down enough that he can maneuver. As soon as he sees Leia's legs open, his mind shorts out, and he's on her, kissing, feeling, guiding his aching hardness into her, and when he feels her heat envelope him, pulling him down he groans into her ear, a soul-deep sigh that reverberates through his body and into hers. "Leia," he practically worships as he sinks into her, moving his hips to fill and stretch her. "Oh, there you are. Leia."
For days, Leia’s felt like she’s suffocating, stumbling around blind, like her body and mind will not function in Luke’s absence. “I love you,” Leia gasps. “I love you. I love you. I....” She loses the words for a moment as Luke works his hips. “I need to be with you. It’s like... I need you to be whole.”
Luke nods, overwhelmed but feeling everything she does. It's sexual between them, it's sure, but there's something more. Something deeper. Something completely missing that is only found by being inside her, and even then it's not quite enough. He kisses her neck, her mouth, her cheeks, panting as he works his hips, comforting her, soothing them both as they ease more and more into each other. "I need you. I need this." He hikes her legs up over his hips, making his thrusts deeper and firmer. "I can't live without you."
She looks back up at him, knowing the answer, but wanting him to say it back. “Do you love me? Do you really love me as much as I love you?”
He stares at her, and he knows just the look in his eyes tells her, just as the look in her eyes tells him. But he nods and says, "I love you. More than I thought possible. So much it hurts..."
She holds him close with both arms and legs, biting his neck, clinging to him as he loves her. “I can’t wait until the war’s over--and they can’t make us. They can’t keep us apart. We’ll find ways to see each other.”
Luke bows his head, thrusting deeply, needing release and that sense of calm and clarity that comes when he does. He can't think clearly until that moment; can't explain what little information about his future he's managed to gather from Obi-Wan. "I can feel you," he gasps. "Anywhere in the palace... through the Force. I can always feel you." Perhaps that's why he wasn't quite as desperate as she was; he was still able to feel her and know she missed him.
“Teach me,” she breathes. “Teach me to sense you--then we’ll never be alone.”
"I will." He gasps in her ear. "I'll teach you. So we can always be together. Oh, Leia." His body starts to tense, and it's good. He needs to fill her. "Take me," he gasps. "Take me inside you...." He grips her tight, maybe too tight, but it doesn't matter. They both need it. With a strangled yelp, trying to keep from crying out, Luke releases inside her, flooding her. His body jerks and spasms as he comes, feeling her tumbling over the edge with him.
Leia holds him back just as tightly, worried she’s leaving bruises. She cries his name, knowing no one is near enough to hear and care. The feeling of him coming inside her as she comes with him is the most perfect, satisfying feeling she has ever had or could imagine having, and, again, she consciously keeps him in her body as long as she can, feeling that she’s only whole with him joined to her, as he’s only whole when he’s inside her.
At last, they start to awaken from the trance of raw need and they look at each other. “Some day we’ll do that every night in our own bed,” she promises, a promise that to forbidden lovers sounds like the most perfect dream.
Luke agrees, still breathing hard, but feeling calmer, more clear-headed. He holds her tightly, still deep inside her. Somehow his shoes and pants have come off, giving him more freedom of movement. "I think Obi-Wan wants to leave Alderaan," he finally says. "With me. He won't tell me, but he's trying to charter a ship right now..."
“No.” Leia’s word is not an exclamation, but it is also far from hesitant. It’s an instinctive, sudden panic of a word, and she tightens her legs around his hips. “You can’t go. My father needs Kenobi for the war effort....” They both know that’s not the reason she wants Luke to stay, and only after the words are out of Leia’s mouth does she truly realize that Kenobi and Luke had never needed to be on Alderaan--the older men had only needed to convene to discuss Luke’s role, and now they could leave. “What are we going to do?”
Luke kisses her, soothes her as best he can, reminds her that he's here now. "We'll wait. We'll be patient. It took nineteen years to find you. I can wait another year to be together. Somehow... No amount of time or distance will change my feelings about you."
They’re not empty words, a promise uttered to comfort one who may never be seen again. They found each other at the perfect time, but Leia is also absolutely certain that any time they met would have been the perfect time. She draws him in for a tender kiss, pressing her forehead to his when she breaks it. “Marry me before you go,” she commands, but her tone is soft. “I know we’re bound in ways no ceremony or law could, but I want to know we’re married, no matter what else happens.”
Luke's eyes are wet with tears, and he nods. He's not sure how he'll manage it--Obi-Wan's been keeping such a firm grip on him, but he nods. "I will. I don't know how, but I will."
“Tonight,” Leia says. “Slip our while he’s sleeping. Oh, I know he’s a Jedi. So are you. Be quiet. You can manage.” She kisses him tenderly. “We can’t waste time, and I’ll need to arrange an officiator, a witness, the license....”
Luke swallows hard. She's serious. She's going to plan everything. All he has to do is get away from Obi-Wan. "I'll find a way. Where should we meet? When?" Already he senses Obi-Wan in the distance noticing Luke is missing. He reluctantly pulls out of her, kissing her again and again. "Hurry. He's started looking for me."
Luke leaving her body feels like having the air ripped out of her lungs. “The kitchen gardens at midnight. No one will be around or think to look there, and it’s beautiful.” She stands and helps him on with his clothes, loving him with her heart and fingertips because it’s all she can do right now. “Go, before you get in trouble.” She kisses him once more, lingering and breathing him in deeply, before pushing him out the door.
Luke manages to get back to Obi-Wan before the master has worked himself into a panic. He innocently pretends he's been wandering the atrium halls looking at art, and since Obi-Wan doesn't question him directly, he gets off without having quite had to tell a lie.
That night doesn't come soon enough. Luke's afraid Obi-Wan won't be asleep by midnight; he stays up late, telling Luke about the ship he's chartered and that they'll be leaving within the week. He won't tell Luke--or anyone else--where they're going. Only that they'll be meeting "an old friend."
Once Obi-Wan finally starts to settle for sleep, Luke goes into the adjoining room and starts a bath. He sets the water on a timer to fill the tub, and while the noise of the tap muffles the sounds, he sneaks out the window. His room is twenty floors up, but the training and exercises Obi-Wan has been relentlessly pushing him to do have already worked to tone and strengthen his body. He's able to jump down onto a larger balcony several floors below by scaling the outside of the building, and from there gain entry back inside the palace.
He moves swiftly, but not so swiftly to draw attention, getting to the kitchen gardens just a few minutes after midnight, out of breath, but glowing brightly with happiness. He's not needed to ask for directions once, just following the bright light of Leia that he's been able to sense the entire time.
In the kitchen gardens, about ten or twenty meters from the palace, Leia stands in a long white silk dress and her white wool cloak, a lit candle in her hands and a wreath of the earliest of spring’s delicate blooms crowning her braided hair. Her most loyal handmaiden and friend stands at her side, also in white, a candle in her hands as well. The officiator, a clergyman of some ancient Alderaani faith waits in white robes of his own, a small book in his hands. The three of them smile at Luke, and Leia approaches him, drawing him gently by the hand to the clearing in the center of the herb gardens, and she bows her head when the clergyman begins to speak, indicating for Luke to do the same. All through the ceremony, Leia can’t help but cling to Luke’s hand, rubbing his fingers with her own.
It happens so quickly, so cleanly and efficiently that Luke scarcely has time to think. He's glad, in a way. There's no time to back out of it, no chance to question what they're doing. Before he knows it, the clergyman is draping a golden cord around their shoulders, lightly tying it together to join them as one.
Luke barely hears the man. He just stares at Leia, illuminated so beautifully by the candle. Whatever else happens, he knows this is the right course. This is the only course. He'd never have the strength to survive, to fight, on his own. Now he has something to fight for. Someone worth protecting.
When the officiator finishes the ceremony, Leia and her handmaiden blow out their candles, and Leia leans close to Luke, whispering “We’re all supposed to walk in silence to our rooms. You and I have to keep the cord tied,” she smiles, and if he can’t see her in the moonlight, he must hear her bashful happiness, “Until we undress each other. Do you think you can manage staying away a little longer?”
"Yes," he whispers back. Let Obi-Wan come find him. He'll have to drag him away kicking and screaming.
They walk hand-in-hand through the darkness, down service corridors to stay out of sight, and through empty ballrooms and meeting halls. No one sees the couple or the tell-tale cord wrapped around them.
In her rooms, Leia has a fire going. Her bed, visible through the wide-open bedroom doors, is decked out in new linens, the curtains pulled aside, the blankets turned down just enough to look like an invitation. When they close the door behind them, Leia puts her arms around Luke’s waist, looking up into his eyes. “I know this was all really fast, but... I had to. We had to.” She tilts her face up, inviting his lips, but not kissing him yet. “Luke Skywalker... I’m your wife... forever.”
Luke smiles at her, so brilliantly. "I love you," he says, and it's all he needs to say. He loves her forever. He's married to her now. It's official. He doesn't kiss her though. He just lets his hands find her dress and starts removing it, keeping the cord carefully in place. "I want to see my wife."
Leia smiles softly. She knows this part of the ceremony won't be relevant to Luke the way it is to her, but he might understand what she's feeling, in part, anyway. She takes his hands, stops them unfastening her bodice. "Unpin my hair," she says, staring up with him with round, glassy eyes. "No one, except my handmaids, have seen my hair down since I was twelve. It's Alderaani custom--a woman's loose hair is the most intimate part of her body. But we're married, so... I want you to see it."
Luke's eyes widen. He realizes it's true--he's never seen her with her hair down. Almost reverently, he stops undressing her and turns her around, finding the pins in her hair and pulling them out one by one until the braids tumble down. Then, fingering the thick cords of hair, he turns her back around and starts to slowly unbraid them.
She closes her eyes, letting him touch her, to an Alderaani, most erogenous area, her breath growing heavier, her body becoming almost painfully aroused from only this contact and their anticipation. Once it's all hanging loose, she takes the flower circlet off as well and tosses it on a chair, shaking out her long tresses, which fall to her hips, her movements still somewhat constricted by the cord. "I wanted to take my hair down for you the minute I saw you," she says.
Luke laughs, flattered and embarrassed. He's overwhelmed by how long her hair is, and how special what she's allowed him to do. He may not understand the tradition completely, but seeing her like this, feeling her feelings, lets him understand. "You're so beautiful." He cups her face and kisses her, and when he pulls back, he starts again on her bodice. "I want to see all of you..."
She smiles brightly, helping him with the rest of her clothes. "Now you," she breathes when they've finished with her, in a rush, unbuckling his belt and pulling at his tunic. Before long, the two stand completely naked before each other, wearing nothing but the gold cord still binding them together. Leia's seen Luke naked before, but she's still awestruck by the contours of his muscles in the firelight, the way his hair reflects the golden glow. She leans in and kisses the soft pout of his lips, moaning happily when he responds, and they enfold each other in their arms.
As Luke leads her to the big bed, he realizes they've never made love like this before--not in a bedroom, in a bed. It's only their third time--technically fourth, counting individual climaxes--and he's delighted when he pulls her onto the bed and they go tumbling down together onto the soft, firm mattress. "Making love in a bed, like a proper couple...." He laughs, giddy, reality sinking in. They're married! She's his wife! "I can't wait until this is our every day...." He kisses her, moving down her body, taking his time, biting at her neck, her collar, down to her breasts.
Leia smiles and closes her eyes. Her own bed is surprisingly and unusually soft and comforting, as if she’s feeling it for the first time in a long time, though she had slept here just last night. As he kisses her body, Leia trails her fingers down his stomach, feeling his muscles contract with arousal and slight ticklishness, and then ghosts her fingers over his erect cock. “I’ve never wanted anyone more than I want you right now,” she whispers.
Luke kisses the bud on her nipple until it hardens, looking up at her with adoring eyes. It's incredible to think that this beautiful woman is now his wife. He kisses between her breasts. "Will you give me children?" he asks, moving up her body again. "Not now... but someday?" It's the sort of thing they should've talked about before marriage, but somehow he knows her answer will be the same as his would be if she asked: yes.
She nods, beaming. “Yes, of course.” She kisses him hungrily, then giggles. “As soon as we’re free to live our lives.” She trails her nails up his back, starting soft and getting just a little too rough, just before stopping. “How many do you want?”
Luke lets out a groan of pleasure, running his hands down her hips to her thighs, starting to push her legs open. "Three or four," he murmurs, kissing her neck. "You?"
Leia’s eyes roll back a little when he touches her, but she retains herself and smiles at him, her dark eyes twinkling as never before. “Three or four? That’s all?” She pushes him over onto his back and straddles him, just above where he can reach her with his cock, and starts to kiss and nip his neck, then gets more aggressive, leaving marks. “Five or six,” she amends. “Maybe more.”
Luke groans, his hips rolling in need at her words, and her kisses. "As many as you want," he promises. "I'll give you anything. Everything." He runs his hands up and down her thighs, encouragingly. "Inside, now," he begs. "I want to make love to my wife..."
He’ll be a wonderful father, when he’s a little more grown up, she thinks. When they both are. She leaves one more small mark below Luke’s ear, only encouraged by the fact that Kenobi will see it and know exactly what it is, then kisses his lips as she settles her hips lower, taking him inside her, moaning into his mouth.
Luke's hands grip her hips, pulling her down hard as he thrusts up eagerly into her wet tight body, groaning in unison with her as he does; as that sense of completeness and well being floods through his system. "Leia," he moans, immediately beginning to thrust in time with her rocking hips. "Oh, Leia..." He pulls her back just enough to stare into her eyes. They were made for this, he knows. To join like this. It's the only thing that can possibly explain how good it is, how right it feels.
They make love feverishly, and, again, Leia feels Luke's awareness in sync with hers, feels his intensity of sensation and emotion mirror and mimic hers. They are in perfect unison, and she thinks she can even feel their hearts beating together. She thought this kind of love only happened in legends, but everything inside of her knows that this is real, that her love with and for Luke is perfect and eternal and will only grow as they spend more time bound to one another. They roll all across the expansive bed, celebrating, worshiping, clinging close and wishing they never had to let go.
Eventually Luke ends up on top again, folding Leia in half for the finale. He hikes her hips up onto his thighs driving himself deeper and deeper, staring into her eyes as he does. The universe is timeless, stretching on and on around them as he loves her and fills her. He could do this into eternity he thinks. Nothing feels more important than this, and the moment about to come.
Leia’s cries intensify. She’s never felt so good in her life. “I’m... oh, Luke. I’m going to--" He knows, of course he knows, because her orgasm is his orgasm, but she wants to tell him anyway, wants to scream it. “Oh, Luke.”
"Open for me," he gasps, panting hard, fucking her harder than he has before, able to do so because of the bed, and their confidence and trust in each other. She's already his completely, as opened to him as humanely possible, and still he drives himself harder into her, wanting--needing--more. "Open," he begs. "O-opennn," he cries as his orgasm over takes him, blasting into her with such intensity and power that he loses all concept of space and time, all sound that is hers, all feeling that isn't this.
The level at which Leia opens to her Luke is something she didn’t know she was capable of. Her body is relaxed and yet enthusiastically accepting, and her heart and soul reach for his, joining, holding on forever. Her body tenses and relaxes in turns. She feels as if the two of them have merged their energies and caused a supernova in her bedroom. It’s like nothing else ever has been, like she didn’t think anything ever could be.
At last, she can look up at him with tears in her eyes and kiss him, softly, her body still trembling with the intensity, with the magnitude of their love. “You’re incredible,” she whimpers. “I can’t believe I found you.”
Luke's body continues to tremble and pulse, twitching inside her as the residuals of his orgasm continue to wash over him. He rocks into her still, kissing her and holding her, soaking in the aftermath and wanting it to last. "Leia," he croons in her ear. "My Leia, my wife." He bites her neck possessively. "You complete me."
“Sta-stay with me,” Leia whispers, still shuddering, dropping little kisses on Luke wherever she can reach. “You can’t go. You can’t.”
Luke continues to kiss her neck, biting and nipping, rocking into her, holding her tightly. He has to go, eventually, but not yet. Not yet. "I love you," he whispers to her as he makes slow love to her, his cock soft but buried deep enough that he can feel her. "Keep me inside you," he breaths into her ear. "When I go, keep me inside you..."
Leia has to suppress tears. She can’t bear to have him across the galaxy, who-knows-where. “I wish....” She laughs at herself, worried she’ll scare him. “I wish we could have made a baby tonight,” she confesses. “Then I could really keep you with me.”
Luke lets out a low, breathy groan, surprised how much that thought arouses him. He realizes in that moment it's what he's been trying to do all this time... leave himself inside her, in the form of a child. He buries his face against her neck, letting the idea start to harden his cock. "Can't we?" he gasps.
She’s warmed by his reaction, delighted even, and then that grows to a giddy excitement. But, sadly, she shakes her head. “I’m protected. I can’t.” She feels his arousal growing again, and presses her hips closer against his again. “If I’d known, I... but it can’t be helped tonight.” She kisses him softly smoothing his hair. “Next time we see each other. I’ll make sure we can.”
Luke nods, kissing her neck where he's left a mark, and begins rocking into her more. "I'd like that," he murmurs into his ear. He didn't realize how much he'd like it until just now. "Next time we're together, we'll make a baby..."
Leia’s body quickens. “Say it again.” She opens her body to him more fully, digging her nails into his back. “Do you want to have a baby with me? Should I make you a daddy?”
What remaining softness in Luke disappears at her words and the firm nails in his skin. He moves his hips more intensely, pushing her back up onto his thighs to drive deeply into her. "Yes. Yes," he chants. "To join with you so completely, so permanently... to know I'm growing inside of you. Oh, Leia." His thrusts are harder than even before, making the solid, heavy bed quake. "Do you want to be pregnant? To carry my child inside you, and become a mother?"
She doesn’t know what she’d tell her parents, the rest of the Alderaani government and her household... but she doesn’t care. In fact, strangely, the thought of self-righteously getting pregnant with her forbidden love fills her with happiness and excitement and arousal. She thinks of feeling the baby growing, knowing Luke is out there somewhere and that he will be coming home to them, and she gasps, “Yes. Yes, I want to be pregnant.” She’d never really thought much about it, but with Luke’s it’s obvious. “I want to be the mother to your child. When I see you next,” she promises again, “You’ll impregnate me. I love you.”
Luke lets out a low, deep groan of approval, and commits himself to loving her, to opening her up again, to driving himself into her as deeply as he possibly can. Every part of him wants to merge with her and become one. Every part of him wants to touch every part of her, and the closest he gets is his deep thrusts into her. When her hips and his align and he enters her completely, it's as if sparks shoot between them, flying across the room. Each touch is electric and magnetic, and spurns him on, faster and harder, desperately trying to the impossible.
“Try anyway,” Leia gasps. “Maybe we’ll get lucky.” She knows they won’t. She knows her usual precautions never fail, but she still hopes, still wishes. “Try. Give it to me. Let me keep you with me.” Her body starts to catch fire as her climax approaches. “Keep...you....”
He tries. He reaches into the universe with his mind, maybe with the Force, and he tries. He seeks that permanent connection between them, that eternal union, and when he thinks he feels it, or when he cannot hold off anymore, he releases inside her again, crying out, filling her, shaking the bed, and the little knickknacks on the shelves, and rattling the windows. He fills her, gripping her so hard that his bruises will stay with her for days after he's gone.
When she’s come, when he’s come, and they’re cooling in the afterglow, Leia bursts into tears--not of sadness, really, but of intensity, and longing, and anticipation of her loneliness. She holds him tight, feeling the bruises and scratches and bites on both of their skin and cherishing them because she knows soon it will be all they have left. “Don’t go,” she whispers, leaving small, tearful kisses on his skin. “Not until Kenobi comes and takes you from this bed himself. Don’t go.”
Luke kisses her, holding her, but he's not sure he can promise that. He wants to, to be sure, but it won't do any of them any good if he's caught here in bed with her. Even if she is his legal wife now, it's better they keep it secret. "I love you," he murmurs in her ear, rocking their bodies slightly, just to remind her how deep she's holding him still. "But I can't stay...." A few hours more, maybe, but before dawn he has to leave.
“As long as you can,” she begs, again getting the strange feeling that she knows she’s not like this; she’s never been like this. But he is half of her, and he's leaving. “At least... as least until I fall asleep....”
"I will," he says, and that much is easy to promise. He holds her tightly, but slowly rolls them onto their side, entwining their legs to keep her close and himself locked inside her. He kisses her neck and jaw and rubs his hands over her body, just feeling her, breathing her in, soaking in her essence.
She wants to fall asleep in his arms, and she knows it will be easier to say goodbye if she doesn’t have to say it; so, as hard as it is to not spend every moment they have making love and basking in each others' presence, she resolves to fall asleep with him entwining her. “Come home as soon as you can,” she begs before closing her eyes, knowing he’ll know as she does that home is not a place, only a togetherness. “I’ll wait, no matter how long it is. I’ll wait.”
"I will," he repeats, kissing her again. "Never doubt me. I belong to you. No matter how far, or how long it takes. I'm yours." He kisses her again and again, holding her close, wishing this night could last forever. Held in her embrace, linked together so viscerally, is the most content and happy he's ever been.
Nuzzled into Luke’s arms, her face in his neck, Leia is able to, eventually, fall into a deep, satisfied sleep, but, of course, when she wakes, Luke has gone.
She lies in bed for hours, her life grey and bereft of meaning, before forcing herself to her feet, into a shower, into a clean gown. When she looks at the empty bed again, she sees that Luke has left her something. The golden cord that had bound them last night had been made of two twisted strands. Lying in the bed is one of the strands, kinked and rolled where it had previously wrapped around its mate. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, Leia takes the cord from the bedclothes and ties it around her neck under her dress. She resolves to wear it every day until she sees him again.
Their landing happens only because Obi-Wan uses the Force to help them, and when the cockpit door opens, Luke is hit with such a strong wave of humidity, he's almost knocked over. In this swamp, Obi-Wan promises him now that they're free of any Imperial monitoring, they will find a great Jedi warrior.
It proves to be a small, decrepit old thing named Yoda, who speaks in riddles and barely comes up to Luke's knee in height. His house is equally small, not fit for one human let alone two, but they live there with Yoda, training every day, eating his food, sleeping on the hard floor in his tiny house.
Luke grows stronger both in body and in the Force. What the environment lacks in comfort it makes up for in motivation. Luke knows the faster he gets stronger, the sooner he can return to Leia. He keeps their wedding cord carefully wrapped around his waist while he trains, away from the eyes of Obi-Wan and Yoda, and always close to his body.
He tries to touch her mind across the distance, and, although he can sense her ever clearer the stronger in the Force he grows, he's not sure she is able to feel his mind in return. It doesn't stop him from reaching out to her with love and soothing comfort as the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months.
“You are restless, Luke,” Obi-Wan says one day, sitting tiredly on a fallen tree beside his protege. “It is difficult to quiet one’s mind and focus on the task at hand when your feelings are always stretching elsewhere.” He sighs. “The princess doesn’t need your constant reassurance. Keep your thoughts here. We still have much to do.”
It's not something Obi-Wan hasn't told him before, but Luke finds that no matter how many times Obi-Wan says it, when he has a free moment, his thoughts drift to his wife. "I know... it's just... it's been months. You haven't told me yet when we're returning."
"Return do you think you will?" Yoda says, appearing from inside the house, carrying their lunch behind him with the Force. "To where, mm? To whom?"
Luke stares up at the canopy of trees masking an unending grey, cloudy sky. He can't say to Alderaan or to Leia. He knows what Yoda is implying. He amends his question. "You haven't told me yet when we're leaving this place. When I'll be ready."
“Your training cannot be rushed,” Obi-Wan insists firmly. He’s growing tired of these conversations. “And the longer you persist in your infatuation, the longer I cannot, in good conscious, call you a true Jedi.”
"I'm sorry, Master," Luke says, bowing his head. "I try to keep my mind off her, but it always goes back."
"Always looking to the future, this one is," Yoda chides, setting down lunch. "You must focus on where you are now. What you are doing."
"Yes, Master Yoda," Luke says, but even as he does, he feels his heart beating across the galaxy, in sync with the princess on another world.
Leia whispers his name, jerked suddenly out of her concentration. She had been focused on a series of reports from the Alliance on her desk before her, but now she can’t even recall what she’d been reading. For a moment, she’d felt a heart beating in unison with her own. She scrambles to keep hold of the contact, but it slips through her fingers, and the room feels colder despite the bright fire and the late spring sun streaming through the windows.
The princess takes a moment to collect herself, then pulls on her cloak and sits to warm herself at the fire. Threepio notices her sudden change, asks if she is unwell, and hurries around trying to care for her.
“I’m fine, Threepio,” she tells the droid, who has begun heating water for tea. “Will you call my father?”
He does, and after a quarter of an hour, the tall, solemn man enters, sitting before Leia on another cushion before the hearth. “Are you ill?” he asks, concerned. “You’ve been working too hard.”
“I’ve been working so hard because I want Luke to come home!” she shouts, rising and pacing the room, her white cloak and gowns swirling around her.
Bail doesn't rise from his cushion, watching his daughter pace. It's not the first time they've discussed Luke. "I've still had no word from General Kenobi. We do not know when they will return. We must trust they are doing their best and not dwell on it. We have our own issues to deal with. The Empire is growing more and more reluctant to have a neutral world so near the Core. We must focus on our stance. If they attempt to threaten us with their Death Star or send in an occupation party, as our spies have suggested may happen, we must be prepared. Here and now. We do not have the luxury to fret about Luke as much as we may wish to."
“Father,” Leia says, trying to calm her anger and failing, “That’s what I’m doing. What I’m trying to do. You just said yourself--I’m working too hard. If my motivations are in part to be reunited with Luke, I don’t see how that matters. I’m not a Jedi.” She stills and crosses her arms over her chest. “I still don’t see why they had to leave. You’d think with the threats to Alderaan, we’d need them more there than wherever they’ve run off to....”
Bail eyes her calmly. "You were quite a distraction, you know. Not that I'm blaming you, but... I think it influenced General Kenobi's decision to go..." He smiles and finally gets up from the cushion to go to her. He puts his hands on her arms. "I'm so proud of you, Leia. You work so hard, so diligently. Luke is doing the same thing. He may not return to Alderaan. His path may lie in a different direction. You must do your best to focus on the here and now."
She’s momentarily comforted by Bail’s seeming understanding and his touch, until he tells her Luke may not return. “He will return. Even if it’s thirty years from now. He has to.” The golden cord is under her dress, and right now it feels like an insistent weight. She could never forget, but the cord won’t let her even if she tried. “He promised.” Her voice catches, and, since no one is around besides her father and Threepio, she lets herself cry a little, leaning into her parent’s familiar arms.
Bail wraps his arms around his daughter, holding her, stroking her back. "He will come back," he admits, softly. If it's possible, he knows Luke will return. Hopefully someday he can tell them the truth. "When the war is over, I hope he will come here to stay."
He does understand. Comforted, Leia lets Bail hold her for a long moment before saying, her voice muffled against his shirt, “I don’t understand the Jedi. How could it be wrong to love someone?”
"I don't claim to understand the ways of the Jedi, but... imagine that Luke is feeling as tortured now as you are. Do you think it's affecting his training? If you were hurt or took ill or, the stars forgive me, were killed, do you think his ability to do his job would be affected? Long ago, Jedi were plentiful and existed throughout the galaxy as impartial negotiators and peace keepers. They were often long far from home, trained to be unbiased. I believe that they felt having any kind of connection--to family, lovers, even each other could be seen as a liability. Don't assume the command was made without precedent. The Jedi Order is old. Their laws exist for a reason."
