Leia could not help but suck in her breath when her father brought her into his large, wood-paneled study. Though only eight years of age, she had spent most of those years wishing to be part of his world. Father sat her down at his wide desk and punched up the holoviewer, keeping one hand behind his back, as he often did. It made him seem so gallant and gentlemanly.
"If you wish to help me, Leia, it is important that you know how the Rebellion began," Father said, and turned on the holoviewer. The figure of a beautiful woman in a glittering dress appeared, walking through the Senate on a holovid loop. "This is Senator Padmé Amidala. Her tireless quest for peace and justice inspired me to join her cause."
Moving closer, Leia noticed that the woman had furtive eyes. The eyes of a woman keeping a secret. She practically radiated tragedy in every motion of her body. Something deeply troubled Padmé Amidala. Leia wasn't sure how she knew that, yet she did. Her father studied her dark eyes, as if waiting for something.
"What do you think?" he asked.
"She's very beautiful. Kind, but sad."
Father smiled as sadly as the woman. "You are not wrong." He rested a hand atop Leia's head. "It is because of her that I have you. Read about her, and tomorrow, I will give you something new to study."
Leia nodded and sat down at her father's desk.
The moment Darth Vader swept down the hallway, Leia's blood ran cold. She froze in place, clasping the small datacron meant for her father. To her horror, Vader stopped beside her, his helmet slowly swiveling to consider her. On her first time walking into the Senate, Darth Vader took an interest in her. It was the worst kind of luck. She swallowed hard and tilted her chin up. She would not show him fear, no matter how cold he made everything around her.
"You remind me of someone I used to know," Vader rumbled. He tipped Leia's chin even farther up with one finger, causing a small twinge to run up her neck from the sudden stretch.
Leia glared at him. "Do I, my lord?" she asked in the coldest tone she could muster.
"Who are you, girl?" Vader's breathing seemed to grow a little heavier. "You're her very ghost. The curve of her cheeks. The outline of the lips. The quirk of the eyebrows. The color of the eyes. The twist of the hair."
Swallowing, Leia took a step away, slipping from Vader's hard metal fingers. She felt as if she could never be warm again in his presence, but she remembered what her father taught her: never let the enemy see weakness. She smoothed her gown, keeping all expression off her face, and recalled her etiquette lessons. "I am Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan." She bowed. "I'm sorry, but I don't know who you're speaking of, my lord."
To Leia's everlasting relief, Vader took a step back. "No. You wouldn't. She's dead." He stalked away then, his black cape billowing behind him.
Leia sagged against a wall in relief, praying she would never have to speak to Darth Vader again.
"I want you to use decoys, your highness. To protect yourself. We cannot lose you, too," said Mon Mothma, her blue eyes heavy with the casualty reports of the Rebellion.
Leia blinked. "Decoys?"
"I knew a Senator and a dear friend who employed them regularly. She even posed as her own handmaiden once to protect herself. She was a cunning politician. You are no less cunning. We can find two or three girls who resemble you and—"
Leia sighed. "It is clever, but it's not me. I need to fight my own battles. I think people need to see me fight my own battles. And it puts others at risk."
"You are a fool if you think that others are not already at risk. Or that having a decoy means you are not fighting your own battles. Decoys allow you to fight those battles more strategically." Mon Mothma shook her head and turned back to the holodisplay. So many names and pictures ran through the display. Leia recognized too many of them. All the dead on Alderaan had been listed with the casualties of Yavin IV—the Rebellion's new martyrs. "But I will respect your decision, your highness."
"Thank you." Leia turned to leave before her she saw her father's name on the list, but paused on her way out. She somehow knew Mon Mothma was aching as she was. "She died, didn't she? Your cunning friend?"
Mon Mothma's smile was wan. "Yes. One cannot use a decoy for everything."
Leia nodded and walked out, her footfalls heavy, wondering if there was anyone left in the Rebellion who didn't know loss. But then, she supposed that was why they were part of the Rebellion.
"Why are you bringing me here?" Han grumped, his boots heavy on the marble floors.
Leia walked further into the Naboo mausoleum. It was as empty as the last time she had been here, with her father, to pay her respects. "Because the Empire won't come here. This place is protected by Darth Vader himself."
"What?" Han cried. "This is the last place we ought to be."
"You've got a lot to learn, flyboy. Vader never comes here, either." Leia smiled and entered a secret keycode into the wallpanel in the back. It still worked. Her father had taught her that code. She wished he was still there, at her side, lecturing her about history and the importance of paying respect to those who made sacrifices for causes greater than themselves. Just as swiftly as the thought came, she shoved it aside. He was gone. Alderaan was gone. They had all made the ultimate sacrifice, and she could not bring them back. But she could honor his memory, even here.
