It wasn't the best-kept secret that Alderaan had Rebellion sympathies, but officially they were still loyal to the Empire. Ahsoka had to be discreet when she got to the planet. As she snuck behind the palace, the hood of her cloak concealing her features, she remembered all the times she'd had to sneak around during the Clone Wars. At least something good had come from that; Ahsoka expertly skirted around guards, occasionally glancing down at the map of the palace that Queen Organa had sent her.
The domed lake-side palace was like a swan perched in water, its elegance almost off-putting. However, the room Ahsoka had been instructed to find was cozy, much cozier than she'd expected based on the exterior. Its walls were a pleasant off-white, and when Queen Organa opened the door to let Ahsoka in, a crisp briny smell filled the air, for the windows outlooking the water below were open. Ahsoka sat across from Queen Organa at a circular, pockmarked wooden table. Obviously, the room was not the finest in the palace, and Ahsoka doubted that any normal discussion with the Queen would have gone on here, but it was perfect for a technically illegal trade negotiation.
They'd just wrapped up the arrangements. Queen Organa-but-please-call-me-Breha was smiling gratefully at Ahsoka. "Thank you so much," Breha said. "I didn't think my people could bear any more supply rationing. I'm sorry I can't pay you without leaving tracks."
Ahsoka grinned back. "Don't worry, this isn't about money. I'll bring the goods four standard days from now, and we'll see how it goes." Ahsoka wasn't often a food smuggler, and never such a high-profile one, but she would resort to almost anything if it meant helping people withstand the evil of the Empire - especially people to whom her friends had been close.
Suddenly Ahsoka felt a shudder in the Force. A warning. She turned her head to the door to the room, just as a quiet knock sounded on it.
"Oh, that's my daughter Leia," Breha said, and her long emerald green skirts rustled as she stood hurriedly. "She's been having trouble sleeping lately. You don't mind if I get her?" Even as she spoke, she was walking to the door.
"A daughter, huh," Ahsoka said, concealing her surprise as she stood as well. She hadn't known that Queen Organa and her husband had a child. In fact, back in the day, Padme had quietly confided that the couple was infertile. Evidently that had been inaccurate. "Leia's a beautiful name."
"Yes, it really is," Breha said, sounding almost wistful. Having reached the door, she placed her hand on it, triggering the opening mechanism.
A small human girl, no older than six, stood at the door. Her expensive-looking nightgown was silver, and swished when she stepped forward. Her long brown hair was tangled and messy. She held her arms out, saying, "Mama," and Breha, with some difficulty, hefted Leia into her arms, then walked back over to Ahsoka.
"Hey there, little one," Ahsoka said gently. She didn't see many children these days, and the sight of Leia reignited her determination. This is who we're fighting for, she reminded herself.
Breha's eyes were soft with affection as she looked at her daughter, who was hiding her face in her mother's shoulder. "Leia, can you say hello to Ahsoka?" To Ahsoka, she added, "She's usually not this shy, not even around strangers."
Leia peeked up at Ahsoka. "Hello," she mumbled, sounding a little miffed at her mother's disclosure.
Ahsoka blinked, taken aback. A pit of uncertainty opened up in her stomach. For a moment, the look in the little girl's deep brown eyes had reminded her of someone. Ahsoka concentrated, trying to get a better sense of the girl's presence in the Force. It was more difficult than it should be, but she managed, though it felt like trying to swim through wet cement.
The first thing Ahsoka noticed was that Leia's soul held the keen fierceness that Anakin's had possessed. Of course, that quality was not unique to Anakin, but it sent a pang through Ahsoka's heart nonetheless. Ahsoka blinked away visions of the Jedi Temple, of meditating in the gardens, of training in the grounds, of the conviction that came with knowing where one belonged. That was in the past.
Leia was also - and now Ahsoka was really shocked - shielding her Force-presence. It was clumsy, but more advanced than any other child her age that Ahsoka had met. If Ahsoka had been any less experienced, she wouldn't have noticed at all.
Ahsoka couldn't believe it. But the evidence was there: if Leia could shield herself, she was Force-sensitive. To what degree exactly, Ahsoka didn't know, but Leia was powerful, beyond doubt. And if Leia continued on that track, she would be able to shield her Force-presence from almost anyone, however unconsciously. That was something, at least. The current galaxy was not safe for budding Force-sensitives.
But what would happen when she grew older? With no one to teach her about her power, Leia might put herself into danger. She could reveal herself, and then the Emperor wouldn't hesitate to snatch her up, and turn her into something wrong, like. . . .
Ahsoka's brow furrowed. She couldn't let that happen. Not again. "Your daughter seems very strong," she said casually, as her mind worked.
"I'm glad to hear that from you," Breha said. "She's always been tough. Even as a baby, she didn't fuss a lot, or get sick easily."
Ahsoka nodded, not really listening, as her heart slowly sank. She had to shelter Leia from danger, somehow. But she had to admit it: She didn't know what she could do to ensure Leia's safety, other than hope that Leia's shielding got stronger. It was too dangerous. In another time, Ahsoka would have said something, maybe whisked Leia to the Temple (even if she was a little old), or at least given Breha some warning and advice about her potentially volatile daughter.
But if that information got in the wrong hands…
"This war will pass," Ahsoka said instead. "Until then, all we can do is hold onto hope. May the Force be with you, Breha." She bowed her head respectfully. As she did so, she vowed that when she visited four days from now, she would try to pay more attention to Leia. And she would try her hardest to visit more in the future.
"May the Force be with you, as well," Breha said. She too inclined her head.
Leia seemed to have fully gotten over her shyness, and was now watching Ahsoka with open curiosity. "May the Force be with you," Leia repeated, and once again, something shifted, stirring Ahsoka's spirits. Not a warning, this time. But a promise.