Leia sniffs, clenching her teeth. “It’s barbaric. I mean... clearly not all Jedi followed it. What about Anakin’s Skywalker? If he was a Jedi... where’d Luke come from?”
Bail takes a slow breath at that. "Not all Jedi followed it, and it cost some of them dearly. After all, Luke grew up with his aunt and uncle, not his parents, didn't he? Not that that was such a terrible fate, but having a child did not do Anakin any favors."
Leia pulls away a little, wiping her eyes. “You know what happened?” she asks. Maybe it would give her some insight. Maybe it could help her and Luke. “Was he in love?”
Bail's jaw flexes as he clenches and unclenches it. He doesn't know how much he should tell her, but her pleading eyes sway him as does the knowledge that story is hers as much as Luke's, even if she doesn't know it. "Yes... he was in love." He guides her over to a small couch near the window. "Anakin was handsome and powerful. He attracted all kinds of people, both good and bad. One was Luke's mother. One was Anakin's murderer."
Her eyes weigh him carefully. “You knew him, didn’t you? At least a little. He was Obi-Wan’s student.”
Bail nods. "I... we had met. I didn't know the truth until much later. He had to lead a secret life to keep his relationship. It weighed on him... and, I think, on her."
Leia tries to swallow the lump in her throat. “Did you know her, too? Luke’s mother?” She pauses. “Were they happy at all? I mean... it must have been worth it to them, to make that choice....”
Bail looks out the window, remembering. How could he ever forget, since every time he looks at Leia he sees her? "I knew her." He turns his attention back to his daughter. "Leia, you must not ask too many questions. Do not let Luke make the mistakes his father did."
“What? What are you talking about?” For a moment she thinks he knows just how much like his father Luke is, but she searches him, and concludes he doesn’t know the extent of the commitment she and Luke have made. “You can’t blame Luke’s father for his own murder.”
Bail shakes his head. "No... and I do not. But if you ignore the warning signs..." He shakes his head and gets back to his feet. "Anakin was strong and brave, but also reckless and emotional. In the end, he didn't listen to those that knew better and it cost him everything. I do not want to see that repeated. You may not understand now, but in the future you will. I hope then you will thank me, and General Kenobi, for our choices." Perhaps 'thank' is too strong a word, but Bail doesn't dare say more. "I'll leave you to your work."
Leia doesn’t see how she can possibly go back to the stack of reports in her current state of agitation. Luke had never actually shown her how, but she tries, anyway, to reach for him, to feel their hearts sync, to feel the tiny rays of his love that reach her from across space. She doesn’t know if she’s successful, but she takes comfort from the fact that it’s a possibly Luke can sense her even when she can’t sense him. As her father leaves the room, she follows him as far as the door. “What happened?” She demands. “How did Luke’s father loving his mother cost him everything? Vader killed him, didn’t he? What does Luke and his mother have to do with Vader?” She’s growing increasingly upset the more she’s aware that her father and everyone else seem to carefully skirt around the story instead of just speaking of it openly. Is it blasphemy to discuss Anakin Skywalker, as he’d not followed the Jedi tenants?
Bail presses his lips together, shaking his head. He knows Obi-Wan would say he's already wagged his tongue enough. "I have said enough already. The Empire has a long arm and many ears. There may be a target on the back of Anakin Skywalker's son, should he be found... I do not want to see you catch their eye... not any more than you already have." His look is stern. "That's enough for today, Leia. Put it aside. Do your duty."
She holds his gaze, daring him to tell her 'no' again, but she doesn't ask any more questions, and Bail takes his leave. "How dare he treat me like a child!" Leia screams as soon as she knows he's out of earshot. She picks up floor cushions and throws them across the room. She kicks a chair and knocks it over.
She raises her arm to throw a wine glass, when Threepio comes into the sitting room from next door in her office, shouting, “Oh! Your Highness! Please collect yourself! I can't imagine what has you so upset.”
She's still fuming, but she lowers the glass and gives it to Threepio. “My father's never been like this to me before. He usually trusts me--completely. It's something about this whole Luke and his father situation....” She looks up at Threepio, but she knows he doesn't know anything. His memory was wiped before they brought him to Tatooine, and probably every six months to a year since he first came online, as most droids are. He's an old enough model that he probably would remember the time of Anakin Skywalker, but whether what he'd witnessed would help her in any way is a moot point. However, she knows from personal experience that a lot of Republic-era records which survived the data purges are now encrypted, which means she could use the help of someone else. “Threepio...?”
“Yes, Your Highness?”
“Get Artoo. I need him as a research assistant--he might need to help me decrypt some documents.”
Threepio shuffles off dubiously, looking more than once over his shoulder at her as she goes back to her office and sits in front of the computer terminal. Within ten minutes, Artoo rolls in, chirping curiously, and they go to work.
And, as they work, Leia starts to get the sense Artoo might be helping her search as much as decode.
No record exists, that Leia can find, of Anakin Skywalker having had a child, which, she supposes, is for the best--perhaps Kenobi and her father saw to that themselves, and not the Empire. Countless hours later, well past midnight, Leia does manage to finally find a possible mother for Luke--some Nabooian senator with whom Anakin was often associated, though the scant records of their interactions show that their relationship was merely professional. She eventually finds an image of the woman standing next to Anakin, and is satisfied that this tiny person with her big smile could have given Luke half of his genes. At last, the image file contains a name. Padmé Amidala Naberrie.
She gives up the search for the night close to dawn, and her research on successive nights turn up very little, except more instances of the names Skywalker and Amidala appearing together in records. She can find nothing about their private lives, which is not surprising, but it is disappointing. She'd hoped she'd be able to find a marriage certificate, a deed to a shared dwelling, something, anything. Medical records, maybe, about her pregnancy. Maybe even a gossip column. But she finds practically nothing. And she feels that none of this is getting her any closer to knowing how it was that Anakin's interactions with Padmé led to his demise.
She knows better than to search for records of the young Darth Vader--she doesn't need to bait the bear of Imperial occupation anymore than she already is.
One night, probably a week after her search began, Leia decides to search for Luke's birth certificate. She's not sure what she hopes to learn from it--she's fairly sure that Anakin died when Padmé was pregnant, from what she's dug up, and she thinks that Padmé either died in childbirth, or not very long after. A document that only shows Luke's name and date and time of birth, as well as listing his dead parents, doesn't seem like it will help much. But she feels drawn, and she looks it up, anyway.
It takes her several more days to find and decrypt it, and, when she does, it doesn't list Anakin Skywalker or anyone as Luke's father--that field is left blank, as it is, sometimes, in the case of absentee or unknown fathers. It reads:
“This is to certify that a birth certificate has been filed for Luke Amidala, born on,” and the date it gives is actually a few days before the birthday that Luke told her before, two rather than five days after Empire Day, “at Polis Massa Base, Polis Massa, Outer Rim Territories. Parents: Father,” blank, “Mother, Padmé Amidala Naberrie.” It then gives the date again, and is signed by a witness, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Leia puzzles over it for a long time before noting, with a small laugh, that if Luke's real birthday is only two days, and not five, after Empire Day, then they share a birthday. Same year, too.
Leia rarely, if ever, thinks about the fact that she's adopted. She never has really felt adopted--she fits in perfectly with her family, even looks surprisingly like Bail and Breha, and has never asked them too much about her birth family. She knows that a lot of adoptive parents celebrate their child's adoption day instead of or in addition to a birthday, sometimes the former due to not knowing the actual birthday of the baby. Maybe that's what Luke's aunt and uncle did for him--named the day he came to them on Tatooine his birthday. Maybe he never knew the difference.
She and Luke are both adopted. She and Luke share a birthday.
Again, Leia reads the birth certificate. Realizing she's never seen her own, she starts a search for it, wondering, maybe for the first time, the name of her birth mother, who, like Luke's, had died shortly after she was born. Mostly, she's just curious to see where she was born, because she realizes she's not sure. It's more for the novelty that she wants to see it than to check any facts, but she expects the search for the document to be long and difficult.
Artoo pulls it up immediately.
“How did you do that?” Leia asks, smiling at the little droid.
“He says it was in the same file as Master Luke's,” Threepio translates, his voice sounding perplexed.
“Why would it be in the same file?”
“Birth certificates for Polis Massa nineteen years ago,” Threepio translates. “It seems... you were also born there.”
“I can't have been,” Leia says, smirking a little, furrowing her brow. Then she reads her birth certificate.
She reads it a dozen times.
She starts to shiver.
“This is to certify that a birth certificate has been filed for Leia Amidala, born on,” the date it gives is two days after Empire Day, a handful of minutes after the time of Luke's birth, “at Polis Massa Base, Polis Massa, Outer Rim Territories. Parents: Father,” blank, “Mother, Padmé Amidala Naberrie.” It then gives the date again, and is signed by a witness.
Obi-Wan Kenobi again.
That bastard knew.
“We're twins,” Leia whispers, wrapping her arms around herself, trying to stop the involuntary, spastic shivers wracking her body. Even her jaw and throat are trembling, so when she speaks, her voice shakes as well. “We're twins....”
Then she realizes. Her father knew as well.
“That's why they wanted us to meet, but when we started to....” She swallows. “Then they took Luke away.”
It explains everything. Including their synced heartbeats when they make love, and their occasional touches across lightyears. She's also the child of Anakin Skywalker. She and Luke shared a womb, at the same time. She, like her brother, has the ability to touch and use the Force.
Leia forces herself to continue her search, and she finds no death certificate for Anakin Skywalker, and no reports of how it may have happened. How could there have been no records of a Jedi so famous being murdered? Yes, she is aware of the purges, but most of the killed Jedi are named in old, hidden documents, listing casualties. To have one as famous as Anakin Skywalker just disappear like that, his name on none of the lists or anywhere else....
He could be in hiding, like Obi-Wan was all those years, she thinks. But it doesn't feel right, and she dismisses it. She does notice, however, that while Palpatine, now Emperor, had been a public figure for a lifetime before coming to power, the name of Vader only starts appearing in records around Empire Day, when Anakin drops off the records, around the time of the purges, and her and Luke's birth.
She thinks of the old mystery plot device for uncovering a double-agent--“have you ever seen them both in the same place at the same time?”--and laughs to herself. No one ever has, apparently, seen Anakin and Vader in the same place at the same time.
She stares at the monitor, sobering.
Conspiracy theories abound regarding Vader, a favorite of which is that he was a Jedi who turned on his order and participated in the purges, killing anyone who stood in his way--which included, Leia had assumed, Anakin Skywalker. But what if....
But that would mean....
It would mean that she and Luke are Darth Vader's children.
Leia's had enough. She grabs a stack of printouts and rushes down the hall to her father's office. Somehow, she knows he's awake, despite the late hour, and she bursts through the door, barely shutting it behind her before she says, “I know.” She puts the stack in front of him. “You know you didn't have to tell Luke and I the truth about Vader being our father in order to tell us we were twins. We knew we were adopted. Knowing that wouldn't have necessarily led us to the rest. But now....” She's absolutely fuming. “Now I know everything, Father. Because you made me go look for it myself.”
Bail is tired, frantically writing when Leia bursts in. The Empire is closing in on Alderaan and he's pulling every trick out of the book in order to keep them off. To have Leia burst in, at that hour, with her stack of reality makes his head throb.
So she knows. His brilliant, beautiful, insufferable daughter took it upon herself to find the truth, and uncovered for herself what thousands of others have missed. There's no hope to deny it anymore. All he can do is sigh and lean back in his chair. "Our only thought was to protect you."
Leia’s heavy breaths of fury linger for a moment, until Bail’s soft brown eyes invade her heart, and she crumples, sobbing, into his arms, into his lap. She knows he means it. She knows he’s only ever wanted what he thought was best. And that he and her mother have loved her as much as they ever would have loved a biological child. She’s never doubted it. She doesn’t now. “I love him,” she sobs into Bail’s tunic. She wants to tell him about the wedding, let him know the extent of what he’s wrought, but she doesn’t. She keeps that for her and Luke, and for the day that the two of them will have to figure out what it all means. “You should have told us!”
Bail holds her, pulling her close like he did when she was a little girl. He holds her and rocks her and strokes her back, and every cry she makes cuts him to his core. All these years he's spent hiding the truth from her... And now she knows, and maybe knowing is even more terrible. "Obi-Wan was against it," he says. "I wasn't strong enough to stand up to him..." He should have told her anyway; sworn her to secrecy, but in the truth.
“Father, if Luke’s my brother, then we’re supposed to love each other, aren’t we?” Certainly not the way they have, but her point stands; she feels on to something. “The Jedi couldn’t be against a brother loving his sister?”
Bail sighs and kisses the top of her head. He remembers Jedi babies being taken from their mothers and denied the right to visit them. Still, comparatively, perhaps this is the safer route. "Obi-Wan might disagree, but I think there is no crime in loving your family."
She’ll work on it, she thinks. They’ll have to get the marriage annulled, and it will take time, but maybe they can be close the way brothers and sisters are meant to be.
She imagines going back to her room and taking the cord off from around her neck, and feels almost physically repulsed by the idea.
She sees Luke in the candle light out in the garden.
She hears him breathing in her ear, promising her that they’d conceive a child when they next see each other. Her arms still ache to hold that child.
She cries helplessly onto Bail’s shoulder for far too long for a girl her age, but she can’t help it. Eventually, he picks her up and takes her to her room, telling her to rest, and returns to his work.
Eventually every trick in Bail and Breha's repertoire dries up. They have held out as long as possible, but Alderaan can no longer remain neutral and Vader himself has come to oversee the change.
"Wake up," Breha says in the middle of the night, rousing Leia. It’s rare that she’s at the Winter Palace, and Leia knows immediately what her presence must forebode. They've all seen this moment coming for a long time, and Breha doesn't have to explain the situation. "Get dressed. It may be a while before I get to see you again. I love you. Be strong for your father and I."
When Vader's ship lands some few hours later, the queen is waiting for him, head held up high, and she goes with the Stormtroopers that have been dispatched to subdue her. There is no fighting. There is no bloodshed. They cannot kill Queen Breha, for doing so would make her a martyr, but she cannot be allowed to rule if she continues to insist that Alderaan remain neutral.
Alderaan remains neutral.
The Empire occupies that neutral world.
Leia watches it all from her bedroom window, listening to the clicks of the stormtrooper armor as the Empire’s soldiers run through the Palace halls. It doesn’t take them long to find Leia, as she hasn’t run. “I’m the Crown Princess,” Leia says to them, “I don’t have any power, as long as my mother’s breathing. Am I under arrest?” she asks, standing straight and tall like an Organa.
“No, Your Highness,” the stormtrooper captain says to her. “But Lord Vader does wish to speak with you.”
“Well,” she says, going with them, “I would very much like to speak with him, as well.”
Vader isn't in the throne room, lording over his new world from Breha's chair. He's in her father's study, his back to the door, staring out the window. The stormtroopers unceremoniously push her inside, then shut the door behind her.
Vader doesn't turn, but his head does tilt slightly, and the room fills with the horrible sound of his mechanical breathing. "Princess Leia," he says at length. "What an honor it is to finally meet you."
“Darth Vader,” Leia snarls. “To what do I owe this pleasure? Trying to get me on your side? Think you can use me as a tool against my parents? I won’t be convinced occupation is in the best interests of Alderaan.”
"I did not think you would find it suitable," Vader says, still not turning to face her. "There was another matter I wished to discuss with you."
Leia cocks her head. “Then face me, and address it, before I grow impatient.”
He turns at last, and in his hand he holds one of her father's datapads. There is a decryption breaking device plugged into one of its ports. "Perhaps you can enlighten me...what was the nature of your recent trip to Tatooine?"
Leia doesn’t betray her shock and worry. “Trade negations with the Hutts, of course,” she answers. “It was a diplomatic mission.”
"That is not what this document would have me believe. Furthermore, there are no records from the Hutts of any sort of negotiation. What, after all, would neutral Alderaan have to negotiate with Huttese crime lords half-way across the galaxy? Your ship was seen docked on the Profundity directly after the Battle of Scarif. I propound you are a traitor to the Empire and were carrying Rebel Alliance plans... plans that directly led to the destruction of the Death Star."
“You’ll have to run that by me again,” Leia says. “I don’t know what a Death Star is.”
Vader drops the datapad onto the desk and holds his now empty hand out toward her. "Perhaps you need some persuading."
Leia knows the rumors about Vader’s strange powers, but she only fears for a moment. He wouldn’t dare, Leia thinks. After all, don’t I look just like her?
In that moment, to Vader's eye, the way the light catches Leia's face reminds him of... he shakes his head, just barely, to clear the image, but his hand has dropped, and the fire has temporarily gone out of him. "I will uncover the truth of your connection with the Rebel Alliance," he says. "And when I do, I will see to it that this occupation becomes permanent."
“Alderaan is peaceful,” Leia pleads, the same speech her father has instilled in her from a young age. “We have no weapons. We cannot resist you, and we will not, but nor do we have any affiliations with the Alliance. You can occupy Alderaan, but swaying the hearts and minds of the Alderaani will be quite another matter, I promise you.” She ends with a little more anger than she’d intended, realizing as she does that, at times, she really is his daughter, after all. She shuts the thought deep in the recesses of her mind, hoping he won’t be able to find it, as it is rumored he can.
"I will find the truth," Vader says, menacing without lifting another finger. "And when I do, and I discover you have lied to me, you will find my mercy has run dry."
Leia is dismissed, and escorted back to her room. All incoming and outgoing communication has been disconnected, and her droids taken. If she is not under arrest, she has yet to discover what remains of her freedom, save that she may stay in her own home.
The next time she sees Vader, days later, he doesn’t bother calling for her, he comes himself.
“If you track dirt on my carpets,” Leia begins to threaten, crossing the room as he enters.
"I think you will find you have far more trouble on your plate than mere dirty carpets." Vader carries no datapad this time, but his voice is confident. "It's known you were harboring the traitor Obi-Wan Kenobi here on Alderaan, and that he arrived here with you. As a welcomed guest. Do you deny it?"
“I’m not aware of every guest my father has, Vader,” Leia says, casually but with an edge of warning.
Vader is not dissuaded. "He arrived with a boy. My reports show you were quite fond of him...."
That makes Leia panic. She has to keep Luke safe. What if Vader’s found the marriage license? It says Luke’s last name! He’ll know. “You were fond of someone, once,” she says. She hopes this gamble will disarm him. “I know I remind you of her.”
That makes Vader draw up short for just a moment. "Peddling your Rebel Alliance secrets does not behoove you. You only dig yourself a deeper hole."
“Stop changing the subject. This is serious.” It is serious, and a good distraction. She’ll sacrifice herself for Luke. That she can do. “I know you and Senator Amidala had a child on the way. I’m wondering if you know what happened to her--the baby, I mean. She’d be nineteen, now.”
Rage and curiosity war inside of Vader, weighing what kind of trick Leia has created. Twenty years of discipline to his master finally weigh out, and he dismisses her. "It is of no consequence. The child is dead, and if it is not, it changes nothing."
“For crying--" Leia sighs. She’s going to have to spell it out for him. “I am your daughter,” she says firmly, hoping she’s meeting his eyes through his helmet.
For a moment, Vader says nothing. His first instinct is to deny her, shoot her down, but something in her eyes is so familiar. The longer he lets himself consider the possibility, the more her words start to sound like truth. "That," he finally, resolutely, says, "is impossible. You will be punished for your insubordination.” He leaves her, already full of thoughts about the best way to make her pay for what she dares to claim.
When he is alone again, Vader begins to pace.
For three days he does nothing. He does not even let himself contemplate the possibility.
On the fourth day, Vader starts his own research. It is not a task he can delegate to his officers or trusted advisors. It is one he must undertake on his own, in secret. When he requests a droid deliver certain documents to him, he discovers they have already recently been accessed. Suspecting that means they have been tampered with, he does not trust the paperwork that shows Leia's birth to Padmé, or the fact that Obi-Wan Kenobi was involved in it.
But it plants a seed of doubt.
One that grows the longer he monitors Leia, and secretly probes her with the Force. He finds additional documentation from her adoption into Alderaan that at least partially supports her claim. She was delivered by Kenobi to Bail and Breha only days after the birth listed. Why would Kenobi be involved in the delivery of an infant to a family of royalty if not in order to hide Vader's child?
On the sixth day, he travels to the rooms wherein they have kept Leia under house arrest. He does not announce his arrival, merely startles the guards on duty by his presence. They allow him entrance without question.
Seeing her again, fierce and angry, convinces the remains of his withered heart. He cannot see himself in her, or what was once himself, but he can see Padmé clear and true. He has come to accept the idea: he has a daughter. He is not sure what happens next.
Leia turns and looks at him as he stands silently in her doorway, waiting for him to say something, anything. Suddenly, the message his silence carries is understood by the princess, and some of the anger leaves her face, her shoulders relaxing. “What? You finally believe me, don’t you? I don’t want it any more than you do but... there it is.”
That she can read him so easily surprises him, though perhaps it shouldn't. She is, after all, his daughter. Internally he is torn between explaining his actions and their separation over the years, and denying any emotion or reaction he has had to discovering her at all. It is not easy to shut out the desire to know more about her, but he has been well-trained by the Emperor, and groomed to ignore such emotions.
"I was told you died," he finally, simply states.
She nods. Part of her had hoped for more. She doesn’t need a father--she has one, and always has. But she wants this to shake him to his very core. Maybe it has. Maybe all he knows how to do in this moment is tell her a simple fact by way of explanation and exposition. “I thought... I thought you probably had. Otherwise you would have looked for me.” She licks her lips as they both fall back into silence. “I... can’t imagine how much it must have hurt you....”
The truth in that statement hangs between them without Vader acknowledging it or replying to it. It spans the distance of two or three minutes before he changes the subject. "What will you do?" It is as kind as he has ever been to her; to anyone in the last twenty years, asking their opinion. The truth is a secret, so far as he knows. "Your people will not react well to such news."
She shakes her head. “It’s none of their business. My parents always knew--don’t take it out on them. They just wanted a daughter. Other than them... I don’t need anyone else to know.” She shifts a little, regarding him with increasing kindness. “And you? How would your ‘people’ react?”
He knows without asking how she will respond to his answer, but he gives it anyway. "If you join me, let me teach you, they will welcome you with open arms. We could rule the Empire together. If you deny me, they will see you destroyed."
Leia’s momentarily jarred by his suggestion, but she stays calm and doesn’t show it on the surface. “Then it seems if you don’t want to risk losing me again, it would behoove you to keep our relationship a secret.”
They’re already at an impasse, as stalemate. They’re well matched, it would seem, Leia thinks.
So she will not join him. He already knew that. She has long been a traitor to the Empire, fighting against him. "So be it," he says, at length, and departs her quarters with a flourish of his cape.
A week passes before he visits her again, arriving once again unannounced, after sunset and dinner. "How long have you known?" he asks without preamble, having at first assumed she'd known since she was a child, and realizing only recently that that must not have been so.
He’d caught her off guard, and she’s standing near the small table in her sitting room where she takes meals when alone, a glass of wine in her hand. She’s been denied nothing, save her freedom, and contact with the outside galaxy. They bring her fruit, novels, firewood, wine, flowers. She wonders if any of it is because of his... concern for her. “No pleasantries?” she asks, then sips the wine. “I learned not long before you arrived. I decided I wanted to see my birth certificate. I knew I was adopted, but I didn’t know my mother’s name. I pieced the rest together.” She shakes her head. “To an observer who wasn’t looking for it... I don’t think it would be traceable.” She smirks a little. “Not any more than it would have been when you and my mother were together.”
She could be lying, he thinks, but he senses truth from her. Cageyness, perhaps. She's hiding something, but not about when she found out. It was recent. She's taken the truth surprisingly well and her reply answers another question he never asked: whether Padmé had also somehow, miraculously, survived. He knows that truth, though. They might be able to hide his daughter, but they could not have hidden his wife; he would have sensed her, no matter the time or the distance.
"I, too, have uncovered the truth. Records reveal you traveled to Tatooine to retrieve the former Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and brought him here as an honored guest. Do not try to deny it. You have also been implicitly linked to the Rebel group that provided the battle plans that helped destroy the Death Star. I should have you put to death."
Leia doesn’t wince, doesn’t close her eyes, or cower, or change her expression at all. She finishes the glass of wine. “So you’re putting me to death, then?” she asks, her voice a little hoarse, but even. She knows the answer already.
He doesn't answer her. Instead, he shakes his head and says, "You must join me. You must claim your rightful place at my side. Imagine the power we will wield together. You could protect your people. You could lead them into a new era."
Leia nods slowly. She knows it’s true. She doesn’t deny that. But she swallows carefully; she looks at him a long moment, judging her wager. Eventually, she decides she’s right. “Is that the only way you know to be close to me?”
It’s a tense moment, and Leia’s very afraid that she judged wrong. She reasons that she can sense Vader’s intentions and feelings with the Force, but she’s completely untrained, and she worries she’s judging amiss. Even if she’s right, he must feel her fear, her reservations. Luke could, were he here.
"There is no other way," Vader states. Either she is his prisoner or his partner. He cannot find another path. "You must make your choice."
She scoffs a little and shakes her head. “Father, my path is firm. I want to know you. But... I cannot follow where you’ve gone.” She sighs. “You know... you can come back.”
Hearing her say that word rattles him and draws him in. Almost so much that he doesn't quite catch the meaning of her offer. At length, he shakes his head. "It is too late for me now. There is nothing for me..." He pauses, realizing there is something. There is her. But that's not enough. "That path is forever closed to me, now." Perhaps she doesn't realize quite what atrocities he committed in the last twenty years. He cannot return.
She’s spent her whole life so far hating him, but now she can only feel sadness. She pauses and pours herself another glass of wine. “Tell me about my mother,” she requests. “I used to think I remembered her, just a little, but...I doubt it’s possible. I was so young when she died. Please. I know almost nothing.”
Vader stands there, immobile as a statute, just staring at her. Only the labored sound of his heavy breathing gives any indication that he is contemplating the question. It has been a long time indeed since he has let himself think of her. "She was kind," he says. "She was compassionate."
Leia nods. Like Luke. Maybe he’s like her, and she’s more like this man standing in her sitting room. “You loved that about her. What else did you love about her? Tell me.”
He shakes his head. "Another time, perhaps. It has been a long time since I have thought on her..." Even now he finds the memories almost all bittersweet. It is wiser for him not to dwell on them.
But Leia doesn’t want to wait or play games. This is too important--besides, she has nothing else to do with her time. “Will you at least tell me what happened? You broke Jedi traditions to be with her. She must have been worth it to you....”
"We met before I was a Jedi," he says. He finds himself drawn to the window and moves closer to look out over the city. How long ago that had been. What a naive, foolish little boy. He clears his mind without even a shake of his head. "The Jedi Order was old and corrupted, full of manipulative old rules. Being with Padmé was not the first I broke, nor was it the last..."
How strange even that feels, to position himself as Anakin Skywalker. To remember his memories. To use the pronoun I when reflecting on his actions.
“You would have broken with the Jedi, regardless of Padmé?” Leia asks.