"This place is too fancy for my blood," Han muttered. "Look at all this paneling. And the marble. And are those gold leaflets on the pillars? Who do the Naboo keep in here?"
Leia stepped inside. "One of their queens. The one who saved them from the Trade Federation over thirty years ago." The room was decorated simply by Naboo standards, all in white marble with gold trim. There was no window, just a golden orb to provide light. The light glinted off the glass coffin below it.
Han followed Leia in and paused by the coffin. He stared inside at the perfectly preserved corpse. "Wow. She was beautiful."
"Indeed she was. But she was more than that. She formed the seeds of the Rebellion. Yet, Darth Vader had this place built for her. Presumably, he didn't know. Ostensibly, this place is for the people of Naboo, but his name keeps them away. The records show that he doesn't visit, either. Only my father and Mon Mothma ever used to visit."
"She kind of looks like you."
Leia smirked as she sat down on an alabaster bench and turned on her holopad. "Was that a compliment, Han?" She began scanning the data. Without Artoo, it would take her longer to find where Luke had gone after they got separated on Ord Mantell, but she knew she could do it with a little time and patience. And Padmé's tomb would give her the peace to do so.
"Wouldn't dream of giving you one. It'd go straight to your head," Han said, as sullen as a child.
"I think you're confusing me for yourself." Leia continued to scan, but she glanced over at the coffin. Behind the reflection, she could see delicate white hands folded over a handcarved necklace. She wondered who gave the necklace to Padmé. It seemed to have been important to her. The thought made Leia sad, to realize that Padmé had left behind more than just a burgeoning Rebellion. Just like Bail Organa, she had no doubt left behind friends and loved ones. Leia wondered again why Vader would have built such a beautiful tomb for a woman who opposed everything he stood for. Had he not known she was the Rebellion's first martyr?
Han sat on the bench next to her, smiling from behind his bangs. She could get used to that look. "Hey," he said. "Is this gonna take long?"
"You know it will."
"Dammit, Luke, why can't you just stay in one place?" Han slid down to the floor in dramatic defeat. He fell silent, considering the coffin for a long moment. "Does she look like she was pregnant to you?"
The question gave Leia pause, though she could not explain why. It resonated with her on a deep level. "Yes," she said, and then turned back to her holopad before she dwelled too long on the tragedy inherent in that observation.
"But, why must you confront him?" Leia asked, desperate for Luke to stay with her, where he was safe. Where she could protect him from Darth Vader. She refused to call Vader her father; that honor belonged to Bail Organa alone.
"Because, there is good in him," Luke said, his hands warm around her shoulders, his face full of the compassion that she normally admired about him. At the moment, she hated it. "I've felt it. He won't turn me over to the Emperor. I can save him. I can turn him back to the good side. I have to try."
Those words weren't his. Leia knew this the moment he said them. Something else directed him, guided him. Those words echoed around her—she suddenly realized it must be through the Force. Luke's sentiment was born of a memory that haunted them both. She did not know who had once spoken those words or why, but she knew that Luke must have felt them deeply. She had less faith, but she was powerless before it. She could only embrace her twin brother and let him go, unsure if she would ever see him again.
The moment Rey stepped off the Millennium Falcon, Leia knew who she was. The girl bore Padmé Amidala's likeness even more than Leia. Rey could only be one person—someone they had all believed lost almost fifteen years before. But her face gave her away. Luke and Leia had learned of their mother through old Jedi holocrons from Darth Vader's chambers on Corcuscant. Leia had spent many years devouring every shred of information on her birth mother that she could find, all to learn of the real woman behind the Rebellion's first martyr. She never shook her initial impression that Padmé was beautiful, kind, but sad. And as Rey walked towards her, she saw the same qualities in this girl who seemed her mother resurrected from the dead.
Leia knew what Rey wanted to tell her. But Rey couldn't say it. She had been through too much. Rey's eyes filled with tears and her long fingers twitched at the sight of Leia. Rey had seen Han fall, while Leia had only felt it. And Leia knew that once she touched Rey, she would see it, too. But she needed to see it. Han's last moments belonged to her. He would have wanted her to have them. Leia enfolded Rey in her arms, letting her tense and then relax. Perhaps she felt their kinship as well.
After a long, quiet moment, every terrible moment of Han's last moments passed to Leia, every horror her son had wrought on Rey came to her, and Leia bore it, as she had born every other tragedy in her life. She acknowledged its existence and then let it pass through her so she could mourn later, in private. She squeezed Rey tighter, trying to pass over the love that Rey so desperately needed, to let her feel the light that Leia had somehow never been able to share with her own son. It was not Leia's place to tell Rey who her father was; it was only Leia's place to comfort her. Sadness seemed to be their family's legacy. But Leia would not let even a single one more of them be lost to it. It would not be their end.
With the sadness came a new hope.