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Hide Yourself for Me

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i.

Ahsoka doesn't meet the princess until after a kidnapping attempt goes wrong and Queen Breha is injured. Some might say it's luck that Ahsoka is on Alderaan at the time, when she's done her best to avoid Core worlds for a variety of reasons, but Ahsoka knows it was the Force guiding her.

She goes to the palace and convinces the guards to let her in even though everything is on lockdown, and makes her way through the chaos to Bail's office, where he's giving out orders to track the perpetrators who escaped. His young daughter is held safe and fast on his knee.

"Who are you?" the girl asks, her presence in the Force so bright and familiar as she reaches out that Ahsoka gasps and puts a hand on the doorjamb to keep from stumbling.

Bail looks up in surprise. "Ahsoka! How are you?" His smile is tight but genuine. "This is my daughter, Leia. Leia, this is Ahsoka Tano, a friend from better days."

"Nice to meet you," Ahsoka says automatically and Leia deigns to shake her hand.

A Twi'lek woman comes to the door behind Ahsoka, and Bail puts Leia down. "Go with Aya now," he says.

Leia's mouth twists into a recognizable pout that makes Ahsoka's heart hurt, but she goes with her nanny quietly. Bail sends the rest of his aides out of the room after them and then gestures at the seat in front of his desk.

Ahsoka sits. "How--" she starts, and then waves a hand. She has a perfectly good idea how. She releases her sadness about Padme--about Anakin--into the Force with a deep, slow breath. She can grieve later, alone, as she's done for years. "Never mind that now. She needs to be trained."

"No," Bail says with firm finality, an immoveable object.

"Her father--"

"I'm her father."

Ahsoka tells herself there will time to figure out the uneasiness beneath his vehemence. For now, she simply answers, "Yes, of course."

Bail gives her a long, assessing look. "Is it that easy to tell?"

"If you know how to look."

"And the Inquisitors know." It's not a question.

Ahsoka nods. She takes another breath and lets the Force guide her next words. "I can teach her how to hide."

"Good," Bail says. "You'll begin tomorrow."

*

ii.

Leia is a good student. She's bright and curious and she doesn't fidget nearly as much as Ahsoka did at her age. She has her mother's grace, enhanced by Breha's gentle instruction, and Bail's dignity, but she also has Anakin's temper, and it's this that Ahsoka works to channel into something quiet, something useful. Leia is as passionate about helping people as her parents were--are, Ahsoka reminds herself--even at so young an age. While the Jedi had no use for passion, the Jedi are gone, and Leia isn't going to be one of them. Passion, Ahsoka has learned, can be an effective tool, in the right hands.

Ahsoka fervently hopes those hands are hers.

She starts with singing games and counting games, with the distant, hazy memories of her own time in the crèche her only guide. Anything to get Leia to lose herself in concentration, to unfocus her mind and dampen her presence in the Force. Ahsoka doesn't know how Anakin really died, but she owes his daughter her best efforts to keep her safe from the darkness that's enveloped the galaxy.

Once the girl has learned to put herself into a light trance (and if she uses a common jump-rope rhyme to do it, Ahsoka thinks Master Yoda, at least, would approve), Ahsoka says, "Today, you're going to learn how to breathe."

"I know how to breathe," Leia says sharply. "I hardly think it's something you need to teach me."

Ahsoka laughs. "I can teach you to control it, so that you can hold your breath under water for longer than anyone will expect. So you can speak to a roomful of politicians and hold them in the palm of your hand. So you can fight, if you need to, and not get winded as easily as your opponent."

Leia looks skeptical but she says, "If you say so."

And they begin.

*

iii.

Meditation isn't the only thing Ahsoka would like to teach the princess, but the other skills she's learning--how to shoot, certain Alderaanian martial arts, how to lead a people--leave little time for more esoteric lessons.

Still, though, to keep her safe, Leia must learn to tamp down her presence in the Force. Ahsoka insists.

"But I'm not like you," Leia says. "I'm barely Force-sensitive at all."

Ahsoka bites her lip. "True," she says, the lie tasting like ashes on her tongue, "but those who oppose you are, and better safe than sorry."

Leia sighs with all the drama only a thirteen-year-old can manage. "If you say so."

Ahsoka manages to keep her expression neutral. "I do."

It's hard to speak of the Force in language Leia will understand, without the years of training and education that Jedi younglings receive, but they manage. The closeness they've developed through years of meditating together provides a solid foundation, though it's a pale shadow of the bond developed between Master and Padawan.

"No," Ahsoka says, the first time Leia tries to shield herself. "You don't want to disappear completely. That looks suspicious. You want to be there, but insignificant, not worth a second glance."

The look Leia throws at her is scathing, but Ahsoka won't be moved. "Again," she says. "Make yourself a mirror, if you need to, and let others see you as they expect you to be." It's not a lesson she learned as a Jedi, though it's one that's come in handy in the years since she left the Order.

"Oh," Leia says, folding the Force around her with a surprising deftness for someone with so little real training. "I see."

Ahsoka smiles.

*

iv.

Ahsoka doesn't live on Alderaan, though she visits often. She has her own business to attend to. In addition to running the somewhat illegal salvage operation that hides the totally illegal smuggling she does for Hondo Ohnaka, who's gone underground the same as everyone else has under the heavy fist of the Empire, she gathers information for Bail and for Mon Mothma, who are putting together the beginnings of a rebellion against Palaptine's cruel regime. There are many factions involved, and some aren't friendly to an Alderaanian Senator who's kept his seat even as the Senate becomes more irrelevant than ever, and the Empire's noose grows tighter in system after system. But someone bringing in supplies at a reasonable price, who lives the same hand-to-mouth existence as most of the Outer Rim--she can learn a lot about a lot of things in her travels.