"Yes," he says, turning to look over his shoulder at her. "Do not let Obi-Wan Kenobi fill your head with Jedi lies. They purported themselves peacekeepers while committing some of the greatest crimes. They pled non-biased interactions while holding their own agenda. The Jedi used the Force, but they are not its keepers. It is not beholden to them, or their self-imposed rules."
She shakes her head. “I barely know Kenobi. He hasn’t tried to fill my head with anything. Vader... Father... have I inherited your abilities? Can you tell?”
Vader studies her carefully. She's trying to play him, he realizes, but it only serves to make him proud. He is arguably the most powerful man in the galaxy, next to perhaps only the Emperor, and here this tiny waif of a woman is attempting to manipulate him. He'd be impressed even if she wasn't his daughter.
He, however, has many more years at this game. "Yes. The Force is strong with you. Let me teach you."
“Maybe a little,” Leia says. She’s not warming to the idea of joining him, but she wants him to think she is. If she pretends to warm to him, maybe he’ll warm to her. And maybe she can use her new skills to help the Alliance. To contact Luke. “Where do we start?”
He is not prepared to begin such an undertaking already, but it's high time he took an apprentice. She won't join him, or so she thinks. "Not here. You must come to the Devastator. You may learn uninterrupted there."
She shakes her head. “I’m not leaving my home and my people. Besides, how will you explain my presence? Will I be your prisoner? Or your daughter?”
"My apprentice," he says. "That is all anyone will need to know."
“I can be your apprentice here,” she says, feeling that it’s a compromise he’ll agree to. “You wouldn’t take me from my home and my family--like the Jedi did. Would you?”
Vader nods his head only slightly, conceding it. "So be it." He turns away from the window, preparing to depart. A new future is unfolding before him, and excitement for it wells in his chest. "I shall return for you soon. Be prepared."
“I want to hear about my mother, when you come back,” she says just before he goes. “You have some time to think about it and see what you remember.”
Vader cannot smile. He cannot even remember what it felt like to smile, but he thinks, if he still could, he might try. "We shall see."
He doesn't say good bye or good night. He just turns and departs her room like he arrived, without fanfare or announcement, leaving the two stormtroopers guarding her room to look on after their master.
He teaches her meditation first, the two of them seated cross-legged on the floor of her room. It’s only two sessions before Leia is able to completely separate her fear and anger towards the Empire from the man in the mask, and it helps that he seems to be warming a little. He sometimes even answers her questions.
After five sessions--he comes every day--Leia stays seated on the floor when Vader rises, watching him with coy innocence that they both know he doesn’t buy, even if it may disarm him a little, and says, “Are you going to tell me about her, or not?”
The slow rattle of his breathing fills the room. After a few moments of hesitation, he slowly sinks back down before her. "What would you know? You must be more specific."
She isn’t sure. “Everything. I saw evidence that you knew each other a long time. Did you always love her? Were you married?” She carefully keeps thoughts of her marriage to Luke hidden.
"Yes," he answers, after another long pause. "We were married, in secret. We met long ago... mere children. In my own way I always loved her..." His helmet gives no indication of his thoughts, no expression, and yet he tilts his head just so. "There's someone you love...."
Married in secret. Leia doesn’t react. She has more discipline than that.
She shrugs slightly, remembering her conversations with Luke before they fully confessed the depth of their feelings. “I’ve had a lot of boyfriends.”
Vader stares at her, judging her, unable to read her mind, but feeling the fullness of her heart; the longing and the joy. There's more than a mere boyfriend she is fond of, but he does not push the boundaries. Another time. "When she fell pregnant," he says, without prompting, "We tried to keep it secret. When we could no longer do that, we avoided speculation. She did not even let doctors examine her well. We knew only that you were healthy, nothing more."
Leia had taken a chance--she had worried Vader knew Padmé was carrying twins, but she hoped he hadn’t known. She’d been right to take the chance. He’d thought it was only her. “Were you happy?” she asked. “Excited?”
"Of course." His body relaxes ever so slightly; as much as it can in his suit of life-sustaining armor. "Worried and anxious, but excited. We were fools. We thought nothing could ever go wrong."
Leia swallows. “What went wrong? Did the Jedi find out? Obi-Wan?”
Vader shakes his head. "The Jedi were corrupt. The senate was corrupt. I wanted to make the galaxy... better. I needed more power."
That seems dangerously close to admitting he regrets joining the empire, Leia thinks. He admits, at least, that his lust for power destroyed his relationship. She can probably work with that. “Has it helped?” she asks pointedly.
There's no easy answer to that. Things are so different now from what they were when he swore himself to Palpatine. Whether it's better or worse is beyond the point because he is no longer who he was when he decided to change the galaxy. "It is of no consequence now," he finally says.
“Because my mother died?” She tilts her head, challenging him.
"Because a great many things," Vader answers. He moves to stand again. "That is enough for today, Leia."
He almost never just calls her “Leia,” and when he does, her heart leaps, because she knows she’s getting through to him. “What if she hadn’t? Would you still have left the Jedi? Was she worth defying them for?” she asks, rising and almost following him out of the room.
He shakes his head, not quite running from the conversation, but near enough. "It was already too late," he says, and puts his hand out to keep her at bay. "Rest well tonight. We will do more than meditate tomorrow."
Leia watches him go, disappointed. Sometimes it seems that the closer she gets, the more he pushes her way.
They go on this way for over a month. He gives her tidbits of information when she asks, but it’s never really enough for her to fill in the gaps. She does decide that he left the Jedi for reasons other than his relationship with her mother, and she struggles with whether that makes her feel better about her relationship with Luke or not. He’s her brother--what does it matter, anymore? But she does want them to make their choices for themselves, based on the facts and their feelings--and not on what Luke is allowed or not by Obi-Wan. If Vader turned to evil not as the result of his marriage, then perhaps it’s all superstition. If there is evil in her and Luke’s blood, it is not triggered by romantic passion.
Eventually, Leia and Vader establish a telepathic bond strong enough that he can tell her in words in her head that he is on his way, or that she should get some sleep, or that he will not be able to make it until later, and she should meditate in the meantime.
Maybe, she thinks, this new skill can be used to contact someone else. Someone she’s so nearly contacted so many times, someone much further away. But much closer to her.
She doesn’t know if Luke knows Alderaan has been occupied.
One night, Leia senses Vader asleep in another wing of the palace. Unable to sleep herself, she decides it’s time to try. She closes her eyes and imagines a heart beating with hers, almost feels it against her chest, and then she whispers his name.
Luke trains exceptionally hard every day, and sleeps just as hard to recover every night. And yet he wakes immediately when he hears--and, somehow, feels--Leia. It's more than her voice in his head; it's as if her essence has reached out across the lightyears to touch him. It's been so many weeks since he's felt her presence, that he is drawn to it immediately.
He slides out of his sleeping roll, leaving Obi-Wan and Yoda to their slumber. He goes two dozen paces or more away from their camp in an effort to find a slightly more secluded place to perch. Leia, he finally lets himself think in answer. He expands himself in a way he hasn't since arriving on Yoda's world. He's been warned that Vader will have the ability to find him and sense him as he grows stronger in the Force, but he feels this is a risk worth taking. If Leia is calling out to him... Leia, I'm here.
All Leia gets is her name, in his voice, and it sounds so beautiful her heart aches. She almost wants to cry, and she almost tells him she loves him, but things are so complicated, now, and she doesn’t know how long the connection will last. Vader’s here, she sends. They’ve occupied Alderaan. I’m a prisoner.
What Luke hears, or feels, isn't exactly words, and isn't exactly images. It's almost as if Leia were simply sharing her mind to his. It's more than Vader's here because he senses that the man has a particular interest in Leia. And I'm a prisoner carries more than just three words; he knows she's not locked in a cell or being abused. There is fear; unease and uncertainty, and everything is hazy and confusing.
Are you all right? he asks, or tries to. Is he hurting you? Then afraid the connection might fail, he says, Leia! I'm here. I love you.
She gets maybe every other word, except 'I love you,' comes through loud and clear, and she swears it’s as if his arms are around her, and he’s inside her, and they’re breathing as one. I’m fine. I have so much to tell you. But I don’t know how to get out of this situation.
The connection has become less clear. He feels her need and her uncertainty. The knowledge that Vader is there, has her personally held captive, and has occupied Alderaan makes his passions rise. He cannot stay hidden on some distant world while she suffers. I'm coming! he promises. I'll come find you!
Luke, please be careful, it’s not safe-- she attempts, but she can already feel him gone from the connection, making whatever plans he must to return.
She sighs, rolling over and considering the possibility of sleep, hoping that Vader hasn’t sensed her plea for help.
"It's a trap," Obi-Wan stays when he confronts Luke mere hours later. "It might not have even been Leia at all. It's likely Vader. Calling you out."
"It was Leia," Luke insists. "I know it was her."
"Listen to Obi-Wan you must," Yoda chides. "Finish your training."
"But he's there now! She needs me. He won't be expecting us... it's the perfect time to launch our counter attack..."
“How do you know Leia hasn’t been corrupted by Vader?” Obi-Wan asks, folding his arms into his sleeves. “The dark side of the Force is quite seductive. If Leia was able to contact you, she must have been taught to do so. If he’s there, he must have been the one to teach her. He could have planned this in advance with her, to draw you back.”
Luke stops shoving his meager belongings into his pack in order to shoot a venomous glare at Obi-Wan. "Then that's all the more reason to return and free her. She would never join Vader, or the Empire."
Yoda gives Obi-Wan a long look. "Leave her in Vader's clutches we cannot."
Obi-Wan sighs, then nods. “The Princess was already quick to anger, and manipulative. She either needs to be rescued, or, if it is too late....” he looks at Luke, and his heart falls. “The two of them would be too powerful together. I don’t know if we could stop them. Hope that Leia is still on our side.” He begins to pack his bag as well.
Luke feels there's more to what Obi-Wan has said than he understands, but he's learned better than to question it. All he knows is that they're going with him; he won't have to defy them or rush into this alone.
It takes almost a day for them to trek back through the dense swamplands to Yoda's house, where they left their ship, but they're soon back in space, and Luke's never been more grateful for a sonic shower and a soft bed, even if the ship is cramped and uncomfortable--especially now that it carries three.
"Do not forget your training, Luke," Obi-Wan councils as they speed back toward Alderaan. "Do not let your emotions misguide you. Your target is Vader. Only after he is defeated can you consider Leia again."
“Told you, I did,” Yoda says to Obi-Wan. “Trained both of them, we should have. No use having Leia in reserve if Vader teaches her instead. Now, matters may be worse.”
Luke stares at Yoda, then to Obi-Wan and back. "What's he talking about?"
"Never you mind. Focus on the task ahead of you." Obi-Wan levels his gaze on Yoda, and it seems perhaps the conversation continues, beyond Luke's ability to hear.
Then, she feels her heart shift rhythm very slightly, because, she knows, there is another heart beating with it nearby. She goes to her window and throws it open. Summer has come--what passes for summer in the highlands--and the night is balmy and clear and still. In the light of Alderaan’s single, bright moon, she can just make out a small figure in black scaling the palace walls.
The figure moves quickly and easily, guided by weeks of intense training and the Force, and when he grows nearer to Leia's room, as if sensing her, his movements become faster and more precise, strengthened by their proximity.
He senses her, knows she's watching, knows she's waiting for him, and whether she's been compromised or not suddenly doesn't matter. All Luke knows is that he has to touch her again, has to hold her in his arms again to feel right. It's ages and seconds before he lands on her balcony, quiet as the wind, and stands before her dressed in black, hungry and whole again. He doesn't say her name, but he whispers it in the connection between them, and goes to her.
He looks older, stronger, maybe even taller. He’s gorgeous--somehow more now than ever.
Leia tries to hold herself back. She knows that he can’t really make an informed decision about their relationship or interactions until she tells him what she’s learned--but how is she supposed to tell him now? Right now, all at once, before she’ll even let him wrap his arms around her?
But her thoughts are useless. She has no choice. Maybe the Force brought them together in the first place. Maybe it’s pushing them together now. The cord from their wedding is still tied around her neck under her dress, and she feels it keenly as she runs to him and throws herself into his arms.
What are we going to do? she wonders helplessly.
Luke pulls her close, breathing her in, drawing strength and certainty from their proximity. He wants to tell her everything that's happened, and wants her to tell him everything that she's seen, but there isn't time. All he needs to know is that she's all right. She's safe, in his arms again, and she's not corrupted. She's still his Leia. He holds her close, telling her with his arms and his breath and his presence how much he loves her and how much he missed her. "We have to go," he finally whispers. "There's only a few minutes before the security cameras I disabled come back online."
Her head buried in his chest, Leia feels more comfort and peace than she has since he left, and she can truly appreciate how her body and soul sing with his in a way that wasn’t as apparent when she was used to it. She loves him. Whatever happens, she loves him.
She looks up into his eyes, nodding. “I’ll go to the ends of the galaxy with you. I’m ready.”
He kisses her, deep but briefly, full of promise and longing, then starts tying a rappelling belt around her waist, which he then secures to his own. "Just trust me." They don't take anything from her apartment; it can all be replaced. He pulls himself over the edge, and then his strong arms help her over, and he secures her further with the Force. "I've got you." It's a long way down, but Luke's not afraid. Not now that they're together again.
Leia couldn’t be afraid with him touching her. They’ll have to come back for her parents, but they have time, and it may be better to have reinforcements. Is Obi-Wan here as well? Can they get in touch with the Alliance?
The two move with effortless coordination--somehow, Leia had even known to wear black today, which isn’t her usual wont but she’s done it sometimes lately to appeal to Vader--and they make it back over the wall before the security system reactivates. Then, they’re running through the dark woods hand-in-hand, silent save for their breath.
A kilometer or two from the palace, they finally stop to rest. Luke had explained they were headed for a cave in the mountains, and the terrain is becoming more difficult. Leia pauses a few moments to drink from a spring, ice-cold from the snowy peaks, then looks up at what she can see of Luke in the dark night of the forest. “I... I was worried you weren’t coming.”
"I had to convince them, but I would've left without them. How did you contact me? I could hear you... in my head."
Leia sighs before rising and putting her arms around his waist again so she can rest her head under his chin. She feels a thousand years older than she did at their wedding. “Luke, I... I have a lot to tell you. But answer your question...Vader taught me.”
Vader. The word hangs between them, heavy and dark. Luke’s arms tighten around her, and he kisses the top of her head. He remembers something Yoda said on the flight over, and tries to push it aside. "You didn't join him," he states. It's not a question. But then why would he teach her?
“Of course not!” she says, a little too loud, stepping back a bit but staying in his arms. “I think he hopes I will, but I just wanted to learn what I could to get a message to you. What I want to know is, if Obi-Wan knew I could learn the Jedi arts, why didn’t he teach me himself?”
Luke shakes his head. "I don't know. There's... I suspect there's a lot they haven't been telling me." He slides his hand down into hers, giving it a squeeze. "I think he's afraid that Vader would... corrupt you somehow?"
Leia shakes her head. “How could he?” She sighs, gazing helplessly at him. “My heart’s already full of light.”
Luke smiles at her, brilliant as the sun, and squeezes her hand more tightly. "Obi-Wan’s an old man stuck in his old man ways." He begins to pull her again. "C'mon, it's not too much further..."
“Luke, wait,” Leia says firmly, pulling him back by his hand. “Luke... after you left... I started doing some digging. I had to know what happened with your parents....”
"My parents?" He is eager to get back to the relative safety of the cave and Obi-Wan and Yoda, but he can sense the seriousness in Leia's voice, and lets her pull him back. His brow furrows as he studies her face and reads the darkness hidden in her eyes. "What is it? What did you find?"
“You were born on Polis Massa. Two days after Empire Day. Did you know that?” She sighs. “Luke... I never told you, but I’m adopted. I was born....” She’s trembling, but she’s confident, and she continues. “I was born on Polis Massa, two days after Empire Day.” She doesn’t say it for him in words. She just puts a hand on his heart, and puts his hand on hers, telling him through the Force, showing him her feelings and her thoughts. They’re a binary system in the Force, two bright lights orbiting each other so close that their coronas bleed together. Their brightness is one brightness, and it always was. Twins. We’re twins.
He hears the word almost as if she spoke it aloud. His heart is pounding, in sync with hers, and his eyes widen. "Twins?" he asks, as if he's repeating her. The ground beneath him shifts. The sky seems skewed as reality changes around him. Finding a family and losing a family immediately. The reality of their connection, the point of their passion, and the horror of it. "No," he starts to say, because he can't lose her, not like this, but he knows it's the truth. It makes too much sense.
She feels his conflict, the same as hers has been. “I know,” she says softly. “Oh, Luke, I know.” She bows her head, forcing back tears. “I’m glad I know, but... I don’t know what comes next.”
His eyes dart back and forth studying her face, her features, the mouth he's longed to kiss and kiss for weeks on end. How is it possible?
And Obi-Wan and Yoda knew. They've known all along! They kept the truth from him, trying to warn him without telling him why. Anger rushes through him, which he quickly quenches, then battles off the despair that threatens to follow. He wants to cry, or scream, but there's no time. He bottles it, as he must. As he's been trained to as a Jedi. They've been right all along. "We free Alderaan," he says, his voice calmer. "We defeat Vader. Everything else is secondary."
He’s right, and she hates it. “I....” She shakes her head. She hasn’t let herself cry about this since the night she confronted Bail. She’s been a princess. A soldier. Tougher than she has had the energy for, and it’s worn on her. “I love you,” she gasps. “I’ve had time to think about it, and....” She licks her lips, still barely managing to keep her tears at bay. “But you haven’t. You should.”
Luke manages a smile, and that, at least, is genuine. He loves her. How could he not? What her revelation means for him and their future he's not sure, but it doesn't change that he loves her. "I'll always love you," he says, squeezing her hand. His heart aches at the knowledge that perhaps that love can never be romantic again, but maybe just having her is enough. He fights back the anguish that threatens to rise in him; the loss of that child they never made together, that future of waking up in each other's arms every day. His mind is also asking more questions: why were they separated? Why was he raised by his uncle, but Leia Bail and Breha on Alderaan? "I have so many questions...."
“I don’t have many answers,” Leia admits. Hesitantly, she snuggles back into his arms. “Just hold me, for now. For a minute. Please. I know it’s weird, but... I finally have you back. Hold me.”
"It's not weird," he reassures her, holding her. It's not weird, unless he kisses her, which he wants to do, but doesn't. He just holds her, and closes his eyes and wishes she hadn't told him; hadn't found out the truth. Yet, perhaps that would be even worse... to go even further along in their infatuation only to have the truth come out later.
“It’s not fair,” Leia breathes into his chest. He smells wonderful. His arms hold her exactly as tightly as she wants to be held. They know each other better than anyone else ever could--because they’re one and the same. “I was so hopeful. So happy. I could never feel that way about someone else. Never.”
"Shhh," Luke says. It's too soon. He has to focus. He can't cry about losing her while holding her. It's too much. "Let's go back," Luke says. She's right; he needs time to think, and he needs questions answered. Questions only Obi-Wan knows the answers to.
Leia nods, straightening and wiping her eyes. She can be strong for him. She can always be strong. She lets him lead her further into the forest, another half a kilometer or a little more, until they’re climbing a rocky hillside toward a small cave. Straining her night vision, Leia thinks she can make out a small ship under a cover disguising it as a boulder. In the cave, she senses a presence not Kenobi’s. “Who else is in there?”
"Master Yoda," he says, preparing his heart, steeling himself for what's about to come. "Another Jedi Master who remained in hiding after the war. They were both against me going alone to find you," he warns her. "They'll be glad you're safe and uncorrupted but…." He doesn't know how to finish that thought, only that he wanted to prepare her for their potential distrust. "Are you ready? They know we're here…."
Leia has no fear in her to spare on two old Jedi. She knows she hasn’t joined Vader, and if they disapprove of her feelings for Luke, then they should have properly put a stop to it instead of being manipulative and avoidant. Her resolve is steady. “I’m ready.”
They enter the cave hand-in-hand, and as they walk deeper and deeper into it, the darkness peels away to reveal an almost comfortable little hide away. There is a soft light glowing, illuminating the room, and a small camp has been set up inside, with mat rolls and even a portable toilet with sonic shower. Obi-Wan is cooking something on an electric range, and Yoda is sitting on a rock, eyes closed.
When they enter, Yoda's eyes open slowly, taking in the sight of the Skywalker twins hand-in-hand standing before him, grown adults, and both strong in the Force. He nods as he assesses them, but says nothing.
"It would seem your mission was a success," Obi-Wan candidly says without stopping his cooking. "We meet again, Princess." He nods.
Leia only acknowledges him with a look. “I know you’re both worried that Vader’s compromised me, but he hasn’t. I used him to learn what I could to draw you back. I couldn’t ever be on any side but Luke’s.”
"I am grateful you have not been compromised," Obi-Wan says. "Though it begs the question why you felt it so urgent for us to return. Luke's training is not yet finished. You do not appear to be in any mortal danger. In fact, it would seem you've benefited greatly from your father's company."
Leia’s heart sinks. She’d hoped to spare Luke this additional shock for the time being. She doesn’t even bother to answer Obi-Wan’s query about the urgency of their return, only turns to face poor Luke, squeezing his hand tighter. “I should have told you.”
Luke's brow furrows, not following. "Told me? What?"
Obi-Wan looks up. "That Darth Vader is your father. Both of you. I assumed she had told you."
"Father?" Luke stares at Leia, then to Obi-Wan, and back. How is that possible? How is any of this possible. He does move to sit but somehow finds himself sitting.
Obi-Wan explains things as best he can, in as few words as possible. It's enough to convince Luke of the truth, but it does nothing to assuage his concerns.
"Even knowing the truth," Obi-Wan says, when he finishes, "it changes nothing. Our course of action remains the same. We must defeat Vader at all costs."
Luke's mind is reeling, and he looks away from Ben and the lights and even Leia. He's wanted all his life to meet his father; to make his father proud. To follow in his footsteps. Now he is expected to kill him? To destroy someone he's never even met?
Leia lets the silence hang for a moment before saying, “I’m not convinced Vader’s fall is complete. I think our best course of action would be for Luke and I to encourage him to sympathize with us. Losing our mother broke his heart, and finding out I was still alive... it warmed something in him. He was kind to me.” She looks at Luke. “I didn’t know that I have a twin, and I didn’t tell him. I didn’t want you to without your permission. He knows only that Kenobi was on Alderaan with a boy.”
Luke's head is still reeling. The idea that Leia's been talking to him, training with him, is almost too much.
"You cannot negotiate with a tyrant," Obi-Wan says. "There is no happy ending for Darth Vader. His crimes are too great. He must be destroyed."
That makes Luke's head snap. "Since when are the Jedi judge, jury and executioner? He should be punished, yes, but destroyed? Is that another old Jedi tenant?"
Obi-Wan briefly glances to Yoda, but the older Jedi Master has still not moved from his perch on the rock. "I urge you... do not underestimate his power."
“I don’t,” Leia says. “But I’m sure the four of us are a match for it--especially if he’s distracted by his twins facing him down. I’ve seen pictures of our mother. She looks like the two of us put together.” She squeezes Luke’s hand, talking to him gently. “I don’t think he deserves our love--only that it may mean the difference between a victory and a defeat. I need you with me on this.”
"I'm with you," Luke says, squeezing her hand. He means it; no matter what her plan is, he will follow her. To the ends of the galaxy, and beyond if she desires. To Obi-Wan, he says, "We have to at least try... if he didn't know he had children... it might change everything. If not then... then we can fight him...."
"You will have to go it alone, in that case. The presence of Yoda and I would not likely bode well. Vader was my pupil once, but when he turned to the dark side we did not part ways amicably."
Leia nods. “We can do that. We can plan it tomorrow, but tonight we should rest--it’s so late.” Well past midnight. Now that she has Luke back, she can think about is being held tight in his arms. Maybe it won’t matter that he’s her brother and she’s his sister. Maybe he’ll still hold her while they sleep. Maybe that will be enough for her, some momentarily relief for the pain of not being able to act like his wife.
Obi-Wan shakes his head, disagreeing about something, but doesn't let them privy to his thoughts. "You hold the fate of the galaxy in your hands. Be careful what you do with them."
The party eat the small meal Obi-Wan offers them, and then roll out some sleeping mats on the far end of the cave. It’s not long before the two old masters are asleep, but Leia doesn’t expect to be able to sleep, and she senses Luke awake beside her, inches away.
She moves closer to him, silently, using what rudimentary Jedi powers she’s learned to make her wakeful thoughts hidden to Obi-Wan and Yoda. I can’t sleep, she sends to him, hoping he hears her thoughts, knowing he does. I missed you so much....
Luke hears her, thinks he could sense her thoughts before she even spoke, and opens his eyes. In the darkness of the cave, it's absolutely pitch black, but Luke knows right where she is. He reaches out and takes her hand, finding it easily in the darkness.
They have to talk, and they can't do it here, in the cave, with Yoda and Obi-Wan sleeping--maybe?--only a few feet away. Follow me, he tries to tell her, and with a gentle tug of his hand they're making their way through the inky darkness, moving entirely by the Force, until they come some time later to the mouth of the cave and step into the dark, starlit night.
Luke still doesn't talk for a bit as they walk, hand-in-hand, into the canopy of trees. He doesn't want to do anything to give their position away. Eventually he finds a fallen tree and they sit down together. His mind is still reeling from all the revelations earlier. "I thought about you every day," he finally says, uncertain what else to say. There's no easy way to approach any of it, so he hopes just talking at all will eventually sort itself out. "It made them so furious, but I couldn't stop...."
“My father told me to focus on my work, on the war.” Leia sighs. “He knew. My mother knew. Kenobi knew. And instead of just being honest with us, they kept treating us like we were being silly, or irresponsible, or tried to convince us it would damage your soul....” Leia shakes her head. “I would have been happy to meet my brother. But I didn’t. I met you.”
Luke can't meet her eyes, not even in the darkness. He is still holding her hand, still craving that connection between them, but unable to understand how to proceed. "They raised us as weapons," he says quietly, though they're more than far enough from the cave to risk being overheard. "They raised us separately, with different skill sets, so they could use us to fight our own father. They raised us to kill him without ever even knowing who he was…."
She knows he’s right. She’s thought about it. A lot. “If they’d raised us together, if they’d let us have contact, it would have compromised their plan--we’d either be too similar, or knowing each other might put the other in danger if we were captured or killed....” Leia shivers, squeezing Luke’s hand between both of hers, even as she wonders if they should be touching at all. “I know my parents love me. But I know why they didn’t adopt both of us. It didn’t suit the Jedi plan for bringing down Vader.” She squeezes again, refusing her innate need to cry, again. Clenching her teeth instead. Focusing her sadness into resentment. Vader had never taught her otherwise. “When if they had really cared about us, they never would have separated us....”
Luke understands why, to an extent. They didn't feel they had a choice. Vader was a terror and Luke and Leia were some of the only potential weapons they had to stop him. Knowing why doesn't make it any easier to bear. "We weren't ordinary babies... so we weren't allowed to grow up ordinary...." He squeezes her hand back. "Was it all for nothing, though? Can we even do it? I wasn't sure we could defeat Vader before I knew the truth, and now... he's my father…. Our father...." The word seems to stick in his throat.
Leia takes a deep, almost gasping sob of a breath. “I’ve been... alone, so much. Trying to get information from him I can use. I couldn’t even talk to my fa--to Bail,” she corrects, to make sure he understands. “Or Breha. He didn’t let me. So I just had to pretend that I was his apprentice and hope that I would figure something out....” She takes one hand off of Luke’s and covers her eyes. “And I was trying to figure out what it all means. And the whole time I still missed you. I missed you. I....” He’ll think she’s a monster, she cautions herself. He won’t feel the same. And even if he does, how could either of them speak of it?
Luke doesn't even think, doesn't even care. He just moves closer until he can gather Leia in his arms, and it doesn't matter if she's his sister. This isn't wrong. It's not wrong to hold your sister while she's crying, and offer comfort. It can't be wrong. He needs to hold her. "Did it help?" he asks. "Do you think... could you go back and... and change him?" It's a crazy thought; one Obi-Wan and Yoda would be staunchly against, he's sure. And yet, if they could change Vader, turn him back to the light....
She laughs a little, feeling silly and helpless, but her soul is warming at his contact, and she carefully wraps her arms around his waist as her instincts tell her to. He fits into her like a piece of those interlocking sculptures her father has in his office, as if they were carved from one piece of wood and their separation was merely an intentional design element. “I don’t know. I think so.” She pulls back a little to look at him, though they can barely see each other in the low light. “He was kind to me. I mean it--he was. He loves me, even if he hasn’t admitted it to himself. Luke... I couldn’t ever not love my own child. I know that. And I think Vader couldn’t help but love us, no matter what. That might be his undoing.”
Luke takes a carefully controlled breath as Leia settles herself against him, melding against him, pressing her body into his as much as possible. He feels calm and peace wash over him that he hasn't felt since the last time they were together. He tries not focus on that night. Instead, he directs his attention to the problem. All the turmoil in his heart seems to have cleared, and his mind is able to think clearly. "We have to tell them... Obi-Wan and Yoda. We have to tell them we want to bring him back... they won't agree, but we'll fight for it. They can't make us kill him.... We'll go back together... tell him the truth... bring him back. And if we can't... well, then perhaps we'll agree to do what must be done... We can't trust the old ways. That's what led them here, to this... we have to be different. We have to change, all of us. Not just Vader, but Yoda and Ben...."
She nods. “They groomed us our whole lives for this, encouraging our individuality and righteousness. If we deviate from their expectations, they have no one to thank but themselves.” His jaw is close to her lips, and she has to almost physically restrain herself from kissing it. She feels like she may burst into flames at the effort of keeping her love buried, but she persists. “I’m going to need more training to be able to do this, though, Luke. Vader only taught me meditation and arts of the mind. I’ll need more training for my body.” Unsuccessfully, she tries to ignore how strong and swollen his muscles feel through his tunic. They’ve really been pushing him hard, and she’s been locked up in her suite for weeks.
Although it's controlled, Luke feels her desire as much as he feels his own. He wants to kiss her soft, curved neck, and run his hands along her hips and waist. He reluctantly untangles himself from her, feeling a shock of cold as he disconnects. "We'll tell them in the morning. They can't make us do their bidding. Together we'll be strong enough to negotiate our way…." He is still holding her hand and gives it another squeeze. "Let's go back. We'll have a long day ahead of us."
“Wait, Luke--" She holds her position, trying to pull him back. They haven’t had any time to talk. Really talk. About their... relationship, whatever it is. “I know you haven’t had as much time to think about it as I have, and if you need time, that’s fine, but...I just need to say out loud to you that this has been... tearing me up inside. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be feeling. We had so little time, and then....”
Luke's body stiffens against his will, a pathetic attempt to shut down. "I haven't…." He stops, swallowing. "I haven't processed it yet." She's right; he needs time. He needs time alone to sit and think, and maybe even then he won't have any answers. Just ignoring it, pushing it down as deep as he can, might be the only way to possibly deal.... "I'm sorry," he finally manages, almost in a whisper.
It feels like a rejection, though she knows, intellectually, it’s both more simple and more complicated than that, and certainly different. And if it is a rejection, well...wouldn’t that be for the best? Wouldn’t that be the sane thing to do? Of course. But whatever they do, she wants to share it. If they’re twins, they ought to be together in whatever feelings they have.
Expecting him to catch up to her weeks and weeks of reflection in a couple hours is absurd at best, and she knows it. Something tells her to let go of his hand, so she squeezes it again. Unless he wants her to stop touching him, she’s not going to listen to impulses like that. They come from fear.
“Take as long as you need,” she says gently, and it doesn’t sound like her, even to herself. How could they be the same two people who first made love brazenly, out in the open, in a dusty tower, unable to wait another moment? She knows, though, that their destinies are intertwined in ways she couldn’t have imagined. There’s no real urgency in anything between them, because they’re one and the same. They will always belong to each other, and they hadn’t needed to get married to ensure that. “I’ll be here.”
"I know you will." That gives him a smile, however sad and bittersweet. She's here. She's his. No matter what, they are still forever connected to each other. There's comfort in that. Even if Obi-Wan or someone invalidates their wedding, they're still twins. They're still each other's other half. They can hide them and change their names, but nothing will ever change the fact that they belong together. "I love you," he suddenly says, and it's a mix of brotherly and romantic love, but it's true. It will always be true. "No matter what. We belong together... even if... even if…." He shakes his head. He still needs time. "Even if we're twins. Especially because we're twins. We belong together."
She nods, and she feels her heart warming, fit to burst. “We belong together,” she echoes, steadying herself. Time will tell how, and she resolves herself to try to get used to being his sister. She knows she can do it. She’ll try, anyway. “I love you. Let’s....” She almost says “let’s go to bed,” but it sounds too sexual, and she balks. “Let’s get some sleep.”
She leads him inside, and they lie down silently on their mats, snuggling desperately into separate sleeping bags. The silence deepens; she can’t hear anything at all anymore, not his breath, not his movements, but she knows he’s still just as awkwardly awake as she is.
Carefully, she takes his hand, scooting a little closer, so her body is closer to his, and she can feel its heat even if all she’s touching is his hand. The proximity comforts her, and she starts to relax, and, she’s sure, they fall asleep as one.
In the morning, after a meager breakfast, Luke and Leia confront Obi-Wan and Yoda together, without saying a word to each other.
"We aren't going to kill Vader," Luke says first.
Obi-Wan blinks a few times. "Pardon?"
“We don’t need to,” Leia says, her chin raised regally. “He’ll come with us. His love for his children will be enough to convince him to leave his old life behind.”
Yoda shakes his head sadly. “Obi-Wan and your mother both wondered if this was possible. He is too far gone. Be done, it cannot.”
"That's not true," Luke says. "Leia's made a connection with him. He trusts her... and I think he'll trust me, too. Once we get to know each other. I think it's worth the chance."
"He will destroy you," Obi-Wan says. "Both of you. He will not hesitate to turn you over to the Emperor, and coerce you to the dark side."
“He loves me,” Leia says, shaking her head. “If he wanted to turn me over to the Emperor, he would have done it already. He didn’t even tell the Emperor he found me, and I’m sure he still hasn’t.”
Obi-Wan rises, crossing the cave to stand before the twins. “His desires are selfish. Leia, you must know he tried to corrupt you.”
“He tried,” she admits. “But he didn’t try very hard. He seemed more interested in connecting with me than anything else. You weren’t there.”
Obi-Wan sighs. “Let us begin with today’s lessons. We have ample time to discuss this later.”
Luke nods. "We're in agreement there. If we're to stand strong against him, we need to train to withstand him. Both of us, as Jedi. Together." He glances to Leia and offers her a little smile like the sun peeking between the clouds.
She hesitates a moment, then can’t help but return his smile as brightly as he’s given it.
They train hard all day, only breaking for one small meal of cooked grains and root vegetables, then returning to a rigorous program of martial arts, meditation, philosophy, and, finally, telekinesis. By the end, they’re all exhausted. They eat a slightly larger meal than the two tiny ones before it, this one with some protein in the form of rehydrated meat, before dousing the lamps and rolling out their sleeping mats.
Although Luke is exhausted and sore, perhaps even more so than he was most days on Dagobah, once the lights are out and the cave is dark he finds it difficult to sleep. Not with Leia lying wide awake nearby. He can't see her, but he can sense her.
An hour passes and he hears Obi-Wan and Yoda drift off, and then he slides quietly out of his mat and senses her following him. They take one another's hands in the darkness, unable to see, but able to sense each other--even more easily than yesterday, thanks to their training--and return to the spot in the forest they visited last night. "Couldn't sleep?" he quietly asks.
She shakes her head, wondering how much she should admit to him. “It’s hard to pretend all of this is... normal.” She laughs a little, mostly at herself, sitting on a large stone, cold through her dress in the night air. “How are you holding up?” His hand is still in hers, but she doesn’t pull him towards her.
"If I do what they tell me and don't let myself think about it…." He shrugs. "But I think about it. Every time I look at you, I think about it…." He stares up at the sky, visible in starry patches through the trees. "Do you really think it will work? Can we really save Vader?"
She’s sure. “Yes,” she replies with absolute confidence. Vader, to her, is not the question, the wild variable in this situation. “Luke... sit with me. I’m cold....”
Luke stands beside her a moment, then sits down. "I should've brought a blanket, I'm sorry," he says. He hesitates a moment, then pulls her closer, wrapping his arm around her. "We can go back if you want...."
Her body shivers with pleasure as she nestles her head into his neck. “I don’t want to go back,” she says softly, consciously suppressing a purr. This is her brother, she reminds herself, aware even as she thinks it that that word will never mean what it’s supposed to in regards to Luke. She pauses, then wraps her arms around his waist. “Is this okay?” she asks. She certainly doesn’t expect him to meet her in her feelings. She’s a monster, disgusting to still entertain even the slightest romantic and sexual feelings for this man. But she can’t help it.
And she doesn't want to.
Luke swallows hard, fighting down the urge to gather her in his arms and kiss her, to lie her down on the rock and make love to her. He can't do that. He has to keep the boundaries set between them. Yet her body feels so good, so right against his. He doesn't want to push her away, even though he knows he should. "It's all right," he finally says, using some of his Jedi training to help keep himself calm.
She draws a very cautious breath. “I... spent a lot of time struggling,” she admits. “I really wished I had you there to talk to. But when I thought about seeing you again... I just got confused again.” She pauses thoughtfully, feeling his body stiffen. “I don’t want to scare you. I’m as confused as you are. But we can’t deny what’s already happened.” She feels the cord under her dress, wonders if he still has his half.
"I thought about you every night. Every night. Getting back to you was what made me train harder, and focus better. It's all I thought about... getting back to you, reuniting with my... my wife." He clenches his teeth briefly, then unclenches them. "I don't know if I wish they'd told me from the start and I'd never fallen for you, or not and have missed that experience…."
“I don’t regret anything,” she says abruptly, firmly. “If we did anything wrong, it was for the right reasons. We didn’t know. Our actions were innocent, and....” she shifts a little against him, relishing the feeling of his body pressing into hers. “And I've never felt with anyone else like I did with you, Luke.” She lifts her face a little towards his.
Luke can't help but look down at her, see her radiant face shining in the starlight, can’t help but want to kiss her. It feels natural, like the most rational, logical thing in the world to do. He wants to, he senses she wants him to, and only the tragedy of their birth prevents him. "We're twins," he whispers, his gaze lingering on her mouth. "Of course we feel drawn to each other...."
She quakes, just a little. It’s too intense of a truth. “I know,” she breathes. “But we always were, you know. Twins, I mean.”
Luke nods, only slightly. "And we always will be..."
She licks her lips, her breath becoming a bit labored. “Luke... I....” She reaches suddenly into her dress and pulls out the cord, showing him in glimmers of starlight the golden thread that had tied their shoulders together at their wedding, a kinked half of a once-ornate braid, now alone and formless.
It takes a moment, in the dark of the starlight, to see what she's showing him. He's relieved at first that she hasn't disrobed, and then his throat closes up when he recognizes the cord. It's worn and frayed, and he can tell she's worn it all this time. "Oh, Leia," he whispers, sad and broken.
“I couldn’t take it off. I tried,” she admits. “But in the end... I knew. We didn’t do anything wrong.” She shivers into him again, then asks, “What happened to yours?”
He can't answer, it hurts too much to know they were both wearing them, waiting to reunite them when they reunited themselves. He just pulls her close again, to stop her shivering, and ends up kissing her forehead instinctively. "Shhh. I still have it... I wore it all while we were training..." He swallows hard, unable to tell her he still has it on.
“You did?” she asks carefully, looking up at him, still held tight against him. “Do you still have it?” Her face is close enough to his that she can feel his breath on her cheek.
He nods, and just takes her hand in his and slides it into his tunic, to where the cord is tied in knots around his waist. "I couldn't take it off...."
Leia’s gasping breath is almost a whimper, one third from the touch of Luke’s soft, taut skin, two-thirds because the cord is just as important to him, still as it is to her. They’d married. They’re still married. “Luke,” she breathes. “Oh, Luke....” Her fingers lightly touch first the cord, then his ticklish, soft skin.
Her fingers on his skin is still as electrifying as it ever was. He quickly tightens his hand around her wrist, pulling her off before he does something regrettable. "Leia," he says, meaning it as a warning, but it comes out lusty and thick with desire.
“Luke,” she repeats, trembling uncontrollably. “Luke, if you feel even half as much... intensity as I do right now, please, please tell me. Before I just... die of anticipation. Please....” She tilts her face towards his. “Please....”
"I feel it," he whispers, unable to lie to her, or deny how he feels. How can he, when he can almost feel what she feels in addition to his own need? Her desire for him makes his whole body ache, and the way she is tilting toward him, expectant and eager, has his pulse pounding in his chest. He wants to kiss her, but knows if he does he'll be undone. "We should…." He wets his lips. "We should go back to bed," he manages to say.
She scoffs in frustration. “I could never sleep now. Maybe if you hold me. Really... mm... hold me....” She nestles her head into his neck.
Luke's breath is rapid and shallow as she snuggles into him. It's still intimate, but it's not inappropriate. He can convince himself this is all right. Slowly, he wraps his arms around her, pulling her closer, fitting himself around her as she snuggles herself into place against him.
They stay that way for what seems like hours, and eventually the cold seeps into Luke as well, and the stone makes their fatigued muscles ache. They quietly retreat back into their cave, saying nothing but giving each other significant glances in the near darkness.
As Luke settles back into his mat, still aching to hold her even tighter, he promises to himself not to sneak out again the next night, no matter how sleepless he is.
Leia’s eyes snap open when she realizes that Luke can sense her thoughts.
She has better control than this, she knows. She’s fiercely independent. She silently admonishes herself again and again for continuing to hope, continuing to try to get close to him. He’s made his boundaries clear.
But he’s still wearing the cord.
All the past two days, as they’d been training, their connection had been deepening in the Force as well as making them comrades in arms. She feels closer to him than ever, but she watches the way he avoids direct eye contact with her, how he always looks away when she catches him gazing at her. He barely looked at her at all when she’d only been in a tank top and borrowed, too-big pants for their workout.
It would be easier, almost, if she didn’t understand. But she understands. He feels the way she’s supposed to, and she doesn't.
I’m sorry, Leia sends, her momentarily peace shattered, and she lets go of his hand, turning over on her side to face away from him, squeezing her eyes shut.
There's no correct response Luke can give Leia. Her apology is unnecessary, but he can't make himself reject it. He just lies there in silence, doing nothing, because if he were to do anything it would threaten to destroy them both. Knowing her desire for him doesn't appear to have abated despite the truth of their parentage does nothing to settle his mind.
As if sensing the complications between their disciples, the next day Obi-Wan trains Luke separately, with Yoda handling Leia, and when night falls Obi-Wan keeps Luke up late with meditation, and makes sure that his bed roll is near him and the cave wall, far from Leia and Yoda.
It helps a little not to have Leia within arm's reach; to be unable to smell her while he's lying there in the darkness. It's also torture to sense her close but be unable touch her even if just platonically. The training is hard and draining, even not always physically, and the one respite is that it usually helps Luke fall into a deep sleep once he can shut his mind and feelings off.
After almost a week of training, though, the lack of intimacy while still being in such close proximity to Leia starts to drive Luke mad. He doesn't have to make love to her, but he needs to touch her. He needs to be closer to her. He waits until the deep of the night, far later than he's never snuck out before. Only then does he quietly slip out of his bedroll, wrapped in a warm blanket, and navigate over the sleeping form of Obi-Wan. He uses the cave wall as a guide to move to the exit.
When he's free, he takes a deep, settling breath. Just standing in the starlight without a master watching his every move is peaceful and calming. His mind is finally quiet.
He stops in his tracks when, not too much further away, he sees Leia sitting on their rock. How long had she been there? How many days had she been coming? His first instinct is to run back into the cave and into his bedroll, but he suppresses the urge. He wanted to see her again, without Obi-Wan and Yoda watching. He wants to touch her again, to have that connection.
Swallowing hard, he moves silently through the grass, wondering if Obi-Wan and Yoda have been blocking their mental communications because he's heard nothing from her in days. "Is this seat taken?" he finally asks when he stops next to her.
Leia had been watching his silhouette in the low light since he exited the cave, and she gives a small, embarrassed laugh full of relief when he comes to join her. She doesn’t sleep well. She hasn’t been able to, not at all, not in a long time. Even Yoda’s very capable guidance has helped her little. “I was wondering,” she says, a bit hoarsely, her voice strained with uncertainty, “if I’d ever get you alone.” She’s only in her tunic and borrowed pants, and the night is cold and clear. “They seem so intent on separating us again. I hate it.”
Luke is a good boy, for the most part. He's followed Obi-Wan's guidance, and let his exhaustion bring him to sleep every night, even if fitful and unfulfilling. He realizes Leia's come out to this rock every night in hopes of getting a moment alone with him, and he regrets he's denied her all these last few nights.
Without thinking about it, he sits beside her and drapes his body-warmed blanket around her. "I'm sorry to make you wait..." He knows why they're keeping them separated. He doesn't want to talk about that.
It feels normal and natural, a return to the way things should be, to be nestled against him under the blanket. Leia swallows carefully. “I need to talk about it Luke.”
Luke stares out at the forest, and the stars he can see peeking through the trees. He is keenly aware of the cold skin and fabric pressed against him, and how good it feels to touch it, and warm it and share a blanket. "I know..." He swallows.
She goes over it all in her head. The awareness that they rushed into their marriage, pushed frantically on by their wonder at finding each other, their giddy excitement, as well as their awareness that their guardians were trying to discourage them and keep them celibate. She knows now that they may have fallen in love because they were twins and didn’t know, didn’t understand. They hadn’t anticipated this sort of connection with a stranger. Of course they were meant to fall in love--what else could the feeling mean? If Bail and Obi-Wan had only been honest with them....
But it’s too late. It was too late from the moment of their innocent meeting on Tatooine, because they did fall in love. Just like any other two people would have. Except perhaps more deeply, more completely, because they’re twins. The very reason they can’t be together is what makes it impossible to truly keep them apart.
And Leia’s spent enough sleepless nights arguing with herself to know that she can’t undo what has been done, especially not in her heart.
She opens her awareness wide to Luke, showing him the scope of her struggle and the eventual resignation to her feelings. And she shows him the little glimmer of hope that she carries--that after they do what they must do for the good of the galaxy, that their destiny again becomes their own to navigate, instead of being dictated by those who came before them. And maybe... maybe there’s a way that will make them both happy.
“I love you,” she says, and it’s not the first time they’ve said it since they’ve been back together--but she says it with all of her joy and all of her pain, and she lets him see and hear and feel it. “I love you. And I’m not afraid. I’m not ashamed. I love you.”
Luke is only aware he's crying because the world becomes a suddenly blur until he blinks the tears away. Leia's face is dark in the starlight, but beautiful in that darkness. He closes his eyes and opens himself up to her, to the Force, to their destiny. He knows how to feel the darkness now. He had his limits tested when he was on Dagobah. He's felt the cold, seductive grip of the dark side, and right now it's the farthest thing around. There's only Leia, and a candlelight of warmth, the starlight, the soft rise and fall of their breathing. The night is dark, but there is no darkness between them. There is no hint of danger that Luke can feel or sense or taste. There's only love and light. "Even though I know the truth now... nothing has changed." He thinks no amount of separation or meditation could ever change it.
She had been so afraid that he would be shocked that she still feels the same, that he’d run from her. Now, huddled with him under the blanket, creating their own warmth in this cold night, she knows she had never really expected anything but a return of her own love. Neither of them could ever be alone in anything. They’re incapable of it.
“I’m your wife,” she whispers, the assertion ending in a happy sob, almost like a laugh, as her tears join his. She’s his wife. He’s her husband. They made the choice. She intends to stand by it, and she silently asks if he will, as well, gathering the blanket more tightly around them both, pressing her body into his. She feels their fear and worry unraveling, dissolving, releasing them. She feels free of the burden she’s had to shoulder on her own since the night her research had led her from Luke to herself and, finally, Vader.
As they draw together, they share each others' heat and create more. The meld and merge, without even touching. Their bodies are just drawn together, droplets of life torn asunder and destined to be a whole. Luke's hand around her shoulders pulls back, touching her neck and the tangle of hair that's been braided and twisted away for days and weeks. He doesn't ask permission, he just starts undoing her hair. He's her husband. He wants to see his wife.
Leia shivers with pleasure and anticipation as his fingers dig pins out of her tangled braids. She doesn’t even know how long it’s been since she’s redone them, but it might not have been since she left the palace. Her hair needs to be washed and brushed, but she doesn’t care, and she knows he won’t, either. As he works, she snuggles deeper into his chest, her head on his shoulder, the bridge of her nose against his neck, her breath stirring the tiny hairs on his upper chest, just allowing him his claim on her. After a few intense moments, she takes a chance, and touches a gentle kiss to his neck, her body bracing in anticipation of the outcome and in disbelief of what she’s given herself permission to do.
Luke doesn't recoil from her kiss. He almost doesn't even notice it except for the warm glow it spreads through his body; the sense of peace and comfort. He untangles her hair from its bun and twists his body to start working on the thick braid, a strange sense of urgency washing over him. He feels her reacting to the intimacy of having her hair unbraided, and he doesn't stop until he's able to comb his fingers through her long, wavy locks.
As her hair untangles, as Luke is able to run his fingers through it with greater and greater ease, Leia finds herself making small sounds of pleasure, tiny purrs, tiny moans, tiny sudden in-breaths accompanied by the hint of a whimper. By the time she notices, she realizes she's been doing it for some time, and she's a little embarrassed. Is it too much? But when she looks up at Luke, for the first time since she'd spoken, she can see how captivated he is by her, and how natural, after all, at last, this feels to them. "That feels good," she says softly, though she knows he already knows. He can feel it. And it's not as if she's hiding it.
It feels good to him, too. As if he has somehow let his own hair down by letting hers down. He looks at her in the starlight, with her long hair free and billowing around her, and it feels like he's seeing her perhaps for the first time since their wedding night. This is his wife. Whatever else she may also be is irrelevant. This is the woman he swore his heart to; this is the woman he belongs to. "You're so beautiful," he whispers.
He doesn't kiss her, but he shifts their bodies, moving to lie her down on the cool, flat rock, leaning down over her as he does so that they stay connected and the heat between them keeps any discomforts at bay.
Her heart is pounding, and she can feel his beating the same rhythm, in the Force perhaps more than in his body against hers. "We were made for each other," she whispers. "That's why our hearts do that...."
"We were made for each other," he agrees, spreading her hair out on the rock as he looks down at her. She's just in one of Obi-Wan's extra tunics and loose pants, but she looks as beautiful as Luke has ever seen her. He knows he's not looking at her like a brother looks at a sister, but the way a husband looks at his wife. He knows she loves that fact. That as much as they might deny it, they both crave this. "Are you cold?" he whispers.
She feels like she's dreaming. Shaking her head, she smiles. "No. No, not as long as you stay close...." Her hands on his back draw his body to hers. "Like this."
Luke lets her move him closer, and every part of their bodies that touch, even through their clothing, feels like peace. There's nothing he wants more than to press as much of his skin against hers as possible. He moves almost on top of her, so his body presses against hers, until he can feel the heat from between her legs against his thigh, and she can feel the length growing for her in his pants. "Nothing else matters," he says, staring down at her. "Only this matters. This feeling... this connection..."
She believes it. There are other things that matter, she recalls dimly, but she doesn't want any part in any of them without Luke by her side, so she nods. "Yes...." She sighs deeply rocking her hips a little. "Are you going to kiss me, or not?" she asks, but she doesn't smile. She's practically begging, demanding.
Nothing makes any sense if he doesn't; if they're not together. Whatever happens in the morning or the next few weeks or years, he has to have her by his side. He has to be whole and connected. He has to belong to her and know she belongs to him. Anything else is torture, and dangerous. They cannot defeat the Empire unless they are united as one. He kisses her not with hesitation or shyness, but with the bold fury of a man denied his proper reunion; with the hunger of a husband gone wifeless for months and months on end. He is parched and aching and she is the water of life.
Leia meets his intensity, moaning into his mouth, her hips rocking harder into his, involuntarily. She can't wait--her hands immediately go for his pants, unhooking the closure with desperate urgency. She knows now that they were always one body, that their nineteen years apart was the real perversion. That they were always meant to join again. Made for each other, as if the Force actually intended to place one soul in twin bodies. Maybe it did. "I need you," she gasps, pushing him off of her just enough to pull his pants down.
Luke kisses her again and again as their hands work. He's not aware of how they undress each other, only that they do, and soon her hot skin is against his, her legs are opening for him, wrapping around him, drawing him down. He breaks the kiss only to gasp into her ear as his body parts hers, opens her and fills her. He groans deep and low with pleasure into her ear, and then they're rocking together, joining deeper and deeper, and blazing like the sun in the bliss of their reunion. It isn't wrong, he thinks as he makes love to her. It can't be wrong.
It feels like being able to breathe again after being too long under water. Like waking up naturally in the morning after just enough sleep. Like feeling sunshine for the first time after weeks of snowstorms. It's like all of those things, but it's also so much stronger. The most powerful thing Leia's ever felt. She could swear that it's even stronger now than it was before. Could it be that knowing they're twins has made their Force connection even more intense? Made their lovemaking even more intense? Leia moans, arching her back. It is more intense. "I... I feel so close to you...."
"Leia," Luke moans in her ear and through the Force. When he's overwhelmed, it's all he can say and feel. It's everything to him. The intensity is unbelievable, and it resonates through both of them, amplified and magnified and reflected back and forth between them. He pulls her legs up higher, angles his body so he can enter her even deeper. Not a fragment of fear or concern or disgust goes through him; the only thought is of completion. He wants to be as close as possible, as deep inside her as he can be. "Leia," he groans again, rocking into her as much as she is rolling her hips into him. "We can't be apart," he finally gasps. "I need this... I need you..."
"You have me. Forever. You always did, from the day we were conceived." Her teeth nip his neck, a little too hard, and she smiles as he moans after wincing. "We can't be apart," she agrees. "Never, never again. We won't let anything keep us apart."
"Nothing," he agrees, and his thrusts become more forceful as he feels himself nearing the end. It's been so long. "Never again." He reaches so deep inside her it feels like he's shooting sparks when they connect, and it's so good he can't stop hitting her there, over and over. It builds their orgasm together, more intense than any they've ever shared. "Leia," he trembles, trying for some reason to resist the inevitable.