Princess Leia is not her Padawan, is barely her student at all in the grand scheme of things, but still, Ahsoka feels a moment of pride when, at the age of fourteen, Leia is able to walk into a room and command it the way all of her parents can. She sees Breha's compassion and Bail's political instincts, Padme's understanding of the importance of appearances, and always, always, Anakin's anger at injustice and will to change the galaxy.

If only he could see them now.

But the past is gone and Ahsoka doesn't dwell on it. The present is hard enough to live in without letting old sorrows drag her down.

It's not until she's sitting in the cockpit of the Ghost, during the siege of Lothal, that she realizes the past is not as gone as she'd thought. It's the first time she truly feels afraid, for herself, and for Leia.

She knows the mind she touches belongs to no mere Inquisitor; she knows he's a Sith Lord in his own right, the Emperor's iron fist. His name strikes terror into the hearts of everyone who hears it, and many who only know him as a shadow carrying out his master's will.

But Ahsoka knows more than that when she reaches out with the Force during the battle, and the knowledge knocks her for a loop.

She has to get back to Alderaan immediately, has to warn Leia of the target Ahsoka's painted on her back. She's a bit abrupt taking her leave from the Ghost's crew. Hera seems to understand, but Kanan and Ezra deserve more explanation than she gives. She tells herself it would only endanger them further to know.

She goes to see Bail first, though, his steely determination that Leia not be trained suddenly explained.

"You knew," she says, bursting into his office.

He clears the room for them and sits behind his desk as if the galaxy hasn't turned itself upside down again. "I know many things, Ahsoka. What is it specifically you're talking about?"

"Vader."

Bail leans back in his chair, his face no longer an impassive Senator's mask. He looks older, tired, scared. All the things Ahsoka's been feeling since she found out.

"General Kenobi provided that information when he gave Leia to us."

"Obi-Wan's alive? Where is he?"

Bail looks away, and Ahsoka wonders if he's going to lie, but finally he says, "Tatooine."

Ahsoka nods. "Because Anakin--Vader--would never go back there."

Bail hesitates for the merest instant before he says, "Yes."

She figures Obi-Wan has his own reasons--he always does--so she doesn't press. If she'd known--Well, she hadn't, and now it isn't safe to go. And she has a responsibility to protect Leia.

"How did you discover Vader's identity?" Bail asks.

"He was there. At Lothal." She drops into one of the chairs in the office and shakes her head. "He nearly took the whole fleet out himself. I haven't seen flying like that since the Clone Wars." She looks down at her hands and tries not to recall the cold anger and hatred she'd felt radiating from him in those moments. "And I--I'm afraid he knows I'm alive and working with the Rebellion now."

"I see."

Bail's sympathetic look makes her feel sixteen again, and foolish for thinking the Council would believe in her. Only Anakin had, and it had meant the world to her. It still does, and she doesn't know what that means.

"There are still some things I can teach Leia," she says. "I'll stay for a few days, but I don't think it's safe for me to visit regularly anymore."

"I agree," Bail says. She's on her way out the door when he says, "Ahsoka, thank you."

"You're welcome," she replies. There's nothing else she can say.

She finds Leia up in the Queen's private garden. It's Leia's, really, now that Breha is dead.

"I want you to think of a place where you feel safe," Ahsoka says. "I want you to picture it very clearly, as close to reality as you can make it. And then I want you to go there and lock yourself in."

"You want me to hide like a child?" Leia asks scornfully.

"I want you to protect yourself when you must," Ahsoka replies. "The galaxy is larger and more dangerous than you know, Princess. Sometimes hiding is the best strategy to stay alive."

Leia grumbles, but she learns, and Ahsoka can't ask for more than that.

Saying goodbye to her is hard, this last piece of Padme and Anakin, whom Ahsoka's come to care for in her own right. She hugs Leia and reminds her to practice, and pretends she'll see her again soon.

*

v.

On the Death Star, Leia doesn't need to be a Jedi to feel his presence seeking her out, pressing against her shields the way heat presses against her skin in the summer. She makes herself small in the Force, a negligible being--there, but not worth examining closely, her shields becoming a mirror that reflects back what he expects to see.

When they throw her in a cell, she knows they'll let her stew a while before the interrogation begins, that they want her disoriented and desperate, willing to talk.

That's not going to happen.

She settles herself on the shelf that passes for a bed and slows her breathing. She begins building the safe place in her mind the way Ahsoka taught her--her mother's rooftop garden at the palace, where they used to spend long twilit evenings together when Leia was a girl. After her mother died, Leia used to go there to feel closer to her, to retreat to her loving embrace, to have one place where no one asked or expected anything of her except her presence.

Now she recreates it in minute detail: each branch, each flower, each blade of grass as close to reality as she can make it, the sky changing from pale to dark blue above as the first stars become visible, and the scent of honeysuckle tickling her nose.

Last of all, she paints herself into the picture, sharper than any program on the HoloNet could be: warm, safe, loved.

When Vader comes to question her, Leia is ready. The droid's needles pierce her skin and she screams, but the pain never touches her mind.

The Rebellion's secrets are safe with her.

end