Leia's breathing becomes deep and heavy, and she almost feels as if she's trying to breathe Luke's essence into her. "Do it," she gasps, resisting, herself, wanting to make him come for her. She'll follow him over the edge, she knows. "Fill me. Give me your love, so we won't be separate."
Luke's body shudders at her words; at the deep lust and need and love in her voice. He stares down into her eyes, illuminated by the moonlight. He holds her legs apart as they work their bodies together, creating that perfect spark between them with the competition of each thrust. They move together in absolute unity, radiant and right, standing on the cusp of the edge of the world. Then Leia moves her hips just so and Luke draws a deep, soul-shaking breath and releases when they spark again, pulling her into the spiral with him, so that he comes while her body shudders and pulses around him, working to draw every last pent-up drop of essence out of him and into her.
She cries out, and she doesn't care if the two old Jedi in the cave can hear her. Shouldn't she make love with her husband, her soulmate? How could the Force create them for each other and then disapprove? It couldn't. It would never be so needlessly cruel.
For a handful of minutes, she isn't Leia at all. He isn't Luke. They come, they merge, they cease to exist alone. They're like they are in the Force, truly whole, wholly powerful, completely radiant. It lasts a long time, but when Leia becomes aware of her body again, it's still pulsing with the pleasure his body has given to her, her muscles spasming and tears rolling out of her eyes as her orgasm subsides at last.
Luke kisses her face, her cheeks, her neck, her mouth as the wave of their pleasure starts to finally ebb. The supernova is faded, but they are still ensconced in warmth and well-being. Their bodies are still pulsing and throbbing together, welcoming and complete. He kisses her tears away, holding her close, needing perhaps even more than ever to maintain this connection; to make it last. "I love you," he whispers in her ear. "Always and forever. I love you."
The relief of knowing at last that he feels the same returns, and Leia has to cry to release all the weeks and months of knowing alone, all alone. All the time she spent not consciously knowing he would still love her. All the time she worried that she was wrong for still loving him. She lets it go, and the sorrow and the happiness both come out as desperate sobs into the nook of his shoulder. "Let me cry," she requests. "Please. Hold me. I'm just so happy."
"I'm here," Luke says, holding her closer, kissing her brow, her hair, her cheeks. "I've got you." He tries to sooth her in the Force, to apologize for all the anguish they've put themselves through. He pulls her legs around his waist and wraps his arms around her, making sure to touch as much of her with his body as possible. "I'm here. I'm yours."
"I'm yours," she echoes. "I'm yours. I never had any real doubts." She kisses him deeply. "We're going to be together, as husband and wife. I don't even care who knows."
Luke nods. They're still deeply connected, but the burning passion has been abated now that she is full of him; he can think more clearly than he has been able to in ages. "We're stronger together. We're better together. We'll be able to convince Vader to come back to the light. We'll stop the Empire. Together. And then we'll live together, as one. Husband and wife. No one could stop us."
"They wouldn't dare," she says, smiling brightly, laughing because she's finally satisfied. "We're too powerful together."
Luke kisses her again. It doesn't matter to him if people dare. He'd happily live alone with her in this cave if he had to. With the galaxy safe, they could move to anywhere in the they want, live in obscurity together, so long as they could be husband and wife. Being with her is all that matters. He kisses her over and over. "We'll come here every night," he murmurs. "We'll make love and strengthen our bond. I'm never going that long without you again."
"Every night," she agrees blissfully. "And we'll get so strong together, so quickly, that we'll be ready any time now. And then we'll be free." She pulls him to her again, kissing him with abandon. "I want to rule Alderaan with you by my side," she says, wondering if it's too much, but she needs him to know how serious she is, how proud of who they are.
Luke laughs, kissing her. It's a sweet dream. Maybe it's even possible, if only because she's so strong with him by her side. "I'll be wherever you are," he says. "On Alderaan or a distant moon on an uninhabited system... it doesn't matter to me, so long as you're there."
“I want to be here, because this is my home, and these are my people--but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be wherever you are,” she says sweetly, adjusting her hips to keep him deep inside her for as long as possible. “I’d farm moisture on Tatooine with you. Or start a new Jedi temple on Coruscant. Or fly around the galaxy having adventures. I don’t care.” She laughs, a warm, bright, happy laugh, shaking her head. They’re free. “I just want to be together.” Her hands reach to his waist and she runs her fingers over their wedding cord. “And we will be.”
They hold each other deep into the night, the cold never touching them as they remain ensconced in each others' warmth. They return to the cave, silent and content, only just before dawn, having slept hardly at all, but feeling more rested and restored than either have in months.
During their brief lunch break while the twins are gathering firewood and fresh water, Obi-Wan gives Yoda a significant glance. "I'm concerned by this sudden burst of compatibility between our pupils... you don't suppose something untoward has happened, do you?"
Yoda laughs openly, a high-pitched, teasing laugh, poking Obi-Wan with his cane. “Like what? More than one way for them to connect, there is. See no reason to suspect them, do I.” He smiles at Obi-Wan. “Have you so much experience with tantric Force use that this is your only thought?” Tantric experimentation had been not only expressly forbidden by the Jedi, but a running joke among the old masters. Due to their lack of experience with it, it was not known if it was possible, and any theories that sex could heighten Force connection and compatibility between adepts was usually met with amusement.
Obi-Wan's cheeks turn slightly pink under his white beard and he swats Yoda's cane away. "It's not outside the realm of possibility. We know they've experienced some kind of attraction to one another... For them to synchronize as well as they have, so suddenly..."
It’s true that there has been a change, but they’ve all been working so hard. Besides, he and Obi-Wan both know they steal time to themselves at night, occasionally, outside the cave. They could be connecting better because they’re meditating together, or talking, because they’ve made a more sincere effort to connect.
More to the point, Yoda doesn’t much care why it’s happened, so long as it doesn’t jeopardize their purpose. He feels old and distant, unconcerned with matters of the heart. Obi-Wan is, of course, much younger. And he was more hurt, perhaps, by Anakin’s betrayal than anyone. Yoda takes his viewpoint into consideration, then lowers his tone. “If see you a cause for alarm, then speak with them, we will. Otherwise....” he shrugs.
Obi-Wan considers, his jaw set. The twins seem happy. Unusually happy, yes, and so suddenly, but he doesn’t sense any darkness. He decides, at least for the time being, to let it go.
In the woods, half a kilometer away, Leia decides they’ve put enough distance between themselves and their masters. With a bundle of firewood in her arms getting in the way, a bundle to match in Luke’s arms, she stands on her toes, leans in, and kisses him, smiling brightly as she pulls back. “I’ve been wanting to do that all day.”
Luke pulls her back for another kiss, holding her close a moment longer despite the bundle of wood in each of their arms. "I love you," he says in the light of the day and feeling freer and more brilliant than ever before. "A few more days like these and... I dunno. I feel unstoppable. I don't want to be too over-confident, but training with you, like this, is unbelievable."
Leia’s almost giddy. “I know.” She kisses him again. “I know!” She sighs and looks around them, at the winged insects dancing in the sunlight of a break in the trees, the wildflowers. She breathes in the earthy smell, relishes the sound of the wind rushing through the leaves. She can sense all of the life growing and blossoming around them. “Everything feels more than it did yesterday,” she says. “The colors seem brighter. I don’t know....” She laughs at herself, then smiles at Luke. “It’s like that for you, too?”
"Yes. Everything is more intense. More vibrant. Especially you..." He smiles at her. Sometimes he remembers she's his sister, and a moment of fear lances through him, but it is soon replaced by a sense of well-being. The fear is man-made, but their love is real. So long as he focuses on her, and them, there is no worry. "I'll see you again, tonight?"
A sudden thrill reverberates through Leia. “Of course,” she breathes. “Every night.” She trails slowly out of his arms, feeling their combined Force energy sparking between them like static. It’s powerful. Deeply, excitingly powerful. Maybe more powerful than the old masters would know what to do with, she thinks with a smile. She hoists her firewood. “Come on, they’re going to wonder what’s keeping us....”
They return to their lessons, but their hearts never lose sync for the entire day, and Leia knows because she can feel every single combined beat. She feels it when Luke scrapes his knee on a high tree root on their evening run. She can feel his relief at the cool water that waits for them when they return. She can feel his anticipation of night and her touch. All of it, clear as day.
After only two weeks of training together during the day, and strengthening their bond in secret at night, Luke and Leia have doubled their effectiveness in most areas, and far surpassed it in others. Obi-Wan slips out one evening to do reconnaissance on the city, discovering Vader is still in place in the Winter Palace and that his search for Leia has been focused on ships that have departed the planet; he doesn't suspect at all that she is still on Alderaan.
When Obi-Wan returns he brings with him some new supplies, including clothing to help their infiltration. "It's something of a surprised to me how quickly and efficiently you two have grown together," he says once they're settled safely in the cave. "Though being twins and aware of that fact perhaps explains why." His eyes remain keen on their faces. "As a result, we've reached a point that I believe makes our--your--plan possible. Furthermore, there are rumors that Vader is planning to make a move off world soon. We must get to him before he leaves Alderaan. It may be your only chance. I do not want to rush you, but Master Yoda and I believe you are ready. What say you?"
Leia firms her shoulders and her jaw. She and Luke have discussed it, though not enough to come to any specific plan or resolution. Still, it doesn’t seem to much matter. She knows his mind, and she knows her own. They almost occupy shared space, now. They could never disagree.
She takes his hand openly--no need to hide a sister holding hands with her brother, and if there were, she’d be past caring--and says, “I agree--we need to move now while we can. Luke and I will go alone. In the morning.”
"Very strong you both now are," Yoda says, his eyes firm and serious, "but Vader is stronger. More experienced. Only together can you win. Do not underestimate him."
"We're stronger together," Luke agrees, giving Leia's hand a squeeze. "We won't fail."
Obi-Wan, a bit more pragmatically, says, "If you sense things going awry, do your best to escape. We can rendezvous later; the important thing will be getting you both to safety, out of Vader's clutches. If you fall to the Dark Side under his influence..."
"Fall they will not," Yoda confidently states. "Not so long as together they are."
Leia feels a weight lifted from her shoulders--or maybe Luke’s, or maybe there’s no difference. It’s gratifying to know Yoda senses it. There could be no darkness from love this bright— the old masters might not know the extent of their relationship, and they certainly would disapprove if they knew, but they know, all the same, that there’s only light between them.
That night they don’t even really make overtures or motions to bed down in the cave. The twins slip out when Kenobi and Yoda prepare the sleeping mats. No one stops them or asks where they’re going. The two have things to discus, to plan, and they must make sure they’re together in everything. They respect their power and their judgment.
Twenty paces from the cave, with a blanket wrapped around both of their shoulders, their hands joined, Leia says to Luke, “He still doesn’t know about you. It’s going to be a shock. Are you ready?”
Luke stares up at the sky; at the same stars he used to look at when he was a boy and dream of being among. It feels impossible that he can be here now, with Leia, about to face Darth Vader--his father. Yet, there is no fear in his heart. Not with Leia by his side, her hand in his. Maybe that's foolish, but Luke feels like he can do anything so long as they are together. "I'm ready." At last, he glances over to her, picking out the features of her starlit face. "Are you? Everything changes tomorrow."
She shakes her head easily, feeling strangely peaceful. "Not everything. We don't." She wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him softly. "We're still going to be together. And, hopefully... I'll be able to go home. Luke... I have to talk to you about something...."
Luke slides his hands around her waist, feeling even more content and peaceful the more they touch. He feels so strong in her arms, with her in his. Studying her face, he wonders what she could possibly have left to tell him; that he doesn't already know. "What is it?"
She licks her lips, poised between nervousness and the confidence that only could come from being completely one with someone else. Still, it's important, and she doesn't, really, know how she feels about it--which may explain how she could be unsure how Luke will respond. "Let's go a little further from the cave." They walk a little, and after a few more paces, Leia begins, "Do you remember, on our wedding night--I said I wished we could make a baby, and I promised next time we saw each other we'd be able to?"
Luke stops in his tracks, remembering it all clearly, and just how excited he'd been by the notion. He turns and stares at her, torn between excited elation and apprehension. "You still want to?" he breathes.
"Well, I...." She pauses to smile brightly. "Do you?"
He wants to, but he's aware of the dangers now that it might incur. They wouldn't be able to keep their relationship secret much longer if she was pregnant, and people who might be all right with them being romantically involved might draw the line at procreating together, but... "Yes," he says, but his voice is hesitant. "Yes, I still want to." As he says it, the desire becomes clearer and more concrete. It's not just a nebulous idea anymore; he wants to, whether or not they ever do. He wants it. "So long as the baby was... was..."
She holds him firmly, communicating with her touch and the Force both her shared worries as well as her overarching sense that it will be fine. "The Force wouldn't forsake us like that, Luke. We both know that. And we'll figure out the rest." She looks beseechingly up into his face, hidden in darkness, but she can see him all she needs to. "I had to ask you about it because... because I stopped taking precautions as soon as you left, before I knew you were my... my brother." It seems only right to say it aloud—it's not as if they can hide from it. If they're going to decide to be together, to have children, they need to be able to talk about it. "And when I found out, it wasn't exactly what was on my mind, so...." She lets out a careful, astonished, excited, terrified breath. "So the past two weeks...."
Luke's eyes widen at her implication. There's more exhilaration and excitement than he expected. All this time... "You mean... you could already be..." He glances down, as if he could see her swelling already, but of course there's no indication. Yet, in his heart, it's as if it's already happened. "Leia," he breathes, his voice thick with emotion.
She'd been afraid, when she realized slowly over the past day or so what they might have already done, that this moment of celebration wouldn't come. Now, she feels foolish for doubting Luke's love for her, hers for him, theirs for any child they could manage to bring into the universe. "Luke," she returns, her voice only a whisper, choked with happy tears, as she draws closer to him. "Luke, I love you." She kisses him with more passion than ever, and with her eyes closed, it looks like their light is illuminating the whole mountainside.
Luke pulls her closer, and in their passion they fall into a pile of grass and leaves. He breaks their kiss only to place his mouth on her neck, his hands on her body, exploring and mapping, feeling the contours of her skin. It's somehow all even more brilliant and resplendent and he undresses her with a sense of certainty and confidence he hadn't previously displayed. Whatever last little barrier was hanging between them is now fully gone; they are committed to each other, to this, and Luke parts her legs with full knowledge of what they're doing, what might happen, what might have already happened.
As he enters her, as she holds his face and kisses all over it, all over his neck, everywhere she can reach, Leia breathes to him, "If it hasn't happened yet, then let it happen tonight."
Luke lets out a groan at her words, his already harden cock stiffening even more inside her. His thrusts become more sure, more direct as he fills her. "Let it happen tonight," he agrees, overwhelmed by just how powerfully the thought affects him. Everything will be all right. The Force is with them.
The Force has always been with them, but, somehow, it seems to be more with them tonight than it ever has. The forest is practically singing to them as they make love, two naked youths with one glowing soul, asking humbly yet desperately that fate grant them such a simple wish. If it does, Leia knows she'll take it as a sign, as an affirmation of their love, a blessing from the Force itself. A recompense for the sacrifices they have made.
Leia's motions against Luke become more purposeful and she reverses their positions. "If we're as powerful as we are together, then wouldn't it be only right for us to have a child? For us to join completely?" Riding Luke, she places his hand on her flat belly.
Luke's hands on her belly feel the heat between them, feel the essence of life flowing between them. They're powerful together, so powerful, so in sync, and creating a child of light from that can only be right; can only bring them more power, more connection, more righteousness. "Yes," he breathes, staring up at her, feeling his whole body tensing for the release Leia needs. "We've been separate so long... this is how we're meant to join together... permanently... with a child... Oh, Leia..."
Leia leans over him so she can kiss him, look into his eyes, feel his breath. “I need you to give all of yourself to me,” she says lowly in his ear. “I need you inside me. I need your love to make into a baby.” Her hips roll and rock into his, and she feels his feel lust and consuming love sparking against hers. “Do that for me,” she purrs, feeling closer to him than ever. The last barrier removed, her soul and body are completely open to him.
"I love you," Luke gasps as he grips her hips and helps drag her down as he thrusts up into her. They are synchronized even in this--especially in this--and soon he is as deep inside her as possible, rocking into her deepest depths. He finds the glint of her eyes in the darkness and locks on, dragging her down. "You have all of me," he gasps as he releases, his whole body shuddering with the intensity of it. He pumps his seed into her, flooding her swollen cervix, and continues to rock up into her, begging her body to accept his gift, to draw it into her body with each quaking shiver of her full-body orgasm.
Her cries are loud and sound nearly pained, but Leia feels more right than ever before in her life. In her mind, she holds Luke's soul inside of hers, tending to it gently like the first sparked kindling of a fire, pouring love and promises into it. She doesn't know if she's imagining it or seeing it, but she feels a flame ignite, and, satisfied, opens her eyes to see Luke's beautiful face. Overcome, she can only smile softly at him.
Luke smiles back at her, overwhelmed by the passion between them, the sense of belonging and connection. He rolls his hips a few more times, then pulls her down to kiss her, rubbing her belly and hips as he does, cementing their love with every beat of his heart. Tomorrow might destroy them, but tonight they are more radiant together than any two beings ever before them.
They sleep a little outside, blissful in each others' arms, in their passion and solitude. Eventually, admitting reluctantly that it would be best if they got some sleep inside the cave, they dress and relocate, but when they fall back asleep, it's facing one another with their hands interlaced, their bedrolls pushed together. Their bodies are a bit apart, and Obi-Wan and Yoda could find nothing to reproach, but the twins are satisfied, comforted, and beside themselves with happiness.
The pale edges of predawn come too soon, colder in the highlands where it can never truly be summer, the skies overcast. Leia tosses her long braid over her shoulder as she sits up, then smiles softly down at Luke. “Seems like a good day to be inside a warm palace.”
Luke returns her smile, thinking anywhere would be a good place to be, so long as she is with him. It is bitterly cold though, and he knows she's right. After months on Dagobah and weeks in this cave, he's eager to finish the job and return to their lives. "It is."
"Remember your training," Obi-Wan says once again after the twins have gotten dressed in the Imperial uniforms he procured for them. "Do not allow yourselves to be seduced by the promises of the Dark Side."
"We'll be careful," Luke assures him.
"If things start to go awry, we'll come back," she promises Obi-Wan, feeling a sudden, unexpected tenderness for the old man now that they're parting. "We won't turn, and we'll stay together." Her connection with Luke has only grown since the night before, and she hardly notices the uncharacteristic neat severity of his uniform--all she can really see is her farm boy beneath it. "You can trust us."
Obi-Wan smiles warmly. "I know I can... you two have surprised me. Alone I'd give this plan almost no chance, but together...." He steps back, shaking his head ruefully. "Together you're greater than I could ever have imagined." There's a great deal of apology in his voice, regret for what he's done out of a desire to protect them.
"Let them separate you, you must not," Yoda says, gesturing toward them with his cane. "Try they will, but resist you must. From your union your strength comes. Children of Skywalker both you are. What befalls one befalls the other. Always conscious of this you must be."
The twins both nod. "We know," Leia says, remembering Luke's scraped knee... and all their nights of shared pleasure. "We can do this."
Obi-Wan's eyes drift to their father's lightsaber, hanging nonchalantly from Luke's belt. "You'd do best to hide that as long as you can," he says. "But you may need it. Leia," he says, then sighs a little, taking his own lightsaber from his belt. "You may both need one."
Leia knows what a lightsaber means to a Jedi of the old order, and she knows that it is not without reason or thought that he would offer her his own weapon, built as his final test before attaining knighthood. But she knows their mission is different than he is imagining, so she shakes her head. "General, I can't take that. And I won't need it."
Obi-Wan's hand stills on the clip, and he fixes Leia's gaze with his own. He holds it for a moment, then nods, dropping his head. "You may be right. In time, you will both build lightsabers of your own, but this is not a fight to be won with brawn."
"We'll come back," Luke says, full of confidence. "I'll return this to its rightful owner," he says, touching the hilt at his side, "and then we can build our own, with your guidance and his."
Obi-Wan nods, his face expressionless. "Let us hope you are right." Outside the sun is glowing, brightening the mouth of the cave. "Now let us save our talk for the Imperials. Good luck, and may the Force be with you."
After an hour of difficult hiking, the twins reach the valley of the Winter Palace and its surrounding city. Leia knows Vader is there, because his presence calls to her, and it feels like a sad, directionless longing, because he doesn't know where she's gone. He misses me, she sends to Luke. She sees images, too, and they all look like the Nabooian senator she had seen stand beside Anakin Skywalker in all the old holos. Losing me reminded him of losing her.
Their Imperial uniforms are meant to allow them to sneak inside the palace along with a few Jedi mind tricks to aid their persuasion, but Luke can feel Vader's longing because Leia can feel it. "He will welcome you back," he says, realizing it only as he says it. "Perhaps subterfuge isn't the way..."
Leia nods. "We could just walk right in the front door. One thought from me, and he'll be waiting for us." She considers Luke, weighs his confidence and emotional state. "Are you up to it?" It will be easier, in many ways, but maybe not every way.
Luke needs to only look at her to know the right path. "Yes. No more lies."
They're still well outside of eyeshot of anyone at the palace, so Leia kisses him, soft and reassuring. "No more lies. I'll let him know we're on our way."
I'm coming home, father, Leia sends to Vader. And I have someone I need you to meet....
Within the hour, Luke and Leia are met at the gates of the palace by an Imperial entourage. They are escorted in like highly prized prisoners, but without shackles or chains. There is no sign of Vader, but they both can feel his presence looming near, and know he is watching from afar.
They are led to Leia's quarters, where she'd been held captive for weeks until her escape. The Imperial officer leading the escort turns toward her at the door, ignoring Luke entirely. "We will see your... companion has suitable accommodations. Lord Vader will then see you at his convenience."
"My companion stays with me," Leia says, her tone commanding, believing, and making the officer believe, that she carries as much power and right to command as Lord Vader. There is a touch of the Force in her voice, manipulating the officer's mind, but most of her power comes from her regal bearing and confidence. "We share quarters."
"You 'share quarters?'" the officer echoes, almost incredulous.
"Yes," Luke says, stepping up beside Leia, a united front. "We share quarters."
"I... see..." the officer says, more uncertainly. "Very well. I shall inform Lord Vader of your arrival."
"Thank you," the twins say, almost in unison.
They're left alone in Leia's quarters, and the rooms are largely unchanged except now the windows are barred, preventing an escape such as before.
Leia glances wistfully around at her rooms, the comfortable sitting room with its rugs and large fireplace; the bedroom with the heavy canopied bed and gauzy curtains where she and Luke had spent part of one precious night; the office where she'd first learned the truth. It's all heavy with meaning, but it doesn't feel like home, now. She can't rest for some time yet.
Turning, she rests her head on Luke's shoulder, then laughs in spite of herself. "That stuffy officer couldn't believe I brought a lover home," she giggles, allowing herself the release.
Luke holds her, lightly, but close. "It's a funny thing, I'm sure. You escaped under cover of night and returned with a boyfriend in tow... he doesn't know what to make of it." He kisses her brow. "Do you think he will draw it out? Or will he come to us soon?"
She shakes her head, pulling back just enough to look at him. "He likes to play games. He always kept me waiting." But something tugs at her perception, and she rushes to add, "I don't think he will this time. He's anxious. He needs to see me. To know I'm all right."
Luke nods, drawing from her the sensations she's feeling. "He'll put it off as a long as he can... but his need to see you again will bring him to you sooner than he expects. Good. He's already caught off guard."
She nods in return, then smiles. “It might make him especially eager to see me knowing I brought someone with me. He knew I was in love, though I always denied it--to keep you safe. His curiosity, too, will get the better of him.” But they’re alone for now, and Luke’s touch is irresistible, so she snuggles back into his arms. “Last night,” she whispers, allowing her excitement into her voice. “I think it worked.” She doesn’t know, doesn’t have any real evidence. But she feels... different, somehow.
In the light of day Luke worried that what they decided to do last night would seem like a bad idea, but it doesn't. He had some worries about what other people will say if it comes true, but looking into Leia's eyes, holding her in his arms, he can feel only joy and hope. "Keep it secret," he whispers. "At least for now." His joy and radiance at the idea are hard to dim though, and he kisses her quickly at the idea of it being true.
“Of course,” she breathes. “No one will know. Don’t worry.” She kisses him again, reassuring him, but then something pulls at the edge of her awareness, and she steps out of Luke’s arms, watching the door. “He can’t wait,” she murmurs, a bit grim, but then smiles triumphantly. “I’ve already broken him down.”
"He's coming? Already?" Luke feels bereft without her in his arms, but he pulls his Jedi training to him, concentrating, calming himself. It works, and by the time the doors open and reveal Vader's form--a menacing wall of shiny black seven feet tall--Luke is cool and collected, reacting only with a slight raise of his eyebrow at the imposing figure.
"I knew you would return to me," Vader says upon entering. "Our destiny lies together."
“Yes, Father,” Leia says, her voice carrying respect and resignation, but still twinged with irony and defiance. “Father... this is Luke.” She takes her twin’s hand, squeezing tightly.
"Luke," Vader says, turning his head to study the solemn faced young man at Leia's side. "The boy that arrived with Obi-Wan."
Only with Vader's gaze upon him does Luke feel the wave of reality wash over him. This is his father. This their father. Darth Vader.
Vader's body draws up short and he looks between the two of them quickly. "Twins?" he suddenly says, as if picking the word right from their shared mind.
Their hands squeeze reflexively in unison. “Yes,” Leia confirms softly. “I didn’t tell you before because he wasn’t here, and he didn’t know. I needed to talk to him first. We came back for you, Father.”
Vader is silent a long moment, sizing up the two small teenagers in their stolen uniforms before him, guessing correctly that they had initially intended to sneak in, then realized there was no need. He wouldn’t let any harm come to them. He couldn’t, he knows now, after weeks of having Leia, and then weeks of her being mysteriously gone. And now... she brought her brother to him. “I never knew.... Twins!” he says with satisfaction, drawing back a little. “My men told me you brought a companion, and I thought they meant--" But he stops himself, realizing that the fullness of Leia’s heart has only grown, that Luke shares it, and... something else, something he can’t quite pin down.
Living on the fringes of the dark side, cast out of human society, Vader has learned to regard most morality as arbitrary, and yet the feeling he gets from his children takes him slightly aback. “Perhaps my men weren’t quite wrong,” he says, without accusing them of anything. He turns back to Luke. “And where did they hide you from me?”
Luke feels the conflict within Vader, the searching, the questions. It warms him. He doesn't feel love from Vader, not yet, but there's an abundance of curiosity and excitement. He is not a monster. "Tatooine," he says evenly. "I was raised by Owen and Beru Lars."
Vader would scoff if he were able with his voice modulator and breathing apparatus. “My mother’s stepson and his girlfriend,” he jeers. “With family, in plain sight, but, certainly, nowhere I would think to look. You were raised a moisture farmer, then. I’m from Tatooine myself. I was a slave. Did you know that, son?” He asks Luke, turning quickly back to him, testing his fear and his loyalty to Kenobi. “The Jedi won me in a bet.”
Luke wants to look to Leia, but he feels captivated by Vader's glare, even though he can see no hint of eyes or face beyond his dark mask. "I didn't," he says, though he well knew many humans and humanoids on Tatooine were slaves, and that he and the Lars' were lucky not to be. "I hope you found Jedi life to be more suitable than slavery."
“I found it quite similar,” he says, snarling. “Except even slaves aren’t denied attachments. I assume Kenobi doesn’t approve that you two are... so close.”
The hair on the back of Luke's neck stands on end. It's unsettling to be so immediately pegged when even Obi-Wan and Yoda hadn't discovered just how close Luke and Leia had become. "The Jedi follow some outdated old rules," Luke says, somewhat cautiously, "but they also haven't created and used weapons capable of destroying entire worlds, either."
Vader reaches a hand out instinctively, his initial reaction being to choke Luke for his insubordination as he would with any of his men, or with anyone he suspected of Alliance affiliation. He makes the gesture, but he stops himself before his mind can close Luke’s windpipe. “I knew you and Kenobi were responsible. Otherwise you couldn’t have known.” The rumors had been hushed so well, following the Death Star’s destruction, that Vader would suspect anyone who knew about it.
He shoots his gaze at Leia. “And you. You had me convinced that you knew nothing.”
Leia can feel his hurt, his worry that she’d told other lies. Maybe she isn’t his daughter after all.
“I was only trying to keep Luke safe,” she says gently.
"And if your first instinct is to choke me, you can see why," Luke counters. Then his heart softens; his compassion rises to the surface. "It doesn't have to be this way. Whatever happened to you, to make you turn to the Dark Side... it's in the past now. You have a family. You have children. Everything has changed."
“Yes,” Vader admits. “Everything is much more complicated.” He sounds angry, but Leia mostly receives his anger as a wave that slams into her chest and leaves her winded. She hardly sees him turn to go, but she registers the swirl of a black cape before the large wooden door to her room slams, and she and Luke are alone again, holding hands, catching their breath, suddenly.
“He does this,” Leia says, as soon as she’s able. “He gets upset and storms off and comes back later.”
Whatever Luke expected from Vader, this man isn't it. He's bewildered and unsettled by their meeting, and glad Leia is there. He can't imagine how she dealt with him alone for weeks on end. "He's angry," Luke notes, scanning Vader's emotions through the Force, "but not at us. He just... doesn't know how to express himself..." He looks at her, studying her face. "He hasn't had to think about anything like this... not for twenty years..."
“I know,” Leia says solemnly, somehow at once annoyed and understanding. “He says that a lot of different things contributed to his turn, but I think it was losing us and our mother that really solidified it. He thought she died pregnant, that his child died, too. He’s still in pain.”
"And now he's finding that...not only did his child live, but he had twins, and he never knew. And I was... I was raised by people he knew. The Jedi lied to him again, about what happened to us. I understand why they hid us, but if they hadn't... if Vader--Anakin--had been told his children survived..." Maybe none of this would have happened. Maybe that alone would've been enough to bring him back.
Leia nods. “I think it would have been, but it’s going to take a lot to make him admit it. He’d probably insist he’d have raised us as his apprentices and we’d all rule the empire together.” She sighs and paces the room, her voice raising a little. “But it’s not true! He wouldn’t have done that. He hasn’t even told the Emperor he found me--I know he hasn’t. Otherwise he would have taken me to him like a prize. But he agreed to train me here.” She stops pacing, turns to face Luke. “I... I’m so glad I don’t have to do this alone, anymore. I love you.”
"I love you, too. I'm sorry you had to endure so much already by yourself." He squeezes her hand again, though he's never let go. "We'll get through to him, together." He studies her face. "He can read us as easily as we can read him... maybe more... I think he realizes... our feelings for each other."
“I know,” she says softly, then licks her lips, leaving them moist and pink. “He knew I was in love, he could sense it. He tried to get me to talk about it, and I did all I could to distract him because I had to keep you out of it. But I’m sure he knows it was you I was longing for.” She looks up into his eyes. “He’ll try to use it against us. But... I don’t think it bothers him,” she adds, trying to understand.
Comparing his own reaction to discovering Leia was his sister and, furthermore, Vader his father, Luke thinks Vader has taken it all in stride considerably well. "He's probably still processing it... but it'd be nice if... if someone knew. Someone who didn't mind." He cups her cheek with his other hand, running his thumb against her soft skin. "He knows what forbidden love feels like..."
Leia’s body responds immediately to his tender and possessive touch, mounting her arousal, sending a thrill through her stomach, her heart, raising the tiny hairs all over. She presses close to him. “And we can use that,” she says, knowing he knows her well enough that he won’t take it as her only interest in their love. “He might think that he can use it to convince us to leave the Jedi. He doesn’t know we’re at peace with it, that we draw so much light from it. Only light.” She leans up and kisses him, lingering, loving him.
Luke kisses her back, for a moment forgetting everything but the love and the light between them. Their conversation filters back to him like shadows through leaves. "You're right. He will try to turn us against Obi-Wan and Yoda. He just needs to know... he is welcome with us, to share in our lives together. We accept him... but only if he comes with us. We'll never join him."
Leia smiles, glad they see it the same way. “It will be hard for him to accept it. I don’t think anyone’s loved him in a long time. I don’t think he knows how to return it. But he wants to.”
Luke matches her smile. "We have love to spare... plenty to give him, if he'll take it." It's an incredible thought. Not only could they turn Vader's heart back to the light, but in doing so potentially topple the entire Empire itself. "I don't know if either of us could do it alone, but together... I feel like we can do anything if we're together."
She nods, then rests her head on his chest to listen to his heartbeat matching hers.
She somehow feels a little shy when it gets late enough to think about getting some sleep. “We’ve never slept the whole night in one bed before,” she says.
It's an exciting thought, to share a bed with Leia, and Luke's pulse surges with the thought. He glances around briefly. "You don't suppose they're... watching us? Somehow?" It's not something he'd put past the Empire.
Leia’s torn between not caring and admitting that they probably are. But then she stretches her senses. There’s Vader’s constant awareness of her, where she is, that she’s well, and she feels it extending to Luke as well—but she doesn’t sense anything else. “I don’t feel anyone watching us. Do you?” She knows he doesn’t. If he did, it would cause her to feel it, too. “There could be surveillance devices in here, I suppose—but if there are, no one’s watching them.”
Luke gives her a shy smile. "Perhaps we should try to be quiet and stay under the blankets tonight just in case..."
Leia pretends to be shocked. “Luke! I just said we should get some sleep,” she teases.
He bites his lower lip, trying to suppress his grin. "Let's see how you feel after we first make use of the shower in your bathroom." After weeks in a cave, and on Dagobah, the thought of a hot shower is almost unbearably exciting.
Leia has hardly considered the possibilities. She practically gasps and rushes straight for the bathroom off her bedroom, unhooking her uniform jacket as she goes. “We should have showered first thing when we got here,” she says, knowing that it wasn’t possible, but wishing it had been. She turns on the tap, and the steam starts rising, and Leia feels her shoulders relax.
When Luke comes up behind her, she turns in him arms and kisses him deeply, throwing her arms around his neck.
They make love in the shower, slippery and wet, gasping and delighted in each other before tumbling, damp and happy, into Leia's big, soft bed. It takes only a short time for Luke to renew to a second round, and when he finishes inside her again, they hold each other close, breathing in sync, soaking in the expected peace and calm of being back in the palace, albeit as willing prisoners.
Sleep tugs strongly at them, the comfortable bed calling to their sore and weary bodies, but Luke holds to the fragments of wakefulness as their bodies cool. "If he agrees," he quietly says, his lips brushing against her neck they're still so close, "what will we do? Could he stay here on Alderaan? If his reward for returning to the light is the life time of prison that he deserves, why would he turn?"
Leia’s been wondering the same thing, which is hardly surprising. She shifts her sleepy and satisfied body closer still to his. As preoccupied as her mind is, she knows her body has never felt so good—warm, clean, a vessel of Luke’s love, back in her own bed. “I don’t know how I could get my parents to let him stay.” She sighs. “But we couldn’t make him be alone, after bringing him back.” She kisses Luke gently. “Actually... my father knows you’re my brother. I’m not sure if we can stay, either....”
It's an unpleasant thought, but one Luke's not against embracing. "The three of us on the run together." He hesitates a moment, then slides his hand down, over her flat belly. "Maybe... the four of us..."
Leia laughs lightly in spite of herself. “It might not be forever. We’ll find a home, or maybe after some time has passed, we could come back here.” She watches Luke, his hand caressing her body, his pale eyes beautiful and soft in the low light. “Maybe... the four of us is all we’ll ever have.”
"I'd... I'd be all right with that." There will be more, he thinks. If they end up somewhere together, on some remote world that's never heard of the Jedi or the Empire... they could make a home there. They could find friends and raise a family...
Leia sees it in his mind, and she doesn’t smile, exactly. She just gazes at him and falls more in love with him, then kisses him again. She can see a future where they can be together completely, and everything else falls away, like the two of them huddled together in her bed, sharing thoughts, whispering their plans, loving the baby they hope is there. It’s more than enough.
They sleep so soundly, so comfortably, like infants, and Leia isn’t surprised. It’s the first time they’ve been able to spend a whole night touching since they were en utero. She smiles as she opens her eyes to a mop of blonde hair sticking out of the blankets in the morning. She starts to duck her head under the covers to kiss Luke awake, but then she realizes they’re not alone.
Vader is in the sitting room beside a tray with breakfast for the twins. Leia can’t visualize him wheeling it in, so perhaps one of his men brought it and he appeared after. He notices her through the open doorway, and says, “Get dressed,” before using the Force to close her bedroom door.
Luke is on his feet almost instantly, too bewildered at first to be embarrassed, but, as he pulls on fresh clothes that were also provided with the tray of food, the reality of it washes over him. "He definitely saw us... was he mad?" Jealous? Perhaps confused? It's impossible to tell, and Luke is frustrated that Vader or whoever had gotten into their room without either of them waking. He'd let his guard down too much.
“He wanted us to stay asleep,” Leia says, sharing his worries, hurrying into some clothes. “He wanted us to....” She stops. “He wanted us to worry, to think that we’re not as strong as he is. To unnerve us.” She straightens, carrying herself regally though half-dressed. “We can’t let him have that satisfaction.”
Luke glowers, because the seed has already been planted. Luke didn't sense him arriving, and it set him off guard. Even in bed with Leia, who makes him stronger, he didn't sense Vader entering their bedroom. "No, we can't... but we can't let our guard down, either. I won't underestimate him again."
Leia nods, suppressing her shivers. They have to focus. “Come here,” Leia says, reaching for her twin, her soulmate, steadying herself against his body—not for love or romance or lust, but to regain her focus with him as a conduit. “If we touch at all right now, it needs to be for this. We can’t get lost in fantasies of the future—Yoda would jab us with his cane,” she finishes with a smile.
"You're right." There will be time for such pleasantries another day. As comfortable as their cage is, it's still a cage. They're at war. This is what they've been training for. "What should we do? Sit him down and lay out our negotiations? He has more experience with the Force. He has armies at his side, dozens of years of manipulating and persuading people. I don't know that we can out-trick him..."
Leia takes a calming breath, refusing to let Luke’s words heighten her fears. “We don’t need to out-trick him. We need to love him.” She hopes that’s enough. She pulls on the rest of her clothes and exchanges a look at Luke once he’s dressed as well, and they open the door.
He slips his hand into hers as they step out of the bedroom and into the sitting room where Vader has been waiting. "Sorry to keep you waiting," Luke says, keeping his voice calm and steady.
"It is of no consequence," Vader replies. "We may speak while you eat." He gestures to the prepared food.
Luke feels they have little choice but to partake, and as they settle down to eat, he finds only two plates prepared. "Can you not eat then?"
Vader is silent for a moment, and Leia wonders if they’ve offended him. “Of course I eat,” he says, sounding impatient. “But not as you do.”
Leia sits, putting as much compassion into her voice as she can without sounding patronizing. “I hadn’t realized the extent of your injuries, Father.”
“You have Kenobi to thank for them,” he sneers.
It's bait, and Luke doesn't rise to it. “Thank you for the meal," he says, setting the plates and food on the small table in the room. "Please, join us... it's our first family meal together..."
Vader stiffens visibly, but only for a moment. There’s a swirl of his cape, and then he’s sitting at the table in the gabled window with his twins, and an awkward silence falls over them.
Leia sits, allowing herself a moment of happiness over a warm meal cooked by the palace chefs again. They’ve clearly kept the same staff. The bowls of thick, steaming porridge are topped with mounds of fresh stone fruit and berries, and there’s hot tea, iced juice, fried sausages, and biscuits with cream, the same breakfast they’ve sent Leia since she was a girl. Outside the skies are clear, and when Leia opens the ancient glass windows over their table—they open inwards, so she can do so in spite of the bars—the songs of birds and insects stream in on the balmy air. “It’s a beautiful day,” she says, sounding wistful, but happy, smiling at Vader.
He doesn’t respond.
He can’t feel the breeze on his skin, she knows, but surely there must be something in his heart that appreciates the sun, the blue skies? Maybe it’s all been ruined for him. She sits and eats.
Vader can sense them, and so Luke does his best to project a sense of hope, of compassion and forgiveness. It's awkward, but not unbearably so. "I used to beg Uncle Owen to tell me about my father," Luke says after a few mouthfuls of some of what he thinks must be the best food he's ever had. "I wanted to a great pilot, just like him. I devoured every tidbit I could get out of him. I was so hungry to know more..." He glances up at the dark, brooding figure just an arm's reach away from him. "Now that you're here... I don't know quite what to say."
Neither does Vader. “You’re a pilot, then?” he asks, unsuccessfully trying to keep pride out of his voice.
Luke finds himself staring at his food again. "I flew speeders back home all the time. I think I was pretty good... I always wanted to go to the Academy, but I never got the chance." He glances back up, doing his best to meet Vader's eye. "Then, when I learned about it, I decided I wanted to be a Jedi, like my father."
“It is best that you didn’t go to the academy. They would have turned you into a mindless drone, only fit to follow orders. I would not have wanted that for you.” He sits back a little, maybe relaxing, just the smallest amount. “What did Obi-Wan tell you about your father?”
Luke shares a brief glance with Leia, before refocusing on Vader. "I didn't speak often to Obi-Wan growing up. Uncle Owen forbade it." Luke understands why, now. "Only when Leia came to Tatooine did he tell me you were a Jedi... one of the greatest." It comes to him in a flash, and he suddenly says, "You two were close once, weren't you?"
Vader pauses a long time. Too long. Leia takes Luke’s hand again under the table.
“I was nine years old when Obi-Wan and his master took me from my mother. After his master’s death, and his own knighthood, Obi-Wan became my master. When the war came, we were often assigned missions together.”
The waves of love interwoven with Vader’s memories are as unmistakable as the hatred. They coexist. “He was your family,” Leia says gently.
"I traded one master for another," Vader vehemently states. "Slave to Jedi."
"And now?" Luke says, his voice soft. "Are you free?"
He knows he isn’t. He’s still a slave to Palpatine, and to his cybernetic parts, and to his image, his reputation. But he says, “A great amount of freedom comes with the power of the dark side. Do you think, your highness,” he says to Leia, “That your parents will accept your and Luke’s... arrangement? Has Kenobi? Have I said one admonishing word against it, even though I found you sleeping naked in each other’s arms?”
“No,” she concedes, without elaborating.
“If you join me, you will be together, in whichever way you like. My master has taught me that whatever we can take is rightfully ours.”
Luke's hand in Leia's tightens, but he is not tempted by Vader's words at all. "There's nothing in the dark side for us, Father. Only, perhaps, you. Our love is made of light. Of hope. We don't take love... we give it."
“For now,” he says. “Because you’re happy. If one of you loses interest or dies or is otherwise taken from you, you will see how easily that light changes.”
“I know losing our mother hurt you terribly,” Leia says, placing her hand on top of Vader’s on the table. He doesn’t seem to notice. “But we’re here.”
"And so is she," Luke more quietly says. "Maybe not physically, but in the Force. In our hearts... your heart."
He shakes his head slowly. “Luke... you sound like her. And you look like her,” he says, looking at Leia.
“You don’t need to do any of this, anymore, Father,” Leia encourages, feeling something start to slip. “You can leave. You can be with us.”
Vader stares at her before withdrawing his heavy hand from the table, and her touch. "It is too late for me."
"That's not true," Luke protests. "We can run away together, just the three of us. We'll find a way."
“What future could I have?” he says to Luke, standing from the table. “Look at me! This is what I am. I’m not the man who married your mother.”
Luke's smile is sad, but it's still a smile. This is his father. The man he thought was dead twenty years. "We don't have all the answers," he simply says. "But we're here, for a reason. We survived for a reason. It's not to kill you like Obi-Wan might want, and it's not to join you at the Emperor's side."
“No,” Vader agrees. “Not at the Emperor’s side. He’s old, and his sense is leaving him. We will destroy him together when the time comes. We will rule in his stead, as Dark Lords of the Sith.”
Leia’s taken aback. He’s thought about this. A lot, and she’s not sure what to say.
Luke's immediate inclination is to tell him they'll never join him, but he holds his tongue. Such declaration won't go over well, and he doesn't want to be left alone in a swirl of his black cape again. Instead, he latches on to their common goal—defeating the Emperor. "Your men wouldn't rebel if you destroyed the Emperor? They'd still follow you?"
“Fear is a strong motivator,” Vader says. “And many would be loyal to me regardless. They believe in me.”
“Is it possible?” Leia asks. “Are we strong enough to do that?”
"Together—united—we would be unstoppable," Vader says.
"It's true," Luke thinks. As powerful as he feels with Leia by his side, having Vader there too... they could rule with power, destroying any who dared oppose them. "The three of us, together, could crush any opposition." He levels his gaze on his father. "Is that what you want? More killing to get your way? To carry on your legacy of bringing suffering to endless worlds for... for what purpose?"
Vader’s had a lot of reasons over the years. Peace, freedom, order. All half-truths with convenient inconsistencies. He knew the Republic hadn’t functioned properly—he saw the Jedi struggle, he saw Padmé struggle. Aid was never fast enough in a time of crisis. Because the Empire’s might is everywhere, because there’s no politics, nothing gets in their way. It’s a well-oiled machine.
But he knows the real reason he keeps it up is to distract himself, to give himself purpose.
When he doesn’t answer, Leia says, “We would help you with a coup. But it has to be to stop the war.”
“I am trying to stop the war,” he says. “I have been trying.”
“Then negotiate with the Alliance! Call a ceasefire!”
"Surrender is never the answer," Vader booms, as though reciting a well-learned lesson.
Luke thinks they've perhaps pushed him far enough for one day. "Negotiations aren't surrender," he says. "With the Emperor disposed and us at your side, real negotiation could happen. Real progress could happen."
Vader is silent a moment. “Perhaps,” he concedes, and then falls back into a thoughtful silence. “I have matters to attend to,” he says. “I will return this evening.” He leaves, but his stride is slower.
“He wants to think about it,” says Leia. “This is going to take time.”
"He's thinking about it though," Luke says, staring at the door even long after Vader's left. As he returns to his breakfast, he says, more solemnly, "And so am I."
Vader does come back in the evening, not bothering to knock but announcing his arrival through the Force about two minutes ahead of time. He finds his children sitting before a fire, Luke’s head on Leia’s lap as they lounge on the pillows, talking. They don’t bother sitting up when he enters.
The Sith Lord sits stiffly on a couch—seldom-used, as Leia usually prefers the floor pillows—and doesn’t bother with greetings. “My men gave me the lightsaber you arrived with,” he says. “My lightsaber, stolen by Obi-Wan when he left me for dead. I’m glad he at least gave it to you—though I hope you understand it’s more of his manipulation.”
“He would want to make amends with you, if you’d let him,” Leia says softly, stroking Luke’s hair.
“You’ve grown softer in your time away,” he says to her.
“I’m glad,” she answers honestly.
Most days Vader visits them twice a day, once in the morning for breakfast, and once again at night, after his duties are finished. They speak of various things, sometimes only about their potential futures together, sometimes about their disparate pasts. Sometimes the discussion is only about the here and now—the weather, the food, the health of Bail and Breha and the other captives on Alderaan.
One week bleeds into two, heading into three, and Luke finds that the progress that he felt they were making in the first few days has halted. Vader is set on deposing the Emperor and ruling the Empire with Luke and Leia at his side—as Sith. It's a path the twins cannot see themselves taking, and cannot seem to talk him out of following. He warms not at all to their desires to run away together—all three of them.
After a month as Vader's prisoners Luke wakes with a start one night, long before dawn, to find the bed empty. The light is on in the bathroom, and he finds Leia washing her face, looking shaky, pale and gaunt.
"Hi," Leia breathes, giving him a pained half-smile, leaning on the counter. "I'm okay. I tried not to wake you."
He goes to touch her immediately, running his hand along her lower back, rubbing her cold skin through the thin gown she's wearing. "I don't mind being woken..." His hand moves up her back to her shoulders, pulling her closer. He can sense she's been sick, can feel the nausea still swirling around her. "Should I call for a medic?"
She shakes her head, comforted and calmed by his touch and concern, but knowing it's also unnecessary. "No, it's just...." She smiles in spite of herself. "It's normal."
"Normal?" He can sense her happiness bubbling up past the nausea, but it bewilders him. They've been trapped in a gilded cage for weeks, seeing almost no one but Vader day after day. How she caught a virus... His brows furrow. "What do you mean?"
Leia pushes his bangs off his forehead. "You're so sweet. Luke, it's morning sickness, don't you see? It worked." She's completely beaming, the color coming back into her face as she blushes.
Luke's never been around babies before. He's never known a pregnant woman, or even really thought about how such things work outside of some basic, rough knowledge. It takes longer than he'd like to realize exactly what she means, but when he does his eyes widen. "You mean?" He stares at her, then looks down at her belly as she moves her hand to cover it. "You're pregnant?" They both thought she was, both were certain if it hadn't happened before they came to the palace it certainly would've by now, but there'd been no way to confirm. He breaks into the brightest possible smile.
"Now, don't—" Leia cuts herself off, practically laughing. "Don't get your hopes up too much, because I don't know for sure—"
But Luke knows. He slides his hand over hers on her belly, moving close enough to touch their foreheads together. Eyes closed, he finds her in the Force, an entity barely separate at all from his, but distinct all the same. And buried in the middle of their joined glowing radiance, he finds it—a new spark, small, but brilliant. "It's real...."
Leia's sensed it for weeks or days, she's not sure, but it took the physical symptoms to convince her that they really had succeeded. "It's real," she echoes, confirming. "Our baby." She swallows. "I don't know what to do. I think I should have a checkup or something, but I don't want Vader to know, and you know they'll tell him...."
The reality of the situation washes over Luke in waves. Not just the need for a checkup, but the fact that soon they won't be able to hide it, and even if they do, eventually a baby will arrive. Will Vader try to take it from them? Will they be forced to raise a child here, in Leia's palace chambers? If they go on the run, what will happen? His brow furrows. "We have to push him harder. We have to make a choice."
Leia nods in agreement, but her worry is turning her stomach again, and she pushes Luke away, rushing off again to be sick.
The severity of Leia's morning sickness worries Luke, and it starts to worry her as well, and after an hour or so she collapses into bed as he soothes her with the Force. "I don't know how we're going to hide this from him," she says, tears on her flushed cheeks.
Luke rubs her back as they lie in bed together. He tries to use the Force to help sooth her, to minimize her discomfort, but there's only so much they can do. Even if it were successful, Vader would sense their Force use. It's going to come out. "Then... we tell him. It's his grandchild... he won't let anything happen to it."
He's right. They'll just have to tell him. "Maybe... call a medic, then. If we're going to tell him anyway, let's make sure everything's okay. Maybe they can give me something." She buries her head in the pillow.
Luke kisses her cheek, her hair. "I love you," he says, nudging her face out of the pillow. He'll call a medic, but he has to look at her, has to share this moment with her. It's not a bad thing. "Leia." He strokes her cheek, smiling, feeling emotions welling in him, and fighting down an unexpected bout of tears. "You're going to be a mommy."
Her bright smile from before the mention of Vader returns. "I know," she says, gazing at Luke with her eyes wide and soft and blissful. "And you're going to be an incredible daddy." Her smile only grows, and she grabs Luke tight and holds him for all she's worth. "We did it."
Whatever comes next, they'll face it together. In that moment, all that matters is two people in love, happy to be starting a family together.
The medic arrives within the hour, as dawn starts pinking the sky outside their window. After confirming the pregnancy and detecting no issues, he is gone, leaving Leia with some medication to help control her symptoms.
They dress and wait for Vader, having begged the medic not to reveal the truth until they get a chance to tell him themselves.
Vader comes in about an hour after dawn, as usual, just after the breakfast tray. He seems to note Leia's barely-touched porridge, and Leia can sense his worry. "You know that it is impossible to hide anything from me," he says to her. "But why you'd insist my medical staff hide a case of influenza, I fail to understand."
Leia forces back her sigh of relief. She hopes that medic is forgiven once Vader knows the truth—actually, she'll see to it that he is. "I didn't want to worry you," she says, sounding more strong and confident than she feels.
"She doesn't have influenza," Luke says, reaching to take Leia's hand under the table, as they often do. "We just wanted to tell you ourselves..."
Vader squares his shoulders to his twins. "Tell me what?"
Luke glances at Leia. "You understand the relationship between Leia and I, don't you, Father?"
Vader remains silent, and Luke lets Leia take the reins.
"Luke and I... met less than half a year ago. Neither of us knew we weren't only children, and when we met, we didn't know we were related. Not until after we fell in love." Leia pauses. "And got married." They both still wear the cords every day. She squeezes Luke's hand. "When I discovered the truth, Luke was off with Obi-Wan, and I had to decide on my own what it meant for me, and I came to realize it made no difference. The way I feel about Luke is the way I feel about Luke. I'm glad I know the truth, and in some ways it makes it even more wonderful, but it also doesn't change anything. When we were reunited, I told him, and after a week or so, we found our feelings were aligned."
"Very sweet, if subversive. Why are you telling me this?"
"Because, father—I want you to understand what it means when I tell you that you're going to be a grandfather."
There is no movement from Vader, and after a moment, Luke volunteers. "We're pregnant."
They can both feel the jumble of emotions warring suddenly within the looming, dark figure, and the futile effort to suppress them all with the Force. "That is not a fact that Kenobi, or any of your dear Alliance, will take kindly to."
"We know it's going to make things difficult," Leia says. "But we knew you'd understand."
"I will see to it that you are assigned a discreet, experienced medical team. You are to tell no one of this without my say."
Luke isn't sure who Vader expects they'd tell, and doesn't like the controlling nature, but at the moment all they can do is nod and agree. "Whatever it takes to keep Leia and the baby safe." He focuses his eyes on Vader. "I won't let history repeat itself."
The intense sincerity in Luke's pale eyes drills through Vader, and he has the feeling the boy can see through his mask. If his limbs weren't cybernetic, he might tremble. "No harm will come to either of them," he manages, before turning to go.
"Father, please—" Leia starts, rising, wanting to keep him from running, wishing he'd stay and talk for a little while, because this is so important, but he can't be swayed, and he's gone before she crosses half the room to him.
Luke is right on Leia's heels, and when she drops her shoulders, deflated to be left by Vader yet again, Luke is there to wrap her in his warm embrace.
At one point, he counts twelve different people in the room, and almost as many medical droids. How Vader plans to keep it a secret after letting so many people know Luke's not sure, but he doesn't press the point.
Only once the staff has gone and breakfast has arrived do they get a moment alone. "He's overcompensating," Luke suggests as the settle down and wait for Vader to arrive. "He doesn't want what happened to our mother to happen again, either. We need to use that to our advantage. Let him make the right choice this time."
Leia sighs tiredly, poking her breakfast with a spoon. She hadn’t slept well, and having so many eyes and hands and instruments on her at once had beyond tried her patience. But she knows Luke’s right. “He blames himself for her death,” she says. “But didn’t she die in childbirth?” She’s been confused about it since she met Vader. He acts as if he killed her himself.
"I don't know anymore than you do." Less, probably. It's not been a subject they could really talk to Vader about. "Even if it was in childbirth, it was his child... children... he was birthing. In secret, I assume, since no one could know he was the father..."
“Maybe because he wasn’t there,” she suggests, then sighs. “I think, typically, I’d ask him to stay out of my business—but you’re right. This will help us get through to him.” There’s a holo from her first scan sitting on the table, and you can’t see much—a five-week embryo doesn’t look like a baby, really, but it still makes Leia beam and her tears well up. Their child is perfectly healthy, and growing fast. She lifts it to look at it again. “He only ever wanted the same things we do. To be allowed to love in peace.”
Luke moves his chair closer to her, so he can wrap his arm around her, and together they look at the little embryo. "We're doing better already," Luke murmurs. "He must have never even done this much, because if he had he would have known there were twins..."
She nods, then turns her face to kiss Luke. She’s amazed by how much more strong and confident he’s gown in the comparatively short time they’ve known each other, and she feels safer and more comfortable in their situation because of him looking out for her... and the little one. He really is going to be a good daddy.
As usual, breakfast means a visit from Vader, and he enters with his customary psychic two-minute-warning, but no knock. “My medical team tells me everything is proceeding according to schedule,” he says, and if Leia didn’t already know what he was talking about, she’d be unable to decipher it—it does not sound like he’s talking about a pregnancy. “If there is anything you require, inform myself or the guards. I will send the team to check on you once a week.”
“I don’t need twelve doctors,” Leia says.
"Your assessment has been duly noted," Vader says in a somewhat dismissive tone. "I trust your symptoms have been assuaged at the least."
"We're both feeling much better, thank you," Luke says before Leia can quite reply. Vader and Leia both seem to have a temper that doesn't quite effect Luke, and sometimes it's as though he's playing peace keeper. "They gave us a scan, look." He hands the data pad over.
Vader pauses a long moment before taking the pad with a slow hand that almost looks as if it’s unused to handling small objects. He looks at the image, considering the scan of his grandchild, the offspring of his son and daughter, and he doesn’t react. Not for a long time.
Leia stands and goes to him. “It doesn’t look like very much, yet. But see that, there?” She points to a tiny pulsing vessel in the embryo’s torso. “That’s the heart.”
Vader shoots her a look, and Leia thinks it may be a look of awe or astonishment. “His heart is already beating?” he asks.
“We don’t know the sex,” she says. “But yes. The heartbeat happens early.”
Luke's awed in a way to see Vader and Leia together, looking at the scan. A sense of strange calm washes over him, like it has when he's with Leia. This is right. This is good. Whatever else might be happening, this is the path he is meant to be on. "You never took scans of us," he says, more as a statement than a question. "You would've know there were twins."
Vader hesitates before replying. “Your mother did all of that on her own. I was away. I do not know why she did not tell me that you were twins. Perhaps... she meant it to be a surprise. It was.”
Leia rests a hand on Vader’s arm. “I’m sorry I was irritable about it. You don’t want any surprises with this pregnancy. I understand.”
Vader stiffens visibly. “You have the right to be irritable.”
Luke smiles softly. It's awkward, but they're getting through to each other. "We all want what is best for Leia and the baby... so long as we keep that in mind, I think we'll get along."
Vader finally hands the datapad back to Leia. "The galaxy will never accept Vader's heirs having children together. You must realize the only safe future is at my side."
“Father, we want you at our side,” Leia says sincerely, turning the words around on purpose. “We want you to know your grandchild. You can help us.”
Vader looks to her. "Then we will leave this place, together, and return to destroy the Emperor together."
“Father, I’ve told you before. I don’t want to leave my home. My place is with my people.”
Vader turns from her and starts to pace the room, and Leia watches him and sees how similar they are when they’re frustrated. “You two cannot have things both ways. What will you have me do? Stay here with you and play house while the Empire carries on without me? You are children still!”
Luke watches them as they talk, just below arguing, and finally stands up himself. "If we agree to go with you," he starts, and raises his hand to stop Leia from protesting his suggestion, "it won't be to rule the galaxy."
"It is the only way, son," Vader says. "They will not accept me here, nor will they accept the family you desire to create."
"Perhaps not," Luke concedes, "but that doesn't mean we'll replace the Emperor as overlords and dictators."
"But no one will stop you if you are at my side. You may live openly, as you desire. You may have as many children as you want."
"As much as that appeals to me, it cannot be at the costs of the lives of other people. If we go with you, it can only be to bring true, real reform. To stop the wars, to call a ceasefire."
“To negotiate with the Alliance,” Leia adds. “To actually listen to the people about what they need and want.”
“Negotiations do not work,” Vader insists, punctuating every word. “And democracy is a system under which nothing is accomplished. Everything ends in stalemate. Everyone suffers.”
“Isn’t that better than killing whole planets worth of people who won’t fall in line?” Leia shouts.
“I suggest calming your temper,” Vader says. “It would be better for your child.”
"How about a compromise," Luke suggests. "You've had twenty years to try and bring peace about your way. Give our way a chance. We try negotiations—with us negotiating. Not you, not the Jedi, not the Emperor. We try to bring the peace to the galaxy the way we believe can be done. If we're wrong, then... then..." Luke looks to Leia, floundering suddenly. She's the politician after all.
Leia touches both of them, a hand on the forearm of both her father and her brother. “We’re not wrong. The three of us—four of us,” she amends, blushing a little, but not wavering, “Are only more powerful together. We all know it. We can bring about real change.” She squeezes Luke’s arm before releasing it to lay her hand on her stomach. “We could give this baby a real home, in a galaxy at peace. Peace, not subjugation. And if we’re wrong, we won’t be any worse off.”
Luke's eyes have fixed on Leia, but he turns to look at Vader. "No more slavery," he says, emphatically. "No more children torn from their mothers. No more fighting. We can do it, Father. But only if you'll help us."
As always, Vader turns to go just as they think they’re getting somewhere, stopping at the door to say to Luke, “See that she eats.”
Luke sighs once Vader goes, frustrated how it feels like the man is always leaving, but there is peace being left alone with just Leia, as well. He draws her close. "He's thinking about it..." He kisses the top of her head. "We might have to leave Alderaan..."
“I don’t mind leaving,” she says, “As long as I know my parents and people are safe, and as long as there’s hope of coming back.” She looks him in the eye, playing with his hair as he holds her. “So far I’ve mostly been insisting that I stay on Alderaan as a way of keeping the Emperor out of this.”
"He has no love for the Emperor, I'm sure of that. He's been pawned from one master to another his whole life. It's time he freed himself." He kisses her brow. "Bringing peace to the galaxy... it sounds great... but, could we really do it? I'm just a kid from Tatooine... I don't know anything, really..."
She smiles up at him. “Luke, you know so much more than you know.” She kisses his lips quickly. “Vader and I have ample experience, and you have so much compassion and understanding to offer. We will find a way.” She shakes her head. “I don’t want to raise our child in the middle of this conflict.”
"Me either... At the very least... I want to try to do it our way. If we can't do it on our own, we can find people—good people—who can. Anything has to be better than what we have now, with the Emperor in control of the whole galaxy..."
Leia nods, feeling safe and assured in his arms. “Bringing down the Emperor is key. To all of this. And I think Vader’s our best chance for that.” She knows he knows. And Vader knows, too. Their intentions are already aligned, as well as their strategy. They just need their motives and feelings in better accord. They need to bring Vader around to their understanding of the way things can be. “I think he has trouble trusting that he could ever be happy. But, Luke, he's starting to cave. I can feel it. You saw him looking at the baby.”
"I saw it. I feel it in him. He's changing. It's been so long, Leia... We've been separated from each other for twenty years, but we weren't alone. We had families that loved us, and hugged us, and touched us. He's... he's had nothing. He's trapped in that suit of armor, or whatever it is... He hasn't known kindness or compassion or love in all that time..."
“Whenever I touch him, he tenses up. He has no idea how to respond to it. But he wants to be close to us.” Leia sighs. “The Emperor. I’m sure he’s been intentionally keeping him angry and isolated. They could have made him look any way they liked, and they turned him into this hulking black creature with a voice modulator he can’t control....”
"We can change that, if he'll let us. In time... we're getting there. One step at a time. We might have to leave Alderaan, and he might be right and we'll never be accepted here once people know the truth about us, but... but. Leia, I feel such peace, sometimes, when we're all together. Such contentment. I know we're on the right path."
“We are,” she says with confidence. “I just hope we get there sooner rather than later....”
That night, Vader doesn’t pay the evening visit, but he doesn't always, so the twins don’t think much of it. They meditate, then fall to talking, and Luke’s fingers tracing circles on her belly start to awaken Leia’s center and she kisses him deeply, drawing him to bed where they make love with both playfulness and reverence, feeling the Force glowing with their brilliant light around them and lingering as they fall asleep.
Vader comes before breakfast the next morning—before dawn. “Get dressed,” he says to them, as he had the first morning, but there is no anger or frustration in his voice, for all its urgency.
Leia and Luke had woken up before he entered this time, and they sit in bed, the blankets pulled over them. Leia reaches her hand out and closes the door with the Force, then exchanges a puzzled look with Luke. “What could be so important? It’s still dark!” She rises and goes into the bathroom to get a glass of water and takes her nausea medication.
Luke dresses quickly, and brings Leia her clothes. He tries to sense through the Force what Vader's intentions are, but it's muddled. "He's made up his mind about something," he says. "Hopefully we can teach him to have better communication someday." He kisses her when she finishes changing, calming himself as much as he wants to calm her. "Let's go see what he wants."
They exit into the sitting room hand-in-hand, finding Vader sitting on the floor on the pillows, where he’s often found his twins sitting and has never sat himself. “Father?” Leia asks when he doesn’t turn to look at them.
“Leia,” he says as gently as his vocal modulators will allow. “Leia, what gives your child its best chance?”
“What do you mean?”
“Palpatine knew Padmé was pregnant, and it only made it easier for him to... persuade me. Once I was persuaded to follow him, I could no longer protect her. I fear that... the dark side is made up of such things. It is not only the freedom to take what we can. It is also the inability to hold onto and care for those things we have won. Because there is no room for love in darkness.”
Luke wants to go to him. To sit beside him, to even hug him, or as much of him as he can touch through that suit of armor he wears. "You already know the answer then."
“I have always known it,” he admits, and to Leia he seems almost timid.
“But you lost everything because you turned,” she says. “So it was easier to pretend it was the right choice. To not have regrets.”
Vader is silent, and Leia knows this is his way of voicing his agreement. After a moment, he says, “I thought... there were only two ways. The Emperor’s, and the Jedi’s.” He looks at his children at last. “You two are... pure light. But you do not follow the Jedi.”
"The Jedi and the Sith... just use the Force. They aren't the Force itself. I don't know that we're pure light, but... but we're following something different. Something that's a little bit like the Jedi and... maybe even a little bit like the dark side. There's always another way. It doesn't have to be our way, either..."
“I would... be glad to learn your way,” Vader says, bowing his head a little. His voice seems to brighten a little, with happiness or pride, and he says, “I am amazed by your strength. Both of you.”
“We listen to the Force,” Leia says, letting her fingers trail out of Luke’s. She sits by Vader’s side. “The Force spoke to us when we met and told us to be together. It... sings to us. Lets us know we’re on the right path.”
“Sings?” Vader asks almost mockingly, then sobers. “I have not heard this.”
“Well... it’s not really singing,” Leia admits, laughing a little at herself.
"A resonance, maybe?" Luke suggests, glancing at Leia. He moves to sit on Vader's other side. "Inside my heart... When I let myself listen..." He takes Leia's hand again, and together, they place their hands on Vader's dark armor, over his heart. Luke closes his eyes, concentrating, feeling Leia's presence, the blanket of warmth and contentment he feels when they touch, the wave of well-being.
There's an aching, gnawing maw of darkness where Luke's hand rests, a gulf so deep he almost pulls away in shock. The endless light pouring off Luke and Leia is swallowed into the vastness that is Vader, but at its depth, deep in its core, there is a seed of light. It's meager, barely a pinprick, but their light pours into it and holds steady. When he speaks, Luke's voice is lower, barely a whisper in the quiet, cool room. "Can you feel it?"
Vader doesn’t answer for a long time, but Leia can feel his unbearable pain and longing and hope. At last, his hand takes Luke’s, but does not remove it from his heart.
“You’re not alone,” Leia says, staring at him imploringly. “You never were, we just didn’t know we had each other. None of us did. But we were out there, all along, and now we’re right here. And you can come back. We love you.”
The chambers are quiet for another long pace of time, filled with only Vader's labored breathing. At last, as if fighting a struggle just to come out, Vader says, "I will try."
Luke remembers something Yoda said to him once, on Dagobah, about trying, but dismisses it. This is not the time for the Jedi's platitudes. Sometimes trying alone is all one can do. Sometimes just trying is enough. Luke nods, smiling. "That's all we ask. We'll all try, together."
Leia shuts her eyes, loosing a tear on each cheek, then smiles as she bursts into sobs. "I'll try not to fight with you," she says to Vader, then, because she's overjoyed, and maybe because her hormones are starting to make her mood a little unpredictable, Leia throws her arms around her father's neck and hugs him.
Luke breaks into a soft, breathy laugh as Leia hugs Vader, and Vader stiffly, awkwardly sits there. After a few seconds, Luke joins her too, and they hold him, hugging him, until, at last, he raises his arms and embraces them in return.
Less than a week later, preparations are finalized to pull out of Alderaan. Politically, a garrison is to remain in occupation of the capital city to insure it remains under Imperial control, but Luke and Leia both know it's a necessary step Vader has to take to keep his true intentions secret.
While Leia is packing a last few things, Luke steps up beside Vader as they watch her. "Before we go," he says lowly enough that his voice doesn't carry to Leia, "you should let her see her parents."
Vader, always stiff and awkward, stiffens even more, bristling. "I am her father."
"Yes," Luke says, nodding. "And so is Bail. You can never change that, and she would not forgive you if you tried. There is room in her heart for both of you. Let her see her family."
Vader clearly does not like the idea of it, bristling visibly in the Force. After a minute, he turns and stalks out of the room in such a swirl that it draws Leia's concerned eye.
Luke smiles at her. They're used to Vader's dramatic behaviors by now.
An hour later, Leia alone is summoned to one of the palace's vast diplomatic apartments. Her escort opens the doors, ushers her in and then leaves.
Inside are Breha and Bail.
The couple rush to their daughter, embracing her, both asking her questions at the same time.
"We thought we'd never see you again."
"Vader said you were his apprentice."
"Was Luke captured, too?"
"Are you alright?"
"Why is he letting us see you, after all this time?"
Leia holds them back, letting herself cry. Finally, she pulls back. "I have so much to tell you. And I'm so afraid you'll hate me for it."
"We could never hate you," Breha says, reluctantly letting her daughter go.
Bail stays close, eyes shining with tears. "If anything, you should hate us. We've had to keep the truth from you for so long..."
She shakes her head. "I know why you did. But, Father... Luke and I are working on Vader. He's getting better. He doesn't want to live this way."
"It's too dangerous," Breha breathes. "You cannot trust him, Leia..."
Bail presses his lips firmly together. "If anyone could change him back, it's his daughter."
Leia smiles, her heart flooding with love and relief. This is her father. This is the man she's been missing. "Thank you for having faith in me. And... with Luke, I'm stronger. He and I combine into... a more powerful person than either of us could ever be alone. Between the two of us, it's working." She hesitates, licking her lips, wondering if and how to tell him the missing piece, the part that really started to change Vader's mind.
Breha's face streaks with tears. "I'm so glad you two finally found each other. I wish we could have taken you both, from the beginning..."
"Obi-Wan had other plans," Bail explains, even though he suspects Leia already knows. "He thought it was safer if you were kept apart..." He studies her face, reading her conflict and hesitation. "You don't have to tell us everything... just knowing you're alive and safe is enough..."
Leia smiles, thankful, but she shakes her head. "No. No, you need to know. Mother...." She looks at Breha. "Mama, it's been so hard not being able to tell you about this. I...." She takes a breath, lets it out like a Jedi, drawing on the Force to calm herself. "I'm pregnant."
Breha's eyes widen, and Bail gasps.
It's clear both parents are warring between elation at the news, and horror at the implication. Leia's smile, and calm demeanor convey a sense of peace and happiness, which help the panic settle.
"Pregnant?" Breha finally says, concerned, confused. "But... how?"
Bail knows, suddenly. He saw the twins together more often than Breha did. He knew they were affectionate. "Luke," he says.
Leia hesitates, nods, and then hesitates again. "This baby," she says at last, "is what's inspiring Vader more than anything else. That wasn't my plan. But it's happened that way." She shrugs. "The baby and I are both fine. And... I'm happy."
"Luke?" Breha echoes, letting the implication sink in completely. "Oh, Leia..."
It's complicated, but Leia seems happy, and that's enough for Bail, at least for now. He grasps her hands in his. "You must not let your child fall into the clutches of the dark side," he says. "To do so will unravel all your mother and I have striven for... all that Obi-Wan and Luke have sacrificed. You must be ever vigilant, especially now."
"I know." She hugs Bail again. "I know. Don't worry. Luke and I... we're going to set things right. We have to. But... we're all leaving Alderaan. For now. I'll be back. I want to raise my baby here." She puts a hand on both of their arms. "Luke and Vader will keep me safe. Neither of them could bear anything happening to me."
Breha pulls Leia close again, for another hug. It isn't the future she expected or wanted for her daughter, but she always knew there was some possibility that everything would fall apart one day. "Come back to us, Leia," she says, squeezing her strongly. "Alive and well. Both of you." She glances down at her belly, though there's nothing to see there yet. "That's all I ask."
"We will. And Luke." She pauses, looking at the people she'd considered her real parents her whole life, though she'd always known she was adopted. Vader's made his way into her heart, but Bail and Breha are still her parents. "I love you both so much, and I can't imagine what possessed you to adopt me of all the babies you could have had, but I'm so glad you did. Thank you."
"It was the best decision of our lives," Bail says.
"We'd do it again, any time," Breha reassures her. "You have been our light."
Leia stays a few more minutes, crying softly while Bail and Breha hold her, and then her escort returns to take her away.
When she sees Luke, waiting with Vader at the ramp to their shuttle, both of their satchels at his feet, she rushes into his arms. I told them about the baby, she shares, but also lets him know that they'll talk about it later.
Vader has had a stateroom prepared for the twins on the Executor, right next to his but not adjoining, and the suite is even bigger than Leia's at the Winter Palace. Everything is decorated in stark Imperial fashion—gleaming chrome, light-swallowing matte black, hard edges and uncomfortable furniture. There's only one bedroom, and only one large bed, which Leia appreciates. Vader does accept them as they are.
Once she and Luke are alone, Leia says, "They weren't as upset as I expected."
"They're just glad you're alive. All this time and they probably didn't know... But I'm glad. Now they can think about it for a few weeks or months until we're back... Once everything is settled... hopefully everyone will be as accepting." Either that or they their true parentage a secret to the rest of the galaxy. "I'm glad you got to see them before we left... to let them know what's happening."
"It was a relief to me, too," Leia says, sitting on a cold, hard black leather chair next to a viewport, her hand protectively on her stomach. "If anything happened to them...." She doesn't finish out loud, but she says it in her head, anyway. I'd blame myself.
"They'll be fine... They're safer there now, without us... and hopefully, once the majority of the Imperials pull out of Alderaan they can make contact with Obi-Wan and Yoda so... so everyone knows what we're doing." He sits on the edge of the hard leather chair she's in, bending to kiss the top of her head. "I love you. Have I said it today? Because I do."
Leia smiles up at him. "You don't have to say it."
"Yes I do. Everyday." He smiles back at her. "As often as I can."
Leia pulls him down towards her to kiss him, but it's too awkward of a pose, and they both tumble to the ground in front of the chair, laughing, until they're taken over by their love and desires, and Leia straddles him, kissing him deeply at last.
"Luke, we're there!" she whispers, looking out the viewport in their bedroom at the planet-wide city, knowing Luke's never seen it before, and wanting to delight him like she used to be able to with snow and rain and oceans. It seems like a lifetime ago that she wondered if she'd even be able to win him over. Now, their lives are so intertwined, and they will be forever.
Somewhere far below the Emperor sits in his Imperial throne, surrounded by guards and battalions, waiting for his pet slave Darth Vader to return, but in that moment Luke is just enthralled by the beauty and the hope of the world.
"Coruscant," he breathes, staring out the viewport. He'd heard of the famous Core world, seen it in holovids and images, but nothing prepared him for just how immense it actually is, how it glitters from space. "You've been here before?" he breathes.
She nods. "It's been changing," she says. "We still had a galactic senate until six months ago. I represented Alderaan for a whole three weeks before the Empire dissolved it. The last part of the Empire that was anything like the Republic," she finishes wryly, folding her arms across her bare chest as she watches the planet grow closer. "But maybe it was so recent... maybe we can bring it back." She turns to Luke, watches him watching her, lounging on their bed under plain grey sheets. He's so beautiful. "You... help me hope. Do you know that?"
Luke smiles bashfully, but happily. "It's only possible because we're together. I can do anything when I'm with you... that's the only reason I can give you hope."
Leia smiles sweetly and leans into his arms, kissing him, trailing her fingers down his chest. "Do you want to show Mommy how much you appreciate her?" she asks, already knowing the answer is yes.
But Vader must sense them awake, and he alerts them that he's on his way.
Luke kisses her anyway, sliding his hand over her belly protectively, lovingly. Vader controls their schedules, but not their lives. There will be time, eventually, when they can be at peace together. Unfortunately that day is not today. "I promise I'll show you very soon...."
Leia groans unhappily when Luke pulls away from her so he can get dressed, but then, reluctantly, gets out of bed herself. They dress in black, the better to look like Vader's apprentices to the crew of the Executor and anyone else they encounter, but when Vader enters the suite, he says, "I have considered it. I shall face my master alone."
Luke's mouth opens in shock, but nothing immediately comes out. It's safer, of course, if only Vader goes, but there's too much risk. "We're stronger together," Luke finally says. "All three of us. If something happens... we have to be there to help you."
“No,” Vader says sternly. “You do not know the Emperor’s power, or the extent of his darkness. He will sense the spark in Leia’s womb. He will turn us against each other to his own ends. If I do not return, the ship’s crew have orders to place the two of you in command so you may get to safety.”
"Father, please," Luke starts. "Let me go with you, at least... We can't ask you to do this by yourself."
“You did not ask me. Luke, stay with your sister. Protect your child. That is my wish.”
Leia takes Luke’s hand, not sure what to say.
“Separating you two again would come to no good. I must face my master alone. I will return, if I am at all able.”
Luke's hand tightens in Leia's, for the last thing he wants is to be separated from her, but he would have gone. "We are here for you. If you falter, reach out for us. We have only just found you. You must come back to us."
“We’ll be with you, in your heart, and in you mind,” Leia says, stepping towards him. She lost her fear of him long ago. “We’ll give you strength.”
Vader pauses, looking at the floor, then straightens, looking first at Leia, then Luke. “You do make me stronger,” he confesses. “I will be more likely to be successful, knowing you are with me.”
"We will always be with you. Never doubt it. You are our father." Luke smiles, somewhat sadly. "Make us proud... Make our mother proud."
Vader looks at them a long time. “You are both... so like her.” And he turns to go.
Before he departs, Leia notices Luke’s lightsaber—no, Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, hanging from his belt.
The ship feels extra empty once Vader is gone, and though they can feel him through the Force. They eat breakfast while Vader heads down to the planet, but after that Luke can't concentrate on anything but their father. He stands at the window in their quarters, overlooking the planet, trying to focus his attention and mental image on their father as he moves through the city below. He should be meditating, but he can't seem to take his eyes off the vista. "I should have gone with him..."
Leia comes up behind him and puts her arms around his waist, resting her head on his shoulder. “I know he said it was for our safety, and the baby’s, but I think it was also just something he felt, emotionally, he had to do alone.” She kisses his neck, more of a reassuring gesture than anything sexual. “He’s carrying us with him. He hasn’t felt this brave in twenty years.”
"I know... I know." At her touch, he turns in her arms, and lets her lead him, at last, away from the window. She's made a nest of pillows and blankets on the stark floor, a crude facsimile of their shared chambers back on Alderaan. It's a good place to meditate, to really focus on Vader's actions, he sinks into the pillows with her. "He has to do it himself. Not just for us, but for himself. And so that when he survives, and comes back to us, the galaxy will know how truly he has turned."
Leia nods. She’s worried as well, deeply worried, but she knows Vader, and she accepts this course he’s chosen. She rubs her belly thoughtfully, looking at Luke, feeling tired.
He moves close to her, touching. "Let's do our best to help him." He closes his eyes, taking up her hands, and together their strength increases. The image of Vader becomes clearer, allowing them to feel his descend all the way to the surface and into the Imperial palace.
They give him calm. The send him serenity and certainty, bravery and love.
Once they’re touching, both twins fall easily into a trance, sensing all of Vader’s actions, thoughts, and feelings. He thinks often of them, and reaching back to touch them, but he mainly concentrates in the task at hand.
Specifics are hard to come by. Leia knows when he’s in the Emperor’s presence, and while she senses many of Vader’s words, she hears far fewer of the Emperor’s. She does know that the old man notices Anakin’s lightsaber on Vader’s belt quickly. After that, it’s only about five minutes until the two are locked in combat.
Emperor Palpatine doesn't fight with a lightsaber. He uses the Force, through his hands, blasting lightning into their father's body. He rips panels off the walls of the throne room to hurl into Vader's armor. It is impossible to see the specifics, but the twins feel the pain, the way the lightning interferes with Vader's life support system.
After another strike, Luke suddenly surges to his feet. "We have to help him!"
Leia’s doubled over in their nest, hand on her heart, trying to convince her body that it is Vader who is having trouble breathing—not her. “Help me up,” she gasps, and when he does, the two burst through the doors and run down the corridor, looking for a docking bay with a shuttle or even a TIE fighter or anything they can use to get down to the surface.
"Hey, you're not supposed to be in here!" a stormtrooper shouts.
Luke, almost instantly, waves his hand and says, "We have the authorization we need."
"You have the authorization you need," the stormtrooper repeats.
"We can proceed to the nearest available ship."
"You may proceed to the nearest available ship."
They continue on without further interference by personnel, but both double over before they get to the ship when Vader is hit by another, even more powerful bolt.
"We can't... stop..." Luke gasps, clutching Leia and drawing strength from her. Together, and only together, they make it to the shuttle craft. Luke slides into the pilot seat and within a few seconds has it warmed up and ready to take off.
They make a bumpy and hurried landing as close to their father as they can get, a slightly sloped roof near the throne room, and when they climb out the shuttle slides to the edge of the roof, stopping from falling to the streets below thanks only to a raised rain gutter. Leia watches it, catching her breath, before Luke pulls her onwards.
Their hands on a transparasteel windowpane soon heat it enough that it shatters, and, both unscathed, the twins climb in to a corridor in the Imperial Palace, surrounding themselves in a cloak of mind tricks so no one will take notice of them. If anyone is bothered by the broken window and the shuttle hanging off the roof, Luke and Leia are long gone by then.
Their feet ring out on the steel floors, but they arrive uncontested at the throne room. There are guards—dead or unconscious they don't know—but no one else. No Emperor, no Vader.
Pain still lances through Luke, and he knows their father isn't dead. "Where is he?" Risking their stealth, Luke calls out, "Father! Where are you?"
There comes no answer, but Leia sees him, lying beside another, much larger broken window than then one they had come through, and wind from the city swirls in through it with smog and dead leaves and fragments of some tattered fabric. The crumpled black figure moves not at all, and, before realizing how strong his presence still is, Leia fears the worst.
“Father!” she shouts and runs to his side, dropping to her knees, begging the Force to give them strength as she takes his lifeless hand.
"He's not dead," Luke says, falling to his knees beside her. He feels her anguish, but also the weak but steady beating of Vader's heart. "He's alive."
His suit is scorched, his mask partially melted, his ventilator cracked, but he is alive—for now. His life support system has been damaged, and the steady, familiar rattling of his breath is gone. "We have to get him back to the ship... he'll die here..."
She nods. They’ll need all of their combined strength and more to carry him, to get back into the shuttle teetering on the edge of a rooftop, to keep his heart beating until he can get to the Executor’s medical bay. “Where’s Palpatine?” she shouts over the whipping wind.
Luke scans the room, but sees no sign of the Emperor. He feels no sign of him either, though he has never felt much sign of life. "I don't know... Dead, hopefully." One of them should scout the room to find him and make sure he's dead, but it's impossible to leave Vader. "Help me turn him over." They get Vader on his back. "We're here, Father. We're going to get you to safety." To Leia, he says, "We'll have to use the Force to help us carry him back to the shuttle. This room will be full of stormtroopers in a few minutes, we have to move fast."
They do, joining their minds and souls to power their bodies, lifting their heavy, unconscious father with their small frames. Their mind tricks are, for the moment, holding, and while dozens of stormtroopers and other personnel run past them to the wrecked throne room, they leave Luke, Leia, and Vader be.
It’s more difficult to get Vader out their small, broken window, and Leia leaves Luke to the task while she wiggles out first. Reaching out a hand, she closes her eyes and steadies the shuttle on its precarious edge, then slowly pulls it onto the roof proper, holding it in place. “Go!” she shouts to Luke. “Get him aboard. I have to hold it.”
"I love you," he says to her as he gives it his all to pull himself and Vader into the ship. He drops the heavy figure on the ground rather unceremoniously, resolving to ask for forgiveness later. They have to get airborne before the ship goes over the edge, or they're captured. Luke powers up the engines in record time—it hadn't even cooled from their arrival—and unable to talk to Leia, he sends her a message through the Force. Get inside!
He doesn't hear her, but he feels her enter, and as soon as he senses the airlock closed behind her, he takes off, blasting up into the atmosphere and the relative safety of space.
Leia stays with Vader, helping him cling to life. They’re not in the air long. The Executor pulls them in, wrenching them with a sudden tractor beam and a waiting docking bay, and as soon as they’re landed, the shuttle is full of officers and stormtroopers, picking Vader up off the floor, taking Luke and Leia into custody, trying to ascertain what possibly could have happened.
The twins are deposited back at their stateroom, with a cooling lunch waiting for them. Leia makes herself eat, and Luke eventually joins her, and they both wait for word, their entire universe hanging in the balance.
Several hours later, they feel Vader wake up.
Half an hour after, one of Vader’s officers, an admiral by his insignia, comes to request their presence in the medical bay. “He’s asking for his children,” he says, his voice just above a whisper.
Luke and Leia exchange surprised, nervous glances, and quickly follow the admiral. They're led into a medical bay where they see their father, stripped of his armor, lying mostly submerged in a bacta pool. His head, free of its helmet, is grotesquely pale, with dark, sunken eyes, and a wound on his scalp that looks old and covered in scars. A breathing apparatus is affixed over his nose and mouth, and his eyes open when he senses his twins approach.
"Luke, Leia," he gasps, but his breathing is no longer accompanied by the harsh cold breathing of his voice modulator.
"Father," Luke breathes, not caring who hears. He goes immediately to his side, plunging his hand into the bacta to grasp Vader's unsheathed arm—or what remains of it.
Leia suppresses her tears and leans on Luke. She knew the injuries that required Vader to wear his armor, his helmet, his life support system were terrible—but she hadn’t known he was missing all four limbs, that his skin was so scarred he couldn’t grow any hair. What had seemed to her always like a huge, impossibly strong body had all been the suit. Their father is this man, lying before them in a bacta bath, staring up at his twins with weak, pained eyes.
But they’re blue. Just like Luke’s. Like Leia has hoped their child’s eyes will be.
Leia looks to the head medic, the man who identified himself as such when Vader sent him to check on her baby, and his eyes communicate an apology to her.
Leaving Luke with their father, Leia takes the medic aside. “Don’t you dare tell me there’s nothing you can do,” she whispers, a threat evident in her tone.
The medic, clearly both genuinely sorry and afraid of Leia’s wrath, says, “Your Highness... he’s past help. If I could keep him stable until new cybernetics are ready... but at this rate he won’t make it another half hour.”
Leia shakes her head, blinking away tears as she rejoins Luke. He’s dying, she sends.
Help me, Luke replies. He's already closed his eyes, his hands in the bacta, touching their father's shoulder and arm. He's gathering the Force to him, and pushing it into the dying man before him. The Force is life itself, and healing, and love, and Luke gives Vader as much as he can. As one man, it's not enough, but once Leia touches him, gives him that spark that shines between them, he knows. It will be enough.
It has to be enough.
Leia wipes her eyes with her free hand, then reaches into the bacta to lay it on Vader’s shallowly moving chest, her other hand still held in Luke’s. They create a circuit, and the energy between them builds. Vader closes his eyes, and then Leia does the same.
With her eyes closed, all she can see is light.
They can't fix Vader's injuries, new or old. They can't turn back the clock. What they can do is buy him time. Together, linked, glowing radiant in the Force together they slip into a kind of trace. It's not a coma, but it's not awareness either. They all three exist on a different plane as they take Vader's pain into themselves and mitigate it, soothing him. They buy him time for the medics to find new cybernetics. They buy time for his blood to coagulate. They buy time for his breathing to stabilize.
Hours slip into days, and they remain locked together in a healing Force-trance, unbreakable so long as Vader needs them. Only when his twins have finally has bought him enough time that he can survive on his own do they begin to come out of it.
When Leia wakes up from the trance, it’s either because the head medic is saying ‘your Highness’ softly next to her, or because there’s begun to be a bustle in the medical bay as Vader’s new cybernetics are laid out for him so they can make a hasty transfer. She finds herself in Luke’s arms on a medical bed beside Vader’s bath, her and Luke’s hands still touching their father’s unconscious body under the bacta.
“We’re ready now,” the medic says gently.
Leia tries to stand but her legs are too weak, and the medic catches her.
Luke isn't much better off, and they're both moved together to a separate medical bed nearby, close enough they can watch as Vader is operated on. Luke is exhausted, but severing the connection from Vader allows him to stop draining himself, and touching Leia provides the opposite—they rejuvenate one another.
"He'll be all right," Luke whispers, his voice paper-thin, just loud enough for Leia to hear. "We did it."
“The baby,” Leia whispers, her head too foggy to think straight. “I’m worried I put too much into Vader and didn’t leave enough for her....”
Luke feels as though his body is made of stone, but he lifts his head and moves his body to angle toward her. His hand is so heavy, but he manages to slide it onto Leia, his fingers spreading out over her abdomen as he does. "Daddy's here," he breathes, searching for their little spark. His shoulders relax ever so slightly when he does. "I've got her," he says, looking up to Leia. "I won't let her go."
Leia senses her, too, and she’s been weakened a little, as her parents have, but she’s still there, and she’s starting to recover, and Leia knows she’ll be fine.
When had she realized it was a girl?
Comforted, confident that Vader is being cared for, Leia falls into an exhausted sleep, bringing Luke with her.
Word travels fast about what happened, and, eventually, Luke and Leia learn that the Emperor is indeed dead—blown out the window during the fight with Vader. He fell to his death some hundred stories into the depths of the Coruscant city. Rejoicing in the street didn't quite happen as Vader recovered, but the atmosphere in the galaxy was electric and alive. Change was coming.
With the Emperor dead and Vader nearly at death's door the head of the beast was cut off. Orders stopped coming. Ceasefires happened because no one gave orders to continue firing. Entire fleets fell into limbo, waiting for new orders.
In the medical bay, Luke and Leia recovered, visiting their father every day. His cybernetics are emergency replacements, bare, gleaming metal, but they can be upgraded or replaced later. What matters is that he's alive and mobile. His respirator is a simple clear plastic mask covering his nose and mouth. It doesn't rattle through a voice modulator. His voice, when he speaks, is soft, but it doesn't need amplifying.
When his twins enter, Vader is seated in his wheelchair, looking out at space. He turns to them as they arrive, his blue eyes shining with pride. They, too, have recovered their healthy glow and stamina. "How good it is to look upon you with my own eyes," he says with a soft smile.
Leia can’t help but beam and run into his arms. “How do you think we feel?” she asks joyously. “We finally get to see your face.”
His face is still gaunt, his eyes still sunken in, but the pallor has some color to it now, and his smile helps it look even better. "Not much to look at, I'm afraid," he apologizes.
"I prefer it to your helmet any day," Luke says. "How are you feeling?"
Vader's metal arms are holding Leia back, but his eyes are on Luke. "Better than I have in twenty years," he says, with deep conviction in his voice. "I don't know how you did it... I could feel my life slipping away..."
“We held you,” Leia says. “Together.”
“But the Force can’t keep people from dying,” Vader says helplessly.
“Well... not really. But we were able to heal you enough and hold you there to buy you time. That’s all we did. Buy you time.” She reaches for Luke’s hand and squeezes it when he gives it to her. “We were only capable of it because the four of us are more powerful together than apart.”
"The four of us," Vader says, letting his gaze drift to Leia's belly. His smile is small, but it touches his eyes, making them sparkle. "The Emperor is dead," he says. "And I am your servant."
"No," Luke says. "You are a slave to no one. You are free, Father. You are just Anakin now."
His eyes well up with tears and he looks uncertainly away, towards the viewport.
“He’s right, Father,” Leia says gently. “You can be whoever you want now.”
Anakin smiles again. “I think Father is what I want to be the most,” he says, sounding self-conscious, laughing at himself. “And Grandfather.”
Leia returns his smile. “You were already that.”
"Perhaps I was..." Anakin's gaze returns to his children. "What will you do now?" he asks. "The Empire is yours, if you want it. Build your future. I know now that you can do it."
Leia exchanges a look with Luke, and knows their vision is shared. “Father... thank you, but we don’t want it. It would be best if we all helped the Empire transition peacefully into a Republic again. We’ll still need you. The Empire will follow you if you say this is best.”
"I will need your strength and guidance to help me... it has been too long... far too long since I have known the will of the people."
"Of course. We will help you. We will find the right people to help you. We're all stronger together."
"We are," Anakin says. "Stronger as... family."
Alderaan, that jewel of the Core, hangs blue in space, its surface marbled with white of snow and green of forest, and Leia watches it fill the viewport with Luke at her side as she had when they’d first known each other, now over a year ago.
She smiles to think once all it had taken to amaze Luke was the promise of oceans and glaciers and lush greenery. The man standing at her side, though he barely looks any older, has helped to bring about the end of an Empire and the rise of a new Republic, and he regards the planet below them with a small smile, but no awe or surprise.
Do you remember? she sends him, smiling as she nuzzles into his arms.
I'll never forget, Luke replies, sliding his arms around her, and over the very prominent bump now sticking out against her dress. "I was so amazed by everything, and even then it all paled compared to being with you."
Leia turns her face and kisses Luke softly on his neck, on his cheek. “I love you,” she whispers, kissing him feather-light, then draws a sharper breath, just barely noticeably different than her usual breathing, running a hand over her belly. “I think we got here just in time,” she says, her voice strained.
Luke's hand on her belly feels it; a tightening. His eyes widen slightly. They've spent months in space, negotiation peace, installing new governments and retraining millions of troops, but none of it has meant as much to him as feeling the baby in Leia's body kick, stretching, aching to get out. She's been near ready to give birth for days now, and they've only managed to return to Alderaan so she can give birth on her homeworld. "Hold on... we're almost there. I'll call the medic... and a shuttle."
“Slow down,” Leia says brightly, still holding his hand, following him. “I’m fine.”
Anakin enters their suite, looking stronger than ever, a worried look on his uncovered face. His cybernetic limbs have been covered in sythflesh, and it’s been an uphill battle getting him used to physical sensations in his limbs again, but he’s getting the hang of it. His new mask is a clear breathing apparatus that only covers his nose and mouth, connecting to a life support panel in his chest—but aside from that, he doesn’t need to be covered. He never needed to be. The Emperor had only allowed him to recover so far, and learning the truth of this had been one of the hardest adjustments for him. All along, he could have been feeling the air on his skin.
“Are you in labor?” He asks Leia urgently, coming to her side. “I felt—"
“I think so,” she says. “But we have time to get to the surface.”
Luke has to use his Jedi training to calm himself. He's excited for so many reasons. They have been in communication with Bail and Breha—as well as Obi-Wan and Yoda. They are expected at the palace, and yet the real feelings are hard to ascertain. Certainly none are as excited about the birth of Luke and Leia's daughter as they are. There will be no time to ease into it now, either. The baby is coming.
"We should still get the shuttle prepared," Luke says to Anakin. "We didn't come all this way so she'd deliver on the ship." He kisses Leia, smiling brilliantly. "Are you ready to be a mommy?"
She returns his smile and nods. Everything they’ve been through will be worth it after today. All the suffering, all the hard work, all the delicate negotiations. They’ll hold their little girl, who will, Leia hopes, one day be queen of Alderaan, and everything will finally be right. “Are you ready to be a daddy?” she asks, nuzzling Luke.
Anakin is as unopposed to his twins’ marriage as ever, but he’s also a man of action, so while they coo over each other, he takes a comlink out of his pocket and orders their shuttle prepared immediately.
The medical team is waiting for them on the shuttle, and Luke never leaves Leia's side, even though her contractions aren't very strong yet. She wants to walk on her own two feet back into the palace, so they put off any pain medications, relying solely on the Force to help them mitigate the pain.
They arrive in semi-secrecy, so there is no waiting celebration, no cheering throng welcoming their princess and war hero back home. There will be time enough for that later. For now, it's a family affair, and only Breha and Bail are waiting at the docking bay, with a handful of attendants.
"Leia," Breha says, tears streaming down her face as she goes to embrace her daughter.
Leia’s been aching for a mother as her pregnancy progresses, though she knows that Breha never carried and gave birth to her. It’s not rational— her mother may have no advice to give her. She’s just needed her mother. The long months of wondering what this reunion would be like are finally over, and, as Breha takes Leia into her arms, Leia realizes that there was never any real question as to whether her mother would still love her after everything. All that matters right now is that Breha’s little girl is having her own little girl, and she’s her to welcome her home and help her through all of it.
“Mama,” Leia says softly, whimpering as a stronger contraction hits.
“It’s okay, Leia,” Breha soothes. “Breathe, sweetheart. Leia, I’m so glad you’re home.”
Standing at Breha’s shoulder, Bail drops a kiss onto Leia’s head. “You’re doing great,” he says to her. “But I knew you would.” He straightens and regards Luke and Anakin, some apprehension apparent on his face. Then, he extends a hand to Luke, saying, “As complicated as it is... I’m glad you’re back, son.”
"I'm glad to be... home."
Bail catches Luke and Leia up on what's happened on Alderaan the last few months as they hurry Leia toward her chambers, which have been prepped with a medical team. After the Emperor was destroyed, Breha resumed control of the throne, and teams were mobilized to minimize the rumors spreading about Leia's involvement. Later, Breha and Bail became instrumental in helping design and implement a new version of the Republic senate. A lot of work still needs to be done, but the framework is in place.
"We hope you'll stay and help," Breha says as they finally arrive at Leia's chamber. "There's still a place for you here." Her eyes glance to Luke. "For both of you."
Leia smiles, though she has to lean on Luke and take deep breaths. Her parents know, now, about their hasty midnight marriage. After everything that’s happened, she hadn’t seen a reason to keep it a secret any longer. They assure her that only they, Obi-Wan, and Yoda know about their familial relationship; on the Imperial side, only Anakin and a couple of his most trusted men. The fact that they are twins can be hidden from the galaxy at large, though Leia hopes some day the family will be able to speak of it in private without fear.
Leia’s rooms are perfect, just as she left them, but they’ve done some quick remodeling to add a nursery. Breha promises that they can change whatever Leia doesn’t like, but she just gasps that it’s wonderful, and then begs Luke to hold her. “I think she’s eager to get out,” she breathes.
"I've got you," Luke croons into her ear as he holds her through her next contraction. He's well aware of the eyes of Leia's parents on him, but doesn't let the self-consciousness bother him. This is his wife; the mother of his child. They know the truth, and he's not going to hide from them now, especially not when Leia's in labor.
Once the contraction passes, Luke helps Leia to her bed which has been prepared for her as well, with new clean sheets that can be easily stripped and cleaned once the baby comes. Luke holds Leia once they're on the bed, helping her breath and calming her in the Force. He's not leaving her side.
“There are too many people in here,” Leia growls once she and Luke are in bed.
“You want me to go?” asks Bail, and he doesn’t sound upset, only supportive.
“Usually just the father stays,” says the head medic. She looks at Bail. “The baby’s father, not the mother’s.”
Anakin’s been hanging to the back of the group, barely speaking, and Bail and Breha, while they accept that he’s been redeemed, haven’t known how to interact with him. Leia catches his eye, and he comes over to her. “I’m sorry,” she says, taking his hand. “You’ll still be with me, I just to need physically be alone with Luke and the medics. There’s too much happening....”
"Of course," Anakin says. He doesn't smile—he rarely does—but his eyes are shining. "I'll be here." To Luke, he says, "Take care of her."
A few more words are exchanged, and then the room is quiet, empty save for Luke and Leia, and the small team that will help them bring their little girl into the world.
Both Luke and Leia change into comfortable, soft medical gowns and get as comfortable as possible on the bed. Luke settles himself behind Leia, holding her as each contraction hits.
Once they’re alone, the twins are better able to join in the Force, sharing Leia’s pain and discomfort and letting it roll off of them into the air around them, and Leia’s better able to focus.
It happens quickly, just as Leia felt it would. Almost before she knows it, Luke’s holding her and guiding her body into a better position to push, and they’re squeezing each other’s hands in pain and excitement. “I love you,” Leia says to Luke between contractions when they’re getting very near the end, and she can sense the excitement outside the room because Anakin’s told the others it’s imminent. “I love you. This was all worth it. I love you so much.”
"I love you," Luke echoes back, bursting with light and love and joy. "I love you more than anything... Leia..."
As they hold each other, confirming their love, it happens. One moment Leia's face contorts with pain and pressure, and the next, it's over. The baby is born, and her loud cry fills the room as she takes her first breath.
Only moments later she is swaddled and placed in Leia's waiting, aching arms.
Sobbing with pain and happiness and bursting with light, the twins look upon their daughter for the first time—her baby wisps of honey-brown hair, her little round face, her ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes. She’s smaller than Leia thought possible, and she couldn’t be a better size, a better weight; she couldn’t have softer skin; her tiny, angry voice has all of her parents’ fire as she wails her first, and Luke and Leia are instantly in love with her.
“Padmé,” Leia coos to her, softly, trying to soothe her. “It’s alright, little princess. You’re home. We worked so hard to get you here.”
When she opens her eyes at last, they’re blue as glacier ice in mid-winter, blue as the skies over Tatooine on a crystal-clear day.
Luke blinks away tears, bending around Leia to kiss his daughter's forehead, to kiss Leia, to hold them both. It's the perfect moment, filled with love and radiance and light. He's known it all along, but holding his wife and his sister in his arms, looking down at their perfect baby girl, he knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that they have taken the right path. This is how it's meant to be.
After they’re cleaned up and rested, maybe an hour later, the twins let the grandparents in, and Breha is the first to hold Padmé, though Leia is reluctant to give her up. “Leia, oh Leia,” Breha says. “She’s beautiful.”
“We did our best,” Leia laughs tiredly.
Bail holds her next, talking to Padmé the whole time, promising her the universe.
Finally, Leia offers her to Anakin, who hangs back, looking frightened.
“You never saw me as a baby,” Leia says, smiling. “But this is pretty close.”
He finally comes closer, like a frightened animal. She's placed into his arms, and cybernetic or not, they hold her. They feel the warmth of her little body, the slight weight of her. His eyes fix on hers, staring in almost disbelief. "She's perfect."
“She has half your genes,” Leia says, smiling up at him, “Give or take.”
This little blue-eyed angel can’t be half him, Anakin thinks, but the fact that he knows it to be factually true starts to warm something in him, and he smiles brightly down at his granddaughter. “Padmé,” he says gently, “Padmé, I am going to do my best for you.”
After everyone has had a chance to hold her, Luke and Leia rest together, with Padmé nearby. They sleep deeply and peacefully, rejuvenating and calm, and when they awake for Padmé to nurse, it's sunset, and the room is empty and bathed in pink and amber light.
"Did you ever even dream it would be this good?" Luke asks, kissing Leia's neck from behind as he watches Padmé happily, contently drink her fill.
“I didn’t know we’d get here,” Leia says. “There were times that I thought we’d never get to live in peace, like other people. But I knew how good it would be if we ever did.” She smiles down at the baby with her face and Luke’s eyes, then amends, “Well... maybe I didn’t know it would be this good.”
A week later, Breha announces that Leia has returned from her long mission offplanet to end the war, and that in her travels she acquired a husband—it’s not important to elaborate when or where or how—and that she’d come home to birth their daughter, Princess Padmé, now second in line for the throne of Alderaan.
In response to overwhelming rejoicing and excitement, Luke and Leia agree to formally greet their people as a couple, and introduce them to baby Padmé.
Luke sighs as the last sash on his prince consort's doublet is secured in place by his attendant. In the large, full length mirror, he can see Leia as her hair is elaborately braided, twisted and studded with gems. Smoothing his chest flat, he finally steps off his dressing pedestal and goes to her. "It's all a bit much for me, isn't it?" he asks. "Everyone's going to be looking at Padmé."
Leia smiles at him, remembering a boy barely off Tatooine she’d dressed in much plainer but just as fine white wool tunics for his first cold Alderaani spring, how beautiful and out of place he’d looked in them, just like he does now. “You’re gorgeous,” Leia says, and she absolutely means it. “They’re going to be looking at you, too—and, like it or not, you’re... basically royalty. You might have to get used to a little formality.” She fixes an out-of-place braid on Luke’s shoulder. “There. You look like a prince.”
In her bassinet, Padmé coos, and Leia goes to retrieve her, and they all three stand before the mirror in their white brocade ceremonial costumes and cloaks. The baby isn’t old enough to really register what’s happening around her yet, but Leia senses her contentment in being held between both of her parents. “Look, Padmé—doesn’t Daddy look handsome?”
Padmé opens her eyes, fixes them on Luke, and gives him a big, gummy smile. It melts Luke's heart, and he bends and kisses her, before kissing Leia, careful not to smudge her make up. "I love you. Both of you. Let's go show the galaxy how much."
Leia lingers a minute, sharing a moment with her brother and their baby girl, and then they walk together down the corridor towards the palace terrace, where they can look over the crowd of tens of thousands who have come to welcome the crown princess and her new husband and daughter home to Alderaan. In the antechamber waits Bail, Breha, and a still-nervous-looking Anakin, the last dressed in dark grey and white Jedi robes. Obi-Wan and Yoda are there, as well, and it’s the first time Luke and Leia have seen them since they’ve been back, as Padmé is only a week old, and they’ve spent their time in recovery and solitude.
Yoda is the first to approach the new little family. “Very strong, she is,” he marvels, at once reverent and smiling. “Very strong. But small surprise....” Leia bends down so Yoda can see her face, and he laughs, delighted. “One day will she be Jedi queen of Alderaan. A peaceful future I see.”
It's both wonderful and difficult to see Obi-Wan and Yoda again. Luke still holds great affection for his teachers, even if he knows they do not at all approve of his relationship with Leia, or his rejection of their teaching methods, despite proving them wrong. "
"Always learning are we," Yoda says, as if sensing all of Luke's thoughts. "Always improving. Even the old masters."
"Thank you," Luke says, smiling.
"Anakin," Obi-Wan quietly states, standing before the man that had once, long ago, been his best friend. There is still a gulf between them, one perhaps no bridge could ever span. And yet, perhaps it doesn't have to. They're standing on the same side, now. "It is good to see you," and that, at the very least, is true.
Anakin shifts, hiding his hands in his sleeves as Jedi do, his old habits starting to come back to him already. “I’ll never be able to make up for what happened,” he says, his eyes only occasionally flicking to Obi-Wan. “But with Leia and Luke and Padmé to show me the way, I’ll never get off course again, that I know. And that’s something, anyway.”
Obi-Wan’s eyes rest on Anakin’s old lightsaber, hanging again from his belt as it did when he went to face the Emperor, and as it has since he’s been recovered enough to wear it. "I hope, in time," Obi-Wan says, "that you will learn to call me friend again." He reaches out and clasps a hand on Anakin's shoulder, giving in a fond squeeze.
The moment passes, as Yoda says, "Waiting they are. Must not keep them waiting!" He hurries, hobbling forward.
Luke, smiling at the reunion of his father and Obi-Wan, gives Leia a hug from the side. "Let's do this."
Everyone else takes their places on the terrace, and the twins hang back a little with their baby girl, taking a moment to themselves while Breha gives an introductory speech. Leia begins by listening, but finds herself gazing at Luke, his fair beauty glowing in the cold, clear light. “When I accepted that I’d always love you, I didn’t know that love would save the galaxy,” she muses, adjusting Padmé in her arms. “And I’d still have chosen right if it hadn’t.”
Luke smiles at her, shy in front of the thousands watching, but unable to deny how in love with her he is, or how much all of it means to him. "It all happened for a reason," he says. "Our separation, Anakin's fall, meeting the way we did... it all led to this." He wants to say more, but then Breha is turning toward them, the crowd is cheering and they're being pushed forward, before the throngs of people.
The applause and rejoicing is immense, and only grows when Leia joins him, the tiny bundle in her arms their future queen. The people were denied a royal wedding, and the joy watching Leia's pregnancy, so they are even more fanatic and excited about the new princess—and all the hope she promises—than ever before.
“They’re cheering for you, too, you know,” Leia whispers to Luke, hearing his thoughts. She shrugs. “They’re cheering for us. Together.”
Padmé coos, delighted with the bright banners and music floating through the air, and, together, Luke and Leia smile at their daughter.
And it is together they stand before their people, as they have fought and endured and loved together, as they were created together, as they will be together for the rest of their lives.
Thank you so much for reading this! We hope you enjoyed it, and we very dearly appreciate comments and kudos, even if they come long after we posted the last chapter. Please be sure to check out the rest of our Luke and Leia stories!